Rating: PG-13 for themes and some language
Length: 7,549 words
Spoilers: Primarily Twilight and New Moon, but up through Breaking Dawn, just to be safe.
No Choice index
Chapter 12 – Oft Do Go Awry
Sunday passed in a quiet flurry of activity as we raced to put our plan into motion. Carlisle and Esme drove into the city to secure us a cargo plane, while Rosalie worked with inhuman speed and focus to rebuild the van, with Emmett acting as both jack and assistant. I relieved him around sunset, anxious to busy my hands and still my mind. And anxious, strangely, to be in Rosalie’s gruffly protective, supremely confident presence; no one was more surprised than me.
Emmett returned to the garage half an hour later with a grin stretched across his face, making his dimples dance. “Good news,” he announced as he flopped down on the floor beside Rose and I; I was flat on my back, my hands braced against the frame of the van as I held it several feet off the ground for Rosalie. “He's in Brazil,” Emmett continued. “I just talked to the phone company, and they say he's been racking up roaming charges there the last two weeks, every time he checks his messages. Now if we can just get him on the phone, I can give you an actual where.”
I stared straight up, concentrating on keeping the van still for Rosalie as I worked to block everything else from my mind. Brazil. My brain whirled, images and questions rising unbidden, faster than I could contain them in my fog of white noise.
“Hmm,” Rose said, her hands never pausing. “Call Esme and Carlisle and let them know – we're going to need a bigger plane.”
“Alice is on it,” Emmett replied, shrugging.
“Good,” Rosalie nodded. “Give her something else to think about besides how to get him on the phone. Hand here, Bella,” she added, directing my left hand towards some part she needed me to hold in place, while I balanced the van easily in my right.
“Jasper wants to talk to Bella, so I've been sent to switch out again.”
Rosalie hummed in assent. “Just let me finish screwing this in.”
I made it out of the garage before Emmett could voice the lewd comment I just knew was lurking behind his smirk.
Jasper met me in the living room, holding a small digital camera in one hand; for one dizzying moment I was reminded of the camera Renée had given me for my birthday and my half-serious question to Edward about vampires showing up on film. I shut the memory out with my shield, wrapping myself tighter in comforting white noise.
“I’m heading into the city to meet with our forger,” Jasper said as I joined him at the sideboard by the front door. “Flight manifests and documentation, standard stuff,” he added, shrugging. “And Alice thinks it will simplify the situation if I get you a new passport while I’m there, since the photo in your old one doesn’t match now.”
Ghosting his fingers over my elbow, he maneuvered me to the rare patch of blank wall, then stepped back and aimed the camera at me. I assumed the standard school photo position, squaring my shoulders and smiling a little.
Jasper snorted. “Don’t smile,” he said dryly, “I don’t think the camera can take it.”
Biting the inside of my cheek slightly, I did my best not to smile; Jasper’s grin – and the emotions rolling off him – didn’t help things. He snapped a few photos then pocketed the camera, shaking his head and still smiling.
Alice buzzed into the room then, a small duffle bag in her hand and her expression serious. “It’s Marie; get both; and you better get going or Jenks will be asleep when you get there, and he won’t finish the papers until after sunrise tomorrow,” she said rapidly, as she handed the bag to him, answering several questions Jasper had apparently decided to ask.
“Both?” he asked, taking the bag and quirking an eyebrow at her. The scars on his temple puckered, and whatever was in the bag rustled softly.
Alice bobbed her head once, decisively. “She’ll want both, eventually.”
He nodded absently, unzipping the duffle bag, the motion distracting me from wondering what Alice was referring to. I caught a quick glimpse of several stacks of money held together with rubber bands. The bills looked like $100 notes, stacked a hundred high – my mind instantly supplied a total sum, and I clicked my jaw shut to keep my mouth from dropping open in shock.
“Sweetheart, even if I get both, this is more than twice what I need,” Jasper said, eyebrow raised again.
“It’s an overnight job,” Alice replied, fishing a set of car keys out of the sideboard and holding them out to him. “Be nice to him, Jazz, I’d like Jenks not to have that heart attack.”
“As nice as it takes to get the job done on time,” he said with a vaguely menacing smile, taking the keys and giving Alice a quick peck goodbye. He turned to me as he opened the door. “If Rosalie can spare you both, have Emmett teach you some grappling moves. We’ll go over strategy when I get back tomorrow.” He nodded at me, gave Alice a lingering look, then slipped out the front door, closing it behind him.
