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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


31. Chapter 31 This Is My Blood

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3830   Review this Chapter

Bella

"Sh-h-h," Rosalie said. "Just lie back."

"No!" I struggled to sit up. I saw my sleeves were torn into shreds and I watched, unbelieving, as a dark stain blossomed on my shirt at the waist.

She pushed at me, trying to get me to lie down. "You've been hurt."

"Shit." I was hurt. Jacob had hurt me, totally unintentionally I was sure. I'd been in the wrong place as he woke up, and he had come out fighting. I should have known. He'd gone into the trance fighting; it was the way he would awake from it.

It was only now after I realized I was hurt that I started to ache and sting. I heard Carlisle talking, arguing with Aro on behalf of the pack, and through the darkness, I saw Jacob, naked and curled on the ground, two of the vampires standing guard over him. I couldn't tell if he was dead or alive. "Jake!" I yelled. The two vampires standing over Jake watched me curiously, but there was no movement from him.

"Bella! Lie still. I'm trying to help you," Rosalie commanded, tearing fabric from her shirt. She pushed me back down to the ground and held me there. Somebody's raincoat was underneath me. I struggled against her, calling for Jake, but I was helpless against her solid arms. Emmett and Esme were standing over me as well. "Please help him," I said, meaning Jacob, looking to Emmett and Esme. "Don't let them kill him."

Rosalie scowled. "Carlisle's working on it, though I don't know why." She pushed my left sleeve up and looked at several puncture marks that were leaking blood. She grew very still watching it, then looked up to Emmett, who was hovering above us. "Get Carlisle. I can't do this." She frowned at me. "You. Stay where you are."

I laid my head back as my injuries started to sting in earnest. I could smell the blood, and it was making my head spin. I hated the sharp metallic tang of it. I craned my neck, looking around, but I couldn't see Edward through the legs of those around me. I tried again to sit up, but a sharp icy pang ran through my shoulder, and I gasped against the sudden pain.

Carlisle hung over me. "Bella, I need you out of this shirt. I need to see your injuries." I had no sooner nodded when with a few tremendous rips the shirt was off me and I was lying back in just my bra. The raincoat was slick and damp under me. "Talk to me, Bella," he said. "Tell me where it hurts." He was dabbing at me with the remains of my shirt, before handing it to Rosalie. "Press here," he said to her, and she leaned on my shoulder, staunching the wound there while Carlisle continued working.

"That hurts," I said. Rosalie grimaced above me, pressing firmly down on my shoulder without looking at it.

With a few quick twists, Carlisle had wrapped my forearms in strips of fabric. "We need to get you back to the house." His eyebrows furrowed as he sniffed twice sharply.

"Where's Edward?" I asked.

Carlisle glanced over his shoulder. "He's…okay." He ripped off a chunk of his own shirt and put it on the long scratches on my stomach. "Press as hard as you can stand it." He paused a moment, looking up, and I followed his gaze.

Above us, one of the strange vampires held out his cloak. Carlisle took it slowly. "Thank you, Demetri." The vampire nodded, looking at me. He smiled, and it was not a reassuring sight.

Carlisle tucked the cloak in around me. "Just rest easy. We'll get you back to the house as soon as we can."

"Don't let them hurt the Quileutes," I begged.

He patted my leg. "Working on it." He stood up and walked towards Aro.

I craned my head, looking for Edward. Finally, I caught sight of him, along the edge of the headlights' illumination. He was crouched on the ground with the big vampire above him, one hand on his shoulder. I almost cried out when I saw him. Shadows haunted his face, and his eyes were huge and black. He was glaring at me, but not seeing me. A tremor pulsed through his body, and he tore at the grass in apparent frustration. I looked at the scrap of fabric I held at my waist and saw the irregular stain of blood. It's the smell of my blood.It's affecting him. I looked up at Rosalie, who was working very hard at ignoring me, despite the steady pressure she was applying to my shoulder. The rest of the Cullens had moved some distance away. Carlisle stood in front of Aro, gesturing. Off to one side, the Monsignor was frowning at me, while his captors grinned. One of them caught my eye and smiled at me, licking her lips.

Aro was shaking his head. That didn't look good. I tried to sit up, but Rosalie's pressure on my shoulder held me down. "Rosalie, let me up. Please."

"Carlisle wants you lying down."

"I can't lie here and watch my friends destroyed. Please let me help them. You have to let me up."

There must have been some note in my pleading that touched her. She released the apparent breath she'd been holding and sat back. "Keep away from Edward. It's your blood that's doing this to him."

"Thank you," I whispered as I got to my feet, pulling the cloak around me. Edward continued to stare at me mutely, his eyes following me as I walked past him toward Jacob. He shivered once and curled farther into himself.

