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Darkest Before the Dawn

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.

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.

26. Chapter 26 - Coming Home

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Chapter 26 - Coming Home

Her rhythmic breathing and slow, steadily thumping heart lulled me. Her sweet perfume seeped into my skin, the same way it had that first night that I stole into her room to watch her, so long ago. I had been watching her from across the room for an hour. Jasper and Emmett had dropped me at her house, as I insisted on seeing her before the morning broke.

It had been less than two weeks since I last spent the night in this room with Bella, cuddling, whispering, silently moving and shifting with her through the night. That night, after our revelations and declarations in the meadow, was a last blaze of sweetness and love before the dark nightmare of James descended on us. And now, miraculously, she was alive, asleep in her own bed, and beautiful beyond reason, in spite of the large lump that her leg cast made underneath the sheets.

The pale light of the pre-dawn evenly lit her room in a soft grey that washed out all of the shadows. I wanted to lay in the bed with her, hold her in my arms, but I was afraid I might hurt her, more than I already had. I contented myself with re-acclimating to her scent, and enjoying the lovely calmness that her presence always brought in me. As I glanced at the ever-lightening sky and realized that the day would soon be here to stay, and I could not, I selfishly stole over to her bed and lay my cold hand on her forehead. I gently stroked back her hair, and she murmured something and began to stir. I knew I shouldn't wake her, but I couldn't bear to leave without speaking to her.

She shifted slightly, winced in what I knew must be pain from her injuries, and slowly opened her eyes.

"Good morning, beautiful," I whispered, so as not to attract Charlie's notice, down the hall. His snoring occasionally drifted down to Bella's room.

Her eyes flew open at my voice. "Edward! You're here..." she exclaimed.

"Shhh..." I shushed her, still gently stroking her silky hair and placing my other hand softly on her shoulder to keep her from lifting up from the bed. When she relaxed and settled back down, I traced her lips with my fingertip, relishing the softness there and then couldn't resist bending down to gently press my lips to hers. Her small gasp sent shivers of delight through me.

I pulled back, smiling. "I'm sorry I had to go so quickly on the phone," I said, wanting to apologize straight away for my rudeness earlier. I gestured with my empty hands. "I didn't even bring you a souvenir from Las Vegas." After Vegas, we had flown down the nighttime highway - I was determined to get to Forks as quickly as possible. Jasper and Emmett had only minor protests after I had fleeced them.

"You're all I want," Bella said, capturing my heart in her words.

I took a deep breath, inhaling her perfume. "You're all I've ever needed..." I said, "...and never knew I was missing..."

"Did you miss me, then?" she asked, a small smile creeping onto her lips. "While you were gambling?"

I grimaced. "Jasper and Emmett gambled...and lost. I was righting an injustice."

She laughed quietly. "I supposed it isn't much of a gamble to play cards when you read minds."

"They should never have bet against me. And neither should you," I smiled and touched her lips again, running my fingertip slowly across her bottom lip, then outlining her smile. My smile grew as her lips warmed the tip of my finger. I bent in to kiss her again. She held very still and seemed to breathe me in as I kissed her. Her inhaling me made me shudder.

"And I definitely missed you," I said, pulling back again, before her intoxicating presence could get the best of me. I looked into her warm brown eyes, smirking at her pounding heart, and asked, "Am I forgiven?"

"Keep those coming, and I will consider it," she said, breathlessly. My smirk grew to a full grin, and I peppered her lips with chaste kisses, delighted that I could get away with doing so.

The grey tones in Bella's room began to take on a rosy glow. The morning was about to arrive, and Alice's thoughts invaded mine. Time to go, Edward...she was apparently waiting around the corner with my silver Volvo - waiting for me to leave. I inhaled a deep breath of Bella perfume.

"I wish I could stay and spend the day...talking," I said, smirking while she pouted, "but I doubt Charlie would appreciate finding me here. Unfortunately, I am still on the road driving that lumbering beast of a vehicle you own. At least, that is what Charlie thinks."

Her pout turned into a frown. "Does that mean you won't be coming back soon?"

"I'm afraid not. If I make an appearance before this afternoon, Charlie will be suspicious, and I don't want to give him any more reasons to distrust me."

