Author: delusionalimperialist PM
Bella's betrayal with Jacob is the final straw to make Edward stumble. Now she has to find the strength to put him back together and face the consequences of her actions. Begins after the kiss in the woods with Jacob. Eclipse AU. E/BRated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 17 - Words: 95,289 - Reviews: 2,432 - Favs: 2,084 - Follows: 888 - Updated: 08-23-09 - Published: 02-27-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4891389
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A/N: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyers and Atlas Shrugged's title is the property of Ayn Rand.
It was inevitable that he would know.
He would have heard two hearts beating deliriously; two lungs grasping for breathe.; two burning bodies in the frozen forest. One mind would have been glorifying in victory, in ecstasy; broadcasting, "Finally," for the one he knew was listening.
Yet for all this knowledge, he would only hear silence in the one that mattered. He wouldn't know that when I asked the boy to kiss me, that I didn't really want it. He couldn't know my desperation to save the wolf from his pain and rashness. He didn't know that when I pulled back from his violent response that I had given up. I had already gone above and beyond to prevent his death; he couldn't possible demand more of me.
Little did I know that of course Jacob did, he would have all of me, which was the one thing I would always refuse him.
Standing outside that feeble tent, on this day of requiem for vampire and wolf alike, all he read in Jacob's mind, all he smelled on the air, all he heard… was my final response.
My struggle meant nothing, because I succumbed to temptation. I wonder if he could hear the pedestal he had placed me on shattering into thousands of pieces. If Alice could see three hearts being shredded as surely as the newborn army below.
Pondering his omniscience meant nothing, when I knew that for all of his abilities he would never know my thoughts or motives. He would assume I loved Jake as I loved him. He would bear all fault and responsibility for leaving me and try to take this on himself, saying he paved the way for another man. It wouldn't matter that as the scalding skin pulled me closer, manhandled me, pushed and hurt me, attacked my mouth and went back for more; my body too was saying, "Finally." My insecurities and vulnerabilities were eschewed as they were presented with evidence of my desirability. As I felt that I was finally a woman and not a china doll. Edward would only ever see it as my revelry in his enemy and my best friend.
My new confidence brought only more fear: terror of the consequences of my actions and dread for the battles, both emotional and physically that lay ahead. On this day, when everyone I held dear fought for their lives in order to protect mine, I betrayed my soul for the whims of my body.
Even filled with desperation, my body still quivered with the echo of Jacob's touch. Only my mind, far more understanding of my true desires, cooled the burning touch; narrowed the build; hardened the lips and sweetened the breath. Long and black became bronze and unruly; terracotta became diamonds; friend became lover, shifter became marble.
My mind struggled to comprehend all the contrasting emotions swirling in me. The desire to continue with Edward what was started with Jacob; the gut wrenching guilt of my betrayal; my fear of Edward's response all bounced around competing for my attention as I walked back.
Deftly stepping over fallen branches and uprooted trees, I pushed the doubt aside with the assurance that despite my foibles, Edward was above them. It was absurd, as he would say, that while my axis shifted, to think that his world would have even rumbled. My fear for his reaction was only juxtaposing my emotions and reactions upon him. I might be his weakness, but that did not make him weak.
He would have read my intentions and motives through the fog of Jacob's lust as clearly as the blush on my cheeks. Despite all he couldn't know, he was Edward. He was my Greek God, all knowing and powerful, and not even the feeble confusions of a hormonal teenage girl would hinder that. He knew me to be merely human, knew that we were fallible and we fail; that we give in to temptation. It may not affect him, but his empathy would give him the grace to put me back together. To forgive me my imperfections and someday soon, change me so we would be equal in all things.
Emerging into the snowy clearing of our camp, I calmed my wildly guilty heart and steadied my frantic breathing, knowing I must not appear to be harmed. If there was one flaw of my vampire, it was his unilateral devotion to my safety. I did not risk my relationship with Edward to save Jacob's life only for him to lose it again. Allowing my guilt to come forward and preparing to apologize, I moved towards the tent and hopefully my Edward.
The snow crunched beneath my boots, insuring that he knew of my approach, but neither Seth nor Edward made a move towards me. The only sign of recognition of me was an eerily disapproving growl from the young wolf at the door. Who it was directed at, I couldn't fathom, but it was abundantly clear he already knew what had happened. As apparently did the rest of the pack.