Alice and I stood listening to his boots first on the porch, then across the gravel drive. As Jasper’s words sunk in, I had the strangest sensation of falling, the half-remembered feeling from my previous life of a stumble realized too late.
“Am I going to need grappling?” I asked Alice, my voice strained.
“Wait,” she whispered back, and looking at her I realized her shoulders were tense as she stood staring at the front door, unblinking.
Outside, Jasper’s car started, and we both listened as it pulled away from the house, down the long drive, and eventually out onto the highway. Only once it had been swallowed by the sounds of other traffic did Alice finally relax, laying her head on my shoulder and winding her arm around my waist.
“Sorry,” she sighed. “He has enough to deal with without me falling to pieces just as he’s walking out the door.”
“Are you alright?” I asked quietly, wrapping my arm around her waist as well.
“Just stressed,” she sighed again. “You might need grappling, I don’t know for sure yet. I still can’t see him as clearly as I’d like.”
I hesitated a moment, then: “Emmett said he’s in Brazil.” I tried to make it a question, but my voice wouldn’t cooperate.
Alice nodded against my shoulder. “In an attic, but I don’t know where. He won’t seem to make a decision – either he’s trying to block me, or he’s unwilling or unable to decide on something. I don’t know. I hate not knowing!” she added in a harsh little whisper.
“But we’ll find him?” I breathed.
“It’s hazy still,” she replied just as softly. “Too many decisions still to be made. But I see you in the attic, with him. It comes and goes. I just hope it means what I think it means.”
I blinked down at the top of her head, feeling each individual eyelash against my cheek. “What else would it mean?”
She shrugged and stepped away slightly, not meeting my eyes. “Probably nothing. I’m probably overanalyzing, overreacting. I just hate not knowing, not being able to see. Look where my blindness got us last time.”
“Alice—” I started, ready to tell her again that none of this was her fault, but she cut me off with a shake of her head.
“We need to get him to call us. Everything will be hazy until I figure out how to get him to call. And I can do that while helping Rose out just as well as I can staring out the window. I’ll send Emmett in – try not to hurt him too badly.”
Grappling with Emmett occupied most of my overnight hours, though in truth I hardly needed the practice. Once he showed me a few key moves, showed me how to subdue someone with vampire strength and speed, my instincts took over, aided greatly by my newborn abilities. We stayed out in the yard until near dawn, though, practicing pins, tackles, and chase techniques as the dew collected on our stone skin. Emmett’s wide grin and friendly taunting kept my mind off what I would be using these new skills for in the very near future.
Just as the eastern clouds were beginning to turn from violet to pink, Rose emerged from the garage and declared that she required someone with longer arms than “stubby little Alice in there,” and drafted Emmett into service again. I wandered back into the house and found Alice in the kitchen, washing the engine grease off her hands and looking even more stressed than when I had last seen her a few hours before.
“How’s the van coming along?” I asked, picking up an apple from the prop fruit bowl on the counter and rolling it around in my hands.
Alice looked over at me like she hadn’t been completely aware I was there. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said after half a beat, her voice somewhere between exasperated and exhausted. “I wasn’t really paying attention.”
“Right. Any luck with…?” I asked, gesturing with the apple, trying to avoid saying the actual words.
One shoulder lifted in a lackluster half-shrug. “Some. I’ve ruled out a lot of options, found a couple that would end disastrously. I have two or three that would get him to call, I think, but those calls always go… badly.” She grimaced, throwing the hand towel down on the counter. “Part of the trick here is that it has to be a long enough call for Emmett to get a good trace on his location, so we have to keep him talking for a few minutes.”
I nodded absently, blocking out the questions and images my mine conjured at her words, looking at the deep red skin of the apple rather than at Alice. “Anything I can do to help?” I asked.
She let out a breath, and from the corner of my eye I could see her entire frame relax. “Sit with me awhile?” she replied in a small voice, crossing the kitchen to lean against the counter beside me. “Maybe study a bit? Just having you there would help.”
“Sure, I’ll go grab a book,” I said, setting the apple down and smiling at her slightly.
She returned it with the first genuine smile I had seen from her since our ill-fated dance lesson Saturday night, then bounced up on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek. “Thank you,” she sighed, and then led the way into living room.
After a quick stop in my room to get the Spanish language novel Jasper had loaned me, I joined Alice on one of the couches in the living room, the two of us curling into one corner of it as though we needed to share body heat. In reality the physical proximity was comforting, and I laid my head on her shoulder as I read and she whispered phrases too quick for even my ears, paging through a hundred futures I would never see.
