Disclaimer: This o/s is rated M for scenes of violence. SM owns. This is in no way meant to commit copyright infringement.
~ o ~
Alice Cullen was arranging wildflowers in a vase and humming happily to herself as the rest of her family busied themselves in their own various pursuits. Rosalie was flipping through a magazine, Esme was poring over architectural drafts of a new home she wanted to have built in Europe, and Carlisle watched his wife with undisguised pleasure while Jasper and Emmett played on the huge chess board constructed in the den.
It was all a very domestic scene, or would have been had it not been three A.M. in the morning and if they weren't a family of vampires.
As she walked across the floor to place the vase on an old piano that no one ever played, the most powerful vision she'd ever had sliced through her, freezing her to the spot.
"Bella," she gasped out as the beautiful floral arrangement scattered at her feet and the crystal shattered into thousands of shards at her feet. She crumpled toward the floor as her body was wracked with tremors. Jasper caught her before she hit.
"Alice," he said in a horrified voice as her emotions swirled around him in a sickening vortex. "What do you see?"
"He's coming," she half moaned, half wailed.
"Who?" Jasper asked in despair as the rest of the family crowded around them.
"Him!" she shrieked, her arm flung out toward the piano.
Carlisle turned, mortified, as she pointed at the only portrait he had left of his first child. It had been taken the year after Esme had joined the family when her eyes had finally turned the same golden shade as his own. The picture was sepia toned and cracked with age. Even still, you could make out the ethereal beauty of the young man standing in between him and his wife, a crooked smile playing at the corner of his lips and a look of mischief on his face. He had left them scant years later, turning his back on the lifestyle by which Carlisle and his family had painstakingly lived. Left them to become a real vampire and feed off of those that Carlisle sought to protect and save.
The prodigal son would return, and with him, he'd leave a trail of blood behind.
~ o ~
3 Days Later
Bella Swan was rushing down the streets of Port Angeles trying to escape. She had left her two friends Angela and Jessica back at the department store where they had found their costumes for the Halloween dance with a promise to meet them for dinner after she'd found a bookstore. Somehow, she had managed to find herself in a bad part of town instead, and now two strange men were following her. She was trying desperately not to panic and keep her focus steadfastly on the busier intersection in the distance where she was sure to find safety.
Before she could reach it, however, two other men stepped out of the shadows to intercept her.
"There you are!" The dark-haired man boomed out eagerly.
"Yeah, we took a little detour," said another from behind her, making Bella jump nervously.
"Stay away from me!" she said in as strong a voice as she could muster.
"Don't be like that sugar," he crooned as he came closer, his cronies laughing and sniggering, surrounding her in a semicircle as she tried to recall all the self defense moves she'd learned.
Before Bella had a chance to use them, something fell from the sky. Not something. Someone. She gasped as a man who'd appeared out of thin air stood between her and her attackers. She could see nothing of him except the width of his back and a shock of copper-colored hair on his head. She could, however, hear him, and the noise that was ripping out of his throat sounded nothing short of feral.
"This one is mine," he growled at the other men in a tone that wasn't quite human. Bella finally noticed the look of terror that had taken the place of jocularity on their faces.
"What the fu—" the dark-haired man began to say. He didn't get to finish that sentence. In a move too quick for her eyes to track, her savior was at his throat, crushing his body to his chest. Bella's breath whooshed out of her lungs as she heard the snap and crackle of the man's bones as he turned to pulp before her very eyes.
The other three men screamed in horror as they watched their ringleader get turned into nothing resembling a human. A hole was punched directly through his chest as the creature squeezed the man's heart in his fist. Bella couldn't scream, couldn't move. She felt as if her body had turned to cinderblock, and she wanted to pinch herself, certain she was caught in some crazy nightmare.
The copper-haired boy – surely he couldn't have been much older than she – dropped the body he had pulverized to the ground and smiled. Bella was struck by his beauty, which was so incongruous to what he had done as he snagged another of the men as if he weighed no more than a rag doll. With a sickening pop, he twisted this one's head until it was turned in the opposite direction of his body, facing her from between his shoulder blades. There was still a look of stupefied amazement on his face. Bella wheezed, and her shoulders pulled in on themselves. She was urgently trying to keep her bladder from voiding right there on the spot.
Vaguely, she realized that her two other attackers had gotten their wits about them and were trying to escape. Neither got very far. With a black chuckle, he let the corpse slide from between his fingers into a heap. He watched the other two running for a moment with his head cocked to one side. Another low laugh escaped him as he raced in their direction and was standing in front of them in a crouch, his arms spread wide and mocking.
Had this situation come straight out of a horror movie, Bella would have laughed as the two men skidded to a stop in front of him, tried to turn and backtrack from the way they came. Of course that didn't work, because the boy just sprinted around them with no effort at all. It was as if her attackers were running in slow motion and he was moving at warp speed. A gleeful whoop escaped him as he ran circles around them until they were back-to-back and petrified in this game of cat and mouse.
Death had come. And he had a riot of bronze hair.
Tired of playing games, he stopped and wrapped his arms around the two men, their bodies contorting grotesquely to accommodate the length of his arms. Both screamed in agony but their suffering was mercifully short as he used his teeth to slice open arteries in their necks. He stood there and let the blood spurt out into his mouth, soaking him as he took turns sucking them dry.
Bella had somehow managed to back up against a wall. She looked toward the street in the distance where people walked, oblivious to the massacre happening scant blocks away from them. She didn't even consider trying to run after she had seen how fast the boy moved. There was absolutely no way she would make it far, no matter how distracted he seemed by his latest prey. Bella sank to the sidewalk and watched mutely. There was really no point in screaming either.
