A/N: The following one-shot is a complete work of fiction; all character names and personality traits have been modified from those created by, and copy to, Stephenie Meyer.
This was originally written for the "Age of Edward" contest until I realized no vamps were allowed (whoops!). All derivatives of "he" refer to one person; "the man" is a second character. The vagueness and abundant use of poetics is entirely intentional.
"Bella," it would begin. "It was my intention to marry you." Claim you in the most hedonistic of ways he would think, pencil poised, brow creased, teeth gripping teeth as a blush crept through his memory.
He would erase and start over:
"Bella, my love, there is no way for my affection to express itself rationally;" he would pause, unsure, aware of where this was headed. "I could live for eternity and always find some new way to alight your beauty, never feel satisfied in my praise of your warmth, your benevolence, your unwavering devotion."
He waits, hunched over, remembering his choice and wondering, for the third time that day (the five-thousandth, six-hundredth, and thirty-eighth time since he left her) whether he has been too selfish, too proud, too rash. He shakes his head, compelled to finish what he started – this letter, this battle, this war – and bites the tears away.
"Bella, my dear," his hands on the verge of shaking, of breaking down, of showing an inner weakness he's locked inside and unknowingly let slip out slowly (painfully, a shade too piecemeal) – "Bella, I must come back to you. I have promised you my love and you shall keep it; my heart will forever beat in time with yours but, for now, the distance placed between us is too great, too deep a chasm; the only hope we have is the perpetual rising of the sun, counting down the hours until we are reunited."
He has thought for days on this – knowing it is the last remnants of his mortal life and yet, he still cannot bring himself to scratch out the words – but in the end, he must, for her, for her.
"My sweet, sweet Bella," it would cease. "This is the last of me, my last tie to this dying earth, and it is with you. I am always with you, forever. Please do not weep too much for me, Isabella; save your tears, collect them, hold on to them. We shall create a river with our tears – together."
He sits there, a soldier, shoulder to shoulder, and hangs his head. Just for the moment; he allows himself this one brief moment.
"Bella, I am here for you. I am waiting, Bella. We are one, we are one. I am yours."
This pain: so intense, so much deeper then this gaping hole from which he is bleeding out.
He thinks of her – Bella – in agony.
He lays there, battle-strewed, memorizes the way the sky seems to dance and sway across the stars as if his Bella is with him – there, in the middle of a bloodied field, war, states united – laughing, urging him forward, her eyes twinkling with mirth.
"Bella," the breath escaping him; even now, near the end, he is thinking of her.
He is in their meadow, hidden, feeling his heart clench with the image of Bella as she twirls, surrounding him. He walks towards her and she stops. Does she feel him, when he reaches out?
And then she turns and his world slows down; he is crawling through molasses and he notices the way her cheeks blush, fingers let go, eyes fill up.
He hears her sigh, a breath of beauty, watches the love as it rolls off her in waves. She smiles, he smiles; they smile at each other's smiles. Their fingers graze, tip to tip; he is two seconds away from a gentle cheek caress and then,
there is nothing.
He feels the wind as it ruffles his hair. Too fast he thinks. I am moving too fast. He feels his body cool as the grip on him tightens. He jerks his eyes awake and the battle is a blur, the constant sky mocking him as it retreats away.
"Shhh," he hears, the musical lilt assaulting his already strung-out senses. "I will save you," it swears. "I will save you."
He thinks of Bella, breathing her name, repeating an endless string of "Bella, bring me to Bella." That is how he will be saved – how he would care to be saved.
It's just a prick, really, a needlepoint and the sliver of a cool tongue, erasing its existence.
"Bella," he cries out. He is screaming for Bella and the ground shakes beneath him. The tremors retreat, fade out, and he is left. Screaming for Bella, he is left without her.
No one can save him now.
He smells his filth as he feels it on him. A month's worth of grime stuck to him like a second skin. He feels lithe, agile; he knows something is different but he can't place what.
"I saved you," he hears. "You are in pain no more. I have saved you from your agony."
He whips around, subtlety surprised at the way the wind stays in focus as he moves against it, the way the leaves rustle in slow-motion, the way he can hear the voice – smell its breath – and, still, he cannot place its source.
He crouches, instinctually, at the rustle of leaves. And then he is off, darting around the hundred-year-old growths as if he could simply will them out of his way.
"Do you feel it?" he hears. "Can you feel it burn?"
