Disclaimer: Don't own it, just get a kick out of writing about it. Thanks Stephenie!
AN: Longer chapter for a long wait. Thanks everyone for sticking with me…I really appreciate it!
You will not kill her!
Carlisle's upper lip curled and twitched uncontrollably as his amber eyes bore through my skull.
She is as much a part of this family as you, and you will learn to respect her as you respect us. I expect nothing less.
Instinctively I bristled, Carlisle's order flaming the inferno that raged within my veins. My eyes darted back to Rosalie's form behind the piano as I considered my options for racing across the room and finishing her off once and for all.
"Don't you dare, Edward." Esme's calm tone belied her resolve.
Don't make us choose. You know we will act as one.
As one. The two words echoed within me, awakening what little rationality remained. You can't fight them both off without killing them too…
They wouldn't let me destroy her – I could feel the absoluteness of that decision radiating from them, even without hearing their thoughts. I was stuck with the miserable beast, whether I wanted to be or not, unless I chose to leave.
Feeling very much like I had just a few months before, I realized I was no longer in control of my environment. I was not my own master – Carlisle was, as long as I resided under his roof. My choices, as they pertained to Rosalie, were extremely limited. The easy choice was to ignore her completely, and go on with my bane existence as I had before she disrupted our meaningless lives. But things had changed – I knew I was powerless to ignore her. Or, more accurately, we were both incapable to ignore one another as we'd proven time and time again since moving to this dismal, backwoods country. Another decision made because of her.
I reached up, running my fingers through my hair repeatedly, trying to calm myself down and halt the growing anxiety that plagued me. There was no way out – this is your life. Gritting my teeth in frustration, I gripped my hair harder, nearly pulling handfuls of it from my scalp.
Esme's concern was impossible to ignore. I sheepishly glanced upward through my lashes at her and instantly regretted it. She looked so beleaguered; so torn. Her loyalty to Carlisle would always trump any feelings she had for me or Rosalie, but at that particular moment, her motherly nature had nearly overpowered the mystical connection she shared with Carlisle. I saw my despicable form reflected in her amber eyes as well as in her mind. To her, I was a broken shell of a man – one whose personal anguish she couldn't help but take upon herself and attempt to reconcile. As noble and altruistic as that was, it only made me feel worse as a sad reality sunk deep into my bones. Rosalie won't be the force that destroys our family – it'll be me.
The unstoppable fury that commandeered my spirit dissipated with every tick of the grandfather clock in the corner of the room. With its exit, I felt my muscles grow weaker, until I realized I had sunk to the floor, my knees bent in front of me, my hands still uselessly kneading my hair.
I continued to withdraw into myself, becoming less and less aware of my surroundings. Carlisle called out quietly.
"It's over, Rosalie."
I ignored the sounds of her lithe body rising to its full stance as she stepped around my decimated piano, and focused intently on not listening to her thoughts. I couldn't bear to hear what she could possibly be thinking, especially about me. As if the floor had opened up and swallowed me, I slipped further and further into the darkness of my tainted soul, tuning out everything else in the world.
The sweltering humidity of the Tennessee summer was unbearable, even to immortals. Or at least, it was to me. I was lost within myself, spending the horrendously tepid and endless days trying to ignore the oppressive heat that drove our prey into hiding and sucked the very life out of everything that crossed my path.
I didn't remember exiting the house after nearly killing Rosalie. Nor did I recollect any of Carlisle and Esme's predictable consoling, or Rosalie's probable taunting. I existed only in an opaque fog; one so impenetrable and suffocating that nothing could resurrect me from its clenches.
Thinking became unbearable. I did anything possible to distract myself and exist on a purely primordial level. Occasionally, I was able to lose myself so thoroughly that I forgot to hunt for days at a time – though the aid of the scorching weather made it rather easy to not happen upon anything remotely within my normal diet. I moved in a large, circular pattern around our homestead, arcing outward upon each revolution until I was miles away. I wandered the dense valleys and traversed the low peaks of the mountains that stretched in either direction, searching for something and nothing all at once. I heard not a soul – human or immortal. The lack of dialogue in my head was refreshing, yet terribly lonely at the same time. I tried to imagine a life in constant exile – one where I would never burden another creature with my lachrymose spirit. How long before my will to live dissolved like the minerals in the dank soil beneath my feet? Decades? Months? Days?