When he was done, he tossed the remains away casually, like one would throw away a depleted corncob. He looked down at himself and wiped ineffectually at the blood that had stained his shirt. Finally, he simply ripped it off his body and used the clean parts to wipe his face and hands.
"Tsk, tsk. You humans…such messy things. Can never just have the decency to sit still and die with a modicum of decorum."
Bella wanted to laugh at this. She felt her mind slipping precariously and couldn't believe this boy – this thing – was discussing his macabre table manners with her. Staring at him, she had a hard time believing that something so beautiful could cause such carnage and then make light of it.
He stopped fussing, tossed the soiled shirt aside and lifted his nose inhaling deeply. "And now dessert," he murmured. "Usually, I only take scum like these four," he said, waving a hand around at the dead men, "But you, you smell so delicious. I'm amazed I've been able to control myself so far."
She swallowed audibly as he came toward her in graceful, yet lethal movements. Like a predator.
"I could smell you from my apartment as you walked by," he continued in a voice as soft as a caress. "Of course, I couldn't take you right away because I was bound by the sun. But once it had gone down, I came for you. It's almost a shame that these idiots got to you first, but now I'm glad they did."
Bella listened to him speak, the calmness in his voice lulling her despite the menace behind the words. He continued to come toward her, and she shrank back against the brick wall behind her.
"Now that the thirst has been quenched, I can truly take my time to enjoy you."
The light of a street lamp fell on his face bathing it in an angelic light, and then she saw his crimson eyes glowing with malevolence. Finding her voice, Bella finally began to scream.
The boy turned into a blur as he ran toward her and picked her up as easily as if she were a bag of feathers. He cradled her to his body, and a large, cold, hard hand covered her mouth. "Shhhh," he crooned softly in her ear. "I promise you, I'll be gentle. I won't make you suffer like they did."
He ran death cold lips against the side of her neck, and Bella shuddered against the chill.
"I can even make it pleasurable for you, perhaps," he said against the skin of her throat. His hand moved away from her mouth, but Bella didn't scream again. Her body quaked in equal parts terror as well as being pressed up against his naked torso, which radiated cold.
"You are so soft and fragrant," the boy continued as he sniffed at her hair and ran his nose along her jaw. "Sweet like freesias."
Pulling himself away, he looked down into Bella's eyes and tipped his head to the side curiously. "And silent," he mused. "Why can't I hear your thoughts? I thought at first it was because you were scared, but now I see that's not it."
Not knowing what he was talking about, she remained quiet. He sighed mournfully before resuming his previous attentions. "Pity, I'll never find out."
"Please don't kill me," she managed to whisper.
"I'm afraid I won't be able to help myself once I start," he replied sadly. "It's a shame…I'd love to keep you and take a sip every now and then, but I feel it's impossible."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because I was made this way," he answered fiercely. "Do you think I chose this life as a soulless monster?"
His intensity frightened Bella, and she shrank back away from him. For some reason, her reaction to his rage made him seem repentant. He cuddled her close to him once more and rocked her back and forth, trying to soothe her for reasons unknown. He was going to drain her of her blood; why it mattered to him whether she was calm or hysterical was unfathomable to her. Bella resigned herself to her fate; the waiting was a slow, maddening torture.
"If you won't let me go," she said in a shaky voice, "then get it over with."
Somehow she managed to close her eyes and tip her head back, exposing her neck. She heard the boy hiss softly and jerked when his lips pressed against her jugular. She tried to quell her shaking and forget that these may very well be her last seconds on earth. In her mind, she sent a silent farewell to her loved ones.
"So brave," he said softly, his breath rushing over her skin. "You make it so hard to kill you."
Bella opened her eyes and looked at him pleadingly. He seemed to think about it for a second but then inhaled deeply once more, his eyes closing in bliss. When he opened them again, she saw his resolve. The prognosis looked bad for her, and she knew that she was doomed.
"But first, a kiss," he murmured, and then pressed his mouth to hers. Bella inhaled sharply, surprised by his action. She had never been kissed before and found it somewhat morbid that her first kiss would also be her last.
Suddenly, he lifted his head. "No. It can't be!" he hissed, and in a disconcertingly quick movement, Bella found herself seated on the ground as he wheeled around in a crouch.
"Edward, don't!" called a very familiar voice. Bella could have sworn she was losing her mind and must have been hearing things. But then she saw him. Dr. Carlisle Cullen stepped from the shadows. Bella's mouth dropped open.
"You," the boy snarled. "What are you doing here?"
"Trying to stop you from killing an innocent human."
"I kill humans all the time, Carlisle," the boy laughed menacingly.
"Not innocent ones," Dr. Cullen replied. "You think I don't keep an eye on you, Edward? I know what you seek out, and while I don't approve of your lifestyle, at least I know it's only the scourge of the Earth who've died at your hands…'til now."
"You don't approve of my lifestyle?" The boy chuckled darkly and then roared out, "you should have thought of that before you made me!"
Bella watched this exchange with trepidation. At first it had been with disbelief, then fear for Dr. Cullen, and finally confusion. If she was hearing right, Carlisle Cullen had turned this boy into the angry creature before her. This beautiful, lethal thing. How was that even possible? The doctor was one of the gentlest, most caring and compassionate people she knew, and if what this boy was saying was true, then that meant Dr. Cullen was a monster, too.
"I'm sorry for what I did to you, Edward," he said in a calming voice. "But I can't let you hurt the girl."
"Are you willing to die for her, Carlisle?" he spat out and took a few menacing steps forward.