Bracing myself to grovel, I opened the tent still surprised he had not grabbed me the moment I left the woods, and slid through the hole. I allowed my eyes to adjust from the gleaming snow to the glistening vampire in the darkened tent. As my eyes fell on him, the inevitable traitorous tears began, my confidence dwindled, and my guilt drowned me. I only wish this was the worst of it, but one look at Edward's face forewarned me my own foolishness would be the least of which to weigh down my conscience.
Prone against the cloth walls, legs strewn before him, was an Edward I had never seen,or imagined. There was no look of desperation or deprecation upon his face. No angered gleam to his eyes or painful grimace upon his mouth. He did not mirror his anguished remorse he exhibited when we returned from Volterra. Even his impassive ambiguity days after my birthday would be preferable to this Edward. This blank and empty vampire.
Even at our worst together, I could recall a gleam to his eyes that I was too blinded by my insecurities at the time to recognize. The look that silently begged me to understand he hurt and to please forgive him for what he was about to do. He may have been an expert liar, but everyone has a tell, and Edward's was always that lone glint mirroring his soul. I yearned for that hint of emotion. Even if it said, "I hate you," at least I would have something to distinguish him from a statue.
Now though, he was sprawled in the tent, not moving or breathing, neither acknowledging nor ignoring me; and still heartbreakingly beautiful. There was nothing to show him as anything but an expertly crafted piece of marble. How such a vibrant and soulful man could ever look empty did not escape my notice. My actions were Medusa's gaze and the result was this statue before me.
My tears and pleas, my cries and grasping yielded nothing. I flung myself on him, grabbing his shoulders, blazing tear and snot stained kisses over his lifeless body, dragging myself as close as possible, pulling his hair, and shouting in his ear.
All for naught.
I shoved my jugular under his nose to tempt him with my potent smell.
Frantically searching for anything to rouse him, I thought of the third wife who sacrificed for her people. I was already the stupid lamb, perhaps now I could be of use. I would be and do anything to reverse my Medusa spell, and return Edward to the life he had slipped away from.
I sought a sharp object to use to cut myself. He may have been able to ignore my attempts to rouse him, but he would not be able to deny his base instincts to feed and devour. I would give my life to return him to his. Finally I could be what he needed.
Finding only a rock I carved into my skin, positive that Edward would stop me at any moment. He never noticed, just as I was unaware of the pain as it dug into my flesh. If anything I rejoiced in it, some physical manifestation of what I put him through.
I suppose he was right after all, I never did have any notion of self-preservation. Logically, somewhere inside me I knew I should be scared of dying. But as I lifted my bleeding wrist to his lips, no thoughts of this sacrifice being too big, too much, too rash, or of how this would effect him crossed my mind.
Perhaps I should have realized it was of no avail when I wasn't dead as soon as my blood hit the air. I certainly should have known when the blood was coating his lips and he remained impassive. Maybe I should have remembered Edward's control; his iron will to see no harm come to me. Instead I selfishly prayed that he would show some sign that he was aware of me as something other than background. That with the temptation of my blood, he would prove that despite the cruelty of my actions, he still desired me on some level.
Lost inside this microcosm Edward and I existed in, I was as unresponsive to the outside world as he was to me. I was barely cognizant of all the fluids pouring from my body, nonetheless the wolf cries, the sickly sweet smell of burning of bodies, or Seth's panicked howl from outside the tent.
No, my world had disintegrated. I had thought that I once knew what that meant. Surely the void I existed in when he had left was the worst pain anyone could go through and survive. I was wrong though, as I so often seem to be. I suppose it could still be worse if he died. Now I think I finally have the perspective to know that if he were to leave this world, so to would I, with no needed help from my own hand. For now though, I still had Edward. Perhaps that was a technicality since he seemed to be nothing but an empty stone shell; sentenced to an eternity, as the still-life statue. So I would exist in this state, past the point of pain I thought I could survive, yet still so far from the peaceful slumber of non-existence. I always said I would do anything to be with him, even if it meant enduring this.
My endurance was to be short lived. I was sitting, smashed, and tangled in Edward. My tears were saturating his shirt, sliding unnoticed down his still chest; mixing with the snot pouring unstopped out of my nose and sullying the crimson drops falling un-tasted from his lips. All my fluids, representing everything that I am was around him; until suddenly they were not.
