A/N: Sorry this one has taken me so long to write. I recently discovered The Southern Vampire Mysteries, and between the drama unfolding of Sookie and Bill, and my own losing someone I've loved, it's been very difficult for me to write. I'm not sure how this is going to read, to be honest, just because of those very same reasons.
A friend, Sobriquet, desired that I write a chapter showing what Edward had been doing after he had bitten and left Bella, between Chapters 3 & 4. Now, I had never really given this much thought or consideration, as the focus was entirely on Bella at the time.
Thinking about it, though, made me realize I was missing a whole other story here. We all know why Edward left. What we didn't know, was why Edward CAME BACK. This chapter explores what Edward did after he left that night.
Edward knew they were there before they had actually arrived. He ran down the steps at the speed of light, his face contorted in agony. Wearing his jeans and t-shirt, he opened up the door. Despite the inky darkness of night, he could easily see two cars zoom up the long drive, spitting the loose gravel in their wake.
Edward! Are you listening to me?! Alice thought, attempting to scream at him, if only in his brain. But as her keen eyes saw him, she knew her words had made no impact. They had fallen on deaf ears.
Rushing out of the car, they converged onto him, and ominously, Bella's panting breath and anguished screams could be heard from above. It was as though she were being tortured and gang raped on the floor above them, and all were helpless in their aid. Esme, however, merely cast her son a fleeting glance before dashing up the stairs.
"Son," Carlisle said softly, "what happened?"
Edward was beside himself. Eyes turned shamefully downward, he outrightly refused to look anyone in the eye. Feeling thoroughly sick, all he could utter was, "Accident..."
Giving a great huff, Rosalie spat, "Why the drama, Edward? After all, isn't this what Bella wanted?"
In the space of a nanosecond, Edward turned on her. Instantaneously, his eyes became lethally black, his teeth bared and ready. After all, he had already bitten once tonight...
Just as quickly came everyone's reaction. All hands seemed clasped to him, holding him back from attacking his sister. Even Carlisle, usually unwilling to take sides, could not help but say, "Rose is right, Edward. This may not have been what you wanted, but Bella did. The timing isn't perfect, but we can't undo what's been done. After all, we knew it was going to happen anyway."
Alice nodded her head knowingly in agreement. Bella turning into a vampire? That was a vision that had been brewing for a long time. It had not altered since the beginning. No matter how much Edward had denied himself the truth, Bella's turning seemed a certainty.
Now, fate was at their doorstep, and Bella was suffering an unspeakable agony on the second floor.
"Bro?" Emmett said, looking warily at Edward, his unyielding grip on his brother's arm. But Edward seemed poised to attack, his eyes never wavering from Rosalie's face. Secretly, they all wondered if biting Bella had flung him over the deep end.
Their thoughts did not escape him. He thought the very same thing. His face crumpling in misery, he turned away, ruthlessly wrenching free from their extended grasps. He found no warmth there. No consolation. They pitied his suffering, but not what he had done. They had all been resigned to Bella's fate, but not him. Never him.
"Uh oh!" Alice said, starting as though she had received yet another nasty shock. Her eyes immediately turned toward Carlisle. "Charlie. He knows something's wrong. He'll be coming."
"How soon?" Carlisle asked, his thoughts turning once again to the screaming Bella up above them. She would not be easy to hide...
"An hour. Maybe two." Alice replied uncertainly.
Just then, they heard a car ignition turn over. All turning their heads, looking out the door, they saw Edward, driving just as hastily as they had done, but in the opposite direction.
"My car..." Jasper said, a note of woe in his voice as he saw it disappear behind the trees.
"What a chicken-hearted bastard!" Rosalie exclaimed, her voice filled with spite. "He makes a mess, and expects us to drop everything and clean it up?"
Carlisle turned on her as quickly as Edward had done, but his face remained as calm and smooth as ever. And yet, there was ice in his voice and glare. "All he wanted was for her to have what he would never have. A human life. You dare begrudge him this?"