"Jake," I said, touching him gently on the shoulder where he lay curled on his side. His hand was bent at an odd angle to his arm, and there was an angry red spot over some of his ribs. They were cuts and scrapes all over him, and his blood mixed with the mud and dirt, streaking his body. "Oh my God, Jake, what have they done to you?"

He moaned without opening his eyes. The relief I felt at knowing he was alive was tempered by the fear I felt for him, for all the Quileutes. I stood up, fighting the lightheadedness that was threatening to overwhelm me, and trudged over to where Aro and Carlisle were.

"They are unique here in the North," Carlisle was saying to Aro. "It's been our presence in their range that has--"

"You have to let them go," I interrupted. Desperation was making me bold.

Carlisle looked at me, a warning in his eyes. Aro raised his eyebrows. "Why is that, Isabella Swan?"

"Because they haven't done anything. They're boys. They're just trying to protect..." Me. Oh my God, this was about me. "Please."

"They have broken their treaty with Carlisle," Aro said. "They have violated the edict of secrecy."

"It was in response to a perceived threat. They have as much to lose from this as us," Carlisle pointed out.

"I hardly think so," Aro said. "They are a small provincial band, we dominate the world."

"And for hundreds of years, they have kept their secret. What kind of attention will the disappearance of so many of them create?" Carlisle argued. Aro frowned, giving Carlisle room to press his point. "They are part of a much larger community here with many ties to the larger population."

"Please. I'm begging you," I said desperately, ready to drop on my knees. If anything happened to them, their lives would be on my conscience, a thought I couldn't bear.

Carlisle stepped back, bowed his head and spread his hands in some kind of signal. "I ask it as a favor to me."

Behind where we stood, the rest of the Cullens had gathered together. Jasper was looking at me intently, making me uneasy with the singular fierceness of his gaze. He watched me, until Alice, raising on tiptoe, whispered in his ear. Jasper listened, nodded and took a step forward, his gaze intent on Aro's back.

Aro glanced between Carlisle and me, measuring us. "In the name of friendship, then. I will agree to let them go−if they leave the field peacefully. I would ask in return, Carlisle, that you do not let our friendship lapse so long. You will come visit me soon, yes?"

"Of course."

"Be sure to bring your family. I think Jasper especially would be interested in our association." He glanced over his shoulder at the Cullens. Jasper met his eyes without expression. "And Alice, of course."

"It will be done," Carlisle agreed. "Please release just the leader first," he said, pointing to Sam, "and let me explain the situation."

Aro gestured to Alec, and the two of us turned to watch Carlisle cross the field. I felt Aro's eyes on me. "The cloak suits you. You should keep it." I turned to see his alien red eyes on me and shivered. He chuckled under his breath.

Carlisle stood by Sam, who came awake with a start. Carlisle started speaking low and urgently. Sam listened for a moment, then saw Jacob on the ground. I held my breath, praying that Sam would see that he was way outgunned and could see the reason in leaving peacefully. These vampires were immensely old and powerful, and the Quileutes would be no match against them.

The two vampires stepped back to let Sam and Carlisle examine Jacob. Sam's face was grim and determined as Carlisle continued to talk. I heard my name mentioned, and Sam's eyes flicked toward me. They were hard and unforgiving. I couldn't blame him. Unwittingly and to protect me, the Quileutes had come to this field and had found that not only did I not want their protection, but they had been ambushed by a unimaginably powerful enemy.

Finally they stood up and Carlisle asked Alec to release the rest of the wolves as Sam stepped back and phased into a huge black wolf. He shook himself, as a wet dog would, spraying rain. "Fascinating," Aro breathed beside me.

Gradually, the wolves came awake, some snarling and growling as they came aware, but Sam sprang in their midst and snapped at them, demanding submission in a show of dominance.

One of the wolves rose to its rear paws and Embry appeared where the wolf had been. He stepped forward towards Jacob, his eyes were hard but haunted, and his young face was aged by the emotions he held back. With immense dignity, he looked around at the field of vampires, conceding nothing, and then gently picked up Jacob, who groaned without waking. He clasped him to his chest and started back across the field with him. I breathed a sigh of relief as I watched his strong naked body carry his wounded friend into the forest. The wolves followed them, several of them looking back over their shoulders. The tree line and the darkness swallowed them up and they were gone.

It started to pour in earnest now, and I could feel my hair dripping down my neck and clinging to my skin. The cloak was water resistant and most of the rain rolled off it. Carlisle came back towards us, rain dripping off the brim of his golfer's cap. "Thank you, Aro."

