Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Stephenie Meyer. All recognisable characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
To love is not to look at one another, but to look in the same direction.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
going nowhere, going somewhere
It was a stupid arrangement right from the start, but since it had been Carlisle's idea Edward was hardly going to attack it, plus most of his family embraced the idea well enough. College again – and living on campus. The explanation was that living such a high lifestyle, namely mansions, drew the attention they so desperately tried to avoid, so what better way to avoid attention than by hiding right under the humans' noses? Carlisle seemed rather enthusiastic about it, and Alice had been dying to try it. They were paired up – Emmett and Jasper, Rosalie and Alice, Bella and Renesmee.
Edward was naturally the Odd One Out.
Renesmee was entirely too amused than was absolutely necessary about the whole thing. "You're too serious, dad. It'll be fun!"
"I'll be put with a human. I don't understand why I can't go to med school again."
Renesmee giggled. Bella touched his arm in comfort and he bit back a sigh he didn't really need to sigh. "It's only for three years, Edward," she said softly.
"And how exactly am I supposed to hide the no-eating, no-sleeping thing?"
"You're smart!" Renesmee chirped. "I'm sure you'll think of something."
"Easy for you to say," Emmett grumbled from the other side of the room. Silently, Edward agreed.
"I will miss Jacob and Leah," Renesmee sighed, twirling a strand of hair around her finger. "At least I got to go to their wedding before we had to leave."
"I'm sure they'll write," Edward murmured absently, and Renesmee stuck out her tongue.
("Woof," Rosalie muttered.)
His roommate's name was Caden Mills. Edward heard him about three minutes before he met him; for a human, Caden had unusually loud thoughts. The introduction itself went, for lack of a better description, badly:
"Who the fuck are you?"
Edward blinked at the coarse language, and at the sandy-haired, green-eyed boy standing in the doorway. "I'm Edward Cullen," he said, letting his suitcase fall onto his bed. "This is my assigned dormitory."
"You're Edward?" The boy screwed up his nose. "Well, hi, I guess. I'm Caden. Caden Mills. Cool contacts, by the way."
"Sorry? Oh, my eyes. Thanks. Nice to meet you."
"So, what're you doing?" the boy asked almost carelessly and turned on the computer on the desk.
"Major in English with Literature as my elective."
Caden's eyebrows shot up. "Nice. English Lit is my minor."
"And your course?"
"Majoring in Society and Culture. Transferred out of Arts last year."
Edward had nothing against a Bachelor of Arts personally; it was the principle, not the practice. He was reminded of the scrawling all through the public bathrooms in college campuses during the 1980s, on the toilet paper roll boxes: Arts Major, please take one. "Sounds interesting," Edward said, feigning interest, then returned to unpacking his suitcase.
Clearly he failed at feigning interest.
Prick, he heard Caden think and he winced at how loud it was before a horrible sound erupted from the speakers. Edward glanced at the computer screen, some clip on YouTube. "What is that awful noise?" he asked, frowning at the prepubescent band of boys wheezing out something that a thirteen year old girl might have considered a song.
"You haven't heard the Jonas Brothers?"
"I don't believe I have."
Caden wrote a scathing comment on the YouTube clip and exited the screen. "Then bless whatever God you believe in that you haven't."
This is why I hate modern culture, Edward thought to himself.
At the same time, he heard Caden's very loud, very annoying thoughts: Stupid fucking Jonas Brothers, they're ruining the music industry.
Edward nearly scoffed. It wasn't as though there was much worth ruining these days.
Caden was Annoying with a Capital 'A'.
Not in the literal sense, that he was constantly in Edward's face and acted obnoxiously as often as he could. Quite the opposite – despite their first meeting, Caden more or less minded his own business and didn't pay too much attention to Edward and his unusual sleeping/eating habits. Just as well, of course.
No, Caden was annoying because he was loud.
In a sea of one hundred voices, Caden's voice carried. It was like a constant drone in the back of his mind, sometimes coherent and other times nonsensical, but always there. It wasn't that he smelled any more delectable than another human, or that his thoughts were disinteresting – it was the constant presence of it that was steadily driving Edward towards insanity. Even at a hundred, two hundred metres apart, and more, Edward could hear him.
