Author's note: All characters belong to Stephanie Meyer, and I do not profit from them.

Hello, I'm thrilled to be back in the fanfic world, having left the HP one several years ago.

Chapter one: No Bella

He could not think of Bella... he dare not. His mind would crack if he did.

Edward lay spread-eagle on the jungle floor, still as death. The sounds varied from night to day but always he thought he could hear the constant process of growth and decay and insects doing their work. They moved around him and beneath him, always indifferent , and he felt a sort of odd gratitude that they didn't flee his presence the way monkeys, tapirs and the occasional panther did. He knew he would have to get up and feed eventually. He stank...or rather his clothes did. Alice would NOT be pleased he had ruined this particular shirt, but of course he didn't exactly give a damn. He only wished that he could lay here forever, until the foliage grew up through him and consumed him and he would feel nothing, nothing , nothing at all...

*

Self pity ran rampant, usually in the afternoons.

No purpose
no girl
no sex
no job
no career
no children
no maturity
no human friends
no decade in the same place
no silent window frame
no single bed
no chestnut hair
no brown eyes
no shy smile
no soft mouth
no slender wrists
no inexperienced fine fingers
no Bella
no Bella ever
no Bella ever again ever

Christ, he'd thought of her.

Her college
her dorm
her bed
her dates
her boyfriend
her first time
her fiancée
her white dress
her ring
her Queen-sized bed
her job
her career
her pregnancy
her children
her anniversary
her grandchildren
her retirement community
her nursing home
her death...

Then he would roll over face down in the soft earth and make sounds that reminded him of human sobs.

*

He couldn't sustain it, this prolonged inactivity. While his body could lie inanimate, Edward's mind continued to function against his will. His nature was curious and intelligent; his desire for oblivion was impossible. His mind dispassionately and involuntarily observed butterfly species, rainfall totals, distinctive shrieks of communication between monkeys. He didn't give a damn about these things, not a fuckity fuck about it all, but his brain catalogued them nonetheless.

Now a true martyr to love would surely lie in a fog of regret and despair, never allowing random thoughts to interrupt his suffering. Nor bloodthirst, either, thought Edward, cursing his burning throat.

He rose from ground and hunted through the night, running, climbing, leaping deeper into the Amazon Basin. Until he found another hole to crawl into, where he could lie there in the foliage and once again punish himself by not thinking of Bella. Or punish himself by thinking of Bella. It worked either way.

*

I would like a shower, he thought a month later. After seventy-odd years of life in nearly dust-free houses (none of the Cullens shed dead skin cells) and crisp-pressed clothing (thanks to Esme's obsession with ironing), Edward had become accustomed to a certain standard of hygiene.

His need to be clean warred with his desire to be a lifeless lump, and he lay a further week arguing with himself. His shirt had nearly disintegrated in the soil. Various arthropods had taken up residence in his jeans. He was gross.

Enough. He rose, slowly and reluctantly, stripping off his shirt and giving himself a good shake. Within an hour, he had returned to the spot sixty miles away where he had buried his backpack, wrapped in giant banana leaves. It was damp and mouldy, but the money, his phone and iPod still appeared unaffected in their plastic bags. He didn't turn on his phone – he knew Esme would have left messages of concern and sympathy, and he wasn't ready to hear them yet.

He hunted as he travelled, filling himself up. The sounds and smells of humans , gasoline, and domestic pets drove him west until he came to the edge of suburban Manaus. He stealthily skirted the rear gardens of the residences, looking for signs of an unoccupied house. He contemplated breaking in to steal a quick shower. It wasn't very considerate, violating someone's home. Did he care? He wondered. Did he care about anything, anyone? Other than his family. And Bella. Bella Bella Bella Bella.

There were people in the houses. People thinking. He saw a face at a window: a woman at her kitchen sink. She admired his naked torso, even as she registered her astonishment at the pale man in the trees. He moved on, quick and silent.

The houses became larger and older, with tall perimeter walls and tended gardens. He noted the grand 1920's era architecture and its particular West Brazilian manifestation.

There – a possibility. Edward swung through the trees, mimicking the monkeys he had watched for weeks, until he could survey the rear of the property. The jungle had subsumed any soil surface not already covered by a building. Indeed, trees had taken root in the building itself, a glass-roofed conservatory-like wing. Edward passed over the wall, which had been topped with rolls of razor wire – to keep vandals out, he presumed. He moved from tree to tree until he was right over an enormous hole in the roof.

It might have been the grandest house in the neighbourhood at one time. A rubber Baron gone bust, Edward imagined, recalling what he knew about the economic history of the area. Cracked stucco, elaborately carved stone window mullions, a few inner courtyards. Art and Crafts with a later Art Noveau extension. Ah, a burnt extension, ravaged by a fire at some point.

Edward listened carefully and determined the house abandoned. He presumed the water was turned off, but perhaps he could rig something. He had a small cake of soap and a bottle of strawberry shampoo in his bag. A pair of boxers and a t-shirt. It would be nice to be clean.

