Title: When the World is Dark
Chapter Rating: T
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
A/N: This chapter's utter crap. I know. I'm sorry. I fucking hate it. Arrrgggggggggg!
Thank you so much to those who reviewed the last chapter. I want you know that I've read every one of them and I appreciate the comments. So much :)
Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to sink my head in the toilet. And drown.
"I'll miss you," I whispered. I didn't know where the words came from, but judging by Alice's face, they were the right ones.
"Me too," she uttered and took my hand in hers. "But I want you to promise me something, Bella."
I tilted my head to the side and faced her, mulling over the possibilities.
"Don't go off on your own. No matter what happens, stay within the border."
- Chapter 15
Do you ever get that feeling… where one moment, everything is bearable? That bit of fear tightening in your chest is tamed to a certain degree and you feel like it's all going to be okay. Life will just go on, because that's what it does… it goes on. And then there's that other feeling, a far deeper sensation that surpasses the tinge of alarm and tears apart the walls that were surrounding you. Protecting you. It sends your heart falling to the pit of your stomach and your mind funneling through a whirlwind of chaos.
It makes your skin crawl and your knees buckle. It makes fear seem like a mere presence as opposed to this feeling of utter panic that dominates every vein in your body.
It was a feeling I experienced when Alice left.
It was nearing midnight when we reached the treaty line. After two conversations with who I assumed was Carlisle, and one argument with Edward through the phone, Alice made sure I was taken in by several of the pack members before departing. She told me it was fine – that everything was going to be alright and me… well, I was starting to believe her. I was beginning to think that maybe I was overreacting the entire time.
That is until I lost sight of her as she took off in the other direction, presumably to prepare for any last minute planning with her family. That's when it went through my head again. The circumstances weren't trivial, nor were they entertaining as Jacob liked to believe. All of them were about to risk their lives for me. Me, and I was simply going to let them? This is how I was to repay the family that had given me everything?
I jolted at the light contact on my shoulder, only to relax slightly when I realized it was Jake attempting to comfort my frazzled pile of nerves. But not even a smile could ease the knowing look on his face.
"Bells, will you chill out already? You look like you're about to have a seizure."
"I'm fine," I assured him. "Really. I'm just…" I breathed out. Completely and utterly terrified of what was going to happen tonight? "Anxious."
The house was empty. The last of the pack members had left to join the Cullens, Charlie was spending his time with Billy, and I was here, at Emily's place, with Jacob as my only company. His presence alone was the only thing that was keeping me together, otherwise I may as well have had a seizure judging by the way I couldn't sit still for more than a few seconds at a time.
"You want something to eat?" he offered. "We've got, uh, fish and… more fish."
I chuckled halfheartedly, the thought of food causing my stomach to churn violently and I knew if I wasn't careful, he and I would have a rough idea of what I had for breakfast that morning. I couldn't even remember if I had eaten anything. It was surely something I would do when considering other matters of importance.
"I'm not hungry," I muttered. "But thanks."
"Cool, cause uh… I'm not exactly the cooking type," Jake said and took a seat beside me on the couch. I couldn't help but tense up at the proximity he managed to put himself in, the warmth of his body centimeters away, yet it emitted a sense of tranquility I hadn't been able to feel since I was in my vampire's arms.
"Hm… didn't think so." I tilted my head over so it was resting on his shoulder. I liked how warm he was. Sure, it was nothing compared to the coolness of Alice's skin, but it was enough. Now wasn't the time to be picky.
"You're clingy today."
I smiled weakly. "Is that such a bad thing?"
He snorted, and I took that as his way of saying 'as if.' But he kept quiet and instead, slid his arm around my waist, bringing me closer. I was hesitant to do so, of course, knowing that this could very well result into another argument over his feelings for me. But there was something else in this gesture besides affection, almost like he had actually taken my advice and gained some maturity.
"I only mentioned it to get you talking," Jacob pressed on.
"Well, I'm talking now, aren't I?"
"It's different," he muttered, faltering with his words and that alone caused me to glance at him curiously. "You're acting like we don't stand a chance against those bloodsuckers. Have a little faith in us, will ya?"