Near midmorning she suddenly went rigid beside me, her whispered decisions ceasing abruptly.
“What is it?” I asked, leaning back to look at her.
“Wolves!” Alice spat the word out like a curse, scowling. “Get rid of him Bella, we don’t have time for this today!”
When the roar of a motorcycle echoed down the drive barely fifteen minutes later, every muscle in my body tensed. There was no question in my mind it was Jacob, and while I would always want to see my friend, I knew I was in no condition to face him today. I let myself out onto the front porch, waiting for him alone as the rumbling of the bike – one of the motorcycles we had built together, I realized – drew closer.
He rounded the last bend in the drive at a break-neck speed and skidded to a stop in one fluid motion, sending dirt flying. “Are you insane?” he yelled as he leapt off the bike, leaving it to spin in the gravel of the driveway.
“Dr. Cullen called Sam to tell him you would be ‘out of town’ for a few days!” he cut me off, crossing the yard in quick, angry strides. “Have you lost your mind?”
I cringed; this was a conversation I did not want to have. “Jake, I can explain,” I started, raising my hands.
“So it’s true then? You’re going to go half way around the world, put yourself in danger, for him? After what he did to you?”
The hole in my chest rippled. I clamped everything down, stopping my breathing and clenching my jaw as I glared at Jacob. “Can we discuss this somewhere else?” I asked, using my remaining air.
He shifted his weight, turning his angry gaze to the big white house behind me. “You’re right,” he said, his tone sarcastic and hard, “there’s a few too many prying ears here.” His voice grew accusatory and unnecessarily loud, and I cringed again.
He grabbed my elbow and steered me into the woods, away from the house. I had to move at slightly faster than human speed to keep up with his long strides, but he didn’t seem to notice. When I determined we were far enough from the house, I wrenched my elbow from his grip, reminding myself at the last moment to be careful of breaking his fingers, fast werewolf healing or not, and then turned to glare up at him.
His face was still dark with anger, but he seemed marginally more calm. He scowled back at me for a moment, his jaw clenching and unclenching. “You’re really going to do it, then?” he asked, his voice quieter but his tone still hard. “You’re really going to go all the way down there, for that monster?”
“I’m just as much of a monster as he is!” I snapped, my arms coming up to wrap around the gaping hole automatically.
Jacob laughed mirthlessly. “I didn’t mean vampire, Bella. No, he’s a different sort of monster altogether. What he did to you…” He clenched his trembling hands into fists.
I concentrated on staying standing, on maintaining control of my shield, trying to keep hold of the thread of the conversation as the pain coursed through my chest. “He deserves to be here with his family,” I whispered after a moment, clutching myself tighter.
Jacob’s eyes flashed steely, and the shaking rippled up his spine. “Let’s not have a conversation about what he deserves.”
“Jake, don’t!” I cut him off, squeezing my eyes shut. “I have to do this. I’m going to do it.”
“You do not have to do it. You don’t owe them anything,” he stated flatly.
“It’s not a question of owing them!” I shot back. “I love them, and they love me!”
“You say that like they’re the only ones!”
“What exactly would you like me to do, Jacob? Leave the Cullens? Live in the wilderness, alone?”
“You would never have to be alone,” he said, his voice quiet but fierce.
“What then? Join the pack? Be realistic, Jake!”
He shook his head and looked around, as though frantically trying to pull the answer out of the surrounding trees. Suddenly his eyes flashed to mine. “Run away with me.”
I blinked at him in surprise. “What?”
“You and me, we’ll just leave, we’ll go now and never look back.”
“I can’t run away, Jake! I can’t leave the Cullens like that – and you can’t leave your pack!”
“Screw the Cullens and the pack! Run away with me!”
And then his burning hands were on my face, cupping my jaw and drawing me closer to him. Before I could recover from the shock, his lips met mine, soft and fiery and urgent.
The hole where my heart had once been screamed out in agony, but over the white noise of my shield kicking in, Carlisle’s voice echoed in my head: Our venom is very poisonous to them. The vampire gene and the werewolf mutation cannot exist together.
“No!” I gasped against his mouth. In a move so fast it surprised even me, I pulled out of his grasp, hearing several distinct crunches emanate from the bones of his fingers as I darted away. I ducked under his arm and raced up the closest tree, only stopping once I was a dozen feet from the ground.