He lunges at a beleaguered deserter – which one of us was more surprised? he thinks, but only for a moment – and then he's feeding, smashing his coated teeth into the soft flesh and groaning at its release, not noticing the way he silently snaps his wrist and causes paralysis; he's draining a limp, bloody soldier and the burning retreats, ducks its head; he lightly pushes the body away and hears it crash into a solid trunk without meaning to.
He hunches down, surrounding himself, and wonders what's come over him, tries to pinpoint the time and place of his monstrous transformation.
"Now, now. There's no need for that."
It's meant to caress him, the way the words float towards him, placate him with their tone. He looks up and springs backward, stalling his weight as it smashes into a tree. The man smirks at him, skin colliding with the stars for beauty as the feet move and bring the two bodies closer together.
He starts to pant, claws away at the bark that is no match for his undiscovered strength. He waits for the sweat to come, for the breaths to heave, for the blood to pound; and nothing, there is silence. He forgets about the intruder. For one swift moment he is clawing at his chest, trying to break open his skin and find his missing heart.
He looks up in agony.
What am I? he thinks. "What am I?" he stutters out.
All his abundant energy wrapped up in these three insignificant words; he is hanging on these words.
The man smirks as if to say, why must you even ask? Except he's standing there, almost paralyzed by the unknown, and the man stares at him, holds their gaze and one word slips out, too low for even his ears.
The word caresses the man's lips and then he's off, disgusted with himself – with what he is and not who he has failed to remain – except he is caught up with and cornered as the burning in his throat controls his steps and he can barely comprehend what is happening before he's lungeing at another unsuspecting, before he boldly – messily, undeniably – fulfills his new identity. The man looks on, blasé.
"I never do get used to this," the voice: chuckling, the hands: grabbing his shoulders and steering him away from the boy he has just devoured.
I wish it were me he thinks bitterly.
He's taken to fingering his empty jacket pocket; his useless, swinging medallion shouting to the world of a certain existence those who knew him will soon forget:
Edward Cullen, soldier, 22nd infantry, Forks, Washington.
The man told him, offhandedly: "Your letter's been delivered."
That was the first time he haphazardly patted his chest down, looking for the slight bulge of a picture, a twice-folded slip of parchment.
He does it now, a swift tic of his former human life. He's never second-guessed the now empty pocket – just another reminder of the now empty space beneath.
Welcome to Washington, the sign reads.
His breath hitches without him asking it to; he doesn't wait for the pause of a stuttering, staccato heart. Not anymore.
He begged the man of this. "Just once," he pleaded. "Just once and I won't ask of you again."
The man nodded, infinitesimally, and they were off, working and weaving their way through the lush mountains, the sparse inhabitants keeping their thirst at bay.
It's his twenty-first birthday.
"Would be," he's corrected. Would be he thinks glumly.
It would be my birthday. I would be home. I would be kissing–
He stops thinking, his body almost mimicking the abruptness of his mind. He just needs one glimpse, a half-second look and he would know if she were (could be, is no longer) happy. Had he been here, not like this, that's what he would have wanted. He can feel it in the way the wind caresses, how the rain washes down his face and feels like crying.
He would want this one moment.
He knows it will rip open the wound; he knows it will infect the deep recess of his stagnant heart. He admits (to himself only and never out loud) it will feel like death (or a death he has come to wish for) – the momentary absence of feeling – and then he will look at her and know it had to be done; it will be worth the constant pain if it means getting to carry her with him forever.
Forever, such a new spin on an old face.
He briefly wonders what did I write? what did I say to her? how did I choose to tell her?
He can't remember. He won't say it, but he's thankful for that.
"She's in the meadow," the man says. "She goes there often."
He thinks meadow? but cannot remember a significance.
They pass forward and he stops without warning. "Please," he whispers to the ground beneath them. "Please let me do this alone." The man looks on confused and then, just as suddenly, a body is off, running fast behind him. "Three hours," he hears.
He sprints quickly towards the new, intoxicating scent. It pulls him, engulfs his senses and the burning is back, uncontrollable and rearing its immortal head, poised for attack. He leans against a tree, sucking in her scent as it floats off her in glistening waves, diluted and weighed down by the rain. He drops quietly to the ground and crawls towards her.
Was I always this ensnared? he wonders. Did I ever find a way praise upon her power?