Sighing, I turned to face the wall across the room, half expecting Victoria to suddenly show up behind the glass window. I shivered at the image. "That's not it. You can't blame me for worrying."
He snorted. "You worry too much, Bells."
"Do I?" I asked, more than a little irked that he wasn't taking this so seriously. "This isn't just about winning against an army of vampires, you know. Anyone from our side is bound to die. Anyone. It… it's not fair."
Jacob fell silent for a moment, briefly absorbing in my words with a stone-like glare. "This is mostly about the Cullens, isn't it?"
"Don't start on that, Jacob," I stated firmly. "You know that's not true."
"Oh, but I'm sure you're more than worried over that precious leech of yours."
"Don't call her that!" I hissed, too absorbed in the anger settling upon my chest to interpret the meaning of my words. Not until Jacob caught my eye in a bewildered gaze did I take note of my accidental slip.
"Her?" he uttered and I was forced to snap my mouth shut to refrain from swearing out loud. Now he chooses the time to be perceptive? "Last I recall, your boyfriend was a 'him.'"
"Whatever, Jake," I mumbled, and then stood from my seat in hopes of reaching the kitchen before curiosity got the better of him, but to no avail.
"Who'd you think I was talking about?"
I sighed. "Nothing… no one." He didn't look convinced. "You confused me. That's all."
"You can't bullshit your way out of this."
"It's not important," I tried to say, only to blush a darker shade as I went on. It didn't help realizing that even I knew my ability to lie was imperfect. Or nonexistent, for a better term. "Just drop it, okay?"
"Like hell I am," he growled, and again I was faced with the possibility of another dispute if I couldn't control the urge to slap him. A punch wouldn't hurt Jacob; in fact, I'd be the one to handle the injury, but maybe a slap would make him see the light. "I know you've been hiding something, but… damn it, Bells. What the fuck happened? The old you wouldn't be keeping shit from me."
My eyes quickly flickered over his angry features before I turned to look at the floor, arms crossed over my torso. I hated seeing him like this. It reminded me of the animal dwelling inside him, and although I had absolutely no problem with him being a wolf, I couldn't refrain from feeling cautious in his moments of rage. There was no telling when his emotions could affect his control.
"I'm not myself anymore, Jake. You of all people should have realized that by now."
"Yeah, well, I miss the old Bella," he mumbled quietly, but I still heard him. And what was worst was that it hurt.
It was like a deep cut had been inserted in my heart, a painful reminder of what people expected of me. I was no longer the person everyone saw me as – before the Cullens left, and before I had jumped off that cliff. It had changed me in so many ways that, at some point, I had come to regret ever doing it in the first place. "Sorry to disappoint," I stated, trying to keep the resentment out of my tone.
Of course it was pointless. I mean, I couldn't even hide the tears that were beginning to shed.
"Ah… fuck, Bells. I – don't cry. Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that," Jacob added and grabbed my wrist, essentially stopping me from leaving the room. Glaring at him, he continued. "No, really. I was an ass, okay? I'm just… you know, kinda torn here. I thought we were cool."
I scowled. "Of course we are! And you're right. You are an ass."
"Right, glad you agree, then," he stated, hand on the back of his neck. I could tell he was grinning, though. The jerk. He probably found it amusing that I used profanity. "So then why all the secrecy?"
I shook my head. "You really don't have any respect for privacy, do you?"
"Not when it comes to you."
"Jake, just… stop. Please," I begged. "You're my best friend and you know that. I trust you with my life."
His face softened. "But…?"
"But," I repeated quietly. "There are some things… that should be kept as secrets," I finished for him, my last few moments with Alice springing in my mind and, smiling gently at the memory, I grabbed onto his hand. "At least for now."
Jacob eyed me for several seconds, a calculating look built upon his expression. Satisfied with my response, he nodded. "Fine. But tell me this, Bella. He hasn't fucked with you, has he? I swear, if he's even laid a finger on you –"
"No," I answered before he could go on a rampage on the many different ways to kill a vampire, assuming he was talking about Edward, that is. "I know you don't like him, Jacob, but he would never harm me." But then I paused, feeling as though there was something else I should consider. "Not physically, at least."
