If you don't like stories where characters discuss philosophy, then you won't like this story. If you do, then you might. I make no guarantees.

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Stephanie Meyer.

Theme song for this fic: Rasputina's The Hunter's Kiss.

"Vices are manifold, take countless different forms and are incapable of classification." – Seneca the Younger, Letter CXXII translated by Robin Campbell

Chapter 1

The saint and the sinner plot corruption.

At least, Bella was sure that was what they saw, all the other occupants of this little den of debauchery.

The saint's innocence—Bella's innocence—writ large across an anxious visage.

The sinner's depravity—Tanya's depravity—clear from the immobility of her marble countenance.

The voyeurs watched as Tanya wrapped her long red-tipped fingers around Bella's arm, pulling her closer to whisper into her ear.

When Tanya confessed that she too knew Edward Cullen, Bella sputtered, nearly spilling her wine. The mere mention of the man's name was still enough to send a jolt through Bella's frame.

Looking at Tanya, though, it made absolute sense. 'Hair and breast steeped in perfume, she would wake desire in an old man.'

Bella didn't ask for details. She didn't want to know about the nature of Tanya's relationship with Edward.

Unfortunately, Bella was too inebriated by that point to hold her own tongue. 'One medicine, my friend, alone is fit—wine—and get drunk on it.' She told Tanya everything.

Then Tanya made a proposal.

Bella was horrified. How could Tanya possibly suggest such a thing after what she'd just heard?

Because it was just too much.

Nevertheless, Tanya calmly and carefully refuted every one of Bella's arguments.

At a loss, Bella took one last stab at convincing Tanya that it was a waste of time. "I don't think he'll go along with it."

Tanya cackled. Except that it sounded like bells ringing, uncannily melodic, the laughter of a Disney witch masquerading as a queen. Bella's very own evil fairy godmother come to life.

Someone must have slipped Bella a drug, because none of this could be real.

"Isssabelllla," Tanya purred. "If he's not interested, it won't matter, well it?"

Tanya was right. And Bella was suddenly angry.

Tanya was smoking a cigarette in a holder. A damn cigarette holder, like she was some Hollywood starlet from the '30s, the smoke curling around Tanya's arm. She and Bella were sitting at a back table, lit only by a candle and a couple of sconces on the walls. Curtains billowed around the other tables, assuring the patrons' privacy as they enjoyed varying degrees of debauched revelry. Bella could see limbs snaking in and out of paisley silk, the air rancid with patchouli. It was Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus, minus the naked dancing girls.

And they think this is corruption? Bella thought scornfully. But who was she to judge?

She had tried so hard to appear blasé! A fool in her best dress finding out that her knickers were out of fashion when a stiff wind exposed her nether-regions to the world.

Suddenly sobering, Bella considered just what it was that Tanya was asking of her.

Bella could feel it, her own destruction leering at her, black and cold.

Because this would end her. She was sure of it.

To hell with the world, Bella decided, a sick, treacherous feeling spreading through her limbs.

With a quick nod, she accepted Tanya's proposal.


'Hair and breast steeped in perfume, she would wake desire in an old man.' — Archilochus

'One medicine, my friend, alone is fit—wine—and get drunk on it.' — Archilochus

HEA. Edward/Bella. Canon couples in the end, but some very minor slash before we get there. Unbetaed.

Rated M for subject matter.

I actually wrote Corrupting Influence first, decided that I hated it, and used it to write Gothic. So there are some thematic and linguistic crossovers, but not many.

Thank you for reading.