Disclaimer: sends lawyers/judges/bossy people over to Stephenie Meyer's house
A/N: This was my entry to a Twilight fanfiction contest, and it won first place so I wanted to put it up here too...not much else to say, except go check out the other awesome entries at the dark blasphemy domain part of freewebs!
Title: And You Will Think That I've Moved On
Characters: Edward, Bella, Jacob, Charlie
Summary: Edward promised Bella he wouldn't come back - ever. What if he broke his promise? Edward/Bella oneshot.
I wasn't sure what I was doing back here.
I had always prided myself on being the most sensible of my family. I was always the one weighing pros and cons, going through every option, putting mind over matter –
It was an unnecessary habit, but I still flinched.
What was I doing here? Had I allowed my self-control to become so eroded by – by her - that I couldn't keep a simple promise? There were no complications, no strings attached. It was unpretentious, really:
I won't come back.
Direct, straightforward even, but only on paper.
For so long I had fought with myself, clutching at my empty chest, looking for any loopholes in what I had said, daydreaming about simply glimpsing her from afar – but then I remembered, remembered with fascination and horror the day her life had been put at risk simply by being in the same room – the overwhelming relief that my strange gift-curse was the reason she was still breathing today – and then, always, the deep dread that I had felt when I remembered the constant danger she was in, just by being in my presence. The presence of a monster.
I shudder to think what could've happened had I ever lost control for even a second.
Couldn't I do anything right by her at all?
I had nearly killed her the first moment I met her! Every moment with me had been a lethal risk for her, I who was more dangerous for her than any other creature in the known world; it was because of me that she had almost suffered an excruciating death at the hands of a ruthless tracker, because of what my family and I are that she was – again – nearly killed on her birthday by my own brother!
How much more disgusting it was to me when I, who loved her most, could not even breathe or look at her wounded arm without feeling the monster inside rearing its ugly head, demanding to taste her sweet blood once again, feel it flowing hot into my mouth –
"No," I moaned, resting my forehead against the rough bark of a tree, gritting my teeth against the sudden thirst. Was there no peace? I couldn't even remember my beloved without the desire of draining away her life's essence.
This was why I had left, why I had lied to her. I knew it would hurt her; I saw the pain in her eyes when I had convinced her that I didn't care for her, all the while wishing I could take all her pain onto myself. But I had to do it; I had hurt her, ultimately to save her. If there was any danger I could save her from, I would do it, no matter the sacrifice.
Who knew the sacrifice would be all but my own sanity?
More from emotion than exhaustion, I let my knees buckle beneath me. Sinking to the ground, I still let my head lean against the tree, my arms hanging limp by my sides. Since I had left, I had been good for nothing. I never listened to music anymore, I hardly ever spoke – Carlisle had to remind me to go hunting. I thought I could handle it, the pain that was more a monster than anything I could ever be, but, upon arriving in Denali, the shock that had first come was replaced by a terrible hollow ache that clawed at me from the inside out. It incapacitated me beyond recognition, and there was nothing I could do to cure it.
Except…oh, I could see it: a window, softly lit from the inside; a young woman, with wide eyes and dark flowing hair looking out expectantly to the night, an exultant smile on her full lips…
I stood up slowly and began staggering forward, my muscles still stiff from much neglect, eager to find my source of release from this torment before I lost my resolve and began again to reason against my one desire.
Thank heavens for Emmett, I thought gratefully as I picked up my pace. Strange source of inspiration, as Emmett isn't very inspiring to begin with...
You need to be more spontaneous! All you do is sit and think! Why don't you do something for the sake of doing it for a change? Emmett had thought yesterday, frustrated, as he glared at my direction. Though I had pretended to ignore him as usual (I vaguely recall him leaving in high dudgeon), his words had hit a chord deep inside. It was the first time I had felt anything in almost half a year. I had eagerly pursued that feeling and ran back to Forks, amazed at the new feeling of awareness that uncurled slowly, like an opening rosebud.
Find her. It repeated over and over in my head like a mantra. See her once more.
See if she still cares for you.