Below me, Jake was cursing as he straightened out his broken fingers. I winced, digging my own indestructible digits into the bark of the tree; I hadn’t meant to hurt him.
“Damn it, Bella!” he yelled up at me. “Is the idea of kissing me really that horrible to you?”
I shook my head, speaking over him. “The venom in my mouth is poisonous to you, Jacob!”
“I wanted you to kiss me, not bite me!” He swore again.
I hid my face against the tree. “Nothing’s changed, Jake,” I ground out, my chest fragile and hollow. “I’m still that girl from three weeks ago. I’m still… broken.”
“I was there three weeks ago, too, remember?” he demanded, his voice echoing angrily off the surrounding trees. “I’m the one who’s been here! You’re willing to drop everything and to go freakin’ Brazil for him, but you won’t even consider running away with me?”
“I love you, okay? There, I said it! Happy?” He was pacing at the foot of my tree, still seething. “I’m in love with you. I thought the vampire thing would be the end of it – you’re dead, you’re my enemy – but you’re right, nothing’s changed. I still love you, I still hate him, and I still think you’d be better off with me!” He smacked the tree next to mine for emphasis, and the intertwined branches shook around me.
“‘A bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home?’” I quoted softly in reply, not meeting his eyes.
“Don’t give me that,” he spat. “We’re not that different. Where would we make a home? The whole world is our home! Every forest in the world! We’ll hunt together, go wherever we want, and just be.”
I sagged against the tree. “You know what I am – how can you still love me when you know what I am?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, shaking his head. “I thought it would, but it doesn’t.”
I closed my eyes, echoes of my long-ago conversation with Edward pawing at my shield. I felt as incredulous as he must have.
“I can be as immortal as you, Bella,” Jacob said quietly from the foot of the tree. “As long as I keep shifting, I’ll never age. It’ll just be you and me, forever. Forget everyone else and come away with me,” he pleaded, looking up at me.
I hid my face against the tree again, wishing his offer didn't sound as good as it did, wishing for the conviction to tell him no and mean it.
“Come on, Bella, stop playing squirrel and get down here!” he called up after a moment, his voice more than half whine. “Don’t make me come up that tree after you!”
I sighed and dropped easily to the ground, standing a few feet away, as though that would make it easier to refuse him.
“I can't leave, Jacob," I said quietly. “I'm not going to abandon the Cullens. The plan to bring him home doesn't work without me, and I have to do at least that much for them. He should be here with them, not staying away because of me.”
“And what will you do when he rejects you again? Bells, I can’t watch you go through that again, I won’t do it!”
“Then don’t watch,” I said in a small voice.
He pulled me into a hug, holding me tighter than I would have thought possible for anyone besides a vampire. Could I ever get used to this? To this furnace against my skin, to the smell of him?
“If he doesn’t want me, I won’t stay,” I whispered into his shirt. “He should be here with his family, now that he doesn’t need to avoid me anymore. But I won’t keep chasing after him.”
“Where will you go?” Jacob asked, his voice forlorn.
I was silent for a long moment. “How close would I need to get to La Push to trip the alarm?”
He sighed. “Once you cross over to our side of the line, it won’t take long for someone to find you and alert the rest of the pack. If you ever need me – if you change your mind, or just need to talk, all you have to do is cross the treaty line.”
I hugged him back, wishing I could convince myself that it was enough.
My footsteps were heavy as I made my way back to the house alone, Jacob’s words ringing in my head. It would be so easy to just leave with him. I had to do this for the Cullens, I had to reunite their family and fix what I had broken, and yet I knew that bringing Edward home would be the end of this fragile existence I had begun to build here with them. I couldn’t stay where he didn’t want me.
I slipped quietly in through the front door and looked up to see Jasper watching me from one of the sofas; he must have returned from Seattle while I was talking with Jacob.
“You told the mongrel to mind his own business, I hope?” he asked, his voice quiet and even.
If I hadn’t been so overwhelmed, I might have asked Jasper to name all the emotions that surged through me at his words. I caught the tail end of a fierce protectiveness for Jacob before the sorrow crushed me, as I was reminded again of everything I was giving up to bring Edward home.
Calm serenity crashed into me then, underlined by a confident feeling that everything would be okay, everything is always okay.
“Stop it!” I snapped, my eyes burning dully. I pulled my shield up to block my emotions from him; his influence still got through, of course, but at least this way he couldn’t read me and adjust course.
