MoMa 14

First Goodbye

This took longer than planned—so sorry. Please forgive me?

Disclaimer: Seriously. I know I don't own these characters. Stephenie Meyer does. I am not her! Happy now?

A/N: Many thanks to the marvelous NoMoreThanUsual for her help with this chapter. She saved me from an embarrassing breach of canon, and found all of the quotation marks that eloped with the missing periods. Go read her stuff if you haven't already done so!

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Her father was waiting for us. All of the house lights were on, and I could hear him worrying about her. It's getting late. I shouldn't have let her go with him. Just because I've never seen any of them in trouble doesn't mean he's a good kid. I should have given him a harder time before I let her go with him. . .

He relaxed when he heard the roar of the Jeep, as I pulled up and cut the engine. Thank God, she's home. Should I meet them at the door? No, I don't want to look too overprotective. That would piss Bella off. But why are they just sitting there in the Jeep? Dammit! I'll bet the little bastard's making a move on her. I shouldn't have trusted that kid. Wait a minute, it's a first date. Bella's got more sense than that. I hope.

His memories of his own teenage years replayed in his mind and fueled his suspicions about my motives towards Bella. I knew that I would ever hurt her in that way, so I actually found his concern a bit funny, though his lack of trust also annoyed me. I also knew, however, that the ways I could hurt her were much worse than what her father feared.

My siblings and I sat, tense, listening for the tracker, waiting for him with all of our senses, those both mundane and otherwise. I had parked well back from the truck, because we would then have more time to react if the tracker showed up and tried to use the truck as a form of cover. We sat listening for another immeasurable moment, completely still.

Finally, I was satisfied. "He's not here," I spat, my entire body rigid. "Let's go."

Emmett reached over to help Bella out of her harness. "Don't worry," he told her softly, his tone cheerful, "We'll take care of things here quickly." The quicker the better. I want to have some fun! Despite my initial annoyance at Emmett's desire for the fight, I was deeply grateful for the way he took care of Bella, although he had just met her. He, like Alice, already saw her as a sister.

"Alice, Emmett," I commanded. They knew what I wanted, and disappeared into the darkness. I pulled open the door, taking Bella's hand in my own, and then drawing her into the protective circle of my arms. I was relieved when she did not resist. I led her quickly through the night, my senses still trained on the area around the house, listening for the tracker.

"Fifteen minutes," I reminded her softly. I hated this plan, and fought against it with every fiber of my selfish nature. My more rational side knew that this plan had the best chance of success, but I wanted nothing more than to scoop her up in my arms and run as quickly as I could, away from Forks.

"I can do this," she whispered, her throat tight with suppressed tears.

She stopped on the porch, cupping my face between her hands and looking into my eyes. Part of me wanted to yell at her to move, to get in the house and get away as fast as possible, but I managed to suppress my urges. I do not know how.

"I love you," she declared, low and intense. "I will always love you, no matter what happens now." My dead heart twisted at her words, wondering, yet again, how long that 'always' would really be.

"Nothing is going to happen to you, Bella," I said, my intensity matching hers. I'd make sure of it.

"Just follow the plan, okay? Keep Charlie safe for me." The knife was back in my chest, twisting as I read the pain in her voice. "He's not going to like me very much after this, and I want to have the chance to apologize later."

I couldn't take it any more. "Get inside, Bella. We have to hurry." I let the urgency I felt slip into my voice, to better hide the pain I felt myself.

"One more thing," she whispered, passionate. I found myself leaning closer to her. "Don't listen to another word I say tonight!"

She stretched up on her toes, and crashed her lips feverishly against my own. It was the first time she had taken control of one of our kisses, and I stood, stunned, as she turned away from me and kicked the door open.

"Go away, Edward!" she screamed, slamming the door in my face.

"Bella?" Charlie's voice echoed the confusion of his thoughts. What the hell happened?

And then I was running myself, through her bedroom window in an instant.

"Leave me alone!" I heard her shriek, as her stumbling footsteps pounded up the stairs.