Hmm, I wonder what would happen if –
– don't believe that kid has ever gone to medical school –
–texts such as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet are commonly misinterpreted as romantic tales; rather, Romeo and Juliet is a social commentary which explores themes of immaturity, recklessness, and the fickle nature of teenagers –
– JUST A TEENAGE DIRTBAG, BAAABY…
It wasn't as though Edward could go up to him and ask him if he could keep his thoughts down or just stopped thinking altogether, please and thank you. Years later he would deny ever falling to his knees before Carlisle and begging for the family to pack and leave again.
This rational, level-headed request was denied, and Emmett graciously told him to "suck it up".
Caden even dreamed loudly. Thankfully also deeply, which meant Edward could escape the dormitory to hunt without fear of being discovered. This was not, however, to say that the boy was unperceptive; on the contrary, it was a relief he could actually hear his thoughts when Caden noticed him acting strangely, like not eating in the dorm and always being up at the crack of dawn. This was easily rectified by putting a banana in his backpack and shoving some candy wrappers under his pillow, and pretending he went for morning jogs. (Technically not a lie.) Caden Mills, it seemed, had a relatively short attention span, or was distracted easily, especially when it came to pop culture.
"…You don't know Inglourious Basterds?" Caden said slowly when Edward stared blankly at the DVD he was holding up proudly.
"The fuck you should!" Caden exclaimed loudly, the use of profanity making Edward shift in disapproval. "Christ! Have you been living under a rock or something?"
"Or something," Edward agreed distantly.
Man, Caden's thoughts resonated in his mind, this dude's been seriously deprived. Wonder if he'd let me write my research paper on him? How fanatic reactionist beliefs destroy one's ability to integrate with society…
Stupid human boy. If only he knew.
"You seen the book I was reading?"
"Here," Edward said, holding it out. Caden grabbed it, fingers brushing against the back of Edward's hand as he did. Edward pulled back sharply, eyes widening as Caden frowned at him. He felt his skin temperature – a level abnormal for humans, especially in July. If Caden suspected, if he told others – he didn't want to make his family move again for a slipup so minor –
"What's up with your hands?"
"I'm sorry?" Edward asked, pretending he had no idea. Sometimes it worked.
But the stupid kid wouldn't quit. "Your hands. They're freezing. We're in the middle of summer. You okay?"
"It's a – an illness I have – no cure –" Edward lied – and found Caden, much to his surprise, nodding.
"Ah, right. Some circulation disease? Reynaud's is my guess."
"Y-yes. Yes. Reynaud's Disease."
Well, why hadn't he said anything like that earlier? All those years of keeping distance from humans in fear that they would realise what he was, and his cold hands could be easily passed off as a disease, albeit a less common one? He started wondering what other illnesses would explain his 'symptoms'. Definitely something to bring up with Carlisle.
"Well, make sure you keep your hands and feet warm all the time," Caden advised. "My aunt had Reynaud's and her left foot had to be amputated after she came back from skiing."
"I don't plan on going skiing," Edward muttered.
"Top man," Caden approved, and returned to analysing War and Peace.
When Edward failed to react 'normally' to the third pop-culture reference in a row, Caden glared at him. "You have read Harry Potter, right? Every kid our generation has read it."
"I tend not to read things written after 1950. I find the standard of literature declines exponentially after that decade, particularly articles of 'pop culture'."
Well, ouch, Edward could hear Caden's hurt thoughts, and immediately felt a bit guilty. But not too guilty. "That's a bit rough, innit?" Caden said, averting his gaze. "It's not Anna Karenina but…you know…you shouldn't dismiss it because it wasn't written back then. I'll admit it isn't the best writing at times, but they're great books."
"Hmm," Edward said dismissively, and Caden frowned.
"I suppose you think I'm an uncultured bastard for even laying eyes on Harry Potter, then."
