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The Bond

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The ballet studio is completely covered in mirrors. Gigantic, floor-to-ceiling monstrosities that must have cost a ridiculous amount of money to purchase and install. Sheets of glass so heavy you’d need a team of five burly men just to lift them out of a delivery truck.

When Bella was younger, they mesmerized her. She would peer into the reflective surfaces and giggle as figures danced in and out of them. Her teachers would yell at her, reprimand her in class for daydreaming, because she would often get so distracted watching the other dancers in the mirror that she completely forgot the steps to her own performance. (Later, when puberty wrapped its clumsy, awkward hands around her body; when she shot up eight inches in two years to become the gangly, uncoordinated person she is today; when her acne started coming in and she hadn’t yet learned about the miracles of face wash, she avoided mirrors all together, to avoid the embarrassment of hating the way she looked. Back when she was never really keen on catching sight of her own appearance.)

When she walked into the studio today, in a foolish, desperate attempt to save her mother’s life, the mirrors mesmerized her again. When she was small, she thought there must have been thousands of them, reflecting and refracting her image back at her, a thousand times over. Now, of course, she sees that that’s not true. But in a room made of mirrors, it’s hard to parse through the cacophony of confusing visual stimuli.

She supposes that’s why she doesn’t see James coming towards her until it’s much too late.

She sees a blur of motion out of the corner of her eye and only has enough time to turn on her heel before there are hands on her arms (cold and tough like steel) and she’s being launched through the air.

Bella screams as her back collides with the surface behind her. Shards of glass fly off and away, exploding outward from the impact of her body slamming into the wall. Some pass harmlessly over her, but others turn their unforgiving points against her, raking their jagged edges over her skin, piercing and slicing into her.

She slumps to the ground, her body weak and trembling, unable to support her any longer. There’s a sharp, screaming pain stabbing through her right side. Her fingers slip as they try to find purchase on the wound, but the first exploratory pressure has her stomach rolling and her lungs seizing. The muscles in her neck tighten at once, squeezing all the air out of her throat, and she’s certain for a moment that she’s going to pass out.

(She doesn’t, but she can tell right away that she’s broken a few ribs. Maybe even punctured a lung. It’s so hard to breathe.)

She looks up, her eyes bleary with unshed tears, and gazes into the mirrors across from her. Technically, she can see James. She can see about five of him. She’s not sure if it’s the head trauma or the optical illusions of the mirrors or some combination of the two, but her eyes are unfocused as she desperately tries to work out which image is real and which is reflection, as she tries to work out which version of the vampire is the one that’s attacking her, what’s a threat and what’s benign.

Her lungs won’t inflate. Her breath won’t come. She’s woozy and light-headed with pain and with a probable concussion and she’s pretty sure she’s internally bleeding in more than a few places and all she can think is, I’m going to die here.

Her attacker crosses over to her and smirks down at her, a malicious twinkle behind his red eyes. Even in the state she’s in, Bella has enough will and enough strength left in her to feebly scoot backwards. Her hands brace themselves against shards of glass, but she barely feels the sting of them puncturing her skin as she tries (futilely) to escape him.

But she’s injured, slow, and desperately fighting to maintain consciousness, and he crosses over to her in only a few short strides. James places his boot on her leg, effectively holding her in place. “Now now,” he hisses, bending down to be closer to her, “you don’t want to do that.” He sinks his weight down, and she screams once again when she feels the bones beneath his boot shatter. Her vision starts to go black.

All of her efforts are going towards keeping herself alive and breathing. That’s all she can do. Breathe, she thinks. Just breathe.

He removes his foot and hovers over her, smirking down at her prone form, twitching on the floor beneath him. “My mother always told me not to play with my food…” James says with a sigh as he crouches down. His knees brush the ground next to Bella’s head, and she has to work hard to suppress a shudder. “Of course,” he continues, his voice low and laced with a cruel kind of humor only he can understand, “I killed my mother. So… I suppose her lessons are… null and void.”

He grins wickedly and delivers a sharp kick to her side. Bella’s ribs, already bruised and weak and aching, break in a few more spots. She can’t muster enough air to scream this time. All that comes out is a strangled gasp.

“This has been fun,” James says with a smug smile. “Though I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I was hoping it’d be a little more difficult. For a human with a coven of protectors, you sure are easy to get alone.” His lip curls back over his teeth in a sinister snarl as he laughs. “Oh, I’m going to enjoy this very much. What do you think your boyfriend is going to do when he finds you here, dead, your blood drained? Do you think he’ll hunt me down, try and tear me limb from limb? Will he try to avenge you? Or do you think he’ll kill himself with the grief of it all?” James shrugs. “Whatever the choice, I look forward to seeing it… play out.”