She didn't see me as she flew into the room, slamming the door shut and locking it behind herself. She flung herself to the floor, dragging a small duffel bag from beneath her bed, and shoving what looked like an old sock into the bag.

Charlie had managed to catch up with her by now, and was so terrified that even I could feel it. "Bella, are you okay?" he demanded, pounding on the door. "What's going on?"

"I'm going home," Bella shouted, her voice breaking.

"Did he hurt you?" Charlie's fear had mostly given way to anger, now, as he pictured what I could have done to Bella. I'll kill him. That sonofabitch! If he touched my baby . . . ! I can hide his body down the well at that abandoned farm on Highway 9. It'll be years before they find him. No, dammit. I'm the Chief of Police. I can't kill him. Bet I could get away with it though. Goddammit, I knew I shouldn't have let her go with him!

Bella's next scream startled him out of that line of thought, thankfully. It was hard to see myself in the role of the monsters I had hunted in another life.

"No!" she cried, her voice a few octaves higher than normal. She turned to her dresser, but I was already there, yanking out armfuls of clothing, knowing that it wouldn't matter what I grabbed, because we'd have to leave it all behind anyway. I tossed them to her, so that she could shove them in the bag.

"Did he break up with you?" Charlie demanded, unable to figure out why Bella was acting as she was.

"No!" Bella shouted again as she stuffed her clothing into the bag and I threw the contents of another drawer at her. That should be enough….

"What happened, Bella?" Charlie started pounding on the door again

"I broke up with him!" she shrieked again. She started jerking on the zipper of the bag, making no progress whatsoever. I pushed her hands out of the way, taking over, and then settled the strap gently on her arm.

"I'll be in the truck—go!" I whispered, hoping that some of the urgency I felt would communicate itself to her. I grabbed her key from the nightstand, and I was out the window before she had even managed to unlock the door.

I could still hear everything going on in the house from my position in her truck.

"What happened?" Charlie yelled as two pairs of feet thundered down the stairs. "I thought you liked him."

He caught her when they reached the kitchen, and I again had to fight the urge to race back into the house, scoop her up, and run away. You're not leaving till I get answers! He didn't have long to wait.

"I do like him—that's the problem. I can't do this anymore! I can't put down any more roots here! I don't want to end up trapped in this stupid, boring town like Mom! I'm not going to make the same mistake she did! I hate it—I can't stay here another minute!"

Hearing her broke my heart. She was no actress, and her words sounded so certain. She didn't want me, didn't like this town. I had been just a distraction, and now that she was in danger, she saw the truth. I only wished that I could have heard it from her, first, rather than hearing it second hand as she fled her father. I would still make sure she was safe, but then she'd have no reason to ever see me again. Now I knew how long 'always' really was.

Bella, you can't go! Not when I've only just found you! Ironically, Charlie's thoughts echoed my own.

"Bells, you can't leave now. It's nighttime," he whispered, sounding lost.

"I'll sleep in the truck if I get tired."

"Just wait another week," he begged. "Renee will be back by then." Maybe I can convince her to stay. He's not important enough to run away from.

I may not have been, but my world certainly was.

"What?"

I got her attention. Maybe I can get her to stay, now. "She called while you were out," he babbled, hoping to talk quickly enough to get her to stay. "Things aren't going so well in Florida, and if Phil doesn't get signed by the end of the week, they're going back to Arizona. The assistant coach of the Sidewinders said they might have a spot for another shortstop."

I growled in frustration. Our time was running short.

"I have a key," Bella muttered. The door opened. And then Bella realized that her father had no intention of letting her go. Even from the truck, I could see the grimace of pain on her face.

It was then that I heard him. The tracker was close enough to hear Bella's words. He was overjoyed that he'd found her, and wanted to hunt. When he smelled me and my siblings, it only drove his personal euphoria higher. I want this to be as much of a challenge as possible, he thought. I'll wait until she's with them. Hunting with just humans nearby is no fun. So I'll just follow them, for tonight.

