I do not own Twilight, nor do I own any of the characters. All characters and themes referenced in Eclipse belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any quotations from Eclipse are purely for reference and are in no way an attempt at any copyright infringment.
Part one of Three. This is my favorite chapter of the whole book. I hope I did it justice.
For the thirtieth time the wind howled causing the sides of the tent to shake violently, Bella shivered, and the outside temperature dropped just another fraction of a degree. It was now a fact, and no longer a figure of my wild imagination, that these three repetitive events were now working in concert with each other. Perhaps a conspiracy to drive me further into madness.
Of course, Bella was unwitting, but the universe was not. This tent was my personal hell and these demons worked in unison to complete my torturous trifecta of misery.
I closed my eyes and looked away from Bella's pale figure, staring aimlessly into the darkness of the tent. I'd already tried to lie to myself in an attempt to rationalize that her pallor was due to the contrast of her skin against the dark sleeping bag, but I knew it wasn't true. Bella was freezing to death and there as not a damn thing I could do about it. The position was impossible.
No. There was a solution. She could hold on for another three hours, I could escape this tent, scent trail be damned, and get her to safety...just a few hours...
I scoffed. What a ridiculous word! Surely, more words were needed to summarize this increment of time, which for me, was becoming an institution of carefully measured torture!
Another ridiculously inadequate word. It was true. Some words were just not enough.
I suppressed a sigh. Outward expressions of anxiety would do nothing to improve my situation.
We'd been here for nearly seven total hours or in more adequate terms, four-hundred and twenty minutes of agony. Or, even better...twenty-five thousand and two-hundred seconds of torture.
I was going mad and I was completely aware of it. I would have to stop this at some point, but when? It was complete and absolute self-denial to even pretend that I had any control over this situation. That resolution had been reached five hours or three hundred minutes ago when the temperature had finally plummeted to below freezing for a human. The fact of the matter now was that Bella was freezing and there was nothing I could do about it, but hope…and pray to whatever force was responsible for situations like this, for some leniency. All I needed was a few hours...some time...I growled and readjusted my position against the pole of the tent.
And then, in unison...the trifecta struck again. I closed my eyes at the sound of each of her teeth slamming against one another in nearly a dozen successive chatters. How much could her body handle of this? Could she hold on for three more hours?
She could make it, surely. It was the only option available.
Of course, I'd already tried to convince her to leave repeatedly, almost six hours or three hundred and sixty minutes ago. She'd vehemently refused each time. But, as the minutes had continued to progress on their inevitable, treacherous course, her adamant refusals became tired pleadings. For her sake, and to the detriment of my sanity, I'd officially stopped begging her three hours or one hundred and eighty minutes ago.
I'd considered simply bundling her and running for it, but it would do no good. Two hours, or one hundred and twenty minutes ago, I'd finally conceded that she was right. To leave was to risk further exposure, eliminating her chances. To stay was dangerous, but at least she was stationary and protected from the elements. Ultimately, her best chance of survival was right here. So, here we were. Bella was bundled in her oversized sleeping bag in one corner of the tent and I was stuck on the opposite side, separated once again by the very fact that I was...a vampire.
And, I was unable to remove my eyes from her delicate, white face.
I desperately wanted to comfort her. I had only felt such a agonized inclination in one other instance. She was close to death then too. But, this situation was far worse. It was impossible for me to even try to touch her or even sit next to her. I'd even briefly considered sitting outside the tent in an effort to remove some of the cold from the area, but she'd pleaded with me to stay. I couldn't say no to her eyes. She'd looked at me with a gaze that almost resembled fear. To leave now, even if it was for her own good, would mean leaving her...something I'd promised to never do again.
So, I'd decided to stay, but I'd left my position next to her side four hours or two-hundred and twenty minutes ago. I'd spoken to her until recently attempting to plead, reassure, and even apologize to her. This was entirely my fault. I should have prepared more adequately. I should have probed Alice further on the nature and severity of the storm. If I were human…
Enough. This wasn't helping.
But, it was hard to ignore that once again, in the most extreme of circumstances I was confronted with the facts. Facts Bella consistently avoided, facts that I was unable to forget, yet equally unable to rectify. My presence was a continued menace. One touch from me could surely have sent her body into shock, hurrying the inevitable, ruining her chances.
I looked back towards her, but I couldn't focus on her face anymore. I felt drained, over-emotional, helpless. Was I fighting fate trying to keep her alive? Even with the protection of the supernatural, the forces of nature conspired against her.
Five hours or three hundred minutes ago, I'd selfishly entertained the thought of how different things would be between us if she was changed. I'd felt disgusted with myself. Her soul for my sanity? I shrugged away the thought and gazed at her again. I felt the temperature drop once more just a little. I strained my ears in astonishment, but I didn't wait long. The wind and her shiver were just lagging a little.
