Stephenie Meyer owns these characters, but Edward in My Head is mine, all mine.
"Hello? Is there anybody out there . . . ?" (Woodlily peeks in to FFNet apprehensively)
A/N: I sincerely apologize for not updating this story in eons. I completely lost my 'joie d'écrire' last autumn. Once the writing turned into work, it ground to a halt entirely. It's been a long road back, but I've got this story drafted to its end and I don't want to leave it incomplete.
This chapter has been through so many dead-end drafts, it's not even funny. I would like to thank my lovely betas/pre-readers, Miaokuancha and InspiredbyLemons for holding my hand through the last two—yes, two. I wouldn't be posting now without them.
You might want to re-read some of the previous chapters to get a sense of the current AU story arc (I had to!). At the end of chapter 31, Edward and Bella encountered a hostile Sam Uley on the main street of Forks. As they departed, Edward heard Sam's thoughts and they were troubling:
I know you, Cold One. I know what you are and I'm not afraid of you . . .
Four Seasons in One Day – Crowded House
Sam Uley's antagonism didn't bother me much at first. It was nothing new, of course. Most of the Quileutes went to the medical centre in Port Angeles instead of letting Carlisle treat their ailments. Sometimes the old ones muttered curses in their language when they saw me, or mothers crossed their children to the other side of the street.
As long as the treaty was intact we tolerated the bigotry. We'd always upheld our end of the bargain. The same couldn't be said for them; Jacob Black could have started a war when he told Bella scary stories at La Push that day. His youthful incredulity left him luckier than he knew.
The other young Quileutes were as embarrassed by their superstitious elders as Jacob was and they mostly ignored us. But that wasn't the only reason Sam's hostility caught me off guard. There was darkness in his mind, something he wouldn't talk about to his friends. He couldn't talk to them about it. Maybe he didn't fear me, but he was very much afraid of something. What had happened to him while he'd wandered the woods all alone?
Bella told me he'd been learning the old legends, but it was more than that. I could tell he really believed them now. What had changed?
The very sight of me had caused him pain.
It had been like that when we walked into Ephraim Black's village for the first time. The gathered members of the tribe shielded their eyes when they saw us. Some even cried out and fell to their knees. And it was the same three years ago, when we met the elders to endorse the new treaty. The four men waiting in the clearing winced like the misty cliff top had suddenly been lit with floodlights the moment they laid eyes on us.
That night I found out how we looked to them. Our bodies seemed to radiate energy but nothing subtle or luminous, like an aura. No, the light they saw pierced the darkness like shards of glass. Most humans could see us glitter in sunlight, but I realized the Quileutes saw us as we truly were. We were wraiths. Existing in the world yet not a part of it.
Sam Uley's great-grandfather had been at that meeting, and now I thought about it that was the last time we'd seen him alive. It was hard to believe that ancient, withered creature was the same brave we'd met back in the Thirties. A series of strokes had ravaged his body, leaving him unable to speak and unsteady on his feet.
But his mind was still sharp. And his veins still quickened with the blood of the Spirit Warrior. Oh yes, he remembered us well.
He'd witnessed the original treaty—the one that Ephraim drafted with Carlisle. He and Old Quil's father refused to sign it at first but the chief wouldn't tolerate their bluff. We could have wiped out the entire tribe if we'd wanted to and they all knew that. But watching the three of them transform into giant wolves and bound into the forest to argue it out is a sight I'll carry with me 'til the end of time.
On that cold spring night three years ago, Harry Clearwater and Billy Black brought Levi to the place where Old Quil waited, cradling the treaty parchment in a leather pelt. As we approached, one of them started a chant that the rest quickly took up. They were letting us know we were permitted in this place by the grace of their good will. They liked to believe that, I suppose.
Quil unrolled the treaty over a tree stump. There were no speeches, no declarations of intent. Everybody knew what to do. Alice and Jasper had been briefed and, as the newest members of our family, they signed first. We all followed in turn until Levi made his own mark with a trembling hand, right next to the one he'd left all those years ago.
Quil took back the parchment, folding it over a roll of tobacco that Carlisle had given. He held the bundle gingerly, as if it carried contagion instead of a gift of good faith. Acknowledging it, he spoke for the first time.
"We hoped you would not come back. We've had peace here for a long time."
"You'll continue to have it," Carlisle said. He meant it.
"We're bound by the treaty," Quil recited, inferring, of course, that we were too. Then he reached down for the sealed bucket at his feet.