She nodded, but kept frowning, not liking it any more than I did. "I will be back this afternoon, I promise," I said. Looking down at her leg, obscured by the sheet, I grimaced again. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine."

"You are not fine, Bella. Please, be honest. Are you in much pain? Are the painkillers they gave you when you left the hospital working? Carlisle can get you more powerful ones, if you need them..."

"Edward," she cut me off, and I set my mouth in a hard line. I would ensure she was taken care of. "I'm fine. You don't need to worry about me."

"I will worry. The only reason I'm willing to leave you at all is that Alice is here, and about ready to jump out of her skin with excitement to come take care of you. I trust," I paused for a moment, "I trust that she will do a good job of that."

Bella caught the hesitation, and looked concerned. "Don't be angry with her, Edward. Please. I made her do it."

I laughed loudly, and then quickly reeled it in, realizing that Charlie would be up at any moment. "Bella, I can't make Alice do anything she doesn't want to do. And I'm a vampire. You're..." I gestured at her lying, broken and pale, in her bed.

"A squishy human?" she asked, disgusted.

"A wonderfully determined, and stubborn, woman." My heart caught at calling her a woman. Part of me wanted to say girl, and I was determined not to treat her that way, in spite of her tender youth. "In any event, Alice will do as she wishes." At Bella's concerned look, I added, "Don't worry. I won't make her pay...too much." I smiled to take the edge off my voice.

Alice's thoughts were getting more impatient, and I threw a nasty look at the window.

"You promise you'll be back as soon as you can?"

"I promise," I replied, and kissed her tenderly once more. With a sigh, and a regretful look, I slipped noiselessly out of Bella's window. I shut it quietly on my way down, landing silently on the lawn below.

I ran quickly around the corner and found Alice, tapping her foot impatiently as she stood next to the Volvo. Jasper stood behind her, arms wrapped around her waist and whispering quietly in her ear. As I arrived he straightened up and stepped to the side of her, so that he now was positioned slightly in front of her, in between the two of us. The Mercedes was parked behind the Volvo, and it was clear from Jasper's thoughts that he wasn't leaving the reunion between Alice and I to chance. He had every intention of bringing me back home in the Mercedes, and would not be leaving me alone with Alice.

"That's not necessary, Jasper," I said. He was unimpressed and stood his ground.

"Alice..." I started.

"Edward, I'm sorry," Alice blurted out, the agitation in her body starting to make her vibrate subtly next to Jasper’s stone cold stillness. His eyes never left mine.

I sighed. "Alice, it's all right. I'm not happy that you told her, but..." my eyes flicked to Jasper's dark eyes and then returned to Alice's amber ones, "but, I understand why you did it."

Relief seemed to wash through her like a bucket of water. At least the trembling had stopped. Jasper seemed to visibly relax as well, but he still did not move from his defensive position.

"Besides," I added, "I need you to take care of Bella today, until I can come back this afternoon."

Alice's small head bobbed vigorously up and down. Jasper had told her about our discussion in the car on the way from Phoenix - apparently he had left out the part where we almost came to blows - and had reassured her that I would forgive her. He also appeared ready to encourage that forgiveness with his fist again, if necessary. Alice was a little confused as to why I had so readily relented, but she was glad to have it settled and didn't want to press. Mostly she was almost as anxious as I was to see to Bella and make her comfortable in any way possible. That, more than anything, warmed my heart again for this small, troublesome sister of mine.

I ignored the hard stare still coming from Jasper, and gave Alice a soft look, dropping my voice. "I think she may still be in pain, so you might have to encourage her to take more painkillers. Maybe she'll listen to you. Please...please don't let her do anything foolish, where she might re-injure herself."

Alice was nodding as I spoke. She took a step forward, closing the distance between us, and placing her small hand on my arm, which was folded in front of my chest. I realized I was still standing stiffly with my arms rigidly wrapped in front of me. I relaxed a little at her touch. "I promise, Edward. I'll take care of her."

I nodded. We could all hear the noises of Charlie clumping around in the kitchen, around the corner in the Swan house. "You better get in there," I said. "Charlie's trying to figure out how to make breakfast for Bella."