Jasper sighed. “You’ll feel better if you just—”
I grabbed the nearest object – a couch cushion, my fingers informed me – and hurled it at him, squeezing my eyes shut and rubbing my temples as it flew through the air.
“Jasper!” Esme’s reproachful voice called down the stairs, half a second after the resounding crash.
Abruptly the artificial calm faded. I opened my eyes to find him staring at me incredulously, the beginnings of annoyance visible in the set of his jaw.
“But you threw it!” he hissed at me.
I rolled my eyes at him and went to inspect the mess. Jasper had apparently dodged out of the way and the cushion had hit one of the armchairs, knocking it over. One of the feet had twisted to an odd angle, and as I fiddled with it Jasper walked over and knelt beside me, sighing again.
“I just hate to see you in so much pain, especially when I can help,” he said quietly. “And I hate that an animal like that can make things so much worse for you.”
“Jacob only wants what’s best for me,” I sighed, feeling worn out to my core. “He wants me to be happy.”
Jasper snorted. “As though he knows the first thing about how to make you happy.”
I shrugged stiffly, setting the armchair back on its feet and returning the cushion to its home, then flopped onto the couch, rubbing my forehead again.
Jasper followed, perching on the far end, and was silent for a long moment. “Alice and I have been through this every imaginable way,” he said finally. “You aren’t going to be happy until… until we bring Edward home,” he finished quietly.
I flinched as white-hot pain ripped through my chest, and on reflex wrapped my shield closer around me. But then Jasper was there, though he hadn’t moved, solid and calm and comforting. Not as overpowering as before – a hand held out to steady me, to catch me if I fell.
I took a deep breath in through my nose and held it, trying to relax into the feeling. “How will bringing him home make me happy, Jazz?” I managed a moment later, my voice barely a whisper. “He doesn’t want me, so I’d have to, I’d have to…” I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. I would have to leave, leave the Cullens and this new home I had found with them. Once Edward rejected me a second time, I would be on my own. Jacob’s offer was sounding better and better…
“You can’t just trust Alice on this one?” he sighed.
“I’m not backing out, Jazz. I’ll bring him home. He should be here, with Esme and Carlisle. But I’m not doing this for me.”
“Maybe you should consider doing it for you,” he replied. “You deserve to be happy too, you know.”
I looked down at my hands and tried to remember what happy felt like.
“Come on,” Jasper said after a moment, getting to his feet. “There’s something we need to do.”
I stood and followed him up the stairs. He paused at the third floor landing, eyeing me with a worried expression before continuing down the hallway. “Emmett said that you two spent some time last night working on grappling, and thinks you’ll do fine. There is one other thing we should go over, though.”
With a sudden surge of horror, I realized we had stopped just outside the door to Edward’s room.
“You need to be able to track him,” Jasper said, confirming my fears.
“I can track him,” I replied, my voice terse as I looked anywhere but at Jasper or the closed door in front of us.
“Unless you familiarize yourself with his scent, how can you be sure?”
“I tracked Laurent, and the Denali sisters. I know how to do this,” I insisted.
He pursed his lips, considering me. “It’s possible there will be more than one vampire trail wherever it is he’s hiding. You need to be able differentiate between any vampire and Edward.”
I flinched at the sound of his name, as though the barriers I had built against it the past few days were as insubstantial as the air I refused to breathe. The hole in my chest pulsed and squirmed, begging to be anywhere but here. “Please don’t make me do this,” I said, my lungs nearly empty.
Jasper didn’t move, but again the support flowed out of him like a physical presence. “If I could do this for you I would – any of us would. You have to know that,” he replied quietly.
But I’m the only one he won’t hear coming, I flickered my shield at him, in the absence of words.
Jasper merely nodded.
I wanted to sigh in resignation, or take a breath to steady myself, something, some human twitch to ease me into this task, but air was the last thing my body needed. Instead I reached blindly for Jasper’s hand, curling my fingers around his as I took a step closer to the closed door of Edward’s room, and inhaled.
Everything came to me at once, layers of distinct fragrances all clambering for attention. I could smell the vinyl of the records, the crisp plastic of the CD cases, the leather of the couch, the dust caught in the corners of the room, the fine cotton clothing in the closet, and the homey scent of book bindings and old paper.
And over everything, saturating, enveloping, was the scent I had recognized in the cab of my truck Saturday evening – it felt like so much more than two days ago – the scent I would always recognize, for as long as I lived. My mind told me it was like honey and lilacs and sunshine, but my heart knew it only as Edward.
