Disclaimer: I don't own Edward. Nor anyone else from Twilight. They're all Stephenie Meyer's. Dammit.
Author's Note: Thank you to the wonderful KlutzLikeBella who provided such patient and helpful beta-work. As always, KLB, you are amazing! If you haven't read her fics, check them out – they're great!
I slammed my book shut in frustration. Louis Allard was an idiot. I didn't care if his book was considered the authority on modern philosophy and rationalism; his theories were still ridiculous.
I leaned back from my desk and rubbed my eyes.
It had been too long since I'd hunted. My thirst was a powerful ache in my throat. The pain was impossible to ignore. I sighed. The thirst always made it hard to focus on anything except hunting and was undoubtedly responsible for my book's inability to hold my attention. Or maybe Allard really was an idiot. I snickered.
Regardless, Alice would be home soon and we'd agreed to go hunting together as soon as she got back. She was attending a public lecture being held by the University of Washington in Seattle. They were discussing the mounting evidence for the existence of ESP. Being an expert on the topic herself, Alice was delighted that modern science was moving towards a more enlightened approach to the whole subject and couldn't wait to hear their latest conclusions. I chuckled as I remembered how she had been trying for days to hold off any visions of the lecture, to keep it a surprise for herself.
The thought of Alice always made me smile. She was the sunlight in my world; she had led me from my life of eternal night into the daylight, both literally and metaphorically. After I was changed, I had lived in the darkness, going out in the world only at night. And I had constantly felt that same darkness inside of me, as well. In time, the darkness and I had merged, until I could no longer tell where the darkness ended and I began. I had feared it would swallow me whole. All that had changed when I met Alice. I shudder to think where I would be if she hadn't found me.
Deliberately shaking my head to break that line of thought, I sighed again in frustration. Apparently thirst made me overly introspective too. I was starting to sound like Edward.
Speaking of Edward, I wondered if he was done with Rosalie. She had needed an extra pair of hands for a realignment of some sort, and asked Edward to help. I listened and could hear them talking quietly in the garage. They seemed almost done.
That would be good news for Bella. I heard her impatient sigh as she lay on the couch in the living room. She was waiting for Edward to get back so they could watch a movie he'd promised that she'd love. "Witness for the Prosecution" was a black and white classic from 1958 with credible acting and an intelligent plot. I'm sure it would appeal to Bella very much. Maybe I'd watch it with them, once Edward came back in. It had to be more interesting than Allard's stupid book.
With a disgusted grunt, I pushed his offensive book across my desk away from me.
In fact, perhaps I'd wait with Bella for Edward to come back in. I'd left a more interesting murder-mystery book on the coffee table in the living room and could sit and wait with her while she channel-flipped. Then again, with my thirst being this intense and with Bella's propensity for accidents, it was probably better just to wait here in my study. Over the past months, with Bella's human scent constantly permeating the whole house, I'd gotten more used to being with her, but it was better not to take any risks while I was this thirsty. I had already caused both Bella and Edward more than enough pain with my uncontrolled reactions.
With another disgusted glare at Allard's book, I reached a compromise with myself. I decided to get my murder-mystery book from the living room and return to my study to read while waiting for Edward. Then I'd join Bella and Edward to watch the movie until Alice came home.
I stood up and went downstairs.
From the garage, I heard Bella's bloodcurdling scream. I was running before I even registered what it was I heard. Rosalie followed moments afterward, but she had no hope of keeping up with me.
I raced towards the house, frantically searching the minds of my family to understand what had happened. Esme was in her studio on the third floor and was as confused as I was. Carlisle had been in his office and was now racing downstairs too. Emmett was slightly ahead of Carlisle, having made it to the main floor already.
I burst through the back door into the kitchen, knocking the door off its hinges. I skidded into the front hallway, just in time to see Bella fling the front door open and race out into the front yard. Her dark hair streamed out behind her as she fled with uncharacteristic grace. The adrenaline-heightened smell of her terror swirled in a backdraft behind her.
It was a scene from one of my worst nightmares. She was finally running away screaming. I now cursed myself for ever wishing that she would do so.
A small part of me was deeply relieved that she was safe and unharmed – unharmed enough to be able to run away. The rest of me was broken. She was leaving me. As I heard the truck door slam, I swear I heard my heart shatter too.
"Let her go, Edward," Carlisle said both mentally and out loud. Give her her space. At my anguished look, he added, Give her some time.