The longer I trekked on my journey to nowhere, the less clear my plot in life became. Was I meant to be alone for eternity, and should I abandon my family for good? Or could I try and endure; try and change my inherent, melancholic nature to one more agreeable to those who chose to cohabitate with me? Could I find some form of middle-ground with Rosalie, even after everything that had occurred between us?
The mere process of attempting to work through these probabilities was maddening. And so, I conceded to the obscurity of my fractured existence. I collapsed upon the forest floor under the gloomy shade of a massive Chestnut tree. Summer slowly ebbed away as the minutes bled into weeks. My eyes closed, my breathing stopped, and I became dead to the rest of the world.
I wasn't sure how much time had passed when I heard it, or rather sensed it. Something different was moving through the forest – not the usual rustle of insects, herbivores, or birds. And it was moving towards me; cautiously. I slowly opened my eyes to bright sunlight above me, pushing through the canopy above. A lone beam of light struck my frozen cheek like the finger of God, caressing my sorrow and attempting to leech it away with its succulent warmth.
Despite myself, I dared to hope.
My ears strained to focus on the approach of the vampire, and for a split-second my engrained sense of survival awoke, urging me to move to my feet and prepare to take flight if danger presented itself. But something deep in my chest told me this was no foe. The sliver of hope sprouted miniscule roots and began growing as images of Carlisle and Esme flashed within my mind. Had they sought me out? Did they want me back?
I did not move; instead I closed my eyes again and remained still upon my earthen bed, not wanting to seem too eager to greet whoever grew nearer. Yet my nostrils flared on their own accord, greedily drinking in the dank and familiar smells of the forest around me, and within that deep breath came another scent which caused me to nearly gasp.
The hope wilted away immediately as I braced myself for what would surely be some form of torture, mental, verbal, or otherwise. I had fled to escape her, yet she refused to grant me any such peace. The logical emotions I expected to feel were annoyance, anger, and frustration. But instead I felt nothing.
You're a hard man to find.
I ignored her thought, forcing myself down into the darkness I had retreated to since collapsing under the tree.
Edward, when was the last time you fed? You look horrible...
They want you back. Please come back.
"Then why didn't they come?" My voice was foreign to my ears, raspy and weak despite my brain directing the statement to snap at her. I sounded like a whiny child, and that realization made me cringe deep inside. Don't let her see that – she'll use it against you!
I felt her shift her weight, the tremors beneath me slight, but noticeable despite her gracefulness. "Edward…" she trailed off softly, her voice silken in the air above me. Even with my eyes closed, I could see her perfectly proportioned face hovering above, her eyes the color of a heavy sunset staring down.
She took a deep breath. "They asked me to come, because they wanted you…us…to reconcile first."
I didn't answer. Instead, I ran her words through my head repeatedly, testing them for validity and any sign of malice. As if reading my mind, she continued.
"I'm very sorry for everything that's happened. I honestly don't know how to explain it or excuse my behavior. I shouldn't have let things go as far as they did, but I…" As the awkward silence loomed above me, I cautiously opened one eye and peered up at her angelic form. Rosalie wasn't looking at me, but rather staring off into the distance, her features strained. Fearful of interrupting her apology, I held my breath and waited for her to continue at her own pace.
"…these past few months have been extremely difficult for me. I hope you can understand that."
Part of me wanted to end this self-imposed exile; take her words at face value, and live again – well, as much as a demon like myself could live in this world. But another part of me screamed to ignore her, reminding me repeatedly how she had lied, and turned my mundane life upside down by forcing herself upon me and creating unneeded tension between Carlisle, Esme and myself. That part of me hated her with every fiber of my being and still wanted her erased from her dismal existence, despite Carlisle's order. Out here there would be no one to save her, no one to witness my savage act. I could easily destroy the body and lie to my parents, tell them she had simply ran away, never to be seen or heard from again. That was another thing she had cast unwillingly upon me – the ability to lie. Never had I had a need or want to falsify my actions or whereabouts to those I loved, but she had forced me into a position where I had done so time and time again. Each lie got easier with time; given enough preparation, I was confident I could lie to Carlisle and Esme about her whereabouts without obvious suspicion. Seeing into their minds, I could craft the lie in whichever manner solidified my story. It would be entirely possible to do…
My devious daydream was interrupted as she spoke again.
