GIVE UP AND GIVE IN

"You show remarkable talent for someone so weak and impressionable." I find that Coll is the master in the art of backhanded compliments. She soothes my fragile ego while tearing it to pieces all in one sentence. I'm beginning to think it's a skill she learned just for my benefit.

So, I'm a coward or whatever, but running from Alice is cupcakes and muffins compared to trying to run from Coll. She knows where I am at all times and I can't out-phase her. With her there is no running away there is only giving in. And, part of giving in means that I am forced to go through humiliating moments of inadequacy or as Coll likes to call it, 'training'.

"Use your instinct, girl," Coll orders as she stands casually across from me her eyes as disapproving as always.

I square up and take in a deep breath. It's stupid that Coll speaks so much about my instinct being my strength while also degrading its very existence. But, that's Coll, isn't it? She's two sides of the same crazy coin.

"Act and react," I whisper to myself already knowing that, although most anything I do to try and defeat Coll is futile, I do feel better from Coll's humiliating instruction. She makes the wild bits that rest inside of me a little more tame and manageable. A part of her makes a piece of me okay. That's awkward stupid and weird I know, but truth is truth.

She's frustrating as Hell and most times I want to strangle her, but she makes things easy in a way. She also helps me keep my distance from the vampires that live not far enough away. Alice has tried to impinge on my territory, but Coll is able to keep all curious vampires at bay. I think a part of them fears her just like a part of me fears her.

I take another deep breath, but before I can release it Coll seems to have lost her patience because she phases behind me and has me within her grip. I'm unable to break away so once again she has me giving in.

"You should have been able to sense me phasing before I did," she chides me once again washing me over with her disappointment.

"I don't know how to do that," I yell at her letting my frustration get the best of me. I'm worn out and I'm not used to the feeling. It's been a while since I've felt this physically exhausted. "You keep trying to get me to do shit I don't know how to do."

Coll narrows her eyes and then looks over her shoulder. "Learn," she demands and then phases away again.

I am definitely not a student hot for teacher. I just want to punch her in the face, and I would if she weren't such a better fighter than me. So, I do the next best thing by balling my hand into a fist and punch at the air pretending its Coll's face, but I swing with too much force and air doesn't offer much resistance so I end up falling down to the ground.

Coll is right. I'm fucking pathetic. I'm not a warrior. I have no memory of this Dark World she speaks of and all I know is that I should fear the Others. I don't have a lot of facts to live by right now.

"Your body guard finally abandoned you," a voice mutters from within the darkness and I know I should have certainly felt Alice's presence long before I ever heard her voice.

My superpowers are broken. "I think we abandoned each other," I try to casually admit as I get up off the ground. "How long have you been lingering waiting for your opportunity to pounce?" I ask knowing that there's no way she just happened to magically appear at random.

Alice steps from the darkness and she looks…just about as tired as I feel. For someone who is technically dead, she looks pretty awful, and seeing her all unkempt and unbeautiful makes me feel just a tiny bit guilty. Maybe, it's possible that I'm partially to blame for her current state.

"I was out hunting," she eventually answers me.

In all the wooded forest areas in all the world she just happened to stumble into mine? I don't buy that, but I'll pretend like I do. I'm not eager to make things any more complicated than they already are.

"You look like you could use a good meal," I say for lack of anything better or anything else to say. After the words really register in my brain I realize that I've probably just insulted her. "Not that you look bad," I try to correct. "You look good."

Alice holds up her hand and stalls my words with her own, "I know I don't look good."

"Okay," I turn away from her. "As long as we're both on the same page."

"Isabella Swan," I can hear the exasperation in Alice's voice as she whispers my name, "what is it with you?"

Well, I have no answer to such a complicated question so that's probably my signal to leave. "You have a good night, then." I wave half heartedly as I let my feet guide me to anywhere else.

"You're obviously still a coward," she yells out to me before I get too far away. Her words hold a challenge and the wild thing inside of me stands up at attention. It recognizes a weakened foe and is set to pounce.

I try to remember the training Coll has given me so that I can control the beast that lives inside of me. It's much easier to do when she's around. While left to my own devices I'm not as controlled. I do stupid things like engage in meandering conversations with vampires named Alice.

Well, fuck it then. I guess if I'm going to lose control then I might as well go all the way. It'll feel like the good ole times when Alice and I first met. As if by mutual consent, we run towards each other fists up and stances squared. We trade a few jabs before Alice has me pinned to the ground.

Still, even after all this training I can't defeat her. I can't push her away, and that is the scariest thing of all. No part of me really wants to push her away. It just wants to do this dance with her like it means something.