That was easy for him to say. I was dying inside. There was a hole in my chest that was ripped wide open and it was hemorrhaging. I wondered briefly if I could bleed to death emotionally. No, I realized – I couldn't. I had proven that, when I had left her for those seven months. As much as I felt like I was dying, I knew I wasn't. That thought offered no comfort at all.
To distract myself from the pain, I snapped "What happened?" to no one in particular.
I heard their mental answers, all various versions of "I don't know".
I turned to stare accusatorily at Jasper. He was the one most likely to be responsible for this. And he had been in the room with her. If I had been in less agony, I might have spared his feelings. As it was, I didn't care. "What did you do to her?" I demanded angrily, my voice unrecognizable, even to myself.
"Nothing," he said defensively. Sensing my skepticism, he added, "I just came in for a minute to get something. I had my head turned when I felt her terror and heard her scream. Then she was scrambling off the couch and running to the door." He spoke aloud for Carlisle's benefit. As he explained, his black eyes flicked between me and Carlisle, begging us both to believe him. "I didn't touch her." Not even when I could smell her fear and hear her heart race. Not even when she ran away. I held back. I didn't pursue. "I didn't chase her. I held strong."
I knew he spoke the truth. He had held strong against our predatory instincts. It was in our nature to pursue if prey fled from us. And he hadn't chased her. A year ago, it might have been a different story but he was stronger now; he had grown better at denying the vampire within him. I couldn't hold him responsible.
Carlisle saw the same thing. "It wasn't your fault, Jasper. You did very well under those circumstances. Not many of our kind could resist the chase. I'm very proud of you. Alice will be too."
I sighed and dropped my head into my hand. God, what do I do now? I could not blame my brother any longer. The pain threatened to crush me again.
It was then that I realized I hadn't heard Bella's truck start. She was still sitting outside.
My eyes flickered to the table by the front door. In her panic, she had left her keys there. She couldn't start the truck.
That was a bit of good news. At least I could talk to her. But would she want me to? I worried as I picked up the keys. I held them for a moment gathering my own courage. What would I do if she feared me as well? If she rejected me? How could I live without her? I couldn't. My actions earlier this year had proven that. I drew a deep breath and opened the front door.
Making every effort not to scare her further, I moved with exaggerated slowness. Taking one small step, then another, I crossed the porch. I held my hands open, palms forward, at my side and let the keys dangle so she could see them. I wanted to give her a reason to let me approach.
Bella sat in her truck sideways, facing me through the driver's side window. Her knees were drawn up to her chest and she'd wrapped her arms around them, hugging her legs to her body. Her face was white and her eyes were fearful. My chest constricted as I realized the last time I had seen her looking so afraid was when we had faced the Volturi. I prayed that wasn't how she saw me now.
I took another step towards her. "It's ok, Bella. It's ok," I crooned softly, trying to soothe her fear. I took another cautious step.
She drew a deep shuddering breath and seemed to snap out of her shock a bit. She reached down to unlatch the truck door. It creaked as it swung open.
I sighed with relief. At least she'd talk with me. I lowered my hands and stepped onto the first step off the porch. "Bella, are you all right?"
"No. I'm completely creeped out, Edward." And there was the fear in her eyes again.
"I can see that. I'm so sorry, Bella," I told her softly. I took another hesitant step towards her. "What happened?" I needed to know this. I needed to know what could possibly have shattered her seemingly endless courage.
She shivered and wrapped her arms back around her knees. "He startled me. I didn't see him come up," she explained. She turned her face from me and continued as if talking to herself, "And of course, you never hear them move." She shivered again, shutting her eyes in disgust.
I grimaced. No, I guess she wouldn't hear us move. I hadn't realized that aspect of our nature unnerved her so much. "It's ok, Bella." I tried to reassure her. "You're safe."
She opened her eyes again and I could clearly see her outrage. "He was going to jump at me. I could tell."
I shook my head sadly. "No, Bella. Jasper was fine."
"Well, good for Jasper," she said indignantly. "I'm delighted he was fine. I, however, am not. I am completely freaked out. This is just too much to deal with. Edward, it's that monster or me. I'm not going back into that house unless he's gone."
