I don't own Twilight, and blah blah blah. We all know how these things go.
So, here's part two – hope you guys enjoy.
It had been three weeks since we'd last run across a soul I was willing to destroy. One handy thing about dogs like Brent was that they could see someone's whole life flashing before their eyes if they were present at time of death. This allowed me to destroy only bad people, like criminals and psychos – if we ever came across a soul who had a shot at becoming a Guide, an honour bestowed only on truly good people, I ran in the opposite direction. I would not destroy something that pure, someone who had a shot at being what I desperately wished I could have been myself.
If I wasn't thinking about death or Edward, chances were pretty high I was thinking about how different my existence would be if I were a Guide. How different Edward and I would be.
So fucking unfair.
"Bella, we can't keep running like this. Three weeks is too long – you're starving."
I gritted my teeth, trying to ignore the truth in Brent's words. I was starving, and I knew that if I ran across a soul now, my instincts wouldn't allow me to leave it alone. It wouldn't matter if it was an innocent child or a serial rapist – I'd have to destroy it, if only to keep myself from wasting away.
My hunger clawed at my insides, twisting painfully and snarling a reminder of what I was. I kept running.
It wasn't until later that night that I was forced to stop; Brent suddenly went rigid and froze in his tracks. I turned back to him with growing apprehension. I knew what this usually meant.
"What is it?"
His hackles rose as his whole body seemed to shake with the vicious growl that tore out of him.
"Time to get you fed, Bella. There's a whole feast for you five miles south of the city."
He took off without waiting for an answer from me. I had no choice but to follow him.
"Fifteen. A bus hit a patch of ice."
I gasped. I hated accidents.
"And the road? Any other cars?"
"No, the road seems pretty deserted this time of night. I don't thi- oh, shit!"
"What? What's wrong?"
"Three Guides just appeared!"
I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. Guides in the same place as someone like me was never a good thing.
"Should we turn back?"
"No, we need to hurry up. There are two other Black Souls closing in – it looks like it's going to be a fight. They'll need our help."
Shit, shit, fuck, dammit, fuck! I hated when he did that.
"Brent, come on, it could be dangerous! Let's just fi-"
"Bella, we can't avoid this. They know we're coming anyway and they will need our help. So you better start using your inside voice or shut up."
I punched his shoulder, ignoring the growl he sent my way.
"You know I don't like this, Brent. I can't believe you dragged me into a fight."
"It's your own damn fault! If you'd fed at some point earlier, I wouldn't have stopped. You need this, Bella. Just one soul; you can handle it."
This was another time I missed crying. I could not handle it. A bus full of people rarely held any murderers or psychopaths. Just normal, innocent people.
He only snarled and ran faster.
Soon I began to feel the tell-tale pull of roaming souls nearby. The hunger and darkness in me seemed to purr with excitement, forcing me closer and closer. My instincts started taking over my movements, and within seconds I was running ahead of Brent. I wanted to slow down, I wanted to stop, to turn back around and find a jail full of child molesters, but I couldn't.
So close... just one... it won't be so bad... the innocent ones are much sweeter anyway...
I groaned and shook my head, disgusted by the thoughts running through my head. I knew it wasn't me – it was only my hunger – but I was so repulsed I would have thrown up if I could.
I heard the first scream and knew I was close. Within seconds Brent and I burst out of the woods surrounding the road and came face to face with the carnage.
Sharp bends, buses and ice really don't mix. Add a few trees on the side of the road, and you're pretty much fucked. Especially when the bus goes up in flames.
But I couldn't focus on the wreckage. All I could see were thirteen – some must have been destroyed already – terrified souls spread all over, some staring at the bus in horror and some staring at the two terrifying monsters growling at them.
A flash of white caught my eye, and time slowed as I felt myself become doused with panic. It was almost like slow-motion as my eyes took in Edward, trying desperately to herd the souls away and avoid the deadly arrows of his enemies.
No, no, no, no, oh god, please no...
This was all too familiar to me. A fight just like this was how we'd met for the first time. It had freaked me out more than anything in my entire existence to feel such an instant draw to someone; for weeks afterwards I had wandered around in a daze, a yearning in my heart to see him again, to be wherever he was. I'd almost lost my mind with longing for him, and the next time we saw each other, I was both relieved and horrified.
It wasn't until months later that I had run across him at our clearing during a full moon. Neither one of us could resist the draw between us, and ever since then I had been completely his.
