Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Nonetheless do you really want to be a thief and plagiarize this story?
Rated M. Younger readers cover your eyes now please.
This story began as a one shot for the Show Us Your Dark Side Contest, but it seemed rather unfair to leave Bella in the lurch, so will be extended further. In order to facilitate this, some slight edits and a Chapter break have taken place in what is now Chapter One and Chapter Two. I hope you approve.
A special thank you to Spring Hale who encouraged me every step of the way to write this, my first fan fiction.
Thank you also to my pre-readers, MasenVixen and alice310. Your comments have been perfect.
My beta Songster is my very own angel.
But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us - to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
from: The Buried Life
by Matthew Arnold
I pull my coat more tightly around me. These British January mornings are freezing and dark, and I'm not quite awake yet.
I am still trying to feel more human as I finish the ten minute walk to the Underground station. This is where I know I'll be brutally woken up by all the other commuters making their way to get to work. Their determination is something to behold, and I know that to survive I am going to have to join them.
The station is a hub, a bus terminal above ground and two subway lines crossing each other below ground. I straighten my back and lift my head up. I am about to go into battle.
Clutching my Oyster Card and without breaking my stride, I scan in through the barriers and head down the tunnels to the platforms below. I reach the last of the stairs, turn the corner and my heart leaps. I'm lucky. A train has just left clearing most of the platform, which means I'm definitely getting onto the next train. Who knows, I might even be lucky and get a seat!
I make my way down the platform to my spot. Technically, it's not just my spot but rather a place shared with the other regular commuters. It seems we've all figured out that if we wait here we'll be right at the carriage doors when the train arrives. I also happen to know that these doors will deposit me by the exit when I get out at my destination. It's nerdy, but hey, at least the other seven people huddling approximately around the same spot as me are just as sad. I take off my coat to reveal my favorite dress, a jersey wrap around that ties at the front. While I might have been cold at ground level; down here resembles a sauna. The British haven't embraced heating or air-conditioning in public places.
I look at the clock. 8:00am. I am on right on time and the next train slides into the station. I feel immensely pleased when the doors open directly in front of me and I'm the first one on board, snagging the only free seat available. I organize my handbag and briefcase, and pull out the print out of the latest Fan Fiction story that Rosalie has given me to read. I am halfway through the newest installment, which means I will finish this before I have to get off. Today is already a good day.
Fifteen minutes later, I put the printed paper away. My mind is full of Luke and Claire as I gaze around the carriage. Romance is not usually what I choose to read, but this one hasn't been that bad. My British friend Rosalie is intent on educating me. I've resisted until now because I don't want to be reminded that I might be missing out on being with somebody. The thought of being hurt again, of being humiliated and deceived is too terrifying for me to think of. No, I like my routine and the cocoon of safety it gives me, although despite this I am also aware that it's because I'm a coward. These stories remind me of this and I vaguely wonder if I would take the risk Claire did despite the heartbreak. Would it be worth it? Would it make my life more exciting, or is it just something confined to the storybooks? I shake my head to dispel the melancholy - at least I can enjoy the fantasy through this fiction. All in all it's much safer this way, but I know that I'm trying to convince myself of this.
Five more minutes until my stop. I look at my fellow passengers, and I hide my smirk. The British are an entertaining bunch, despite their attempts to be serious. Not one person talks in the carriage. Instead, a cacophony of tinny music can be heard coming out of the iPods that at least half of the carriage are wearing. Everybody is trying their damnedest not to meet anyone else's eye. I honestly think there'd be a stampede to get off at the next stop if a stranger were to start up a conversation with any of them.
In the comfort of my seat, I relax. I close my eyes and think about how I've arrived here. It's such a long way from home, a far cry from Forks, although the weather is somewhat reminiscent of it. I miss my dad, but he's re-married now, and though I'm pleased for him, I don't feel a part of it. I miss the friends I made at GWU and Harvard. Skype and email make that easier to bear.
I definitely don't miss James, or the heartache, and I'm glad I'm on another continent. The thought of him sends a shiver down my spine. He was always so brutal in pointing out my failings, criticizing my love of control and lack of spontaneity. I used to suspect that he was jealous of my career. I used to think that I had proved to him that I could embrace change by up and moving to London when the offer came. Now I wonder whether he was right. The truth is that although I might have moved cities, countries and continents I am still hiding behind my research, using it to a certain extent as an excuse to protect myself from the outside world.