"W-w-w-w-w-w-w-what t-t-t-t-time is it?"
Her stutter broke my cynical concentration. I was grateful. For once, the silence of my own thoughts was unbearable. Time? Any word but that one…woefully insufficient...
I could see her eyes, opened in expectation. She was waiting for me to answer. Maybe she was thinking what I'd thought one hour or sixty minutes ago; if we left at dawn, I could run us for one hour north to the hospital in Port Angeles…
No. She didn't need any more supplications.
"Two." I replied.
In the silence, my voice sounded more haggard than I would have wished. I cleared my throat out of habit. She furrowed her brow at the sound. I heard a noise outside and flinched at the words that accompanied the rustling I should have recognized.
…I am back, bloodsucker…this wind is getting worse…the temperature is still dropping, I can't believe it...
Another wild gust shook the tent and of course, Bella shivered.
Excellent. Clearly, time could not torture me sufficiently, so the occupation was contracted to Jacob Black. Time was nothing if not efficient. Who better to finish me off? I scowled and looked across again at Bella. There was no need to announce his return.
He'd ventured out to check the perimeter fourteen times thus far for half hour increments each, providing me with short spaces of internal peace. There was something to be truly thankful for; two-hundred and ten minutes of this torture had been free of Jacob Black's ramblings! I was already annoyed at the realization that for the next half of another hour, or thirty minutes, I would be subjected to his incessant whining. It was not necessarily fair to feel so frustrated at him for he was truly worried about Bella. However, with his thoughts invading my mind my anxiety only increased; double the worry, double the fear, double the torture.
…this isn't working, leech…she is going to die, or get hypothermia or something…
I sighed. Hypothermia was the least of her worries. The wind howled again. Bella's eyes opened at the sound and another shiver shook her tiny frame, forcing her teeth together in wild convulsions. She was looking in my direction and for once, I was thankful that her eyes were weak and human. But, it made no difference. I could not move my eyes from her. Her extreme ivory coloring illuminated her entire face in the darkness. She was almost glowing.
I leaned forward, hoping she could see me in the darkness.
"What can I do?" I asked.
She weakly shook her head at me. Of course, I could do nothing. I wrung my hands together, appreciative again that she couldn't see my body language. It would have only increased her anxiety. It was much better to sit in the darkness, sulking in the corner. Perhaps it was fitting. The clandestine monster.
The wind howled again, shaking the tent violently. Jacob let out a stentorian whine.
…if you aren't going to do anything, I will…what the hell…something bad is going to happen to her if we don't think about this…she can't leave, but if she stays she will freeze…there has to be something we can do…
No, Jacob Black. You are wrong. There was nothing we could do except wait. Time was master of this situation. Welcome to my personal hell.
"G-g-g-get out of h-h-h-ere," she pleaded. Her voice was shaky from the cold and the concern.
…does she not understand that I have a fur coat…the last thing she needs to worry about is me…I can't stand this crap anymore…
I felt a little annoyed by his suppositions. He couldn't handle it? I was watching the love of my life turn into an icicle. I rolled my eyes. I heard Bella squirm as if she was going to try to speak again. I tried to comfort her with my words, keeping her still and minimizing her exertions would be best.
"He's just worried about you, he's fine, Bella…his body is equipped to deal with this…" I offered, hoping my voice was consoling enough to compensate for the distance between us.
I saw her open her eyes and close then again. She was struggling to say something. What was she thinking? I wanted so badly to comfort her. An invisible barrier constrained me, separating the atrocity that was my freezing, lifeless skin from her feeble frame.
…we have to do something…this is only just getting worse…she might die, bloodsucker, don't you get it?...she's human…I can't believe this…
"What do you want me to do…carry her through that? I don't see you making yourself useful. Why don't you go fetch a space heater or something? " I growled at him.
I felt the defensive rumble begin in my chest. It was rough and menacing. But, I was too annoyed to bother with courtesy. The dog was out of line. Thoughtless mongrel!
"I'm o-k-k-k-k-kay," she protested.
"…Oh, Bells….I can't stand this…"
Jacob howled dramatically. I groaned in frustration at them both. Was it truly so difficult for him to maintain some aspect of his composure? Surely, the last thing she needed in her condition was his anxiety.
I leaned back against the pole of the tent again. It was icy even against my skin.
An explosive wind ripped the tent. Another loud chatter ripped through her and Jacob howled. Was I going to have to console them both? Her eyes were wide with something; was it concern or fear? Damnit, Jacob…
I rolled my eyes.
"That was hardly necessary." I mumbled.
…I am going to have to come in there and do something, bloodsucker…I have another jacket out here…if she doesn't have more clothing she's going to freeze to freaking death…
Brilliant, Jacob. A parka would do nothing for her right now.