Before my wrist could fall from his mouth, the tent had disappeared. Where there had been darkness surrounding us, there was an empty gray sky. From where I had been dumped on the ground, I could see the tattered remains of our shelter, and a decided lack of my catatonic vampire.
Euphoria rose inside me. He moved. He may have fled from me, but he existed. He had come back to himself. With him, so too lived hope.
Oh how I was wrong. Would I ever be able to trust my instincts? Was everything I believed to be the right course of action always destined to be the polar opposite? Like opening a vein upwind of a vampire fight, which contained beings lost in their bloodlust. In my willingness to bleed to save Edward, all I did was jeopardize him. Whether I bled, lived, died, or sacrificed myself, Edward was put in the path of my destruction.
Cognizance returned, and with it the flame haired vampire of my nightmares… and her sidekick. Inevitably since I was the bloody human, I would be the first to go. They may have wanted to play with me, but my recklessness prevented that. The only question was if Edward could escape for help while they dealt with me. Selfishly I forgot about Seth. I suppose his death would be another rock on the scale measuring my soul, though it was nothing compared to the that would represent Edward's.
It seemed ridiculous to run or try and prevent their attack, so I stood still, with my bleeding arm outstretched. Let it tempt them. Let them come for me. Let this end.
My actions of course both did and did not have the effect I desired. Victoria and her pet fiend, leapt at me, but never connected. Edward, who had been standing there, not even looking at me, responded more like Alice than himself. At the exact moment before they would have hit me, he merely stepped into their path. They responded in kind, growling and hissing as their collision begot the beginning of a rockslide.
I was out of the way, standing frozen before these clashing titans mere feet in front of me. Seth, well I had my wish that he was out of way of the vampires, though I hadn't meant for him to be crushed under a boulder in the process. With detached emotions, I saw him prone and whimpering below a rock so large even a werewolf couldn't move it. And so I stood and watched someone else I cared for be hurt.
Nothing, not even the life seeping out of a barely pubescent boy nearby, could have prepared me for seeing Edward under attack. I had passed out from pain when he fought James, and had been horrified when Jane tortured him. Both of those times he had a plan of action, and while pain had been inflicted upon him, he gave back far more than he was dealt.
Not now though. This being that I had always envisioned a god or one of God's archangels, fought recklessly with no thought or plan, nor any sense of survival. They tore into his skin, scratched and bit at him, and he never moved away. He knew that it was coming, even I with my human vision could see their deliberate movements, and yet he never dodged or flinched. Systematically he attacked at them, purely offensively.
Watching this horrorshow before me, my brain finally pushed past everything I let blind me, and saw the situation for what it was. I saw through a clear filter for the first time and I knew I could trust it, because I saw through Edward. As he completed his suicide mission, I saw his perception of my actions. When I ran away in Phoenix to save my mother without him, when I rode motorcycles and jumped off cliffs…or when I befriended a werewolf all ran through my mind. My boundary pushing for him to fulfill my needs, for him to change me, for him to relax and let me be pursued by a reckless and manipulative young wolf followed shortly thereafter.
At every turn, at every moment, Edward watched my insecurities and stubbornness take me one step closer to death. He saw me never trusting him, never recognizing that all he had ever wanted was my safety and well-being. Even now, after I had made him compromise his values, ignore his fears, and beg for my hand in marriage; after I had betrayed him with his biggest fear and natural enemy; he stood in front of me, risking his life to save mine.
He had told me, what seems so long ago now, that I was his life. He went to Volterra because he could not be in a world that did not include me. Still I doubted his sincerity. I let my insecurities dictate my actions. I stubbornly refused everything he had ever tried to do for me. I ironically rejected his love time and again and simultaneously took it for granted. His unresponsiveness in the tent was merely the manifestation of how I had always treated him. I had assumed because I thought of him as a god that he was above the trivialities of mortality. The paltry emotions of jealousy, arousal, wrath…insecurity and vulnerabilities, I perceived to be below him.
