Author's Note- Terribly sorry for the wayyyyy overdue update… life carries me away sometimes. But I'm still here, and this is not going to be abandoned! And hey, its something to read while you wait those two more days for Breaking Dawn's release!
I would like to say thank you so much to those who reviewed and who continue to review and inspire me. Thank you, all of you, really I would name you all here but as it is 4am I think I need to sleep to keep writing.
Your reviews are like chocolate for the soul. Thank you.
Disclaimer- The universe belongs to Stephanie Meyer, I merely play in it.
Twigs and rocks snapped and crackled beneath my feet as I walked along a trail in Denali's National Park. The air was fresh here, cool and crisp with an earthy twang. I took my time walking through the vast expanse of trees and stared at Mount McKinley as it lay stretched out behind Wonder Lake. The park was truly picturesque. You know those pop-ups you get about free screensavers for your computer, and there's always this one that has the picture of that big mountain behind a large lake? That picturesque.
I came to the edge of the lake and crouched down to stick a finger in the water, watching ripples glide over the smooth glassy expanse. Frowning, I looked down at the girl with black eyes staring back at me.
The water was a perfect mirror, so sleek and dark. I played a hand across its surface, over the girls face, pushing lightly and watched as water flooded over my hand. A twig snapping a few hundred feet back caught my attention.
The Cullens had all taken turns watching me on my trips outside, making sure I didn't attack any wayward humans. Today was Emmett's turn and he was happy to be out looking for grizzlies and watching me trip over things. Some things will never change I guess.
I heard Emmett curse as something small in size scampered away. I slowly stood and shook away the droplets on my hand. A gravelly sound and a musky smell wafted from behind me, accompanied by a beat so steady that it caused me to freeze. There's only one thing that sounds like that and it pumps what I lusted for most. I turned slowly, the kind of slow turn you see in those horror movies when a character is hoping that whatever is nasty behind them isn't really behind them.
A lone wolf stood, staring at me curiously and warily. Its brown slightly shaggy fur was reminiscent of another wolf, and its heartbeat beat just as strong. With every loud pump there was this surge of wet heat that seemed to flow out and gather in the contained space of the animal's body.
I reached out, wanting to touch that heat, fascinated by it. My nose drew nearer to that musky smell, something wild and uninhibited. Both my hands sunk into that thick fur and there was movement and something was growling but I couldn't tell if it was coming from me or from the heat or…
Something was moving; maybe it was me but I wanted it to stop moving. I held tight with my hands and there was a wet ripping sound and the heat was liquid and everywhere and on my hands and face and my clothes and my mouth and…
I couldn't gulp it down fast enough and it just kept flowing and flowing all over me and the ground. Slowly I became aware of a heavy presence beside me. It pulled me out of my desperation like a hand on the shoulder, and with a choked sob I broke away from that musk and fell back on my butt.
I breathed in through painful gasps, plugging my nose with my thumb and forefinger against that smell, and tried to forget about the warmth that lay seeping onto the ground in front of me. Emmett sat next to me on the ground, looking almost bored and serene. I panted hard, embarrassing little sobbing noises escaping through every heave.
We sat there, looking at anywhere but at the mess in front of us and waiting for my heaving to subside. Once my breathing resembled something close to normal Emmett chuckled softly and spoke patiently.
"Well now, are you done?"
I looked at my blood soaked and hands and my ruined clothes. "Alice is going to kill me. This was her favorite jacket on me." I tried for light hearted, and I probably failed.
Emmett seemed very casual, as if this was something very cute and simple. "She'll buy you a new one."
"You're not going to comment on," I motioned vaguely toward the mess, "this?"
"What do you want me to say?" He shrugged his big shoulders and played with some twigs on the ground, snapping them into the smallest pieces he could. I watched him do this for a few more moments before I sighed and looked out at the lightened sky.
"Something… No, just tell me I'm not a monster." I soaked in the cool air around me, inhaling slowly and letting it seep through me. Emmett didn't hesitate in his response.
"You're not a monster." He began to build little forts of his tiny twigs and small rocks. I made a niose at the back of my throat in disbelief.
"How can you say that? You have no more of clue what we are than I do."
Emmett carefully placed a small leaf between the rocks of a poorly constructed tower, the size of my pinkie, as a makeshift flag. I smiled slightly at this childlike display. "Of course I do," he responded while brushing his hands together in satisfaction. "I know everything."
A surprised laugh was torn from my chest, and after I'd started I found that it felt good to just let it out. So I just kept on laughing. Emmett beamed at me suddenly, and then frowned in consideration.
"No, I really do." He insisted. I continued to chuckle at him, and just because I felt like it, I hugged him hard. His big arms came around me and I was thoroughly enveloped in his strength. It was the best bear hug I'd ever gotten.
I released my hold on his neck and Emmett squeezed me one last time before letting go. "We better get back before you're hubby thinks I ran away with you." He said jovially, standing and taking me with him by the hand, and then looked down on the slaughtered creature. He looked back up at me and there was a command there that I didn't want to meet; an imploring look that asked and knew it would not receive.
He looked back down and my gaze followed his reluctantly.
The wolf's organs spilled out onto the dirt ground, blood seeped out around it, an almost black liquid sludge. Its jaws were parted in agony and its tongue lolled out onto the ground, patches of fur and flesh were littered here and there atop the soaked black ground. It looked as though someone had taken a saw and lazily hacked off parts of its flesh, exposing bone. I grimaced and looked out at the calm lake.