"Please consider coming back. For them." With an air of finality, she blinked once, and glanced down at me, the sharpness in her brow still present, but slow dissipating as I saw my ragged form reflected in her mind.
How could you let yourself go like this? You look dreadful!
Cringing, I moved to sit up, acutely aware of how the movement felt. My limbs weren't stiff – not in a mortal way – but I felt physically weak and emaciated. Venom began surging down the back of my throat as my body cried out for sustenance of any form. You could end the starvation by taking her…kill two birds with one stone…
Rosalie squatted down in front of me, scrutinizing my face. "You need to feed."
I rolled my eyes. "I know."
Within my mind, I saw two very different scenarios play out in a mere second. The first was of me rising slowly, then moving at lightning speed, teeth bared, latching onto her graceful neck while simultaneously snapping it and beheading her. I had done it before…despite her newborn strength, I was still faster, and I knew I could kill her before she'd even realize what hurt her. Then I would return to my family and deny ever seeing her. They'd believe my lies, but within the wretchedness of my frozen heart, I'd have to live with the truth – and the lie; forever.
The second scenario was more of a blur - racing behind her before working in tandem to feed off a lone buck, or maybe a mountain lion if we were fortunate enough to come across one dozing within the limbs of a tree on this hot afternoon. And then subsequent hunting trips, these with our parental-figures. A sort of family affair, if you could label such a hellish activity as one. Although I wasn't visually stimulated by this scenario, it was more of the emotion that held me in rapture. A feeling of warmth and belonging swept through my bones. It was intoxicating – nearly as much as the bloodlust I felt every minute of the day. Could I find peace by returning to them?
Nodding once, I stood slowly, watching her warily from the corner of my eye and subconsciously making my decision before I could even attempt to think it through. Don't trust her. Although I could sense the sincerity in her earlier words, the time had passed when I gave her any benefit of a doubt. Peace – maybe. But nothing more with her except co-existence. It was the only way I could fathom such a decision.
First things first – feed. I gave into my primal instincts and followed her lead as she began to jog to the west.
Neither of us spoke, and her mind remained blissfully focused on the task at hand. The pickings were slim – the only scents I picked up were that of scurrying rodents and the occasional hare feeding under the dense underbrush. But even these repugnant creatures made the venom in my throat stream with desire.
When I started to drift away from Rosalie, towards the heavy aroma of a family of rabbits, she shot me a very deliberate thought.
How can you? They're so…small and inadequate. It'd take several dozen of them to feed your thirst.
I fought off a chuckle, not wanting to alert any attentive prey to my approach, or to inadvertently break the delicate olive branch Rosalie had extended. I slowed to a halt and turned back towards her, speaking as softly as I could.
"I'm not as thirsty as you are."
She looked perplexed, cocking her head to one side.
But you obviously haven't fed in weeks.
I nodded. "Yes, but the burn is more…easily controlled for me than it is for you. A handful of rabbits will suffice for now."
"I'll explain afterwards." I gestured to my right, back the way I had been heading. Without hearing her thoughts, I could see the conflict in her eyes – she wanted more answers to my ambiguous words immediately, but she was fighting back the urge to let her domineering personality stop me from hunting. Her self-control at such a young age is remarkable.
Turning my back to her, I rushed forward, closing the distance between myself and the rabbits, easily draining five of them in a matter of seconds. Two more scurried off in the opposite direction, but their flight was short-lived. Rosalie flanked their path and captured each within her hands, feeding as quickly as I had.