Jasper was, of course, listening from inside the house, as were the rest of my family. Bella's ultimatum cut Jasper deeply. He was extremely hurt by the feelings she expressed. God, is that what she thinks of me? A monster? I swear, Edward, I wasn't even paying much attention to her. I just wanted my book from the table. I barely glanced at her. I could see the truth of that in his mind.
"Jasper just came for his book, Bella. He wasn't even thinking about you." I needed to make her understand.
"What are you saying?" she was confused.
I tried again to explain. "Jasper left his book in the living room. He just wanted to get it."
"Why do you keep telling me about Jasper?" she frowned in confusion. "Did he see it?"
Now I was confused. "See what? His book?"
"The spider!" she cried in exasperation.
"Spider?" I repeated incredulously. "Is that what this is about?"
At her nod, I felt weak with relief. I was actually dizzy from the release of tension. I started to laugh. Which, it turns out, was the wrong thing to do.
"I don't see anything funny about this at all, Edward Cullen!" she snapped angrily. "That was the biggest, hairiest monster I've ever seen." Considering her current temper, I decided it would be best not to remind her that, in fact, werewolves were the biggest, hairiest monsters she'd ever seen. "That thing was the size of my fist," she continued.
Moving quickly, I closed the distance between us and wrapped her in my arms. "I'm sorry, my love. I wasn't laughing at you. It's just that we thought you were running from Jasper."
"Jasper? Why would I run from him?"
"Oh I don't know. . . maybe because he's a 6'3" bloodsucking vampire? Or maybe because he tried to kill you last fall?"
"So let me get this straight. You're in a house with six vampires and that's ok. Add one little spider and you're out the door?"
"It wasn't little, Edward! Weren't you listening to me? It was huge. I've seen dogs that were smaller than that thing!"
I held back my laugh. That was more that I could say for the rest of my family, who all starting laughing in the house. Even Carlisle was chuckling at Bella's description. Emmett, as usual, was loudest.
Oblivious to our audience, Bella continued heatedly, "And I'm not kidding. He's got to go. I can't go back into that house while that thing's lurking around, waiting to pounce." She shuddered in my arms.
"Bella," I tried to reassure her. "It's just a spider. It can't hurt you, you know. It was probably more scared of you than you are of it."
"I can't believe you're siding with the spider on this one, Edward!" she cried in outrage.
My family dissolved into laughter. How my Bella missed hearing them was beyond me. Or maybe she was purposefully ignoring them.
She continued her rant, "I've had to adjust to a lot of strange things, since meeting you, Edward Cullen." I couldn't disagree with her at all. "And I've adapted to them all. But I'm drawing the line at giant spiders. And frankly, if there's a line to be drawn, I believe most people would agree with me that it needs to be drawn there," she finished, outraged.
Frankly, I think most people would disagree – the line should have been drawn at vampires. Or werewolves.
"All right," I assured her. "I'll look for it. If I can find it, I'll kill it for you."
"No!" she gasped as she looked imploringly into my eyes. "Don't kill it." At my questioning look, she said, "It's not the spider's fault I'm scared of it. Just catch it and let it go outside."
I smiled tenderly at her. My gentle, sweet Bella. "Ok. Catch and release," I promised her. "If I can find it."
She frowned. "What do you mean 'if you can find it'? You have to find it! You're a vampire – an Uber-hunter! You can hunt anything."
"Your confidence in me is flattering, Bella. But spiders have no discernable heartbeat, no warmth, no scent, and when frightened, they curl into a ball and don't move. You've already noticed that they make no noise when they're moving; how much worse do you think it will be when they're completely still? It could be down in the springs or in the stuffing of the couch. It'll be like looking for a needle in a haystack, even for me."
"Please?" she begged.
I couldn't refuse her anything when she looked at me that way. "Of course. I'll find it for you," I vowed even as I prayed I could make good on that promise.
I held her quietly for a moment until my curiosity got the best of me. "So you're afraid of spiders. Is there anything else I should know about, as your protector?" I chuckled softly. "How do you feel about snakes? Do they frighten you?"
"No. I like snakes."
Of course she did. Any woman who could love both vampires and werewolves would probably like snakes too. "Bats?" I queried.
"Bats are ok. I love to watch them hunt at night."
Sure, I thought, doesn't every girl? "So you have no problems with anything except spiders?" I confirmed.
"Frogs?" I demanded, absolutely incredulous.
"Yes, I hate them. They're disgusting. They're so . . .so . . ." she paused searching for the right word. ". . . wet." She finished without looking up at me, a slight blush coloring her cheeks.
