And Yet They Shine: A Twilight 25 Fic

Chapter One: Willing

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The air was thick and heavy with fog that seemed to have come from nowhere. The night sky that once was clear had clouded, and the moon was a hazy ball of white light, hidden from the girl's clear gaze. She stood in her white cotton dress and shivered, as the ocean's waves crashed, like a heartbeat against the shore.

Edward held his breath. He watched her pale hand flutter into his open palm. It looked so small there, like a magnolia, he thought, tender and perfumed. Delicate.

He closed his fingers around her hand and felt the swell in his chest, for the first time in his endless life, that swell that they all talked about, that they all took for granted. He cursed and then praised Eros for his silly little arrows, his ability to inflict this sensation at whim, and in a moment that thought froze him. Eros and his arrows. Had she been struck by one?

He regarded the pale beauty before him. Her wide brown eyes and dark brown hair and the moonlit skin that smelled of flowers – all of these things entranced him and held him in thrall. Yet if all of this was just a ruse, some magic spell from a wayward child….

He couldn't bear the thought. Eternal darkness was his home, and there among the shades he was king. He held riches that no man could fathom, but in the dark, always the dark. He couldn't be responsible for bringing another to that life, not unless she was truly willing. Not unless she wanted to be there by his side. She had to want it, in her heart.

With a sigh he opened his long fingers and released her.

She stared at him, eyes wide again. She'd felt compelled to touch him, to answer his single request to join him. She didn't understand why, but she knew that he was not like other, the warm man with the warm smile who had snatched up her heart with a single kiss. This man was different, beautiful in a different way, though equally preternatural. The compulsion to touch him was something feral inside of her, not in her blood, but in her very flesh. She couldn't deny the urge.

Placing her hand in his, she'd felt an unfamiliar lightness, a sense of truth, of something so fundamentally right that it could not be denied. Yet now he denied her that very sensation.

He whispered something under his breath, but the words were fast and she did not understand.

She blinked hard, the tears and her bewilderment both rising at once. She'd known for the last year that she would never see the other again. She'd known from the salted tang of their last kiss that her skin wouldn't burn from his touch, melting her down, until she turned to ash. Yet each day that she'd cried for him, she'd hoped. And with each step toward that same churning ocean, she'd wondered if perhaps her heart had been wrong.

"I don't understand," she whispered to him. "You come here, and you touch me and it feels-" Her hand fluttered over her heart, brightly keening inside her chest. "And then you just let me go. You're mean. Both of you."

She turned away from him, then fell to her knees, there in the sand. She did not want this, this feeling, this screaming inside of her that demanded things she could not procure. She bowed her head and two tears fell, creating wide splashes in the sand beneath her.

"Isabella," he said, sitting on his knees beside her. He reached out to her, his fingers hovering over the knit of her sweater before they fell to her shoulder and she stiffened under his touch. It took one gasped breath, a sob in her throat, and he gathered her to him, her heartbeat fragile and furious under his fingers, where he clutched her to his chest. His fingers wanted to move, to find the mark of Eros on her breast but his mind did not really want to know. Willing or not, he wanted her.

She stilled under his embrace and then he felt her breathing ease. He felt the swelling ache in his chest once more, and he looked toward the sky and cursed. Artemis did not still her flight and the moon skimmed through the sky. The night would be swift. Edward did not have the luxury of time.

"I don't want to feel like this," she said.

"I know," he answered, because he did. He whispered Rosalie's name again, a charm or a curse, he wasn't sure. "You promised her whole," he said, again so low and fast that the girl's human ears could not discern his words. His tongue burned with disappointment – bitter copper pennies streaked with dirt.

Bella turned to look at him. The damp air clung to her hair and soft waves appeared. He thought the scent of it drying would overpower him and render him helpless. Who was he fooling? He was already helpless.

"I can give you tonics to make you forget him," he said, because already, rules had been broken. "I can give you a potion to make you forget me. I can close your eyes and when you open them, you won't know that the last year has passed. You won't know that this beach exists, and you can have your life back, the way it was before."

He held her wrist in his hand, his long fingers circling it, and he ached for the warmth of her skin, how she would be warm, all over. He waited for her to say something, but she only stared; first at him, then at their hands joined together in her lap, then at him again.

"Your eyes are so dark," she said. Like volcanic glass, she thought, imagining an inferno burning dark and hot where he was.

"Where I am? I'm right here."

Her eyes widened. "You don't – how did you-"

She let go of his wrist, like a petulant child and he snatched it back before she could miss it, before that feeling could dissipate again. His better nature was damned by his unrelenting want. She was his promised. Already he'd waited so long.

"Isabella," he said, tilting her chin up to stare into her eyes. "I can make you a queen."

She swallowed and words from that wish made so long ago shimmered at the back of her mind. She could almost taste them, laced with honey and full of hope, a heart that had never been broken.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"I want to know more."

"An apple from a tree?" he asked.

She stared at him, her gaze level and clear. "Aren't you mixing your mythology?"

Edward sighed and inside he groaned. This clever girl knew too much already, and caution was something he'd never understood.

The fog that shrouded them grew thicker still. He leaned in toward her and she felt his breath, warm, across her lips. His dark eyes flickered with something she couldn't name, a hunger, and she felt it at the pit of her stomach.

He closed the distance between them until there was only a sliver of fog left in that small space. His fingers still circled her wrist and when he spoke she could smell him, the sweet, earthy scent of him, like the forest after a rain.

"If you come with me, you may not be able to come back."

She nodded and turned her hand, lacing her fingers with his. He stared down at their clasped hands, whispered something in a hiss and turned, leading her away. Her steps no longer hesitant, her feet bare on the damp sand, she followed.

AN: My thanks belong to FarDareisMai2 and Krismom, who are terribly talented writers themselves, yet who still spend their time reading my fluff and helping me make it better. I love you guys!

I will be putting out 24 more chapters for this story, all about a thousand words each, as a part of the Twilight 25 challenge. All future chapters will be published under the story header "And Yet They Shine."