Rating: M for sexual content
Genre: Drama, Romance, Angst
Characters/Pairings: Edward/Bella, other canon pairings, the Pack (minus Jacob)
Short summary: An AU to Breaking Dawn. Takes place post-Eclipse. The repercussions of Bella's attempted transformation profoundly alter the course of Edward's life, while the arrival of the Volturi force the remaining Cullens into a decision they never expected to make-- to remain vampires or become human.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer created them. I'm just writing my version of their story.
I try and gather my wits, force my ears to hear the conversation around me, but my hands will not stop shaking, and I suddenly can't breathe in the small room. I close my eyes, lean my head against the wall and count my breaths, hoping they will come deeper. Slower. I cannot run from this room and abandon my family. And I will not faint, not when Edward has more important unconscious people to deal with.
"Bella." A deep voice and a hot hand on my shoulder. "Are you alright?"
I look up into Sam's face, and he slowly comes into focus.
"Do you need to sit down?"
"What?" I stammer. "Um, no, I'm ok." I grab his arm to steady myself as the dizziness begins to clear. "Thanks."
"Bella." Another warm voice, less deep, from a figure sitting next to Carlisle on the cot.
I turn to him, the steadiness of my legs returning. "Yes, Edward?"
"Can you get another bag of fluids for me? They're in the cooler, in the kitchen."
"Of course." I grip the door frame, using it to propel me into the living room.
"Get yourself together, Bella," I say under my breath as I move quickly through the room towards the small, sparse kitchen. Finding the cooler, I grab a bag of fluids and return to the bedroom, handing them to Edward. I retreat back to the wall, near the door, not sure that I trust my legs to be close to such important medical equipment.
Now that my ears are working, I begin listening to the voices in the room.
"It was fast," Jasper explains. "I mean, it worked quickly on you, Edward, but with Carlisle, it was instant. He had barely taken one swallow, and Esme and half the pack had to grab him before he ran off."
"Edward, it was horrible," Esme's voice cracks, and Edward's face crumples for a split second before resuming a doctor's calm facade. "It was like...he wasn't even Carlisle. He was so violent." Her eyes go wide, and she swallows before continuing. "He fought so hard for several hours, but after that, he just...he just gave up, he wouldn't move...I don't think he could hear us." She presses her lips together, unable to continue.
"He just went slack," Jasper continues. "We didn't know...we didn't know if he had died, or... But thank, God, he began to stir after the first day, when...the pain started. Fortunately, he didn't seem to be in as much pain as you were, Edward." He lays a hand gingerly on Alice's forehead. "Or Alice was."
"Alice is...doing alright?" I murmur.
"Yes, she's stable," Edward answers, giving me a small smile. He places a clip on Carlisle's finger and adjusts several dials on a machine resting on the bedside table. A rapid beeping fills the room.
"That sounds fast..." Sam mutters.
Edward looks at him sharply. "It is. It's more rapid than I'd like." A flash of panic moves into his eyes, but it's quickly gone, and he continues calmly.
"I'm concerned." Edward looks around the room at our tense faces. "His heart rate is high, and he's hyperventilating. I'm concerned he's going into shock."
"What can we do for him?" Esme asks, her voice trembling.
"I can give him IV fluids, but he may need a blood transfusion. If his respiratory rate remains elevated, he may need his breathing controlled with a respirator."
"You can do that here?" I ask surprised.
"No...I don't have...we hoped it wouldn't be necessary."
"What are you saying, Edward?" Esme says quickly, her voice barely audible. She crushes Carlisle's hand to her chest.
"I don't have the supplies, nor enough power in this cabin to run an artificial respirator." He pauses. "We would need to get Carlisle to a hospital."
"Well, then what are we waiting for?" Emmett shoots across the room as if he intends to lift Carlisle into his arms that second and run him back to Forks.
"Wait." Jasper is in front of his brother, his hand braced against Emmett's chest in the time it takes a single beep to be emitted from Carlisle's machine. "I don't know if that's a good idea."
"What do you mean?" Emmett exclaims, disbelieving, shoving Jasper's hand away. "You heard what Edward said. This is Carlisle's life, Jasper."
