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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.


23. Chapter 23 - Broken

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Chapter 23 – Broken

I flung myself through the darkened doorway and into the lobby, frantically looking for her. Two studios stood on either side of me—one dark, the other filled with shadows and light. I pulled open the door to the partially lit studio, and her scent flooded my senses, sending my throat into convulsions of thirst. Then I saw her, broken and bloodied on the floor, red staining the wood in a growing pool. In a fraction of a second that stretched horribly long, I realized that James hovered over her, his mouth clenched on her hand as he sucked the living blood out of her. The slurping sound sliced through me. I launched myself across the room, my hands and then shoulder and head colliding with his bent frame. The force of the impact reverberated throughout the room like a rock fall, and we tumbled across the wooden floor, tearing great chunks out of it. As we came to a thudding stop against the far wall, tangled on the floor, I grasped hold of his neck. His face inches from mine, eyes blazing with bloodlust and rage, he growled and tried to push me away, first with his hands and then his legs. I nearly lost my grip, when suddenly he was wrenched from me. His eyes widened as he understood…Jasper held him on one side, and Emmett on the other. He growled and struggled against their hold, his eyes feral with panic as they pulled him to the side, clearing my view of Bella on the floor, not moving.

“Oh no, Bella, no!” I cried and sped to her side, falling to my knees beside her. Beautiful and ghastly, she lay, her leg in an unnatural shape, her hand limp on the floor, motionless. Blood continued to drip steadily from somewhere behind her head onto the floor, the liquid slowly inching towards me. I wanted to touch her, shake her, make sure she was still alive, but my hands fluttered helplessly above her…there was blood everywhere…

“Bella, please!” I pleaded for her to show me a sign that she lived. Behind me came a shuffling noise, a growl and a shocking snapping sound. I shut out the thoughts of pain coming from James, as Jasper and Emmett dismembered him. A high keening sound echoed around the room and abruptly stopped. The thoughts stopped like a candle snuffed. Jasper and Emmett flashed by, arms full, leaving the room.

My throat burned with her blood splayed before me, but it was nothing compared to the burning anguish that consumed me from the inside out. I forced my hands to reach through the blood pool, gently lifting her arm from the wetness and holding her bloodied hand to my chest. “Bella, listen to me, please, please, Bella, please!” Please don’t…please stay…please don’t let me be too late…

She laid still, life slowly ebbing from her. I heard a scuffle of feet and saw Carlisle and Alice skidding to a stop in front of me. “Carlisle!” I gasped in agony, and he flew to her side in an instant. The horror on his face as he surveyed her broken body for a moment snapped the small strings of hope I was holding. “Bella, Bella, no, oh please, no, no!” I sobbed, tearless and broken. Carlisle reached behind her head, probing to see where the blood was flowing from. And then she stirred in my arms, responding to his touch and suddenly crying out and gasping.

“Bella!” I cried. She…she…

“She’s lost some blood,” Carlisle said, his words swimming in my head, “but the head wound isn’t deep.” She was alive. Carlisle surveyed the angle of her leg. “Watch out for her leg, it’s broken. Some ribs, too, I think,” he continued, gingerly feeling along her side. A howl escaped me, as Carlisle calmly catalogued the torture James had inflicted on her.

“Edward,” Bella said, thickly. The joy of her saying my name quenched my rage.

“Bella, you’re going to be fine,” I choked out. Then bending a little closer to her head, wafts of fresh blood scent flowing over my face, I whispered, “Can you hear me, Bella? I love you.”

“Edward,” she said again, a little more clearly. There had never been a sweeter sound.

“Yes, I’m here,” I reassured her.

“It hurts,” she whimpered.

“I know, Bella, I know,” I said, my voice shaking. Straightening up, I turned to Carlisle. “Can’t you do anything?” I begged.

