Chapter 25.5 Misunderstandings

Bella stared at him in horror. "What do you mean Seth's gone?!"

"Bella, stay here with Jake. Don't move him. We need Carlisle," Edward replied. His voice shook as he spoke, and Bella watched as he solemnly stood up, his gaze still downward at Seth's still body, his right hand still grasping at his left where Jacob's bite sunk in.

"Edward! Seth's not gone! Wolves can't..." Bella pleaded with Edward, wishing desperately that he'd look at her with his amber-colored eyes to show her some uncertainty, but he did not.

"Stay with Jacob. I'll be back soon with Carlisle; we don't have much time," Edward spoke in a consistent monotone. Before Bella could question him, he was gone, racing with his vampire speed into the trees.

Bella huddled over Jacob's body, her hand hovering over his heart where she could feel the faintest of beats. Her fingers slid through his matted fur, and as she stared at his closed eyes hoping for some simmering of life, the sudden silence where there was a vicious battle just seconds before overwhelmed her. She gazed over at Seth's body, not fully believing Edward, but where Jacob's chest was rising and falling ever so slightly, Seth's was not. Bella lowered her head down to Jacob's chest, closed her eyes, and wept.

Edward's face grimaced as he nearly flew toward his family, his leaps regularly spanning twenty-five feet at a time. Bella would never recover if Jacob died, and though the jealousy was undeniable, Edward had long ago placed Bella's happiness above his own. He was within range of the Cullens' thoughts now; Emmett's satisfaction with the destruction of the newborns was pulsing outward like a bright red neon sign, but there was something else.... Confusion. The wolves had vanished as soon as the battle was over. Edward pressed onward; he could hear his own future as Alice saw him approach and conveyed the situation to the others. As Edward had hoped, Carlisle immediately realized that saving Jacob's life was only part of the urgency, and the leader of the Cullen clan rushed out to meet his son.

"Edward, we must hurry! Get yourself prepared." Carlisle commanded. Edward grimaced again as he saw Carlisle's thoughts showing him what he would have to do. The entire Cullen family ran in sync now back to Bella's clearing. Edward searched fervently through Alice's mind looking for some sort of prediction, but he could find none.

"I... I can't see anything..." Alice whimpered, frustration clearly overwhelming her as she felt Edward's reach burrow her brow.

The Cullen family ran in silence, concern wearing heavily on each of their faces. Esme looked especially distraught; there was no time to grieve over Seth, and she had grown quite fond of the boy. Off in the distance, Edward could already see their destination; Bella was leaning over Jacob's still body, and as his ears caught up with his eyes, he could hear her crying.

"Edward, are you ready?" Carlisle asked.

"No. But it must be done," Edward replied. Vampires did not run out of breath, but Edward huffed needlessly anyway; no matter how much time he spent with the wolves, he would never get used to the odor, and it was tickling his nostrils.

"You must hurry. There is very little time," Carlisle reminded him.

The Cullens slowed as they reached Bella, her sobs echoing off the cliff wall. Edward wanted desperately to comfort her, to tell her that everything would be alright, but he knew there was a much more pressing matter at hand. With a nod, he signaled Alice.

"Bella, you need to back away now," Alice said as she bent over Bella and pulled her away.

Bella stumbled back. "No!" she said. "I have to stay with him!"

"Bella, Jacob's going to be fine, but we're running out of time, and only Edward can help him," Alice explained. She now had her arms wrapped around Bella's stomach restraining her.

Bella wiped her eyes and looked over at Edward. She could see the pained look on his face, but she didn't understand what was happening. Edward gazed down at Jacob's body and walked over to him slowly. He looked up at Alice and she answered without hesitation.

"Edward... either he's going to run away when he wakes up, or you better go faster than you're planning to. Things clear up in less than a minute," Alice told him.

Edward's eyes shifted to Bella, and for a second, they radiated pure and undying love to her. To Edward, there were countless reasons for why he loved Bella so much, and this was one of them. No matter what difficulty faced him, her presence gave him strength. He lowered his gaze down to Jacob's body, and then lowered his mouth to Jacob's shoulder.

"Edward, no!" Bella shouted. She struggled against Alice, but Alice held her firm, and after a second, she realized what was happening. Edward wasn't biting Jacob... he was sucking the poison out, just as he had done to save Bella two years ago.