I sank to the floor, my fingers still tangled with Jasper’s. It hurt like hell, but now that I had Edward’s smell back, I wasn’t sure how I would ever find the strength to leave it again. Even just that small part of him was enough to keep me rooted to the spot.
How could I even contemplate leaving with Jake once we had brought Edward home? How would I ever be able to leave, whether Edward wanted me or not?
Jasper squeezed my hand and lowered it slowly to my side, then leaned over me and turned the doorknob, pushing the door open by a fraction and letting the aromas of the room wash over me. “Just give it some time,” he said quietly, though I wasn’t sure if he meant the scent or the pain or some combination of the two.
I nodded numbly, staring at the small sliver of gold carpet revealed by the door, and listened to Jasper’s footsteps retreat down the stairs.
Alice found me like that, over an hour later, still braced in the doorway just outside Edward’s room. She sighed dramatically when she saw me, and quite deliberately pushed the door open and stepped over me and into the room.
“You are utterly ridiculous, Bella, you know that?” she said, turning to face me, her tone joking but her words serious. “You’re willing to track him down, kidnap him, wrestle him to the ground if need be, but you can’t set foot into his room?”
I couldn’t seem to drag my gaze up from the carpet, so I shrugged in the direction of her feet. I was too numb to form a coherent response, my mind full of honey-lilac-sunshine.
She made a little growling noise at the back of her throat, just slightly more angry than a purr. “Edward is so much easier to argue with,” she said, sounding exasperated. “It’s much easier to prove my point when I can just show you what I’ve seen.” She sighed and knelt beside me, leaning in close. “He lied to you, Bella,” she said quietly. “He loves you. I know it. I know he loves you. And once we get to him, once he’s home, you’ll know it too, and this will all be like a bad dream, I promise.”
“You’ve seen that?” I whispered, finally meeting her gaze.
“Well, no,” she said, leaning back slightly. She studied me a moment, then looked down at her hands, hidden in the deep pile of the gold carpet. “There are still too many variables, still too many things to be decided. But I know my brother, Bella, I know how you two were before your birthday. Things will be like that again, I just know it.”
“You didn’t see how he was after my birthday, though,” I replied quietly. “He didn’t want me then, and he won’t now. He was very clear on that.”
“How can you believe that? After all the times he told you—”
A look from me halted her in her tracks, and she drew back further, watching me. Her skin seemed to find new levels of pale as her expression fell, her eyes wide.
“But if you don’t believe that—” She broke off again, staring at me. “If that was true, what would you do, once we bring him home?”
“I can’t force him to feel something he doesn’t, Alice,” I said, looking away. “But he should be here.”
“And where exactly should you be?” she asked, horrified.
I shook my head, my eyes burning. “It’s not my place.”
She launched herself at me, throwing her arms around my neck and holding me close. “You’re wrong,” she whispered, her voice thick with emotion. “You’re wrong, and I love you, and I wouldn’t let you do this if I thought for one second I would lose you over it.” She leaned away and looked at me. “Can you try to trust me on this?” she asked, smiling a little. “I am psychic, you know.”
I plastered a weak smile on my face and nodded to appease her. I was going to go through with the plan to bring Edward home, regardless of what it meant for my future, and I wasn’t about to let Alice screw that up.
“Speaking of which,” she continued, “I think if we call him very soon here, there’s a good chance he’ll check his voicemail right away rather than putting it off. Emmett is all set up, so we’re going to call now, instead of waiting for Carlisle and Esme to get back.”
“Right now?” I asked, blinking at her.
“The sooner the better,” she replied, standing and stepping over me into the hallway. “The others are all waiting for us.”
I followed Alice downstairs and into the alcove just off the living room, where Emmett had amassed an army of computers, their various cords making them look like some alien creature. He sat behind them, bathed in the bluish glow of the monitors, and looked up when we entered. Jasper and Rosalie stood nearby talking about the van in jargon so thick that the only word I recognized was exhaust, but they too stopped and looked at us as we arrived.
“Took you long enough,” Rosalie said, rolling her eyes, as we gathered into a loose circle.
“There were things to be said,” Alice replied with a shrug as Emmett handed her a small silver cell phone. “Okay, everyone ready?” she asked, her gaze dancing across each of us, lingering on me before flickering to Emmett. He tapped out a quick pattern on his keyboard – I forced my mind not to translate the keystrokes – and then gave her a thumbs up. Alice took a deep breath and held it, and then with one last glance at me said, “Alright. Here we go.”
