Author's Note: It's been over a year since I've posted. I was writing this story for someone, my Yang (Leon McFrenchington) to whom I dedicated several chapters. My enthusiasm for this story went when he did. Recently, however, I was rereading some of the conversations we'd had a long time ago and decided to pick it up again. I'd like to think this chapter would amuse him, as it's not my usual style.
This story was meant to be more drawn out, but I think I'll try to wrap it up quickly. Needless to say, this is the chapter that flips the story entirely and things start coming to a head. Edward is forced into some realizations and so is Bella.
For Yang, as always.
Chapter 11: Warmth and Realizations
Having gorged himself, Edward lay down and exhaled, happy, groggy, and content. This blood-high made him almost unaware of his surroundings, so sated, heavy, and warm with fresh blood that he wanted to do nothing but close his eyes and enjoy it. He supposed it was the closest he'd ever come to sleeping, that warm, blood induced drowsiness. It was the best thing in his existence, and it's what every one of his kind existed for. He easily understood why other vampires hunted when they didn't need to, when they weren't hungry. It was for the sheer pleasure of being transported…
It probably wasn't coincidence that he never felt more alive than when stealing the life blood from someone else. That pulsing red liquid that sustained life, both humans' and theirs… it's all that really mattered.
It had been a month, and she still hadn't spoken to him. He had opened doors for her, pulled out chairs for her, left books he thought she'd enjoy in her locker, but she continued to studiously ignore him, even in music lesson and there were only four others in the room with them.
He'd never been unhappy before. Bored, certainly, jaded, absolutely. But he'd never been unhappy. But in the month following Bella turning from him, he found that he was in a near constant bad mood. He didn't like it at all. He found that he had even less patience with his classmates, teachers, his boss, anyone with whom he was forced to interact. It seemed that everyone wanted to talk to him except the one person he actually wanted to speak to.
She'd taken to having lunch in the cafeteria with everyone else, rather than outside where they used to sit. It was one of her many (effective) avoidance tactics. But he'd had enough now.
Gritting his teeth, he approached her, despite being surrounded by the hoard of others. He futilely tried to block out their thoughts as he stopped at their table.
"B—" He'd almost said Bella but stopped himself at the last moment. Since he couldn't bring himself to call her Iz he didn't directly address her at all, but everyone knew to whom he was speaking.
"Can we talk?" he asked, and although his voice was pitched low, everyone else had abandoned their own conversations to listen.
"What?" she asked flatly, not moving from her seat. To his surprise, her voice continued inside his head, louder and more direct than all the others. 'Leave me alone, Edward. I don't want to talk.'
"It's been a while…" he replied, all the while he could hear the thoughts of those sitting around her. She's so full of herself, thinks she's too good for Edward? Please, she doesn't deserve him. Bitch. "Can we go outside?"
"I'm eating lunch with my friends," she countered.
He squatted down next to her, so they were on a level. He leaned to whisper in her ear, and she stiffened in alarm.
He wouldn't… not in public. You're safe, Bella, she told herself, perhaps forgetting, or simply uncaring that he could hear her.
"These are not your friends," he whispered. "If you could only hear what they are thinking about you right now you'd know… They don't actually care about you, Bella."
And you do? The accusation was forceful, but she didn't expect an answer. I can't believe I actually liked you.
"Everyone likes me," he whispered. Looking around the table everyone was watching, though tried to pretend they weren't. "It's one of the reasons nobody likes you…"
They wouldn't like you if they knew what you really were, she challenged, and Edward couldn't help but smile. No, bizarrely enough the thought of him being a vampire was exactly the reason they all loved him… Granted, their idea of him was entirely spurious and their silly notions were based from a sillier book, but the fact remained.
"Let's find out, shall we?" he asked, not bothering to lower his voice this time.
Standing, he addressed the table. "Ladies, may I ask you a question? If I were say… a lonely vampire…"
'What the hell are you doing!'
He ignored her.
"And I'd befriended you, you and only you, and never ate you despite…" No, best not admit to desperately wanting to devour her. "Despite being what I am, what would you do? Would you abandon me if you learned the truth about what I really was?"
The chorus of replies was exactly what he expected, insistences that they would never abandon him, proclaiming how romantic it would be, how special they would feel.
Bella looked at them as if they were all mad, then turned to Edward, clearly wondering how he had managed to brainwash them all.
Not I, ma belle, you have Meyer to thank for that, he thought. Turning a generation of girls into willing fodder for predators and abusers.