She would have shuddered at the way he said those words, but her arms and legs feel like lead. Her head is pounding inside of her skull and her brain, her traitorous brain, can’t seem to communicate with the rest of her body. She feels cold, and weak, and she’s trembling like a leaf. She thinks she might be going into shock. I’m going to die here.

His cold hands ghost over her abdomen, already beginning to bruise as a result of the numerous fractured ribs she’s sustained. He breathes in once, deeply, his eyes rolling back into his head with a pleasure that makes Bella’s stomach heave. “Fear smells so good,” he hisses.

His dark eyes flash. The irises are nearly black, just a hint of ruby around the edges. His lips are right by her ear, his cold breath tickling her neck, and she tries to squirm away, but she can’t move. I’m going to die.

“Any last words?” he asks in a mocking tone, already lowering his mouth to her neck. Bella tries to twist away from him, to mount any sort of final, feeble defense, but there’s no use. She’s too weak. His hand on her chest is holding her down, pressing her into the ground, and she can’t…

She’s going to die. She knows it with unparalleled certainty. She’s going to die.

Her eyes flutter open, and all she can manage, in her last moment and with her last breath, with the last shred of consciousness she has left, is one word: “Alice.”

James pulls back, startled and confused, a slight frown on his face. “Alice?” he asks, bewildered.

“That’s right,” a voice says from behind him, and James’ eyes widen fractionally before he’s gripped by the neck and yanked backwards, violently. His body goes flying, smashing into another wall of mirrors across from where Bella lays. The glass buckles as his back collides, and he goes crashing into a heap on the floor. Bella, huddled on the ground in a pool of her own blood, barely has the strength to look up. Alice.

James rolls into a crouch, a low growl in his throat, his face twisted in a snarl. His smile pulls and distorts slowly, widening and growing until it isn’t small at all but rather a contortion of teeth, glistening white. “You’ve spoiled my meal.”

Alice Cullen is in her own crouch in front of Bella, her tiny body acting as a barrier between hunter and prey. She snaps her teeth at him, a warning, a challenge to try and attack her. Bella can’t see her face, but Alice’s body is tense, thrumming with a nervous sort of energy. She looks like she’s aching for a fight. Her muscles almost seem to vibrate under her skin (of course, that could be the concussion talking).

Run,” Alice hisses, one hand braced against the ground in front of her, ready to spring into action at any moment. “Run now. Give yourself a head start. You really think you’re so bad?” She chuckles, but there’s no humor in her voice as she continues speaking. “Try outrunning six vampires after you’ve attacked their family.”

A clenching of the jaw is the only thing that signals James’ sudden spike in fear. But still, he tries to make himself look unaffected. He slowly gets up from his crouch, running a hand through his hair like this was his plan all along. “Fine,” he sighs, “have the human. She wasn’t really my taste anyway.” He moves for the door, never turning his back on the scene in front of him. Alice growls at him the whole way.

Right before he disappears from view, Alice manages to throw out one final taunt. “You won’t last five hours. Enjoy it while you can.”

For half a second it looks like James is going to turn back around, but at the last moment he seems to change his mind. He instead turns on his heel and in the blink of an eye he’s gone, fleeing off into the waning daylight of the hot Arizona summer.

As soon as he’s out of sight, Alice whips around to face Bella. Bella can see that she’s holding her breath, likely trying to remove as much temptation as possible, to stave off the bloodlust as long as she can.

“Bella. Bella honey, can you hear me?” she asks, her cold hand reaching out to touch the other girl’s incredibly pale cheek.

Bella can hear her, but she can’t speak. She tries to open her mouth to say something, anything, but all she can manage to do is make a noise in the back of her throat that Alice must take as confirmation.

Every inch of her hurts. Her back, her ribs, her arm, her head. Her hands are soaked crimson, and there are cuts and lacerations all down her arms, her wrists, her knees, her thighs that are expelling hot blood at an alarming rate. Her vision is blurring and she can’t quite manage to keep her eyes open. She’s losing a lot of blood, and she knows that can’t be good.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” Alice mutters under her breath, looking down at the girl beneath her.

