Not Without a Fight
AN: You guys are awesome. Seriously. Have some cake cause you're just that awesome. You don't need a diet, you're awesome. You could eat that whole damned cake. Your awesomeness would step in where your metabolism leaves off.
In related news, this story hit 400 reviews last chapter, which is great! Thanks to each and every one of you who helped with such a milestone!
Now, I own a feeling of extreme contempt for a worker at a local convenience store who felt the need to comment on my "giant bag of popcorn" to everyone, but I do not own Twilight. Stephanie Meyer, yo.
In my dream, for whatever reason, Alice narrated a fairy tale. It was like the one that she had told me at Thanksgiving, but this time accompanied by lucid illustrations.
"Once upon a time, there was a pair of travellers, a young boy and his mother. They blew from town to town like the wind, moving with the seasons, never staying in one place. The boy grew up detatched, impermanent, wonderfully free and induldged in his whims. He left behind him a path of destruction and heartbreak, unable to bond with or care about others.
"The autumn of his seventeenth year they reached the western shore, to a kingdom ruled by a powerful but distant king and queen. In their absense they had promised their daughter, the lovely Princess Rose, to the son of a neighboring king, Prince Royce. Princess Rose as was beautiful as her namesake, but wild and fierce. This fierceness she wore like a mask, and no one saw that the soil from which she grew had been poisoned, and she was wilting from the inside out.
"When the young traveller first arrived in the kingdom, he met the enigmatic Lady Alice. She was bred from nobility, but with her mother had fallen from the graces of court. She was loved greatly by Prince Jasper, however, and spent much of her time in the castle. Lady Alice took to the traveller quickly, but the same could not be said for the royal family. But the traveller, who had grown up without recognition of a king or anyone to answer to with lasting consequence, was not to be swayed.
"And one evening as the sun began to set, the traveller heard a racket from the palace gardens. It was Prince Royce and Princess Rose, and the conversation seemed less than friendly. With no thought to station or properiety, the traveller stepped in and whisked Princess Rose away.
"From that point the traveller was welcomed to court, and he was knighted and became the protector and companion of the princess. The details of the true nature of Prince Royce were disclosed, and the traveller swore to never let him poison the princess again. Before long, the traveller and the princess fell in love, and he took her to bed. But the king and queen, upon their return, were not happy about this development, and played their daughter back into the hands of the prince of the neighboring kingdom.
"The soil from which she grew became tinged with the poison once more, and the traveller, in his distress, challenged the prince to a duel. The prince was defeated and retreated back to his kingdom. For awhile the court rejoiced, and eventually even the king and queen began to accept the traveller as a member of court, and peace fell over the kingdom.
"But Prince Royce was a vengeful tyrant of a man, and as he sat on his throne he plotted and waited, until finally the moment arose for him to strike. As the princess began to heal, the poison diluting, he acted.
"And the traveller had finally had all that he could take."
I woke up more determined than ever to end this once and for all.
I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed. Well, almost nothing. Rosalie was curled up next to me, having snuck out of her house for the second night in a row. Her head was on my chest, and I was overwhelmed with that spicy scent of hers. I didn't want to wake her up. Well, I kind of did. I really did. But she hadn't been sleeping well and I really shouldn't.
The decision was taken from me after a few minutes anyway when the alarm went off. Rosalie stirred, reaching across me to grab her phone and silence the alarm. She sat up with a groan, running her fingers through her hair.
"Five o'clock in the morning is such an obnoxious time," she said, crawling over me and heading for the bathroom. She had been getting up at five to get back in her house before her parents woke up, usually around six. I watched the door shut before grabbing my own phone and scrolling through my contacts. I hit call.
"Hey," I said. "I need your help. I have an idea."
Because me wanting to wake Rosalie wasn't what you would think. I needed to get started on my plan to get to Royce.
