NOTICE: It has been recommended that before you begin reading this, you may want to read the Author's Note at the end first... so you know what you're getting into. Doing so would lead to some spoilage. It's up to you.
Disclaimer: This is a very direct New Moon AU, and as such, large portions of this fic will be lifted more or less verbatim from the book, particularly in the first few chapters. They will not be marked, not because I wish to claim Meyer's work as my own (God forbid) but because marking looks silly. I have no rights to New Moon, these characters, or the Twilight Saga in general. I am not Stephenie Meyer - and trust me, if I was, I wouldn't admit to it.
A/N: I'm writing a story about imprinting in classic fanfiction style while attempting to mesh as seamlessly with Stephenie Meyer's writing style as possible. To the best of my ability, the only changes I'm making to New Moon are as follows:
-The obvious one listed in the summary
-Modifying dialogue to sound like real people are using real words
-Maintaining continuity of characterization (in my opinion, this is the point in the saga at which Meyer actually went OOC with her own creations, something I didn't even realize was possible until I read these damn books)
-Giving Bella a cell phone and pepper spray (the former because the idea that an eighteen year old girl in 2006 wouldn't have a cell phone requires too much suspension of disbelief, the latter because it's cool)
I should also mention that I am, at minimum, the 900th person to tackle this scenario. As per usual, I make no claims to originality.
Fifteen to twenty chapters. Saturday and Wednesday updates (I hope - stay on my ass about this, folks). Angst Threat Level Orange. If you want to back out now, I understand.
The Movement of the Earth
One consequence of all this is that everything attracts everything else with gravitational forces. The earth attracts the apple and the apple attracts the earth with the same force. The apple is the one that moves noticeably because it is so much lighter (and easier to move) than the earth.
-Jim Loy, "The Law of Gravity"
I didn't like that - didn't like the way his eyes closed as if he were in pain when he spoke of being bound. More than dislike - I realized I hated it, hated anything that caused him pain. Hated it fiercely.
-New Moon, Chapter 12: "Intruder"
even your emotions have an echo in so much space
Shawn Colvin, "Crazy"
Prologue. The Meadow (Redux)
A year ago, I'd never given much thought to how I would die.
Funny, how things change.
"Mouthwatering," Laurent repeated, inhaling deeply as he leaned toward my throat. Even though I knew what he was about to do to me, his voice was still soothing, his smell hypnotic. A portion of my mind - the alive part - urged me to flee, to at least try to save myself. But my senses rebelled and told me that what would happen next wouldn't be so bad; after all, nothing that came from someone so much like Edward could be terrible.
Edward, Edward, Edward. His name burst through the walls I'd built to contain it - what difference would it make if I thought of him now? Edward, I love you. I would love him until I died. Which was admittedly only a few moments away, so I guess it didn't mean that much...
I was so busy listening to my own head, it took me a moment to realize that I wasn't dead. Laurent's head had whipped to the side, and he was staring into the trees, backing away from me slowly. "I don't believe it," he breathed.
Daring to look away from my would-be murderer for a moment, I glanced to my right, scanning the line of trees that edged the meadow. Nothing - nothing that my useless human eyes could see, anyway...
...then, there it was, coming out of the forest. An unfathomably huge black shape, larger than a horse. It moved with a bizarre lightness and grace for something so gigantic. I knew immediately what it was, what it had to be - the animal that was causing so much trouble. The bear.
Charlie's going to need a lot more shotguns, I thought blankly as it came forward, stalking towards Laurent, a predator facing down a predator. Funny that I would care about something like that right now, but my mind seemed to be shutting down, taking all my emotions with it. Blue screen of death in Bella's brain. This was all too much.
The black shape growled, revealing impossibly sharp teeth. Bears didn't growl like that. It couldn't be a bear. I followed the form of the animal with my eyes, taking in the long jaw, the swishing tail... the canine shape... a dog?
No. Not a dog.
A huge wolf.
Laurent continued to retreat. Why would he do that? Gargantuan as this wolf - or whatever - was, I knew what vampires were capable of, and surely Laurent could tear it apart limb from limb with his marble hands if he so desired. But Laurent's perfect face was frozen with horror. He was afraid. It didn't make any sense at all.
