Not the pale and perfect son of my imagination? I felt a moment of shock. And then a flood of warmth.
I willed my lips to move, willed the bubbles of air to turn into whispers on my tongue. I forced my numb hands to reach.
"Let me... Give her to me."
The light danced, shattering off Edward's crystal hands. The sparkles were tinged with red, with the blood that covered his skin. And more red in his hands. Something small and struggling, dripping with blood. He touched the warm body to my weak arms, almost like I was holding her. Her wet skin was hot - as hot as Jacob's.
My eyes focused; suddenly everything was absolutely clear.
Renesmee did not cry, but she breathed in quick, startled pants. Her eyes were open, her expression so shocked it was almost funny. The little, perfectly round head was covered in a thick layer of matted, bloody curls. Her
irises were a familiar - but astonishing - chocolate brown. Under the blood, her skin looked pale, a creamy ivory. All besides her cheeks, which flamed with color.
Her tiny face was so absolutely perfect that it stunned me. She was even more beautiful than her father. Unbelievable. Impossible.
"Renesmee," I whispered. "So... beautiful."
The impossible face suddenly smiled - a wide, deliberate smile. Behind the shell-pink lips was a full complement of snowy milk teeth.
She leaned her head down, against my chest, burrowing against the warmth. Her skin was warm and silky, but it didn't give the way mine did.
Then there was pain again - just one warm slash of it. I gasped.
And she was gone. My angel-faced baby was nowhere. I couldn't see or feel her.
No!I wanted to shout. Give her back to me!
But the weakness was too much. My arms felt like empty rubber hoses for a moment, and then they felt like nothing at all. I couldn't feel them. I couldn't feel me.
The blackness rushed over my eyes more solidly than before. Like a thick blindfold, firm and fast. Covering not just my eyes but also my self with a crushing weight. It was exhausting to push against it. I knew it would be so much easier to give in. To let the blackness push me down, down, down to a place where there was no pain and no weariness and no worry and no fear.
If it had only been for myself, I wouldn't have been able to struggle very long. I was only human, with no more than human strength. I'd been trying to keep up with the supernatural for too long, like Jacob had said.
But this wasn't just about me.
If I did the easy thing now, let the black nothingness erase me, I would hurt them.
Edward. Edward. My life and his were twisted into a single strand. Cut one, and you cut both. If he were gone, I would not be able to live through that. If I were gone, he wouldn't live through it, either. And a world without Edward seemed completely pointless. Edward had to exist.
Jacob - who'd said goodbye to me over and over but kept coming back when I needed him. Jacob, who I'd wounded so many times it was criminal. Would I hurt him again, the worst way yet? He'd stayed for me, despite everything. Now all he asked was that I stay for him.
But it was so dark here that I couldn't see either of their faces. Nothing seemed real. That made it hard not to give up.
I kept pushing against the black, though, almost a reflex. I wasn't trying to lift it. I was just resisting. Not allowing it to crush me completely. I wasn't Atlas, and the black felt as heavy as a planet; I couldn't shoulder it. All I could do was not be entirely obliterated.
It was sort of the pattern to my life - I'd never been strong enough to deal with the things outside my control, to attack the enemies or outrun them. To avoid the pain. Always human and weak, the only thing I'd ever been able to
do was keep going. Endure. Survive.
It had been enough up to this point. It would have to be enough today. I would endure this until help came.
I knew Edward would be doing everything he could. He would not give up. Neither would I.
I held the blackness of nonexistence at bay by inches.
It wasn't enough, though - that determination. As the time ground on and on and the darkness gained by tiny eighths and sixteenths of my inches, I needed something more to draw strength from.
I couldn't pull even Edward's face into view. Not Jacob's, not Alice's or Rosalie's or Charlie's or Renee's or Carlisle's or Esme's... Nothing. It terrified me, and I wondered if it was too late.
I felt myself slipping - there was nothing to hold on to.
No!I had to survive this. Edward was depending on me. Jacob. Charlie Alice Rosalie Carlisle Renee Esme...
And then, though I still couldn't see anything, suddenly I could feel something. Like phantom limbs, I imagined I could feel my arms again. And in them, something small and hard and very, very warm.
My baby. My little nudger.
I had done it. Against the odds, I had been strong enough to survive Renesmee, to hold on to her until she was strong enough to live without me.
That spot of heat in my phantom arms felt so real. I clutched it closer. It was exactly where my heart should be. Holding tight the warm memory of my daughter, I knew that I would be able to fight the darkness as long as I needed to.
The warmth beside my heart got more and more real, warmer and warmer. Hotter. The heat was so real it was hard to believe that I was imagining it.
Uncomfortable now. Too hot. Much, much too hot.
Like grabbing the wrong end of a curling iron - my automatic response was to drop the scorching thing in my arms. But there was nothing in my arms. My arms were not curled to my chest. My arms were dead things lying somewhere at my side. The heat was inside me.
The burning grew - rose and peaked and rose again until it surpassed anything I'd ever felt.
I felt the pulse behind the fire raging now in my chest and realized that I'd found my heart again, just in time to wish I never had. To wish that I'd embraced the blackness while I'd still had the chance. I wanted to raise my arms and claw my chest open and rip the heart from it - anything to get rid of this torture. But I couldn't feel my arms, couldn't move one vanished finger.
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