"Have you eaten since the last…" My words trail off because I don't need to finish my question to get my answer. I've somehow broken her just like she's broken me.

I swallow and then do my absolute best to relax my body. "Don't take too much," I whisper. "Coll said I'd kill you."

Coll says a lot of things, some important and some seemingly benign. But she maintains that Alice will die if she ingests too much of my blood. It's a warning I'm willing to heed since a large part of me doesn't want Alice to die.

As fucked up and crazy at it is, she's my person in this world. She's the one that knows how messed up I am on the insides and how confusing everything has been. Somehow, she managed to jump onto my crazy train and there's not getting off now.

"I'll infect you again." Alice begins to pull away, but I don't let her. She needs to feed or she'll die.

"I survived the last time." And I seem to recall Coll saying that I couldn't be infected twice.

I see the struggle in Alice's eyes before she finally gives up and then begins feeding off of me. This is probably the most lucid I've ever been while she's been this close to me. Normally, by the time we get to this part of the fun I'm lost in the haze of crazy that comes down on me without warning.

This, well, it doesn't feel awful. It doesn't hurt as much as I imagine it should. It's almost as if I can quite literally feel myself moving into her. I can feel the things she's feeling, the hunger and the pain. I even feel the hints of arousal and can't help but growl from the feeling.

It has to be time for me to force Alice away, but I can't. I want this feeling to last forever. I dig my fingers into the dirt and try to find the strength to pull away, but per usual I'm a massive failure. When Alice is flung off of me by Coll, I feel as if something vital is missing.

"You both failed that test," Coll snidely remarks as she stands over the both of us. "It's bad enough you associated with the dead flesh, must you also submit so readily to one?" She steps away from me and then moves to Alice who hasn't managed to move since Coll pushed her away.

I place my hand over the bleeding wound on my neck and gingerly try to sit up. The wave of powerful pleasure I had been bathing in moments ago is now completely gone. In its absence, I feel lightheaded, weak and unfulfilled.

"Is she okay?" I ask my mentor.

"I should have let you kill her," Coll answers. "Maybe that is the only way you'll learn that you aren't human."

I chuckle at her obvious lack of insight. "I know I'm not human," I snap back. "I figured that out a long time ago."

"Go home, Bella," it's apparently Coll's turn to sound offended by my mere existence.

"Is she okay?" I feel no compulsion to listen to Coll now. I hardly feel compelled to listen to her on a semi-normal day in my life.

"Fine," Coll bends down and examines Alice more closely, "see the consequences of your actions."

I stumble over to them and look down at Alice who is flush with life. I can see the pulse point in her neck beating out an even tempo. She looks, peaceful but no better than she did just moments ago when she was stumbling around seeking me out as prey.

Apparently it's possible to look more dead while being alive than looking dead while actually physically dead. I've learned so many neat things lately. "What can I do to help?"

Coll levels me with a look of disbelief. "You could learn to control yourself."

I roll my eyes. "What can I do now," I clarify.

"For the record," Coll reaches out and lifts Alice's arm, "I don't care if this abomination lives or dies." Her finger finds the pulse in Alice's wrist and then she places her lips against Alice's skin. Her teeth pierce Alice's flesh and as I look on in horror, I also feel a wave of rage taking me over.

Whatever it is Coll is doing, the wildness inside of me doesn't like it. I move to engage her in some messed up battle, but her eyes capture mine and then my feet are glued to the ground. The thing inside of me buckles and curls up in fear. I'm helpless and all I can do is watch as Coll cleanses Alice from the taint I have given her.

Eventually, Colls teeth relinquish their hold on Alice and she turns away spitting out the last bits of blood she's consumed. Her eyes once again meet mine and the beautiful grey irises she's been sporting change to darkness.

I swallow helpless in the face of whatever it is I'm about to be subjected to. My legs buckle and I'm on my knees looking up at the woman who's really nothing but a mystery.

"The Dark World calls me home," she says. "Stay with the vampires until I return. They can protect you from the Others in my absence."

There's no chance to ask her what she means before she phases away. I look back to Alice and quickly see that she looks much better than she did before. I lift her head up off the ground and settle her on my lap. I'd carry her home if I felt strong enough, but for now the best I can do is rest against a tree with her peacefully not dying in my arms.

I close my eyes and try to feel the same calling to the Dark World that Coll says she felt. Hell, I just try to feel a calling to anywhere, but all I end up feeling is Alice's weight on my lap. I force myself to look down at her and then run my fingers through her hair.

"So it looks like being a coward isn't getting me anywhere," I admit to her silent form. "So, I'll try something different." Different is always bad. So far for me it has been, but it's about time for my luck to turn. Cause, something's got to give, right? Might as well be me giving up and giving in.