His words had proven more pointed than a knife. It hit its mark, and now Rose was left to be humbled and miserable, confused by her anger at Bella, for throwing away everything worthwhile, and spiteful at Edward, for letting her.
Knowing his daughter to be on the verge of tearless sobs, he stepped up to her, wrapping her in a fatherly embrace. "He is suffering, Rose."
"When is Edward not suffering?" she retorted, still battling the conflicting emotions inside of her.
Being unable to suppress a smile, Carlisle replied, "Even so, accepting this fact was never going to come easy to him. It didn't seem to matter what we said. He'd been determined to fight it; deny it; renounce it. We could all see, but he would not. He should have your pity. Were you to switch places, you would most definitely have his."
But with Rosalie, things were never black or white. She nodded her head, anxious for the conversation to be done with, and strode away, Emmett on her heels.
"Alice," Carlisle replied, "call Edward. Reason with him. He must come back. Bella will have to be moved, even if it's only for an hour. If Charlie's coming, we cannot be found here."
Without a word, Alice flipped open her phone. Speed dial was quick enough, but the phone would only ring, ending in voicemail. "He's not picking up!"
"Keep trying," Carlisle pleaded, halfway up the stairs.
Shaking her head, her thoughts as well as her phone calling out to him, she said, "Pick up, Edward. Please! Pick up..."
Reaching down and pulling it out of his pocket, Edward looked the view screen, and carelessly tossed the phone onto the backseat. No calls. Not now. What was there to say? He already knew he was a monster. He always had. He didn't need them to rub it in. And if not that, he didn't need them to lie and say everything would be alright. It never would be. Not now, not ever again. He had betrayed the one thing he had sworn he would never do.
He had finally killed Bella.
At least the human part of her. And what would come in its stead? He couldn't bear to think... It was just too terrible, and his imagination too gruesome.
And so, he drove on and far into the night, not caring where or which way he went. He drove as though on autopilot, not fully registering turning or making decisions. He could only turn over the events in his mind.
She had felt so warm beneath him. So incredible. So...alive. He had never thought he could feel such euphoric satisfaction that lovemaking had brought.
And then, it was all shot to hell.
What had made him do it? He couldn't remember the thought, the decision to bite. He couldn't even remember it coming across his mind... It was as though one moment they were one, the next moment, her blood had filled her mouth.
One moment can change everything. A lot can happen in one moment. Life and death can happen in a simple moment. Like now, he thought bitterly, hating himself to the very core. Bella was dying right at that very moment. And it had been he who had put her there. Not the lousy, parasitic excuse for a human being Bella had killed that night. Somehow, she had fought him off no trouble. But Edward, whom she had trusted more than any other, he had betrayed her.
He wanted to die right about then.
He drove until he could drive no more. Not because he was tired, or lost. He never got tired, and being lost didn't matter so much. He simply drove until he reached the Pacific Ocean. He could turn left, he could turn right, and he wasn't particularly keen on either option.
He sat on the cold, sandy beach, the sky warming to an azure blue. Dawn was not far off, and in a cloudless sky, he would have nowhere to hide. But at this moment, he really didn't care. All he could do was stare out over that ocean, thinking about all that he had lost that night.
He had been so close to being truly happy. So very close. Their wedding date had been set. It was there, marked on the calendar with a big red circle. The happiest day of his life, within his reach, but just beyond his grasp. Now, it would never be.
Oh, Bella would live, if you can call it living. To exist forever on, never fully living, surviving on the outskirts of humanity, forever frightened of discovery, a slip up...that was no life. Not for what he wanted with Bella, anyway. For her, he would want so much more. He had always known he couldn't offer her much that mattered. Never children. Perhaps growing old together, but certainly not wrinkled and grey. He wasn't really a man, just a thing that would pollute her soul, and disease her body. A monster.
He might as well have killed her that first day.
Like an unyielding omen, the sun crested behind him, and he saw its sparking glory glitter off the murky water. It was time for him to go. He could only run so long.