"I didn't say that –"
"You were thinking it." It almost shocked him how quickly Caden's temper rose, both in thought and action. He pointed at Edward's chest. "Listen here, Cullen – three months I've been putting up with your emo attitude and your condescending looks. And that's cool. I can live with that. But I can't stand you acting like if something wasn't written by Shakespeare it doesn't have literary value. Because that's not true. And it doesn't mean the people who read it aren't as good as you. Get with times. You're only – what – nineteen, twenty? Means you were born in 1990. You're too young to be acting like an old fart. I happen to like Harry Potter. Doesn't mean you're better than me for it."
He stormed out of the dorm before Edward could reply. There was a certain irony about it, Edward considered. It was definitely funny in a way. If one squinted and turned their head to the side maybe.
Stuck-up, self-righteous, douche-head, snot-nosed, bastard, asshole –
Caden's vicious mental insults followed Edward for the rest of the day. When they saw each other next, Caden pretended nothing had happened, and Edward was more than happy to go along with it.
For the past hundred or so years, Edward received marks well above the state average and was generally able to maintain an A average. It was of course much to his surprise, and a bit of his horror, that he received a B- for an essay for English literature.
"I don't understand," he mused aloud in the dorm. "I've never received a mark below A before."
Caden glanced up from his side of the room. "Never?" Weirdo. "Well, had to happen sometime. It's not as bad as you think it is. Here, let me read it."
"Why you?" Edward asked gloomily as he unwillingly surrendered his essay over to Caden's expectant hand.
"Because I have experience with knowing exactly why my work gets Bs and Cs."
That's not too hard to imagine, Edward snarked mentally as Caden started reading his essay. Time for a vampire was relative; hours equivalent to seconds, years equivalent to days. He half expected his peculiar roommate to scan over the pages and toss it back, rolling his eyes at the use of refined language and accusing him on choosing too serious a topic when other kids were comparing Romeo and Juliet to some new teenage paranormal romance series which turned girls into screaming fans. Something to do with zombies or succubae…
But Caden settled back onto his bed and immersed himself into the essay, reading over each word and sentence, eyes moving back and forth slowly. His thoughts were quieter now than usual, entwining with Edward's words, eyes wide and face open with emotion as he read. It might have been ten minutes or ten months when he looked back up, eyes shining with something Edward fancied being admiration.
"Okay, your problem – teachers don't want to work their way through twenty pages of Ye Olde English."
"It means they want you to cut the flowery shit and get to the goddamn point of the essay. These are people who have to read through a hundred essays a night. They're going to lose interest pretty quick."
If that wasn't the biggest contradiction of emotion and thought in human history, Edward didn't know what was. "You seemed fairly entranced."
Caden flushed. "Yeah, well, as much as I love Harry Potter, I am capable of appreciating more eloquent forms. You write…beautifully, if I may."
Were he human, Edward might have blushed right back. "Thank you."
"But your points aren't obvious enough and you've got, like, ten thousand words. You write like it's still 1860. I mean, I enjoyed it. I haven't read anything like that for ages. But the teachers aren't going to enjoy it at midnight after a long day at college teaching snot-nosed idiots who don't pay attention and only turn up to pass the course. Filthy hypocrites, aren't they? Anyway, loosen up a bit, have some fun. This essay's for your elective, which is literature, yes? It's okay to choose some less serious texts. And maybe a few less 'hitherto's and 'whereby's."
Edward took his essay back. "I'll take that into consideration."
Caden gave him a funny look. "You're so serious all the time. What do you do for fun?"
"I play the piano. Spend time with my girlfriend."
…Yeah, serious as a block of granite. "You've got a girlfriend?"
Edward nearly frowned. "No need to sound so surprised."
"No, it's – sorry. You just act like such a prude all the time, I thought…"
"There's nothing wrong with acting like a prude, or being one. And I'm not a prude, I'm conservative, and there isn't anything wrong with that either."
"I didn't say there was!"
"You were thinking it."
(He had been.)
Caden closed his mouth. "Well, touché."
And for the first time in four months, they grinned at each other.
