Disclaimer: I wish I were rich and had the chance to interact with Peter Facinelli, but I'm not and I don't, so I guess I don't own the characters, either.
A/N: This story is written for my lovely sister, hopeisabluebird, in apology for taking so long to get on with "Ivy Tree." I've been working on this for her in-between the massive pile that is my slightly sadistic Spanish class. (Ooo, great alliteration! That makes me happy.) Y'all check out her stories—she's an amazing author, and I would say that even if she weren't my sister and therefore knows where I sleep.
Anyway, I love writing Edward. I think I really get into his mind, and I enjoy making him sarcastic and cynical and far too Dickensian. I've always wanted to write the last few chapters of New Moon from his perspective, but the idea was slightly daunting. So I did this instead. Maybe I'll get around to doing the longer version at some point. It irritates me to no end that Stephenie Meyer couldn't take the time to truly delve into her characters rather than just pull a random mutant child out of her butt so that Edward and Bella could be her equivalent of the perfect little happy family. There was plenty of material for Breaking Dawn without throwing in the child I gleefully call Renfield. But I digress.
Eclipse was my personal favorite in the whole series, but I think that Edward's leaving was dealt with slightly haphazardly. He's back, and poof! Bella's fine again! Sure, she has a few nightmares, but what else is new? In this story, I hope I showed a little more of the aftermath to the breaking of the magic through the eyes of the one that caused it.
Oh, and review! I'll say at the bottom what will happen if you do…
WHEN the wind works against us in the dark,
And pelts with snow
The lowest chamber window on the east,
And whispers with a sort of stifled bark,
'Come out! Come out!'--
It costs no inward struggle not to go,
I count our strength,
Two and a child,
Those of us not asleep subdued to mark
How the cold creeps as the fire dies at length,--
How drifts are piled,
Dooryard and road ungraded,
Till even the comforting barn grows far away
And my heart owns a doubt
Whether 'tis in us to arise with day
And save ourselves unaided.
— Robert Frost
Some storms changed everything in a second.
Others were easily moved past.
And still others could never, ever be forgotten. Oftentimes, those storms were the ones that altered a cherished way of life…or were the ones of our own creation. I had made the storm that had destroyed lives, and I didn't know if I was strong enough to make it through until the dawn, even though the eye had passed from overhead and the danger was seemingly gone.
I was all too aware of the fact that Bella had some strange notions about me and my family. One of which was the absolutely absurd idea that vampires were perfectly controlled in every way. Unemotional, even. Little did she know that her stern, formidable, emotionally repressed vampire boyfriend was currently standing in the dripping trees that grew right up to her backyard, and that he was fidgeting like a four year old human child that was sorely overdue for a visit to the restroom.
I couldn't help myself from behaving in that way, though. It physically hurt me to be away from her now, but it couldn't be helped. I'd been kicked out of the house a few hours ago by an all-too-eager Charlie, who remained blissfully ignorant of the fact that I could snap his neck as easily as I could snap a toothpick if I so chose.
There were times when the idea was honestly tempting when it passed through my mind, considering how often Charlie planned and contrived to keep me as far away from his daughter as possible. I couldn't blame him for this, really, but it irked me when I saw how much Bella suffered because of his too accurate sense of protectiveness. The pain in Bella's eyes as she'd watched me walk out the door haunted me even now. I didn't have to read her mind to have a pretty good idea of what she was thinking, even if she didn't want to be thinking it. Our ordeal in Italy last week was still too raw in our minds. It would forever be raw in mine, of course, but my pain was far easier to bear than to see hers and know that I could do nothing to keep it from her. Even worse was to know that I had caused the pain.
Oh, yeah, I was a jolly good protector to her. Effective, even. Fah!
I felt my entire body lifting in eagerness, though, at the smallest of changes within the darkened house. The soft sound of snoring reach my ears at the same time that Charlie's thoughts faded into blackness, broken only occasionally by the scattered images of some swift dream. Sometimes it seemed to me that Charlie took years to fall asleep, even though my more rational side said that, in all fairness, he was exceptionally good natured about falling asleep precipitously. Although I'm not sure if it can be called good nature if one is unaware of one's actions, come to think of it.