"Just let me go, Charlie," she hissed angrily. "It didn't work out, okay? I really, really hate Forks.

Those words meant something to Charlie. He was so shocked that even his thoughts fell silent as he watched her run out the door.

For my part, I sat, tense, and prayed to every deity that could possibly exist that James would be able to resist changing his mind. I knew that even I would not be fast enough to save her if he went after her now. I was too far away.

I breathed a sigh of relief when she threw her bag into the bed of the truck and leapt in. "I'll call you tomorrow!" she yelled, before stomping on the gas and peeling out of the driveway.

I reached out for her hand, trying to reassure her, and, by extension, myself, with the contact. I needed to know that she still needed me.

"Pull over," I said softly, once the house was out of sight. Tears streamed from her eyes, and I knew that she was too distraught to drive, and probably unable to see as well.

"I can drive," she insisted.

I couldn't let her risk her safety again, so I reached over and wrapped my hands around her waist. My foot pushed hers carefully off the gas, and I pulled her over my lap, peeling her hands off the steering wheel. And then I was in the driver's seat. She glared at me through the tears.

"You wouldn't be able to find the house," I explained. She seemed somewhat mollified.

I'm behind you, Edward. The tracker is behind me. When Alice's lights flashed in the window, Bella's face was a mask of horror.

"It's just Alice," I soothed, taking her hand in mine again.

"The tracker?" she asked.

"He heard the end of your performance," I admitted grimly.

"Charlie?" she demanded.

"The tracker followed us. He's running behind us now." She didn't need to know that her father was a secondary concern, to both the tracker and my family. She was the important thing, right now.

"Can we outrun him?" she asked, calmer than I expected she could be. There was no end to how much Bella amazed me.

"No," I admitted, but that didn't prevent me trying. The engine whined in protest as I tried to push it even faster.

When Emmett swung himself into the bed of the truck, Bella's calm façade cracked. She let loose a bloodcurdling scream. I clamped my hand over her mouth, trying to keep the tracker from hearing it and guessing that we weren't alone.

"It's Emmett!"

His thoughts were sympathetic. Poor little thing. She's terrified. I can smell the adrenaline from out here. You okay in there with her, Edward? Man, I'm gonna shred that damned tracker into tiny pieces when I get my hands on him.

I ignored him; Bella needed my attention more.

When I felt her relax, I released her mouth, and wound my arm around her waist, pulling her closer to me. I was relieved when she didn't push me away. Maybe the whole scene with her father really had been an act. I would know for certain when the immediate danger had passed. Until then, I could pretend that she still loved me. I have always been very good at deceiving myself.

"It's okay, Bella," I promised, needing the reassurance as much as she did. "You're going to be safe."

As we drove, my doubts began to torment me. Had she told the truth, back there with her father? I needed to know. And she needed to be distracted from the terror she undoubtedly felt. Even her remarkable bravery only went so far.

"I didn't realize you were still so bored with small- town life," I said, as calmly as I could, as though we were driving to school on a normal day rather than fleeing her home and the vampire intent on taking her life. "It seemed like you were adjusting fairly well—especially recently. Maybe I was just flattering myself that I was making life more interesting for you." I braced myself, waiting for her to tell me that she no longer wanted anything to do with me, for her to tell me that she had told her father the truth

"I wasn't being nice," she confessed, looking at her knees to avoid my eyes. "That was the same thing my mom aid when she left him. You could say I was hitting below the belt."

"Don't worry. He'll forgive you." I forced myself to smile, still wondering what was going on in that silent mind of hers.

She finally looked at me then, and the panic that I saw in her eyes terrified me.

"Bella, it's going to be all right," I said, trying to reassure her.

"But it won't be all right when I'm not with you," she whispered.

There was the answer to all of my questions. She did love me. She needed me. She wanted to be with me. Despite our situation, my heart soared.

"We'll be together again in a few days," I reminded her softly, tightening my grip on her. "Don't forget that this was your idea."

