A/N: This is my first attempt writing any fan fiction. I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter titles are songs. They occasionally only reflect the tone of the chapter, but often are lyrically compatible.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, nor am I Stephenie Meyer, but I like her characters so much, I wanted to play with them a little.
Hunger - Janis Ian 'Hunger'
Edward Cullen knew he had two choices: resist the call of the new girl's blood and leave Forks, Washington, possibly for good, or take what he so desperately desired and kill her. Either way, he couldn't stay. His mind shifted through both possibilities as his fingers clutched the steering wheel of the speeding silver Volvo. His four siblings were quiet, though their anxious thoughts bombarded him with questions. He fervently wished he couldn't hear their thoughts the way he somehow couldn't hear hers. The girl had walked into their high school Biology class and sat next to him. Since the moment he had breathed in her incredibly potent scent, he had known no peace, and it was a sheer miracle that she was still alive.
Petite Alice turned to him, surprise in her eyes, accusation in her voice. "You're leaving?"
"Am I?" he growled as he glanced at her next to him. Edward watched as a pre-cognitive vision unfolded in her mind; flashes of green forest, a kitchen with yellow cabinets. A young girl with long brown hair pooled beneath her was lying cold, bloodless and very dead.
"No." Alice breathed in horror.
Edward growled in his chest, and the vision shifted. The same girl was older now, her hair in a shorter style. She was sitting in a restaurant with a dark young man, smiling at him. The vision shimmered and disappeared. Alice's eyes came back into focus as she glanced at Edward. His angelic features were twisted into a grimace as he battled with his inner demon.
"Will you come back soon?" Alice whispered. The others in the car stared between them, bewildered.
Burly Emmett spoke, "What's going on? Why are you leaving? C'mon you guys, you know we hate it when you do that silent convo crap. Let us in on it!"
"Jasper? What's wrong? " Lovely Rosalie stared at her blonde brother beside her in the back seat, his handsome face contorted in distress, eyes closed.
"Edward's in a lot of pain," he said slowly. "I'm feeling confusion, anger and tremendous thirst coming from him." Jasper took a deep breath and his face cleared a little, though his brow furrowed in concentration.
Of all of the vampires in the Cullen clan, Jasper was the most recently converted to the family's lifestyle. Human blood still smelled much too good to him. The rest of the family had adjusted well over the years to Carlisle Cullen's way of life. They hunted animals now, large game as they could get it, allowing them all to co-exist with the human world. Carlisle himself had been a 'vegetarian' the longest. At over 350 years old, he had disciplined his thirst so well that he was able to function as a highly-skilled surgeon, routinely repairing broken bodies in the ER of the local hospital. He and his beautiful wife, Esme, loved their 'adopted' children very much. This love and the loyalty it engendered made the family very close.
The fact that six of them were mated pairs added another layer to the family dynamic, but rarely caused any real discord. Though none of them were truly related, what they were and the lifestyle they practiced combined to make them look somewhat alike. All were very pale, elegant and beautiful. Their skin was cold and hard as stone, though they each moved with an unearthly grace. But the most distinctive feature of the family, the one that marked the difference between themselves and others of their kind, was their eyes. Crimson irises were evidence of a diet of human blood- feeding on animals made the Cullens' eyes golden in color, ranging from honey to butterscotch, to deepest black when they needed to hunt.
Jasper needed to hunt, and soon. The emotions washing over him from Edward were almost overwhelming, so he had tried sending back feelings of his own. Edward felt a wave of calm push towards him from behind, calm tinged with sympathy. Edward sighed. His grip on the steering wheel loosened slightly but his foot remained firmly on the accelerator as they sped towards home.
"Would someone please exp-," Emmett started again, but Edward cut him off.
"Alice will tell you. I need to see Carlisle." Edward was ashamed he was running from the girl. Ashamed that her scent had almost made him kill her. Ashamed that he didn't trust himself even now not to go back and find her. He couldn't face the looks his family would give him once they knew, not yet.
"Drop us off and go,' Alice said, never taking her eyes from Edward's perfect face.
Though the Cullens lived a good way out from town, Edward's anxiety coupled with his usual fast driving had already brought them to the almost invisible opening in the forest which marked the entrance to their driveway. Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett climbed from the back seat, dismay and questions in their eyes and thoughts. The Volvo's engine purred as Edward stared at his hands on the wheel, not daring to look at them, afraid of the pity and bewilderment he would see in their faces.
Alice lingered a moment, her hand on Edward's sleeve. 'Call me when you get to Denali,' she thought, love and concern in her eyes. 'I'll miss you.'