In any case, anything that kept me from Bella's side was automatically worse than a nuisance to my mind, so that category automatically included Charlie much of the time. Bella's face was burned before my eyes wherever I went, as it always was and always had been from the first time I saw her as more than a piece of forbidden meat, but this Bella-hallucination was a slight step up from how it had been for me even one short week ago. At least now I knew that she was both safe and easily within my reach, as I hadn't ever since I'd left. It had tortured me to no end, to see her face with all the clarity of the vampire mind and know that I was missing out on watching the subtle changes of her mind and body as time took its toll on her. At least now I knew that she still loved me, although I didn't know how she possibly could.
When we'd been in Italy, Alice had been very careful to guard her thoughts up until we delivered Bella back to Charlie's house in Forks. In the alley where we'd been under the watchful eyes and attentive ears of Demetri, Felix and Jane, she only told me briefly about Victoria and that Bella had been cliff diving instead of trying to kill herself. Alice also told me that she never saw Bella come up in her vision because a werewolf had saved her—Alice wasn't sure why this had affected her vision, but it was the only variable for which she couldn't account.
Those tidbits of information alone were enough to infuriate me (what in the hell was she doing with a werewolf, anyway? And what in the hell was Victoria doing near my Bella?), but I'd had to keep my mind focused. It was a tricky game getting us all out of Volterra with our bodies and, in Bella's case, mortality intact. I couldn't dwell on what had been going on with Bella in my enforced absence.
But that didn't stop me from seeing the damage for myself. You would have had to have been blind to see that nothing was right with her. The creature that wrapped herself around me, begging me silently for comfort and safety, was not the same Bella I had left behind eight months ago. It was as if a wisp of smoke, insubstantial and as fleeting as a second, had been wrapped in the frail body of a Holocaust survivor. Bella's face, once so alive with her thoughts and blood, was completely dead white except for her hollow cheeks, where unhealthy, feverish roses flamed scarlet.
She'd always felt fragile to me, but now I feared that I would break her simply by breathing on her. Spun sugar was probably stronger than her. I could see how she wobbled as she walked, as if her legs couldn't support her pitiful weight, and it pained me when I noticed how her ribs jutted out from under her thin, wet t-shirt.
The changes in her condition terrified me—what had done this to her? Was she sick? Had Charlie lost his job or something? She obviously hadn't been eating. Surely she couldn't have missed me that much. She was a human. Humans didn't love like that. People like Bella didn't die of broken hearts anymore…did they?
I tried a few times to get a question about Bella's condition across to Alice, but had little luck. The first time was when Bella was lying in my arms as we waited out the light of the sun in the Volturi's lobby. She was being very quiet, and I could tell that she wasn't paying close attention to our conversation. So I took a chance and said, too soft and fast for Bella to catch, "Alice, what happened to her? Is she….does she have…?" I couldn't finish my sentence.
"I can't tell you everything, Edward, because I don't know everything," Alice said, averting her eyes, but not fast enough for me to miss the pain there. "I'd rather Bella told you herself. But she does not have cancer or anything like that, at least nothing to my knowledge. Don't worry."
Being told not to worry by a sister that is concentrating far too hard than is normal on Arabian carpet weaving patterns is thoroughly un-reassuring. Are Arabian carpet weaving patterns normal? Don't ask me—I'm the vampire in this scenario, remember?
I tried again to find out what had happened to her in the car while Bella fought desperately with her heavy, bruised-looking eyelids. I wanted her to go to sleep for several reasons: she looked like she needed the rest badly for one thing, and I wanted desperately to hear her thoughts as she talked for another. But I also dreaded her sleeping. It would look too much like death.