His hands clenched into tight fists. I was certain he'd of drawn blood if it weren't for his ridiculously hard skin. "And you still choose him over me."
It wasn't a question. It was a statement if nothing else, one deprived of the hope that had once been there in the last few months, when he had fought endlessly to gain my affections. Turns out it was all pointless in the end. "I've found someone, Jake," I whispered and looked at him – I mean really looked at him with an understanding I couldn't convey in words. "Someone I love and who can love me back. I think it's time you do the same."
Hours later I awoke to the soft murmuring coming from the outside, through the closed door of Emily's room. I was at first startled by the noise, seeing that I was supposed to be alone with Jacob, but I calmed down significantly when I recognized the sound of Leah's voice, angry as usual, but it was that tone that prevented me from panicking. At the moment, I was more concerned with the fact that I had fallen asleep. I had no way of knowing how long I had been out for.
Dragging myself off the bed, I made my way to the door and unlocked it, the voices now growing louder as I closed in on the walls and closer to the kitchen. It was still dark outside and judging by the heaviness of the rain, I couldn't have been asleep for more than an hour or two.
"Ow!" the cry of a young boy emerged nearby. "That hurt."
"Quit acting like a baby then. You know it's going to heal soon."
"Yeah, but not soon enough."
"Don't be stupid. I'm not letting you go back out there."
"Leah! Come on!"
"No. You were careless the first time and look what happened to you!"
"It's not that bad…"
"Your sister's right, Seth. You should stay and rest. I'm sure Bella would enjoy the company."
"Where is the vampire girl anyway?"
"Sleeping. And I'd like to keep it that way."
A snort. "Don't get your hopes up. She can't be sleeping if she's right outside the door."
I had tensed up when I was first mentioned, knowing very well that the third voice belonged to Emily and the resentment towards me continued to hold a significant part in Leah's behavior. But knowing that I was caught eavesdropping couldn't even compare.
"Um… hi." It was a pathetic attempt. At least I was able to smile, though, even if I was drowning in humiliation.
As I suspected, Emily was there, and I couldn't be any happier to greet her again even if I had last seen her at the ceremony. Thinking on it now, I would've given anything to go back to that point, when graduating was only a small step in my hectic life.
I paid no mind to Leah, knowing she must've given me a glare as I stepped into the kitchen. If looks could kill, I'd have died more times than I could count.
But what really caught my attention was Seth, whose leg was propped up against the surface of the table with a large gash on the side. With only a dim stream of light hovering above us, I could still see the blood seeping from his wound.
"What happened?" I muttered. Both the sight and scent of blood suddenly had me lightheaded, but not more so than what was typical. I was more concerned with the condition of his injury.
"Like you care," Leah grunted. She didn't bother to look up as her hands were too busy fumbling over the wrappings around her brother's leg. "Damn leech got to him, that's what."
"Leah." Emily frowned. I could tell she wasn't entirely happy with the way I was being treated.
Honestly, I didn't mind all that much. It was like having another Rosalie by my side.
"No, it's okay. I –" Sighing, I decided it was best to leave it at that. There was no use trying to get on Leah's good side, nonetheless get her to like me despite being the very root of her problems. Instead I pulled up a chair and took a seat beside Seth, who looked at me with a curious expression on his face and, grabbing his hand, I gave him a reassuring squeeze.
"You okay there?" I asked him gently. Like Leah, I didn't know him as much as I did the others, but he also wasn't holding a deep hatred for me and my tendency to cause trouble everywhere I went. From the little I did know of him though, he was a good kid.
"Why is everyone asking me that?" He pouted. "I'm fine. See? It's not hurting anymore."
"That's because I fixed it, you twerp."
Smiling softly as the two continued to banter, I turned to face Emily and silently mouthed the same question I had asked when I first entered. What happened?
Looking between me and Leah, she walked over to my side and leaned over so we were at level with each other. Whatever she wanted to say, she obviously didn't want the others to hear.
