Edward and I fled the city on foot, racing our way from city to city until we stood outside of my house. The first light of sunrise was stretching out over the tops of the surrounding houses. We stood in silence for a long moment, neither of us looking at the other, neither of us sure what to say. There was a ringing in my veins, the aftermath of the electricity and acid I'd been raging with not so very long ago. I forced my feet to move forward, each step slow and tired, even though my physical body couldn't be tired. The grogginess in my head weighed me down; I felt it in every gradual movement of my body. I pushed the front door open and felt my legs crumple beneath me. Edward's long arms wrapped beneath my ribs and caught me before I hit the ground. He sat down behind me and pulled me into his lap. His hand began petting my hair as he held me to his chest. This wasn't the comfort of a lover, even a friend; it was the comfort of a provider. Of someone who shared your troubles and was searching for a way to take yours onto his own shoulders; someone who knew that idle promises of 'it'll be okay' won't solve anything. Someone whose silent caresses meant 'I will fix this, I will make it okay again; we're just not quite there yet.'
Edward was playing my anchor and I wasn't sure how I felt about that yet.
When the sunlight began to pour into the windows, Edward stood and, setting me down on the couch, he went around the house to close all the blinds and shut the front door. He returned to me once he'd finished and cupped my face in his hands. I'd been in my share of tough spots; I've thought the end was right on my doorstep half a dozen times. But this was different. When I was human, I never truly understood the dangers I was in; it went in one ear and out the other, as they say. I'd had Edward to protect me and back then the Cullens were the most powerful creatures I'd ever encountered. When they weren't around, I was either too depressed to be concerned for my life or James was swooping in. As if I hadn't been pampered enough, when I became a vampire, my powers were phenomenal. I mean, Christ, I had a power that no one had seen in years, if ever. Frankly, I was badass in theory. But now?
Now, Edward was a two-bit, dime-a-dozen vampire and I wasn't ready to die. Now, James was an ocean away and my ace-in-the-hole was suddenly useless in any kind of non-surprise situation. There were so many questions, so many complications, and my head was spinning. I opened my eyes and met Edward's darkening orbs. I hadn't seen this look for a long, long time. Almost twelve years.
I watched his eyes sink from a warm, honey and butterscotch to a frightening, hollow black.
My breath caught in my throat and the orange morning glow of the rest of the house began fading, seeping into the nothingness and I could see the end of days in his eyes. I could feel it in my bones, chilling and swift, as it crawled up my spine; the cold fingers of death, of desolation, were creeping out from the road of my spinal column and stretching, gliding, over the flesh of my back and burying ice-hot tentacles into my muscles to grow and reach, to press firmly against the back of my still heart.
Something wanted my heart to beat again; something wanted to freeze my body until it cracked and shattered like broken glass on the floor. Someone wanted me six feet under with no way out.
He was there behind it; I could feel him like a whisper of heat in the cold room. He'd been there just a moment before, looking at me with hunger I'd known before. He had been there.
What the fuck was going on in my life? Why did all this fucked up shit always happen with the Cullens? Maybe I hadn't been the danger magnet to begin with; maybe I'd just made the wrong friends.
I sighed once, allowing myself only a few seconds to dwell on just how unlucky, how wretched, this entire situation was. I focused. I had to get him back for the second time that day. This was getting old. Hadn't Edward been the one getting me out of my old predicaments? I supposed so, up to a point. Fair was fair, after all.
So now that I'd decided to get him back… I rolled my eyes at myself inwardly. How?
The answer was there, a natural crack of thunder after a flash of lightning. I couldn't think about this. I didn't know how I knew this would work. Was it just because I wanted to do it? I hesitated. That was a possibility. I had to be honest with myself; I'd always been attracted to Edward, sex had always been a goal. I had to admit that, even if I didn't want to; it could be interfering with my ability to rationally think of a solution.
But would it help the situation? Would it really fix things?
Only if it worked, and even then, only a small part of the problem had been solved. And for how long? Would I be forced to continue having sex with Edward like clockwork until we found out who was doing this? The more I thought about it, the less like a good idea it sounded.
I could have him drink from me. But really, who knew the repercussions of that? I knew drinking from a vampire left the drinker with a lot more than just a satiated appetite. The residual power, the lingering memories, a stronger connection. Prolonged drinking would permanently link the drinker and the provider; and, depending on the power of the provider, prolonged drinking could even "transfer" gifts for a stretch of time. The provider would not be missing the gift; it would simply be stretching between two creatures.
