AN: Before reading this, I wanted to inform you I'm taking canon into my own hands and do what I want with it. A lot will be different but I'll try to keep it similar to the story we love. Enjoy the Twilight Renaissance, babes!
Oh when my spirit's fire burns low,
Leave me the darkness and the stillness,
I shall be tired and glad to go.
— Sara Teasdale, from I Have Loved Hours At Sea in "The Collected Poems Of Sara Teasdale"
Chapter One: Kindred
The woods loomed over Kiera's head, her feet digging into the earth at the mouth of the forest. A call to take off into the woods pulled at her hair, at her limbs, begging her to enter the land smothered in tall trees.
'You can not heal in the place that broke you'. A voice reminded her.
But this was a different forest, a different grove of trees and leaves, it wasn't the same shadowed and ominous place as before-
Kiera took another step forward, her hands clenched tightly at her sides. The cold soil that kissed her feet was barely felt, her body long accustomed to her slow descent into becoming weatherproof. Something untouchable.
She's been asleep for nearly seventeen years, been awake for little more than half a century. In all that time, not once has she been able to step foot into the woods. No matter how it sang to her, called her to come home, Kiera couldn't shake the visions of shadows lurking in every corner, of a man reaching for her-
Her phone rings.
It's a flip phone, silver and thin, a tiny thing called a 'Razor'. Her cousin Ramona promised her it wasn't that hard to use, that she just needed to press the one to get ahold of her. Something about speed dial and to not bother learning to text, that she herself still gets confused with the small buttons.
It's Ramona who is calling now, reminding Kiera that she has her first class in half an hour. She also reminds Kiera to wash off her feet when she gets back to the house, Ramona's Tagalog soft in her mouth with the reminder that mud is annoying to wash out.
Kiera casts one last long look at the woods before her and leaves.
School is a prison she can't avoid. The buildings are old but younger than her, the red bricks somehow made gloomy in this dreaded town. She doesn't hate Forks, but she doesn't understand how someone can live in such a grey place. Doesn't understand why Ramona would pick this area for their little family to settle down in.
They were used to the sun, the open blue skies. Ramona could no longer feel the chill, her body has become stone cold and turned to unbreakable marble over the decades, but Kiera still had her beating heart and soft skin.
Granted, with every passing day its rhythm was fading into a dull thumping sound, but until it finally stopped, she was mortal.
Kiera fiddled with her new camera, the object at once both familiar and foreign to her. Everything about it aside from the mere fact that it was a camera, was foreign. From being able to hold it in her hands now, to the speed at which photos developed- everything else was new.
Professor Teller droned on, his voice a mere buzzing that rattled around in her mind before slipping right out of her ears. He was nice enough, with his smiling face weathered and his back hunched from years of manual labor. Her professor spoke of his youth working as a construction worker, who had all but given up on life after a terrible accident.
"I thought my life was over, you know. But one day I just picked up the camera my wife and I bought for our anniversary in Hawaii and I've never put it down since."
Dully, Kiera wondered if she could find that same happiness within the little metal machine she cradled with careful fingers. She remembered the joy she used to feel from beneath the tarp when taking pictures of smiling families, yearned for the familiarity fill her and make her happy once more.
It didn't come. Not really. It was a moment of half happiness and half wistful thoughts for a past she can barely remember.
Professor Teller ended their first class, asking everyone to just try and play around with their cameras.
"Give yourself a chance with it, don't let frustration win on the first try." He called out as everyone walked out the door.
Kiera smiled at his words, fiddling with the lens. Smiling was still an oddity, the gesture more of a twist of her lips than an actual smile. Only Ramona could get one of those out of her these days, and even then they were few and far between.
But maybe she'd relearn how to do that, too.
Lunch was a pathetic affair, sitting off the side of the much too loud cafeteria. The fluorescents made her eyes burn and the scent of humans clung to her nose as she scarfed down the leftover chicken adobo Ramona had insisted she take with her.
It amused Keira to watch a creature with no need for food, slave away in the kitchen, swearing up and down that 'this recipe is the one'. If they were honest with each other, it's been so long since they've had their grandmother's adobo that every recipe seemed just like hers.
Ramona never even taste-tested the food she made, it was little more than ash on her tongue. Kiera silently mourned for the day that that happened to her, the idea of never getting to eat all of her favorite foods again helping her slow down and savor the meal before her.
When the last bite of food was finally gone, Kiera pulled herself to her feet. Kiera ghosted her way across the quiet campus, the odd little object clutched in her hands. Despite the gloom of Forks, it was beautiful and it was full of creatures that made their homes in the vivid greenery.
Snap. A finch mid-flight, it's wings obscuring most of its view, rendering it a mere blur against the somber sky.
Snap. A soulless shot of a wilting flower, one that Kiera was surprised to even see still standing.
Kiera took in a deep breath. What's with all the depressing shots? She must really be rusty.