"And, that's the worst idea I've ever heard…" I called out to him, hoping he could hear the undertones of condescension. Patience was the only weapon against time, something he didn't possess.
Another chatter shook her. In a panic, I realized she actually sounded worse. I began sorting through my memories of her condition from the time we'd arrived to now. Yes, she was getting worse.
…whatever, I am transitioning…
Great, as if he couldn't possibly annoy me more. Suddenly, his thoughts were blocked from me as he pushed through his transition. It lasted for a second, but I noticed the odd change in his "voice" as he transitioned. It was as if he became more "human" as he changed, which made a little bit of sense.
"Better than anything you've come up with. Go fetch a space heater! I am not a St. Bernard," he said.
Close enough. I rolled my eyes. His tone was defiant and almost childish.
Suddenly, Jacob approached the tent and unzipped it. As he stepped through the gap, a cold draft seeped through bringing his vile scent towards me in a rush. My instincts rose in active repulsion. He was barely clothed standing in the tent, parka in hand. Our eyes immediately met. Something was off. I searched his mind, but his thoughts were still filled with the parka and Bella's condition. Was he avoiding something intentionally again?
Bella shivered at the gust and I averted his gaze to inspect her with my eyes. If his presence was irritating her, or making her worse from his unguarded anxiety, I could ask him to leave based on her feelings alone. Bella would understand. I felt a twinge of frustration at my assumption. Would she understand? I was not so certain. Regardless, the last thing I needed was Jacob in this small tent. It simply wasn't big enough for two supernatural creatures, even if he was human at the moment.
"I don't like this," I hissed. "Just give her the coat and get out."
…watch it bloodsucker…
Jacob stared at me with a smirk, "The parka's for tomorrow – she's too cold to warm it up by herself. It's frozen," he said, dropping the parka at the entrance. It was true; it hit the ground with a resounding thud. It was practically frozen, "you said she needed a space heater, and here I am…"
A rueful smile crept onto his mouth.
…don't you want her to live?...actually, thanks are in order…
He was taunting me with his thoughts and staring at me in provocation. He spread his large, muscular arms wide as if to present himself in a manner that would possibly induce me to accept his suggestion.
Bella shifted to peer at him, her mind was working slower than usual. She looked confused.
"J-J-J-J-Jake, you'll f-f-f-freez-z-z-ze," Bella stuttered.
"Not me," he said cheerfully. "I run at a toasty one-oh-eight point nine these days. I'll have you sweating in no time." He smiled and twitched his brow at the double entendre.
…in fact, leech…I am not sure your needed here anymore…
I blocked his taunts. Then suddenly, I understood. The parka was a ploy, his intentions were three-fold; help her live, use this opportunity, and torture me further. I could not refuse him and he knew it.
Apparently three was my lucky number.
…you could turn me away, bloodsucker…I am sure Bella would understand...I mean if you're that selfish...or, if you can't handle it…
I snarled at him, low and feral. It was a warning. But, it was also resignation. And, once again, I watched as Jacob Black was going to fulfill another role for Bella that I could not. His plan was ingenious. What could I do? I could not turn him away. He smiled at me as if he sensed my resignation and moved closer, averting his eyes to Bella. A small crease formed on his brow as he took in her weak, pale frame.
…this is much worse than I thought…thank God I was here…I am going to need to stay close…
I narrowed my eyes, watching him closely. In a second, he leaned down and attempted to unzip her bag. No. Was he serious? I blinked as if to adjust my eyes. He was serious.
I was on my feet and at her side in a fraction of a second. His instincts felt me approach before his human mind registered I was as close as I was. I felt his hackles raise in response to my approach. I would not escalate this situation, however. Particularly with Bella in between us.
I carefully reached down and placed a restraining hand on his hard shoulder, he met my eyes immediately. His jaw snapped together, he flared his nostrils, and flexed his torso in defense. My lips instinctively pushed back from my teeth, but I tightened my mouth in an effort to resist. From the corner of my eye, I saw that Bella was watching us. We stared each other down.
"Get your hand off me," he growled.
The tension rippled through his voice. He was unpredictable, wild. He could keep her warm, but there was no reason to make this situation completely intolerable. Could I trust him? Absolutely not. This would only work if he behaved himself. Was he even evolved enough as an individual to comprehend, let alone truly possess, self-control? No, he was not.
Bella shivered in between us, her teeth smashing together in an unnatural sound. Was my proximity making her colder? Did her human mind calculate my presence as well? I needed to retreat for her sake. But, Jacob Black needed to understand my limits…
"Keep your hands off her," I warned. My fists were clenched and my jaw was tight. Control, Edward.
…back off me, leech or I will leave…
"D-d-d-d-don't f-f-f-fight," Bella begged.
…she sounds really bad…Jacob thought, sincerity pushing through his anger.