“My bag, please…Hold your breath, Alice, it will help,” Carlisle said, calmly. Alice had been standing back, away from Bella, holding one hand over face, the other clutching Carlisle’s black bag. She quickly moved forward, dropping the bag by Carlisle and then stood hesitantly upright, seemingly unsure whether to stay or go.

“Alice?” Bella groaned, somehow in greater pain again. Hearing her name, Alice bent down, softly laying a hand on Bella’s head.

“She’s here, she knew where to find you,” I whispered, lips bent to her ear, trying to calm her while Carlisle rifled through his bag for something for the pain.

“My hand hurts,” she said, wrenching my heart. There were so many injuries, so much blood…

“I know, Bella,” I cried softly. “Carlisle will give you something, it will stop.”

“My hand is burning!” she screamed suddenly, her eyes fluttering open and startling me.

“Bella?” I asked, eyes wide. What was happening?

“The fire! Someone stop the fire!” she screamed again, flailing her hand against me.

“Carlisle! Her hand!” I shouted, not knowing what to do. Carlisle reached for her hand, smeared with blood and still bleeding, and quickly examined it.

“He bit her,” Carlisle said softly, appalled. My breath caught as I realized why Bella’s hand was burning through her like no ordinary fire could.

“Edward, you have to do it,” Alice said softly, now stroking away Bella’s tears of pain.

“No!” I bellowed, lurching slightly back.

“Alice,” Bella moaned again. I stared wide eyed down at her. She couldn’t be asking her to…

“There may be a chance,” Carlisle said.

“What?” I begged.

“See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean.” Carlisle put pressure on Bella’s head, trying to stem the flow of blood. I stared at him, my mind reeling. How could I…what if…?

“Will that work?” Alice asked, her voice strained from being so close to so much blood.

“I don’t know,” Carlisle said. “But we have to hurry.”

“Carlisle, I…” I hesitated, gasping. How could I possibly…? “I don’t know if I can do that.” What if I couldn’t stop? What if I killed her myself?

“It’s your decision, Edward, either way. I can’t help you. I have to get this bleeding stopped here if you’re going to be taking blood from her hand.”

Bella jerked, her hand beating unknowingly against my chest. “Edward!” she screamed as her leg moved slightly, causing more pain. She opened her eyes and their soft brown depths looked wild with torment. Aghast, I watched as she writhed before me, eyes fixed on mine, begging me…

“Alice, get me something to brace her leg!” Carlisle said, still holding Bella’s head. “Edward, you must do it now, or it will be too late.” Too late…too late…it was already too late…there’s only one way this can end…it’s too late…it doesn’t matter…I love you…

I steeled myself. It was not too late. Bella would live.

I gently lifted her warm, shaking hand to my lips, pressing them softly over the heinous wound James had given her. The blood smeared on her hand sent an electric current through my lips and I involuntarily sucked her wound deeper into my mouth. Fresh blood flowed into my mouth and down my throat, filling my entire body with ecstasy. I hungrily sucked more and the blood flowed faster, a cool river of pleasure over my fire ravaged throat. She screamed and thrashed, but her violent motions were just soft feather movements against the icy grip I had on her hand.

“Bella, I’m here,” Alice was saying, trying to calm her. She held down Bella’s leg while she twisted in pain. Carlisle held her head still and her writhing slowly quieted. Her hand went limp in mine, no longer resisting with her butterfly twitches, as I continued to pull liquid rapture from her. I didn’t want to stop…ever. The fiend wanted to draw out every last drop, to feel that last shuddering pulse when her heart stopped. But as the bitter metal taste of the morphine passed my lips, I knew that I had to stop—somehow, I had to turn away before I turned my beautiful Bella into the cold corpse of my nightmares. Her words rang in my ears…it doesn’t matter…I love you…

I shuddered and wrenched my lips from the sweetest fount I would ever taste.

I couldn’t resist licking the final drops off my lips as I slowly lay her hand back against her now calm body. The fiend screamed his protest. I locked my body in place to keep from snatching her hand back again.

“Edward,” she said, very softly.