I could hear Emmett's renewed laughter coming from the house. Ask her how she feels about ducks then!
My effort not to laugh escalated to Herculean. I have no idea how I fought back the laughter that bubbled to my lips.
"Oh, and earthworms," she added as she remembered. "Earthworms are wet, too." She nodded against my chest, as if her statement made complete sense. "And they're squishy!"
Even Hercules had his limits; I started to shake with the repressed laughter.
My brothers met me in the living room when I re-entered the house. Damn, didn't they have anything better to entertain them? Neither of them moved to assist me as I approached the couch.
"Are you going to help look for it or not?" I asked Emmett irritably.
"Not. I just came down to watch you look for it." He laughed, holding one hand on his belly. "This is just too good to miss. So carry on. Please. Subdue the monster," he laughed again. "If you can find it."
Jasper laughed too and sank down into the armchair to watch me look for the 'dog-sized' spider. You'd think something that big would be rather hard to miss. Maybe Bella had exaggerated just a bit about the size of the thing.
"What about you?" I asked Jasper. "Are you going to help?"
"Who me? No, I'd only get in your way – what with you being an Uber-hunter and all," Jasper said while pretending to stare at me in awe. "I came to watch you hunt, hoping to learn how to do it right." Then he bowed his head in mock reverence. "Teach me, oh wise one. I am your humble student." His own voice shook with suppressed chuckles.
I pinched the bridge of my nose and sighed. "I miss the days when I was an only child," I muttered to myself.
They both laughed at that. Rather unsympathetically I might add.
I'd been looking for over fifteen minutes with no luck whatsoever. Emmett hung over my shoulder, watching every move I made. Jasper reclined on the armchair with his hands laced behind his head, watching me with an amused look on his face. I was hard pressed to decide which was more irritating. They persisted in giving me 'advice'—suffice to say that they both had a lot to say but none of it was useful.
I had just decided to carry the whole couch outside when I spotted it. It was curled into a tight ball, cowering in the corner under a fold in the fabric stapled to the back of the couch. Tightly curled as it was, it was about the size of a nickel. Normally, it would be about an inch and a half long.
"Hmm, dogs must be a lot smaller in Phoenix," Emmett mused, as he leaned even closer over my shoulder to assess the size of the 'dog-sized' spider.
I ignored him.
"Your attention please, Grasshopper," I whispered sagely to Jasper. "Observe. Though the prey appears weak, do not be fooled, young hunter. He is crouched, ready to strike. Be ever vigilant."
Jasper grinned in amusement, and then quickly hid his smile to play along. "Yes, great one, I see." He nodded as if I were imparting great wisdom upon him.
"One must approach quietly and with caution . . . just so," and I rolled the object of my Bella's terror onto my palm.
My idiot brothers gave me a round of applause.
I decided it wasn't worth the argument to try to shut them up so I bowed and graciously accepted their mocking praise.
Bella grinned with relief when we walked onto the porch. She opened the truck door and started to hop out to come over, until she realized the creature was still in my hand.
With a grimace, she withdrew back into the truck and shut the door again.
"Coward," Emmett taunted her.
She stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed.
"All right, give him to me and I'll release him back into the wild," Emmett offered, holding his cupped hand out to me.
Gladly I accepted and dropped the still curled creature into his hand. I'd rather hold Bella than a terrified, frozen spider and Bella had just made it clear that she wouldn't let me near her with that spider still in my hands.
Once Emmett stepped away towards the trees with his new charge, Bella jumped down from the truck cab. She came and wrapped her arms around my waist. "Thank you," she said gratefully, her face buried in my chest. Then remembering my brothers, she added, "Thank you, Emmett and Jasper."
Jasper snickered from his position on the porch.
I rolled my eyes. "Don't thank them. They didn't do anything. At all!"
Emmett, who was still out of sight, decided to have a bit more fun with Bella. His own terrified scream filled the air as he pretended to be attacked by the giant spider. The trees shook with the force of the attack.
His cries for help went unanswered as I wrapped my arm around Bella's waist. "At least we won't have to feed the spider for a few days," I drawled as I led her back into the house.
Author's Note: This is just a silly story that came to me after being chased out of the garage by a frog. Ick! (shudders) I really hate frogs!
Please let me know if you liked this story or even if you hate spiders/frogs too! Thanks for reading.