"Well, I'm not sure I'll be much help with that," Alice replied with a small smile, "but, I'll try." With a vampire speed peck on the cheek for Jasper, Alice was in the Volvo and heading down the street and around the corner to Bella's house.

I turned to Jasper. "Thanks for not trying to slug me again."

"Thanks for not making it necessary," he replied, and only then cracked a smile. We slid into the Mercedes - Jasper drove and I rode shotgun. The silence was heavy, but by the time we reached home it had lightened somewhat. Jasper could read my mood, so he knew I wasn't really angry, just concerned for Bella. I could read his mind, so I knew he wasn't truly upset with me, just protective of Alice. I could hardly blame him for that.

As we pulled up the driveway, Jasper spoke up. "Emmett and I are going hunting. You coming?" It seemed an eternity since I had last been in the house, but the raw burning in my throat flared a little just at the mention of hunting. Listening in to the thoughts inside, I could hear Esme mentally berating Emmett for not bringing me home first.

"I think I need to check in with Mom, first," I said, grinning, "but count me in."

As Jasper went to find Emmett, I strolled through the door, looking for Esme. As soon as she heard my footfalls crossing the entryway, she flew down the stairs. The intensity of her hug took me by surprise, and I was enveloped in a cloud of caramel curls. Edward, I'm so glad you're home, she thought, not releasing me for a long moment.

"Esme, I'm fine," I found myself pulling back from her, trying to reassure her. Her hands lingered on my shoulders, holding me still. Her dark amber eyes searched mine, looking for the truth.

"You need to hunt," she reproved.

"I've been a little busy, but I promise I'll eat soon, Mom," I teased. She finally smiled and seemed relieved. For some reason, she needed to see me to believe that everything had gone all right in Phoenix.

"How is Bella?" she asked.

"As well as can be expected," I said, growing grim again. "I'm going back over there this afternoon."

"She'll be in good hands with Alice. I'm arranging for some meals to be delivered to the house." She gave me a conspiratorial look. "I don't want Bella to starve while Alice is in charge."

I laughed, grateful for the concern Esme had for Bella, as well as for me. Inclining my head toward the back of the house and the forest, I pried myself loose from her still firm grip on my shoulders. "Jasper and Emmett are waiting for me, and they're thirsty too." She reluctantly let me go. I'm glad your home, she thought again. I gave her my best smile and ran to meet Jasper and Emmett.

I found Rosalie with her arms wrapped around Emmett, whispering in his ear, so low that even I couldn't hear. I did my best to block out the intimate thoughts she was communicating about their plans for later.

"Are you hunting?" I asked Emmett, knowing the struggle going on in his head about leaving Rose at that particular moment. He seemed to think he had some catching up to do. He growled at me. I ignored him, and addressed Rose instead.

"Rose, I never got a chance to thank you - for your help with throwing Victoria off the trail, and watching over Charlie. Really - thank you."

Rose released Emmett, facing me briefly, saying, "Don't mention it," and turning to walk back into the house. With her receding back to me, she added, I mean it, Edward. Don't ever bring it up again.

I had to grin and shake my head. There was no place like home.

I had no idea how thirsty I had been, until I drained the first deer in record time, cool washes of blood soothing my ragged throat. We spent most of the day hunting, until we were fully sated. I was glad for the distraction, keeping my thoughts far from Bella in pain, hobbling around the house with only Alice and a hapless Charlie to keep her out of trouble. I winced just thinking about it. Of course, Alice would be able to take care of her just fine, but having Charlie there would crimp her ability to bodily lift Bella and move her around. At least I could reasonably get away with that, if I was there. I itched to get back to her house.

Finally, the afternoon rolled around. After hunting, I had returned to the house and played piano for a while, reassuring Esme that all was well. When I could bear the suspense no longer, I told everyone I would be at Bella's if they needed me, and unearthed Bella's truck from its resting spot in the Cullen garage. The familiar streets of Forks creaked by and I arrived at Bella's house at precisely 5 p.m., the time I had calculated would be the minimum that the truck could make the fictitious trip from Phoenix.