“He’s right here, Bella,” said Carlisle, staring at me.

“Stay, Edward, stay with me…”

“I will,” I replied, softly, my jaw still clenched from resisting her. Bella sighed contentedly. Her heart beat steadily, although weakly, in her chest. Slowly, my body relaxed.

“Is it all out?” Carlisle asked.

“Her blood tastes clean,” I said quietly. “I can taste the morphine.” A thrill of triumph ran through me.

“Bella?” Carlisle asked, turning back to her.

“Mmmm?” Bella said, her voice dull and fading into sleepiness.

“Is the fire gone?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “Thank you, Edward.”

I sighed. “I love you.”

“I know,” she replied, breathing the words out wearily. I laughed, weak with relief and charmed.

“Bella?” Carlisle called to her again.

She frowned, making an effort to respond through the fog of the morphine. “What?”

“Where is your mother?”

“In Florida,” she sighed. “He tricked me, Edward. He watched our videos.” Her tremulous anger almost made me laugh again. “Alice.” Bella tried opening her eyes. “Alice, the video—he knew you, Alice, he knew where you came from…” Her voice trailed off as the morphine took over. “I smell gasoline,” she said. Jasper and Emmett had taken the torn floorboards and were about to turn James, or what was left of him, to ash.

“It’s time to move her,” Carlisle said.

“No, I want to sleep,” Bella complained, making me grin so widely I thought my face would crack.

“You can sleep, sweetheart,” I soothed her. “I’ll carry you.” I swept her up in my arms, and cradled her against my chest. Alice gently supported her broken leg and we floated her out of the ballet studio. Her blood smeared my hands and chest, and she felt like a small broken bird in my arms, but I was weak with happiness to hear her heart steadily, slowly, thumping against my chest. “Sleep now, Bella,” I whispered to her.

Alice helped me into the Mercedes, careful not to jostle Bella, but she was already fast asleep. The copious amount of blood was too much for Alice in the confined space of the car, so she remained with Jasper and Emmett to finish the job with James. Carlisle drove us quickly to the closest emergency room, bringing up directions on the built in navigation system. I tried to buffer Bella from the small shakes and bumps along the road, but the morphine had done its job and she slept peacefully the entire way.

I didn’t want to let her go when we arrived. Carlisle efficiently explained to the hospital staff that he was a physician and he accompanied her as they wheeled her in on a gurney. I followed as closely behind as they would allow. Carlisle convinced them to allow me in the room while they stitched up her head wound and bound her hand. I had to let her go while they took her down for x-rays. After an apparent eternity of waiting, they wheeled Bella back, still unconscious. I flinched when they set her leg.

When the nurses finally finished bandaging her ribs and setting up the monitors in her room, I realized that they had given her a transfusion…she smelled…wrong. I wrinkled my nose at it and sighed deeply. I realized, with her blood still smeared across my chest and shirt, that I smelled more like Bella, than she did. I laughed out loud, gathering a nervous look from the nurse checking Bella’s morphine drip. With the dosage she was giving Bella, she would be out for some time, hopefully allowing her to heal more quickly.

I sat in the purple faux-leather recliner at the foot of her bed and drew the small silver phone out of my pocket. I dialed Alice and she picked up on the first ring, probably expecting my call.

“Edward, how is she?” she asked nervously. I should have called sooner. I could tell she was waiting for my call.

“She’s fine, Alice,” I said, trying to keep the chagrin out of my voice as I gazed at Bella, covered in gauze from head to toe and everywhere in between. I shook my head once again, disbelieving that she was still alive. I could so easily have been too late…“They’re keeping her sedated. She’s sleeping.”

I heard an audible sigh on the other end. “Good, good.”

“Where are you?”

“We’re back at the hotel,” she replied. “Jasper and Emmett took care of the ballet studio. I retrieved the video, the one James made, before they burned it down.”

My teeth clenched, remembering the show James had staged…for me…the show that resulted in the broken Bella lying before me. “Why did you save it?” I asked, bitterly.

