A/N:

When Edward first met Bella, he was so overcome by his bloodlust for her that he ran to Alaska to escape. This is a brief one shot of his time there. Canon compliant if we ignore the leaked manuscript of Midnight Sun.

This is a flashback scene cut from the latest chapter of my story Evening Falls. You do not have to be an Evening Falls reader to be able to follow it.

Feedback is always greatly appreciated!

Weak

Denali

I loved to stare up into the sky when I was in Alaska. It was breathtakingly clear here, without the haze of pollution or the false lights of the city to dim it.. I watched it now, trying to find some solace in the beauty of my surroundings. Hundred of stars sparkled brilliant in a black velvet blanket, and the moon cast a translucent glow down on the snow.

Quiet footsteps sounded through the house as I sat on the porch, bringing me back reluctantly. A second later the screen door swung open.

Irina stepped out, holding a steaming mug in her hand. She gestured towards me. "Would you like some?"

I shuddered and she chuckled. "Suit yourself, then." She raised the mug to her own lips.

"I don't know how you can stand to drink it like that, Irina. Animal blood is unappetizing enough when it's fresh."

Irina shrugged. "I suppose it's an acquired taste." She continued to watch me, a hint of amusement on her face.

"Where are the others?" I asked, more out of politeness then any real curiosity.

"Gone hunting." Irina smiled at me over her mug. "Tanya is a bit put out that you won't tell her what brought you here. Not that we aren't all delighted to have you rejoin us. It's just very – sudden."

I turned away from her, staring again out at the snow. "Are you going to ask me?"

"My curiosity has already been satisfied." Irina's voice was decidedly smug now. I looked back to see her Cheshire Cat's smile curving her lips.

"Alice…" I seethed through my clenched teeth.

Irina's smile deepened. "Yes, she was very informative. Girl troubles, Edward?"

I growled and she laughed. "It's nothing to be ashamed of, you know."

How little she understood. I wondered if Alice really had told her the whole story after all. If she had, Irina would certainly not be looking at me so kindly now.

My head lowered. "I'm weak."

It was almost a relief to say it. There had been no time to talk to Alice or Carlisle beyond what was necessary. This Bella Swan had unmanned me, undermined all my confidence in myself, and I needed to understand how this could have happened. How could I have been caught so off guard? Was I not strong enough for the way of life that I had chosen?

In the space of a human heartbeat Irina was across the porch and next to me. Her gentle fingers closed around my hand. "You are not weak. Do you really think you are the only one this has happened to? Humans come in so many different varieties. Some are more tempting then others. Some call to us."

"I am aware of that, Irina. But I have never heard of it coming on this strong. One breath and I was almost lost! I've never experienced anything even close to – "

Irina's laugh sounded again, cutting me off. I stared at her in frustration and with an effort, she swallowed her mirth. "I'm sorry. I'm not laughing at the situation. It's just…you're barely a century old and yet you're so incensed that something unexpected has happened to you, as if you think you've seen and heard it all. Edward, you're practically a child. I suggest you steel yourself, for this is hardly the only time in your immortal life that you'll be surprised."

I looked away again, equal parts aggravated and embarrassed. Irina crossed the porch and sat down on the porch steps in front of me. She patted the spot next to her. A second's hesitation and I got up and joined her.

After a moment I felt her touch again, this time on my shoulders. "Tell me what happened."

It all spilled over then and I told her everything, the words rushing out. The relief was stronger now as Irina listened carefully, nodding in all the right places, never a shred of condemnation crossing her face. Of course Alice would realize that I needed to unburden myself. I was grateful to her then, that she had chosen Irina. Tanya and Kate would have been sympathetic, of course, but neither of them would have been able to resist the rare opportunity to tease me over my loss of control. Irina was far more like Esme in temperament. She knew instinctively when to talk and when to listen.

"It was so close. Too close," I finished as she squeezed my hand. "She nearly caused me to destroy everything for my family. I couldn't do that to them. And more than that…I don't want to – " I ran my free hand through my hair. "Killing her, even if I could cover it up, is a line I cannot cross. I've never killed an innocent. Maybe I cling to that too much. It's not as if it absolves me of what I have done. But I can't allow it. I don't think I would ever be able to live with myself."

Irina was quiet for a moment. Her face was turned away so I couldn't see her expression clearly. She didn't think about me as she watched the stars in the black sky. The quiet of her thoughts was soothing, like watching the surface of an unruffled lake on a warm summer's evening.

It was several minutes before Irina spoke again. "I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit, Edward. Please don't be offended if I refer to your age again, but you are a very young immortal, and yet you managed to resist a blood lust even one as old as myself would have difficulty with. If you wanted to try, this girl won't be able to take you by surprise again. You know what to expect now, and you can prepare accordingly."

Try as I might, I couldn't help the bitterness in my next words. "How could you make it sound so simple? A person's life is at stake here, Irina! You don't understand how much I wanted her blood. Perhaps the centuries of abstinence you have behind you make you arrogant. I have to wonder if you truly remember the power of the bloodlust."

Irina's eyes flashed at me. "Arrogant? Is that what you think?" Too late, I realized how deeply I'd just insulted her.

"Irina, I -"

She cut off my weak attempt at an apology. "You have no idea the struggle my sisters and I endured to be able to live the life that we do. But because of my deep fondness for you, Edward, and my sympathy for what you are going through, I am going to forget what you just said." Her words were mild, but her thoughts warned me to not try her patience a second time.

I tried for a more contrite tone.

"Are you telling me to go home?" I turned slightly so I could look her fully in the face.

Irina shrugged. "Of course not. But I want you to stay because you've chosen to, not because you let your own lack of belief in yourself exile you here."

Her words were giving me dangerous hope. I fought to suppress it before it could overcome what I knew to be true. "But what if we both overestimate what I am capable of? The girl will be the one to pay the price."

Irina's face was solemn. "You're right. It's too high a price to pay. You must not kill her, Edward. It's simply not an option, nor an acceptable mistake. Make up your mind to that right now. Once you do, I think you will find you are capable of much more than you realize."

It couldn't be that simple. I knew that even as I stood up. And yet, I was going home. My mind was made up. Perhaps it had been before we'd even begun to talk, and I just needed Irina to help me realize it.

Irina didn't need an explanation. She jumped up from the step. "I understand," she murmured, before I could speak. "I can think of someone who won't, however. You'd better go before she gets back."

I hesitated, not wanting to leave her with the fallout of my unexplained departure the way I'd left Alice to explain in Forks. Irina grinned at me. "Go on, Edward. At least one of us should be spared the screaming."

I jumped off the porch and landed in the sparkling snow, turning back to her. "Thank you, Irina."

She smiled back, her eyes twinkling. "It shouldn't take a crisis to get you to stop by, you know. Come back and see us soon."

"I will," I vowed. "I promise."

And then I was running across the snow towards the road, towards my vehicle…towards home.

I looked back once. She was still standing on the porch, smiling. When my eyes met hers, she waved.

It was the last time I ever saw her.