Not wasting any time, he jumped back in his car, and only had to drive a mile before a motel took his notice. It was pretty beat up and ancient looking, being located off what had once been a major highway over fifty years ago. With the interstate now diverted, the street had faded into disrepair, and this seedy motel was no exception. However, for his needs, it was fine enough. He parked the car, and rushed to the office.
Locked. He rang the buzzer.
And again. Hmm... Perhaps he'd have to find another motel...
"Alright!" a gruff, angry voice bellowed from within. "I hear you! Hold your damn horses!"
The door swung open, and Edward's eyes befell an elderly man who looked like he'd had several hard lives put together. He hadn't shaved in about a week, and his wrinkled face, sleepy eyes and tousled hair made Edward realize that he must've woken the poor man.
"Please excuse my interruption," Edward said politely, "but I was wondering if you had a room available."
The old man stared at him. Apparently, young kids showing up on his doorstep requesting rooms was not a normal occurrence. "How old are you?" he asked, blinking.
"Old enough," Edward replied, unable to suppress his crooked smile from emerging.
Standing for a minute, sizing him up, the man replied, "Where you from?"
"If you don't have a room," Edward threatened most courteously, "it's no trouble. I can simply..."
"Don't get cocky with me, Sonny! Yeah, I got a room. Hold on..." And with that, he turned and let Edward into the office.
He pulled out the register, not having bothered to switch over to a computer system yet. What's the point, he had always wondered? The damn things became obsolete in two years time anyway, and he wasn't about to go wasting any money on something that a pencil and a piece of paper would do just as well. Damn foolishness...
"Sign here," he ordered, watching Edward's precise scripture being logged into his booklet. Edward noticed that the last person had signed in a week ago. Times were rough. "How much?"
"Twenty-seven cash, and you pay up front," the man snarled, as though expected Edward to run off without paying.
Not batting an eyelash, Edward dug out his wallet and tossed him a fifty. "Keep the change. I don't like to be disturbed." Edward picked up his key with an enormous plastic key chain. The kind so big, you couldn't possibly forget to return it when you checked out, much less hope to fit it in your pocket.
Blinking, the gruff man called out, "Wait a second, boy!" He grabbed the money, and reached under the desk for an old, metal cashbox. Change clinked inside as he set it down on the desk. "I won't be taking no charity, here!"
"Then, consider it a deposit for another night."
"Another night, huh? How long you planning on staying?"
With that question, Edward seemed to falter. His anguish broke through his iron exterior, and he cautiously replied, "I don't quite know. Maybe just tonight." He opened the door, anxious to leave. The sun would crest over the trees soon, and then he'd be exposed. He was afraid the old man might have a heart attack.
"Say," the old man said, suspicious, "what you running from, boy?"
"My name's Edward. And, I'm not running." It was a lie. He had never felt like more of a coward in all of his life. More of a failure. A complete and utter monster.
"If you say so. Roger's my name. Call if you need anything."
"Thanks, Roger," Edward replied, not turning around. And, as quickly as he could, he escaped into his room.
It smelt like musty sheets, the kind you leave in the attic, and can never get to smell right again, but Edward didn't really care. It was dark as a cave with the curtains drawn, and the psychidelic carpet and wallpaper only seemed to take him back in time a few decades. He lay upon the bed, and curled up into a ball.
Even from so far away, he could feel her pain. He knew she was in complete agony. Blood on fire, insufferable torment searing through one's veins and bone, wishing for only it to stop. To die.
Well, she was going to die, and there was nothing he, or anyone else could do about it now.
And, more frightening still, what would she become?
There had been legends, stories passed down through the grapevine of changes gone wrong. Humans, once kind and honourable, having met their vampire alter-egos, became lost, never to return. The vampire won the battle, and whatever humanity had been there, vanished, just as their life had been whisked away.
What if the same was true for Bella? His worst nightmare come true? He had always suspected he would be her undoing. That he would be her end. He had fought it, but not hard enough. He had tried to stay away once before, but not really. He would've gone back, eventually. He was just too weak. Too weak, and too damn selfish. She was heroin to him, and he had to have his fix. No matter what. Regardless for who he hurt, he only wanted one thing. Her.