The sound of fumbling — a phone being pulled hastily from a pocket — as Alice continues to whisper. “Jesus Christ, why did you leave, Bella?” she asks, though she knows Bella can’t answer her. “Carlisle?” she says next, her voice close to frantic. “Carlisle, I’m here, with Bella. She’s…” Alice’s voice trails off.

It’s getting harder to concentrate, harder to focus.

She hears Alice curse. Tries to open her eyes to see. Alice fumbles with her cellphone, manages to put it on speaker before it slides out of her shaking fingers.

Carlisle’s voice now, tinny and distance and echoing in a strangely metallic way. “Alice?” he asks. “Alice, you have to calm down. Tell me what’s wrong. What do you see? Is she bitten?”

“No. No, he didn’t bite her. There’s so much blood, Carlisle. She’s losing so much blood.”

“You have to apply pressure to the wound.”

“Which one?” Alice’s voice pulls up at the end of her question, with a note of barely-suppressed panic. “There are too many.”

“How bad are her injuries? How much blood is she losing?”

Alice shakes her head. “Too much. There’s too much.”

“Can she move? Can she speak?”

“No. No, she can’t… Carlisle, I’m so scared. What am I supposed to do?”

Carlisle is silent for a moment, only a moment, but it feels like an eternity. Bella’s almost convinced she’s passed out in the intervening seconds, but soon enough he speaks, drawing her out of the fog once again. “Where is James?” he finally asks.

James? What about Bella? Carlisle, what do I do?”

His voice cuts in and out. Poor reception, maybe. Or maybe he’s coming through just fine, and it’s only Bella whose reception is wavering. “Esme, Rosalie… He won’t get far. Edward and I… as fast as we can.”

“It won’t be fast enough,” Alice growls down towards the phone, chancing a glance at the girl below her. Bella’s eyes are fluttering, and she’s positive she’s drifting in and out of consciousness. Their conversation isn’t making sense. Carlisle sounds like he’s cutting in and out, like he’s calling them from inside a tunnel.

Alice’s hands are suddenly on her face again, and their icy touch is a welcome relief to the pounding in her head.

(How long has she been lying here, bleeding out? Three minutes, four? How much blood can she lose before she passes out, before she goes into shock, before her heart stops? How long does she have left?)

“Hold on, Bella,” Alice pleads. “Just a little longer. Do it for me, yeah? Just a little longer,” she whispers, bending down to brush the hair off of Bella’s face. “Carlisle,” Alice says into the phone. “Tell me what to do. How do I save her?”

Another long pause before he speaks again. “You have to turn her,” he finally says, almost too softly for even Alice to hear.

“NO!” she shouts, and Bella can hear another voice (Edward, her heart clenches in her chest as she tries to gasp. Oh, how she longs for him, for his perfect face, for his comforting touch and his soothing words. The only regret she has in her entire life is that she’s going to die without ever getting the chance to say goodbye to him properly. She never should have written that stupid letter) on the other end, shouting the same thing. “I can’t!” Alice is shaking he head, her hands wrapped tight around the laceration to Bella’s thigh. “I won’t!”

“Alice, Bella is going to die,” Carlisle says. “You know that as well as I.”

“I can’t,” Alice whispers. “You know what happens… what would happen if I… I can’t do that. It can’t be me. Edward…”

“Alice?” A different voice calls through the phone now. (Edward. Bella’s heart aches for him.) “Alice, listen to me… you have to do it.”

What? But you just said—”

“I know what I said. But you have to. You have to change her… turn her. It’s the only way, Alice. Please. I can’t live without her.”

But Alice is still shaking her head, still protesting, though from the bits of her that Bella can make out, she seems less certain than before. “You know what happens if I do that, Edward. The bond…”

“It doesn’t have to be that way. Not always. Look at you and your maker.”

“I never met my maker,” she says through gritted teeth.

“Then look at me and Carlisle. The bond isn’t set in stone. And when it’s her life at stake… Look, we’ll be there in ten minutes. Will she make it that long?”

Alice doesn’t have to look down to know the answer. “No,” she whispers.

“Then do it,” he says with a commanding sort of finality. “For me. For her. I can’t live without her. Please.”

Bella thinks, somewhere in the back of her mind, with her fading consciousness, Does he think my death is about him? But the thought doesn’t linger.

Alice hits the phone away from her and bends down, her lips inches from where James’ were mere minutes before.

“Alice?” Bella manages to croak out, but Alice shushes her.

“I’m so sorry, Bella. I’m so sorry,” she says, her voice thick with tears she’s unable to shed. She presses a kiss to Bella’s temple and mumbles one more apology.