He smells her, hears her, feels her sigh and shift against the dewy moss where she lay. He's crouching, clutching a tree as the bark breaks and brittles beneath his fingers. He lifts his eyelids, tortuously expanding their sense and then chides himself;
he was right.
His feet are unbehaving and then he's tiptoeing to her, unable to stop himself, unwilling to deny her pull.
His heart; it stutters and pulses softly, echoing.
"Bella," he whispers, caressing her ears with such sweet melody; he forgets she'll think he sounds strange. "Bella, love, wake up. I'm here. I'm here."
He's slowly rocking her thrashing, hot-blooded body and she shakes against herself, unused to the cold but still finding comfort in its sensation.
That voice, that voice she cries. Edward! Edward! "Please don't lie," she murmurs.
Except this time he responds, a chaste kiss on her soft-pillow lips and her eyes flutter open and she almost faints.
And then she's crying salty tears and he's laughing at her weakened, feeble attempts to punch him, punish him for leaving her, for sending that paltry note instead. He sobers up.
"Note?" unwilling to believe this can't just be now, can't just be this single moment. She wrenches a tattered sheet of parchment from her breast and his movement stills, his sangria irises faltering as they take in the two-year swell of a body he'd been forced to forget.
She sucks in a much-needed breath and her breasts push up against the tight fabric of her bodice, his letter forgotten against the dew, a blush flushing her exposed skin as their pupils meet and bodies react – hers: instinctual licking of the lips, half-hooded eyes, stuttered breathing, and a not-so-foreign wetness between the thighs (she won't admit it, but she's always felt this way, always cursed the year and her age for telling her it is wrong); his: heightened senses (that smell he thinks quickly and then again, over and over; that smell would kill me) and a venomous secretion against his titanium teeth, the burning licking its way up his throat until he's grabbing her face to stop it. He feels new born again, unable (or unwilling, he never knows which) to stop his fluid movements to stun her.
Except – his heart, his heart.
He opens his eyes and spies their position: she's perched on his folded thighs, draped underneath his hunched over form, one firm, pale, ready to sparkle appendage grasping the nape of her neck for safety while the other holds her hip, ready for the simple instruction push!, ready to break her pelvis and keep her there before she even realizes she should call out for help. He pulls back, suddenly unsure of what he's about to do. But she's too quick, even for him, and her human grip on his wrist is startling in its strength.
"Please?" she whispers, unsure this is even happening but not waiting for it to be over. If he leaves her, she won't be able to hold it in any longer. "Please stay with me?"
He hesitates – just for a moment – and she turns away, silent droplets of resignation, of a one-year, eleven-month, twelve-day-old wound that she had closed up because he asked her to. And then he's there, behind her, rolling her over and beneath him until she's able to clutch his biceps as he licks away her tears.
She feels her beau come back (doesn't realize he's using all his strength to push the melodramatic killer away for a second of control) and she's loving that he's kissing every inch of her face, every speck of skin she's left exposed in the damp June air. He's pulling and grabbing and ripping the fabric off of her milky teenage skin and she doesn't even realize it's only been seconds since they started.
A frenzy that's been brewing for eight years rips through him and he assaults her body with kisses (closed-mouth and then definitely with tongue), covering every square inch he can reach without moving her (her toes, he finds, are particularly ticklish). He worships her the only way he knows she'll want to understand in the state they've found themselves in; she's trying to pull him back up to her, trying desperately to momentarily block off her air supply so she can feel what it means to be in love. But she forgets – just then, lying in the grass, virginally exposed in more ways then one – that he's halfway down her body and has to pass a certain spot before he works his way back up.
This new scent of her arousal: it fills his nasal cavity with such deliberateness he forgets, momentarily, that the thirst for her blood is what brought them to this place. And he doesn't think – he can't (not in this state and certainly with no prior experience) – he just acts, goes on instinct, starts to lap up her body's response to his incessant frenzy.
(He doesn't know, not now, at least, that his body is helping her find that plateau of ecstasy; frankly, he finds the observation vague and insubstantial.)
She's so wet he thinks, amazed.
The act has her writhing on the ground, fighting against the way he seems to lick within her, caressing the most sensitive part of her body.
(She isn't thinking of this now, but she would have, if she had known such a spot existed.)
