Edward is a rebellious newborn lashing out at those who try to help him. At his wit's end, Carlisle asks Isabella, the woman who was once his mentor, to take Edward in until his bloodlust cools. ExB Very AU
Thanks to whynot (fatallyobsessed on FFn) for being a terrific validation beta. Thanks to Belindella for the pre-read on several chapters. Thanks to my OH for his occasionally brutal but always insightful comments.
The snap of a twig could make Edward drop low, ready to defend himself or spring on prey. Even the thimbleful of blood in a mole beneath the roots of a tree would snap him to attention. Worst of all, the thoughts of others had tested the limits of his temper until he'd lashed out, striking the woman who'd gotten too close in her attempt to calm him – Carlisle's precious Esme.
Edward knew he'd crossed a line, but that didn't mean Carlisle needed to drop him off here like a package.
Carlisle's thoughts were scattered. On my own, I could be in Denali by mid day. Esme will have healed. And then we can go home… I let it go wrong... These woods will be remote enough even for Edward, but he'll be a disruption…
There was no pushing those thoughts away, so Edward swung his attention to the mind of the one who would soon be his keeper. Carlisle had called her Dae and Genovefa and her latest name, the name by which he had known her, Isabella. Even ten miles away, Edward could read her. She was focusing on the cool give and bristle of moss beneath her feet. Her heel came up; the air caught the moisture from the dew on her skin. Cool. Damp. Pressure. Motion. Skin and pine needles and earth. Then the smooth conformity of wood as she stepped into her house. If these wordless sensations were the only thoughts invading his mind until he mastered his godforsaken bloodlust and set out on his own, then it would be an improvement over his time in Washington.
If he'd just listen. If I'd been better about drawing him out… Carlisle was stifling in his fatherly expectation, but there was guilt there too, and there had to be a way to use that, if Edward could just figure out how. He took a deep breath, and his fingers twitched into fists.
"Are you alright?" Carlisle asked.
"Does it matter?"
"Don't be a child. No one wants you to be miserable. If you would–"
"Right. I'm fine."
Carlisle stopped, and by the time Edward slowed there was a good twenty feet between them.
"I'm doing the best I can, Edward. I don't–"
"Let's get this over with." Even being dumped with a stranger was better than another long speech. "She's just up ahead."
"You can sense her mind already?"
Edward nodded as he kicked a stone and watched it disappear into the woods, hitting a tree with a satisfying crack. Black birds flew up against the sunset in a fit of sound and motion before settling back into the leaves.
"What is she like?" Carlisle asked.
"Well, I shouldn't have asked you in the first place." But Carlisle's thoughts were filled with his longing to have her mind opened like a watch so he could see the gears and understand how she worked. "Edward, listen, try not to do anything to anger her."
"What the fuck, Carlisle?"
"And don't curse."
"She supposed to be dangerous?"
"Of course not. But she's… formidable. Just remember she's doing this as a favor. Show her some respect."
They were getting close now. She must have been able to hear them moving through the pines, though her thoughts hadn't turned their way. Maybe she was soft in the head. How else to explain the moments when there was no running commentary in her mind? But Carlisle wouldn't revere her unless she was at least his equal.
The dirt trail ended at a log cabin, and Edward shook his head. Three cabins like this could've fit inside the house in Washington.
"You can always go outside," Carlisle said. "Just stay close. If you sense a human, tell Isabella immediately."
Edward looked away. "She's here." Her thoughts had finally turned to their arrival, and he heard Carlisle's name as a word in her mind when she stepped out onto the small porch.
"Carlisle, it's good to see you."
"Thank you so much for having us."
Edward rolled his eyes at the way Carlisle seemed to make himself smaller in her presence. Go ahead and curtsy, why don't you?
Isabella turned to face him. The breeze was gone, and all the birds had flown, leaving the forest silent. She didn't bother to blink, but Edward found himself blinking repeatedly. He had never felt quite so looked at before. He was certain that she had a talent – maybe withering something on the spot or causing storms. Whatever it was she could do, why hadn't Carlisle told him? Don't growl. Do not growl, the most basic part of him warned. He wanted to pull his arms back as far as they would go and push her through the rough logs. Instead he felt himself bending slightly, almost bowing his head.
"You're Edward." She smiled at him.
He shrank back before he realized he was moving, and then he remembered his newborn strength and her simple thoughts and made himself step forward and look at her. She was beautiful with her gold eyes and long dark hair, and even though he could've described Esme with the same words, this was different.
If Isabella noticed his reaction to her, she didn't think anything of it. He could read her mind, and yet it was as if he couldn't, or at least, she had yet to think anything that would give him a handle on how to get the upper hand.
"Come in," she said.
He followed Carlisle through the door, and was met with a larger space than he'd expected, because the room was empty. Except for crisp white curtains over the windows and an old, upright piano in the corner of the open downstairs space, there was nothing to show that anyone lived here. Carlisle sometimes worked in the community, though he hadn't been able to for the last two years, and he kept up appearances with sofas and beds and even a refrigerator. If this house in the deep backwoods of Appalachia was any indication, Isabella had little contact with the human world. He found himself approving, but only because he wouldn't have to pretend that everything was normal. They were bloodsuckers after all; why should they fill a place with the niceties of the life he'd lost in the accident?
"Thank you again for agreeing to help us," Carlisle said. "Edward and I both appreciate it."
In truth, Edward felt like Oliver Twist being sold off in front of the orphanage after one mistake. He huffed out a breath, and two faces turned to him. Again, Isabella smiled, but it did nothing to lessen his sense that she could crush him if she wanted to. Was it because of her age? Could she be as old as Carlisle said? She looked young – perhaps eighteen or nineteen – but that meant nothing. She was wearing a button up blouse and a pair of worn jeans, so her clothes held no clues. There was a chunky, dagger-like pendant around her neck, curved in the crude shape of a woman, but he couldn't place the symbol.
Carlisle's worried mind tugged at Edward while he stared, and he wondered how Esme – who was, to put it charitably, a basket case – had worked her way into Carlisle's thoughts from day one, leaving little room for anyone else.
"I'm going outside," Edward said. He dropped his duffle bag and backed toward the door.
Carlisle raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment.
"Don't worry, I won't run off and terrorize the countryside."
He was out before he could see their expressions, and though he said he wouldn't go far, there was no wildlife near the cabin. He suspected he knew why. He headed out until he caught the scent of a buck, and then he ran him down, leaping onto his back. It took a while for the life to fade from his shining black eye, and Edward drank until there was nothing left. He didn't bother to hide the carcass. This place was so remote that even hikers probably wouldn't venture here. It was just going to be him and that woman with her unfathomable thoughts and a presence that made him feel like he needed to get down on his knees. But he wouldn't. He hadn't asked for this life or her charity, and though he was stuck with both, he'd be damned if he was going to be thankful for it.
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All the usual characters, settings, etc. are the property of S. Meyer and Little, Brown and Company. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money is being made. Original characters and plot are mine. Copyright 2011, mothlights. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted or reposted without express written permission.