Something clicked in my brain, a wheel fell into place and a few other things were beginning to make sense. I had read Edward's mind just, technically, last night. I'd switched off my nullifying ability and let him hear me, that had been the plan; but I had heard him back. Prolonged drinking could lead to a temporary transfer of gifts. Had I been using James' telepathy to communicate with Edward?
Was it James' innate ability to know things, to understand them without study or research, that was telling me how to solve this?
I'd been drinking from him for ten years. I knew I was an ancient now, I knew my power would only be increasing. But I had never really considered being able to use his gifts. How long would it last, though? Was it only good for a use or two? So many fucking questions.
So he could drink from me, and the possibilities that fell from that were endless. But if someone was using Edward's body, what was to say they couldn't tap into the power he would get from drinking from me? It was a risk I was not willing to take. Edward would have some of my memories; he would be stronger with my blood, at least for a while. The risk of that biting me in the ass forced me to dismiss the notion.
And just like that, there was one.
I ran the questions through my mind again but no new answers came. I'd only had two options that could use lust to snap him out of this, and now I only had one. There was the possibility of error in this, though, aside from the obvious. Edward had been looking at me hungrily, in that lustful way a vampire does, before … this situation. What if that lust had been the door for someone to use him? Would seducing him make things worse? The idea terrified me.
He was already stuck in this; I supposed it couldn't get a whole lot worse in that aspect. I hoped it was a matter of potency, that his lust hadn't been enough to keep his consciousness in the forefront. He needed a focus, and it seemed logical that sex would help him focus. Especially because I could make it unnaturally profound.
I pushed all the thoughts from my head. My insecurities were irrelevant. Whoever was using him already had control, and I had to try something. I took another breath, never diverting my gaze from his eyes on the off chance that something changed.
Bella pushed all her uncertainties out of her head, she didn't have time to fight with herself anymore. She'd already taken long enough and she had to assume that every passing second counted. She had to believe this wasn't an instant and irreversible situation; it was all she had left. A tiny whimper escaped her trembling lips. She was panicked and excited and terrified and guilt-ridden. If this failed… She wasn't sure what would happen.
"Edward." His name was a curious exhale; a secret transferring keepers. His eyes didn't change and the bitter chill was expanding down her body. She said his name again, her voice changing to become stronger. Something shook her from the core of her spine; she was affecting something, she was being warned. "Edward." Her voice sounded threatening, forceful. Venom dripped from her teeth. Edward's body convulsed once, his eyes widening and filling with more light. The color started to return to them, the blackness losing its ground. Then it stopped and in a heart-wrenching second his eyes went black again.
"God-dammit, Edward!" His name fell from her lungs as nothing more than a guttural howl. He blinked and when his eyes opened they hadn't changed. There was a taunting smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth, silently it said 'stop fooling around, child. you know the game.'
Bella stood, grabbing Edward by the front of his shirt and lifting him with her. She rushed his body into colliding with the wall to her left and dug around in her mind until she found the small pathway that led to her savage side. She pushed her way through the warnings of logic and gasped as the force of her own power burst through her. Jolts of heat pulsed through her body, making her legs shake with anticipation. Edward's eyes rolled into the back of his head, his eyelids twitching wildly.
Something inside of her begged to find another way to do this, told her this wasn't right; that things should be different. 'Yeah,' she thought, 'everything should be different but I'm backed into a corner here and I only see one way out.' She crashed her mouth to Edward's and prepared herself for the electric charge between them. It never came; Edward's lips were still against hers, non-responsive. She couldn't believe it, she was pumping lust pheromones at him like they were meant to replace his oxygen. Something was wrong, she didn't understand it. She tried again.
Bella released Edward and stood there staring at him, as he slid to the floor, as if he'd just died in her arms.
"Fine, we'll play your way," she said to the blackness that stared up at her through his eyes. Edward's face remained blank. She reached down and lifted him up, twisting his arms behind his back and leading him outside. "Fight me and I'll rip your throat out." She snapped, hoping her voice was as assertive as she wanted it to be. It was an empty threat but she was banking on the hope that whoever was fucking with her didn't know enough to call her bluff. She lifted Edward over her shoulder and took off down the road, erupting through the front door of the Cullen household and threw her passenger onto the couch. He righted himself and sat regally, hands clasped in his lap, with that stupid fucking smirk on his face.
"Carlisle!" Bella's voice rang through the house much louder than ever would have been necessary.
"Bella." Carlisle stood across the room from her suddenly, his thick blond hair kept neatly away from his face and his shirt and pants pressed and perfect.