"I'm not completely sure of the details. Apparently Leah was attacked from behind and Seth got involved," she whispered, and glanced over me once more. "His injury isn't as bad as it looks. Leah's just being a tad bit overprotective."
"What does this mean, though?" I inquired, immediately sensing the hesitation in her voice. She was hiding something from me. "For us?"
Again, I was greeted with indecision on her part. "It's… not going so well, Bella."
I stopped breathing altogether.
"We may have underestimated the numbers," she stated softly. "It's turned into a hunt more than anything else."
A curl of nausea sunk to the lower pit of my stomach, causing the panic I was able to control for the time being to course through me at lightning speed. I looked at Emily, and then stared out into the living room until it finally struck me as to what was wrong.
This time she didn't answer.
Without another thought, I stood from my seat and left the kitchen, frantically looking everywhere for my keys until I found them on the coffee table. Before I could grab them, however, Emily stopped me by placing a hand on my wrist.
"What're you doing?"
"I have to get out of here," I told her mindlessly, pushing her arm away so I could grab the keys.
"Bella, do you even realize what you're thinking?"
"Of course. Don't you?" I countered. "This wouldn't be happening if it weren't for me. I'll serve as a distraction. I don't care. I – I can't just sit here and do nothing!"
"Bella," she uttered. "Bella." She grabbed hold of me again. I barely noticed Leah's frame leaning against the doorway. "Please listen to yourself! You won't last a minute if you leave the Reservation!"
"That's because she's after me! They want me!" I struggled violently, trying to get away from her strong grasp.
"It's not your battle to fight."
"But it can be mine to prevent."
"By what? Giving up?" she roared in frustration, and I paused momentarily in stunned bewilderment. I had never seen Emily as anything but calm and endearing.
"Let her go, Em," someone said softly. I looked up to see Leah still hadn't moved from her spot beside the kitchen entrance. "If she wants to get herself killed, why stop her?"
"Stay out of this, Leah."
"Why should I?" she went on, her voice cold. "For all we know, keeping her here could risk one of our kind. What would you do then, huh? How would you feel if it were Sam?"
That seemed to have put Emily at a difficult position. Her hold on me had loosened to a barely noticeable grip and her eyes, once desperate in her attempt to stop me from leaving, had fluttered shut in an almost pained expression. Gently, I eased my arm away from hers and took a step back, watching as she continued to stand there with no intention of stopping me.
"I'm sorry," I told her quietly, glancing back a final time before I flung the door open and sprinted to my truck.
There was no time to look back.
I was still worried that one or the other would suddenly change her mind and tackle me to the ground without warning, but no one came, and I had already reached my truck by then.
It was pouring outside. So much that I couldn't see through the windshield as I started the engine and drove off, not calming down all the way until a good five minutes later. My knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so hard, small tremors raking my body and I couldn't tell if it was from the cold or the fact that I eventually admitted to myself that I was scared.
I had acted out of pure instinct and fear, seizing me from the inside and out until I was overwhelmed by the need to do something. Anything. I didn't care what it took. As long as no one was killed because of me, then it didn't matter how impulsive my actions were.
Or incredibly stupid.
When the tremors refused to stop, I pulled off to the side of the road with no idea where I was or how long it had been. My eyes were stinging from the tears that hadn't shed yet and, shivering over and over again, I placed my forehead against the top of the steering wheel, closing my eyes. I then took a deep breath.
I knew I had to keep moving. The problem is I didn't know where.
Something told me I had already crossed La Push territory, and judging by the way the trees looked as opposed to those on the Reservation, I had to be right. So that meant I was in Forks.
What was I supposed to do now?
Cringing, I let my head rest against one of my arms and eyed the door with morbid interest.
Victoria would surely find me. Sooner or later, she'll catch my scent and take up on that promise to kill me which, looking at it now, could be done with just a flick of her finger.
Running away would defeat the whole purpose of coming out here in the first place. I wanted to prevent a full blown war from erupting, one that could ultimately lead to a few deaths, not trigger a search party for the human who started it all. If they wanted me, they could have me.
They would just have to find me first.