His way, or the highway.
But, he had been right, hadn't he? He didn't want this life for her... And yet, by staying so close to her, he had only been tempting fate. Had it just been a matter of time until he had done it? Simply a element of days? Minutes? Hours, until he bit her, sucking the very life out of her, ending her beautiful existence?
Once a monster, always a monster.
Without even realizing it, the day vanished, and he felt night closing in around him. He needed food. He needed to hunt. He was weak with despair. Just hunt a little while, to keep his strength up.
He had passed some woods a few miles down the road, and so jumping back in his car, he let himself loose into the two hundred acre forest. The pickings were slim, and he had to satisfy himself with rabbits, but they were better than nothing. Ten he caught, barely satisfying him, but it would have to do.
He thought about driving on, not stopping back at the motel, and just heading south. North meant Denali, and he didn't want that. South was equally uninviting, and so he stayed, in limbo at The Shore's Inn. Parking the car, he again passed the office, hearing a TV from within. Behind him, he heard the door open, but he didn't bother turning around. "Hey, kid! Uh, Edward!" Roger called, his napkin tucked into his collar.
Edward stopped. Feeling that to keep walking would only draw unwanted attention, he slowly turned around.
"Still here, are ya?"
Blinking, Edward thought him standing right in front of the old man as proof enough that he was there. "Yes, sir. Still...here."
"Huh. Say, you hungry? I got some chicken in the back."
"Uh, no thank you. I...just ate."
"I'm only watching some TV. You're welcome to join me if you like."
Edward really hadn't given much thought to how he'd be occupying his night. Although wallowing in misery in his mouldy smelling room did sound slightly appealing, so did some company, odd as it was. "Sure. Why not?" he found himself replying, not really sure why.
"C'mon in then," Roger said, waving his arm and leading the way.
The room was small and cramped, and there was really only space enough for two worn out old recliners, a small table in between, and a beat up old TV against the wall. Roger seemed to like his TV, however, because he didn't seem to mind shelling out for satellite. Jeopardy was on, and Roger hunkered down in the tan recliner on Edward's right, hastily putting his feet up.
"Wanna beer?" he asked casually, picking up one from the table beside him, only to immediately have second thoughts. "Wait, how old are you?"
This was one moment when Edward was actually thankful he looked young. It would mean a lot less unpleasant heaving later on. "Too young, I'm afraid, but thank you for the consideration."
Roger couldn't help but stare at the boy. "Something else, then? A coke?"
"No, I'm fine. Thank you."
Nodding his head twice, Roger turned his attention back to the television, but he kept a wary eye on the boy.
For several minutes they watched in silence, neither it seemed having much to say in terms of conversation. In the end, Alex Trebek had asked a clue, for which Roger spat out an answer. "Andrew Johnson!"
One of the contestants buzzed and gave the same answer, but was incorrect. Roger swore under his breath.
"Hannibal Hamlin," Edward replied quietly, but Roger had clearly heard it. Though old, there was nothing wrong with his hearing.
The buzzer sounded, and smiling, Alex turned to the contestants. "Hannibal Hamlin. Hannibal Hamlin," he repeated. "Dennis, pick again."
Roger, however, was much less interested in the next question, as he was about the boy sitting next to him. Just who was this kid who refused free alcohol, and knew who the governor of Maine was during Lincoln's presidency?
Alex, however, read another clue. "His story, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, was first published in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1936."
Edward smiled. "Ernest Hemingway." He still had that magazine, in point of fact.
"Who is...Thurber?" the female contestant replied, much to Alex's dismay. "No, I'm sorry. Ernest Hemingway."
Roger clicked off the TV. He had seen enough. He rounded on Edward. "Kid, just what do you think you're doing?"
Roger sighed. "You're a smart kid. Got a good education, any idiot could see that. You don't seem the type to me to be throwing it all away for nothing."
Whatever reaction Roger had bet on, it certainly wasn't what happened next.