"Bella," Emmett chided. "We've all done worse, trust me. This isn't as bad as it could get." There was something far off in his eyes as he said this, but as I continued looking at him a moment or so longer, he brightened. "You really did a number on it." Emmett finally said his happy-casual voice still steady and strong. I wrapped the security of his voice around me like a musical consolation and turned away.
"Shut up, Emmett." I mumbled, and we both began to hike back to the house. Emmett chortled every time I tripped or got caught on something.
"I hate hiking." I grumbled, glancing back disturbed every now and then in the direction of the bloody mess; Emmett lumbering beside me the whole way.
Edward was at my side not a moment after we'd stepped through the door. He frowned at Emmett for a moment and looked me over twice in astonishment. I trembled slightly under his gaze and tried to look unaffected.
"What the hell happened?" Edward cried and turned to Emmett in accusation.
Emmett raised his hands in surrender and lifted his big shoulders. "I'd say she had ripping good time."
I snarled at him and he laughed a big booming sound. Esme stepped out of the kitchen with a damp towel in her hand.
"Emmett." She said reproachfully, walking towards me and taking my chin in her hand. Bringing the towel to my mouth and cheeks she began the very maternal process of wiping the dried blood from my face.
Despite my age I couldn't bring myself to feel embarrassed, instead something warm flowed into my chest at her gentle care.
Edward frowned worriedly back at me. Esme clucked her tongue and brought the stained towel away from my face. "We're going to need to run a shower to get this off. Alice." She called in a louder voice.
Alice came flouncing down the stairs easily, Jasper trailing behind her. "Water's ready." She said, coming to stand before me to cast an eye over my ruined clothes. Alice sighed and touched the jacket lightly, mourning its loss. "Well, thank God for changing fashion seasons."
I winced at her and moved my shoulders and arms around in the jacket uncomfortably. "Sorry Alice." My clothes stuck to my skin disturbingly, a matted blanket of sticky regret. "Can I go get cleaned up?" I shifted in my clinging jeans and added for effect, "Please?"
Edward stepped in and took my arm, starting for the stairs. "Do you even have to ask? It's your home now too Bella." He seemed annoyed with me, for what I didn't know but it started to make me angry.
"Slow down Edward! I'm all sticky and uck!" Edward stopped and turned to me. He scooped me up much like he use to when I'd been alive, and carried me to the bathroom. Without stopping to let me undress, he set me down right under the spray of the warm water.
"Edward!" I cried in dismay as my clothes plastered against my body, my jeans the most uncomfortable. The water ran a diluted red, not quite pink because no matter how much water you add to blood there's always this coloring that is unmixable, something that gives it away.
I quickly shrugged out of my jacket and started to unbutton my shirt. Edward had been watching me, and when he saw me reach for the buttons on my shirt he grabbed the shirt beneath my hands and ripped. Buttons flew here and there with a soft pinging sound and the shirt flew to the floor by the toilet.
I frowned at Edward and began the reach for the button on my jeans. His hands reached my waistband before mine and I stopped and stared up at him with astonishment. "You're not-" There was a wet and thick ripping sound and Edward's hands were pulling apart, and it occurred to me that he was still gripping my waistband, which meant that he was ripping my jeans. I grabbed his hands to still his movements. He looked back at my face, staring blankly.
"What the hell are you doing?" I squeaked out in shock.
He made a frustrated noise and let out a gusty breath, running a wet hand through his hair. Looking down on me in seriousness he grabbed my hands and held them tenderly.
"Bella how is it that you're so calm? You…" He struggled and looked as though he was visibly searching for words to appear out of the bathroom floor, his eyes darting around hesitatingly. "Bella, you won't drink blood; you won't speak to Charlie, you've barely spoken to me or even Alice in days since…" He released my hands and ran one hand, now damp from the water, through his hair making it stick up even more and leaving behind darker brown streaks.
My brows furrowed at him. "So just because I'm being difficult you needed to rip off my clothes?"
Edward scowled at me. "No, but damnit Bella! I'd like to get some reaction out of you other than this… this… what you've been doing!"
"You want me to be upset?!"
"No!" He shouted and this time ran both hands into his hair, thoroughly dampening it and turning it a dark brown color. I was momentarily distracted with the urge to run my own hands through that messy hair when his quiet voice resounded, barely a whisper above the pour of the water.
"Bella… do you hate me?"
I didn't think I'd heard him right so I just stood there looking confused. "Huh?"
He repeated his question, those amber eyes looking at me with all the confusion of the world. He looked so utterly boyish standing there like that, that the question took a moment to register still. It was entirely impossible that he should be asking a question like that; inconceivable really. Wait, he really just asked me that didn't he?
"Wh-you-I-cant-you aren't seriously asking me something so stupid are you?" I sputtered and fought not to start yelling again.
"Well," He looked distinctly uncomfortable, though that might have just been due to the fact that he was standing in soaked clothes and shoes… really nice shoes, like Italian leather shoes or something really nice like that… "It's just that you've been acting as though you're trying to shut everyone out. Like you've… died." He said that last part quietly.
We stood there in an uncomfortable silence and I laughed, disguising the slightly wild edge in my laugh by throwing my arms around him and kissing him.
"You're being ridiculous." I shook my head out at him, playfully letting the droplets of water spray him. He pursed his lips and nodded suspiciously, and I knew he'd let me drop the topic now, but sooner or later we were both going to have to face the elephant in the room. Something was wrong. But not yet. Not yet.
Edward brought his lips down to my ear, pressing them there. The water had warmed his lips and I shivered against him as he breathed into my ear.
"Let's get you out of the rest of those clothes…"
He trailed light kisses back over to my lips and sealed his warmer ones to mine, effectively erasing any thought in my mind.
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