But now he was here, in another fight. There was nothing that terrified me more.
He looked up briefly, and our gazes locked. The same panic I felt in me seemed to flare in his eyes; panic at having me so close to danger. I wanted to grab him and drag him somewhere safe, to keep us both out of harm's way – I wouldn't be able to stand it if anything happened to him. It was my biggest fear, and I knew it was his as well. Panic was the only emotion I could feel right now.
We stared at each other for less than a second. Black Souls and Guides were not supposed to love each other. If anyone found out... the danger we would both be in wrapped my heart in stone-cold fear.
Edward's eyes broke from mine, but no matter how much he tried, the tension that had entered his body now would not go away until he knew I had made it away from this fight safe. The same went for me.
Miraculously, I hadn't faltered at the sight of Edward. I kept running, grabbing my bow and an arrow in automatic movements and tried to decide which poor soul would never feel the pleasure of eternal peace and rest at my hands.
Just one... that's all you'll need...
I hated this part. I wanted to scream as I looked around, seeing the bewildered and scared faces of my potential victims. How could I do this to them? How could I pick one?
I groaned as I allowed my instincts to take over. The sooner I destroyed someone, the sooner this would all be over. I stopped in front of a middle-aged man who looked scared out of his mind. His eyes kept flitting about and his mouth was open in a silent scream. I aimed my arrow at his heart just as he seemed to realise I was there. His terrified eyes widened, and he started shaking his head.
"Please... wha... what-...? Please..."
My face twisted in pain as he begged me, and I let out a sound akin to a whimper.
"I'm so sorry," I told him in a strained whisper, and then my fingers let the arrow fly.
He dissolved in front of my eyes, the look of terror frozen on his face, and I immediately felt my hunger become sated. I felt like screaming, like tearing my skin from my flesh, like throwing myself into the flames taking over the bus. Fuck, I hated this so much.
Even without looking, I knew Edward had seen me. I could feel his eyes, watching me, begging me to look up. I allowed myself one second to let him see how much I hated myself for what I had done.
I turned around and once again looked directly at him. All I could see in his eyes was understanding. He gave me a barely noticeable nod before grabbing a soul and pushing her behind the bus, trying to keep her out of harm's way. Somehow, that made me feel both better and worse.
I wanted to leave now that I'd gotten what I needed, but the urge to make sure that Edward came out of this alive kept me rooted in place.
The male Black Soul suddenly shouted at me. "Hey, you! You gonna help out or what?"
I nodded without thinking; I couldn't make them suspicious, I couldn't make them think I was acting strangely – I had to act just like them. I had to keep Edward safe. I had to make sure he came out of this alive.
With a cold vice grip of determination forcing my movements, I threw myself into the fight.
It was hard to keep track of what happened next. These things tended to get messy. A few more souls were caught in the crossfire, but the majority of them seemed to be doing well under the Guides' protection.
I shot a few arrows at them, intentionally missing by the width of a hair. I couldn't bare hurting one of Edward's companions either; the very thought made me sick.
I placed another arrow in my bow, raising the deadly black point into the air. I trained my eyes on the dark woods in front of me, aiming to shoot nothing but tree bark.
"Bella! Distract the little black-haired one!"
My head snapped around to Brent, confused by his sudden command in my head. I felt like I couldn't focus on anything when I turned back towards the fight, trying to see what Brent was referring to.
I forgot all about the little black-haired one as my whole world tilted on its axis, and a shrapnel of panic and fear tore violently through my long-dead heart. I took in everything in the blink of an eye; the male Black Soul was aiming an arrow at Edward, who was too distracted by the snapping teeth of a dog to notice, and he had a perfect shot.
His elbow pulled back another inch in preparation, and I could no longer hear the screams of the souls, or the roar of the flames or the growls of the dogs. Everything fell away but for one devastatingly clear thought: Edward was going to die.
It's possible I shouted, or screamed. I really had no idea. I just knew that I could not let Edward die; it wasn't even an option.
The arrow was flying out from my bow before I had time to think; it lodged itself straight through the guy's head and he fell to the ground immediately. His arrow went flying, hitting nothing but the asphalt as he collapsed.
Everyone stopped. The sight of him falling down because of an arrow through his head shocked everyone into stillness. They stared. First at the slowly disintegrating man, and then up at me, my bow still raised. My harsh breaths, infused with panic, seemed to be the only sound echoing against the trees around us.