"I know, Emmett. We all care about Carlisle. I'm just saying let's wait and think things through," he says calmly, placing his hand back on Emmett's chest. Emmett drops his shoulders slightly. "Aro and his guards are out there. We take a risk moving around too much. We're blind." He glances pointedly at Alice.
"But so are they," Emmett sneers. "Demetri's no help to them, now."
"Sure, but they have other methods of tracking. These guys Aro's brought with him are hunters. The best he's trained."
Emmett's golden eyes light up with conviction. "Yeah, but they'll start searching for us here, out in the woods, not in Forks. And we've got a head start on them. They've just arrived in town."
Jasper breathes as if to respond, then purses his lips, saying nothing.
"Emmett's got a good point, there."
All six heads whip in Sam's direction, and his eyes shift in embarrassment as all the attention is drawn to him. The beeping in the room marks off the seconds as no one speaks.
"What?" Sam holds up his hands in defense. "He does. Carlisle was friends with this Aro, right? I don't think Aro expects you guys to cross him. I mean, why would you? What have you got to hide? He thinks you'll be where Demetri said you'll be." Sam shrugs. "Seems simple enough to me."
Emmett cautiously extends a hand to Sam, his fingers open and outstretched, looking for a handshake. Sam furrows his brow, then takes it.
"Well said," Emmett says warmly, confidently.
"Thanks," Sam mutters, finally catching Emmett's contagious grin and letting a small smile grace his lips.
"Wait. I'm confused," I stutter. "First, we decide it's safer to stay out here, away from Forks, and now we're saying the woods are dangerous?"
"Maybe we were foolish to think Aro's men won't scour this area," Edward says forcefully. "Perhaps it is wise to change our location."
"Not Forks, though," Jasper argues, returning to crouch next to Alice's cot. "It's too risky. If they don't find us here, they're going to return to Forks. That's a given. And they know Carlisle's a doctor there. They'd try the hospital."
Edward nods. "Port Angeles, then. It's closer anyways."
"What about Alice?" Jasper asks, his voice cracking. "Is it safe to move her?" His eyes plead with Edward.
"Yes, I think it is. An hour of fluids will help both of them, and then we move."
"Score. I love it when my plan gets picked," Emmett says as he slips his arm around Rosalie's waist.
She rolls her eyes.
As I pace the shabby floor boards of the cabin's living room, I try to spend the next hour not imagining the Volturi discovering our hiding place.
They wear long, black cloaks with hoods covering their faces. The front door of the cabin bangs open, and they swoop in, gliding on air. Moonlight reflects off glistening, pale fingers as a single hand emerges from a dark cloak, reaching for Edward as he throws himself in front of me. Aro joins the onslaught, chuckling in the background, his fingertips pressed together and red eyes shimmering with amusement as he spurs his guard forward, pitting them against Edward.
I shudder and pace faster.
In another scenario, I picture them as Hollywood SWAT guys, decked out in full-body black, wielding AK-47's or some other gun I don't know the name of. The door bangs open, and I turn to see Emmett shaking with laughter next to me. He grabs the first guy by his bullet-proof vest and cargo belt and hurls him back out the open front door, right into the rest of the team gathered on the front porch. They collapse like dominoes.
This one I like, although I know it could not be farther from the truth. If only guns were the worst weapons the Volturi could threaten us with.
"Bella." Edward grips my shoulders and turns me to face him. I didn't even realize he was near me.
"I've been calling your name. Are you alright?"
I swallow and try to move my head in some way that will resemble a nod.
Edward squints his eyes, looking at me skeptically. "Is your imagination running away with you again?"
He slowly moves his hands down my arms to grip my hands. "Bella, I've been thinking about this, and I don't want you in Port Angeles with us," he says with determination.
My eyes widen in alarm and I open my mouth to protest.
Edward ignores this and continues. "I want Sam to take you with him back to La Push. He's leaving at the same time, and you'll be safer there. The werewolves are protecting the reservation, and they'll look out for you."
I make another indignant sound that Edward ignores.
"I don't know what's going to happen once we start moving, and with Carlisle not doing well, I can't worry about you, too." His green eyes are insistent, and he cups my face in his hands. "Bella, please."