Between his genuine concern and her dire condition, I was rendered completely useless. My will caved, but I could not move. My instincts kept me immobile for another second. Jacob sensed my indecision, peering at me with a mixture of contempt and concern in his eyes.
"I am sure she will thank you for this when her toes turn black and drop off," Jacob snapped.
…and they will turn black and fall off if you don't let me help her…back off...
I could not stand in the way of her only salvation. But…No. I flinched at the understanding. It was the only way. I narrowed my eyes one last time and backed slowly into my clandestine corner.
"Watch yourself," I warned.
He chuckled in response.
Jacob took in Bella's desperate condition and sighed. He leaned down and unzipped the bag further exposing her to the cold air. She shivered again. I watched him slide into the bag.
…Jesus, she's freezing even from here…
"Scoot over, Bella," he said, angling his feet into the bag and pushing her forward.
In response, she looked back at his face, her eyes wide with confusion. She'd clearly not understood his intention. I felt a brief wave of gratitude, she was also clearly uncomfortable.
"N-n-n-n-n," she tried.
She didn't want him near. Should I act?
…oh god, she can't be serious…
Jacob stared back at her.
"Don't you like having ten toes?" he asked.
In a quick movement, he slid sideways into the bag and then angled his right arm downward to force the zipper shut.
…ugh, she's freaking cold…this is going to take all night…
Bella's eyes slowly closed in relief. Relief I hoped was brought on by the sudden warmth, the warmth that would save her for me. I watched him closely as his arms snaked around her underneath the bag.
…ugh…He winced in discomfort. That was reassuring.
"Jeez, Bella…you're freezing!" he whined.
"S-s-s-s-sorry," she replied.
Her eyes were shut tightly. I hoped she was trying to focus somehow on absorbing as much heat from him as possible. Was she trying to speed up the process so that she could banish him quicker? Or was some part of her enjoying this at all? I shrugged, ridding myself of the thoughts. Focus, Edward…
"Try to relax," he suggested. "You'll warm up in a minute. Of course, you'd warm up faster if you took your clothes off." He was grinning either at the prospect or at the intimacy of their positions.
I growled sharply. I shook my head infinitesimally in an effort to rid myself of the instantaneous fury that rose in my chest and threatened to destroy my control in one fell swoop. A brief fascination invaded my mind. I could tear him apart right here, removing that grin permanently. I would need approximately seven seconds to move from my position in the corner, rip him effortlessly from the bag, and decapitate him. Surely that would compensate for the last twenty-five thousand, two hundred that I'd spent in this damn tent. The corners of my mouth twitched, but I refused to give him the satisfaction of believing that his ridiculous assertions were getting to me.
Thankfully, for him at least, he sensed the violence of my anger.
…calm down, leech…I am just trying to help her…he defended.
"That's just a simple fact. Survival one-oh-one," he said. He met my eyes again. I narrowed them further. It was the only warning I could provide him.
…of course, you wouldn't know that because you aren't actually alive…and you certainly aren't human…
"C-c-c-cut it out, Jake," she said. "N-n-n-nobody really n-n-n-n-needs all ten toes."
Did she sound annoyed? I brightened a little at the prospect that his presence was unwanted for her. I didn't let myself feel too satisfied. Perhaps she would not care for anyone, including me, to be so close to her when she was as uncomfortable as she was?
Jacob peered down at her from over her head and grinned smugly, relishing his position to comfort her. He snuggled further into the bag.
"Don't worry about the bloodsucker, he's just jealous," he turned his eyes back to me, grinning. She didn't respond, only tightened her eyes further.
…it's okay, bloodsucker…actually, I am surprised you can feel at all…maybe you should enjoy it while it lasts…she'll remember…
I blocked him again. Yes, she will remember, because hopefully Jacob Black you will be nothing but a memory. As if I was blinded by anger until now, his intentions suddenly became clearer. He was going to attempt to lobby his position at this moment, perhaps to remind her of the humanity that she would lose? Would he try to do his best to fill this role in an effort to gain some leverage with her? Was this his trump card? Surely not. Well, Jacob Black, two can play this game.
I forced my eyes to smile at him, knowing that he could see me clearly in the dark.
"Of course I am." I taunted back, my voice almost a croon. "You don't have the faintest idea how much I wish I could do what you're doing for her, mongrel."
…wow…was he going to admit that he couldn't be there for her the way I can?...nice…
He grinned smugly, relishing in my admission.
"Well, those are the breaks…" he said.
I smiled back as sweetly as I could manage. My centuries of living behind masks was truly work to my advantage. His smile faded and his eyes tightened.
…he's making fun of me…he knows she loves him…
"At least you know she wishes it was you," he spat.
My mask was working. I felt the corner of my mouth turn upwards a little. In the most nonchalant manner I could muster, I responded.
I could only hope with all of my being that his words were true.