"It's kind of inconvenient, being out of school at a time like this. I mean, it's like, what do you do in the meantime? You have to wait for him to get out of school," Jasper said, tossing a few boxes of white decorative lights into the shopping cart. He paused for a minute, surveying the display and then grabbed two more. "Christmas overstock - seventy-five percent off. Better make sure we get enough," he said in answer to my questioning look. "Anyway, I'm just saying, this is the sort of thing that works better on impulse. Having time to wait around just dulls the effect."
"Do you think it's going to work?" I asked, pushing the cart as Jasper moved on to the next aisle.
"It really depends on just how stupid Royce really is," he said, shrugging as he stopped in front of the extension cords. "I'd say it's a really good bet; he's an evil bastard but intelligence was never a boasted quality. I really hate safety orange. Why are all extension cords such an terrible color?"
He tossed a few of them into the cart anyway.
"Could you focus for a second?" I asked him. He sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Dude, what did I just say? This is going to work better on impulse. Don't worry about it. Try not to even think about it," he said. We left the hardware section and Jasper stopped in his tracks, staring at the sporting goods section. "Ah," was all he said before venturing down an aisle.
I followed him to find him standing in front of a long row of aluminum bats. He took a bright red one from the rack and gripped it tightly, stepping back with his back against the opposite shelf before swinging it hard. It cut through the air with an angry sigh and Jasper grinned.
"It's all about the impulse, man," he said, setting the bat in the cart. "Heat of passion is a defense in even the highest courts in the world. For the record, I'm buying this because I'm trying out for the baseball team next month. I'm a perfectly reasonable individual."
Call me crazy, but I wasn't completely reassured. The real question was whether I was altogether too concerned. Anyway, it had little to do with me. If Jasper took action on his own, it was his own issue. I had my own shit to worry about.
I was already waiting outside of Royce's house when he finally got home from school. I watched from the Jeep as he disappeared inside of his house. There was a car in the driveway already, so I figured that his parents were home. I gave it a few minutes. His mom was probably asking him how his day went. His dad was probably talking about whatever the fuck you talk to your kid about when they're a sociopathic rapist.
I gave it a few minutes, a few last minutes for him to think he had won. One last minute before he realized he was about to hit a fucking brick wall.
I finally rang the bell, and after a moment it opened. Royce looked for a second like he was going to slam the door in my face but I stuck my foot out, stopping it from closing.
"Hey, Royce, good to see you man," I said, stepping inside.
"What the fuck are you doing?" he hissed, looking taken aback that I had just invited myself into his house. I shrugged.
"I need to talk to you," I said. "Upstairs would probably be best. Might not be something for parents to hear," I added in a low voice. He hesitated. "Of course, if you don't mind, I don't."
"Fine. Come on," he said, leading the way upstairs. When we reached his room I was almost surprised to see how normal it looked. I had imagined, on some level, that someone like Royce would have an evil lair or a sex dungeon or something, but he must have gotten pretty skilled at hiding his true nature over the years. There was a bed, a desk with a computer, a bookshelf, a dresser, and a closet. The room was unnaturally neat, sports trophies and ribbons and books lined up just so. Other than that, there was nothing at all weird about it compared to other guys' rooms.
I noticed that some of the trophies were for baseball and I wondered if Jasper didn't have a plan after all. I mean, I had used a sport to get at him, right? And I didn't think I had ever heard Jasper mention playing baseball before today.
"Man, you really fucked yourself over, didn't you?" I started, turning to him and grinning like it was the best joke in the fucking world.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, sitting down on the edge of his bed. He was trying to act nonchalant, unconcerned, but he was a little too still, his jaw a little too tense.
"Well, before you posted that video, there was no lasting proof that you did anything wrong. But you just served it up on a silver platter. I mean, taping a rape is one thing, but publicly releasing it, that's really something," I said.
"I can't believe you still believe her. She was begging for it, you saw it," he sneered. My hands clenched, trying to ball into fists, but I forced myself to relax them.
