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Turning Back (11/13)

Title: Turning Back (11/13)
Author: songforevela  
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.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><>

My body helps me get Alice into the hospital and then shuts down. Everything shuts down. I don't remember Edward leading me into the waiting room, but now we huddle next to each other in vinyl covered chairs, his arm locked around my shoulders, my hands reaching across our bodies to grip the front of his hooded sweatshirt.

My white knuckles begin to throb, and I loosen my grip somewhat, stealing a glance at Edward. His jaw is rigid, tense, eyes glaring at the double doors that took Carlisle and Alice. I briefly wonder if we look alarming to anyone, but a glance around at the harrowed faces and wringing hands scattered through the drab room, tells me we're not. There are a lot of scared people in a hospital waiting room in the middle of the night.

An entirely too-cheerful doctor finds us quickly, and we're led in to see Carlisle and Alice. Carlisle's reputation proceeds him, and the young kid can't stop blabbering on about how Carlisle was such an inspiration during his residency, such an exceptional...

"Thank you, Dr. Kochevar," Edward says curtly, interrupting him mid-sentence. He simultaneously pulls me closer into his side.

The guy huffs and leaves.

Something about seeing Carlisle and Alice safely hooked up to machines in a fancy hospital room eases my tension. Although I know hospital security could do absolutely nothing to stop him, I have trouble picturing a hooded Aro here underneath the warm lights, among the humans, away from his gloomy, lavish throne.

I may also just be utterly exhausted, the endless fear numbing my brain into a false sense of safety.

"He's warm, now," I mutter, taking Carlisle's hand. I feel Edward at my back. He places his hands on my hips and kisses the back of my head.

"The blood transfusion helped."

"You handled this really well. I'm proud of you," I press my back closer against him.

Edward sighs, wrapping his arms around my waist.

"I'm serious," I say, "I just shut down. You're good at this whole doctor thing."

Alice is warm, too and peaceful. Remembering Jasper's message, I lean down to whisper in her ear, although I have no doubt she knows his feelings well enough already.

As I straighten, my head spins, and I grab the railing on Alice's bed to steady myself.

"You should rest, Bella," Edward murmurs, cradling me to his chest. "They'll bring in a cot. We can set it up next to Alice's bed, by the window."

"What about you?" I slur, eyes already drifting closed against his chest.

"I'll watch over you. I won't leave your side."

___________________________________

The room is still dim when I open my eyes. Looking at my watch I realize it's around dawn, but the only light in the room comes from a small lamp next to Carlisle's bed. The sunrise must be blocked by the heavy curtains.

I immediately sit up, searching for Edward.

"I'm here, love," he says from a chair in the corner, close to the foot of the cot.

I swing my legs to the ground, stand and stretch. I groan against the stiffness in my joints. With a small smile at what must be my mussed appearance, Edward opens his arms, and I settle on to his lap.

"You can sleep, now, I'm very awake," I mumble, stifling a yawn.

"Yes, you seem very awake," Edward softly laughs into my hair.

I cup his face in my hands, then run my hands through his soft, messy hair. His eyes are half-closed and puffy.

"More awake than you," I say, as I stand and pull him with me. He fights very little as I pull him to the cot, make him lie down and cover him with the scratchy blue hospital blanket. His eyes are already closed as I kiss his hair and move back to the chair.

"Bella." He lifts himself up on to one elbow, his worn face very serious. "Don't leave this room, please."

I nod, anything to get him to relax and get some much needed rest.

"And I just need to close my eyes for awhile. Don't let me sleep more than fifteen minutes," he mumbles, pulling the blanket up to his chin.

Fifteen minutes pass, and I don't have the heart to wake him. He normally looks so peaceful in his sleep, but not now. His eyebrows are knitted together, and his eyeballs move frantically underneath his lids.

My eyelids are heavy, and as much as I try to pry them open, they have minds of their own, intent on betraying me.

I need coffee.

With a quick glance at Edward, I tiptoe to the door, peer in both directions as if preparing to cross the street. No figures in black cloaks. This is good.

I find the nurse's station, and she gives me directions to a vending machine. Down this hallway, make a left, go through the double doors, first right...Hefty directions for vending machine coffee.

I mouth the nurse's directions silently as I follow them, but it doesn't take long for me to confuse rights for lefts and firsts for seconds. I'm lost. I seem to have wandered into a wing of the hospital currently undergoing some renovations.