Edward rose up, his face suddenly clouded and grave. "Thanks for the company. I'd...better go back to my room, now."
He turned to leave, and Roger called out, "Say, I didn't mean nothing by it! It's just...well, you seem too good a kid to be going at this alone. It's a big, bad world out there, and..."
Edward turned around, looking on the verge of screaming at the old man, or bursting out into angry, cries of torment. Walking on the edge of a knife, he replied, "Trust me, Roger, you don't need to tell me how evil this world is. That is something I know all too painfully well."
Roger was stunned into silence. He could only watch Edward stride out of the room, and hear the front door close gently behind him.
He sat there nearly an hour before turning on the television again. He had seen enough misery in life to know real hurt when he saw it. This here boy was surrounded by ghosts. He surely was haunted by something, more than likely a very dark past.
Shaking his head and condemning himself for once again putting his big foot in it, he could only feel badly, and apologize tomorrow.
The night did not pass well for Edward, and nor did the following day. The forecast called for nothing but sunshine and 28 degrees for the next three days. The thought of being cramped in the room for another seventy-two hours nearly drove him stir crazy. But, he couldn't leave. His car remained his escape, but something always prevented him from letting it take him too far.
Why had he run away? It was answered easily enough. The pain had been too much; the betrayal too great; the cut too deep. The thought flashed in his mind that he couldn't live knowing what he had done, but suicide was harder than it seemed. Oh, to be a vampire in the movies, where sunlight was a suicidal vampire's best friend. In reality, it merely made him look like a mystically glittering queen returning from a gay bar.
When the sun had finally set, he escaped his coffin-like room for fresh air and space. He had to eat, had to hunt. The rabbits he had found the day before were far from long-lasting, and again he dove into the woods, this time by foot. He needed to stretch his legs. Ten miles down the road, he discovered a larger deciduous forest, as well as a small herd of deer. Dining to his fill, he wandered the forest until two in the morning, anxious to be out and free for a time.
Roger, he was certain, would long be in his bed. He could safely return to his room by now undetected, surely.
How wrong he was.
Walking up the dark street, the dry pavement beneath his feet, at first he thought nothing appeared odd or out of place. Nothing seemed amiss, until he noticed the office door left open.
Perking up his ears, he listened. Inside came a shuffling sound, as well as a soft moan. Without another thought or inclination, Edward burst into the room. Past the office and living room was Roger's bedroom. Clad in the same wallpaper and furnishings as Edward's room, it was nothing much to look at. What was inescapable, however, was Roger lying on the floor, bleeding.
In such a moment, Edward could only be glad that he had gorged himself, taking three deer. He was full to the point of feeling sick, and so thankfully, the cut on Roger's head only caused a mere purr inside of him, instead of a hungry roar.
"Roger! What happened?" Edward said, bending down. Grabbing an old shirt off the floor, he pressed it to the man's head, being sure not to come in direct contact with the blood.
Aching and slightly disoriented, however, Roger replied, "Damn kids! This is the third break-in in eight weeks!"
"Where's the phone? I'm calling the police."
"What the hell for?" Roger replied, sitting up, and now applying the compress to his own head. "Didn't do nothing the last two times! No, what I need me is..."
Edward waited. "A hospital?"
Irritated, Roger exclaimed, "For this scratch? Hell, don't you think I've had worse than this? No, what I need me is a good...shotgun."
Cracking a smile, Edward rose up, helping the grumbling man to his feet. Roger turned to look in the mirror. He'd seen better, but he'd also seen worse. In the end when it healed, if there was a scar, it would simply blend in with the other scars and wrinkles. He'd heal.
"Cashbox, more than likely," Roger replied, gingerly moving toward the office. The TV had been thrown on the floor, but it looked intact. Looking behind the desk, he saw the empty place where the metal box should have been. "They knew where it was, the bastards! Well, at least there wasn't much in it."
Edward returned the TV to its original position, and turned it on. It flickered a moment, and then appeared normal. Turning it back off, Edward scanned around the room. "The beer from yesterday's gone, too."