The black wolf growled thunderously again, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck as two more shapes emerged from the foliage, padding silently onto the dead grasses. A gray wolf and a brown wolf, eyes locked on Laurent, flanking the black wolf in what looked strangely like a battle formation.
"Don't move an inch," Edward's voice whispered in my ear, and I shuddered. The memory of James' poison flowing through my body was all too vivid, and I couldn't help but wonder which would be worse, the venomous bite or wolf dismemberment. Either way, there was no question of getting out of this meadow alive.
I choked back a semi-hysterical giggle. Death by vampire or mutant wolf. Sometimes, I really, really missed Phoenix.
Two more wolves, gray and reddish-brown, flanking again. They now formed an enormous, monstrous V formation, aimed directly at Laurent, whose blood-filled eyes were wide. The reddish-brown wolf was so close that I could touch it, and when its russet fur actually brushed my arm, I gasped involuntarily. The wolf turned its head, just enough to glance at me. Its intelligent eyes were dark, almost black. They took me in.
Something shifted. Just a little, like the time I'd spent a week with Charlie in San Francisco when I was fourteen and I'd gotten dizzy for a half-second, stumbling in the street. A passerby had laughed at me and said with a wink not to worry, it was just a little earthquake, happened all the time.
Just a little earthquake. Then it was gone.
The russet wolf's entire body shook, and it turned to stare hungrily. Vampire bite or wolf dismemberment. Tough choice. Another hysterical giggle fought to escape my chest. I took a step backward, and a high-pitched whine came out of the wolf's throat, like it was in pain.
Edward's honeyed voice roared furiously in my head.
Maybe I was dreaming.
I hoped so.
The leading black wolf brought me back to reality with a series of ear-splitting barks that echoed through meadow and made me flinch. The reddish-brown wolf jerked to attention, growling as one with the rest of the pack.
Laurent - I'd nearly forgotten about Laurent, how strange was that? - turned and ran, his black hair flowing behind him, speeding like the hounds of hell were on his heels. Which they were. Snarling and snapping, the wolves dashed after the vampire, somehow managing to keep pace as they chased him into the woods, vanishing into the thickness of the forest almost instantly.
Silence fell across the meadow, and I was alone again.
I didn't think about where I was going when I first left the meadow - I just... left. I stumbled through the forest, over mossy branches and tall ferns, falling more than once, too overwhelmed to even be afraid.
Laurent had returned. He was being chased through the wilderness by wolves the size of SUVs. I was alive, somehow, for reasons I didn't understand. At least until Victoria found me - Victoria, who would make being eaten by Laurent seem like a gift from heaven.
Too much, too much, too much.
Forty-five minutes of aimless wandering later, it finally occurred to me to check my compass. I had to set it on a boulder in order to read the needle; I hadn't even realized I was shaking. It took another hour to rediscover where I'd parked my truck - I'd gone off in the completely opposite direction - and when I began to drive, I couldn't figure out why the road was blurry. Apparently not only was I shaking, I was crying. I swiped the tears away with a muddy hand and tried to focus.
I wanted to go home. No, scratch that, I wanted to go to La Push. I wanted Jacob. I wanted Jacob and his sunniness and his smiles.
That doesn't matter, I told myself sternly; I might want Jacob, but Jacob certainly didn't want me. He wasn't sick anymore, but he hadn't come to see me, hadn't even bothered to return my calls. So I held down the instinct that told me to turn the truck around and head in the other direction, and kept on a steady course for Forks.
It was late by the time I got home, and the slanting sun glared off the windshield as I climbed out of the cab. Charlie's cruiser was parked in the driveway. I glanced down at myself - I didn't exactly look like I'd spent a quiet afternoon doing Calculus homework. Oh well.
"Bella?" Charlie called as I trudged in the front door. I glanced briefly at the locks - they wouldn't help me. If Victoria was coming, nothing would.
"Yeah," I said tonelessly. "It's me."
"Where have you been?" he thundered, appearing in the kitchen doorway with his arms crossed, glowering at me. "I didn't-" He blinked, and his arms dropped to his side as he took in my bedraggled appearance. "Bells, what happened?"