"Yes," the doctor answered, dropping into his own crouch.
Before the boy could launch, two shapes fell from above into the space he had just vacated. Bella should have been astonished to see Alice and Esme Cullen crouching and hissing in front of her, but by this point, she was in such a state of shock that nothing could surprise her anymore.
Edward growled and jumped to the side so he could keep his eye on all three of his opponents.
"I see you've added to your family, Carlisle," he said in what was supposed to have passed as a conversational tone. Bella could see him appraising the situation carefully most likely figuring out a game plan.
"You have no idea," Dr. Cullen said in a somber voice. "Now."
Bella screamed as two blurs came at the boy from either side, and she heard a crash that sounded like boulders smashing together. At the same time, the two women formed a cage around her while a battle erupted in front of them; it was too fast for her human eyes to follow. The movement slowed, and the boy howled as Emmett, Jasper and Dr. Cullen held him down.
"Jasper!" Carlisle groaned out. "He's too strong…Do it!"
Suddenly, everyone sighed and went lax. Bella wasn't sure what was happening, but she felt all her fear and tension leach away as her entire body loosened and became pliable. She felt close to comatose, and in her daze, she noticed that the boy stopped struggling and lay still and calm under the three other men.
"I underestimated you," the boy said in a slow and methodical voice.
"Please, get Bella away from here," Dr. Cullen told the women still protecting her.
Esme Cullen picked Bella up as if she weighed nothing at all and began to speed down toward the deserted streets housing a few abandoned warehouses. A sleek black Mercedes waited there. Bella heard the car beep as the lights flashed, and she was seated in the car with Alice sliding in beside her. Esme was in the driver seat within seconds and the car started and roared away quickly.
"Alice?" Bella asked in bewildered voice.
"Oh, Bella," the girl said with large, mournful eyes. "I'm sorry."
There was a flash of light reflecting off an object before Bella felt a prick in her upper arm.
"What are you doing?" she asked, terror taking over again as she realized her friend had just injected her with something.
"Protecting you," Alice replied, her voice sounded like she was speaking from very far away.
Bella's vision blurred before narrowing to a pinpoint, and then the world went blessedly black.
~ o ~
Carlisle didn't have much time, so he raced through the forest alongside the Olympic Highway towards Forks. Based on Alice's visions, he knew that Edward would escape from the warehouse where Jasper and Emmett were trying to keep him prisoner tomorrow. He had a part to play, and it had to be the most convincing one of his entire existence so far.
Finally, he arrived at the meeting point just outside of the city. His Mercedes was waiting. Esme sat in the passenger seat while Alice and Bella were in the back.
"Is she still asleep?" he asked as he slid into the driver seat.
"Yes," Alice answered. "The sedative should wear off by the time we get her to Forks Hospital."
Carlisle sighed. When Bella woke up, she would be groggy and hallucinating slightly. He prayed that he could convince her father that she'd witnessed something horrible enough to cause a psychotic break, which she had, because the last thing they needed was for her to go into detail about the slaughter she had witnessed at the hand of his estranged son, the vampire.
Despite Alice's warning, they hadn't made it in time to intercept Bella from her attackers. She hadn't known the exact time of when everything was going to happen, only that it was coming on to twilight. The other obstacle had been the sun, which had been shining brightly. Had it been cloudy, Alice could have accidentally run into the girls at the mall and offered to accompany Bella to the bookstore, keeping her out of the direct path of Edward so as not to tempt him.
Carlisle wasn't sure why Edward had wanted the girl so badly. Alice only said there was something about her that was irresistible to Edward, and he would break his own superimposed moral code to drink her blood. Carlisle couldn't allow that to happen. Not just because Bella was a complete innocent, but because she was also a friend of the family.
And according to Alice, she was Edward's salvation. But only if they could make sure he didn't kill her first.
They arrived at the hospital and were immediately accosted by Chief Swan. Carlisle had called ahead and told him that he had found Bella wandering the streets in Port Angeles hysterical and incoherent just before she had collapsed into a trance-like state. His explanation was that they were in the city shopping for Halloween supplies for a party Alice wanted to throw and had gotten lost, leading them to the deserted area of town where they'd discovered Bella. He hoped her father would be too distraught to ask many questions. By the looks of it, he was.
"Bella," her father called, a noticeable edge of hysteria in his voice. He rushed up to Carlisle, who carried Bella and pretended to struggle under the slight girl's weight.
"She's starting to come around," Carlisle said in a tight voice. "I need to put her down, Charlie."
"But what happened?"
"I'm not sure," he lied smoothly as he set Bella down on a stretcher. "We found her wandering in the warehouse district, she was obviously distraught."
Charlie's face went pale. "Where in the warehouse district?"
"I'm not quite sure," Carlisle answered apologetically. "We were somewhat lost. I'm sorry to say it took us awhile to find our way out and that's when we saw her. Why do you ask?"
The chief looked at his daughter carefully, obviously assessing her for damage but seeing nothing. "I heard over the radio that four bodies were found in Port Angeles. It was a pretty brutal multiple homicide by the sounds of it."
This was exactly what Carlisle was waiting for. "Charlie…I'm not a psychiatric professional, but if Bella had witnessed something like that, it could cause a psychotic break."
"Are you saying my girl's crazy?" he bit out, glaring at the doctor.
"No, not crazy. She could have lost touch with reality in order to help her deal with the trauma."
As if to reinforce what Carlisle had just said, Bella began thrashing around on the cot and mumbling incoherently. She came awake with a shock and, luckily, saw her father first.
"Dad!" Bella cried out and scrabbled at him. He bent down, gathering her in his arms.