Their gift to us was bear's blood. Accepting it reverently, Carlisle replied, "As are we. You have our words. And our marks."
Quil's nostrils flared. He didn't doubt my father's sincerity, but like his own father and Levi Uley before him, he believed everything about this arrangement was wrong.
"Maybe you are different from the Cold Ones who came before. But you're not welcome here and never will be."
Time doesn't heal all wounds. Why should we have expected it to?
We were regrouped and waiting for them to leave when old Levi, gathering the little strength he had left, shuffled his withered body around to face us. It was almost painful to watch.
His cloudy eyes turned hard and bright as he leveled them at me. He remembered my gift.
Tell your maker this, boy, so he hears it loud and clear . . .
Emmett, ever the stalwart, saw my expression and tensed. Jasper, too, poised for action.
What's happening? Tell me!
The set of my jaw bade them hold fast.
Black and Clearwater moved to help walk Levi back to their vehicle, but he shrugged them off. Regaining his balance and taking a deep breath, he crossed his arms over his chest.
Where your kind goes, evil follows; it's only a matter of time. Your presence here will only bring suffering.
If I'd been human, I would have sworn that a noise had woken me.
But I wasn't human and I couldn't sleep.
I'd been dreaming though, of an impossible future when Bella and I could love one another as equals. It was a fantasy I tortured myself with almost every time we lay down together and it was not the best way to while away these empty hours. If I'd had more sense, I would've brought some of my books. I'd read all of hers, many times over.
She was sleeping now, with her head on my chest. And she was so warm. It always amazed me how someone who complained so bitterly about the cold and the wet could generate so much body heat.
I hated the way my icy body just sucked it away. Sucked the life out of her.
She didn't see it that way, of course. We had the same argument every night.
"I'm not cold," she'd protest as I piled the blankets around her.
"You'll get a chill." I knew full well she'd ignore me.
"But I want to be close to you."
Tonight, she'd wriggled an arm out from under the covers and walked her fingertips down the inside of my forearm, humming a tune about a spider as she did. The song was over once her fingers reached the crook of my elbow and she lifted my arm to inspect the skin there.
"No goose bumps," she said, sounding disappointed. "Why don't you have goose bumps? Why don't you, Edward?" she persisted, when I didn't respond.
"Because I'm dead."
I don't know why I said that.
My human reflexes were dead and gone, but my body still reacted to the fiery ache of her touch. I could feel the very whorls of her fingerprints.
She recoiled with a little gasp and I knew I'd upset her. In the next instant, I heard her eyelashes fluttering. Oh lord, was she starting to cry? Shamefully, I turned away.
She wasn't crying. "You're not," she said, taking my chin between her fingers, trying to make me face her. But I wouldn't.
"Edward . . . Edward, look at me." Her soft voice was a command I had to obey. And when I did, there were no tears in her eyes. Only compassion.
"You're not dead, not to me. You're not." She was so earnest. If she believed that, it was because I only felt alive when I was with her.
"You just have, um . . . " And she thought about it, trying to suppress the mischievous smile working at the corner of her lips. "Poor circulation."
My relief exploded in a snort of laughter and I could feel her laughing too as I clutched her to me. My precious, gracious girl; I kissed the crown of her head with gratitude. She reached up to weave her fingers through my hair, smoothing the cowlicks down. Only she was allowed to do that.
And I tucked a lock of hair behind her ear so I could see her neck, tracing my finger down its milky length to tickle the base of her throat. Her hand flew to her mouth, stifling the squeal that leaked out.
When she was sure her father hadn't woken, she raised herself up on one elbow. "I can warm you."
"Bella . . . "
"Yes, I can."
She sat up, taking my hand in hers and pressing our palms together, spreading the digits until they looked like mirrored starfish then folding them back as one.
"Remember how it felt when you touched me?" She kissed my fingers, bringing them to rest against her neck again. "The first time, in our meadow?"
"Of course I do."
"And you listened to my heart beat?"
She moved my hand to her breast as if it was the most natural thing in the world. In another time and place, it would have been.
"You'll always have my heart," she murmured.
And through the fabric of her t-shirt, it felt like I held it in my hand. I wanted to squeeze but I was afraid of hurting her. She wasn't; she arched her back, pressing against me as we kissed. Her pulse beat through my skin, thundering in my ear. Churning that fragrant nectar meant only for me.
I wanted to taste it.
I kissed her mouth too roughly. She just moaned and clutched me closer.
This was not safe. What I wanted—what we both wanted—was not good for her.