I let loose an exasperated sigh. Of course I manage to fumble through something as simple as getting coffee.

I turn a final corner, desperately hoping to find the machines. Instead I find myself in another empty hallway. Two abandoned gurneys are unceremoniously stashed against one wall, and one of the fluorescent lights flickers and buzzes in a feeble attempt to stay lit. The pale walls and generic linoleum floor still feel like a hospital, but a hospital out of that Twilight Zone where the entire human population disappears overnight.

I'm very alone.

But a million times worse than that, I've left Edward alone. He swore to not leave my side while I slept, and at my first opportunity, I abandoned him.

What was I thinking?


I turn to retrace my steps, adrenalin suddenly making it painfully easy to stay awake. I fight back the panic that the Volturi are here, tormenting Edward as I fumble around in abandoned hallways.

"They don't know we're here. If they did, they would have showed up long ago. Edward is fine, Edward is fine," I sputter, hoping it will keep my anxious, muddled brain focused on finding my way back to the hospital room. It also fills the deserted hallway with something other than crushing silence.

I walk a little faster.

I turn down a hallway to my left, but hit a dead end. Double doors, with construction tape plastered in an "X" across them, barring the way. A picture of Edward, innocently curled up on the cot flashes across my mind. A hooded figure leans over him.

Why did I leave him?

I turn around, but my vision goes blurry, and I reach out a steadying hand to the wall. I didn't even realize the angry tears had spilled over. I rub my eyes roughly. With my other hand, I feel my way along the wall to return to the main hall. Once there, I pick another hallway blindly, beyond the ability think clearly, coherently. I take a few steps in the new direction.

"Are you lost, dear?"

Even before I turn around to face the voice, relief pours through my body like a torrential downpour. Thank you thank you thank you.

"I am," I turn, blinking rapidly to clear my vision. "I'm just trying to get back to..."

My voice stops, skids, crashes into the brick wall that is the person standing before me.

It can't be. Not with Edward so close...not with Carlisle, Alice...

The pleasant smile plastered on his face is more scary to me than any sneer. He's wearing a simple black suit and white collared shirt, no sweeping cloak, and his long black hair is pulled into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His skin is less pale, as if he's put on make-up to try and darken it, and he's put in brown contacts to hide the color of his eyes.

Aro looks at me expectantly, as if he thinks his warm smile is supposed to put me at ease. He wants me to say something.

Jane and Demetri slink to Aro's side, their disguises blending with his.

"Hello." I feel my lips move and hear the rush of a small breath past my lips. I clear my throat. "Hello," I say more loudly, wrapping my arms around my own waist to hide the shaking. My eyes dart to the hallway to my left.

In the time it takes my eyes to return to Aro, Jane is crouched at my side, much closer than I would have liked, blocking the hallway. Her snarl echoes off the bare walls.

"That's enough," Aro snaps, and Jane straightens from her crouch and takes a few steps backwards, narrowing her eyes at me. Aro turns back to face me, but it takes him a second to replace the friendly mask.

"We mean you no harm, Bella." Aro's small smile widens, stretching the taut skin of his face but avoiding his eyes. "We simply want to talk with you. Although I must admit, I was hoping to speak to both you and your Edward."

His sweet, innocent smile following Edward's name brings on more panic. I don't like him referring to Edward. I don't like him thinking about Edward.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," I muster, "But I haven't seen Edward in...months. We...broke up...I broke up with him a few months ago."

Aro laughs softly, as if he's teasing me. "I doubt a divorce could be finalized so quickly. I hope married life has been everything you dreamed it would be and more."

Aro begins to pace, calm but menacing, like a pompous lawyer divulging some juicy tidbit to a jury. "I imagine Edward has been very attentive to your needs, although it is rather surprising to see that you're still human, despite our understanding."

"I decided...not to become a vampire. Edward wanted to change me, but I...I wouldn't let him..."

"Enough!" Aro stops pacing and glares at me, all traces of pleasantries gone, and I see the powerful vampire that created an empire.

I bite my lip to keep it from quivering.

"My dear, Bella." He tries to reign in his temper, but I can feel it seething beneath the surface. "I may not be privy to your mind, but your face is an open book. Edward is here. There is no question. Your mere presence and stammering lies give away his whereabouts. Of course you want to protect him. I understand that."