I stare into Edward's face for a moment before gently prying his fingers from my cheeks. I take a few steps backward, away from him. "I can't, Edward. I'm sorry. I'm not leaving you," I say with determination, holding my ground. "Whatever happens to you, well it's just going to have to happen to me, too. I'm not going to hide in La Push while everyone else risks their lives."
Edward sighs and hangs his head, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Why is it that the more I try and keep you safe, the more you fight me?" He looks up, his frustration quickly building to anger. "This isn't easy for me Bella, not being strong enough to protect you," he blurts out.
His tone sparks a reaction from me, and I feel my anger rise to the surface, making my face hot. "Well, it isn't easy for me to still be treated like some delicate thing, when I'm not the only one in danger anymore, Edward. Alice is in danger. Carlisle is in danger. You're in danger. You think it doesn't scare me that you're just as fragile as I am? Just as breakable?" My voice quivers, and I feel angry tears burn my eyes. "Have you ever thought that being helpless to protect you is just as unbearable for me? Have you?"
His eyes soften, and he reaches out to me, taking a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I haven't thought about that, Bella. It's hard for me to think about anything other than keeping you safe."
I take a tentative step in his direction. "Well, you need to start thinking about keeping yourself safe, too, Mr. Cullen." Another small step. "I can't lose you." My voice is thick with tears.
"Please come here," he pleads, opening his arms further.
I step into the circle of his arms, desperate for comfort.
Luckily the woods and the night give us cover until we reach the outskirts of the Port Angeles. Another stroke of good luck puts the hospital just a mile from the city limits, a distance the vampires feel comfortable running, keeping to dark alleys and empty streets.
We stop in the shadows just beyond the lights of the emergency entrance, hidden behind an ambulance. The lot is deserted and quiet, only a few city sounds in the distance. Esme gently releases Carlisle from her arms, holding him upright on his feet. His head rolls back, and I see that his lips are incredibly pale. Edward moves forward to help support him, checking his pulse.
As Rosalie drops me from her back, I turn to Jasper and Alice. He's still cradling her in his arms. It won't shock the hospital staff to see Jasper carrying Alice through the doors, although they might think twice seeing a woman of Esme's small stature carrying Carlisle. Best not to draw attention to ourselves.
Supporting Carlisle, Edward and Esme begin to walk around the side of the ambulance, toward the circle of light thrown from the entrance lamps. I start to follow, but a hiss stops me in my tracks.
Still cradling Alice, Jasper is looking pointedly at Emmett and Rosalie, then to Esme, and the four of them whip their heads in the direction of the darkness behind us. They freeze like statues, their chins tilted upwards as if they're catching a scent. Jasper turns to the others, his lips moving unbelievably fast, but I don't hear a sound.
I stop breathing.
Jasper. I watch Edward mouth his brother's name.
Jasper is in front of me in an instant, lowering Alice to her feet. I reach out to steady her. He brings his mouth to my ear so fast it makes me gasp in surprise.
My heart stops. I find Edward's face, and he's staring at me desperately, eyes wide in fear as Emmett gives him the same information. As if in slow motion, I watch his chest rise and fall. Rise and fall.
"Take Alice inside. Tell her I love her. We're going to run for it, draw them away from you."
They're gone in the time it takes me to blink. Unconscious Alice is sagging in my arms, and with trembling arms, I hoist her small form up, securing her arm around my shoulders and wrapping my other arm around her waist.
"Stay close to me. I love you," Edward whispers as we shuffle towards the entrance. His eyes dart everywhere but to the doors we approach.
The night is so quiet. Too quiet. And I wish for any sound to drown out the pounding in my ears. The emergency room doors slide open with a loud swish, and I'm suddenly accosted with the smell of alcohol and the glare of fluorescent lights. The woman at the reception desk lifts a phone to her ear as soon as she sees us, and two gurneys appear out of nowhere. A man and a woman in scrubs take Alice from me, laying her on the gurney. I take her hand, but they say something about needing to take her, a pat on the shoulder, and you can see her soon, wait here please. I reach for Edward's hand instead, and he squeezes it, hard. I hear snippets of Edward's voice, explaining things to the attendants--...shock...doctor...sodium bicarb...one liter IV...-- other words that mean little to me. I still only hear Jasper's hushed whisper.
Gah! The suspense! Keep on reading...Chapter 11.