"You and I both know you replaced the audio," I said. "Really, Charlie's Anal, I should have figured that would be in your tastes." Royce's smug expression flickered, just for a second. Bingo. Ben had called that shit. "I wonder what the police would think about that?"
"Like they're going to dig deeper into a story some lying whore comes up with to cover her sex tape being leaked," he scoffed. I shrugged, trying to keep the rage at bay. I had to play this cool or it wasn't going to work.
"Maybe not. But they take a very great interest in child pornography," I said.
"Fuck you, I'm not a fucking pedophile," he spat. I guess I touched a nerve. Even predators must have their limits, I guess.
"Well, no, you're not rubbing up on four-year-olds at the beach or trying to lure the neighbor's kid into your car with promises of candy, but make no mistake, in the eyes of the law, you willingly distributed child pornography," I said. "So like I said, you really fucked yourself over with this one."
Royce just glared at me. His jaw ticked, but he didn't offer a response. Time to go in for the kill.
"But the way I see it, Royce, you're pretty lucky - luckier than you allow most people to be - because I'm going to give you three choices," I said, crossing my arms. Something about me standing that way seemed to intimidate most people. "First, you can maintain your story that the video is real and go to jail for distributing child pornography, since Rose was underage in the video. Second, you can admit that you altered the video and we can get the police involved to find or restore the original, and you can go to jail for rape." I paused, taking in the effect of these words. If it was bothering Royce, he wasn't showing it. I sat down, making sure to act causal. I wanted this last choice to appeal to him most.
"Finally, and this is where you get really lucky, so pay attention, you can give me the original video. Every copy you have. I don't care if it's on a disc, or a memory card, or a flash drive. For good measure I'll also be taking your hard drive and camera. You will remove the video from the website, along with your story and any blogs or photos you have posted about Rosalie. You will stop talking about her. You will never talk to her. You will disappear from her life so thoroughly that she'll wonder if you weren't just a terrible dream. If you can do all of that, you won't have to worry about jail time."
Royce glared at me, his jaw set, but didn't say anything.
"So what's it going to be, Royce?" I asked, narrowing my eyes.
"I'll think about it," he said, shrugging. I laughed.
"No, sorry, you're not that lucky. I actually think I've been pretty nice so far. I mean, you didn't give Rose a choice, did you? You didn't let her decide what happened to her. So really, given the circumstances, I shouldn't even let you pick. But see, I just want you gone. I don't actually care how it happens. So right now, which would you rather be: the child molester or the rapist? I don't think they're very nice to either one in prison. Well, unless you consider what you do nice. Is that it, Royce? Do you actually think you're an awesome guy? You're doing them some sort of favor? Because I don't doubt for a second that Rosalie isn't the only one. But I don't have time to white knight up for all of them. The police might if this comes out, though." I leaned back, spreading my hands as if physically motioning to the choices. "So what's it going to be?"
Royce muttered something unintelligible. I leaned forward, grinning at him.
"Sorry, man, I didn't quite catch that. What'd you say?" I asked. He glared at me.
"You can have the fucking video," he spat.
"Good," I said. I stood up, motioning to the computer chair. "Remove the video from the site and then I'll be taking your hard drive. I guarantee you can't delete the original thoroughly enough to prevent me from recovering it, so you might as well not try. While you're cleaning up your blog, I'm going to find every bit of removable storage in this house, as well as your camera, unless you'd like to make it easier and just give them to me."
Royce didn't answer as he sat down. I shrugged. I had figured that was the most cooperation I was going to get out of him.
I opened the top drawer of his dresser. Had to start somewhere.
By the time I had said goodbye to my parents it was already getting dark. I let myself into Emmett's house through the back door, shushing Nanuq as she let out a string of booming barks. Ms. McCarty's car was gone, but I didn't need to alarm any of the other neighbors.