She readied herself for another shot, scanning the grounds for an interesting subject. A girl with long chestnut hair was curled against a tree, her dead brown eyes staring at the floor while her friends chattered on about. Every once in awhile, they tried to include their silent friend, their smiles dimming more and more each time she gave a clipped answer.
The girl was hollowed out. With dark circles and too prominent cheekbones, the human was wasting away right in front of them. Whatever sadness that consumed her was the kind that killed, draining it's host till nothing was left but an empty shell. Even now, the girl was just pretending to be alive.
Kiera put her camera down, deciding against taking that girl's picture. It'd be nothing short of cruel for that awful haunted expression to be captured for all of time. Kiera couldn't offer her much, but she could at least grant her this singular kindness. Human matters were best left alone, and though Kiera felt a strange sense of belonging with this girl, she couldn't afford to risk the life she'd so carefully rebuilt.
At least that was she told herself as she walked away. Imagine her surprise when in English 101, she found herself sitting next to that lonely human.
Her shock only intensified when the slightest scent of vampire clung to her new desk mate. It was barely there, an afterthought behind the human's natural floral scent. It was a metallic tang long-forgotten amongst her mortal flesh, one that was solely her own, as if she'd always smelled this way.
The girl moved a lock of hair from her pale face, a crescent scar left silver upon her forearm. Kiera pegged it as the source of the vampiric scent, her eyebrows coming together.
If she had been bitten, she should have been a vampire by now, right? But everything about her was dull, from her haggard appearance to the way she moved. Humans were beautiful in their own way, but nothing held a candle to immortality.
The girl had finally noticed Kiera's probing stare.
"Bella." She rasped.
It took Kiera a moment to realize the girl was giving up her name. Humans were foolish that way, giving up their names at the drop of a hat. It made Kiera smile.
"I'm called Kiera." Kiera's words were careful, years of her family's teachings making it easy to dance around the truth.
And then Bella was back to being half a person. Kiera wondered what was left rattling around in that husk. Must be heartbreak, from the sheen of tears that cropped up every other minute. Hearts were fickle things, made even more feeble by the cruelty of romantic love. It'd been a blessing in disguise for Kiera to never have had the pleasure of dealing with it before.
Back when she was seventeen and naive, she'd hoped to meet someone who'd sweep her off her feet. Someone to dance away the long nights that eternity had promised her.
Now she just hoped to never end up like the poor girl sitting next to her.
Pity hit Kiera hard for the first time since she awoke. It'd taken months for her to relearn herself, but now the swelling of her throat as she watched Bella continue to blink back tears was hard to dress up as anything else but sympathy. Kiera swallowed thickly, and against her better nature, silently called out to the force of life that beat like a drum beneath her feet.
Even when blocked by cement and cheap carpet, Kiera could feel the earth pulsating under her. She bit her lip, taking another glance at Bella, who was trying to pretend to be reading an old battered copy of Wuthering Heights.
Kiera sucked in a quiet breath, and she pulled.
Up from the ground and through the soles of her feet, Kiera graciously took the offered energy, letting it swell in her core until it was getting hard to breathe.
With a careful hand, Kiera pretended to drop her pencil onto Bella's side of the long table, watching it roll into the pale girl's hand.
Bella blinked down at it in confusion, her doe-like eyes seemingly confused. After a moment, she picked up the pencil and handed it over to Kiera, the corner of her lips lifting in a mockery of a smile.
Kiera reached forward, hands trembling, watching as their fingers brushed- everything she had pulled into her, she released into Bella slowly, coaxing it to sink into Bella's skin like a warm embrace.
Like magic, color slowly replaced Bella's pallor. It clung to Bella like a newborn child in the hands of its mother, lifting her shoulders and making her smile fill up with life. Bella was a Real Girl now, almost truly human and not the reanimated corpse she seemed to be.
It was then Kiera asked to study together that night, hoping Bella would say yes. Her new friend's euphoric glow seemed to slowly wane, but her smile remained.
"We can study at my house." She suggested, with the tiniest shrug of her shoulders. "My dad might not be home though. I think he'll be with his friends."
"That's fine, we can just have some girl time then." Kiera grinned, hope fluttering in her chest.
Maybe waking up hadn't been so bad after all.
"It's like a hole has been punched in my chest. Ed-," Bella couldn't bring herself to say his name, "He was everything to me."
The way that word rolled from her lips, 'everything', was like hearing everything you've ever lost all at once. The intensity of which Bella loved was an intensity Kiera had never seen before- it bordered obsessive, tiptoed around consuming.
It was terrifying and yet invigorating to bare witness to.
The girls sat in Bella's room with their textbooks resting open around them. Kiera was resting against Bella's bed while Bella herself sat at her desk. They'd long forgone their attempts at studying, it was suddenly The Bella Show, with Kiera prompting and gently prying information from her. Kiera couldn't help it, something was amiss in this love story of Bellas.