"It's okay, baby. I'm here."
"There was this boy…but he was really a monster… and he killed them! And he was going to kill me, too. I think he was a vampire…"
Charlie looked at Carlisle over his daughter's head, his eyes large as saucers. Carlisle made a pitying expression as if to say "you see?"
"And then the Cullens showed up out of nowhere!" she continued hysterically.
"Bella?" Carlisle interrupted before she could go into too much detail. So far, she had corroborated the story, but the less she said, the better.
She gasped and turned toward him, shrinking against her father in fear. "You were there," she whispered fervently. "You saved me."
"Bella, dear?" he continued in a calm voice. "I'd like you to talk to someone about what you saw tonight."
Carlisle hated to do this to the girl, but he knew that the psychiatrist on staff at the hospital, after listening to the girl rave about vampires, would likely come to the same conclusion he had given to her father. That Bella had witnessed something so horrendous she had merely replaced it with this delusional fantasy. It was a huge risk, but since they were all bound by confidentiality, he knew that this wouldn't become gossip in the little town nor would it leak to local media and run the threat of the Volturi seeing this piece of information and coming to clean up the mess.
They waited for Bella to finish with the on-staff psychiatrist, and then she came in the room to join them. Charlie jumped to his feet and listened with growing horror as she said almost verbatim what Carlisle had. They confirmed Bella hadn't been harmed physically, but whatever she had seen this evening had been too much to bear.
"Carlisle, it's funny. While she admits you saved her, she thinks you and your family are vampires, too," the psychiatrist said, turning to him and looking him over curiously.
"Yes, well," he said, rubbing the back of his neck and smiling deprecatingly. "Can you imagine? A vampire working in a hospital surrounded by blood all day?"
They all laughed nervously at his little joke that wasn't really a joke.
"So, what happens now?" Charlie asked, coming back to himself, and Carlisle exhaled in relief that he hadn't given that remark a passing thought.
"If you don't mind," he interjected before the psychiatrist could say more, "I have a friend in California who runs a facility that specializes in these types of cases. I could call him and see if he will admit Bella."
"California?" Charlie said skeptically. "That's pretty far away."
"He is the best. And I think for the first little while it is best if Bella is isolated until she's had a chance to calm down and then she can begin the healing process."
He thanked the Lord when the psychiatrist nodded her head in agreement. "Is it anyone I know?"
Carlisle prattled off a name and she nodded knowingly, "Yes, I've heard of him. He's a forerunner in his field."
It took a bit more time to convince Charlie, but he finally agreed and signed off Bella's care to Carlisle who offered to transport the girl to the facility and make sure she was doing well. Arrangements were made quickly after that, and the next day, Charlie said goodbye to his sedated daughter as she was loaded into a vehicle and then driven away.
Carlisle detoured along the way and brought the van down a deserted road carved out of the forest trees. Alice, Esme and Rosalie waited for him with anxious faces. They watched the trees closely for intruders.
"They're on their way," Alice said quickly as he carried Bella into the cottage at full vampire speed. He entered the cage they had constructed and laid her carefully on the bed. "Jasper is following Edward on foot. Emmett has gone to the generator and is waiting for our call. They'll be here soon."
As soon as Carlisle exited the cage, it was closed behind him and secured with a heavy chain and a padlock. Rosalie pressed the speed dial on the phone she held in her hand and said one word, "Now." All the vampires stepped away from the steel bars, and within seconds, they heard the humming begin.
"I hope this works," Carlisle muttered to himself.
"It will," Alice answered with authority. "I've seen it. Emmett is the only one who knows where the generator is. As long as he stays away, Edward will have no idea how to disable it."
"And you're positive he can't breach the cage?" Esme asked worriedly.
They stood there and looked at the cage that they'd spent the last three days building. The outside was a metal construct of crisscrossing bars, and on the inside was a thin Plexiglas box to keep Bella from hurting herself. It had holes drilled through it to allow for air circulation and so she could hear whoever stood outside of the box when they spoke with her. Inside the box was a large plush room with a bed, a couch, a small refrigerator, a pantry with snacks, a large bookshelf stocked with her favorite books, and an armoire full of brand new clothes. Off to the side, blocked off for privacy, was a hastily built ensuite with a toilet and standing shower. It was also stocked with all of Bella's favorite things.
Despite the fact this would be her prison, the Cullens had tried to make it as cozy as possible, even going to the trouble of installing thick curtains all around so that she could have privacy. This would be a horrible situation for her, but it was either this or death. Carlisle was certain once he explained it all to her she would be compliant…he hoped. Alice had seen this spin out several different ways, and it all depended on how Bella decided to take the news.
Carlisle had calibrated her medication to wear off after an hour, and he hoped they had enough time to explain to her what was happening before she saw Edward again. They continued to wait until Bella began to stir. She brought her hands up to her eyes and rubbed them tiredly before staring up at the ceiling for a few blinks. Her head turned and she saw the bars. Bella gasped and sat up quickly, focusing on the four contrite vampires that stood just outside her cage. She scrambled backward along the bed even though no one made a move to come closer to her. Not that they could, anyway.
"Dr. Cullen? What's going on?"
As quickly as he could, Carlisle explained to Bella what she had witnessed and who Edward was and why it had been necessary to create this whole charade to keep her alive. She kept shaking her head throughout as if waiting for them to start pointing and laughing. Unfortunately, this wasn't a hoax. It was all very real, and she'd realize that soon enough when Edward found the cottage and tried to kill her once more.
"He'll be here in less than five minutes," Alice told them, as if she had heard Carlisle's thoughts.
"Who?" Bella asked faintly.