I watched as she flipped the cell phone open, appearing to move in slow motion as her fingers grazed the keys. As she lifted the phone to her ear I tried to brace myself for what would come next, tried to imagine how completely everything was about to change…
The phone rang once, then went straight to voicemail. There was no greeting, only an electronic beep that set my nerves on fire.
My mind was a single steady hum, and my hands seemed to blur in front of me as I flew across the few feet separating us. I had snatched the phone from Alice’s hand before the thought was fully formed, driven by something deeper than thought. I pressed it to my ear, my whole body shaking.
“Please, Edward, come home,” I whispered into the phone. “Come back to – to Forks,” I stuttered out, losing my nerve to say come back to me at the last moment.
I clicked the phone shut and stared at it as the realization of what I’d done finally caught up with me. Everyone was silent for a long moment, and then Alice gently pried the phone from my fingers.
“How badly did I just screw things up?” I asked, my voice hollow.
“I don’t know yet,” she replied, shaking her head and pacing a few steps away. “It could be a good thing, even. He’ll be able to tell by your voice that— Oh, he’s going to listen to the message.”
In the space of a single breath, Alice’s eyes unfocused and refocused, and the phone in her hand began to shake. She had it to her ear before the first trilling ring had ended. “Edward,” she breathed, her shoulders tensing.
“I am not amused, Alice,” Edward’s angry voice echoed through the tiny speaker pressed to Alice’s ear.
Suddenly there was no air in the room. He was there, right there, all I had to do was grab the phone and he would be there. I took one stumbling step forward before Jasper caught me under the arms, pulling me tight into his side and pushing a suffocating wave of what I could only assume was supposed be comfort at me, his eyes never leaving Alice.
“Edward, I don’t know what you’re talking—” she started, her voice trembling slightly.
“Oh please,” he cut her off, malice dripping from his words. Even angry his voice was the most wonderful sound I had ever heard; my hallucinations could never compare. “You’re a very good mimic, Alice, but you should have known better than to attempt her voice – you can’t hide the vampire aspect of your voice no matter how hard you try!”
“Edward, please, it’s not what you think. Just listen to me—”
“Oh no, I think I’m exactly right on this one,” he spat back. “How long have you known? How many days have you waited to call me, trying to put together some plan to trick me into coming home?”
“We just needed to—” Alice started, but Edward cut her off again, this time with a sigh that reverberated through the phone.
“I don’t have the strength for this anymore, Alice. Please just tell me,” he said, his voice tired and sad. “I know it already. Just tell me the truth so we can end this.” The pleading in his voice tore at me, a jagged knife along the raw edge of the wound in my chest, but my body wouldn’t listen to my commands to move, to grab the phone away from Alice.
From across the room, Emmett flashed the thumbs up sign – he had been able to determine the location of Edward’s cell phone. I sagged against Jasper.
Alice’s eyes drifted closed. “The truth is that you need to come home. Anything else is too… complicated to do this way. Please, just tell me where you are so we can come get you.”
In the silence that stretched the seconds into centuries, none of us breathed. “I won’t be tricked,” Edward said, his voice flat, and then the line went dead.
We were all still for a long moment, no one even daring to breathe.
“He’s in a slum outside Rio de Janeiro,” Emmett said finally, uncharacteristically subdued. “I got within a few blocks, anyway, and from there Bella should be able to track him.”
I nodded numbly as Jasper set me back on my feet, my mind still tangled up in the sound of Edward’s voice. He was angry – with Alice, but also with me, that much was obvious. I won’t be tricked.
“So what now?” Rosalie asked, her voice farther away than it should have been.
“Now,” Alice said, rubbing her forehead as Jasper hovered at her shoulder, attempting to comfort her. “Now, we know where we’re going, we just have to pick a day and go. Carlisle and Esme should be back by sunset, we can discuss our options then.”
Rose nodded once, her eyebrows drawn together in what was not quite a scowl. “Well, then I’m heading back to the garage. There are just a few things left to finish up on the van.” With a swish of her hair she was gone, and I instantly missed her steady practicality.