My luck didn't change, though, and I struck out with Alice again. She didn't even let me start before she cut me off at the pass. "Don't even try to go there, Edward Cullen," she hissed before I could open my mouth to ask my question. "I told you I wasn't going to tell you what happened, and I won't. You and Bella need to talk for once in your lives. You've let too many people and too many stupid assumptions influence you, and I'm not going to help the cycle continue anymore. It sounds callous of me to say, I suppose, but fix this for yourself, Edward. You could start by actually hearing what Bella is telling you rather than assuming that you know what she's thinking and feeling. It's a simple step that would have saved us all a lot of pain."
Then Alice pointedly returned her attention to the road, ignoring me.
I wanted to growl at her, but Bella would have felt that for sure since she was still cradled in my arms. Besides, Alice was probably right, even though I didn't think I'd made any assumptions during my decision making process. There was right and then there was wrong, and I didn't think I was wrong to have left. Bella was predictable, and she was human. Humans generally thought the same way, and I knew from firsthand observation that no eighteen year old girl could love deeply enough to sacrifice everything—even the promises of death and heaven themselves—for the dubious honor of loving a rebellious, tormented creature like me.
She couldn't look like this just because of me…
Ugh. In looking back across the span of seven short days, I could easily see just how categorical an arrogant ass I was then.
I got further confirmation of just how badly Bella was damaged when we arrived at the Seattle airport where my family was waiting for us. Carlisle's eyes slid right past me after making sure that I was in fact standing there—he knew I would be fine physically, after all—and settled on Bella as she leaned heavily on me.
It took only about three milliseconds for Carlisle's organized, physician mind to sum her up. The thoughts coming from him then were probably some of the most vehement I'd ever heard pass through his mind: "Mary, Mother of God! What happened to her? She looks barely alive!"
And Carlisle was right. Bella was the walking wounded, as if she was still living by sheer willpower alone. Nobody on Earth was stubborn like my Bella. A knife went through my heart as the thought of how hard she must have worked to stay in as good a condition as she was—just what had she gone through? What kind of pain had crushed her so thoroughly that her trademark stubbornness was only barely kept her breathing…and nothing else? Bella was existing and nothing more.
Esme's thoughts wept as she took Bella into her arms to hug her. "Edward, there's nothing left of her!" she cried to me. Aloud, Esme only said, "She's dead on her feet." I knew the double meaning behind my mother's words and compressed my lips into a thin line to keep from saying something in reply. Or screaming. I had single-handedly ruined this frail, perfect woman. I had killed her in the most merciless way possible—through the torture and starvation of her body and soul. What was worse was that I still didn't know the full extent of the damage, and I had no idea if it was even possible to fix her again. Her body, probably. But her mind? Her heart? Were they just as damaged as her health?
Charlie's mind, as blurry as it usually was to me, only gave me the general idea of how things had been when I'd left, but that thin shadow of reality had been enough to nearly bring me to my knees.
Instead of words, I saw images and felt Charlie's feelings. I felt his perfectly justifiable anger as he saw my face, which instantly brought up his emotions when he remembered Bella's shivering, wet, incoherent form on his couch when I'd first left. His memories flew through his mind even faster then, showing his insane rage at me for taking his cheerful and productive daughter and breaking her so thoroughly that she barely qualified as a human being anymore. I saw Bella's grief and heard her horrifying screams in the night through her father's thoughts. I saw the aftermath of my actions, and knew that I had never really felt the emotion of remorse before now.
Of course, Bella had improved quickly in the days since my return. She was eating far more than she usually did as her body tried to recover from the beating it had taken when I'd left. Her face had color again, the natural, beautiful kind. She laughed and smiled and listened to music and read and cooked dinner and talked with her friends. She was human again.