~ o ~
He ran through the forest, the blond vampire tight on his heels but making no real effort to catch and restrain him. They'd lost the big one. The one following him was powerful. Somehow he was able to incapacitate Edward by using his own emotions against him. Edward ran faster, but surely a vampire with that type of power could cast a large net. Why was he allowing Edward to run toward the girl?
And better yet, how had he let her location slip? Both he and the large vampire had been well versed on how to keep him out of their heads by reciting various things. That was how they had managed to sneak up on him while he'd been distracted by the girl in the first place. The women had been cataloguing clothing designers and grocery lists, and the men car parts and confederate soldiers of all things. But it had been a buzz he'd tuned out as inconsequential. It had only been Carlisle's voice he'd heard clearly.
But here he was, racing through the forest toward a small town called Forks and a cottage that was nestled between the trees. A river flowed beside it and it was this river he was following as the blond kept a steady pace behind him. Once Edward had been able to pluck the girl's location from his head, he'd managed to escape and the chase was on. Everything seemed too easy.
It may have been a trap, but he was so crazed by the remembrance of the girl's scent and flavor that he kept going. Whatever the risk, he'd take it. They couldn't keep her safe forever. Eventually, one of them would slip, and her delicious blood would be sliding down the back of his throat soon enough.
Edward thought it was just his perfect recollection at work when her scent seemed to become even stronger, but it wasn't. She was close by. He picked up speed, racing along the river until he could see a break in the trees ahead and the stones of the cottage he'd picked out of the blond vampire's head. He didn't care if it was an ambush; she was there. He could smell her. And now he could hear her heart pumping, and he imagined all that sweet nectar rushing through the veins and arteries in her body. He wanted her so badly, more than he'd ever wanted anything else in his existence.
Rushing into the cottage, he stopped short. There she was standing in a cage of sorts. His eyes were trained on her, but he knew the other vampires were there as well. They didn't make a move to stop him. The blond had entered quietly behind him and went to stand behind the short female vampire with the black spiky hair. Wife, Edward picked out of his brain.
"A cage, Carlisle?" Edward said contemptuously. "Do you really think that thing will keep me out?"
When his maker and one time mentor didn't reply, Edward smirked and strode up to the cage. As soon as he touched the bars, a shock of electricity arced directly through him, and he screamed as an unearthly heat licked throughout his body. He hadn't felt agony like this since he had been turned so many decades before. In some part of his brain, he could hear the girl screaming in terror. Somehow he'd managed to let go, the hard granite of his body not cleaving to the bars like a human's skin would have.
He crumpled to the floor shaking with aftershocks. "Electricity," he managed to spit out. "You son of a bitch! Leave it to you to figure that one out."
"I'm sorry, Edward," Carlisle said from somewhere above him. "I can't let you kill Bella."
In his electricity-addled brain, Edward picked out one word that seemed to be resonating through them all.
She will save you. She will bring you home. She is your salvation.
"What are you talking about?" he rasped, and from nowhere came an image of him and the girl in a meadow, sitting across from one another. He was in the sun, the light shattering off his skin in prisms of light. They held hands, and he gazed at her adoringly. His eyes were the color of amber.
"What is that," he breathed, awestruck.
"A vision," the black-haired female said. "I see visions of the future."
"Only if you kill her," she stated flatly. "It really is up to you."
Another image came to him hard and fast of the girl cradled in his arms, she was holding him to her tightly, her hands in his hair and they were kissing passionately. And another of them running in the forest; she was on his back with her face buried in his neck. This one made him smile, because she looked completely terrified while he looked elated, so he knew that he wasn't hurting her.
"How can I stand it?" he asked, the disbelief evident in his voice. Even now he was fighting to urge to battle against the electricity and climb into that cage to drain her dry.
"You just do," the small vampire continued. "You fall in love with her."
Both he and the girl gasped at this last revelation. Then it incensed him. It was all preposterous. She was meant to be his food, not his lover. She was human! Edward jumped to his feet and hissed at the fortuneteller. Her husband was in front of her in a flash of movement growling fiercely.
"I don't care if she does think of you as her brother now, touch her and die," he snarled at Edward.
"Jazz, it's okay," she said softly and laying a hand on his shoulder. He calmed visibly, and Edward was struck by the obvious bond they shared. "He won't hurt me."
"You're all insane," he said, looking around and shaking his head. "It must be the steady diet of animal blood. It's made you all crazy." He pushed his way past them to leave. He turned once more to look at the girl, "she will be mine."
"Yes, she will," the female vampire said softly, and she thought one last image at him.
This one drove Edward running from the cottage because it was of him at an altar, as if waiting for a bride.
~ o ~
Jasper chased after the copper-haired boy as per Carlisle's instructions. He had to make sure he didn't kill anyone while in Forks. As the weakest link in the Cullen family, Jasper understood temptation all too well, and he was also the only one powerful enough to control Edward. He tried to understand Alice's excitement over this newest development in their family. For some reason, she already loved this boy.
At first she had been terrified of him, since in her visions he had been killing her good friend in various ways. But once they had made the plan to protect Bella Swan, everything had changed, and she now saw him as a member of their family. If her latest visions were correct, she and Edward would become particularly close, and Jasper wasn't quite sure how he felt about that. As far as he could see, this troublesome boy had caused them nothing but grief so far, as well as a huge risk of exposure. Jasper had seen the Volturi in action before, and he wasn't anxious to meet them again, especially when it would be him and his loved ones dying.
He would destroy Edward himself first if he had to. Alice and Carlisle would just have to get over it.
Edward wheeled around and growled at Jasper. "Why are you still following me!"