I smiled despite myself. Why am I so repeatedly astonished by her talents? I thought back to my newborn days, and those of Esme, comparing and contrasting Rosalie's abilities to ours, and the pace at which she seemed to master her vampiric skills. Although her progress was only slightly more accelerated than mine had been, I couldn't seem to shake my fascination with watching her hunt. What was so special about it? Esme moved just as gracefully, yet I thought nothing of it when we ventured into the woods together. I could feel the inability to understand starting to sour my mood, so I pushed the nagging sensation aside and instead focused my attention on the forest, seeking out more food.
Up ahead I could hear mice foraging amongst the dried leaves beneath the towering trees. When Rosalie heard them, she gave me a withering look.
Rats? You aren't…
My eyebrows rose unconsciously. "I am."
Before she could protest further, I raced down a gradual incline and descended upon the despicable creatures. Her earlier thought rang in my mind – inadequate – but, the small amounts of blood were enough to take the edge off my burning thirst until evening fell and the larger, more desirable beasts made an appearance. As the rich sustenance filled my weakened veins, once again I became one of the undead and felt myself slowly returning to the purgatory known as earth.
"Tell me - how was that enough? How do you appear like you've just drained a few deer instead of a handful of rats and rabbits?"
We walked side by side, slowly making our way back towards the house, though we were still miles away. She kept her thoughts under tight control, not allowing me to see more than what she spoke out loud. That normally irritated me, but my senses indicated that she did it more out of a strange form of respect rather than attempting to goad me into another argument or fight.
I chose my words carefully. "Because I'm not a newborn."
"So I could never do what you just did. Essentially, waste away into the ground and not…feed."
"No, probably not."
She glanced at me from the corner of her eye. "There's uncertainty in your tone. Why?"
Damn. Rosalie was too observant most times. I considered a few different responses and the probability of which direction each would lead, but before I could chose one, she answered the question for me.
You never tried it when you were a newborn.
"No. I couldn't if I tried. Carlisle kept very close tabs on me those first few years; instructed me on his vegetarian lifestyle and taught me tricks to withstand the temptation to follow my instincts and ravage a populated area."
She was silent several moments. "If I wanted to, I'm sure I could."
"You said yourself that I have unusual self-control over my actions." Her voice was filled with pride, yet the wall blocking me from her thoughts began to crack. For a split second, I saw a glimmer of something else.
A huff escaped my lips just a second before the words invariably tumbled out. "I did. But you're not as infallible as you think."
What is that supposed to mean?
As much as I longed to audaciously call her out on her occasional mental weakness, I feared that reminding her would only strengthen her resolve to keep me out of her head for good, and give me no edge whatsoever. And she was right – she was an unusual newborn…unlike any I had seen or heard about from Carlisle's vast experiences across the country and abroad.
But regardless of how talented she may truly be, that was overshadowed by what she tried to hide from me in her mind. She wants out of this unnatural life, and she's prepared to do whatever she needs to accomplish that goal. Even starving herself to death.
I sympathized with her pain completely, thinking back to every time I'd begged God to strike me down, even if it meant a sure place for me in hell. Yet, I also felt strangely obligated to prevent her from harming herself. Although I had seriously considered murdering her time after time, I couldn't fathom consciously knowing she was going to end her own life and not step in and stop her.
But I was still torn – my head aching as both emotions battled one another for dominance. How should I answer? As badly as I wanted to share my misery with her, I knew it could only lead to unpleasant things. Inevitable fights and bickering, manipulation of my emotional distress, or worse – two completely desperate vampires, hell-bent on ending their lives, and suddenly each given a partner in crime. Totally unacceptable.
So instead, I did the one thing her presence had driven me to recently perfect. Without as much as a second thought, the lie flowed from my lips without one hint of uncertainty.
"Rose, it is impossible for a vampire to commit suicide. Better get used to this life."
AN: "Betrothed" has been nominated in the category "It's so wrong, it has to be right (Best Non-Canon Pairing)" for the first edition of "The Vampies", the first awards honoring Twilight vampfic. Thank you for nominating this story – I truly appreciate the honor and will continue to post new chapters as quickly as possible.
Voting begins Sunday, July 11th. Below is the link to the site. Please take a moment to vote!