I suddenly feel uncomfortable, and for a moment I am convinced that someone is watching me. I push the feeling out of my mind, chastising myself for allowing a fleeting thought of James and his disapproval to have such an effect on me, despite the fact that I left him over a year ago. He is out of my life. I make myself focus on the positive things I have in my life, even if the main one might have been the source of his remarks. The biggest upside to being in the UK is that I love my job. It's been tailored for me. Literally. I think back to the call I received less than a year ago, offering me the chance to work at one of the most prestigious museums in the world. They even asked me what it would take to get me to agree to it.
My stop approaches. I stand to leave and again, quite suddenly, feel the heat of someone's eyes on me. I glance around, but am swept up with the other people leaving before I can glance back to identify the origin of the unsettling sensation. Following the flow of other passengers, I'm soon ejected into the crisp morning air above ground. I turn out of the station, and shortly afterwards my heels are clipping across the courtyard of The British Museum.
"But my dear, do you really think that's the wisest use of our limited funding?"
The condescending tone of Professor Laurent de Caen is sickly sweet, but dangerously venomous. He is trying to humiliate me. He knows it, everyone in the room knows it, and I know it. I. Hate. Him.
"The work done to date has yielded groundbreaking results. Surely that's what our funders are interested in." I try to keep the acidity out of my tone. I don't succeed.
Riley clears his throat in that embarrassed, non-confrontational way the Brits do. "Well, this is one of the main things we'll be able to discuss with the Chief Executive of the Foundation when he visits on Friday." He mediates weakly. Riley might be the Director of the museum but as I've learned over the year, I have more balls than him.
The meeting is over and I'm still seething. I slowly gather my things.
"Thinking about how much you'd like to make out with Laurent?" The voice behind me startles me, but I can't help but laugh.
"You know how hot I think that fucker is."
Rosalie grins. "Come on, you and your foul, sarcastic mouth need a caffeine injection before your tour begins."
I groan. I have to take public tours on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. "Explain to me again why we have to meet the public... I'm a researcher, not a guide."
"We do it in the hope of meeting a living Adonis rather than the ancient marble ones we have to make do with around here. " I arch an eyebrow at her.
I practically run to the Underground station. Not a good idea in 3 inch heels, scratch that, hell, in any heels. 8:10 am and the platform is already more crowded. I walk to my spot to join the other early morning nerds. I tug off my coat, revealing my wool trouser suit and white silk shirt underneath. By good fortune, knowing where to stand means that I am on the first train that comes, and I am standing surrounded by people, and hanging on to the overhead railings which I can reach thanks to my heels. I guess they have their uses after all.
I stare ahead of me, eyes glazed over, looking and thinking of nothing in particular, much like everyone else here. Unable to read in this confined space, I distract myself and start to look at those around me. We are now at the next tube stop and the doors open letting in a blast of fresh-ish air.
A couple of people attempt to move from behind me in order to get out of the doors. There is no real room to move, so we all inhale and try our best to allow them out. I manage to turn around as there seems to be slightly more space if I do and I continue with my observations. People are wearing those telltale signs… new coats and scarves, new handbags, the spoils of Christmas presents or the January sales. Most people are predictable. This is why I love studying them, here and in my work. There are always the fascinating exceptions to the rule. A flood of new passengers navigate their way on board and I am jostled as the doors close and the train moves again.
I look at the newcomers to our confined space. The lady in front of me is tall, blond, and disgustingly pretty. This only makes the fact that her new Prada bag, a recent acquisition that she is obviously flaunting, is digging into my right breast all the more annoying. I try not to grind my teeth and attempt to shift my standing position to alleviate the pain. As I do so I catch a glimpse of a tall man with tousled auburn hair, standing behind her. His hair looks almost luminous even under this poor lighting. I can't see any more though, my Prada torturer is in the way.
I turn my attention to the business man who is staring as discretely as possible at Prada Bag. She knows it. Loves it. And dispassionately ignores it. The train unexpectedly screeches to a halt, and we all lurch to the left. Prada Bag has ended up plastered against an equally embarrassed and delighted Business Man. She does not look pleased. I can't help the smirk on my face. My eyes travel to where she had been standing just as the lights flicker off. We are plunged into darkness for less than a minute, and everything is silent… well, apart from the tinny music of the iPod symphony in the carriage.