"Edward, they're coming," Jasper said. The rest of the Cullens looked at each other with concern, but Carlisle kept his eyes fixed on Edward.

"Control son. Control..." Carlisle spoke in a monotone voice.

Edward's eyes had changed from the usual honey-amber color to a darker shade of bloodlust. Jacob's eyes remained closed, but Edward could hear his heartbeat grow faintly stronger. He tried to stay focused on the heartbeat, but his will weakened as the sweet taste of Jacob's blood caressed his throat like Egyptian silk.

Emmett looked on with fascination while Rosalie stood frozen at his side. Jasper stared at the ground; Esme remained a step behind Carlisle, her hand on his shoulder. Alice continued to hold Bella tight, and Bella's tears dried on her cheeks as she now watched her one and only love struggle against the greatest temptation of his life in order to save her best friend.

Carlisle stepped toward Edward. "Focus Edward..." he spoke, still in that monotone voice.

Edward continued to drink. All of the struggle, the anguish, the jealousy, the torn affection... all of it could end now. All he had to do was continue drinking. Bella would never know. He would explain that it was too late, that the poison had already caused too much damage. His eyes glossed over now with blackness and the blood continued to flow.

Carlisle bent down to Edward's side and whispered in his ear. "It's time to stop."

Edward didn't respond.

"Stop now Edward." Carlisle placed a hand on Edward's back, preparing to tear him away from Jacob's body, but Edward suddenly stopped himself and straightened up, looking into the trees behind them. The rest of the Cullens broke their hypnotic gaze and turned in the same direction, the overwhelming scent now awakening their awareness. Bella was the last to look up, and it took her a few extra seconds to register the sight before her.

The wolves had returned. Their faces knew no rationality; they stared from the trees at the scene before them as the anger boiled over. The bloodsucker had been drinking from Jacob, and the rest of his family stood behind him as guards. Alice held the human restrained, and Seth's dead body lay still several feet away.

Chapter 25.0: Loss

"Edward!" Bella shouted.  But Edward could not acknowledge her.  He knew there was only one chance to take out Victoria, and it would require all of his attention.  Victoria's mind was blank; she was focused solely on the smell of Bella's blood.  Bella could see Victoria's fiery red hair bouncing slightly on the opposite side of Edward's frame, and then suddenly, in quite literally the blink of an eye, Edward was gone.  Victoria was completely visible, charging forward, her teeth bared, and there was nothing standing in her way.

Victoria grinned widely as her pace quickened; her eyes seemed to cloud over in blackness and just a hint of bloodshot, which was the predominant symptom of her now raging bloodlust..  Bella pressed her back up against the unyielding cliff face, her hands moving up to her face and her eyes once again squinting shut.  One more second, and it would all be over.  She held her bleeding arm in front of her face and waited.

Without Bella's irresistible blood flowing freely from her arm, Edward's plan could never have worked.  Victoria was normally far too adept at assessing the danger of her particular situation and fleeing if necessary, but in this case, feasting on Bella's one of a kind blood occupied VIctoria's thoughts completely, and Edward knew it.  Fighting against his own instincts, Edward jumped just outside of Victoria's sight and gave her the opportunity to stalk her prey relentlessly.  Moving at lightning speed and barely rustling up a whisper, he maneuvered himself behind Victoria as she closed in on Bella. 

Edward really didn't know if he'd be able to take Victoria in a straight up one-on-one match to the death, especially with her thoughts so clouded over, but that concern would never trouble him again.  He flung himself with all of his weight and agility at Victoria from behind, his heels digging into the backs of her knees, his arms wrapping around her neck.  With a sigh of relief, and a touch of pride at Bella for being so courageous, he allowed only a whimper of sound to escape Victoria's throat before permanently severing her mouth from her vocal chords.

"Bella, move!" Edward shouted.

Bella opened up her eyes in time to see Victoria's body lurching for her, with Edward perched high up on her back, now struggling to contain her flailing arms.  Bella dived to one side just as Victoria's body slammed into the cliff face.  Edward held on with his steadfast grip, then wrapped both hands around Victoria's left arm and pulled stiffly, separating the arm from the body at the shoulder to the sound of tearing paper.