Edward tore his eyes from his hands to look at his pixie-like sister. A wry crooked grin tried to form on his lips but died before it ever reached his dark eyes. He glanced down at his arm and placed his left hand over hers. He sat for a moment, listening to her newest vision. It was the restaurant again, slightly more definite and focused than it had been before. The girl was twirling a piece of her hair in her slender fingers, a delicate ring sparkling on her left hand as she gazed at the young man, his handsome Native American features beaming at her in return.
Edward closed his eyes and sighed. Alice leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. 'Carlisle's not going to be very busy for at least a couple of hours. Go talk to him.' She squeezed her brother's arm and turned to get out of the car.
"Alice," Edward called. She looked back, one foot still in the car. Edward pinched the bridge of his nose with his cold fingers, eyes still squeezed shut. Then he opened them as his hand dropped to his lap. "Thank you. I'll miss you, too."
Alice gave him a tiny smile as she stepped back and closed the car door. The four siblings watched as Edward gunned the car, spun it in a rapid u-turn, and disappeared back the way they had come.
Emmett glared at Alice. "Well?"
"I'll tell you on the way," she said as she turned into the forest beside the drive. The others followed, melting silently into the woods as they ran towards their house.
Edward watched Tanya stride away into the snowy night. He knew she was angry and frustrated with him, but there wasn't anything he could do about it, nor did he particularly want to. When the Cullens had visited the Alaskan coven of sisters on other occasions, the exquisite Tanya had merely made him uncomfortable with her attentions. This time, though, he had arrived alone and she had gone all out. The past few days she had been an additional torment to his already shredded nerves. She had stalked him ruthlessly, practically disrobing in front of him last night before he had managed to close his bedroom door on her. She had cursed as she heard the lock turn before storming away.
He didn't want to hurt her feelings, but she just didn't get it. He was not interested. At all. He had run here seeking solace from his anguish, not sex. The beautiful strawberry-blonde had tried her best to distract him as only she could, but he had never accepted her advances before, and this time was no different. Actually, it was different, in that no matter what he did, he could only see the confused face and deep brown eyes of a human girl before him.
Edward threw his head back against the trunk of the tree he was sitting under, causing a small shower of snow to dislodge and land on his face. He shook it from his eyes and untidy bronze hair.
Groaning with annoyance, he stood up, stuffed his hands in his pockets and started walking in the opposite direction from the one that Tanya had taken. He tried to think about what she had said to him, the words of comfort she had used, but the lascivious thoughts she had been having at the time had shouted vulgarly over what she had been saying. Damn succubus. He grimaced inwardly at how much energy she put into trying to seduce him each time he came to Denali.
Of the other vampires Edward had met, this was the only other 'vegetarian' family he knew. Kate, Irina and Tanya were succubae, but they enjoyed human men too much to kill them. While Carlisle thought that the sisters' interaction with humans was humorous, he nevertheless was pleased to know that his family was not alone in their respect for mortals.
Carlisle. Edward frowned again and sighed. He was going to have to call Carlisle soon and give him his decision.
The moon was glinting through the trees as Edward stepped out onto a rocky outcropping, farther up this mountain than he had wandered before. The stars twinkled down at him, their constellations splashed and spangled across the heavens. He frowned again and blinked, but their sparkling beauty was dispelled by a pair of wide brown eyes. Edward cursed softly and crouched down on his heels, his cold fingers mindlessly worrying some rocks at his feet.
Nothing was working. He couldn't get her face out of his head. He sighed again as he looked up at the exquisite diamond sky. He was a coward. He hated being a coward but he couldn't go back and risk harming that girl. He winced at the face again. It still wore the look she had given him in Biology class when she saw the frightening expression on his own face. Confusion, anger and fear had all been written on her small features. He hung his head and ran his hand through his hair. Bella. Her name was Bella.
Edward picked up a stone near his foot and stood up, facing a steep slope to his left. He drew back his arm and flung the rock into the darkness. Momentarily he was stung with the thought that he might accidentally hit an animal, but the loud crack that echoed back assured him that he had only hit a tree. A creaking noise reached his sensitive ears, groaning louder as the tree he had hit succumbed to the missing chunk the rock had taken from its trunk. A rending of wood and swishing of snow-laden branches ripped the night as the tree overbalanced, and then tore in two. The silence that followed was deafening.
Edward chuckled humorlessly. 'If a tree falls in the forest…' his thought began but never concluded. The pained brown eyes continued to accuse him. He groaned aloud.