Jasper sighed over the sound of the garage door closing. “Bella, we should probably spend some time—”
Suddenly the world rippled around me, as though it was made of nothing more than wisps of smoke, and a wail tore through the air:
Edward’s voice, as clear as though he was standing in the room with me. It was an anguished cry, entreating me to come, pleading with me, begging. At the sound my brain seemed to enter a frenzied state, cut off from rational thought and oblivious to the world around me. Edward needed me, he was calling out for me, I had to get to him, I had to. I would run all the way there, swim if I had to, tear anything apart that got in my way. Nothing could stop me from going to him if he needed me, not love and certainly not the lack of it—
“Oof! Bella, relax, it’s me!”
Reality slowly dissolved in around me, sound coming before sight, thought lagging behind.
“Damn she’s strong. Jasper, get over here and help me before she hurts herself! Or me!”
I blinked up at Emmett, my ears ringing. He had me in some sort of wrestling hold, something my brain tried to name from our recent lesson, but he looked down at me when I stopped fighting against his huge frame.
“You in there, Bells?” he asked, peering at my face. “Can I let you up, or are you going to punch me again?”
“I’m fine,” I said, swallowing. My throat felt raw, like I had been screaming, but when I tried to remember if I had, it evaporated like a bad dream.
Emmett stood and helped me to my feet. A delicate tinkling sound like far away wind chimes accompanied our movements. Looking down, I saw that tiny pieces of broken glass were strewn on the ground around us, each reflecting the light like miniature stars.
“Did I do that?” I asked softly, grinding a piece down to sand under my bare toes.
“Uh, no,” Emmett replied, brushing the glass off himself as he started for the kitchen. “You and Alice both freaked out at the same exact moment, I swear. Jasper hauled ass to get her out of here, and knocked over a vase. Jazz?” he called loudly as we crossed through the living room, the chattering of glass shards following after us. “What the hell, man? Whatever it is better be pretty important for you to leave me alone to get my ass kicked by the newborn!”
The garage door banged open just as we turned towards the kitchen, revealing Rosalie, scowling and wiping her hands on a rag. “What the hell is going on?” she snapped. “Why is everyone yelling?”
Distantly I recognized her for the oldest sister she always must have been, in charge whenever mom and dad were out of the house.
Emmett shrugged, unaffected by her anger. “Alice and Bella flipped out, I have no idea why. I was hoping Jasper could shed some light on it.”
“We’re in here,” Jasper said softly, the kitchen tiles making sharp echoes of his voice.
Emmett and I turned back towards the kitchen, Rosalie trailing behind us and grumbling under her breath.
We found them on the floor, Alice’s back braced against a polished wood cabinet and Jasper crouched in front of her. As we neared, my brain finally caught up enough to process their expressions – Jasper looked worried, and Alice was as close to tears as I had ever seen any vampire.
“I just wish I knew what he was thinking,” she half sobbed, her hands balled into fists, cradled in Jasper’s larger hands. “I wish I knew the why.”
“What happened?” Emmett asked, all the joking gone from his voice. “What’d she see?”
Jasper glanced away from his wife for only the briefest second, his gaze flickering to me rather than Emmett, before returning to Alice. “She saw Edward… considering suicide,” he said softly.
The number of things wrong with that statement swirled like a vortex around me, stabbing at me with innumerable pains, but my mind latched onto the most mundane of them all:
“That’s not how it works!” I blurted out, staring aghast at Jasper. “He couldn’t have just considered committing suicide. It wasn’t a stray thought. For Alice to see it he had to have decided.”
The kitchen was silent for a long moment, the echoes of my outburst bouncing off the tile, off our stone skin.
“He changed his mind,” Jasper pointed out finally, his voice subdued.
I gaped at him, my eyes burning and the emotions he was throwing at me clinging to my legs like fog. “And what if he changes it back again?” I demanded. “Could we reach him in time?”
Alice turned and looked up at me, and the fear in her eyes suddenly brought everything into sharp focus. For however brief a moment, Edward had decided to kill himself. The world was crumbling around me, and I was turning to dust as it fell.
“He’s not allowed to commit suicide,” I choked out, my chest folding in on itself. “He promised. I made him promise. We have to go, right now. We have to go – he promised!”
Rosalie’s arm around my waist was the only thing that kept me from hitting the floor. “Come on, Bella,” she said, her voice near my ear, “get your feet under you. No sister of mine is going to be the first fainting vampire in history.” She hauled me up, catching me as I wavered, all golden hair and golden eyes and flashing teeth – a lioness defending her pride. “You want to do this now?” she asked, her voice serious. “Then man up, put your boots on, and let’s go.”
Chapter 13 - Get Thee To Mantua
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