The lights come back on… and holy fuck… I am greeted by the most startling eyes I have ever seen. I never knew eyes could be this color. He stares right at me. Deliberately. It is all the more shocking given how everyone else always avoids eye contact. It's not an inquisitive stare. It's feral, full of want and desire, and something else I can only describe as hunger. It's, quite frankly, scary.
My heartbeat slows almost to a standstill before trying to pound its way out of my ribcage. It's beating so quickly if I wasn't hanging on to the handrail I'd be in a heap on the grubby floor. He is captivating in every way. Slim with a perfectly classical jaw-line, straight slender nose, but those eyes… it's those piercing eyes that really do it.
I can't break away from his spell. He seems to sense this, and slowly the corners of his mouth start to turn upwards. The half smile on his face makes him all the more dangerous. There's something distinctly arrogant and dominant about him. He continues to stare directly at me. I have never held the attention of someone so beautiful in my whole life. He is almost too perfect, and certainly not the type of man who should be travelling by subway.
Prada Bag has peeled herself from Business Man, and in my peripheral vision I see that she's none too pleased about her encounter. She turns to take her previous position and notices the stunning man staring at me. She is even more displeased now and tries to take a step between us. Unfortunately for her at this moment he takes a step forward, closing the gap between us and leaving her out. He is now inches from me. His body is not touching mine, quite a feat in this confined space, but his presence is overwhelming as he looks down at me. Etiquette would dictate that I move away from him as he is in my personal space, but for some reason my body doesn't react. My mind finally kicks in, however, and starts screaming for me to get away from him. This all feels… off. Maybe I'm misreading the situation and his intentions.
No, I haven't. He hasn't broken his gaze; I don't think he has even blinked. The half smile is still in place, but I now feel uncomfortable at his intensity. In contrast with his porcelain skin, my cheeks flush with embarrassment. His stare is not natural, not for a Brit, not for any nationality for that matter. It's beginning to creep me out, and again I think he knows it. I frown. In response his smile widens. He is now leering at me. I am self-conscious and suddenly angry. He is getting off on this.
I'm vaguely conscious that my stop is coming up, but I am not sure I'll be able to move unless he stops looking at me. My luck is in though because the moment the train comes into the station, is the moment that Prada Bag decides she's not going to miss a chance at catching the attention of this compelling man. As the train stops everyone lunges slightly to the right and she uses the momentum to velcro herself to his side. It distracts him for a second, and I use the opportunity to squeeze my way off the now crammed subway car.
I'm the last out of the carriage before the doors close, and I turn to look back into the train. He is still looking directly at me. It's freaky and unsettling. I am almost glad to be out of his stranglehold. Again he seems to be reading me, and he smiles widely. There is menace to it, and I decide that I don't like it as I walk towards the exit.
I go straight to the staff restrooms when I get to the museum. I'm shaken, more than I should be, and I can't explain why. I'm even more confused as I find that I am aroused. This is so wrong. I chastise myself; I can't be turned on by some perv on the Tube. I pee, clean myself up and try and clear my mind. As I wash my hands, Rosalie bursts into the bathroom.
"Thank God, there you are… you're late for the staff meeting."
"Why? What's happened?"
She's leaning on a sink trying to get her sentence out. "Laurent's on the war path. It seems like your latest proposal has set the cat amongst the pigeons. You might want to get in there before Riley actually starts buying Laurent's crap."
"It's Tuesday and he already has his pants in a twist. Christ, haven't we been through this before?"
"Hey, don't shoot the messenger… I just wanted to warn you about the pissy mood he is in."
I head over to the Reading Room where we have our weekly staff meetings and I can hear Laurent from the indoor courtyard. I push open the door and he is in full flow.
"…we need those resources, Riley, and we'd be able to get them if we weren't wasting precious money on a trivial field…"
I clear my throat. "That so called trivial field Professor, has brought in more tangible results than your department has in the last two years. Besides which, the Foundation specifically asked for a Hominid Paleobiology researcher. You have problems with it, why don't you raise it with them when they visit?"
Laurent narrows his eyes. "Tangible results…Really? I mean, do you seriously think that finding a connection between different indigenous populations is really going to stand up in the long run? What are you trying to prove anyway? That there is a whole sub-species that has been walking this world alongside Homo sapiens that we have never heard about! Come on Bella," he sneers, "grow up."