Why? Who was she? Why couldn't he hear her thoughts when everyone else's were so very plain? Why was the scent of her blood so incredibly sweet, so mouth-wateringly delicious that it had taken every ounce of his strength not to kill her as she sat there next to him? Why did she come to Forks and disrupt his perfectly fine, content existence? He stopped. His existence. That was all it was. Not a life. Only the living have a life. But he had been happy with his family… hadn't he?
Edward looked up at the moon, swallowing the venom that filled his mouth at the memory of her scent. Coward. Her eyes swam in his vision. No. Monster. That was what he really was. A monster who had killed humans, though it was long ago and the ones he had hunted had once themselves been hunters of the innocent. It didn't matter. He had lived so long with Carlisle that he had become complacent. He had been too sure of himself, overconfident in his ability to resist the lure of the blood racing in the veins of the humans who had surrounded him daily for decades.
Then she came; one small girl with a scent that had all but knocked him out of his seat. He still wasn't sure how he had managed not to kill a classroom full of children just so he could crush her to his lips and drink what must be the most divine ambrosia…
A small sound bored through his tangled thoughts and Edward froze. He realized he was on his knees with his head in his hands, but he didn't know when he had collapsed. The noise came again and he slowly looked up. A bear was padding softly across the slope below him, heading back to its den after an evening snack. Edward grinned to himself, thinking of his brother, Emmett, and his fondness for grizzly. This was a Kodiak, and would be just as tasty.
He inhaled deeply, the bear's scent swirling towards him in the frigid air, inflaming the thirst he already felt from the memory of the girl. Edward shifted into a crouch, and then silently launched himself in front of the bear.
The startled animal reared back and growled, then roared in pain as Edward's scalpel-like teeth ripped into its throat.
Together vampire and prey crashed to the ground, the bear trying desperately to dislodge its attacker, the hunter clinging with superhuman strength to his victim. Splashes of red stained the snow from their struggle, but it didn't last long. The bear soon stopped fighting, and then stopped moving altogether. The only sound was the wind in the tops of the trees and a small greedy wet sucking.
Edward sat back on his haunches and licked a smear of blood from his fingers. He grabbed a handful of snow from the ground next to the bear's still paw and washed his face with its icy wetness. Standing up, he looked down at the remains of the animal. For several long moments he contemplated the life he had just taken and his own unnatural place in the food chain. Again, a pair of soft brown eyes swam before him, confused and hurt. Frustration and anger at his own weakness ripped through him. He threw his head back and a primal scream tore from his throat.
Monster. He sounded like one. He acted like one. He was one. Either that or he was a coward. Emotion shuddered through his body as an internal battle raged within him, his selfishness at war with his conscience. To go back was to release the monster. The girl would die. To stay away would tear his family apart and the coward in him hated that the monster was forcing this choice. No, not the monster; the girl. Bella. She was forcing him!
Edward's anguish slowly receded as his conscience attained the upper hand and logic regained control of his thoughts. He knew it really wasn't her fault. She had no way of knowing that she had walked into a school which held five vampires, one of whom was being driven insane by the scent of her luscious blood. It wasn't her fault at all, which was why he had left. She was innocent; it was his own bloodlust which demanded to be sated.
He couldn't hurt her. It would disappoint Carlisle and anger the others because they would have to move. Again. Nor could he justify taking away her life merely to satisfy his own demonic thirst. She didn't deserve to die, and he couldn't let the monster win.
Alice's two visions played through his mind for the thousandth time: the girl, cold, with dead lifeless eyes. That was what he so feared. Then he saw the other vision that had sharpened as he decided to leave, the one of the girl and her handsome suitor, full of life and hope. Edward closed his eyes. The vision dissolved into her face again. Once more the look of hurt and confusion assaulted him. He just couldn't do it. He couldn't be responsible for destroying her, destroying not only her life but her happiness and that of her chosen young man. Edward's eyes flew open as a new thought struck him.
Choice. That was what it all came down to. He had chosen not to kill her. He had chosen to leave. Now he could choose to not return. The choice was his and he would make it. Carlisle would understand. Esme would mourn the loss of her eldest son from the family, but one day, when the Cullens had resettled elsewhere, perhaps he could rejoin them. He would miss Emmett's teasing and Jasper's sharp intellect. His brothers were dear to him. Rosalie, well, he would miss her, also. She was handy with a car engine, and truly loved Emmett, which made Edward smile. A frown creased his brow as he thought of Alice, sweet, clairvoyant Alice. He would miss her most. Thankfully she had Jasper, who would be able to calm and comfort her as no one else could.