I was no good for her.
Her face was bleak as I jumped back, ready to leap out the window. Her hands trembled, fluttering helplessly as she reached for me. I felt my knees buckle and then I was back on the bed, letting her pull me close. She stroked my cheek, smoothing my hair like she was calming a frightened animal.
"I'm so sorry!" she whispered, rocking me against her heart.
I should have been the one to apologize; it was all my fault. I wasn't strong enough. Wasn't good enough.
It was a very long time before she finally fell asleep.
As I watched her, I couldn't help thinking of my waking dream. It was never clear if I was human or she vampire. I liked to think it only mattered that we were equals, but what if Alice's vision of my immortal beloved really did come to pass?
Bella didn't think she'd be giving up anything to become like me, but would she still be mine? Would her skin still smell like flowers?
Would she curse me for dooming her to an eternal half-life?
I couldn't imagine never again hearing the sound of her heart. It comforted as much as it caused me pain now. It was a good pain, like a needle to a vein. If it fell silent, I'd miss that pretty piece of flesh. Too much to go on.
Hours later, I swore I heard-no, I felt something. Or more to the point, someone. The feeling of being watched was unmistakable, and it was all over me.
I wriggled my arm out from under her shoulder, worried she might waken, but she just rolled over with a little whimper. Whatever I'd sensed hadn't disturbed her slumber. Then I was at the thin curtains, scouring the darkness. Listening to the wind whispering through the pines.
Whispering . . . singing . . .
Was it coyotes again?
The wolves were long gone.
There was no trace of scent. Nor echo of thought.
Raindrops pattered onto the roof, shaken from overhanging boughs. The moon shone through a parting in the clouds and something moved in the dense underbrush at the edge of the forest.
A fox flicked its tail insolently as it crossed the lawn.
Son of a . . . ! I exhaled impatiently. I would've sensed an intruder. And vampires don't 'hear things', not even one like me, who hears everything.
Why was I so uneasy?
Bella shifted and mumbled something about muppets.
She was safe.
Yes, she was. Curled into a foetal position with one arm outstretched into the empty space of bed. Her chest rose and fell in the rhythm I'd come to love. Her heart beat on. I would fight to my last breath to keep it beating.
Was it my own guilt that roused me? Catholic guilt from an upbringing I no longer remembered?
Her father snored obliviously across the hall. The bedside clock marked endless seconds but brought us no closer to dawn.
I still swore I'd heard singing.
"What is it?"
She was the only one able to startle me. In the dark, her irises were black, her skin translucent. A twinge of guilt shot through me because she'd looked very much the same in my selfish dream.
"It's nothing, love. Go back to sleep."
The little worried furrow appeared between her brows.
"I thought I heard something, is all."
"Come back to bed," she entreated.
I wanted to, but- "I should probably go home and get ready for tomorrow."
"It is tomorrow."
When I didn't move, she patted the empty space of bed beside her. "Please?"
"All right . . . just for a little while."
Alice was waiting at the treetop entrance to my room when I arrived home at dawn.
"Things are messed up," she said without preamble.
"Full moon?" I quipped, kicking off my shoes. But she was in no mood to be teased.
"I've seen some things . . . A few things . . ." She fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. "And nothing at all."
It was the 'nothing' that really seemed to bother her. So, why was she speaking in riddles? It wasn't like her.
I waited for her to continue but she just sighed, pressing her fingertips into her temples. It was times like this I didn't envy her gift. I lived in other people's heads but she lived in their futures. At least I could tune the voices out if I really wanted to.
I sat down, dangling my legs over the doorway into the leafy air. She joined me when I motioned her to but she kept her thoughts turned inward. I knew better than to pry until she was ready to speak.
"I wish you didn't think so badly of yourself," she finally scolded. "Everything gets turned around and it's no good. No good at all."
Ah, so that was it. She couldn't read minds, but somehow she'd picked up on my bleak musings earlier in the night. They'd skewed her latest visions of the future.
"I don't understand why you'd ever leave her. You love her."
"I-I'm not going to leave." I felt a knife rake my heart at the very thought of it.
"It's what you do. When things get tough, you run."
All right, so I had a bit of a track record in that regard. But had my thoughts really carried through that far? She seemed to think so.
"Sometimes I think she'd be better off without me," I muttered.
"Do you, really?"
Her eyes were bright and fierce as she showed me what she'd seen. Bella, sobbing on the high-backed chair in her room, her arms wrapped around her knees as if to hold her body together. And me, in some desolate, treeless place. Mourning beside a weathered tombstone.