And she will admit it was simply in her nature, the desire to know.
Kiera was sure that without the energy she had transferred over earlier, Bella wouldn't have been able to share her tale. The more Bella spoke of her connection with her ex-boyfriend, the more something foreboding settled into Kiera's core.
Vampires and humans were the opposites of the spectrum, one literally depending on the other for survival. But there was no fear in Bella's voice, only love and a deep-seated agony that Kiera wished she could soothe. Vampires didn't engage with humans, much less enter relationships with them.
And with a scar like Bella's, the vampire must have loved her in return. Just how much, though? To not turn her and live with her for all of eternity, to leave her behind like this? And most red-eyed vampires would never have the strength to not drain every drop of her blood.
Unless...the rumors Ramona heard were true.
"Bella," Kiera started softly, "Did he say where he was going?"
Bella shook her head. "No. Alice never said either. All of them, they are just...gone. All seven of them."
Kiera put down the book in her hands and leaned into Bella's bed, her hand idly playing with a stray purple thread.
"They just left their house, just like that?"
"Yeah." Bella's tone was wistful now, yearning for the family who left her behind. "It truly is a beautiful house."
It was clear that Bella wasn't thinking about the house itself, but the memories she likely made in it. Now that place was tainted for her, too.
The family had been beautiful, Bella said. Beautiful and close, like an ideal family should be. Apparently, their coven name was Cullen. Kiera had smiled to herself at the name drop, much to Bella's confusion.
"Oh, it's nothing. Their name is a tad morbid, don't you think? To have the word 'cull' in your name...it's almost unfortunate."
Nevermind that it also stemmed from the holly tree, which had been born from the word holy. It was ironic and terrible all at once, a vampire coven going around with the name 'holy'.
Bella only stared at Kiera before giving a laugh. It was small and rough, probably from the time she spent without it. "You are one odd girl, you know that? I had thought I was the strange one."
"Maybe you are, and you've just finally met another weirdo." Kiera grinned.
"Yeah, maybe so."
Her father had come home late that night, but he had been so surprised and happy to see Kiera and Bella sharing a blanket on the couch, an old slasher on the screen. Kiera had been too enraptured by the gory effects to notice him standing in the doorway at first, in awe at how times truly have changed.
When she'd finally noticed him, her gaze had met with the same pair of brown eyes Bella had. He seemed on the verge of tears, but moved forward and shook Kiera's hand. He'd seemed relieved to see Bella tucked away next to her, munching on the puppy chow she'd made for them both.
Charlie had made Kiera promise to return for dinner some other night as she had made her way out to her car, his arm wrapped around Bella's small shoulders.
"Dad, you can't even cook," Bella said with fond exasperation. "It's okay Kiera, I'll make sure we actually get to eat."
Even though most dads would taking that ribbing from their kid as an offense, Charlie almost lit up at hearing Bella joke. His love for his daughter, his happiness at seeing her up and talking...Kiera could see Bella got her kind of love from her father. Strong and foolhardy, but unconditional and vast.
"I'll hold you to it! Maybe I'll even bring over some dessert." Kiera smiled and waved as she backed out of the Swan's driveway.
Now she was laying in her cousin's bed, watching Ramona look over her paperwork.
"I think they might be the gold eyed ones you told me about."
"Bella's vampire family, I think they might have had gold eyes. If they were so public and had red eyes, it'd make no sense for the Volturi to not step in and get rid of them. Red is a harder sell than gold."
Ramona tilted her head back and laughed, her long black braid slipping from her shoulder with the motion. "That's true, you'd think humans would be more suspicious of both colors, but apparently if you're beautiful enough they don't care."
"Vampires can dazzle their food, remember what Lola said. It's like a snake and a mouse, locked together with a single glance just before the snake strikes."
"Oh, Kiera, you're so dramatic." She grinned before faltering. "Do you think that Cullen kid dazzled your little friend?"
Kiera thought on it. It didn't seem like Bella was merely infatuation with the boy. It was something too intense, too alive to simply be one-sided puppy love.
"No, I think he might have loved her back. But that's what confuses me the most- if he loved her, why would he leave her like this? He didn't even turn her. I could kill her at any time, and her vampire would have to live without her for the rest of his cold little life."
"Kiera...why are you so upset over some humans love life? This doesn't have anything to do with-"
"Don't." Kiera flinched.
Ramona sighed, putting her paperwork onto her nightstand to open her arms wide. "Come here, kid."
Kiera hesitated, the memory of a meaner touch crawling over her skin like insects. But she let herself give in and eased herself into Ramona's embrace. They sat there like that, Kiera's head resting on Ramona's chest as her cousin ran her fingers through Kiera's hair.
Kiera didn't speak.
When she laid down to sleep that night, Kiera succumbed to the still waters in the back of her mind. There, She didn't have to think or feel. The weight of the day cloaked her like a second skin, sinking her down further into the black, swallowing her whole.