“Do you remember what Bella said?” she replied, shakily. I vaguely remembered Bella saying something about James knowing Alice.

“Not really,” I said, cautiously. “I was preoccupied at the time.”

“When James was…with Bella,” she said, grimly, “he told her a story, about me. He tried to do the same thing to me, as he did to Bella. He tried to steal me away from my vampire…lover, apparently.” She somehow seemed embarrassed by this. I exhaled, shocked. I should have known there was more to this game for James. “But the one who made me - he stole me from the asylum. He must have been working there. He changed me before James could reach me. And then…” she choked, “Edward, he killed him. James killed him because he couldn’t kill me.” I could hear her sob slightly, and I cursed under my breath. Then her voice turned icy cold. “I wish I had been able to rip his head off myself!”

“I know,” I replied, softly. “Me too.” We were silent for a moment.

Alice sighed again. “Are you sure Bella is okay?”

“Yes. Carlisle is still talking to the doctors about her head wound, but it doesn’t look like she has a concussion. It will take her a while to heal, though…” My throat tightened up. I cleared it and went on. “Alice, could you do something for me?”

“Of course.”

“Can you call Bella’s mom and dad and let them know? We need to think of some kind of cover story, something that will explain…well, all the injuries.” I groaned slightly.

“I’ve already got you covered on that, Edward. Bella apparently fell down a couple flights of stairs and through a window…”

“A window?”

“Well, she had to get the cuts from somewhere. Anyway, Jasper and I have a great cover story going for you. I’ll give them a call.”

“Thanks, Alice.”

“Just take care of our girl, there, okay? I’m going to visit as soon as we get things taken care of here.”

“Alice, there’s one more thing.”

“Yes?”

“I need a new shirt.”

The soft pinging of the monitors and dripping of the IVs masked her steady, rhythmic breathing, but I was used to watching her sleep. Eventually, I tuned out the various hospital noises, which continued around the clock, and could discern just Bella. She lay very still, not making the normal little motions she made when she slept. I supposed this was good, to keep her from injuring herself or pulling on the many lines attached to her, but it unsettled me to see her so quiet. I wanted to see something, a flutter of eyelashes or a simple sigh, just to reassure myself that she was still there…but she never moved. I spent the hours watching her, or staring at the glaring white lights above the bed. I had drawn the long vertical blinds to keep out the Phoenix sun.

I was completely unwilling to leave her side. Carlisle somehow arranged it—through charm or deference, I’m not sure—but they stopped asking if I wanted to leave after a few hours. Occasionally, I pretended to sleep when the nursing staff came in to check on her, just to keep up appearances. Alice came to visit, bringing food for me to feign eating. I just threw it in the trash. She was alarmed to see Bella buried in bandages, looking deathly pale. I halfheartedly tried to reassure her that Bella would be fine, in spite of how she looked. I was unconvincing, even to myself.

Alice had called Bella's mom and she caught the next plane from Florida. She would be arriving shortly, and Alice had arranged to pick her up from the airport and bring her straight to the hospital. It had been nearly 24 hours since we brought Bella to the ER, and she was still in a deep sleep, looking no better than when we first arrived, aside from being cleaned up. It distressed me that Bella's mother—Renee, I think, was her name—would see Bella like this. Alice had explained the cover story, but I hardly thought it would make for a good first impression on Bella's mother. I suddenly realized that I had no idea what her last name was, or what name she preferred. Her parents were divorced. Was she still Mrs. Swan? I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was too late to call Alice. They would be here any moment. I ran my hand through my hair, trying to think if Bella had ever mentioned her mother's last name. No, of course she wouldn't.

I sighed. Getting her name right was going to be the least of the trouble when she arrived. Hello, Mrs. Swan, I'm Edward Cullen, the boy under whose care your daughter was nearly killed. If she was anything like her daughter, she would see right through our lies to the truth. This was my fault.