"It is my pleasure that we were able to defuse a problematic situation for you," Aro said. "We'll keep our ears in this area open for any more transgressions. Next time I shant be so lenient."

"I'm sure you'll have no reason," Carlisle promised.

"Well, then, that leaves just the problem of you," Aro said, turning to me.

My stomach felt as if it had been dropped into my feet. From across the field where Edward crouched with the giant's restraining hand on his shoulder, he shouted hoarsely, "No!"

Behind Aro's back, Rosalie started forward, looking furious, but was pulled back by Emmett's hand. He gave her a look full of warning, and she reluctantly let herself be reined in.

Aro approached Edward, stopping a few paces from him. Edward's face was twisted with pain and fury, and tremors continued to rock him. "Well, what would you have me do?" Aro asked.

"Let her go," Edward rasped, swallowing painfully.

Aro turned to assess me. "I think not. I am here to uphold the law, not bend it." Aro glanced to Carlisle. "She has very interesting potential."

"She doesn't want it," said Edward, his voice harsh and ragged.

Aro cocked his head, looking at me curiously. "The alternative is so dismal; perhaps she'll change her mind."

"What alternative?" I asked, walking closer.

Aro looked at me, his strange eyes glowing. "There are only two choices for the humans that know us. Become one of us, or death. If you die, he intends to follow."

That stopped me cold. I fell to my knees in front of Edward, who kept his hands on the grass. "Oh, Edward," I whispered, tears springing to my eyes. "No." The thought of the world without him was unbearable. In the short time I'd come to know him, he'd become as essential as air to me. This very real threat to him made me realize what I'd tried to push away−that our fates had become inextricably bound together.

He wrapped his arms around himself, locking his hands under his armpits, and started to rock back and forth on his knees. "Don't do it, Bella. Not for me." His voice was hoarse, painful to hear.

Aro sighed. "All this self-sacrificing is very touching, but it seems the perfect solution. He wants her; she wants him. It solves the singer problem, everyone is happy, si?"

I saw the Monsignor following our conversation. "But what of God, you unholy monsters?" he demanded. The vampire holding him scowled and shook him.

"Please," Aro said. "I have walked this earth for three thousand years and never once have I seen God. If He's watching, He does not answer."

Carlisle came to my side. "Maybe you ask the wrong questions."

Aro sighed. "The idealism of the young."

"The cynicism of the elders," Carlisle shot back.

Aro threw his head back and laughed. "I have indeed missed you, Carlisle. But, nevertheless, a choice must be made. Choose, Edward."

"Bella..." Edward rasped uncertainly. Rain or tears started filling my eyes, making it even harder to see. "What is it you want?"

"Don't put your immortal soul in jeopardy!" the monsignor yelled, now on his knees. He made the sign of the cross with his free hand. "In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti."

"It looks like the choice is yours, Isabella," Aro said. "What will it be? An end with an uncertain heavenly reward? Or the life of a vampire immortal with your lover?"

I was on my knees in front of Edward, afraid to touch him for the pain the smell of my wounds gave him. He was hunched over himself, the black raincoat flaring out from his crouched body. His pale face stood out in sharp relief against his dripping, dark hair and black eyes. Felix stood over him, like a giant redwood.

Was the choice between Edward and God? Did having one preclude me from the other? The Monsignor seemed to think so. But I'd never felt more complete and closer to God than when I was with Edward.

I knew then, what my heart had been telling me from the first moment I had seen him in the pew at my church. That he was as close to the eternal spirit of pure love as I could get. That there was more than one path to God, and for me, for better or worse, it was to be with Edward. And even if the choice was between him and God, that I would choose Edward.

"It's you, it's you," I started crying. "It's always been you. I've just been too scared to say yes. Death doesn't scare me. Being without you does."

"Bella," he said, his voice thick and rough. "I didn't want this choice thrust upon you."

I started crying even harder, hoping my words were intelligible enough through my gasps. "I know, I know. I'm glad it was. I might have spent my life regretting my choice." I hugged myself, unconsciously echoing Edward's position. "I'm frightened. I'm so very scared, but if you will be…" I gasped, trying to get control of myself, knowing there was nothing more I wanted than his arms around me.

"I will be there," he promised. "Every second of eternity." His eyes held me, across the great divide of his thirst where we could not touch. "Always."

"God forgive me," I whispered. "I choose you." I started sobbing violently, with grief, with fear with the heady mix of unnamed emotions that were wracking me. I didn't know if God would turn His back on me or not.. I only knew that by some grace, my heart's desire was being granted to me and, whatever the consequences for my soul were, they would be nothing compared to eternity, wherever spent, without Edward.