"You can't kill here," Jasper snarled in return. "You will break our treaty with the Quileute, and then the wolves will come. They won't care if you spill the blood of a criminal or an innocent."
"What are you talking about?"
Jasper didn't even bother to explain. He merely opened up his mind and showed Edward through thought about the tribe, the treaty and the strange gene that turned some members into wolves when danger was near. Namely, vampires. This gift of his certainly did come in handy.
Edward sagged against a large rock and stared at him in disbelief. He didn't have to be a mind reader in order to see the boy was wondering what the hell he'd stumbled into when his path crossed with Bella Swan. He'd met his singer who was supposed to become his mate, a coven of vegetarian vampires and now a pack of shape-shifting wolves. What else could possibly happen?
He could also feel Edward's confusion, anger and disbelief as it swirled around him. He considered sending out some calming relief but figured that would just exacerbate the situation. Most people, vampires especially, weren't too keen on being manipulated emotionally. Jasper tried to keep his gift to himself as much as possible.
"Good idea," Edward sneered at him, obviously picking the thought out of his head. Jasper rethought the handiness of his mindreading ability and scowled when the boy laughed at him, hearing that as well.
Jasper sat on the ground and leaned back against the boulder. He sighed heavily before saying quietly, "Alice was my salvation, too."
"Was she human?"
"That girl is not my salvation. She's dinner."
"Not according to Alice."
"No offense," Edward snickered. "But your wife is crazy."
"She can be," Jasper replied, smiling. "But no one bets against Alice."
Once again Jasper let his mind go. He thought back to when Maria found him and turned him and through all the bloody battles he'd fought on her behalf. He focused especially on how that lifestyle had slowly but surely been killing him. Taking its toll as he felt every emotion of all the newborns around him as well as the humans he'd killed night after night.
And then he thought about all those nights and days wandering around without purpose. Destitute and miserable until he had gone into that diner and found Alice. How she told him that she'd had visions of him and they were destined to be together. His life had changed, and she'd shown him a new way to live. A new way to survive without hurting others. Even though it had been hard – still was hard, if he was going to be honest – her faith in him kept him strong.
"We have more in common than you think, you and I," Jasper said quietly. "If I can survive on animals after the life I led for the woman I love. So can you."
"I don't love her!" Edward bit out viciously. "I just want to eat her."
"We'll see." Jasper jumped to his feet in a lithe movement and looked at the boy. "Either way, you can't spill human blood around here so if you're thirsty we can hunt animals together. Maybe we can find something good. Come on."
~ o ~
The next month passed quickly and slowly by turns. Some days seemed to last years for Bella, especially in the beginning, while others it seemed came and went in the blink of an eye.
The first few weeks were horrible and terrifying. Edward continued to try and breach the cage and would pay for his actions. His eyes would be black with thirst and he would climb the bars like a demented spider trying to find purchase where he wasn't electrocuted. They had reinforced her prison well, and he could never hold on long enough to break through the bars and get at her. Bella would sit in the corner on her bed with her hands over her ears screaming along with him – his screams of pain, hers of horror. She waited for the day he broke through and killed her.
He'd be blown off the cage eventually and land in an exhausted heap on the floor. Unsure of why, Bella would always get off the bed and kneel by the plexiglas as if to offer him some comfort. In the subsequent stillness, she felt sorry for him because she knew that he wasn't doing this because he was malevolent and cruel, something about her blood called to him so strongly that he couldn't help himself. He was a vampire after all.
Bella would watch him and take in the angelic beauty of his face once it had stopped contorting from the pain. Sometimes in a moment of madness, she wondered what it would be like to touch him and comfort him for real. Those moments scared her to death. It was because of him that she found herself here in this cage. Nice as it was, it was a prison nonetheless.
Eventually, he would open his eyes and they would stare at one another. Sometimes, he'd snake his hand between the bars and place it against the glass. The first time he'd done it, she'd jumped back afraid he'd use his strength to punch through and grab her, but he didn't. In a moment of hesitation she put her hand against it as well, as if they were palm to palm. He smiled at her then, and it transformed his face into such magnificence she felt like weeping for this poor tortured soul who probably hadn't known love in so long.
Things got better, but sometimes in a fit of desperation, he tried to hurl himself at the cage and break through the bars that way. Luckily, there was always a Cullen nearby to stop him. It was usually Jasper who sent out a wave of calm and debilitated Edward that way. Then he would drag Edward out and make him hunt.
Bella noticed that his eyes were beginning to lose that evil crimson color and were more like burnished orange. She wondered what he would look like when his eyes became that honey gold like the other Cullens.
One day Bella felt like being alone. Or pretending to be alone. She was homesick and upset and wanted to be free. Tears had begun to pool in her eyes, and she hadn't wanted anyone to see her crying. She closed the curtains that bordered her prison, sat on her bed and held the pillow to her face to stifle her sobs. She hadn't been crying for long when she heard a noise.
"Bella?" Edward's concerned voice floated through the metal, plastic and cloth separating them.
"Go away, Edward," she said quietly, knowing by now the vampires had supersonic hearing.
"Are you crying?" he asked in a horrified voice.
"You are!" he continued, and then she heard him inhale deeply. "I can smell it. It smells like rain."
"Just leave me alone!" she cried out, picking up a book at her bedside and hurling it at the glass.
"Why are you hiding from me!" he yelled in despair.
"Just go," she pleaded on a sob and shoved her face in the pillow once more.
Suddenly, there was a great rattling from above her and Bella screamed, echoing Edward's who was currently perched on top of her cage. He stared down at her and shook violently from the voltage coursing through his body. His body was arced and contorted in agony, but still he stared down at her, refusing to let go.