But healing didn't happen overnight. I knew that I would be dealing with the consequences of my choices for a long, long time to come. Bella swore that she knew I loved her now, and that she trusted me again, but I knew that she still felt fear whenever I had to leave her, even for just a short while. She feared our separation like nothing else in the world, because she knew the true measure of pain now. She'd faced the absolute darkest of nights, and she knew that she would not survive if it ever came again. I'd only hunted once since our return home, and I knew that I wouldn't be going again for quite some time for fear of what would happen while I was gone. Alice had tried her very best, of course, but she hadn't been able to completely hide from me the vision of Bella she'd had. The sight of Bella repeatedly screaming my name in her sleep…
You couldn't go from one end of the spectrum to another in only a second, epiphany or no epiphany. Bella trusted me in her head. It was her heart that I worried about. And it was to her heart that I listened as I swung easily up the front of the house and slid through her bedroom window. I would never tire of hearing its slow, gentle beat.
When I entered the room, I found that Bella had fallen asleep in her rocker, no doubt waiting for me to return. She was still fully dressed and her copy of "The Return of the Native" was open in her lap.
I hated to wake her so that she could get ready for bed properly. She was still so weak, and she needed her rest badly. So, with the utmost of caution, I moved her to her bed and covered her up with her quilt before going to sit in the rocker so that she wouldn't get chilled from my frigid body temperature. I wanted desperately to hold her safe in my arms, but her sleep was far more important than my needs.
Peace slipped over me as I watched over her, counting her breaths and listening to the soothing lullaby of her heart. She was here, she was safe, and she was mine again. Everything else could be worked through.
I was planning tomorrow's schedule in a corner of my mind when I heard Bella's heart rate speed up as she entered the next cycle of her sleep pattern. She was dreaming. I smiled fondly at her as nonsense words fell from her lips every once in a while, but my body froze automatically when tears began to slide from her eyes. She moaned and wept out, "Edward…Edward, come back. What did I do wrong?" Her voice broke pitifully on the last word. "Don't leave me, Edward, oh please! Don't leave me!"
Throwing my body over to her bedside in one swift motion, I hesitated, unsure of what to do to comfort her. Should I wake her? Should I pick her up? I tentatively put my hand against her hot cheek, and she quieted for a moment at my touch. I backed away, to keep from waking her now that she seemed to have settled down.
Then, in an explosion of sound, she screamed out in her sleep. "No! No! Come back! Don't leave me, Edward! Please! I'll die!"
Rationality fled my mind, and I swooped down and cuddled her into my lap. "Shhh, Bella, shhh….calm down, love!" I urged frantically, rubbing her back in slow, tender strokes. "I'm here with you now, Bella, and I'm never going to leave you again. You'll never be alone again, I promise you, Bella." I rocked her back and forth gently, hoping to impress on her sleeping self that I was there to stay.
The worst part of it was that Charlie barely even stirred. Screams in his household had been so commonplace that he didn't even notice them now unless he was already sleeping fitfully. I was facing only a fraction of the horror that her father had faced.
She never really woke up, but she quieted. After a few moments in my arms, her heartbeat returned to its normal rhythm and her breathing rushed out calmly and gently against my cheek. In her slumber, her hand tightened on my shirt as if her pitiful sleeping strength could hold me there with her. Which it could, of course—seventeen vampires and five werewolves wouldn't have a chance in hell of getting me away from her now.
I held her in my arms for the rest of the night, facing the truth of what I had done. Bella loved me, but even that couldn't change the past. It would take a long, long time for the fear and abandonment to leave her mind and heart.
The storm, the howling hurricane of the past eight months was gone. Now we were left picking up the pieces of our lives much as survivors picked up pieces of driftwood and boarded up their windows and doors, trying to keep their memories and hopes alive. With the frail piece of humanity held as close as was possible to my chest, I wondered if Bella could ever be restored to the person she was before I had ripped her apart with the winds of my stupidity.
The aftermath of my choice was just beginning, and I didn't know if we were capable of saving ourselves.
We were both broken.
A/N: Okay, so if you review, you'll get the vampire power of your choice…and just think, with the right vampire power, who knows what could happen? It's entirely possible that you'll get the VAMPIRE of your choice as well! There, now, who can resist that? It's so easy Renfield can do it. Click the button. It might even burn a calorie or two!