Chapter 25

Title: Only Human (25/27) Author: Amethyst Jackson Rating: M/NC-17 Category: Drama, Angst, Romance Pairing: Edward/Bella Summary: A wish sends Bella back in time to Chicago, 1918, and to a human Edward. Disclaimer: All this genius belongs to Stephanie Meyer. I’m just having a little fun.

I slept off and on, lying on the bed next to Edward. I could never stay asleep for long – though it was more comfortable than the chair in the hospital had been, Edward’s occasional cries would wake me. He never fully screamed, fighting to hold the sounds in, but I had a feeling it was only a matter of time.

Carlisle was thoughtful enough to bring me food, enough to feed several people, but I was grateful for every bite. It had been several days since I’d eaten more than a nibble here or there. Still, it was hard to feel comfortable or content when Edward was in so much pain. Would he hate me for this? I couldn’t blame him if he did – his pain was clearly excruciating, and the sight of it caused a harsh ache in my chest. I would gladly trade places with him if it could save his life, but of course, it could never be that easy. And I knew what he would think of himself once he learned what he would become…another reason for him to resent me. I could very easily be ruining everything. I tried to imagine what he would say if I could ask him, but I could come up with nothing…and I hated that helplessness. Surely I should know what my own husband would want. Whether he would prefer death to becoming a vampire…whether he would curse me for not preventing all of this…I wanted my suspense to be over with. I wanted to be with him, even if he would spurn me in the next instant. “What’s troubling you, Bella?” I jumped, startled. I hadn’t heard Carlisle come into the room; usually he made a little noise to announce his presence. Evidently, the turmoil in my mind was written on my face. “Do you think he’ll hate me for this? He’s always despised himself for what he is…what if he can’t forgive me for coming back in time, knowing what would happen and not doing a thing to prevent it?” Carlisle took the chair beside the bed, frowning thoughtfully. “Bella, I’ve wandered this earth for over two hundred years now, and while I may lack personal experience, I think I can safely say from observation that most people would do anything to keep hold of the kind of love you show for young Edward. Perhaps Edward will come to hate what he is – but I don’t think he’ll mind so much when that leads him to you.” “Would you feel the same?” I asked desperately. Carlisle shrugged. “I’ve come to terms with what I am – but keep in mind that I’m already older than your Edward will be when you meet him in the future. I don’t mind my life. It’s not exactly what I would wish, but I accept my limitations…and I hope. I hope that one day, my work will be rewarded. That one day, I’ll have more than a reason to go on living, but a reason to enjoy life as well.” “You will,” I promised him, inspired as always by Carlisle’s story. I hoped that Edward would one day find such peace, even if he couldn’t forgive me immediately for my part in his fate. “Thank you, Bella,” he sighed. “That knowledge will sustain me.” Edward cried out then, and I devoted all my attention to him.

Twenty-four hours passed, and he continued to struggle against his pain, to keep it inside, though he didn’t seem to have a rational reason to do so. I could tell he no longer recognized me – perhaps he tried not to scream simply for something to focus on other than the pain. I did my best to soothe him with cool water, afraid to stray too far from his side. I ate again, and fell asleep curled up against him. When nearly 48 hours had passed, I woke to a sharp scream and a pain in my arm. I realized Edward was grasping my wrist for dear life, his fingers unnaturally and dangerously tight around the small bones. I couldn’t ask him to let go, however. I waited for him to relax a bit, and he finally loosened his clasp. I could barely stand to watch, but I couldn’t turn away. His eyes remained open wide, unseeing and edged with terror. The tendons in his neck and arms stood out as he strained against the venom coursing through him. His nails tore holes in the bedspread beneath him. The very core of me protested against seeing him this way, but I couldn’t deny the small, scared part of me that watched this with fear for myself. I knew now, without a doubt, what I would experience if Edward kept his word and changed me. I had proof in the worst way of everything Edward had warned me of – how I would experience a pain so thorough that I would wish for death before the end. Was I ready? Everything within me cringed away from the idea of that much pain, but when I remembered my reasoning – for Edward – the fear was tamed from a snarling leopard to a clawing kitten. It was more than manageable. I could survive this much pain for an eternity with the person who made my world turn. The last day was by far the worst. Edward cried out continuously, growing hoarse but never ceasing. Carlisle told me his internal organs would be shutting down now, and that would cause him excruciating pain. I took advantage of those last, long hours, lying close to him, feeling his fading warmth as the flow of blood slowed, listening to his ragged breaths and raging heartbeat as it fought against his ailing body. Even knowing exactly what he would be like after the transformation, even knowing I would love him just as deeply, it broke my heart to see the changes in progress, to know his sweet, boyish innocence would never return. Edward’s fingers clutched at me involuntarily, curling into the folds of my clothing, clenching and unclenching with pain. He bruised me, but I couldn’t move from my place against him, nor did I turn away when his screams turned to sobs and he wept in agony. Carlisle came back into the room as the sun began to set on the third day. “You’ll need to leave, Bella,” he told me regretfully. “His heartbeat is growing dangerously slow. His transformation will likely end within an hour or two, and I’m sure you know what will happen if you’re here when he wakes.” “Yes…yes, of course,” I answered dazedly. Truthfully, I’d put this moment far out of my mind. I’d known it would come, but had never thought about it. Now what? Now that my time with Edward