"I...I'm not protecting him," I stumble. "How could I? I'm nothing but a useless human."

"Useless." Aro narrows his eyes, hearing something in my words that intrigues him. "I doubt that, my dear. Weak, helpless, stubbornly foolish, maybe, but not...useless. I imagine you have been quite useful to the Cullens."

His words confuse me. Could he possibly....? No, there's no way he could know. If he did, I don't think we'd still be standing here talking.

"I don't know...I don't understand what you mean."

In an instant he is right in front of me. I can feel the chill of his skin in the air between us and smell the alluring scent of a predator. It's sweet, like Edward's was, but too sweet. It turns my stomach and makes me dizzy. "You hide them."

"Wh..what?" I stammer, swallowing forcefully to stem the nausea. I don't have to fake my confusion.

"Do not insult me, Bella," Aro sneers. His arm snaps forward and grips my elbow. I let out a small cry of pain.

He stands motionless, tightening the grip on my arm, his eyes directed at me but unfocused. I realize he's trying to read my mind.

After a moment, he drops my arm and turns his back to me. He sighs heavily.

"I apologize," he says, calmly, still facing away from me. "My patience has worn very thin over the past two days. I trusted Carlisle implicitly, and the loss of that friendship has hurt me more than I imagined." He chuckles softly. "I deluded myself into thinking you were hiding the Cullens from Demetri's view. But I see now how foolish that idea was. You are still human, after all, yet you remain an anomaly." He's completely still, but I catch a flicker of movement as his fists clench. "Weak, yet able to bend the will of vampires. Mysterious, yet vividly transparent. Stubborn, yet unsure. You are both fascinating and infuriating in the same moment."

"I get that a lot, actually," I mutter.

This elicits a laugh from Aro, and he turns to face me. "I feel a certain amount of affection for you, Bella, I cannot deny that. You are fairly charming. But I cannot tolerate disobedience, do you understand?"

I'm expected to nod, so I do.

"I know you are aware of the Cullen's disappearance, but I also know you have no intention of telling me where they are. Unfortunately, it appears I will not be able to find them without their consent." He flashes a withering glare at Demetri. "But that does not mean they will escape without losing something precious to them. You would sacrifice anything to protect them, yes?"

I nod again, hoping to get some points for honesty.

"Perhaps then, I might interest you in a trade?"

"A trade?" I whisper, confused.

"It's rather cliche, really." Aro smiles. "Your life for theirs."

I swallow audibly. "You mean to kill me, then."

Shock moves across Aro's face. "Bella, my dear, of course not. Such a waste." He shakes his head in disbelief. "You will join us."

Aro's demand moves through me swiftly, strengthening my dead limbs and filling my shallow lungs with air. I know I should be terrified, but I feel calm, certain. "Of course," I whisper.

"You are willing, then?" Aro asks, genuinely intrigued by my answer, although I know I have no real choice.

"Yes."

"Willing to relinquish your regular human existence for a life not by your lover's side, but by ours?"

His words bring a giant lump into my throat, but I force it away. It it beyond painful to imagine an existence without Edward, but Aro must believe I'm willing to give Edward up. "Yes," is all I can manage.

Aro looks at me skeptically. "I underestimated your devotion to him. It seems as if you would sacrifice anything to keep him safe."

In a heartbeat, he's right in front of me, and I stumble back a step as I recoil from his closeness.

"Wait, now?" I sputter.

"I don't see a reason to wait, do you?" His tone is friendly, conversational, as if he's asking whether we should delay a vacation, a trip to the movies, something mundane, unexceptional.

His shifting moods leave me reeling, dashing my futile efforts to stay one step ahead in this game.

"I...no, I guess. I just don't understand the rush. I mean, you have my word. My...compliance for their safety, right?" I can't believe I'm actually trying to bargain with this vampire.

This time Aro's smile reaches his eyes. "You can trust me, Bella. They will not be harmed, as long as you fulfill your end of the deal." His eyes narrow. "I hope you are as eager to join us when Edward is here, begging you to stay with him."

My heart slams against my ribs as the realization hits me. "That's why you want to do it now. You want him to come. You think it will draw him out."

"I'm counting on it," he snarls.

"But you won't touch him," I say forcefully, raising my voice louder than I meant to.

He leans closer, gripping my elbows in his freezing hands. "You have my word."