Much to his surprise, Edward found that he was beginning to like Caden, and his constant presence in Edward's mind became less of an annoyance and more something that just was. He grew used to the murmuring, learning to tune out, but more often than not he listened. What he heard was very strange; mostly stories, he figured out, and characters and worlds that weren't real, and some of them were amusing to listen to. It was still strange; he preferred to keep humans at a distance, disliking their shallow thoughts, but there was something different about Caden. He was genuinely a nice kid – rarely thinking bad thoughts about anyone (except maybe Sally Henderson from psychology, the backstabbing cheating bitch). Everything about Caden thrived with life and emotion, emotions ranging from mindless glee one day to a fiery fury the next.
It was…intriguing, to say the least. Such a connection to a human mind was unusual for him. Naturally, this only made Bella concerned with his interest in Caden. Sweet Bella, whose thoughts he'd never heard – his inability to which attracted him to her.
"What does he think about that's so interesting?" Bella asked one day at the college, huddled in a shadowy corner of a corridor.
"I don't know. He's so loud half the time I can't hear my own thoughts. He's always thinking about something. He writes a lot of stories."
"Can you hear him now?"
Edward closed his eyes.
…late late late late late –
He laughed. "Yes, I can hear him. He's late for something."
Bella gazed at him with her topaz, shielded eyes. Edward felt a pang of regret – he missed her brown human ones, the ones which he could read like a book when he couldn't read her mind. Topaz looked out of place on her, even with her vampire-enhanced features. "Do you want to hear me?" she whispered.
Edward let her extend her mental shield, feeling her emotions wash over him. Love, unconditional love, how much she loved him…
He was quiet when he went to his next class. Even when she let him touch her mind, he couldn't hear anything except her love for him. It warmed him, made him fall in love with her a little more each time, but for the first time, Edward wondered…did she think about anything else?
"You're not on Facebook."
Edward kept reading The Woman in White. "I morally object to signing up to the website. I like my privacy."
To his surprise, Caden laughed at this. "Well, I don't blame you on that! I hate that stupid thing."
"Then why do you use it?"
"Dunno. Addicted to it, maybe. I keep up with all my friends on it. It can be fun. But I can totally get why you haven't joined up. Probably best if you don't. But anyway, the reason I asked was because I was looking for you to send you an invitation."
"Some of my friends are meeting up with me at the movies on Friday to watch the new Harry Potter movie. I, uh, was wondering if you wanted to join us."
"I'm sorry, Caden, I – I've got a family dinner on that night, and it's been a while since we all last sat down with each other," he lied. "But thank you for asking."
"Well, maybe some other time."
"Sure," Edward agreed absently, pretending he couldn't hear the slight hurt in Caden's thoughts, "some other time."
Another month passed, and Edward turned down five of Caden's invitations to parties and movies. That didn't deter the boy, but it did make him pay closer attention to Edward, more than he had been. This was Worrying with a Capital 'W', especially when Caden began saying things like:
"Hey, wanna catch lunch on our way to class?"
"I need to pull an all-nighter for this assignment. You can still sleep if you want, I'll try to keep quiet."
They weren't exactly innocent questions, either, what with Caden deciding he wanted to play detective. Pretending to sleep was a lot harder than it sounded, and after two weeks of constantly declining lunch, Caden cornered Edward. He was hardly threatening, a mere human who looked like an ant in comparison to the sheer strength and speed of a vampire, but it wasn't as though Edward could employ any of that without alerting Caden to what he was.
He couldn't let Caden find out. He couldn't ask his family to move again because of his slipups and carelessness. He had three choices; lie and say he was anorexic and an insomniac and that he shouldn't worry – but that was stupid because of course Caden would worry if he said that. He could kill Caden, and hide his body and his family could move away without leaving a shred of evidence behind, but that was morally reprehensible and it was more a matter that he wouldn't do it than he couldn't. He was physically able to – but in some strange way, Caden felt almost like a…friend, and killing someone, him especially, was the last thing Edward ever wanted to do.
The third option was to tell him the truth.