was clearly done, what would I do? Where would I go? I no longer had a place to stay; I had no money, nothing… “Everything will happen as it should,” Carlisle promised me, reading my worried expression. He held out a pile of bills to me. “Should you find yourself unable to return to your own time, this should sustain you for several months, at the very least. But I believe you will find your way back, where you belong.” “Thank you.” I didn’t protest against taking the money. I might very well need it, and I wasn’t at all sure I had the survival skills necessary for this time period. “And thank you for everything you’ve done, Carlisle.” “Of course,” he replied with a nod. “I should be thanking you, I think.” “If – if he remembers me, when he wakes, tell him I love him. That I always will.” “I will,” he promised. “I’ll keep him safe for you.” “Thank you.” I turned back to Edward, who remained oblivious to the exchange. I pressed my lips to the already-hardening skin of his cheek. “Wait for me,” I whispered before placing another, final kiss on his lips. It took all my strength to leave him there, knowing what he would have to face without me – the expanse of years between us, the time he would spend trying to cope with what he had become, the time he would waste trying to protect me from himself…I hated to leave him to those long years alone. I hated the fear that, should I never return to my own time, this would be the last time I saw his face. “Carlisle, if I can’t get back –“ I began to say as he walked me down the stairs. “If you’re still here a week from now, call me,” he said. “We’ll…we’ll work something out.” “All right,” I agreed, stepping tentatively out the front door. “I guess…if you don’t hear from me, this is goodbye.” “A farewell,” he countered, smiling. “We will see each other again, one way or another.” “Right. Farewell, then.” I felt his eyes remain watching me as I went down the street. Only when I was out of sight of the house did the tears begin to fall. Edward…my Edward. Human or vampire, he was always mine, but the happy ending always seemed to be one step out of reach. We’d been so very happy before all this, fresh from our honeymoon, on the brink of a bright new eternity…and now it was all thrown into shadow again, made even more painful by the fact that he was out of reach to me – both in this time, and in the future I couldn’t find my way back to.

I let my feet lead the way; my eyes were blind with tears, and my mind was oblivious. I wandered lost in my sorrow. My scene of grief was nothing out of the ordinary in this time, in this city, and no one approached me or hindered me. Sometime later – it could have been minutes or hours or days, for all that I was paying attention – I ran out of tears and came to a stop in the middle of the street. As I looked around, I realized I’d been here before. The first time, it had been busy, full of shoppers and workers. It was much bleaker today, with only the occasionally person scurrying down the road in transit to another location; no one lingered but me. Nevertheless, I recognized the buildings, the exact view around me. I was in precisely the place I had arrived in this time, just the place where I’d turned around to find Edward looking back at me. Was it fate that had brought me here? Had my subconscious decided to return to this place? Or was it all a coincidence that I’d wandered back to the place where I’d started? Did it even matter? No matter where I went in this time, it would never take me back to 2006, to the Forks I knew, to my Edward, to the life I’d left behind and was desperate to return to. There was nothing and no one that could help me now. I sank to the brick-paved street in despair, curling in on myself, wrapping my arms around my knees. What was the point of it all if I couldn’t go back now? Could Fate really be so cruel? I closed my eyes and dreamed of cold hands on my face and gentle lips, of a voice like honey and a crooked smile. The thought only made me ache harder, tormented by what I didn’t have.

I wish I could go back to my own time. I wish I could go back to my own life.
And then I opened my eyes.

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