Apparently I had forgotten my mythology in my adoration of Edward. The gods were never the ethereal creatures that deigned to grant humanity their grace. They were vengeful and petty, arrogant and arousing; they personified the human emotions to the extreme degree. I had never stopped to think that Edward felt more than I did. That not only did he see in minds, hear from afar, traverse impossible distances, and crush mountains into sand; the same applied to his emotions. Everything in Edward was heightened; from the dichotomy of his perfection and fallibilities, to the battle between the man inside with his inner beast. His impeccable control that so frustrated me was yet another layer of protection for me; another way he wrapped me in his unconditional love.
He once said that vampires do not easily experience change, and once it occurs it was impossible for them to return to how they were before. I can see now that I was the great change in his life. He argues that it conquered the beast and brought out the man. On this occasion, he was wrong. I reverted him. I changed him from a god to a Titan, and I punished him for it. Today, not in 1918, but on this fateful day, Edward had been turned to stone, and yet he continued to bear the weight of the heavens on his shoulders.
Adonis became Atlas, holding up the burden of his shooting star. I never noticed before how he had progressively carried more and more weight. My humanity and his immortality; the call of my blood and his unending thirst; my insecurities and stubbornness; his desperation to keep me safe; my precipitous abandon towards all things dangerous; his sacrifice of his own feelings to protect me; the guilt of his abandonment; the consequences of my relationship with Jacob…every little thing further weighed him down. Today was just the day he finally succumbed to the burden.
God, Jacob. In this moment, as my Atlas buckled, and yet still shouldered his burdens, I found myself caring even less about Jacob than I did about Seth's injury. I couldn't bring myself to feel the onus of my responsibility toward others at the moment. Paradigms were shifting and Edward, who never failed to endure, was falling.
Venom was leaking from bites all over his formerly untarnished skin, his arm was barely connected, and he was limping. Yet the newborn was in pieces, and Victoria was crazed with what had been the impossibility of her impending failure. She and Edward blurred together, moving too fast for vision, though I could still hear her hissing and growling. Edward never made a noise. He steadfastly refused to dodge away from her teeth and determinedly kept nipping at her neck.
He had no anger or will to cause her pain; he was too far gone for that. He merely systematically sought her end, and took whatever damage she dealt to him without a wince. He would keep the heavens from crashing to the ground while he lived, but if in the process he was destroyed, it mattered not to him.
Ever responsible, ever loving, ever sacrificing, he would do and mean what Jacob did not. I saw it clearly; when he left me, as Atlas did to Hercules, he made Jacob hold me up. Then he returned, and retook the burden- willing and lovingly, but not before the damage was done.
As Edward fell to the ground, with his teeth at Victoria's neck and hers at his, I saw a Titan, a god, vampire, a man, my love: broken before me. Victoria may have dragged him down, but I shattered him. And he let me. I ate from the apple, and as Eve before me, I was granted the gift of knowledge; but in this impossible story, I ate, and my Atlas shrugged.
Victoria and Edward came into focus, as the clearing quieted all but for my repetitive pleas of, "please;" to Edward, to God, to whomever could save this man before me. Someone somewhere listened.
He rose from the ground, ever so slowly, as the silvery fluid leaked from his neck, holding her head at his side. I sank to my knees and stared at the sky, shocked to see the sun was still in the same position it had been. My blood had clotted and my snot had dried, but my tears kept endlessly falling. I guess time was irrelevant when the world shifts.
Yelling Edward's name was futile, but I did anyway. He was too busy methodically collecting body parts and piling them up. In that section of my brain where all things morbidly curious and inappropriate lay, I contemplated how he could tell his bits from theirs. But when he picked up a slab of flesh and shoved it into his pocket, I deduced that he had some way of discerning them. From the same pocket he pulled out a lighter and lit them on fire. For all his snark about wolves, he certainly had a dogged determination to see his task through. Not his own vampire bleeding, Seth's whimpering, or my patheticness could distract him.
The putrid purple smoke rapidly rose above the treetops and shortly thereafter the cavalry arrived, a day late and a dollar short. Something you didn't tend to suspect with omniscient vampires. Looks of shock and horror were another. Emmett threw the boulder off of Seth and alerted the wolves to his injury. Alice and Esme, pulled me into their arms and held me close, rocking back and forth and trying to calm me. I felt Jasper's effort, but sometimes your body and your emotions refused to be anything but your own. My guilt and liability at the agony of my actions could not be eased by any vampire but the one limping away.