Edward sighed again. He didn't actually need to breathe, but sighing was a human habit he had never been able to shake. His eyes were clouded by the face of the girl again. This time, he stared back into her warm brown eyes, willing her to leave him alone; he wasn't coming back, he wasn't going to hurt her. Her eyes never relinquished their accusations.
A small electronic chirp erupted from his pants pocket. Edward frowned and glanced at the silver phone's display before he answered. "Hello, Carlisle," he said, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice.
"Hello, Edward," Carlisle's tone was concerned. "I just spoke with Alice. She says you've decided not to return. Is that right, son?"
Edward ran his free hand through the mess of his tangled bronze locks before pinching the bridge of his nose with his cold fingers. "I think it would be best," he said simply. He hated what he was saying. "I can't think of any way around it," his voice was low as he mentally cursed his weakness.
"Edward, are you sure?" Carlisle said. "You could come back and we could take you out of school. Many families home-school only one or two of their children. No one would doubt it was true…"
Edward sighed. "I appreciate it, Carlisle, but no. I can't trust myself to be anywhere near her. The pull of her blood is too strong, and I might not be able to resist just running out to her house…," he left the rest unsaid.
"Son, I told you before, you are stronger than you think," Carlisle answered.
Edward closed his eyes. "Not really, Carlisle. It's taken everything I have in me already just to stay away. I know it's a cowardly way to go, but…"
"Cowardly? Hold on, now, son. You aren't seeing this clearly at all," Carlisle exclaimed. His voice softened with his next words. "It takes tremendous courage to resist as you have, to leave that little girl with her life intact. Don't ever think of yourself as a coward. That is the very last thing that you are, Edward. A heart as true as yours could never belong to a coward."
Edward stood immobile as fresh flakes began to flutter from the sky. If he could shed tears, he knew he would be soaking the phone by now. His voice cracked slightly as he spoke. "Thank you, Carlisle. I'm not sure that your opinion on that isn't a little bit biased, but thank you anyway."
"It's true, Edward. You're my son and my first companion. I trust you to have made the best decision for all concerned." Edward winced at the heartfelt words. This really wasn't going to be easy.
"Carlisle, please tell Esme how sorry I am. I know I hurt her by leaving, more so by not saying good-bye. I just hope she'll understand. Maybe one day I'll be able to rejoin the family, somewhere else…"
Carlisle stopped him. "Edward, you don't have to do that. You shouldn't be alone and none of us wants you to leave the family. You're too important to all of us." Edward ran his hand through his hair again, staring blindly at the carcass of the bear at his feet.
"What are you talking about, Carlisle? I just told you I'm not coming back. I can't."
"I know, son. Since you've been gone, we've discussed all of the possible outcomes of this situation. We've gone over every scenario we could think of, including some fairly entertaining ones from Emmett." Edward grinned at what Emmett might possibly have suggested.
"We finally came to the conclusion that, no matter what, the family comes first." Carlisle's tone softened. "And that means we are together. All of us."
"You would leave Forks? For me?" Edward's voice was rough.
Carlisle sounded surprised. "Yes. Of course. You've moved before, for them, or because of me. They're quite willing to do the same for their beloved brother."
Edward smirked at how 'beloved' Rosalie would consider him when she had to start over as a sophomore at a new school right as she was about to graduate in Forks. Then his handsome face sobered. "I can't ask that of them, Carlisle," he murmured. "It isn't fair of me."
"No one ever said life is fair, son, not even a vampire's life," Carlisle chuckled, then quietly went on." We couldn't stay here very much longer anyway. I've already heard comments about what a youthful 33 year old I am. Our schedule will just move up a year or so."
Edward's breath hitched in his chest. "Thank you, Carlisle. I don't quite know what to say."
"Say where you want to go. Is Denali good for now? Or is there too much attention there for you?"
Edward grimaced. It was no secret to anyone in his family that Tanya had designs on him. "No, you're right. Denali isn't a good choice right now. It's… a little crowded." He fought back the irritation that thoughts of Tanya always induced. "I don't really care where we go. You can choose. I can't get the girl's face out of my mind no matter what I do, anyway." His tone was defenseless.
Edward," Carlisle's concern filled his ear, "We are coming for you. Can you hold on for another day or two? We need to close up the house and I have things to settle at the hospital."
Edward sighed, rolled his shoulders back and lifted his face into the steadily falling snow. A half- inch of it had accumulated on his shoulders as they talked, and now it slid to the ground, a slight breeze drifting it over the bear.