I bite my lip. And mentally use a wonderful English expression… Fucking. Tosser.
I count to ten as slowly as I can, and as calmly as possible say "As I said. I'm sure you can bring it up on Friday. We'll all be interested to hear what they have to say about the funding they provide us. Don't you agree, Riley?"
I move to get a cup of coffee. Annoyed about my exchange with Laurent I decide to ignore the rest of the meeting, sit myself down and pull out the latest literature Rosalie has lent me. More romance, with apparently a wonderfully smutty edge to it. She swears by it these days, and hardly reads anything else. The jury is out at the moment, but if it can get me out of my foul mood, I'm in. I zone out the rest of the meeting and immerse myself in the new story.
Half an hour later Rosalie taps me on the shoulder. I look up at her blushing. The room is empty and the meeting long over… I guess this is stuff I could really get addicted to.
"Shit, Rosalie, I don't think I've learnt so much about sex ever before… Who writes this stuff? And where can I meet a hottie like Luke?"
"Sweetie… if you're really going to read the stuff I'm recommending to you, you have to realize he doesn't exist. It really is best in the long run, otherwise you're going to be severely disappointed!"
I laugh. "Now that you ask though…" Rosalie continues "… there's a lovely lecturer I know who you should meet."
"You know I'm not ready for dating, Rosalie."
"When are you going to stop with the excuses and start breaking out of your shell? You need to get out there."
We've had this discussion before. Maybe she's right. It's certainly true that I feel I'm missing out on something, but I just don't have the courage to expose my soul to anyone yet.
I'm late. This is all I need when I have a meeting with Riley at 9:30 about how we are going to present our work to our benefactor. My research depends on them continuing their funding. Knowing that Laurent will have been dripping poison into Riley' ear in order to try and direct funds to his latest pet project, I was up until midnight preparing for this. Why does Laurent have to work with me? I dislike him intensely and wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him.
If I'm being really honest with myself, I also know that I am late because I am nervous about getting on the Tube, as the Brits call it. Those eyes and that half smile have been haunting me since yesterday. Their image crops up unexpectedly and throws me completely. The more it happens, the more I am freaked out. Even the little sleep I had didn't offer any respite. I know that in a city of eight million people there is little chance I'd have the misfortune to see him again, but at least travelling at a different time will diminish those chances further.
Travelling later however is far more unpleasant than I'd imagined. If I thought it was crowded yesterday, it is nothing compared with today. There isn't even space on the platform enough to take off my coat, so I undo it, and hope that will be enough to cool me. I don't think it's really going to work.
Even at my usual spot I don't make it onto the first two trains that arrive. A third one arrives and no passengers get off. The carriage is already crammed but I am determined to get on come hell or high water and push myself into the carriage. The doors close directly behind me, and I shuffle around as best I can to look out of the just-closed door. At least this gives me the illusion of not being in such a claustrophobic space.
I close my eyes and attempt to block everything out. I try to forget about the elbows and bags pushing into me. I try to forget about the sweat that I can feel slowly pooling at my lower back and threatening to make its way down the back of my leg. Only five more stops until I arrive at my exit.
The train pulls into the next station. As it slows to a stop I open my eyes, widen them at what I see and almost pass out. This is not because of the heat; but because standing, staring, right at me on the other side of the glass, are the pair of eyes I've been dreading to see. His porcelain skin makes him look flawless. He is breathtaking. And he looks pissed off.
"Mind the Gap", we are warned. That's really the furthest thing I am worried about right now. Someone from my left steps off the train, and I know immediately who will fill the space. The doors slide shut again, and I am so shocked that I am still vacantly staring out of the glass as the train disappears into the tunnel.
I am trembling. What is he doing here? This has to be a coincidence. Right, even I don't buy that one. So, what is it – he's stalking me? Why the hell would he do that? I've only seen him once; it's a little early to be assuming that, isn't it? He doesn't know me, and anyway, it's not like he got on with me at my stop. Is he dangerous? He feels dangerous, but that's hardly something I can go to the police with… a feeling. So I resort to copying the most British of responses. I decide to try my best to ignore him. Slight problem with that. I can feel his body touching my side. I will not look at him. I will absolutely not look at him or encourage him in any way. I will positively not look at him, encourage him or think about him and his proximity to me.