Bella shifted slightly on the bed, making a small rustling noise as the sheets scraped the plastic mattress below. She turned her head, sighed and settled again. My breath caught seeing it, and for the first time since arriving here, I smiled slightly. The nurse came in, checking her monitors and the morphine drip, turning it up slightly. When she came out of that deep sleep, she would be in pain. It would take weeks for her leg to heal, and during that time there would be considerable pain as well. I put my head in my hands, miserable again.

I heard Alice's thoughts, shouting at me as she entered the hospital, three floors away. Edward! She's in a complete state! We'll be there in just a minute. I bolted upright, and looked through Alice's eyes. They were hurrying through the main floor and had just stepped onto the elevator. They would be here in moments. I stepped outside Bella's room for the first time since she was brought to the room. I wanted to intercept Renee and prepare her to see Bella.

My fists clenched and unclenched as I stood, nearly blocking the door to Bella's room. I was at a complete loss as to what to say to Renee. I had just settled on trying to reassure her that Bella would be okay, when she rounded the corner and ran smack into me. Shocked, I caught her on the way down, so she didn't hit the cold linoleum floor. She looked up at me with those same liquid chocolate eyes that I loved so much in Bella, and they were filled with a kind of panic.

"Oh! Excuse me!" she gasped, struggling to right herself and disentangle from my arms. Alice was a half beat behind her, eyes wide with concern. "I'm looking for Bella..." she continued, breathlessly.

"I know. I'm..." I started, but she wasn't listening to me. She had already caught a glimpse of Bella through the tiny slit of a window in the door and gasped. Hand over her mouth, she quietly said, "Oh, no, Bella!" and shoved the door out of her way as she hurried in the room. Alice and I were left standing in the hallway, mouths open. I quickly shut mine and followed her into the room. Renee was leaning over the bed, blond waves falling across her face, one hand stroking Bella's hair and the other slowly petting Bella's hand —the one without the IVs taped to it. "Oh, sweetheart..." she whispered, tears spilling down her cheeks. I stood just behind her, wanting to comfort her, say something, but nothing came out. My baby, my baby, Renee thought.

I started to explain everything to her, Edward, but she just got more and more...upset, Alice told me wordlessly. I glanced at her and she had a helpless look on her face. I nodded to her and inclined my head to say she didn't need to stay. I would take care of her from here. As Alice left, I brought a hard plastic chair over for Renee to sit in, setting it quietly behind her. She glanced back at it, gave me a weak smile, and sat in it. She took Bella's hand and held it to her cheek as she examined Bella's sleeping face. More tears fell. I stumbled a little backwards and had to sit on the recliner at the end of the bed that had been my station for the last day. My knees felt weak.

The silence stretched, with just a few sniffles from Renee and the constant beeping of the machines. She thought of all the times that Bella had fallen when she was little, and how Renee had secretly thought that all those times she got hurt and dusted herself off and picked herself up had just made her little Bella that much stronger. Each time, a little more tough, so that she was just sure Bella would be able to survive anything, anything at all. But this—this was too much, no one should hurt this much. But they all say you're going to get better, Bella, my sweet baby, so you just have to do it. You have to get better, just like you always have. What would I do without you? she thought.

She surprised me by turning to face me. Still holding Bella's hand on the mattress, eyes shining with more tears, she said, "You must be Edward."

"Yes, ma'am. I'm...I'm Edward Cullen," I stumbled.

She nodded, glancing around the room. "You brought her to the hospital?"

I winced. "Yes, I...when we heard the crash...I found her and brought her here, as quickly as I could."

"And you've been here ever since?"

"Yes, ma'am." She nodded again, really looking me over this time. She wondered what Bella thought of me, what she would make of my obvious devotion to her. She thought I must have a serious crush on Bella, and she wasn't quite sure if that was a good thing. Bella hadn't shared any details with her. I realized with a start that it had been less than a week since our encounter in the meadow...and most of that time we had been on the run. Of course, Bella wouldn't have had time to tell her mother about me. I knew they were close, and she would want to. But what could she say?