I brushed at my face with my arm, feeling the ache in my arm and shoulder where my injuries throbbed. Edward's eyes were on me. "I love you, Isabella Swan." Edward whispered hoarsely.

"I love you, Edward Cullen," I whispered back. That was the first time we had declared our love for each other−parted by his thirst for my blood, in the middle of the woods, in the pouring rain after midnight with a dozen vampires as our witnesses.

Aro leaned over to Carlisle. "I knew it, of course. I knew she would pick him. It's obvious they are mated. She just needed a bit of incentive."

Carlisle held out his hand to me and I grasped it and stood up. "We'll take her back to the house and−"

"No," Aro said flatly. "It will be done now. Sergio, you may escort the Monsignor home. We will not need last rites after all. " He turned to me. "Unless, perhaps, you wish to be confessed before you…?"

I looked at the Monsignor's scowling face and shook my head.

"Very well, then," Aro said. "Monsignor, you are free to leave us."

The Monsignor pulled his arm from Sergio's grasp. "It's about time," he grumped.

"This way, padre," Sergio said, bowing and directing the Monsignor back across the field. He looked back at Aro, who nodded slightly.

"Be sure he is aptly rewarded," Aro said. Sergio smiled wickedly and turned back to the Monsignor who was stomping across the sodden field.

I started to tremble. Carlisle put his arm around me, looking at me but addressing Aro. "We need some time before she is turned. The wolves have tainted her. I can smell them in her."

I looked at him in horror. "What do you mean?" Blood had seeped through the makeshift bandages on my arms, I saw as I held them in front of me.

"The bites, they carry some of their saliva. I can smell the traces in your blood stream. If we can just give it a few days, I am sure it will work itself out."

Aro shook his head. "A few days so her conscience or his gallantry can kick in? I think not."

"I have no idea how their chemistry will mix with ours. Please," Carlisle pleaded. "Just some time to−"

"I am growing weary of this," Aro said abruptly. "Now."

Carlisle turned to me, and I could see him try to hide the concern in his eyes. A whimper of fear escaped me. He smiled and brushed my hair back from my shoulders. "Don't be scared," he murmured reassuringly.

"No," Aro said. "This has been Edward's lapse. He shall do it."

Carlisle whirled back around. "Aro!"

Esme stepped forward from where she had been listening on the side. "Aro," she said calmly. "Please be reasonable. She is his singer. Look at him; he can barely contain himself from just the smell."

On the grass, Edward was on his feet, his arms wrapped around himself and hunched over, watching us with huge eyes.

"It will be interesting," Aro said. "A true test of love. Which will win, blood or love?"

"I could kill her," Edward rasped, sounding like razorblades lined his throat.

"We will find that out, won't we? Or perhaps we could let Felix try."Above Edward, the giant smiled wickedly, causing a frigid shiver to run down my back. Aro sighed. "But Felix's control has been so shaky of late."

Edward straightened up, his face grim and murderous. "If I kill her, you'll be next."

Aro's face got hard. "Threats are inappropriate here, Edward. I am granting you your heart's desire."

Edward came to a stop in front of me. His eyes searched me, pleading for forgiveness. "Bella, I…" His voice was harsh and raspy, and he swallowed hard.

"I'm glad, Edward." It was right. His fate had lain in my hands and now mine rested in his. Whatever happened, it would be meant to be. "I want it to be you."

He drew in a long breath through his nose and closed his eyes. Roughly threading one arm through my cloak, he pulled me against him, his cold hand at my waist. With the other hand, he pushed the cloak from my shoulder and let it slip to the ground. The raindrops started pelting my skin and I was shivering, with cold or fear−I couldn't tell. Edward's hand caressed my shoulder, slowly pulled the strap of my bra down and then let his fingers glide over my slick, bare collarbone and neck.

His glittering black eyes didn't lift above my neck, and I started to tremble in fear in earnest. His hand traveled around my shoulder and across my chest, just brushing the tops of my breasts. He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, as a spasm rode down his back. His hand pulled me tighter against him as he started to lean forward against me, arching me backwards. I wrapped my arm around his head, trying to keep my balance.

There was an animalistic rumble from his throat as he continued to bend me backward. I held on to his neck and shoulders which were trembling as hard as I was.

"I love you, Edward," I whispered as he bent his head and nuzzled my neck with his cool cheek.

I cried out when I felt his teeth in my throat. I started to struggle to escape the pain, but his grip around me was immovable as granite. The world started to spin and I could feel the suction at my neck. It was pulling me, tugging at me, and ready to surrender, I fell off the edge of my consciousness. I went spiraling down into a black hole of nothingness, grateful for the warm enveloping dark.