*

More moping. More playing dead. He lay on the ancient leather sofa in his boxers, entirely beneath a threadbare blanket, watching the dappled sun move across the room in the afternoon. When it hit his body he would take out his hand and stare through the holes in the blanket at his own freak-skin and wonder why God allowed such creatures as vampires to exist on this earth.

Why why
Why not kill me now. End my existence.

Now that he was in a man-made dwelling, Edward's thoughts turned to human routes to oblivion.
Let me take drugs.
Get drunk.
Give me a lobotomy,
an aneurysm,
a stroke in the part of the brain that houses memory.

Ah, you can't have a stroke, he imagined God chuckling cruelly. You have no blood pressure. Freak.

Another month passed and the temperature rose. It rained every morning and he heard it fall through the hole in the ballroom roof; when he lay particularly still he could hear water actually evaporating into steam. When his thirst became unbearable, he passed over the wall to hunt in the jungle behind the house. Traffic moved by on the road outside every day; thoughts passed by at 35 miles per hour, but no one came to check on the house. He hoped Alice could see that he was okay and that she would tell Esme.

*

He couldn't help himself. He began to look at the books. The humidity had brushed them with speckles of mold, but he opened them anyway, probably releasing more destructive spores into the air. He avoided fiction entirely, but read the few English nonfiction first and then started on the Portuguese, of which he had a rudimentary knowledge. He craved an English/Portuguese dictionary to get through the more interesting texts, but that would mean leaving the house and seeing people. People that slept and walked and had heartbeats like Bella. They would have brown hair and dark eyes and he wasn't sure he could stand it. He wished he had gone to Scandinavia instead.

There were vinyl LP's on the bottom shelf. Edward avoided them at first because music would surely make him think of Bella. But they called out to him and one rainy afternoon he gave in to his curiosity. There was nothing before 1968. Classical stuff he knew, and South American jazz artists he didn't. He was particularly intrigued by a collection of classical guitar albums. La Mejor de Alberto Amiento said one, in a groovy orange font. The 70's era photo showed a hippie-like Albierto posing with his guitarra. He looked proud, Edward thought, as if he were presenting the guitar as the star rather than himself. Edward slipped the vinyl disc gingerly from its warped cardboard; the record itself was undamaged.

Suddenly Edward was consumed with a desire to hear it. To hear music again. He missed his piano. He missed his iPod. He had run the battery down during his hunt for Victoria and had never found a chance to charge it since.

Edward went into the huge old kitchen, where his jeans were hanging up on the pot rack. They weren't properly washed, except for his efforts with a bar of soap, but they were decent and insect-free. He slipped on his one t-shirt and the jeans, grabbed a wad of cash and stepped out into the world for the first time in months. He hadn't realised, until he reached the first over-decorated suburban shop, that it was Christmas Eve.

*****

"He will reject you resoundingly," Alice stated fiercely, folding her arms across her tiny frame. "You'll just be wasting a trip."

"I will be passing through Brazil anyway," shrugged Tanya. "It would be wrong not to stop and help a friend in need."

They sat in front of Alice's laptop, with Googled images from various parts of Brazil displayed on the screen. Alice had only relented vague descriptions of where she thought Edward might be. Tanya felt certain Alice was holding back information.

No matter. Tanya could track well enough.

"He WANTS to be alone! Or we'd be there with him," Alice said shrilly. "Tanya, he lies under a blanket for days...weeks... at a time, with his fists against his eyes, hardly breathing –" Alice stopped. She didn't mean to reveal so much. Esme might have heard that; she was wrapping presents in the study and would start to fret. Why did Tanya always managed to rile Alice up, particularly when the subject was Edward?

Tanya, clever bitch that she was, simply waited for Alice to say more.

Alice took a yoga-like breath, calming herself. She would reveal nothing else, damn it.

"He can't be THAT devastated if he is out and about, can he?" Tanya said at last, returning to the screen and scrolling through the photos. "If you've seen a church—like this one? – and a record store –"

It was a music store, actually, the kind that sold instruments, but Alice decided not to correct her.

"-then he must be on the route to recovery. And wouldn't it do Esme a world of good to get a first hand report that he is okay?"

Alice had no good comeback to that one.

Satisfied, Tanya pushed 'print' on the drop down menu and rose to gather the pages.

"Don't go." Alice commanded one more time.

"Alice," Tanya shook her head. "Don't forget: HE broke up with HER." She chuckled. "You've only been with Jasper, ljubzen. You don't really understand men. Not collectively."

And you don't understand Edward, thought Alice. Not one. Tiny. Bit of him.

"I'm off to pack," sang Tanya cheerfully, waving the Google sheets as she went through the door.

Alice attempted Edward's new future, hoping she might see Bella somewhere in there... but got only images of Tanya, dancing in a decaying ballroom.

*