Lifting my head up from the wheel, I wiped away any stray tears from my face and turned the car on. It roared to life and in seconds, I was on the road again, passing by somewhat familiar land I may have happened across once or twice in the past. It still didn't mean I figured out where I was going, but it was fairly relieving to know I wasn't completely lost. The area was a long way away from town. Away from anyone else who could get hurt.
I basked in the temporary comfort for a while longer before it happened, before I could spot the dark figure through the rain as it appeared out of nowhere. Alarmed, I slammed on the breaks as hard as I could, but was only successful in dodging the thing. The wheels screeched against the pavement and I was thrown up against the window. The truck then slid, rotating once and I could practically feel the pressure as it came into contact with another source, causing the windows to shatter within impact.
I cried out, my head slamming to the side and through the fragments of glass showering the car, a sharp pain coursed its way down my spine. And for a brief, agonizing moment, I thought it was enough to knock me into oblivion, as the force of the collision had diminished my senses. I couldn't see. My head was spinning and god, did it hurt. It was like being enveloped in a blanket of needles, piercing through every inch of my skin until it clouded my mind.
It didn't matter whether I moved or not. The pain would follow.
It only hurt more when I raised my head.
I was bleeding. I wasn't sure where, considering the rain had obscured the warm wetness that I should've felt, but instead that was replaced by the bitter, coppery scent of blood. A sudden rush of nausea returned to uncurl in my stomach and, gasping, I reached across the seat and tugged at the door.
It wouldn't open.
Again I tried, but my arms were too sore to try and wrench it open. Besides, it looked like what I had crashed into was a tree and the blow had made a giant dent against the side, locking it in place. Weakly, I looked over to the other side, where the damage was nowhere near as severe, yet I had no choice but to cross over the shattered pieces of glass if I wanted to get out. They stuck to my pants as I crawled through and onto the passenger seat, one of them slicing my hand open before I could shift positions. I winced, but kept going, pulling at the door handle until, finally, it unfastened.
I fell to the ground with a cry, landing on my hands and knees. Flipping over, I forced myself to lie on my stomach despite the water that soaked through my clothes, and then gently eased myself to the front of the truck. My entire body ached. I didn't see how I could manage to stand up without crumbling to my feel like a ragdoll.
"Fuck," I hissed, grabbing my leg. Now I knew where the blood was coming from.
I clenched my teeth until the pain faded to a dull throbbing. Deciding it was best if I wait it out and tend to my injuries, I leaned my back against the cool, hard metal and grabbed hold of the hem of my shirt. I tore a piece off, looking over my right leg and cradling it when I noticed the blood seeping from my outer thigh.
There was a shard of glass embedded inside.
I bit my lip. This wasn't going to be pretty.
Clasping the end of the shard between my fingers, I hesitated before I yanked, swallowing the whimper that made its way to my throat. I threw it to the side, not bothering to look at how large it was, and instead focused on covering the wound with the shred of cloth I stripped off my shirt. It didn't do much, but at least it added pressure to the wound.
And that's when I heard it. A twig snapped, followed by some clapping.
"My, my," a voice drawled nearby. I whipped my head to the left, knowing that's where it had come from, but I couldn't see anything but darkness and the shadowy outlines of hulking trees. "You truly are a magnet for trouble. Poor thing."
The clapping stopped. This time the voice came from the right, female in terms of pitch, but at the same time low and almost… predatory. The sound of it made me shiver with an unimaginable fear that seized my heart and sent it pounding as if it were ready to burst out of my chest. I remembered that voice.
I remembered her.
"You'd have my pity, but honestly I was far too entertained to care," she stated, and with a flash of red, I sensed a presence right beside me. "Your blood is, after all…" Through my tightly closed eyes, I could smell her aroma. Feel the coolness of her proximity as she leaned forward, lips to my ear. "Exquisite."
And she was gone, forcing me to look up at the figure leaning carelessly against a tree.
I've long since known what to expect, what to see, yet I was consumed by the need to stare at her as if she held some sort of allure to her goddess-like form, which she did. Her skin was unnaturally pale, giving her an almost ghostly demeanor against the darkness and her eyes… even from this far, I could tell they were as red as her hair.