He places one hand across her belly button, holding her still so he can be as thorough as he wants to be. Her wiggling turns him on, forces half of his last meal below his center of gravity and makes him harder, so much harder than he's used to feeling. It makes him lose concentration – this wayward exploration of his physical desire – and he begins to panic, scared of the desperate want to stay in control, the need to keep his movements focused on this one foreign act he used to pretend to joke about before, all of them trying to keep their thoughts off of war and, instead, on the beauties they had left behind, beauties that used to ache and plead and beg for some carnal pleasure he once viewed as sinful.
He glances up, suddenly curious, and she's gazing down at him, watching his tongue as it swirls and darts against dark curls that seem to glisten of their own accord. Her lids are half-closed with lust and she's panting out his name, grabbing his wrist as it grabs her belly, clutching his soft, silky hair and pushing his face into territory she's suddenly glad she's kept undiscovered. A half-strangled "Edward" moans out of her lips and he feeds into the violent frenzy he's solely responsible for, slipping in an index and middle finger to speed up the process.
(Not because he's in a hurry, but because he likes the way it feels, the way she's slick and wet and unbearably tight against one fifth of his digits.)
She holds onto hair that hasn't grown an inch in almost two years and he pushes in harder, swirling a tongue he never knew had such potential, curling fingers he's sure have been made for this, keeping his gaze locked on hers until she starts to clench around him and his scrutiny is broken as he watches, then feels, her squeeze tight in two different places.
Her muscles begin to relax and he removes his fingers, moving both hands until they're grabbing her hips and tilting her pelvis so it's smashed up against his face. He licks her while she comes down post-coital and then he crawls his way back up her body, finishing a want he now realizes he was glad to interrupt. He pulls her to him, cradling her, skimming his nose down and around her chin to capture her scent and punish himself for wanting her so badly. She starts to giggle uncontrollably and he joins in, relishing in the soft musical waves that warm him to the core.
"Edward!" she sounds breathlessly. "You're still wearing all your clothes!"
He grazes one finger down her abdomen and a blush follows. "I don't mind," he whispers honestly. He ghosts his nose across her collarbone and her heartbeat picks up, mirroring his own giddy yearning. Her breath hitches and she freezes. He looks up expectantly, "Bella?"
But then she's attacking his mouth, prying open soldier's buttons, and she doesn't realize he's naked like her in so short a time frame. She feels a foreign appendage pushing into her thigh and remembers how they're different before he can stop and ask her why she's being so hesitant. She jerks her hips upwards – not knowing the reason, just trying to relieve some of the ache deep in her belly, trying to guide him into her from sheer will alone – and he chuckles at her meager efforts, laughs against her desperate mouth, and she moans into him. It breaks him; he's gone before he even realizes how he knows what he's doing.
He gasps as he fills her, reveling in the way her body has expanded to fit him, how it's willingly broken itself to hold him in place. He smells blood (faint, stale, but still potent enough to give the monster an opportunity) and then they're rocking against one another, finding a rhythm no one tells you about until after you've found your own way there.
In this dance, this horizontal lover's duet: she's crying out for mercy, releasing her violent side, clutching and grabbing his immovable body, praying to an unbelieved god thank you! thank you! thank you!; he's rocking, pounding, licking, tasting, remembering what this feels like each infinitesimal moment it occurs.
He makes her come a second time, makes her inner walls clench around his more-than-average girth, stimulates nerve endings most women never understand or appreciate.
Except this time, he's coming with her.
The build-up so intense that he almost feels lightheaded from the amount of blood that's needed to prop him up, almost feels human as he shudders, lets go, releases into her, almost relaxes as one final push sends him rocketing to a high he knows he'll never feel again except in this position.
He's waiting in an alleyway, standing in the shadows of a filthy New York, counting the minutes to nightfall. He watches departing soldiers forcibly kiss their lovers goodbye, wondering if they've already showed each other what their bodies are capable of doing or if they're both waiting until it's over; wondering whose choice that was; wondering if they even know what they'll be missing.
He holds himself over her as they both regain a breath only one of them needs. He pulls out and she closes her eyes and sighs, pushing her breasts against the hard planes of his chest to make up for their loss of contact. Her nipples harden with the change in temperature and he feels a minute blood lost as his body starts to fill him up to capacity. His irises darken one tenth of one shade and he bends forward, sniffing her sweaty skin, verbally praising her for all the times he missed.
He watches the women hold in their tears until their soldiers (boyfriends, husbands, sons, fathers, lovers? he never cares enough to find out) are on the departing boat and so small that insignificant details like rapidly descending salt water isn't noticeable from the heightened angle.