"I went hiking," I admitted. "I didn't feel like going to Jessica's, so... yeah."
He groaned in exasperation. "I thought I told you to stay out of the woods, Bella! Do you have a death wish?"
I flinched away from the blackness of that thought. "Yeah, I know. Dad - I saw the animal. Well, animals. They're not bears, they're wolves. Five of them." At least if I could provide some information about the animal attacks. For once I wasn't completely useless.
Charlie stared at me, his eyes going wide. "Wolves?"
"I think so. They're kind of too big to be wolves" -that was an understatement- "but... I don't know what else they can be."
"And you saw them," he pressed. "From how far away?"
I swallowed. "Close. Really close. Close enough to touch." Close enough to look in the eye.
In a flash Charlie was standing right in front of me, scanning me anxiously from head to toe. "Did they hurt you?" he demanded. "Are you okay?"
"No, I just fell a lot. Like usual." I tried to smile at him. "They didn't seem that interested in me." They were only interested in a granite-skinned predator that should have torn them to pieces but ran in the other direction instead... why? It didn't make any sense. None of this made sense.
Charlie's gaze flicked over my face, and lines appeared between his eyebrows. "Okay," he said. "Okay. Just... sit on the couch, Bells, all right? I need to call the station."
"I really just want to go to bed," I protested, the room spinning a little. I felt as though Laurent had succeeded, and everything inside of me had been drained out. "I'm kind of tired."
Charlie opened his mouth, then closed it again and frowned. "No," he said finally. "Go sit down and wait for me to make this call. They might want some more details." He scratched the back of his neck and looked at me uncertainly. "Then... you should probably eat something. You don't look so good."
"Humor your old man, all right?"
"Fine," I snapped, peeved. Charlie looked hurt at my tone, and I felt a flash of guilt. He'd been worried about me. "Sorry. Just... it's been a long day, you know?" I offered by way of explanation. "Food is a good idea. I'm pretty hungry." I was lying, but his expression smoothed out, so it was worth it. I'd wait a couple minutes, take a few bites of whatever he offered, then escape to my room.
The phone call to the station didn't take long. I fudged on a few of the details; I made it sound like I'd stayed safely on the north path, instead of wandering into the middle of the forest with only a compass and a seriously deficient sense of direction to guide me. It meant the rangers wouldn't be looking in quite the right place... but it would be better if no one went near Laurent, anyway. I didn't need anyone's blood on my hands.
Besides, though I obviously couldn't say anything, there was no reason for the rangers to worry anymore. The wolves were surely dead by now. There would only be so long before Laurent decided to put an end to the chase. Oddly enough, I felt sorry for them - it wouldn't be a pleasant way to go.
Charlie sat down on the coffee table in front of me and pushed a plate of lasagna into my hands. "It's just leftovers from Tuesday," he said, sheepish. "I heated it up in the microwave."
"Thanks, that's perfect," I said honestly. If it was leftovers I wouldn't have to feel bad about only eating a little and throwing out the rest. I picked around the edges as Charlie kept staring at me. It felt like I had been stared at a lot today. "What?"
"Bells..." Charlie glanced away, scratching the back of his neck again. "Bells, do you like cooking?"
I blinked. "Huh?"
"I found a lot of leftovers in the fridge, and, well, you made all of them." Charlie looked thoroughly uncomfortable. "You just... started doing all the cooking when you moved in, so I figured you really liked it."
"Dad, I don't mind," I said, still confused. "I'm used to making dinner all the time. It's not a big deal. I've been doing it forever. Mom's an awful cook."
Charlie cracked a smile at that. "Yeah, I know. She always was." Then his expression grew serious again. "But being used to it shouldn't mean... maybe when you first got here I should have talked to you about it. I don't want you to think you have to... you know what I mean?"
I didn't. "Sure."
"I think maybe I should do some of the cooking from now on," he continued. "I grill a mean steak, you know."
"If that's what you want."
"But that doesn't mean I don't like your cooking too," he added. "I don't mean... it's not that I'm saying-"
"No, Dad, I get it," I interrupted, letting him off the hook. Another lie. I had no idea what he was talking about. "Don't worry. I look forward to the steaks."