I headed up to Emmett's room and pulled The Last Vampire from the shelf, planning to read until he got back from wherever he was. Jasper had gotten home hours ago, but Emmett hadn't been with him. Jasper wouldn't tell me where he had gone, and then had spent a few hours in the backyard hitting baseballs at the trees that lined the back fence. I hadn't bothered to ask about it. Jasper had never particularly enjoyed baseball, as far as I knew, but he was prone to odd whims. Plus, Alice played on the softball team each spring so it likely had something to do with her.
I couldn't focus on the book, though. My mind kept creeping back to Royce and the video. I still hadn't watched it. I couldn't bring myself to. I felt sick every time I even considered it. Besides, Emmett said it had been fake, so there was no real reason to.
But I had this sick curiosity, a need to know what everyone else had seen, real or not.
I sighed and stood up, going to Emmett's desk and his computer. I hit the power button and sat down, waiting for it to fire up Windows. The processor whirred and ticked, the power light flashing, and then the monitor blinked to life. I wondered how old the thing was. I remembered computers running like this in grade school tech class, but hadn't seen anything this rough since then.
The desktop finally loaded and I found the icon for Internet Explorer, double clicking it and then waiting again for it to load. My stomach was twisting around itself already. I wasn't sure that I wouldn't vomit as I typed in the address for Royce's blog, but to my surprise I managed it.
There was a pause while the page loaded, and then I scrolled down. Nothing for Monday's date. Nothing for the day before. Or the day before that. I went back three whole months just to be sure before slumping back in the chair.
It was gone. The whole entry: text, photos, video. All gone.
I jumped as the door to Emmett's room opened and closed the window quickly. Emmett hadn't wanted to see the video, and I felt guilty for using his computer to even try to find it.
"Hey," I said. "You're home late. What have you been up to?"
"Oh, just some stuff. Took longer than was strictly necessary. Ran into some cooperation issues," he said, shrugging and setting the box down on his desk.
"Why are you being weird?" I asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're being like... really vague. Talking in fragments. That sort of stuff. And what's in the box?" I asked, walking over and reaching out to open it. Emmett beat me to it, snatching the box away. I raised an eyebrow at him.
"Okay, I promise you can see what's in the box, but just... not now," he said.
"Oh," I said, it all starting to click in my head. "Is it my Valentine's present?"
"Uh... sort of," he said. "It's not the conventional type of Valentine's gift, but I think you're going to like it. Well, you're not going to like it in itself, but you're going to like what it means."
"You're not really talking this gift up very well," I said. Emmett nodded. "Okay," I said after a moment of awkward silence. "So what did you do today?"
"That's, um... Mostly just dealt with this," he said. I nodded. I cast around for a conversation that wouldn't land back on the mystery box.
"Mom and Dad left," I said finally. "They won't be back for about five weeks, although they said they would do their best to get back sooner if we needed them."
"So no one's going to be enforcing curfew, and we're out of school for the rest of the week at least, and my mom's working night shift on the regular?" he asked. I nodded, grinning. "Any ideas as to how we could spend that kind of time?"
"A few, if you're up to it," I said, smirking at him.
AN: I hadn't originally meant for the Valentine's story to span across so many chapters. But then, you know, Royce had to rear his ugly head and shot that all to hell. Anyway, I hope you liked it. I have the most fun writing bittersweet tales, so I had a lot of fun with it.
Valentines is a week from today, by the way! I hope you all have an excellent one! Take the opportunity to show your loved one how much you care. And if you are spending Valentines alone this year, like me, don't worry, you just haven't found anyone worthy of you yet. Or, you know, your husband is somewhere off the coast of Thialand and you haven't been able to get in touch with him in three weeks. It's probably one or the other.
I'd love to hear from each and every one of you! All reviews will recieve a preview for the next chapter. Remember if you're an unregistered user you'll have to leave me an email address or email me first to get it - annanocturnal at gmail dot com.