She shook her head in disgust and disbelief and stood to go from the room, opening her mind long enough to shoot out, Don't follow me, Edward.
Ignoring this, he went after her.
"Will you at least—" he began but she cut him off.
"No. I don't know what sort of Dracula jedi mind tricks you used on them but stop. I won't let you use them on me anymore either," she said angrily, refusing to meet his eyes.
"I'm not Dracula. I don't turn into a bat, I don't sleep in a coffin and I can't do mind tricks!"
"You can read people's thoughts, Edward. If that's not a mind trick, what is? And who knows what else you can do. You've done nothing but lie to me from the start."
"I only concealed the truth from you because I knew how you'd react! I didn't lie. I can't manipulate people's minds."
She wheeled around to face him but stared at his chest, rather than his face. "Bullshit! I saw what happened in there, Edward!" she said, pointing furiously to the cafeteria. "They are all enthralled by you for no reason! You duped them just like you duped me! You made me care for you, you… you bastard!"
"How many times do I have to tell you I can't enthrall people! That's just lore from a book!"
"How can I believe anything you say?" she demanded hotly.
"Because, if I could control your feelings you wouldn't hate me right now!" he yelled.
"I…" Her breathing was quick and faulting. "I…" She shook her head. "God, just leave me alone, Edward."
She ran away from him, but this time he didn't bother going after her.
The moment he stopped focusing so hard on what he was doing, the press of thoughts from hundreds of students invaded his mind again. Their classmates assumed that he and Bella, or 'Iz' in their minds, had had a fight. Edward considered it a difference of opinion rather than an actual fight. He snorted at the very notion. It wouldn't be much of a fight if he decided to take her on. It would be over in a moment.
There's an idea, he thought with sudden epiphany. To be reminded of the fact that he was good enough not to fight her might do his darling Bella some good. If she was going to consider him a monster unworthy of her company, then she would fear him as she would a monster. Just a small fright, just to let her know how lucky she was indeed that he'd let her live. Some gratitude was all he wanted. Hearing her scream would be a reward for his good behavior.
He waited for her in the woods that surrounded her house. It wouldn't do to attempt this sort of thing at the school; she might scream. He hoped she would, anyway.
Her rusting, red, rattling contraption pulled up and Bella got out, shielding her face from the slight rain with her hood. Edward pounced on her with less finesse than he usually did with his actual victims. He was brutish this time, knocking her down and pinning her to the muddy ground, growling at her with teeth bared.
She did scream. Somehow it wasn't the rewarding experience he'd imagined it would be. He found he couldn't bear it and covered her mouth with his hand.
"No one is going to hear you," he told her, and it was then he saw comprehension dawn on her face. Up until that moment she hadn't known who her attacker actually was.
Bella stopped struggling, stopped fighting. Her eyes, which had been wide with fear, closed. When they opened again they were full of tears.
Her heart was pounding, and Edward couldn't stop himself. His hand slid away from her mouth to her neck to feel the pulse throbbing there. His other hand, which had been holding her shoulder down, snaked its way to her chest to feel her heart, hammering away against his palm.
Mercy… Edward pleaded mentally. So warm, so redolent. So… so desperately edible… he wanted, no, needed a taste. The venom was pooling in his mouth, and while he'd had better smelling meals before, he could honestly say he'd never before wanted anyone so badly in his 'life'.
"Edward," she whispered. "Please…"
Her words penetrated through his hunger numbed brain but he didn't stop what he was doing.
"Please what?" he asked, dipping his head down to her neck, breathing in her scent. The contact warmed the tip of his nose. He never noticed that he was cold until he touched a living thing, as he did then. The entire heat of her body under his promised an even headier heat once all that precious hot blood was flowing through him instead of her. All that warmth would be his. For a little while, anyway.
"Don't kill me."
It would start in a gush to fill his mouth. He'd swallow it down and it would fill him, then start circulating. And for several minutes he'd be too blood drunk to care about anything but the high.
The blood would soon cool though, and the heady feeling would be gone. He realised at that moment why vampires were addicted to hunting people. It was this glorious warmth. He reveled in it, buried the side of his face into her burning neck. He was openly drooling, now, the venom flowed into his mouth but he didn't swallow it. It wasn't warm enough. He wanted blood.