"Okay." Charlie sighed with relief, clearly glad to have gotten that out of the way - whatever that was. He retreated to his recliner and flipped on the TV to one of the sports channel; a hockey game was on.
I tried to eat another bite of lasagna, but it stuck in my throat.
"Bells?" Charlie's voice was hesitant, and I looked up at him. "Do you... want to watch?" He gestured at the TV. "It's going to be a good one. Red Wings versus the Wild."
Charlie was officially acting strange. He'd never actually invited me to watch a game with him before. "Um... okay," I said slowly. "Why?"
He shrugged and muttered something about leftovers.
A tendril of shame threaded itself through my body. I'd kept Charlie from getting a good night's sleep for months. I'd gone out into the forest without thinking about what it would do to him. I was acting like a zombie again tonight and sparking some kind of leftover-obsessed concern. It wouldn't hurt me to spend one hour paying attention to a little ball moving on a sheet of ice. "Sure, Dad, I'll watch," I said with false enthusiasm, setting aside the plate and laying down on the couch.
Surprisingly, hockey wasn't as boring as I thought. Charlie talked about the rules as we watched, but no matter how many times he explained it, I couldn't figure out what constituted a penalty. It seemed like it was okay for the players to beat each other with sticks all they wanted without getting in trouble. Finally Charlie just said it was all part of the game.
In the third section - or period, or inning, I wasn't sure - Charlie said unexpectedly, "By the way, I saw Jacob in town today after I picked up Harry. I thought you said he was in Port Angeles?"
I frowned. "That's what Billy told me." I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and checked it discreetly. No Missed Call on the little screen. A weight pressed against my ribs. "I guess the movies were really short or something."
"He looked better... I know you were worried."
"Yeah." I was still worried. And depressed. "What... what was he doing?" I asked cautiously.
"He was with some friends. It looked like he was arguing with them. I waved, but he didn't notice." Charlie shrugged again, like that was a normal teenage boy thing.
"Oh," I said noncommittally. Actually, that made some sense. Jacob didn't argue with anyone, really... but if he was, and with his "friends", then it could only be for one thing: he had to be confronting Sam about Embry. If he'd ditched me for that, I was okay with it - I knew how freaked out he'd been. Maybe a confrontation had done the trick and Jacob had gotten Embry back. Maybe he'd call me tomorrow and tell me. Maybe I'd call him and ask.
Loneliness settled into my chest, like an infection around the ever-present wound. I missed him. I knew that wasn't good - I depended on Jacob far too much, especially when I knew he was hoping for things from me that I wasn't capable of giving - but I missed him anyway.
By the time the game was over, I was snuggled deep into the couch, fighting to keep my eyes open. Charlie reached for the remote and turned the TV off with a click, then stood and stretched. He gave my shoulder a little shake. "Bells?"
I yawned. "Yeah, I know. Bed." I was tempted to just spend the night comfortable and warm on the couch, but my muscles, already sore from the day, would protest in the morning.
Charlie looked at me for a moment, then, of all things, reached out and ruffled my hair. "Have a good night." Unfortunately, both knew how unlikely that was.
I trudged up the stairs, settled into bed, flicked off the lamp, and stared out the window into the blackness of the night, wondering if anyone was looking back. Once upon a time, the idea of someone opening the shutters and entering my room filled me with blinding, unstoppable joy. Now...
Victoria was coming for her revenge - and she would have her revenge on me, not Edward, the way we had assumed. There was nothing that could stop her, no one to hold her back. The only ones that could have protected me were the Cullens, and they were long gone.
Victoria wanted a mate for a mate - and Edward didn't even want me as his mate.
In a way, it was actually kind of funny.
"You must not mean very much to him if he left you here unprotected."
I turned my face into my pillow as the hysterical, vaguely demented giggles I'd been holding back in the meadow finally erupted to the surface - too much too much too much - and I literally laughed myself to sleep.
In my dreams I heard howling.
Sanity Report: Being as I am making every effort to replicate Stephenie Meyer's... unique... voice, this fic will also double as the audreyii_fic Slow Descent Into Madness Show. If I perish in the endeavor, please tell people that I died saving adorable kittens from a house fire, not that my brain exploded in self-defense rather than use "glower" six times per chapter.