Love is watching someone die.
So who's going to watch you die?
What Sarah Said, by Death Cab For Cutie
He was running, through woods and mountains, desolate areas without anyone else in sight, sound, or scent. Edward was so relieved to have the voices gone from his head he could cry, but even in his extraordinary circumstances, no tears would come. A stream came up and Edward found that he cleared it easily in a single bound, despite the fact that it was at least thirty yards wide. But there was a lot about his new self that he was discovering. The more he discovered, the more terrified he became.
He stopped on the other side of the stream. Not because he was tired – oh no, he did not seem tire easily, if at all it appeared. He stopped because his throat was on fire, despite having fed on the man only a couple hours ago. It was agony and distraction and it consumed him, this thirst, just like the first time.
The smell of richly dirt-like blood filled his nostrils and he looked around to see a buck lapping at water a mile downstream. His mouth did not water with as much venom – for surely this sweet, sickly, thick-water like substance was no ordinary saliva - as earlier but it did a little. And that gave Edward an idea.
Blood was blood.
Running so fast he reached the buck in a mere two seconds, he tackled it to the ground and before it could even give a startled animal shriek his teeth were burying itself in the buck's fur, ripping it out to reach the skin of the neck. His strong hands kept the animal still despite its kicking out, which Edward barely felt. As soon as the poisonous saliva released itself into the blood stream of his victim, the buck stilled.
The blood pooled in Edward's mouth quickly, messily, and he drank with the sloppiness of a newborn and the desperation of a mad man. This blood was dirty-tasting, not at all pure and satisfying like that man's. But when the buck was drained dry and Edward was standing up, he realized that he did not feel so crazed and deranged. He felt more full.
And he realized there were other methods of survival than the monstrous way of his awakening. There were still choices, and he had the capacity to make them. If only barely.
He did not feel tired at all when night fell and he was huddling in the high branches of an easily scrambled-up tree to keep away from predators. More for their safety than his, he was realizing. Still, he closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep.
Memories, not dreams, took ahold of him and he realized quickly, with horror, that his memories were cloudy and dim, like looking through warped glass. Hurriedly, he pulled Bella's face to the front of his mind, a face he knew better than anyone's. But the fog obscured the minute details of her as well and he focused more intently, drawing on all the new brain power afforded to him to cement his love in his mind.
"How can I forget?" he whispered. "I can never forget."
So he began to think about the things that he couldn't bare to lose.
"Again you start with this. Do you ever get tired of being rejected?"
"It kills me every time. Which is why you should just say yes."
This conversation had occurred with ever increasing frequency since Carlisle's disappearance.
They were in his kitchen, making hot chocolate. Edward put his hand over Bella's, easing the stirring spoon from her so he could take hold of both of her hands, looking her in the eye.
"I love you," he vowed. "Forever. And I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you. You've already said that you feel the same. So what's so wrong with being engaged?"
Bella shuddered at the word. "Because, you don't want to wait to get married and I do. So it's easier if I just don't get your hopes up if it happening anytime soon."
Edward stopped. "Should I do it more publicly?" he inquired, cocking his head to the side. "The reason I never do is because I know you would hate anything nice, special, or romantic, but maybe I've been going about it wrong?"
Bella threw her hands in the air. "Clearly you haven't listened to a word I've said, so I just give up."
"Is that a yes?" Edward asked eagerly.
Esme walked in then, dressed for work. The two fell silent and glanced at her, staring without trying to. With a blank stare, they watched as she poured some coffee and grabbed a bagel, wrapping it in a paper towel. She stared at it for a long time before looking up.
"Hey mom," Edward said, finally not looking at her.
"Hello honey," she murmured. "Hello Bella."
"Hi Esme," Bella said. They were both being careful. They couldn't be sure what Esme's mood was like today.
To both their surprise, Esme came up to both of them and gave them a kiss and a hug. "Have a good day," she said through a daze and then walked out, calling for Alice.
"Do you think Mom was acting strange today?" Alice said to Edward and Bella as they sat on the couch, watching some movie.
They both nodded. "Maybe it's just a good day," Bella suggested.
Edward frowned and Alice shook her head. "I dunno…I just get this weird feeling. Like when…um, he left, I kinda sensed something was coming, but I wasn't sure. I kind of have a similar feeling of not really knowing but…maybe something…"
The phone rang. Their heads all snapped to it.
No one ever called anymore, except Bella or Charlie. Charlie was working and Bella was there.
Edward went to answer it. "Hello?"
His face was serious. "We'll be right there."
He turned back to them and the girls watched him anxiously, waiting for him to speak. "You were right Alice," he said through thin, white lips.