He watches those left on shore clutch each other, trying, he presumes, to feel a warm body that will never fill the hole that's swiftly growing until it will eventually swallow them intact.
He tilts his head, remembering how personal tears are, how sweet they taste, and he pretends to cry for them – with them, against them – can almost imagine the prick of a tear as it would worm its way through his long-dry tear ducts, how it would silently slide down his pale, preternatural face; a face that hasn't smiled or laughed or even shown any emotion besides guilt or disdain in over seventy-five years; a face frozen at nineteen on the foreign ground of Gettysburg.
She squirms beneath him, her middle half wetting itself with what she thinks is a third round.
(Good things always happen in threes she sighs.)
He would have preferred to even up the score but can't resist her body's ministrations, the way she's telling him that this feels right without needing to say anything. He looks up at her and she seems angry that he's taking so long and he can't help but chuckle.
(He will remember this later, wishing he could have paid more attention to the sound.)
He works his way down her belly, kissing and speaking the words that have been burning on his tongue:
"I love you, Isabella. Forever, my Bella. I am yours, always."
She lies back and enjoys the feel of his cool breath on her hot center. She thinks she could die this way; in fact, she knows she could die this way and end everything with a smile.
He watches the boat long after everyone else does. It slips backwards and it reminds him of the choice he also didn't make. If he had lied like she had asked him to, would he be standing here?
He thinks that way now; he can't help it.
He watches the boat disappear and he realizes, again, that he would gladly trade in everything he had experienced in that short hour of bliss for a proper, mortal death. He would willingly give up the moment he saw her face again, the moment he saw his presence register in her eyes – he would go back to his battlefield – no longer strew with bodies but still stained with blood; he wonders is any of this mine? – would endure that excruciating human pain a thousand times if it meant he could take back what he had done, take back what he had given up to be this way.
He kisses the most sensitive point she knew she'd ever have and he begins to lick at her a second time. He starts to nip and bite her inner thighs, smelling her obvious arousal and the painfully scented blood as it heats up her legs and pounds beneath her translucent skin. He knows he shouldn't, but he smells it anyway, grazing lightly, teasing himself.
She notices the feel of cold teeth against hot flesh and she spurs him on.
(Neither realizes that's his undoing.)
"Go on," she cries, exhausted and exceedingly spent. "Claim me," she pleads.
(Later, he realizes, he would have done anything for her. He always wonders if she hadn't have asked, would I have still continued?)
He starts small: just a nip here, a pinch there. But she groans, sexually frustrated and awfully turned on by this small act of aggression.
"Harder," she moans, grabbing his hair, liking the way it moves beneath her fingers, pushing his nose against the now-broken skin.
He hardly feeds anymore, so disgusted by his actions, so mortified by what he was able to do in that one instant of uncontrollable desire, that the taste of blood has turned mildly upsetting.
He sustains his already dead flesh on unsuspecting animals, realizing it's half a step in the right direction until he remembers that nothing will ever taste as sweet. Nothing will claim his perpetual thirst, his constant dehydration for (and against) the one singular substance that he'd depleted seventy-seven years ago; the only thing that would ease the painful burning in the back of his throat, spare new life to his ninety-eight-year-old veins.
He obliges her.
He bites down harder, not even stopping at her cry of pain to discern whether she likes the violence or is really hurt. He feels the warm liquid rush into his parched throat and then greedily laps it up, the motion rivaling his previous tongue work. One hand splayed across her belly, possessive, holding down her hips, the other gripping her thigh as the hot blood pours from one body to the other. He is too wrapped up in the physicality of their situation: the way their sweaty skin provides its own lubrication, the way he has never released himself so violently into another, the way the woman beneath him is slowly writhing in pain that could mistakenly be assumed as pleasure.
He licks and sucks and is so caught up in the taste it takes him a human second to realize why he has to stop, why the air doesn't smell as sweet, why the body beneath him isn't as warm as it had been a minute ago.
He stands in the shadows and thinks how the lovers weep and cry for the distance they will never be able to ignore. He waits there, retreating stealthily into a dirty unused corner and crouches, ready for the impending darkness.
He is patient.
His skin itches for the exercise but he holds back, knowing that he will continue to run there and not find what he is looking for. He fingers the ripped, indiscernible parchment and waits.