Yeah. I fail on all counts.
I know his eyes are boring into me, and I know in about two seconds I will have to take a peek.
I slowly turn my head and glance up. Yep. He's looking right at me. Holy shit. What am I going to do? Do I need to do anything? He hasn't done anything… No. I just need to get to my stop and get off. He didn't leave the train when I did yesterday so there is no reason why he will today. If he does, I'll go and find someone to report him to. I try and take comfort from this plan.
I'm just about to turn my head away, when he takes a small step forward, getting as close as he can to me. He still looks angry. Panic is starting to bubble under my skin, and yet I can't move or tear my eyes away from him. What the fuck is wrong with me? He must read my reaction because now the smirk is back. My panic is now mixed with anger… not natural bedfellows, and I feel nauseous and conflicted. This is exacerbated further as he starts to lean down to my ear. It's as if he is moving in slow motion. I try and take a step back but there is no room to move. I am trapped.
Despite the close surroundings I can smell him. Indescribable, intoxicating and inviting. It makes me stop trying to move away and I'm confused by my own reactions. I can now feel his breath on my cheek, and on my ear.
"Don't ever make me wait again."
What? I stare back at him, incredulous. I open my mouth to ask him who the fuck he thinks he is.
"I mean it."
I close my mouth not saying a word. No one has ever spoken to me in this way. Not even James in his moodiest moments. He wouldn't have dared. So why the hell am I taking it from a complete stranger? If I don't approve of his behavior, I certainly do not approve of my body's reactions. I am getting aroused. Again. Since when have I started getting off on the behavior of stalkerish and possibly dangerous strangers? As I try to get a grip, I can't stop looking up at him. I can still feel his breath on me. He doesn't move away, and I feel rather than hear him inhale deeply. It confuses me further. What is he doing?
Calculatingly he brings his hand up, and it hovers over my left cheek. I flinch. He smiles. He's playing with me. I can hardly bear it. Slowly it settles on my cheek, which instantly ignites under his touch. I've never felt anything like it. His fingers feel very cool in this warm environment, but his touch is intense. There is something not right about it. It's too consuming, and it scares the shit out of me.
His hand slowly moves down and cups my chin, before his fingers slip down my neck. They rest on my pulse point at the junction of my neck and shoulder. I shiver and his lips twitch. My brain wants him to stop, but my body is desperate for him to continue. My rational thoughts tell me that he won't dare to go any further. My body rejoices as his fingers prove me wrong and slowly trace down my arm, deliberately brushing my breast and pausing there, sending shocks to my nipples and further down.
His eyes haven't left mine, and I see something dark moving behind them. I know what it is. It's desire unfurling and I'm not sure I want to see or feel any more than I already am. His fingers brush down the side of my torso and come to rest on my hip bone.
"Tomorrow you are going to wear your wrap around dress again." It's a statement, not a question. The words startle me out of my haze.
"Aren't you?" Again, it's said more as a demand rather than a question, and I manage only one response.
And with my answer, I realize we are pulling into my station, the doors are opening and I am moving away from him and stepping off the train with countless, faceless others.
What just happened?
My meeting with Riley goes as I anticipated, with him regurgitating opinions that have obviously been planted by Laurent. It's pathetic. I run through my counter arguments and insist that we present both cases equally to the Foundation. In the end he capitulates.
This small victory does nothing to ease my day. The day passes with excruciating slowness. I want to be anywhere but here. I want to be able to think about what happened on the Tube, to process what the hell is going on. Instead I trudge through the day, as minutes stretch to feel like hours.
Finally it is time to head home. I am picking up my coat and bag from my office when I suddenly realize that I going to be going on the Tube. It makes my stomach turn. What shocks me more is that it doesn't turn with disgust, but in anticipation. I might see him. My brain is definitely not happy about this new development. It's really bothering me. Something is wrong with this situation. My brain snidely asks what would possibly be wrong with my body seemingly being so willing to being groped by intimidating strangers on the London subway system.
On the way to the Tube and for the rest of my journey home I constantly turn my head, hoping that I will see him or not by turns depending on whether my brain is able to override my body's desires. By the time I am home I am a mess, both emotionally and physically. I have never been so turned on.
For those of you who like a challenge, homage is paid to a wonderful FF story within this. Can you spot which one it is?