"Why shouldn't I?" he asked, his hands roaming everywhere there was warm skin. It wasn't as pleasant through layers of fabric, so his greedy hand burrowed beneath. Her stomach was the warmest yet. Despite the fact that she was wet and shivering from fear and cold her body still maintained that glorious body temperature. Unfortunately, her skin cooled if he lingered in any one place for too long, so he had to change locations. The more his body that absorbed her warmth, the more aware he became that the rest of him was still unbearably cold. His flanks, especially, and his feet, the further most extremity and trapped in layers of socks and shoes. There was no way to warm himself all at once but to eat her. Then he'd be perfectly happy.
He thought about crunching into her throat, but didn't do it, imagining it would be too painful for her. He could slice the inside of her wrist, quick and almost painless, and just let her slowly drain into him. But then her body would get cold and would lose its pleasantness beneath him.
Her body would get cold…
'Yes, she would die, but what does it matter if she does? She's ignored me for a month, not a word, or a gesture. I'm dead to her, so why shouldn't she be dead to me?' he thought bitterly.
"Give me one… good… reason…" he said, pleaded, rather, even as he moved her hair aside and went to nosing her under her ear. He needed a reason not to do this. Any reason would do. He wanted to eat her, but did not want her dead. The realization jarred, jammed his thought processes like a stick in a wheel spoke. "You are just this sad little thing. You're all by yourself, Bella. Depressed and alone. No more friends," He changed to nuzzle the other side. "No family. You have no one…"
"I had you, you bastard!" she shouted, shoving him as hard as she could in the chest. She wasn't strong enough to push him off but he lifted himself away from her all the same, enough to see her face. "I had you until you became this… this thing I'm disgusted to look at!"
"I didn't just become this thing, Bella. I've been this thing since the first time you met me! And for a century before that! Every time you laughed at something I said, I was this thing. When I pushed you out of the way of a sliding van, I was this thing. I was this thing when someone locked you up in a school closet, and I was this thing when I came and saved you. I was only able to save because I was this thing. I was this thing when I spent hours playing on your piano, and I was this thing when you were so afraid to be by yourself I let you sleep in my car. All the time we've spent together, I've been this thing."
"I'm just a cow to you! That's what you said! That I'm just an animal in your eyes! I'm just a meal… a… a…"
"Not you!" he cried.
Yes you. Right here. Right now.
Damnit, he wanted to eat her, but also wanted to keep her. Not until this moment did he truly understand the phrase 'you cannot have your cake and eat it too.'
Like a flash of light so unexpected and bright that one is momentarily blinded, she opened her mind to him. Accidentally or on purpose he didn't know, but he staggered at the sudden onslaught of thought.
It was a phantasmagoria of fear, image after image, thought after thought, nightmare after screaming nightmare played through her head with one single theme. He, Edward, lashing out and attacking people, as he was doing to her now. Of him, pretending to be her friend to lure her away and kill her. Of him, killing other people and returning to her, covered in gore and kissing her with bloody lips. Also he saw plans of her leaving, of trying to hide, of living in constant fear of those like him. Fear that she would never be safe again. Most overwhelming was her desire to run away and hide forever. These had been her thoughts this last month. Her greatest wish was to never see him again.
"Don't leave me," he said at last, surprising himself and no doubt Bella too. He lowered himself back onto her, placing the side of his face on her chest, wrapping his arms under her so they'd be warmed by her back. It was wonderful. He wouldn't kill her so long as he got to lie on her, absorb her warmth through touch alone, like a reptile on sun-baked rock. "Before, you said that you weren't afraid of me. You were going to give me a chance, once. You said you cared."
He knew his behavior was pitiful, embarrassing even. Had he known before that he was going to make a sniveling fool of himself he wouldn't have come at all. But he hadn't known, hadn't suspected that he'd wanted her alive. Well, he'd come here with the intention of frightening her into being his friend again, but it turned out pretty poorly. He was pathetic, and he knew it. He also knew that if she rejected him now he would eat her. What had started out as a mere threat had turned into the only option. He'd take whatever he could get.
"I had more time to think about what you really are…" She was shivering violently but he didn't care. "Why would I want to be your friend? Why would I want to spend time with a killer?" she asked through clattering teeth.
"Because," he answered, turning his head to warm his other cheek on her other breast. "I will never die on you."
For a time it was silent between them, even her mind seemed to go quiet, it was as if she'd gone into shock.
Then a gasp, a cough, and she burst into tears, her chest heaving with sobs. He rolled off to the side, still clutching her to him, only this time, she clutched back.