"I'll be here, Carlisle. And thank you," said Edward.
"Not at all, Edward. We're a family and we do what we must to stay together." A smile crept into Carlisle's voice. "Alice has duly noted the decisions we've made and I believe that jumping up and down means that she wants to talk to you. We'll see you soon, son. Be safe."
"I will, Dad," Edward murmured as a squealing giggle pierced through the speaker. He quickly pulled the phone away from his ear, chuckling at his favorite sister's excitement. "Hello, Short Stuff! What's new?"
Alice's bell-like voice was quivering as she spoke. He could picture her bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Oh, Edward! I can't wait to see you! I've missed you so much! We all have." E
dward grinned. "It's only been four days," he teased. "I've missed you, too. How has everybody been holding up since I went A.W.O.L.?"
Alice's voice lowered and held a different sort of tremor. "Esme's had a pretty hard time. Jasper has, too, with everybody upset and out of sorts. He kept trying to calm everybody down and make us cheerful at the same time. Emmett ended up tackling and wrestling him, just to get him to stop. And, of course, Emmett cheated," She giggled at the memory. Edward grinned to himself. He had missed Alice's giggles and his brothers' competitiveness. He sighed and Alice heard him.
"You OK?" she queried. "Tanya a help… or not?"
Edward rolled his eyes and ground his teeth before answering tersely, "Definitely 'not'."
"Not ok, or not a help?" Alice returned. He sighed again. "Both, actually. But I'll be better when you all get here."
"Super!" she twinkled at him. "Hey, do you want me to pack all your clothes, or would you rather just go shopping with me when we get to…" she stopped suddenly. Edward knew there were scenes shifting in her mind now. He waited patiently, wishing once again that he could read her mind through the phone.
"Minnesota… ooh, we'll be able to go to the Mall of America!" Edward groaned in mock distress. "Oh, you know you want to go! It's incredible; 500 stores, a theme park and everything!"
Edward chuckled at her enthusiasm but couldn't resist teasing her. "Is there a valet service available so you can shop at every store and have someone to carry all your bags?"
"That's what you and Jasper are for, silly," she beamed. "There is even a Lego center there that is absolutely huge."
"Great!" Edward smirked. "There will be something for Emmett to do, too!" Alice's laugh tinkled at him in the icy air.
His mood considerably lightened, he ended their conversation as they had for decades. "Bye, Miss Issippi," he smiled into the phone. "See you soon."
"Later, Tater," she grinned, then breathlessly added, "Be sure to lock the door AND window when you go to take that hot bath tonight. Tanya's not quite ready to concede the match. Love you!"
As he clicked the phone shut, Edward closed his eyes and tilted his face up once more into the falling snow. He felt it lightly brush his eyelids and lips, slipping from his finely chiseled cheekbones. After a minute, he lowered his head and wiped his face with his hand. Once again, his golden glance fell on the body of the bear, now nearly covered in a soft crystal blanket of white.
"I'm sorry I took things out on you, my furry friend. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he murmured. The statement stunned him with its accuracy as a pair of brown eyes stared back at him. Bear eyes. Dead bear eyes.
Edward sighed as a lovely living face with warm brown eyes, surrounded by a cascade of soft chestnut hair, once again commanded his attention. Which of them had been the one in the wrong place at the wrong time, himself or Bella? He didn't know, and as far as he was concerned, he never would. It didn't matter now, anyway. The right choices had been made. She would live, he would hunt bears, his family would be together again, and all was right with the world.
Now if he could just manage to keep away from Tanya for another couple of days.
Edward shrugged his shoulders and turned his back on the bear. As he walked away, towards Kate's house and that hot bath, a new movement off to his left caught his eye. A shooting star was blazing across the velvet sky. He hesitated a moment, fighting the urge to do something so silly and superstitious.
'Who will know?' he thought. 'The bear won't tell.' He glanced at it over his shoulder, then turned his topaz gaze back up at the sky and spoke aloud.
"'Star light, Star bright, Shooting star across my sight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.' I wish that Bella has a long, healthy and happy life, free from mythical creatures and anyone else who would harm her."
'God, I feel like I'm six years old.' He grinned to himself as he started back through the woods. 'Hmm, maybe I should've wished that Tanya would suddenly find me as attractive as Quasimodo, instead.' As Edward slipped into the shadow of the trees, his quiet chuckle drifted into the frozen night, soft as the snow that now covered the face of the bear.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Please review! I really do want to know what you think.