"Oh, Alice. Thinking something doesn't make it so," I said gently. She, of all people, should know that.
"It hurts to see those things."It was almost an accusation.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. If she knew the truth, it hurt to think them too. But I couldn't change my nature.
"She's good for you. Never forget that."
"What else did you see?"
"It's what I couldn't see." She scrunched up her face. "Like there's a wall and I'm not tall enough to see over it. Don't you dare laugh!"
I wouldn't dream of laughing at her now.
"You are going to leave," she vowed. "You'll leave after Bella's party tomorrow night and I can't see where you're going."
Alice was still tetchy when we drove to Bella's the next evening but it wasn't all because of me. She'd wanted Jasper to take part in her latest human experience, too. That is, until a premonition at lunchtime changed her mind. I was sitting next to her in the cafeteria when it happened.
Mike's car would be found afterwards, flipped in a back road ditch. His and Jessica's bloodied bodies were posed like they'd been thrown through the windshield.
And we'd leave for Alaska in the middle of the night.
Jasper was so gracious when she told him not to come.
"Better safe than sorry, right?" His smile only faltered a little, but I could feel the relief raining off him. And the shame pouring down.
He chucked her chin. "There's still Prom."
"Yes," she said, but she wasn't at all certain of that any more.
She'd never held any of his real slip-ups against him. No, I was the one who'd done that. Every single time we'd had to move . . .
I understood his struggle so much better now.
Alice didn't want to talk about it. She had nothing more to say about her other premonition either, much as I pressed her. Why on earth would I just run off? She couldn't tell me and it didn't help at all that her foresight seemed to have run up against a brick wall.
"Maybe you should talk to Carlisle," was all she'd say.
"Talk to him about what?" He was working late and I wasn't about to interrupt him without good reason.
"Nothing's going to happen to Bella? Or her friends?" I verified.
She gazed fixedly into the distance, trying once more to see. I could understand why humans found it so disconcerting when her eyes glazed over like that,. Some of her teachers thought she had a seizure disorder.
"They'll be fine." She scrubbed her face like she was tired. "And it's not like that at all." Look, just drop it, okay?
"You're the one who brought it up."
Near the turn off to Bella's street, we passed Chief Swan driving his cruiser towards town. He was wearing his uniform—his brow contracted with worry. He didn't even notice us.
"What's happened?" Alice asked.
"I'm not sure." As usual, I couldn't pick up much from his thoughts. But he certainly wasn't going on the date he had planned.
We were at Bella's porch soon enough and we heard her running to answer my knock. Alice's face relaxed into a fond smile as the door opened.
"We're here!" she announced. "We come bearing snacks."
She gave my astonished girlfriend a peck on the cheek and marched straight into the kitchen, lugging enough super-sized bags of salted snacks to give hypertension to a small army.
Bella just gaped in Alice's wake. My sister did nothing by halves.
"She's very excited," I murmured, kissing the top of her head.
"So I see." She shook her head, incredulously.
"There was no stopping her."
Bella shrugged, resigned. "Well, maybe Dad can take the leftovers to the guys on night shift tomorrow." Her face turned serious. "He had to go into work. There's been some trouble with a biker gang."
It occurred to me that the dead man who'd been found by the mill might have been involved with a biker gang, but I didn't think anything more of it at the time. Bella and I had been apart for several hours and I was swallowing the sight of her. The scent.
"I've missed you," I told her. Her head pressed against my jacket when she leaned into my hug, reminding me of the object I'd stowed in my pocket.
"These are for the hostess."
"Edward, you shouldn't have," she protested as I handed her a small bronze box with a hand-tied satin ribbon. Her blush told me otherwise.
"They're not for guests or the guys on the night shift." I wanted her to enjoy the chocolates when we were alone later on.
"'Kay . . ." Her blush deepened and she looked up shyly from under her eyelashes.
As I leaned in to kiss her, there was a cacophony in the kitchen. A metal something clanged to the floor and rolled across it, coming to a banging halt.
"Bella!" Alice called. "Do you have any more of these bowls?"
"Oh my god, you have to stop her!" she clutched at my sleeve, giggling.
I grinned. "I told you, she's excited."
"She'll destroy my kitchen!"
"Hmm, you might be right about that," I said, giving her shoulder a squeeze. "We should probably go give her a hand."
Thank you for reading. And thank you all for your patience these past many months.
All the best ~ W