"Where's Alice?" The realization that she couldn't hear the pixie anywhere in the house hit her and she couldn't help but ask.
"Alice went away with some friends."
"Carlisle." She narrowed her eyes at him. She couldn't afford to have him lying to her.
He frowned at her and downcast his eyes. "Alice was sent to stay with friends because of the risk she posed here. She needs constant supervision; she's already made five attempts to go get Jasper. She's already seen her death if she goes, but she insists she has to save him." He shook his head. "We know Jasper is safe, the Volturi would never kill him. They would rather convert him, and they would wait years if they had to." Carlisle sounded tired.
"I need your help." Bella figured it better to drop the topic of Alice, anyway. Carlisle's expression remained passive and he gestured to the couch for her to sit. She made no move to do so.
Bella explained the situation as articulately as she could and was surprised to find that she didn't stumble over her words nearly as much as she had expected. She spoke swiftly, her words a steady blur of sound; she sounded confident, sure of her analysis of the situation. She just couldn't figure out what she was missing. By the end of her rushed once-over, she'd seated herself across from Carlisle on one of the couches. They both glanced at Edward and waited. She hadn't been sure that talking about this in front of him was a good idea but the truth was she couldn't afford to let him out of her sight and he was a telepath. His strong relationship with Carlisle allowed him access to the vampire's thoughts from an impressive distance; everything would be exposed, regardless. She tried to convince herself that there could be an upside to talking in front of him, if only Edward's face would give something away.
"I think the answer is really quite simple, Bella. I think you just don't want to face the reality of it."
"Riddles won't help, Carlisle. Just speak." Carlisle's stoic expression flinched and he frowned at her again.
"The answer, Isabella, is that Edward's lust for you simply isn't enough. Even with your… encouragement."
The thought hit her hard. She'd never really considered that before. She'd kind of assumed that he still felt as strongly for her, at least physically, as he had years ago. Rather narcissistic if she thought about it. The harsh reality was that it was impossible without the draw of her blood; she was no different than anyone else to him now. Maybe he'd only ever found her attractive because of what her blood did to him. Maybe now he was just curious about her, maybe he really felt nothing. The blow was crushing; a wrecking ball to the delicate illusion she'd been creating in her subconscious.
She looked stricken, her eyes widened and her mouth parted as she considered the possibility of his words. Carlisle cleared his throat loudly to get her attention. "I do believe there's been a misunderstanding; I did not mean to imply Edward's desire for you has depleted in any way. In fact, I believe quite the opposite." Bella glared at him. The man was talking circles and she was fucking tired. He started again. "Bella, Edward loves you. Lusting after you is back-burner to that. Loving you is second nature to him, it's probably the biggest part of his existence; compared to it, everything else is insignificant. Including his desire to bed you."
Bella sat silently for a long moment, her eyes lost in the terrifying blackness of Edward's gaze. "So what are you saying, Carlisle? How do I fix this? How do I use that to get him back?" Her voice had started strong, determined, but it ended quietly. She was losing hope.
Carlisle fidgeted in his seat to draw her gaze away from Edward. Once he had her attention, he said softly, "I am in agreement with your belief that copulation will return him, at least temporarily, because of its powers to bind two people; but I do not think it is as simple as
I'd been pacing around my kitchen for hours. I couldn't go into my own bedroom anymore because her smell hadn't faded. I couldn't understand how it was possible. I tried not to think about it because the answer was probably that I was hallucinating. I preferred to think that there was a bottle of her perfume somewhere in there that I'd over-looked the first time I boxed up the particularly painful items she'd left behind.
I'd been putting all my effort into not thinking about her because I was so unbearably fearful of what I was going to see. His fucking bronze hair tormented me. I couldn't even vent my anger about him in my own head because thinking about him made me susceptible to seeing him. I didn't want to see him because I'd know too much, see too much. Thinking about him was a roundabout way of thinking about her.
And that wasn't allowed.
But all the not knowing was equally painful. I'd never wanted to spy on her so badly before and I'd certainly battled with it a handful of times.
I hadn't gone out drinking with everyone again. The probability of running into Kadey was the first half of my reluctance, the second half was my fear of doing it all again. Kadey's blood still entered my mind, nearly a week later. It wasn't a good sign. I threw myself onto a stool and fidgeted with the napkin holder. I tossed it from one hand to the other, ignoring the scattering contents as they fluttered to the floor around me. It was impossible to think of anything else when your soul cried out for something.