Within almost no time at all, I came upon the west side of Chief Swan's house. Panic gripped me as I realized that I had arrived with no plan of action whatsoever. How would I be able to explain myself, why I had been adamant about my so-called indifference the last time I had seen her, yet would be nearly crawling on my knees, begging for her to take me back? How could I sacrifice her happiness and comfort again, simply to satisfy the whims of my contradictory nature? I very nearly turned around at that point…
But then her sweet scent, so familiar and so intoxicating, drifted towards me, wrapped around me like the arms of a lover – my lover – and I could not resist. Slowly, I approached the house, my stomach aching with the thirst, my body too weak to do more than draw near to my beloved's home and listen erratically for any noise inside.
I caught glimpses of Charlie as he puttered around the kitchen, spreading extra mayonnaise on his bread before he placed it back on the cold-cut sandwich that – that she had made him. I frowned at these implications; if she had already made Charlie dinner and wasn't there to share it with him, as usual, then…where was she?
Summoning what strength I had left, I concentrated on exercising my gift of stealth as I crept to the kitchen window, willing the rising panic to die down, at least until I found out…
…can't believe the things Bella – I winced – does for me, even after – no! Charlie took a few steadying breaths to clear the proverbial red fog that had suddenly gathered in front of his eyes. She told me to not think about them anymore, and…well, I guess that, if Bella thinks things are all right – but no, they're not…Images flashed in Charlie's mind: her, pale, with dark rings under her eyes; her, when she woke up screaming every night from nightmares; the dead look in those deep brown orbs.
I ground my teeth in frustration and self-loathing, my nails leaving scores in my palms as I clenched my hands. This was what I had left behind me. Could I do nothing right? If I stayed, her life was in substantial peril every second, but she was blissfully happy. If I disappeared, her happiness – her heart – was made sacrifice, but she was perfectly safe. It was a maddening catch 22, one that, as yet, had no solution.
But I had come to put things to rights, to somehow explain. If only the old man would think of where she was!
Well, but things have changed a little since then, thought Charlie, and a new image of her, still exhausted – but smiling, with a familiar glow in her eyes – sped across his mind. I frowned, a new bubble of panic beginning to form in my empty chest. Even with my superior memory, I could not match up any of my remembrances of her to what Charlie was presently recollecting. And those eyes – she had only ever looked at me with that expression.
It's such a relief now, that she's really doing things instead of…A shudder. I know she hates watching horror movies, especially in dark theatres, but better that than –
Without so much as a quiet retreat out of Charlie's hearing range, I took off towards Port Angeles – the only place close to Forks with an actual movie theatre – narrowly avoiding a collision with a white Suburban parked at the front of the Swan house. Though by no means can I really know, I still feel certain that I have never run so fast in my long life – or whatever it's called.
And, when we meet, which I'm sure we will…
I had to take a moment to steady my shallow breathing before I began walking at a normal pace around to the front of the theatre. I swore to myself that, when I next walked through these doors, I would have told – told her the truth. Everything would be explained, and, if she so desired, I would be hers once more, or – but I couldn't bear to think of the alternative. With one more steadying breath, I began to reach for the door handle…
Something caught my eye.
Her, sitting on a bench, holding hands with Jacob Black.
I barely stifled a cry of shock and rage as I covered my mouth with my hand. The last time I had seen that – that boy, he had been dancing in the arms of my beloved. He had said that he was only there to deliver a warning about me from his father (an unnecessary warning, now), but every thought that had run through his mind that night had been full of admiration and…affection (I refuse to use any other word) for my beloved.
No, not yours anymore.
I moved to the side, allowing myself both a good view and a quick chance of escape should they look my way, and once again bent all my concentration on listening.
"– minute, Bella," Jacob was saying, unusually calm. "Tell me something."
"What?" she said softly.
Oh, it was almost enough. That I could behold her and hear her, after going so long with nothing but my memories – I could die now, contentedly. Almost.
"You like me, right?"
"You know I do."
"Better than that joker puking his guts out in there?"
I barely registered Jacob's words as he gestured gracefully to the men's restroom. Though I had no physical means by which to pump adrenaline through my body, my hands still started to tremble as the panic reared its monstrous head.
"Yes," she sighed.
"Better than any of the other guys you know?"