"Close your eyes Bella," Edward commanded as he finished his work, but Bella could not look away.  She watched him dismantle their foe with the poise and grace of a god, and she marveled at how an act so explicitly horrible could at the same time be so beautiful.  In a matter of seconds, Victoria's body was separated into several bloodless pieces, and Edward ran with them all into the trees nearby, not forgetting to collect the head on his way.  Bella stared with her mouth open, unable to say or do anything, and before she could take a breath, Edward was back in sight, running swiftly towards the tangled heap that laid disposed as Jacob and Riley.

Bella watched as Edward reached down and removed Jacob's paws from the back of Riley's head.  Riley freed his teeth from Jacob's shoulder and snarled, but he remained helpless as Edward encircled Riley's head with his hands, placed his foot in the center of the back, and pulled the head clean off with that same satisfactory shred.  After tossing the head into the woods towards the direction he had taken Victoria's body, Edward reached down and pulled the rest of Riley out from under Jacob's still body.  He carried the flailing body, tearing limbs off one by one, into the woods, and in seconds he was back in the clearing, his eyes showing a sign of relief that they hadn't known for weeks.

"Jake!" Bella screamed.  She ran over to Jake's still wolf form as Edward sprinted to Seth and took a knee next to him.  "Edward, we have to do something; he's hurt!" Bella demanded.

"Jake's alive Bella," Edward said with a sigh.  "I can hear him."  But Edward didn't look up.  He kept his head down over Seth, his still mangled left hand buried in Seth's fur.

Bella heard the sadness in Edward's voice and looked over at him with concern.  "If Jake's alive then we have to get him hel..." And that's when Bella realized what was happening.  "Edward... what's wrong with Seth?  Can you hear Seth?"

Edward looked up at Bella, his cool marble skin sparkling in the sunlight as always, while his honey-amber eyes swam in a sea of sadness.  "Bella... Seth's gone."

Chapter 24.5 The enemy of my enemy

Author's Note:
This story begins near the end of Eclipse, when Seth and Riley are fighting neck and neck while Edward and Victoria face off nearby.  Bella's standing against the cliff face watching the action...

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The sickening crunch ripped through Jacob's body as though it was his shoulder taking the brunt of the vampire's kick instead of Seth's.  Suddenly, the almost playful manner in which he scanned the battle scene before him looking for his next prey turned to shear ferociousness and terror; if Seth was fighting, that meant Bella was in trouble.  Without hesitation, Jacob turned his back to the newborns and raced towards the clearing where he had left Bella just minutes before, though it seemed a lot further now as he was forced to witness the surprise attack through Seth's eyes.  The rest of the newborns would be handled easily; they were too occupied to even notice Jacob's departure, not that they could have stopped him.  The bloodsucker had been right; Victoria only wanted Bella, and she even brought a friend with her to make sure the job was done, which made the fight two against two, leaving Bella defenseless.

Bella defenseless...

Jacob flew through the brush faster than he had ever run before.  An involuntary growl rumbled in his chest as he caught a short glimpse in his mind of Edward and Victoria dancing slowly together, predator and prey, though it was unclear at this point who was stalking who.  The image snapped off abruptly, replaced only with tangled blond hair and fur.

Where's Bella...?

Jacob didn't want to distract Seth with his desperate need to see Bella safe, but he couldn't help the thought.  Seth was too busy to give notice, and neither he nor the vampire had gained an edge, though Jacob could feel that something was happening nearby... near the cliff face...

He pressed on even faster, his teeth bared.  He remembered kissing Bella just minutes before, how she fought him at first, but she finally gave in.  She really did love him.  For the first time, she allowed herself to feel what he knew she felt, and it was perfect.  Bella loved him, her life was all that mattered.  He could feel Seth's struggles; the vampire was strong but just as new to fighting as Seth was, which meant the wolf still had a chance.

Please Edward... keep her safe...

Jacob couldn't believe the desperation of his own thoughts.  When he got to the clearing, he'd be all the protection Bella would ever need, but until then, he couldn't stand not knowing if she was safe.  And suddenly, as though Jacob's will had commanded it, Seth turned his head just for a second to glimpse over at Bella.  She was there, beautiful Bella, standing with her back to the cliff wall, looking concerned and terrified at the same time.  That was all Jacob needed to run harder still, a fresh dose of adrenaline pumping through his veins.