I feel his nauseating breath on my neck just before his teeth. The bite is quick.

His teeth barely graze the skin before the world erupts into chaos.

I'm thrown into the wall, and something snaps. An arm, maybe. I clutch it to my body, blinking rapidly to clear the stars from my eyes as I try to sit up. I make it to sitting, my back still pressed against the wall, but only a second passes before I'm doubled over, coughing uncontrollably as the air fills with plaster dust, bits of paint. It burns my lungs.

And the sound. The sound is deafening. Snarls, unearthly growls over the smash of wood, the scream of steal bending.

The ground shudders beneath me, and I know I should be scared, but I'm not.

It worked.

And then I'm falling as the floor gives way into darkness, and my stomach rises into my throat against gravity.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
mystical_blaise
Aug. 16th, 2008 02:31 pm (UTC)
Awesome chapter! I really love this story and so happy to see you update. :-)
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
Thank you so, so much!

I've finally updated with the next chapter, if you'd like to continue!

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
wm_law2003
Aug. 16th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
GOOD LORD WOMAN!!

Are you trying to kill me??
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:07 am (UTC)
Definitely not trying to kill you :) I am bad with the cliffhangers, though, sorry...

The next chapter is up; hopefully in time to save you :)

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
hayley_cullen
Aug. 16th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
*evils* You want me to have a heart attack don't you! -_-

Once again.. Excellent chapter!! Please don't wait too long to update.. please!!
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:09 am (UTC)
Everyone thinks I'm trying to kill them with the cliffhangers! I swear, it's not my intention. These chapters just write themselves into cliffhangers.

Thanks so much for reading :)

I've updated with the next chapter, if you'd like to keep reading!

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html

mana1023
Aug. 16th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
You sure know how to do cliffhangers. :p Love it. Give more.
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
Thanks!!! I do go crazy with the cliffhangers :)

Not for long, though...The next chapter is up :)

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
vintagememories
Aug. 16th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
OHMYGOD.....Wow that chapter was amazing, OH please let Bella be ok, and I hope Carlisle and Alice are as well, and Edward too. OH MY GOD.
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked this chapter!

If you'd like to see what finally happens to all of our favorite Cullens, I've posted the next chapter...

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html

Thanks again for reading!

_goldengirl
Aug. 16th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
awesome update (:
Can't wait to see what happens next...
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)
Thank you!!

If you'd like to keep reading, the next chapter is up!

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
(Deleted comment)
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad Aro's violent reaction was not a complete surprise. I meant to foreshadow that with Carlisle's transformation.

Well, it's all drawing to a close...The next chapter is up, and hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, I'll be able to write an Epilogue soon.

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
kudosirony
Aug. 16th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
Ahhh!!! What happens next?!?!?!

I loved this chapter. Every chapter I love more than the last.
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! That's very sweet of you to say!

I've got the next chapter posted, if you'd like to keep reading!!

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
sammie_3
Aug. 16th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
Oh my jeez. Bella totally just changed the entire vampiric world. What is the volturi without Aro? Oh crap, I feel like she is about to get the biggest wooping of her life. :)
Great chapter, can't wait for more!
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
Excellent question! What are the Volturi going to do without Aro?? I haven't totally figured the answer out to that...Let me know if you have any ideas :) I was thinking complete and total chaos. No, just kidding, I love happy, optimistic endings too much :)

The next chapter is up, if you'd like to keep reading!

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html

Thank you so much for commenting!

(Deleted comment)
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
haha! Thank you!!

The next chapter is posted, if you'd like to keep on reading!

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
legally_blonde
Aug. 21st, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
*gasp* I didn't see that coming, that's for sure. I don't really know what to say right now, so I'll leave it at great chapter and can't wait to see what happens next!
songforevela
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
Oooh! I'm happy to hear you were surprised!! I tried to foreshadow a little here and there, but I ultimately wanted Aro to be a surprise!

The next chapter is up, if you'd like to keep reading!

http://songforevela.livejournal.com/5453.html
legally_blonde
Aug. 22nd, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)
I was! I thought Aro would show up eventually, but the when and where was definitely a surprise :)

And I'll definitely have to go read the next chapter!
rikoura06
Sep. 10th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
O.O She's trying to turn Aro HUMAN!?! I seriously didn't see that coming :D

Awesome as usual!
little_vivy
Oct. 19th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
Ah, please update soon!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )