Story summary: Being a 'vegetarian' vampire is easy, is it? No, it isn't. It's hard for every one of us. All the time. And some of us have other issues that make that choice ... difficult. Impossible, even. Just ask Bella.

WARNING: sad.

Setting: Batvia, Ohio, May 6th, 2010


I stood on a prominence overlooking the Harsha Lake, having just completed a hunt of a Virginia whitetail deer that gave a very satisfying run. The thrill of the chase in a hunt is a thrill that is difficult to top.

Except for when I was standing here, waiting for her.

And she did not leave me waiting long ... if you could discount the two weeks since I had last seen her.

"Rosalie," a quiet, musical alto voice sang my name.

I felt a cool, smooth hand very gently rest on my shoulder.

I kept looking out over the Harsha, but I couldn't stop the smile from pulling my lips upward.

"Bella," I said.

And I heard the smile in my voice, and I heard the love there, too. And the sadness.

Bella came to stand beside me, also looking out at the lake. Taking her in from the corner of my eye, she stunned me with her grace and her beauty.

And she looked utterly feral. Her long hair was tangled in knots, and twigs and leaves had ensnared themselves in the long waves of her hair. Her clothes were relatively new — a few days old, I judged — and probably booty from her most recent hunt. They had suffered from the elements, being repeatedly rained upon and sun-dried, and branches that were feather caresses to us has torn small holes here and there in the flannel and denim, giving her a soggy, bedraggled appearance.

And shoes?

Shoes don't last any length of time for nomadic vampires, so most of them didn't bother with shoes, as they were superfluous for us, anyway: we hurt the ground; the ground couldn't hurt us.

Bella wasn't a nomadic 'vampire' — she was, but she was also something so much more dangerous — so she also didn't bother with shoes.

But none of these things were important. The one feature of Bella that shone through, besides her godlike grace and beauty, were her eyes.

Bella's serene but vivid-red eyes looked over the lake. Yes, she had just hunted. I envied the poor fuck even as I pitied him. Dying in Bella Swan's arms? That'd be my definition of Heaven. And as the Denali sisters have said, 'What a way to go!'

I shook my head of the image stuck in my mind of Bella's last hunt. She can't help herself, I reminded myself angrily. And she's here with me now. Even after all of this, she's still with me, and I'm still with her.

Like either of us had a choice in the matter.

She glanced over at me. "You look nice," she said, appreciatively.

I had dressed 'casually' in a Cookie Johnson ensemble from Neiman Marcus: a powder blue scoop neck tee and steel-grey colored "Grace" jeans, the style was "Love boyfriend," of all things, which means the bootcut was rolled up to expose the ankles. But then I did give in a little to myself and wore a pair of black Donald J. Pliner elastic platform sandals.

Not the most practical thing to be wearing on a hunt, so I took them off during the chase, then retrieved them and put them back on for this rendezvous. You see, Bella has a weakness for my toes. I painted the toenails red, just for her.

For you see, I have a weakness, too: for Bella.

"Thank you," I said.

After a second, Bella smiled, acknowledging my silence about her own bedraggled looks.

That hurt. I wish I could tell her a little white lie about her appearance, but one thing we promised to each other was that we would be truthful to each other, and I couldn't say she looked beautiful, because she looked a mess.

Another thing I promised myself: I would love her. Forever. No matter what. And her, beside me now, I was reminded of my promise, and how easy it was to keep.

"How have you been?" I asked.

Bella shrugged. "Same-old, same old," she said disinterestedly. Then she asked, "How about you and ... everybody?"

God! I shrieked in my head, everyday we've been worried sick about you, missing you, praying for you ... wanting you to come home!

But I didn't want that to set the tone of our short time together, because then we would be in a fight and that's what our time would be: two weeks apart with a fight in between followed by two more weeks apart? We only had a few short hours together. We couldn't afford to waste this precious time.

Bella and I had found this out, the hard way.

Several times. And the two of us getting into a screaming hissy fit with each other, and then Bella running away, disappearing for weeks and months? No. This visit was not going to go like how some of the others had gone. I just had to watch my temper to make sure of that, and — by God! — I would for this visit.

Bella's visits with me are clandestine. Nobody knows where she's been or how or what she's been doing. Nobody knows that she's been following the coven as we move from place to place. And Bella wants to keep it this way. And I've honored her request.

As much as it pains me to do so.

So I settled for the compromising answer: "Fine." That stung as I said it, so I was forced to add the one truth tearing me up inside. "We miss you, Bella. We all do."

"Yeah," Bella said regretfully. It was her only acknowledgement.

And there was pain in her voice, because she knew, as much as her absence hurt me and her absence hurt everybody else — particularly one especially dear to her — she, wrongly, felt her presence would be would be much worse for us.

And there was nothing I could say to her to convince her otherwise.

I took her hand from my shoulder and kissed it lightly, smiling faintly.

"Would you like to get cleaned up?" I offered, waving toward the Harsha.

"What?" Bella asked in disbelief. "Did you actually bring scented bath oils or something?"

"Surprise!" I smiled with the delight of this small pleasure.

Bella smiled back, and it brought me right back to all our joyful and sorrowful times together, it brought me back to this very moment, as it also was joyful and sorrowful. Here we are, so happy to be together but already tasting the bitterness of the imminent separation.

She said, "A little skinny dipping, is it then?" Her smile turned wicked, "Well, there goes half the reason for you bringing the deck of cards like I asked you. Oh, well. But a bath in the lake does sound wonderful."

She quickly doffed her shirt and started to kick off her pants.

"Hey, slow-poke," she called, "last one in is a rotten egg."

That recalled me to myself, because I was openly staring that the perfection of her body. The way she so casually tossed off her shirt, revealing every elfin line and curve of her?

The thoughts I was thinking, of how my hands and tongue would caress every inch of her?

Criminal. And I would gladly plead 'guilty' to any and every charge leveled against me.

I'd probably offer some additional charges they missed.

But I pulled off my own sweater and folded it neatly, placing it on the picnic blanket, and started to remove my jeans.

Bella stopped in her shucking of her clothes and regarded me, a bit wall-eyed, in silence. She picked up her own discarded shirt and folded it a bit clumsily, as if she had never folded a shirt, as if she didn't know how.

How quickly she had lost every shred of civility! She had gone completely wild living in her nomadic ways in the forests, all alone, away from any contact of humanity ... except when she was hunting. Encountering my neatness? I saw the look of confusion in her eyes, as if it were now totally alien to her. She looked lost folding her own shirt.

I smiled encouragingly to her, and continued to disrobe.

Bella did the same, but more slowly now, more pensively.

I picked up the all-in-one bottle of philosophy grace shower/bath-soap.

"Bella?" I said seriously, looking at with all the love, hurt, and pain we had shared in our existence.

"Yeah?" Bella looked at me uncertainly.

"What was that about a 'rotten egg'?" I asked, and dove toward the Harsha with all my speed and strength.

Bella's shocked "Why, you ...!" followed me as I plunged into the lake, and I laughed in the glee of my victory.

Who would have thought that Rosalie Lillian Hale would ever delight in play? Who would have thought it would take a cold-blooded murderer named Bella Swan to show me a tender side of me that I thought I didn't have?

...

Bathing Bella was always a delicate affair when she was human, and now, it was even more so, because we were both so shy with each other, shampooing our own hair, but soaping each other's bodies. It was a careful, gentle rediscovery of each other. Very intimate, but by a silent and mutual agreement, not an erotic, groping affair, but a tender moment, her for me, and me for her. Our hands delicately washed each other as our eyes remained locked on each other. I kept staring into the depths of her silver-crimson eyes.

I was afraid that I would lose Bella when she lost herself to her bloodlust when the ardeur pulled her from my arms on a hunt we all disapproved of but couldn't stop. I was afraid that she would never come back to me or to herself. But, looking into her eyes, I saw the violence, the danger, but I saw something else: I saw her. I saw my Bella in the eyes of this killer, and it warmed my heart as it broke it to see her kindness, wit, and care for me.

Bella had murdered how many people these last three years? More than one hundred? More than double that? But she was still my Bella, and I still loved her, with my entire being.

Bella, the red-eyed murderer, smiled sweetly at me as she bathed me, and my heart broke again, even as it sang.

...

"Ah!" Bella sighed, luxuriating in my care. "Do you know how long it's been? You wouldn't believe what a relief that bath was, Rosalie!"

I knelt behind my seated and towel-clad Bella, very gently and expertly combing her chocolate-brown locks, being very, very careful now: her hair wouldn't grow back like it did when I combed it for her when she was a human. I leaned in and whispered into her ear, "I'm glad you liked my surprise."

"Did I ever!" Bella readily concurred.

I resumed combing to hide my regret. We had just moved across the country to Ohio a few weeks ago and seeing my poor unkempt Bella on my last hunt — that is, my first Ohioan hunt — I knew exactly what she needed. So the last time she had had a proper bath was ... more than two months ago?

We civilized vampires could take a shower or bath every day, if we wanted to.

You could, too, Bella, if you came back to us.

I forcefully pushed my regrets aside and worked to untangle her gnarled hair with very gentle strokes of the boxwood comb.


Chapter End Notes:

[1] Okay, okay, OKAY! Yes, m'dears, I know, okay? Yes, another story, another one-shot that's turned into a two-shot that's turned into this. I know, okay? Look, if you wish to file a complaint, talk to my Muse, okay? She's the one who put this image in my head and then stood over my shoulder, glowering and demanding I flesh out the rest of the story.

Do you know how my Muse stands over my shoulder? If you don't, then let me tell you: Damocles had it easy, okay? And if I even think about writing anything else, like working on another story-in-progress? I put my life on the line writing Sirens in the middle of writing this, because she gets all, 'what are you doing?' And that question is just filled with implications that I don't want even to think about (but I do: my Muse is a very, very creative daughter of Mνημοσύνη — Mnemosyné, "Memory" — and she delights in sharing images with me, be they frightful, sad, or ... um, well, you've read my [fer realz] one-shot Prowling Panther, right?) And if I try to point out to her that these other incomplete stories were her ideas, too, she gets The Look. You do know The Look, don't you, girls? If you don't, well, then, count yourself lucky is all I can say.

So here we are.

But, good news for you, dear readers: I've typed the first ten-thousand words, and I estimate that to be about seventy-five percent of this story, so this *ahem* "one-shot" story's chapter updates will come fast and furious (at most one per day, Ms. Muse is also very demanding that I publish impeccable chapters), and you will see this story marked "complete" and me returning to complete my other works-in-progress, okay?

Okay.

[2] Bloodbuzz (1), n.: the empty, agonizing longing brought on by thirst, quenched as only human blood can, then, when quenched, that ecstasy so high that you're practically vibrating with pleasure. Abstinence? Vegetarian vampires? Phfheh! Admirable thought, but why? Besides, that's impossible, especially when in the grips of ardeur, no matter what those stupid Denali sisters say. Bella Swan, sadly, knows better.

I hint at what ardeur is in my story Monsters.

Bloodbuzz (2), n.: Song released by The National, a group based out of Cincinnati, Ohio a few days before this particular tryst between Bella and Rosalie occurred at East Fork State Park, Ohio. Bella may have been in a sbux a few days ago, eyes pitch black, on the hunt, and she may have heard this song playing then. Or she may not have. Anybody who would know that is very, very dead now.

[3] 'What a way to go!' is quoted by Irina in ch 5 (Succubi) of the story Fair Game, by Eowyn77.

[4] And before you ask: yes, and no. Yes, I've written out this story, completely, in my head, so, yes, I know what's going on, and yes, Bella has struggled and lost against the pull of her bloodlust, over and over again. But no. No, I'm not sure if this is 'canon,' by which I mean I don't know if this is where the mass of my stories from the Rose Read canon are tending to this story or if this story is stand-alone. This is three years in the future, m'dears, and it's a plausible future to my mind (and my Muse was just so delighted to share this image with me: Bella of the blood-red eyes standing over the incapacitated Rosalie and then ... she comes out of the forest to see this tableau and cries out in anguish and then Bella ... but I won't spoil the ending of 'Chapter 1' of this 'two-part' 'one-shot' for you ... too much), but it's also plausible that Bella turns out all sweet and light and non-succubus-like and vegan as she does in Breaking Dawn by Steph, right?

Right?

Yeah, right!

*ahem* Little bitchy sarcastic voice in my head? I have something to say to you: Shush!