It seemed an eternity before she answered. I stared at her with wide eyes, pleading with her in my mind to remember me. Did it – was I really nothing to her, in the end? Were her feelings really as transient as I had tried to persuade her to believe? Had she so easily forgotten me?
"Better than the girls, too."
I whirled myself around to the wall next to the glass-paned doors, willing myself to breathe steadily and not go barging in there like a madman, as had been my first impulse. I seized my hair in jealousy and pain, willing the sounds and voices within and without to be silent as I did what I could to regain some small quota of self-control. I gnashed my teeth in frustration, hardly noticing the scandalized looks my actions had elicited from a large group of old matrons who had just walked out after viewing the latest sappy romantic film, and whose thoughts were now adding to the jumble already inside my head. Incapacitated, I leaned against the wall clutching my hair, forcing the pain and panic down to a level where it was bearable.
"I've got loads of time," Jacob Black was saying when I had trusted myself enough to continue eavesdropping on their conversation.
She sighed – what? Wistfully? Heart-brokenly? "You shouldn't waste it on me."
"It's what I want to do, as long as you still like to be with me."
With a fervent glow in her eyes: "I can't imagine how I could not like being with you."
And you will think that I've moved on…
I staggered backwards, then ran away, not looking where I was going, not wanting to know. I don't know how long I ran – I'm not even sure I care – but everything became a blur: a meaningless, black-and-white blur that I passed by, eager to escape this world back into the one I was comfortable with…
The world where she still loved me.
I don't remember what happened, but I suddenly opened my eyes as I lay on my back in…in the meadow. The sky was pitch-black; not even the few stars still out had enough light to penetrate the blackness – and there was no moon. A new moon.
I sat up slowly – at least, slowly for my kind – pulled my knees to my chin, and stared blankly ahead: unseeing, but still feeling. I struggled to retrieve a coherent notion from my mind as different thoughts churned inside my head, like an angry riptide at midnight. I pondered the turn of her head, the light in her eyes, the intonations of her words…well, at least one thing was clear: she didn't love me anymore. I had been replaced.
Never before had I felt such despair at being right. Had I damned myself with my words when I had told her that human memories were like sieves: most memories, no matter the significance, would drain away? Sooner rather than later, apparently.
I rested my forehead against my knees and tried to breathe slowly. There was one comfort: it was not her happiness that had been made sacrifice. It was mine, and I deserved every thrash of pain that came my way. But it was not my place to feel sorry for myself; she was safe and free from anxiety, and she deserved that more than anyone else on earth. After all, what was my pain, when she was happy and in love – I flinched – with someone who couldn't endanger her; at least, not in the way I did, not in the way where my very name endangered her? I was dangerous for her, of that I was certain, and apparently not even separation could serve to change that. Who did I think I was? How could I have allowed my self-control to waste away so much to the point that I, selfishly, almost went in and talked to her, consumed with the desire to feel her warm lips on mine? How could I, when I had given her my word that I would never see her again, would never bring my horrific shadows into her beautiful life?
But there must be some way, some way to show that I still love – still care…
I pondered over the implications of this new thought, and its possibilities, when a reckless idea surfaced in my head. I arose gradually, a new resolution coming to mind. It was my happiness that had been sacrificed, right? Why not my life? After all, what was I without her?
A bittersweet smile twisted my lips. She deserved to be happy, and to stay happy, so I would sacrifice my life and my time in order to protect her. Obviously I couldn't ride up on a shining white (or maybe black would be more appropriate) horse every time she tripped over her own feet, but…well, Victoria was still rampant in the Northern Hemisphere. If I knew anything about my kind, it was that they are extremely vengeful.
So, then. I would give over being Edward the vampire, Edward the monster – Edward the mope – and become Edward the guardian angel – demon – to my beloved. I shook my head. No, not yours anymore. Tonight (or was it morning already?), my heart would go up in flames, my feelings and desires set at naught…all for her.
I began to trudge forward, then walk, then an uneven sprint as I pushed my body to move in order to fight the panic and throat-tearing sobs that had begun to build in my empty chest. No, I won't think about it, I can't think about them…what can I do?
In a broken voice, I began to sing to myself a song that Bella loved, one that fit my situation so perfectly…
I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I'm in love, and always will be…
I came to say goodbye, love