"Stop hurting yourself!" Bella jumped up on the bed and stretched on her toes to place her fingers on the glass above her head. Edward reached between the bars and placed a trembling hand against hers for a moment, and then he was gone. She heard the hard crack of his body as it hit the floor, and she scrambled off the bed and threw the curtain aside. He was lying there prone, his body in a seizure.
"Edward," she said in a panicked voice, dropping to her knees in front of him. Slowly, he turned his head to face her.
"Don't…hide…from me," he forced out between tremulous lips.
"I'm sorry," she whispered and placed her hand against the glass.
Bella watched as he moved his arm toward her slowly. He pushed it through the bars and put his hand against hers. She watched as the nail of his forefinger dug into the Plexiglas taking a strip of it away. It fell away and curled into a piglet's tail. After a second he put all of his fingers against the tough plastic and drove them through it as if it were no harder than clay. He crushed it in his hand and Bella scrambled away from his hand, which was now lying on her side of the partition.
"Please, don't run from me," he begged. "I just want to feel you. I just want you to touch me. Please?"
The pain in his voice, the pleading speared Bella's heart, and without realizing what she was doing, she had scooted back over and touched the back of his hand tentatively. She was ready to pull back at the least indication he was playing possum. Realistically, she knew that if he decided to pull her arm out and bite into her wrist, there was no way she could stop him or move fast enough to get out of his way. She ignored this as she ran her fingers over his hand with more bravery than she knew she had.
Edward sighed and closed his eyes. Slowly, so as not to scare her, he turned his hand over so that it was palm up. Bella traced his fingers and then drew small mindless patterns into the middle of his hand. He smiled then and opened his eyes to stare at her. She got down on the floor so they were lying facing one another; she was curled around his hand, which she had clutched in hers.
~ o ~
Another month had passed but to Edward it felt like nothing. He was now completely vegetarian and while he still had urges for human blood it was manageable. Bella's blood still sang to him, but with her continued presence, it had faded to a dull roar. Each night as she slept, he lay on the floor by her cage and inhaled deeply, drawing the scent into his lungs so his immunity could grow.
Alice and her blasted visions had been right. Somehow, as his bloodlust receded, he had managed to fall in love with this girl. Seeing her face and hearing her voice had touched him in a way no one else ever had. She remained stubbornly silent to him, however, and it was maddening not knowing what she was thinking. He was certain she didn't feel the way he did. How could she? He was a monster who had tried to kill her repeatedly.
Because of this, he must let her go.
But before he did that, he wanted one night with her. Just one where there was nothing between them. He knew he was strong enough by then, but even still, he hounded Alice relentlessly to show him her visions. No matter how many times she did, in every one he never harmed Bella and the images remained the same. With Edward holding Bella all night as she slept. This pleased him.
On the day it was to happen, he had Jasper and Carlisle keep hold of him as Alice called Emmett to power down the generator that had kept the constant current of electricity running through the bars of the cage that had imprisoned her for months. Once the humming stopped, Alice stepped to the door, broke the lock, unwound the chain and threw open the door. She rushed to Bella's side, closed her eyes and looked ahead. She smiled, hugged Bella and danced out toward Jasper.
"He'll be fine," she told him, and he loosened his grip on Edward. Carlisle followed suit and soon the cottage was empty but for the two of them.
"Will you come somewhere with me?" he asked her shyly, keeping his distance. Bella nodded, and he put out his hand giving her the choice to take it. She ducked her head but walked forward and grasped his hand. He made sure she was dressed warmly before they left.
They walked outside, and Bella squinted in the weak light of the day. Edward felt a pang of pain that it was his fault she had been deprived for so long. He turned and squatted slightly, looking over his shoulder and smirking at Bella. "You'll need to climb on my back."
When she did, he took off like a shot, and Bella screeched behind him but then shoved her face in his neck and held on for dear life making Edward laugh out gleefully. They arrived at the meadow in no time, and he put her on her feet gently. The sun wasn't shining and there were no wildflowers today, but it didn't take away from the beauty of the snow in the perfect circle carved out between the trees.
At first, things were awkward between them, but then the conversation flowed easily as they played in the snow. Every once in awhile, the wind would gust her scent his way and Edward had to swallow down the venom pooling in his mouth and hold his breath as he desperately held himself in check. As the day wore on, he found himself having to do this less and less.
"Bella, will you do something for me? Even if it sounds strange?"
"Yes," she answered automatically.
"Never forget this meadow."
"Okay." She nodded solemnly and he smiled at her, memorizing every detail of her face.
Finally, Bella began to get cold. She climbed onto his back reluctantly, and he hoped it had more to do with not wanting the day to be over and not just her fear of his inhuman speed. When they got back to the cottage, all signs of the cage were gone and there were candles lit and a dinner for Bella. Edward smiled and reminded himself to thank Alice later.
The rest of the evening was spent with them talking until Bella began to yawn.
"Will you let me hold you?" he asked shyly, and she blushed and nodded her head.
They lay down together, Bella wrapped in a blanket to keep her from getting chilled. She fell asleep quickly; it had been a long day. Edward hummed to her and pressed fervent kisses along her forehead and hair, and she sighed out his name.
"I love you," he whispered in the darkness and hoped that even as she slept she'd heard him.
~ o ~
Bella awoke smiling. Keeping her eyes closed she stretched and rolled over in bed hoping to find Edward still with her. When she felt that the bed was empty, she opened her eyes and then shot up in bed. She was in a cold, sterile room. Everything was glaringly white. This was not the cottage. It wasn't even her bedroom. Bella had no idea where she was.