Just a few more seconds and I'll be there.  Thank you Seth!  Stay on the bloodsucker!

But Seth didn't hear Jacob's gratitude or advice.  Enraged with pain and anger, the blond vampire only needed a split-second to get a jump on the wolf, and Seth's slight change of focus to Bella for that fraction of a second was all he needed.  With a mighty shove, the vampire sent Seth crashing into the stone wall several feet above where the now stunned Bella stood.  Seth's body fell to the ground directly in front of Bella, his eyes closed, and the pain of the crash ricocheted through the pack's sense to Jacob, now only a mile away, causing him to stumble slightly as he raced ever forward to the clearing.

Wake up Seth!  Bella needs you!  Almost there...

With his keen wolf eyes, Jacob could now see the clearing for himself, smell the nasty vampire's scent, and hear the skirmishing just inside the brush where Edward and Victoria were obviously fighting.  Seth was out cold, his senses no longer relaying anything to Jacob, and just beyond his still body, there was Bella...

Bella no!

...Holding a shard off the cliff wall in her hand...

What are you doing?!

...The blond vampire stalked towards her with a vicious grin curled into his lips.  Running as fast as he could but still so far away, Jacob watched helplessly as Bella shoved the shard into her left arm.  Her faced tensed up in pain, and her blood spurted out of the wound like a geyser.  The blond vampire halted his approach in surprise, and Jacob could see the bloodlust take over as his eyes drowned in blackness.  In that same instant, a guttural growl erupted from the trees where Edward and Victoria were dancing, but Jacob paid no attention.  The blondie's surprise was all he needed; he had made it in time.  He would save her.

Don't you touch her you son of a...

The blond vampire crouched to pounce, and as he sprung into the air, Jacob leaped to meet him.  Neither of them knew that Edward, having smelled Bella's blood from the trees nearby, was also flying through the air to stop the vampire's attack.  What happened next would forever remain a vampire's word against a werewolf's, as Bella's eyes stayed tightly shut throughout the event and could not bear witness. 
She didn't see Edward and Jacob collide in midair.  She didn't see Jacob clamp down on Edward's arm, his mind completely gone to the instincts of the wolf.  She didn't see Edward pivot his body to confront Riley, still in the air, grimacing in pain as the wolf's teeth sunk into him but caring only about putting himself in front of Bella.  She certainly didn't see Jacob's body, whipped around by the momentum of Edward's spin, slam into Riley. 
The impact of the hit caused Jacob to release his bite on Edward, and both he and Riley went flying backwards, landing with a thud in a heap of dust several feet away.  Edward landed in a crouch, his left arm mangled by Jacob's bite, but his eyes stayed fixated on the edge of the clearing off in the distance.  Victoria stood there, hands balled in fists, a victorious grin on her face, clearly more confident now that both dogs were down.  The only thing standing between her and her prize was the murderer of her love... and he was injured. 

Edward kept his eyes on Victoria, despite hearing the grumbling of Riley on the ground nearby, his body pinned down by Jacob's massive body.  Edward could hear Riley's thoughts; he was preparing to sink his teeth into Jacob's neck, but there was nothing Edward could do.  Victoria was much too fast for Edward to save Jacob and simultaneously keep her from reaching Bella.  As Riley's teeth pierced Jacob's skin, Jacob let out an instinctive howl that rippled through the trees.  His eyes snapped open, and using his two giant paws, he grabbed Riley by the back of his head and pulled him in tight, preventing Riley from releasing his bite.
"Save her... I've got this one," Jacob thought clearly.

Jacob wasn't the only one awoken by Riley's bite; Bella forced her eyes open to take in the new scene.  Her arm throbbed where she had pierced it, the blood still flowing freely, but she stood motionless holding her breath as she soaked in the fact that Edward and Victoria were frozen, their eyes locked on each other, while Jacob and Riley laid on the ground nearby, a tangled mess of arms, hair, and fur. 

Victoria suddenly broke her gaze and began taking large strides toward Edward, her bloodlust clearly dominating over any thoughts of escaping.  Edward grinned slightly as he too began walking forward, the blankness of Victoria's thoughts telling him that she was lost to the smell of Bella's blood.  You did it love; you saved us Edward thought.  Now was the time.  As Jacob kept Riley pinned to the ground, Edward and Victoria met one last time.