"I will never kill myself." A vision of her mother's suicide pressed into her mind and perforce into his. "I will never die in a car accident." Screeching tires and shattering glass. "I will never get sick or hurt." Bella in a hospital bed, hooked up to drips and machines, feeling helpless and alone. "You never have to fear being left on your own ever again. I can give you a forever that actually means something…"
Bella got sick, unsurprisingly, as she'd been caught out in the rain with a cold dead thing leaching the warmth from her. It was already night by the time they'd peeled themselves apart and off the ground. Her clothes were thoroughly muddied, her bag had kept some of her things dry, but alas, the rain had seeped in and destroyed pages of notes and books, and Bella herself looked as miserable as it was possible to look. Hair wet and matted, face as pale as his, save her nose which turned a bright red once she went inside.
Edward was cold again, and it was as if his sense had returned to him. What the hell had he been thinking? What had he done?
He started a fire in the grate while she took a bath. He couldn't feel its heat, though he put his hand directly on top a burning log. The flames did nothing to him, brought him no warmth and no pain, just a prickling tickling sensation, the same as if he let insects crawl all over his hand. He withdrew his hand and leaned back, lying out across the floor.
He mentally reached out to her but she'd closed her mind again and he hadn't a clue as to what she was thinking.
Finally he heard to water drain from the tub upstairs and he stood, waiting for her to descend.
She finally did, taking the stairs slowly, putting both feet on the same step before lowering herself to the next one. She was bundled up in a furry blanket, and she was sniffling. From crying or a cold he didn't know. Probably both.
"I'm sorry," he said, before she had the opportunity to speak. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen." Which was entirely true. Everything had gone wrong. All his plans… "I wish…"
"What?" she asked. First thing she'd said since calling him a killer. Her voice was raw and thin sounding.
"I wish I'd never met you," he confessed. Even as he spoke he cursed himself for wanting to be wrapped around her as snuggly as that blanket. He might very well get addicted to body heat. He didn't feel cold now, but knew that he was. How was it that he'd never learned that before? Well, any time he'd been close enough to a human body he was eating them. He'd never held onto a person for any other reason. He didn't know how wonderful it could be.
She nodded in what Edward assumed was full understanding. He could well imagine her being happier never having known him.
"Too late now," she commented quietly in that still hoarse voice.
"You should…" she began, then paused. Edward waited for what it would be. Leave her house? Leave town? He was considering doing that, the former, at any rate. One girl, so long as she was alive, wasn't worth the hassle of picking up and relocating. He only did that when he slipped up and killed one. Which had very nearly happened. Might yet happen...
He was contemplating on the annoyance of packing up and forging new papers when she said "Play something."
Edward frowned. "Beg your pardon?"
"You should play something," she repeated. "On the piano."
Oh. That… well, that hadn't been what he'd expected to hear at all, and at the suggestion he promptly forget every tune in his repertoire. "Er… any requests?"
She shook her head, then belied the gesture by saying, "Maybe Beethoven or Debussy?"
And so Edward went into the other room, sat himself on the piano bench, and started off with Moonlight Sonata, followed by Clair de Lune…
Things went back to the way they had been the year before. Silence between them, but spending a lot of time together. It was strained but talking would only make it worse. Another difference was that he couldn't seem to stop touching her. He never allowed contact with people before because they'd feel how cold he was, but Bella knew, and he wasn't strong enough to deny himself the pleasure of her warmth.
He'd changed his seats in the three classes he shared with Bella to sit beside her, grabbing her hand when she didn't need it, or placing his on the back of her neck.
Edward had to suffer the disgust of his classmates' thoughts at this development. And indeed, not everyone felt the need to keep these remarks to themselves.
"Get a room!" shouted a freshman boy, earning him chuckles from his group of friends. No doubt they all thought the remark exceptionally clever.
'They are all over each other!' girls would think bitterly, but this wasn't true. Bella never touched him, more's the pity. He wouldn't mind having her warm hands cover his nose, cheeks, her fingertips on his eyelids, or to feel her palms on his neck. He liked it most when he sat behind her, her entire back pressed to his front, and he could lower his chin to rest on her shoulder, warming his chest, his neck, and the side of his face against hers.
They looked like a romantic couple to the untrained eye, but anyone who bothered to look would notice that Bella never smiled, never leaned into his touch. She simply tolerated it in silence, and tried not to shudder from the cold.
Entire days would pass when they wouldn't speak a word.
One reconciliation seemed to pave the way for another. She was friends with Black again.
Bella never insisted they meet and shake hands, only that they stop trying to kill one another.