The misery I'd been fighting with for days began to tumefy in my chest, sticking to my ribs and veins like grime. I loved her like I loved no one else. I'd been with women who brought me to my knees, women I'd have gladly (and occasionally, did) kill for. I'd traipsed all over the globe for women I'd loved, but none had been able to keep me around. If it had been any of those dozen women, I'd have sold my house and moved on somewhere else. Somewhere without the memories. Bella was keeping me here and she wasn't even around.
She didn't even want me and here I sat, endlessly waiting.
I wasn't aware I was crying until I felt the violent hiccups exploding from my mouth. This couldn't possibly get any worse.
I couldn't help the slow cascade of images that began to litter my mind. I stood and walked into the bedroom, her smell assaulting my nostrils and I reveled in it. I shut my eyes and thought of nothing except her smell. Not her, just her smell. I could think of her in pieces. I sat on the edge of my bed and when I opened my eyes, they landed on the painting I kept hung next to my closet. I got up and moved the painting onto the ground, exposing a wall safe, and entered the twelve-digit code. The door released with a hiss of air pressure and I pulled it back. Stacks of money went back about six feet into the wall. Five-thousand dollar bill stacks. I didn't like banks.
I shifted my sight up top, a single shelf held a large envelope that I pulled out. I tossed it to the bed and shut the safe, replacing the painting and resituating myself on the comforter. I opened the envelope and spilled out hundreds of pictures onto the blankets. I moved like light, flipping the ones of the two of us over so they faced the mattress and I couldn't see them. I searched for one of just her, a specific one.
Ah, there it was.
She sat on the beach with a full moon shining down on her soaked hair. She had her knees bent, her arms wrapped protectively around them. She stared out at the open sea, the waves crashing on the sand a few yards below her. Her black dress was drenched and wrinkled; the sand beneath her was dark and heavy with the moisture she was dripping onto it. She looked so forlorn, so precious in the fragile light.
All I did was wish I was in that moment so I could walk up to her and carry her home.
Bella sat in front of Edward, on the floor with her knees tucked beneath her. Edward was still on the couch, his long legs parted so she could sit between them. Neither had moved in half an hour; they just stared into the others eyes as if debating some great problem of who to kill first. Bella had grown used to the contaminating frost that had long-ago coated her bones.
Something has to give, she thought. Her lip gave a weak twitch as she deliberated carefully how to approach her predicament. Moving abruptly to grab his face, she narrowed her eyes and put as much vigor into her voice as she could. "Edward, if you can hear me, I can't do this alone. I need your help, you bastard."
The black eyes looked from her one eye to the other, searching for something. They flashed a dazzling gold that lasted half a second; but it was enough. Edward, as himself, leaned into her and gently brushed his parted lips against hers. Her breath caught in her throat and she let it out in a soft hum as he pulled away, his eyes growing impossibly dark again. A leaden despondence settled itself inside of her, a firm belief that all would fail started pounding at her resolve. Before she broke down into a pitiful heap, Bella breathed in. The smell of Edward hadn't changed and she let her no-longer-human senses absorb the marvelous scent. She let the cool musk of him establish itself in her veins. She'd missed this smell so much when he'd left. Nothing had ever really changed that, she realized. No smell had filled that gap in her; she'd just pushed all memory of it down as deep as it would go.
Whomever it was that was… using him, they were just as curious about the solution as she was. There hadn't been a single action from Edward besides patient cooperation. Whoever it was was only observing, but for how long?
Bella moved and took Edward's hand in hers. She ran the pads of her fingers over his skin, touching the thin webbing between his fingers and rubbing his palm slowly. The action seemed to soothe her and Edward's black eyes simply watched.
She sighed quietly to herself. She'd made her decision to do what was necessary to get him back but the execution of the plan was unnerving. How was she supposed to make love to a man she didn't love anymore? Or did she love him again? Still? Had it never gone away? Was she turning this into something it wasn't? What was the difference between making love and having sex? In theory, it had to be the emotions behind it. But wasn't sex simply a way to get off or reproduce? At most, it seemed like a way to be close to someone. But none of this seemed like it would bemaking love. Was it about intentions, and if so, what intentions made the difference? It was all so back-and-forth. There were no new answers to be attained from her tireless pondering. And how long was too long? When did he stop being savable?
Desperate, Bella leaned up and touched her lips to his cheek. She kissed his face everywhere, her heart hurting for more reasons than she allowed herself to think about. One man in particular and she couldn't handle the thought of him at this point.