"Seriously, Edward, I'm this close to calling the campus nurse to check you out. There was this kid in school who kept to herself all the time and we never saw her eat or anything, and before the final exams she tried to kill herself. You don't eat, you don't sleep, you don't go in the sunlight – what the hell? I'm…I'm worried about you."
Edward imagined something in that admission warmed him. "Don't be," he said softly, barely thinking about what he was saying. "It's normal for my kind."
"I'm sorry – 'your kind'? Your kind is human, and it isn't normal."
He could still fix this. He wasn't Alice and couldn't see the future, but he still had that choice. He could easily say, Just joking – look, it's okay, my dad's a doctor and he has me on medication. I'm allergic to a lot of foods and I'm a recovering insomniac. He could say that. He very nearly did.
"I'm a vampire," he said instead, and sealed his fate.
There was a beat.
Huh, Edward heard Caden think, that'd explain almost everything.
"Seriously?" Caden frowned at him suspiciously. "You're fucking with me, aren't you?"
"I don't, um, 'fuck' with people." The profanity felt strange in his mouth.
Bloody bullshit. He's off his rocker. "Look, I'm not some simple minded girl who'd believe anything you say just because – just because you're –"
"Just because you say so," Caden finished lamely. "I mean, vampire. Really."
Edward cleared his throat awkwardly, then he sighed. "I know it sounds farfetched –"
"Downright insane, you mean. Look, when I was ten I went through this stage of telling all my classmates I was a zombie and I bit a girl on the arm to prove it, but…you sure you don't want me to call the campus nurse?"
Caden's hand moved closer towards the dorm telephone. Seeing no other way to convince him, Edward grabbed his hand and pressed it to his chest, ignoring the yelp of surprise. "Dude, what the –"
The exclamation died away when Caden realised what he was feeling. Well, what he wasn't feeling, rather.
They were silent for about a minute. Caden's mind was racing, his thoughts incoherent as he tried to make sense of this, and eventually came to a conclusion.
His hand was still on Edward's chest.
"Um. That's…wow. You – you're dead."
This is insane. "You're a vampire."
Insane. "You gonna eat me now?"
"Oh. 'Kay." Finally Caden let his hand fall. "But, I ate garlic bread the other day, y'know. You seemed fine. And I haven't seen you sink your teeth into anyone's neck yet."
Edward couldn't help but snort at this. "Garlic doesn't actually repel vampires, nor do crucifixes. Those are myths. And I don't burn in the sunlight or prey on humans. I'm what my kind calls a 'vegetarian vampire'. I only drink the blood of animals."
This time it was Caden who snorted. "Yeah, tell PETA you're vegetarian and we'll see who wins the fight."
Another long awkward silence.
"So I take it this is one of those 'tell anyone and I'll have to kill you' situations?"
"Technically it's an 'if I told you I'd have to kill you' situation," Edward deadpanned. Caden laughed a little nervously, clearly unsure whether or not Edward was joking.
"Right," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Um…what does happen when you go in the sunlight if you don't burn?"
He'd never been embarrassed about it before. "I – um, I – my skin is a diamond-like substance. When the sunlight hits it, it reflects."
It's the skin of a killer, he nearly added, but stopped when Caden started turning red, holding back laughter.
"Lemme get this straight," Caden forced out between clenched teeth. "You don't burn in the sunlight. You…sparkle."
"Yes," Edward said patiently. He couldn't expect everyone to respond the way Bella did –
"As in, disco-ball glitter."
"…I've never heard it compared to that, but yes."
"And you're straight?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"No, no, nothing. Just, the only people I've seen sparkle are drag queens and Lady Gaga. Do you ejaculate rainbows as well?"
"All right, calm down. I was just asking."
This is my attempt at a pro-life / pro-21st Century Twilight fanfic. Because I really hate the way the Cullens are so dismissive of modern life. Also, my attempt to give Edward a personality. Anti-Twilight overtones, but it's not too glaring. Also some reference to one-sided slash, but very minor and practically irrelevant. Hope you enjoy! All forms of comments – praise, constructive criticism, and flames – are welcome, so don't be shy!