Carlisle and Rosalie, in two different manners urged him to stop; Carlisle reaching out in support, Rosalie snarling at him to quit being melodramatic.
Apparently she had yet to be informed that I had done this, or I would be on that pyre as well.
Edward kept walking away, his mission had been completed and now he could shatter. I don't know if he tried to nobly sacrifice himself to pave the way for Jacob. He had always been ever willing to bear the burden of others. It would perhaps be easier if those were his intentions; if he wasn't so hurt to the point that he couldn't care if he existed. I could fix extreme reactions, but I don't know if all the crazy glue in the world could piece him back together now.
Nonetheless I would try. But I couldn't if my prior worst fears were to come true first. My begging of him to come back was ignored, but my whispered broken question connected.
"Will you leave again?"
And then the empty stone god, the unbreakable vampire, stumbled and fell. And no one was there to catch him. Alice gasped. Esme panicked. Rosalie glared at me. Carlisle reached for him, but was denied. They were beginning to see the picture clearer, that something far worse than bloodshed and death marred their brother and son.
Alice and Esme released me as I squirmed to free myself and run to him. I would pick him up as he always had me. But his slight shake of the head stopped me inches behind him. Those bone shattering muscles tightened and shrugged. His head dropped, and his lungs gasped for air. At last, in a tenuous voice, as if he hadn't used it in ages, he stuttered,
With that he was gone.
No longer Titan and god or vampire.
A broken burning man, injured inside and out, staggered out of my sight.
That final glimpse told me I never needed to become a vampire to make us equals. I had achieved that today. He bled and fell, he felt pain and agony and suffered from my same insecurities. He needed reassurance and someone to brush back his hair and tell him they would make everything ok. Without a partner he was an overburdened man sinking under the weight of the world.
It took this most acute betrayal for me to know Edward Cullen.
He put aside his hopes and wants and inner desires and loved unconditionally. He sacrificed himself time and again for me, whether rightly or wrongly, and loved me even when I threw it back at him. He loved me enough to leave me. He loved me more to come back. He loved me enough to ignore his seething jealousy and let me see a temperamental wolf that he knew to have ulterior motives. He loved me too much to call me on my never-ending ration of crap I dished out. He let me reject him and pull him closer and make ridiculous demands. Even at his lowest and my worst, he resisted his bloodlust, and saved my life again. After all that I still doubted his promises, and he still kept them. I imagined as he made his way back to the house, he was awaiting my arrival to send him away and to explain that I wanted Jacob instead. But he would stay and endure until that time; ever loyal; ever loving.
Yes. I knew Edward now.
And I knew myself.
I was Bella Swan, the god killer.
For those of you who aren't dorks like me who took way too much Latin, I'll provide a few footnotes on the mythology referenced.
Medusa: A Gorgon who was once a beautiful maiden sought by countless men. She was punished by turning her hair into snakes and having her gaze turn any who met it to stone.
Atlas: There are a few different accounts of this tale. Virgil declares him to be a Titan, who sided with other Titans in the war against the gods. At their defeat, Zeus sentenced Atlas to the farthest corner of the world to hold up the celestial orb.
Ovid, however, tells a different tale that relates back to Medusa. Perseus, in his travels after his defeat of the Gorgon, tried to enter into the realm of the Heripades, the giant Atlas' daughters. He has walled off their golden apple orchards and protected them with a dragon. Atlas then tries to prevent Perseus from crossing into it, and the upstart pulls out Medusa's head and turns Atlas into mountains that were so vast they held up the sky.
Hercules also relates to Atlas. The great hero we all know, in a moment of rage, went nuts and killed his family. He fled to the Oracles to seek retribution and they told him to enslave himself to a cruel king. The king then set twelve impossible tasks, one of which was to retrieve the golden apples of Heripades. Hercules used his noggin for once on this one, and chatted up Atlas who struck a bargain with him. If Hercules would just hold onto the heavens for a while, Atlas would get the apples from his daughters.
No, the apples do not necessarily have a relation to the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, but it's Twilight, and how could you not play with temptation symbols?
Sorry this is so long, but I felt footnotes were necessary.
I know it's interesting to be thrown into the climax of a story, but I hope you keep reading and see how these two come out of this situation. Please review and let me know what you thought!