"Shit!" Roger exclaimed, stepping into the room. The blood had now stopped oozing down his face. "Not my Heineken!"
"Well, God damn it!" Roger said, seeming angrier about that than anything else. "God damn kids!"
Edward could not help smiling, but didn't take Roger's curses personally. If anything, he would've agreed that kids these days had no respect or interest for the elder generations. Not wanting to seem condescending, he instead said, "Are you sure I can't call the police for you?"
"Naw, I'm alright," Roger said, sitting down in his chair, and gingerly touching his cut.
Edward thought he should leave, but he also wanted to make sure Roger was alright. If the man passed out because of a concussion, he'd ignore the old man's request and call 911. He sat down in the same green recliner from yesterday.
"Say, what are you doing up this time of night? Did they wake you?" Roger asked, as though thinking of it for the first time. He checked his watch. There was a large crack in the glass, but that had happened long before this attack. "It's almost three o'clock!"
"Insomnia," Edward replied, not batting an eyelash. "I was out for a walk, and then noticed the door open."
Roger nodded his head, satisfied.
"Can I get you something? Water?"
But, Roger merely shook his head, a motion which was a mistake. It made his head ache, and he abruptly stopped. "I'll be alright. Say, listen, kid. I'm real sorry about yesterday. I didn't mean you no offense. Life's rough for lots of people. I know some people more than others seem to get the shitty end of the stick. I was...just worried about you, is all. You seem like a good kid. Running away with nowhere to go... Well, it's hard to get your life back together after you do something like that."
Edward sat very still, contemplating Roger's words. For a normal teen, he thought the advice made sense. For him, however, what was there to go back to?
"I can't go back."
"I don't mean to pry, so I ain't gonna ask you what exactly you're running away from. All I'm saying is, things can't be so bad when you look at the big picture."
Edward rose up, and Roger was worried he had again stepped over the line. Young kids these days... If they would only stop and think!
"Your words are kindly meant," Edward replied, much calmer than the day before. "I appreciate your concern, and what you're telling me, but..."
Roger stared at him. He was no fool. "That bad, huh?"
Relieved to be off the hook, Edward replied, "Yeah," with a small sigh.
"You kill somebody?"
That made Edward pause. Had he killed somebody? Was Bella dead? She was in the strictest sense of the word, or at least, she would be tomorrow... "I hurt somebody I love. I...betrayed them."
Roger nodded his head, and the picture became clearer. "Say, listen, kid. How 'bout you stay on another day. We can chat some more if you'd like, and it'd be good to have you around in case those hoodlums come back."
Edward considered a moment. It wasn't as though he had somewhere to go... Pulling out his wallet, he said, "Here's another fifty..."
"No, you hold onto that," Roger said with a dismissing wave of his hand. "It's safer in your pocket than in here, anyway. So, what do ya say we have supper together tomorrow night at six?"
Edward had to deliberate. The warm August sun did not set until after eight. "How about 8:30? I'm afraid my hours are screwed, and I tend to sleep insomnia off during most of the day."
"8:30 it is, then."
Edward left, and crept back to the sanctity of his decrepit room. In the hours that followed, he found he had much to think about. He teetered back and forth as to his next move. He knew his indecisiveness would only play in his favour. Alice's eyes would be watching. For now, he really wasn't sure where he should go, and so he stayed. Good luck Alice finding this place, he thought amusedly while staring at the orange and yellow wallpaper.
He crept out just before dawn, deciding instead to return to the forest rather than be shut off in his room all day. Should people come near, he would hide high in a tree. In reality, he found it relief to be out among nature, in light and fresh air. It felt more...human.
Yet, he felt more edgy than yesterday. His watch ticked forever onward, and with each movement of the hands, he knew time was running out for Bella. Tonight she would die.
And, tonight she would awake.
But, as what? He could remember his awakening so well. The thirst so intense with greedy madness he would've killed his own mother if she had been too close. Now, Bella would be the same as him. Dangerous. Lethal. Evil.