"What happened?" Bella asked, jumping up to hurry to him, placing her hand on his arm.
"Esme's in the hospital. She…" He broke off, looking away.
They were silent, waiting, and finally Edward took a deep breath, lifting his head back up.
"Let me guess," Alice asked, her face now becoming carefully blank, her eyes losing their glint and becoming dull and unfocused. Then she seemed to snap back to reality with a look of more clarity in the grey of her iris and the carbon of her iris.
"She tried to kill herself."
Outside Esme's clear, heavy glass door was the male nurse assigned to watch her in case she tried anything again. But as they slowly filed in to her room, it seemed unnecessary to have such a guard. Esme was just lying there, staring at the ceiling blankly. She had bandages around her neck and head, both her eyes were bruised, she had a sprained wrist, and was covered in a copious amount of small cuts and bruises. At least she finally looked the way she felt. Her deadened gaze at the ceiling made sense with her outwardly appearance.
She had apparently run her car into the side railing of the highway. Thankfully only at fifty miles an hour instead of seventy. The car was totaled but she had made it out remarkably unharmed, all things considered. The doctor hypothesized that she hadn't tensed up, having already been prepared to die.
There was total silence, and no one was looking at each other.
Edward didn't know how he should act. Inside, he was so angry he could burst. He was so upset he could cry. He was so relieved he could hug her. He was so hurt he could kill her. So he just stood silently, tensely. Bella was gripping his hand so hard it almost hurt and when he glanced over he saw that she was biting a trembling lip. Her emotion just made him more tense, realizing that he had to be strong for her. For everyone. He was the man of the house now. He was the only man left. And, in his mind, he told himself he was the only real man that had ever been there. Because a real man would never leave a woman in the current state his mother was in.
"Mom?" Alice was the first to speak, going up to Esme and putting her hand over hers. "I know things are hard," her voice broke, "But I'm glad you're still here."
And then everybody started crying except Edward, who glared at the ceiling, blinking back the tears.
Alice and Bella went up to hug Esme at the same time, their combined tears wetting the bed sheets in large patches.
"Mom," Alice sobbed. "I'm so sorry Mom. So sorry we didn't help you. I'm so sorry for everything…"
"You have nothing to be sorry for darling," Esme choked out, petting both Alice and Bella's hair. "I have everything to be sorry for…I should never have tried to…I'm just so….I don't know how to deal with feeling like I do. But I love you so much. And I'm going to get better. Things are going to get better, okay? I'll never leave you honey. I can't believe I tried to…I'm no better than…"
"You're depressed," Bella pointed out through her tears. "That's not the same thing. We'll just….you'll get some help and everything will get better."
Esme looked towards her adopted son, who was still just standing there.
"I am so sorry Edward," she said through wracking sobs that looked painful. "You are so strong and brave and have been through so much…I'm so sorry to do this to you. To all of you. I hope you'll learn to forgive me. I just don't know how to be as...as...remarkable as you are."
"I forgive you," he said through tight lips. His clenched fists didn't sell his words.
"Edward," Bella whispered, standing up next to Esme's bedside. "Try to understand."
"No." He was shaking. "I want you to understand. I want you to comprehend what this would have meant if she had succeeded. We would have both been completely parentless. Again. We would have been abandoned by someone we trusted. Again. And we would be displaced, alone, and struggling. So don't tell me to understand because I already do. Perfectly." He aimed a glaring eye toward his adopted mother. "I'm glad you're still here. For all of our sakes. Maybe I'm supposed to be gentle and compassionate right now. But I just can't be."
He turned on his heel and stormed out.
Bella came up behind Edward where he sat on the front steps of the community's small hospital. She put her hand on his shoulder and sat down next to him.
There was silence for a little while as they listened to an ambulance pull up to the emergency entrance on the other side of the hospital. People walked in and out of the sliding glass doors looking harried, scared, or cheerful. It was easy to tell what kind of ailment their loved one was experiencing. For every solemn face there was the smile of someone who probably just became a father, an aunt, a grandfather. Not that there were too many people hurrying past them. It was still a small town, after all. But the circle of life continued, even here.
"Did you come here to scold me?" Edward asked dully.
Bella laid her head gently on his shoulder.
"No. I came here to tell you that you never have to be scared of being alone. I know that's what this is about."
"I feel like everyone I love…." Edward choked up, turning his head. "They all leave."
"Not everyone," Bella said softly.
She ran her hand down his arm, lacing her fingers through his. She took a deep breath.
"Edward? Ask me again."
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- The Romanticidal Edwardian