"What? No greeting?" she asked, pushing herself off the tree. I eyed her with caution as she took a few steps forward, hips swaying along the way. "You humans can be so… insulting at times. Tell me, sweetie, what's a helpless girl like you doing on the side of the road?"
I didn't answer. Instead I looked away so I could calm my raging emotions, but it only lasted for a second or two before I caught sight of her pale white blur again and I was lifted from the ground, shoved up beside the rear of my truck. The strength of her push was enough to knock the wind out of me.
"I don't appreciate being ignored, you know," she stated plainly, arms pinned to my waist. She added a bit more force when I still didn't reply, ramming my spine hard against the metal.
I whimpered a response.
"What was that, honey? I didn't quite catch that," she said softly, face inches from my own.
"I-I don't know," I stuttered.
"You don't? Ah, well, how about this one?" she purred, gently brushing away a few locks of wet hair from my forehead. "You're here. All alone. And no one within a mile radius to hear you shout," she whispered huskily. "Where's your beloved Alice when you need her?"
I tensed beneath her hold, eyes widening.
She couldn't –
"I assume I'm right, then," she added, chuckling. "Why you little tramp. And here I thought you were the mind reader's mate, when all along you've been sleeping around. How typical for a human." She traced a finger lightly across my neck and up my cheek, leaving a trail of tingles in its path. "What a shame. Killing you wouldn't be the same if all you are to them is a toy. But no matter," she continued, her lips curling into a demented smile. "I'm sure he'll miss his sister just as much."
I don't know why I did it, or why I even tried, but something in me snapped at that point, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. "Don't you dare touch her! Let me go, damn it! Let me –" I swung my hand to her face, fully expecting to slap her without a thought to the damage that it would inflict on me, but it never happened. She caught my hand in hers and, stretching my fingers all the way back, I heard the sickening crunch of bones breaking.
The pain came afterward.
An agonizing scream ripped through my throat and tore into the night, followed by a heavy blow to my chest. I felt myself flying into the air and onto the ground, my face smothered by a fresh coat of mud. I rolled over once, releasing a choked sob, and somewhere from my peripheral vision I saw her kneel before me.
"Hmm, feisty. I like it." She grabbed a fistful of my hair. "Do you know what else I like?" she asked, tilting my head up so I could meet her gaze through tearstained eyes. "Your screams."
I was greeted by the same excruciating pain as before, only this time on my other hand. It shot through my arm like wildfire and spread throughout my body, causing me to thrash against a firm pressure holding me back. But no matter what I did, the pain wouldn't go away. It was just there. Eating me from the inside.
"Kill me! Please! Just kill me already!" I screeched.
"Kill you?" she mocked, as if the idea were ridiculous. "Honey, we're only just getting started. And I'm not going to kill you," she went on, burying her nose into my neck. She inhaled deeply and I shuddered as her cool tongue met my skin, breath hovering over my ear. "I'm going to break you."
Then she smiled at me, the look in her eye screaming predator and immediately after that, a fierce strike was hammered into my stomach, right between the ribs.
I could smell the blood. I could feel it, too, leaving my body and soaking through my clothes at an alarming speed. But nothing could compare to the sheer agony of it all.
I choked on a sharply drawn breath and threw my head back, letting out a violent howl.
This was a different kind of pain. It was the kind of pain that consumed every cell in your being and turned them to ash.
The kind that jabbed you with a thousand fiery needles sinking beneath your skin.
Tearing away at your flesh.
Burning it to crisp.
In the background I could hear someone calling my name, telling me to run. And I tried, but I couldn't see.
I couldn't breathe.
Every pant I took elicited a shrill ache clawing away at my lungs, in turn dislodging the blood that was crammed in my throat. I coughed it up, rasping in the process.
I felt numb.
My heartbeat slowed. I gave up on trying to crawl away from the sound of thunder roaring across the clearing or the voices echoing in my head.
And then I heard it again. My name. Only I paid no mind to whose voice it belonged to before I slipped into unconsciousness.
Instead I wondered if there really is a life after death.