She takes one deep breath. Her eyes darken, their usual gold color replaced with black as she bends down.

Her teeth barely graze Bella’s neck, so gentle it feels more like a whisper, or maybe a kiss.

Bella is unconscious before the fire even sets in.

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In the end, it isn’t difficult to sink her teeth in.

The smell of Bella’s blood, so out in the open, so strong and potent, is enough to set Alice’s throat burning. She feels like she hasn’t fed in weeks. Her eyes go black with the thirst of bloodlust and in the end, it isn’t difficult.

She bites Bella’s neck, right where her heart pumps the strongest (though Bella’s pulse is weak, fluttering unevenly beneath the skin). Her venom immediately seeps into Bella’s blood. But her heart rate is already dangerously low, and Alice is worried that this one injection point won’t be enough to spread the disease to the rest of her body.

She slides down, her jeans soaking up the human girl’s blood and staining dark crimson. She nips quickly at Bella’s left wrist, then the right one. Just enough to puncture; just enough to do its job.

She hasn’t tried to drink yet. She’s been holding her breath, holding her tongue, digging her fingertips into the wood beneath her, splintering it in a hundred places, but she hasn’t tried to drink yet. She’s not sure what will happen if she does, if she allows herself to slip into the temptation, if she allows Bella’s blood to slip past her lips. She hasn’t fed from a human in nearly 80 years.

But here she is, an alcoholic at an open bar. A drug addict in a methadone clinic.

She screws her eyes shut tight and tries to focus on the task at hand. She can’t let herself drink from Bella. She can’t. If she does… well, she’s not sure she’d be able to stop.

She eyes Bella’s pants next, and makes a quick decision. She reaches out, sinks her sharp nails into the fabric, and yanks, ripping a large hole in the denim. She takes one pause, one last moment to steady herself, before she latches her teeth onto Bella’s newly-exposed thigh.

The femoral artery is one of the largest in the body, and since she has no way of delivering her venom straight to Bella’s heart (the most sure-fire way of turning a human into a vampire) she’s hedging all her bets. She just prays Bella’s heart stays pumping long enough to circulate her venom through the blood, through the body.

But she makes a mistake. A stupid, careless, idiotic mistake.

As she’s pulling away from Bella’s leg her knees slip on the floor (in the blood) and in her scramble to maintain her hold on Bella’s unconscious figure (to stop from injuring her further), her mouth slips.

Her tongue touches blood.

Bella’s scent is all around her, and she can feel the hot blood flowing, millimeters away from her lips, and with that one tiny taste the animal inside of her is howling from behind the bars of its cage, shaking and rattling and screaming to be released. It’s too strong. She already knows it’s too strong.

But still, she has to try. She can’t let herself… she can’t… can’t…

It’ll be fine, she tells herself in her haze, already reeling from the smell the taste the blood the feel the heat the slick. It’s just one little taste. Everyone in her family has been dying to know what Bella tastes like, and now she has a chance to… Just one little taste… just to know…

As soon as the first drop of blood passes her lips, Alice is done for. The stream starts flowing and suddenly she can’t stop. She drinks like a dying man at an oasis, like a woman caught out in a desert storm for countless days. Her hands clamp firmly onto Bella’s thigh, holding it to her, keeping her there, pressed against her. Keeping the supply close.

She drinks like she’ll never get the chance again.

Not even a hand on her shoulder gets her to pull away.

Her father’s voice behind her can’t make her stop, either. “Alice, that’s enough,” Carlisle says calmly. (She hadn’t even heard him come in.) But she doesn’t stop. She can’t. Carlisle doesn’t understand… he can’t know what it’s like… he doesn’t have Bella’s very essence rushing into his mouth, doesn’t have the power of human blood burning a trail underneath his skin. “Alice, you’re taking too much. Stop. I know you can stop.”

Alice’s blinks and her gaze flicks over to her brother, who is standing off to the side, horrified at the scene in front of him. He recoils when he sees her eyes, and she knows that they’re now a vibrant red, foreign and hideous to him.

It’s enough to make her yank herself away. She pushes against the floor and launches herself backwards, hitting a wall that has already been battered and busted by James’s tirade.

She sinks to the floor, Bella’s blood dripping from her mouth and onto her shirt, Bella’s blood soaked through her jeans and all over her hands.

She wants to sob. She wishes more than anything that she could cry.

Instead, she screams.

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