"It was the best idea—Of course it was mine," she joked, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

My answering smile was bleak.

"Why did this happen?" she asked, a catch in her voice. "Why me?"

I glared out the windshield. "It's my fault—I was a fool to expose you like that." Once again, I had been so stupid.

"That's not what I meant," she insisted. "I was there, big deal. It didn't bother the other two. Why did this James decide to kill me? There're people all over the place, why me?"

I hesitated, wondering how much I should tell her. The last thing I wanted was to frighten her more.

"I got a good look at his mind tonight," I began, my voice low as I tried to explain without frightening her. "I'm not sure if there's anything I could have done to avoid this, once he saw you. It is partially your fault. If you didn't smell so appallingly luscious, he might not have bothered." I said, the irony of the situation not lost on me. If she hadn't smelled so good, I would not have bothered. "But when I defended you… well, that made it a lot worse. He's not used to being thwarted, no matter how insignificant the object. He thinks of himself as a hunter and nothing else. His existence is consumed with tracking, and a challenge is all he asks of life. Suddenly, we've presented him with a beautiful challenge—a large clan of strong fighters all bent on protecting the one vulnerable element. You wouldn't believe how euphoric he is now. It's his favorite game, and we've just made it his most exciting game ever." I was disgusted with myself. I'd made so many mistakes. I was disgusted by my kind, as well. The way they killed without thought, wanting only to satisfy themselves.

I paused a moment.

"But if I had stood by, he would have killed you right then." Any choice I made, in this situation, seemed as though it would have been the wrong one.

"I thought… I didn't smell the same to others… as I do to you," she said, hesitant.

"You don't. But that doesn't mean that you aren't still a temptation to every one of them. If you had appealed to the tracker—or any of them—the way you appeal to me, it would have meant a fight right there."

I didn't miss the shudder that wracked her body.

"I don't think I have any choice but to kill him now," I murmured angrily. "Carlisle won't like it." But my brother was right. Bella and I couldn't spend our lives always one step ahead of him. He would never give up. So we would have to eliminate him.

We were getting close to the house when Bella spoke again. Her question was completely unexpected.

"How can you kill a vampire?"

I don't know what was in my eyes as I looked at her, but my voice was harsh. "The only way to be sure is to tear him to shreds, and then burn the pieces."

"And the other two will fight with him?"

"The woman will. I'm not sure about Laurent. They don't have a very strong bond—he's only with them for convenience. He was embarrassed by James in the meadow…" I hoped that he wouldn't fight with them. Emmett and I make a good team, but it is never a good idea to be outnumbered in a fight. The odds against us would be much higher if the three of them fought together.

"But James and the woman—they'll try to kill you?" she asked, fear plain on her face and in her eyes.

"Bella, don't you dare waste time worrying about me. Your only concern is keeping yourself safe and—please, please—trying not to be reckless," I scolded her, hoping against hope that she would heed my warnings.

"Is he still following?"

"Yes. He won't attack the house, though. Not tonight."

I pulled into our drive, Alice still following close behind. I didn't slow until we reached the house, where every light was blazing in an attempt to make it harder to sneak up to the house. My family heard the roar of the truck, and immediately their thoughts turned to us.

I'm sorry, Edward. They got away from us and we couldn't go after them. It was too risky to divide our group again. We would then have run the risk of being outnumbered ourselves. I could not allow that.

Are you all right?

She's going to be fine, Edward. Calm down.

How is she?

This is exactly what I was afraid of! Are you happy now, Edward?

Emmett was at Bella's door before the truck even stopped; he tucked her against his chest and ran her into the house like a giant football, with Alice and me at his side.

We burst through the door and into the center of a tense gathering. Emmett began growling when he saw Laurent in our home. I should tear you to shreds right now for what you've done to my family. You'd better understand that you're all alone – abandoned by your coven. If you try anything, we won't need the fire to make sure you're destroyed. The pieces will be too small….

"He's tracking us," I announced, glaring at him as my own thoughts echoed my brother's.

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