"So, are you a student at Forks High as well?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am, I'm a junior. I'm in Bella's biology class." It sounded incredibly trivial to speak of Bella as a girl from one of my classes.

"Well, you must be smart, if you're in my Bella's AP Biology class," she said, smiling slightly. I sighed internally in relief when her thoughts took a more favorable turn about me. She had heard Alice's story after all, about how I had come to Phoenix to try to talk her into coming back to Forks, and seemed to think that while I was probably trying to win her back for my own selfish reasons, it certainly showed that I loved Bella and that couldn't be too bad of a thing. She was right about the selfish part, at least. And that I loved her. I was right - she percieved the truth as well as her daughter.

A soft knock came from the partially open door, and Carlisle stepped through. Somewhere along the way, he had acquired a white doctor's coat. He carried a clipboard with Bella's chart, since he had appointed himself Bella's attending physician.

"Hello, I hope I'm not interrupting," Carlisle said. "I'm Dr. Cullen, Edward's father, and for the moment, Bella's doctor." He extended his hand to Renee, who stood up to take it. "You must be Mrs. Swan."

"Please call me Renee," she said, and amazingly she blushed. She was a little stunned by Carlisle's warm smile and apparently thought Carlisle quite attractive, although young for a doctor. "How is Bella?" she asked, anxiously glancing at Bella's unmoving form.

"Well, she's sustained several injuries and lost a lot of blood," Carlisle started, and I shook my head severely at him from behind Renee's back. "But," he said smiling widely, "I expect her to make a complete recovery. She will have to stay here for a while, and we will keep her sedated to help her rest and recover for at least another day. When her blood pressure comes back up, and she's stable, we can consider waking her again."

Renee seemed visibly relieved. "I want to stay here with her, until she wakes up."

Carlisle quirked an eyebrow to me, but said to Renee, "That's fine, although these aren't the most comfortable accommodations." He gestured to the chair and the recliner. I wasn't looking forward spending days on end in a hospital room with Bella's mother. Thankfully, Alice popped her head in at that moment. Deciding it was safe to enter, she danced over to Renee and took her by the arm.

"See? I told you Bella was okay. Now, let me take you to get something to eat. You must be famished." Alice gently patted Renee's arm and gestured toward the door. I threw her a grateful look.

"Well, they didn't feed us on the plane..." Renee said, uncertainly, glancing at me. I quickly smiled at her, reassuringly, and Alice virtually beamed at her.

"Well, then, we must feed you. That way you'll have the strength to tolerate Edward's presence when you come back to visit Bella."

My smile turned to a grimace as Renee giggled slightly and acquiesced to Alice leading her from the room. Carlisle smirked.

"That's really not funny," I complained, but Carlisle just gave a short laugh.

"Good luck," he said, eyes dancing as he left me alone with Bella.

I failed to see the humor in being trapped with Bella's mother in a hospital room for days at a time, while we both worried about Bella recovering from her gruesome injuries. In fact, I failed to see anything positive coming out of this entire situation, other than the simple fact that James was dead and Bella was alive. It was only by the slimmest of chances that I had arrived in time to keep James from draining every last drop from her, from having his cruel victory. I could so easily have been too late, and Bella would be in the morgue. James would still be dead, as I would have killed him myself, but that would have been a cold comfort if Bella was dead as well. I sat wearily down in the chair Bella's mother had just vacated, gently taking Bella's warm hand in my icy one. I could feel the living pulse throbbing through her wrist, reverberating even in her fingertips. I held them to my cheek, relishing the fire of even her unconscious touch. She lay, wrapped in a dozen bandages, clinging to life because of the danger that I brought to her, the menace that I was to her. And yet I selfishly stole touches that didn't belong to me, unable to bear parting from her.

Her fingertips pulsed on my cheek—she was warmly, wonderfully alive, and that was all that mattered to me.