"Good Morning, Bella," a matronly woman said as she backed into the room rolling a tray.
"Where am I?"
The woman jumped and spun around staring at Bella in complete surprise. "You're awake!"
"Yes," she answered, completely bewildered. "Who are you?"
"And lucid," the woman said. "Honey, do you know your full name?"
"Isabella Marie Swan."
"Who are your parents?"
"Charlie Swan and Renee Dwyer," Bella replied before beginning to frown. "Can you please tell me where I am?"
"I'll be right back!"
The woman scurried out of the room and returned shortly after with a tall, slim man who wore a lab coat like a doctor.
"Bella," she corrected automatically.
"Yes, Bella. Of course," he replied gently. "I'm Dr. Michael Cole. I've been looking after your care for the last two months."
"That's impossible," Bella replied shaking her head back and forth.
"Where do you think you've been, Bella?"
"With the Cullens and Edward," she answered automatically, and then she covered her mouth with her hands. How could she possibly explain what had happened during that time?
It turned out that it didn't matter because Dr. Cole didn't believe her anyway. He went on to tell her that she'd suffered a psychotic break after witnessing a horrendous murder and she had been in a catatonic state for the last two months living in her own fantasy world. While the Cullens were indeed real – Carlisle Cullen himself had escorted her here to California – Edward, and her time spent with them was a complete fabrication.
Bella had a hard time believing what had happened to her wasn't even real, but the doctor was convincing, and eventually, she began to see how what she thought had happened was absolutely crazy. Vampires? They didn't even exist! And thinking the Cullens were a coven of vampires was even more ludicrous. They walked around during the day with no problems. Bella had been in their home plenty of times and everything had been downright normal.
What she had a harder time coming to grips with, however, was the fact that she had completely made Edward up out of nothing. She just didn't think she was that imaginative. And she felt this strange pang in her heart to know that he actually didn't exist. Without warning, the bubble burst and sobs began to rip out of her chest as she realized she would never see him again. The matronly woman held her as she thoroughly broke down.
Edward didn't exist. He wasn't real. She had merely gone insane and created him out of thin air. Funnily enough, after all she had been through in the last two months, it was now that she felt she was going crazy.
~ o ~
6 Months Later
Bella stumbled through the trees. "It has to be here somewhere," she mumbled to herself and then sighed. While she felt perfectly normal after her episode last winter, there were still days like these when she believed her fantasy over her reality. Days when she felt Edward close by and didn't doubt for one second that he existed.
When Bella returned to Forks, she had asked if she could go visit the Cullens, making up an excuse that she wanted to apologize for what had happened. When Charlie had told her that they'd moved away almost a month before, she'd become distraught. Bella had been hoping that they would actually tell her she hadn't been hallucinating, and now that hope was dashed.
Today, she sat in front of their abandoned house when she recalled her promise to Edward that she would remember the meadow. That perfect circle in the middle of the forest about a mile behind their home. And now she was on a mission to find it.
Just as she was about to give up, thinking that everyone had been right about what had happened to her, she saw a shimmer of color through a break in the trees. Bella ran. She broke through the trees and stopped, stunned by the beauty before her. The meadow was now covered in gorgeous wildflowers. Walking forward, she sank to her knees in the middle of the circle.
Lifting her face to the rare sunny day, she closed her eyes and called up Edward's image and her heart broke anew. "Oh, Edward," she sighed. "I wish you were real."
"I am," said a silken voice.
Bella gasped and looked to where the voice had come from. He stood in the shade of the trees and looked as torturously beautiful as always. She clapped her hands against the side of her head and moaned. There was a shift in her reality, and she slammed her eyes closed.
"Oh, God. I am crazy," she wailed to herself.
But then he was there and he was touching her, running cool fingers over her face and wiping away the tears pouring down her face. He felt so real she was afraid to look, afraid he would disappear again.
"You're not crazy," he said gently. "What happened was real."
"They told me you don't exist."
"That was for your own sake," he whispered urgently. "I wanted you to try and live a normal life."
Bella opened her eyes and moaned again, the sun was shining on his skin and it was reflecting it as if he had millions of tiny diamonds embedded in his skin. "You can't be real."
"Because you're sparkling!" she exclaimed and was shocked when he began to laugh.
"Bella, I'm real," he said seriously. "I couldn't stay away from you, so I decided if you came here to the meadow looking for me, then maybe you felt something for me, and I could show myself to you. I've come here every day for the last six months."
"I'm not crazy?"
"You're not crazy."
"Edward," she whispered and then flung herself into his arms. He held her closely, and Bella could tell he was no longer breathing. She pulled back reluctantly, remembering that he had a hard time controlling his bloodlust near her.
"I'm okay," he said, sucking in a quick breath. "Was I right, Bella? Do you feel anything for me?"
"Yes," she said without hesitation. "I love you."
Edward's face contorted for just a moment, and Bella was unsure whether that was the right thing to have said. Then she was swept up in his arms as he whooped for joy, and she laughed and laughed as they spun crazily. Finally, he put her down and was on his knees in front of her.
"I love you, too," he said quietly and reached out a trembling hand to caress her cheek. "I just want to try one thing." Edward leaned in close to her, "stay very still. Don't move."
Soft as a feather, his lips touched hers. If Bella still had any doubt at all that Edward was real, it disappeared right then and there.
Just as an explanation. I thought because Kate could bring down vamps using her power by sending electric currents through them, a high voltage fence would do a similar job of keeping Edward from holding on to the bars long enough or with enough force to damage them. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter or just about the one shot in general! :))