Both had agreed grudgingly.
The main drawback was that she would often (oftener than he would like, anyway) smell of the dog.
He'd been at her piano one evening when she returned home from work, reeking of homo lupis. Edward had determined that would be Black's genus and species.
"Don't stop," she said from the door, her first words to him all day. She carried a brown bag on to the kitchen, and he resumed playing.
She came in a few minutes later at sat to listen. Edward couldn't stop his lip curling, nose wrinkling, but he did manage to stop himself from commenting. They had so few words for each other, it would be a pity to waste them on such a distasteful subject.
When he crawled under the covers to latch on to her at bedtime however, he couldn't stop himself.
"Aren't you going to take a shower?" he asked hopefully.
"In the morning," she said, putting her back to him and clutching a pillow to her chest.
"But you smell like that dog," he admitted at last.
She sat up, looking alarmed.
He didn't know why she was acting so surprised. "He must have slobbered all over you," he said. The odour was overpowering enough.
Bella's hand flew to her lips, eyes wide. It was then he noticed bruising on three of her knuckles.
"How did—have you been reading Jacob's mind?" she asked, narrowing her eyes in accusation.
"Why would I want to spend any of my time playing voyeur to that mutt?" He shuddered. He was hard pressed to think of something he'd like less.
"Then how did you know?"
"Because the boy reeks, that's how. I can always tell when you've been around him. And what have you done to yourself this time?" he asked, pointing to her injured hand.
She blinked. "I… I punched him."
They sat there, staring at one another for a moment before he threw his head back and laughed. "Brava!" he cried. "I heartily approve. Though you might want to leave the beating business to me in the future. Noble as your efforts were, you seem to have damaged yourself."
He picked up a hand to inspect it. "That one might actually be broken," he commented. "I'll wrap them for you after your shower." A not so subtle hint, that.
She still stared confusedly at him.
"You don't want to know why I punched him?" she asked, slightly disappointed if he judged her aright.
He shrugged, not having given the matter much thought. "One doesn't need a reason to hit Black."
Taking her healthy hand, he pulled her from the bed and led her to the bathroom.
Still chuckling, he said, "Go. Deodorize yourself." Edward went for the first aid kit, sitting on the bed waiting for his heater to return. It had been the new routine. On nights when he didn't work he'd stay at Bella's. She hadn't said anything the first time he'd followed her to bed nor the several times after. The only comment she'd made was to complain of the cold when he tried to warm his feet against hers. There had been moments when he thought he'd been so warm that he might even have dozed, but he couldn't be sure.
"You didn't wash your hair," he pointed out the moment she returned.
"It's not good for it," she replied.
"But it still smells like him."
"Well if you don't like it you should leave!" she spat with sudden rancor.
He frowned at her outburst and thrust the first aid kit at her. She'd have a hard time bandaging with her left hand but didn't care.
"See you tomorrow then." Spending the night with her head against the pillow would get rid of the smell by morning anyway. He still cursed that he wouldn't be warm on his night off, but if she refused then she refused.
He made for the door.
"You don't care at all that he kissed me, do you?" she called after him. "You're just offended by the smell!"
He stopped and pinned her with a glare. He didn't know that Black had kissed her. "His entire existence offends me. If I had any say in your affairs, you wouldn't see him at all let alone kiss him. But it's not up to me, and I should think you're allowed to smell how you like and kiss who you want," he said, and then mentally corrected himself, whom. Though that didn't sound right, somehow. Whomever? He was battling with this grammatical quibble when his lips began to tingle pleasantly warm.
She pulled away after only a moment, just a fraction of an inch, taking the heat with her. But he could still feel her breath. And her hands.
She was touching him willingly for the first time, her hands, one on his cheek the other on his neck, felt so wonderful.
The tingle her kiss had left soon drained from his lips and they went cold and numb again. She remained temptingly close, however; that warmth would be easily captured again. He put his forehead to hers; the heat that spread felt like the sudden dissolution of a headache he didn't even know he'd been having.
"Do it again," he whispered.
She obliged almost at once, rubbing life back into his mouth. His nose benefited too, as it rubbed along hers and against her cheek. He moaned in delight at her hands, traveling around like he'd always wished they would. Her tongue, warmest thing he'd yet felt, swept across his lips. He decided he liked her tongue immensely, opening his mouth to capture it. What he wouldn't do to bite the thing right off, so wet and warm. Like blood.
He started venomating and his teeth began to elongate.