Charlie and Alice were in the kitchen having an animated discussion about what to make Bella for dinner. It was like two children trying to decipher Stonehenge. Trying to contain my humor, and concerned that neither was attending to Bella, unless she had taken up residence in the kitchen, I knocked on the door. Charlie answered, and seemed shocked to see me. Apparently, Alice and Bella had failed to mention that I would be arriving this afternoon. Sorry, Edward, Alice thought. It just didn’t seem like a good topic to bring up.

“Hello, Chief Swan, sir,” I said, sensing danger in his thoughts. He was debating getting his gun. “I brought Bella’s truck home,” I gestured to the beast in the driveway. He poked his head out the door, still blocking my entry, looking at the driveway as if he half expected me to be lying.

“Ok,” he nodded, getting ready to close the door in my face.

“Um, how is Bella?” I asked hastily, realizing I was quickly losing ground.

“She’s fine,” he said, gruffly. “No thanks to you.” His glare turned cold and he mentally dared me to contradict his indictment of me.

“No, sir. I’m sorry...” I faltered. There was so much to apologize for and I couldn’t even come close to the truth. “I’m sorry about everything. I just want to make sure Bella is okay now.”

“Dad!” Bella’s voice came from upstairs in her room. Charlie and I both flinched, for different reasons. I was afraid she might be trying to get out of bed to come see me, and Charlie felt a flash of guilt for being caught trying to get rid of me. “Dad, is that Edward?”

He grimaced at me, narrowing his eyes before answering her. “Yeah. He’s back, apparently.”

“Dad! Let him in, or I’m coming down there myself!” I was growing increasingly nervous that she might actually do that, breaking her remaining limbs as she fell down the stairs, and even Charlie seemed to think that was a possibility, because he relented and opened the door to let me inside.

“Thank you, sir,” I said, trying to appear as grateful as possible while hurrying inside and up the stairs to see Bella. I stopped in her doorway, arrested by the sight of her sitting, propped up in her bed, dark hair cascading down over her soft blue pajamas. Her liquid chocolate eyes were searching for me. I had seen her just this morning and it still felt like days, not hours. I flew to her bed side, unsure how long I had until Charlie made his way up to her room. I kneeled down next to her, reaching up to quickly kiss her and push her hair back off her shoulder just to have the chance to touch it.

“Please tell me you would not have hazarded the stairs, just to come see me,” I begged.

She looked very seriously at me, pausing for just a moment before saying, “I would probably crawl over broken glass, just to see you.” My heart clenched with the sincerity ringing in her voice. No, Bella, no. I’m not worth it...

“You need to promise me you will not put yourself in danger anymore,” I said, just as seriously and with a touch of desperation.

Looking triumphant, she said, “Well, there is something you could do to keep me permanently out of danger...”

I hung my head. Taking a deep breath, I looked up at her again. “Are we going to fight about this every time I see you?”

She seemed to consider this for a moment. Then she nodded. “Yes.”

I shook my head. Downstairs, Alice was buying me time, corralling Charlie back into the kitchen. She claimed ignorance about where to find supplies for the cheese sandwich they had settled on as most likely to be presentable to Bella, and least likely to be foiled by their ineptitude in the cooking department. Charlie was charmed by Alice’s beauty and attentions. Alice’s ability to sweep everyone she encountered up in her energetic aura was coming in handy at the moment.

“Has Alice been taking good care of you?” I asked, looking her over critically to see if there were any fresh bruises or injuries. Finding none, my eyes returned to hers. She smiled at me, and I felt the sunshine fill me.

“Alice is keeping Charlie occupied,”she said, “which is about the best thing I could hope for, at this point. It will be better for both of us when he goes back to work tomorrow.”

“Charlie will be gone tomorrow?” I asked, hopefully. Perhaps I could stay with Bella, instead of Alice.

She nodded. “I’m not supposed to return to school until next week, and he was planning on staying home with me until then.” She rolled her eyes. “Alice has helped me convince him that I will be fine with her here, instead. Charlie’s great. He just doesn’t know what to do with himself around the house all day.”