His cold heart ached. He didn't want to see her that way. He had never wanted her to be like him. How she ever could have wanted it was a thought not to be understood! Rose coloured glasses and sparkling skin masked the cold, hard brutality of what he was, vegetarian or not. He hated himself for something he could not control, and was powerless to the need in him.
She's better off without me, he thought miserably to himself.
8:30 came, and Edward knocked on Roger's door. He was in a miserable mood, and it showed on his face as the door swung wide.
"Who died?" Roger asked, attempting to liven the situation, but it was the wrong thing to say.
Edward winced. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea tonight, Roger. I'm having a rough night."
"Night's only just begun," Roger replied, starting to worry about the kid. "C'mon in, and you can leave when you please." He turned tail, leaving the door open.
Edward stood there a moment, having difficulty deciding what to do next. In the end, the chatter of the TV seemed to ease him into the room, and he shut the door behind him.
Roger watched as he entered the room, and eased himself into the chair. For now, he'd just ignore him. Wheel of Fortune was on, and it blessed them with ambiguous noise for a while, so neither felt they particularly had to speak. It felt good, for both of them.
On and on they watched the shows, just happy with whatever fate brought them next. Game shows turned to sitcoms, which were followed with medical melodramas. Neither cared much for the storylines or characters, but it was something to do, and time away from reality.
At length, and not turning to look at him, Roger asked, "What are your plans, Edward?"
That was just the thing. Edward didn't have any plans. He'd already been there nearly three days, stuck in indecisive limbo. Stay or go? North or south? Go to Bella, stay away from Bella? "I dunno," he replied dully.
"Well now, see, that's your first mistake. A man's gotta know what's ahead of him. Gotta have a plan. As much as I've love to have you stay with me forever, I know you can't. You need to start thinking about your future, not about your past."
"My future?" Edward replied, his brow furrowed.
The show returned after the commercial, but Edward had already stopped watching it. Future. What future was there to be had without Bella? It was as bleak and dark as a graveyard in January. He had no future, now. Go back to school? Forget it! Get a job? Too damn young, and he always would be. Roam the earth in endless wandering? Sounded lonely...
Roger didn't say any more, and neither did Edward. They simply watched on until news time, and then Edward rose to leave. Deep down, he knew. It was over. Bella was dead. And a new Bella had arisen...
Hitting the mute button, Roger couldn't help himself anymore. It seemed the hardest words said between the two of them were right before Edward was going to leave. They weren't ones to mince their words, but nor could the kid take too much truth. "A betrayal is a hard thing, Edward. Are you sure she won't forgive you?"
"The question is, can I forgive myself?" Edward said, not leaving, but not turning around to look at the old man.
"Well, that's a hard thing, isn't it? Guilt. It never goes away, you know. It don't seem to matter how many years go by, or what you do. Some things you just can't never forgive yourself for doing or saying. Shit happens, just as the saying goes. Bad things happen to good people. Weren't no different a hundred years ago, and it won't be no different in another hundred years. Can't you cut yourself a break?"
"You don't understand."
"Well, that's true enough. But did you know a mistake I made once cost the lives of fifteen men?"
Edward turned around. Roger's eyes were cold and blue steel, but they also spoke of something else. Regret.
"Danang. '71. Leading my battalion in a red zone, looking for any kind of trouble. I..." His face faltered, and he shook away the memories. They seemed so thick, he might've as well brushed them away with his hand. "I made a mistake. A fatal mistake. I should've known better. I did know better. Fifteen men killed, nine wounded. You want to talk about guilt?"
Edward shook his head. He could feel Roger's pain, see his suffering. But, it wasn't the same thing. He had made a mistake, yes, but this was different. "It's not the same thing."
"You're damn right, it's not the same thing!" Roger said, misunderstanding him. "But I know what it's like to have made mistakes that you can't change. You can't change the past, Edward! But, you sure as hell have to take responsibility for it!"
"No..." Edward said, shaking his head.