I hoped that explained some of his agitation with me, being cooped up in the house all day. But I kind of doubted it. Sensing my time alone with Bella was going to be limited, I reached up to gently stroke her cheek with my fingertips.

“I missed you today,” I said softly. She closed her eyes as I touched her, and then opened and blazed them right into mine.

“You hunted today,” she said, noticing the change in my eye color.

“So I could stay with you...all night,” I quirked my lips, giving her my crooked smile.

She smiled back. “I’m looking forward to that. But, what about Charlie?”

I bent in to kiss her, whispering against her lips as I did, “What he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him...or me.” She giggled as I peppered her with kisses and then got more serious, taking her face in both hands, gently stroking her cheeks as I caressed her lips with mine.

Clean it up, Edward, we’re coming! Alice yelled in her thoughts, giving me about twenty seconds warning before she and Charlie appeared at Bella’s doorway - just enough time for me to kiss Bella one more time before standing respectably at the foot of her bed, hands behind my back, a picture of seriousness. Bella didn’t even try to hide her smile.

Alice held a plate in her two small hands before her, presenting the cheese sandwich as if it was a masterpiece. Charlie glared at me. Alice’s charms had momentarily caused him to forget my presence. I smiled tightly in response.

“Bella, dear, we’ve brought you dinner!” Alice chirped, dancing over to deposit the plate on the bed next to Bella. “Oh dear!” she exclaimed. “Did you need some utensils?” Alice frowned and appeared about to rush back down to the kitchen.

“This will do fine, Alice, thanks,” Bella said, laughing. Alice’s gaffe went unnoticed by Charlie, who had crossed his arms, and continued to look suspiciously at me. He was contemplating ways to get me to leave. I gave Alice a look, begging for help. Coming quickly to the rescue, she tugged on Charlie’s arm.

“Charlie, wasn’t there some kind of game on the television you were going to show me?”

“Huh?” he asked, distracted from glaring daggers at me. “Oh, Alice, honey, you don’t really like watching sports, do you?” he asked, but I could tell from his thoughts that he would like nothing better than to have Alice join him. I nodded subtly to Alice with Charlie’s back turned, but she was way ahead of me.

“Well, I absolutely LOVE baseball! Do you think there are any games on?” Alice smiled sweetly at him.

“I’m sure we could find something. Opening night was just last week.” He smiled in return. Before Alice could drag him from the room, he turned sharply to me. “Curfew around here is 8 o’clock,” he said.

“Dad!” Bella protested.

“You need to rest,” he said, turning to her.

“I agree, Bella, you need to rest. I won’t keep her up late, sir.”

“No, you won’t,” he agreed.

“Maybe I could come back tomorrow, to help Alice keep an eye on Bella...” I ventured.

He looked coldly at me. “Shouldn’t you be in school tomorrow, son? We still have a truancy law in these parts.” He was hoping I would try it, just so he would have an excuse to arrest me for something. He was already making plans to stop by in the middle of the day tomorrow, in a surprise visit. I sighed. It would be difficult to skip school without word getting back to the Chief.

“I guess I forgot about school, sir. Of course, you’re right.” He nodded.

Alice tugged him out of the room, saying “Charlie, we’re going to miss the game!” He kept staring at me, and tapped his watch before he left, making sure I knew my time was limited. As soon as they were down the stairs, I was back at Bella’s side.

“I think I have a ways to go in winning over your father,” I said, wryly.

“He’ll come around,” she promised.

Alice kept Charlie occupied until curfew time, at which point Charlie promptly ushered me from the house. Alice would remain until Bella turned in for the night, and everyone but Charlie knew I would be back to take over the Bella-watch at that point. I was frustrated that I would have to go to school tomorrow, as if that meant anything to me when Bella was broken and healing at home, but Bella had insisted that I needed to go, to keep up appearances. Fortunately, Forks High was close enough to Bella’s house that, if I concentrated, I could overhear Alice’s thoughts and check in on Bella that way. And I would return for the limited visiting hours that we had negotiated with Charlie. Having only a small amount of time with Bella would drive me slowly insane, and I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate it at all if we didn’t have our nights together.

I decided I would use my time away from Bella to work on a plan to gain Charlie’s trust.