"Running away ain't gonna solve a damn thing, and you know it! Whatever you did, your acting this way is only gonna make things worse. People are worried about you. People miss you, and don't you tell me they don't! Whatever you did, I don't care. I don't really want to know, to be honest. A man's regrets are his own damn business, but I'm not going to be scared to tell you the truth. You understand me?"
Edward couldn't take it anymore. Roger's words had hit home, and they were just too painful. Every syllable was already in his head, battling his heart. He knew it all already, but that didn't make it any easier to hear. He did the only thing he knew. He reacted on gut instinct. The same instinct that had save him before, and would save him again.
He jumped in the car, and took off like a shot. East, west, south, he didn't know, and he sure as hell didn't care. It was far and away from everything that continued to haunt him.
And, somewhere, out in the night, there was Bella. Thoughts of her continued to tug on him relentlessly. What was she like? Was she upset that he wasn't there? Did she hate him for betraying her? Would she ever forgive him? Was she a monster, just like her maker?
It was all too terrible, too rough. He drove and drove, only stopping to hunt and get gas. He drove erratically, knowing the farther he went, the longer out of contact with them, the harder Alice would try to discover his whereabouts.
He stopped for obligatory gas. Standing beside the pump, he saw a couple of teenagers having a squabble.
"Shut up!" she yelled, and jumped out of the car, closing it with as bing as slam as she could muster.
"Cara, I'm sorry!" the boy replied, likewise jumping out and running after her. "It was stupid! I don't know what I was thinking!"
"'Not as skinny now?!'" she spat, as he tried to grab hold of her in what, Edward could only assume, was a romantic embrace. Cara, however, was pissed off. "What the hell's that supposed to mean, Brad?! 'Not as skinny now?!'"
Brad looked dumbstruck. Him and his big mouth. "I just meant you look healthier now, that's all, I swear! I love you curvy! I swear to God it wasn't an insult! Please, believe me, Cara. I'm sorry! I need you!"
Cara's eyes were flashing dangerously with contempt, until she felt Edward's unwavering gaze on the scene. Thoroughly creeped out, she instinctively snuggled into her boyfriend's arms for protection.
Edward turned away, and placed the pump back. He got in his car as the kids made up and drove off. But he just sat there.
It seemed crazy to compare the two situations, but they all shared one thing in common. They needed each other. Just as Brad had needed Cara, Edward needed Bella. But, most importantly, right now he knew Bella needed him.
Right or wrong, he shouldn't have ever left. He should've battled it head on, and taken her resenting fury like a man. Instead, he had been a coward, filled with self-persecution and hate. But, Roger had been right. That had not been fair. Running away didn't solve anything. If Bella wanted to tell him off, kill him even, he needed to give her that right.
Surely, he owed her that much, at least.
He started the car, and reached into the back seat for his iPhone. The battery was dead, but as he plugged it in, he noticed he had missed 58 calls, and had 22 messages. He felt stronger now and he had more resolve, but he couldn't bring himself to listen to them just yet. One step at a time. First things first.
Now, where the hell was he? Turning on his GPS, he logged in for home, and was happy to learn he was just over four hours away. Closer than he had thought.
Roger wasn't surprised when he woke up the next morning to find Edward's room empty, and the key outside. He hadn't got the last of the money owed, but he didn't care one bit about that. He only worried for the boy, and hoped he was okay.
Some surprise when about two hours later, a van arrived saying that they had been paid to install a new, fully loaded alarm system. Roger had tried to set them straight, but they insisted it had already been paid for. The person had left a message, however.
Words of wisdom. Am going home. Thanks for the good times, and advice.
For a tough old man who'd seen darker days than anyone should, he knew when he'd been touched. His rough hand wiped away a lone tear, and he turned around, getting back to business.
A/N: So, what did you think???
Sorry that it was so angsty and emotional. A rough patch in my life, and Sookie certainly didn't help matters any, but it wasn't her fault!
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know what you thought, and if you have a scene that you would like to see, let me know? I've already started the next one, called "Felix the Fiend", and will hopefully have it up early next week.