Fuck. Shit. Oh shit, oh shit, what do I do now?
I couldn't help it. I looked at Edward. His eyes were wide as he stared at me. This was not good. I felt my lips move soundlessly as I tried to think of something – anything – that would help us now. He just shook his head, growing fear taking over his face. So not good at all.
The man's dog roared at me, turning away from Edward in his rage. I hardly noticed.
"What the hell was that?"
The other Black Soul, a woman with fiery red hair, was the second to break the silence. She looked just as furious as the dog currently growling at me. The other two Guides just looked confused.
"I... I don't-..."
No matter how much I tried, I couldn't stop my eyes from flickering back to Edward. I was so scared of what was going to happen now that I couldn't even gather my thoughts to make up some believable lie.
It was too late anyway. The woman glanced between me and Edward, taking in how he never stopped looking at me in panic, and realisation dawned on her face.
"You were saving him?" Her voice was no more than a repulsed whisper, as if she couldn't believe I had done such thing.
Terror clogged up my throat, making words impossible. The man's dog growled even louder and took several strides toward me, teeth bared in a clear warning. Edward's sword twitched in his hand and he seemed to take a step forward before he could stop himself. He would not let the dog hurt me.
The woman suddenly barked out a laugh, looking at me in astonishment.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me. You... and him?"
I had no answer. It was fairly obvious by now, anyway. When I remained silent, a definitive acknowledgement, a furious snarl broke out to the left of me, and Brent's words filled my head.
"Bella! A Guide? What the hell are you doing with him?"
Brent appeared in front of me, standing directly between Edward and myself. I still couldn't speak or move. I couldn't even bring myself to lower my damn bow.
His order was accompanied by another snarl, and I jumped slightly in alarm. My voice shook as I finally got some words out. "Brent, I... you don't understand, I-"
His rumbling growl cut me off. He was absolutely furious.
"No, I don't understand! How could you be so fucking stupid! Aren't there better ways to fulfil those urges? There are plenty of Black Souls who'd be willing to help you out with that, and you still go after a fucking Guide? For what, Bella? Sex?" He seemed to spit the words at me, and a sudden wave of fury rolled through my body at his implication, replacing the ice-cold dread with a raging fire.
"No, it's not about that!"
Before I could stop myself, I snarled out what could only be my own death warrant.
"I love him!"
My bow clattered to the ground as I clamped my hand down over my treacherous mouth. The little black-haired one gasped – she seemed to speak for everyone present. Edward's sword dropped just a little, and the fear and panic that had been etched on his face before became about tenfold at my declaration.
The man's dog looked between me and Edward. His red eyes, full of death and anger and ageless experience, finally settled on me. His gaze was like a stronghold as he considered me, but after a few seconds he slowly began to walk away. He cast a quick glance at Brent, as if to let me know that the only monster I should be worrying about at that moment was my own.
I was afraid to look at Brent. He had always only tried to protect and help me, but his disdain for Guides wasn't a secret. I knew that he was not only absolutely enraged with me, but disappointed and disgusted as well. He just wouldn't be able to understand; his view on our existence was skewed after centuries of wandering this Earth and watching companion after companion either disappear every one hundred years, or die at the hands of a Guide well before their time.
Love was nothing but a fictitious concept to him, something creatures of all kinds had invented to combat their loneliness. My involvement with Edward was, in Brent's eyes, the biggest betrayal I could have made. This was so much more than fraternising with the enemy – this was letting him down, spitting in his face and falling for the biggest lie ever created. He would never be able to forgive me for this.
The rumbling growl that started rising in him was so deep I swore I could feel it through my feet.
I painstakingly swallowed and looked down at the ground.
"Brent, please ju-..."
His roar cut me off, and I cowered where I stood, my eyes forced to look up at him. He hadn't moved at all, still standing between me and Edward in the middle of the road. His glowering stare never left me.
"Brent..." I tried again, speaking out loud this time. My voice was no more than a weak croak.
His claws strained against the asphalt, warning me this time. Loud and clear.
"Bella, don't," Edward pleaded with me. I could almost see the chaos of his emotions, and all of them were directed at me. He held no concern for his own safety whatsoever. I really wished he would.
"Edward... you-...? And her?" The blonde Guide pointed at me, looking completely perplexed. Edward didn't even spare him a glance.
"Not now, Jasper. Please."
"Edward..." The black-haired one spoke now, her voice laced with sadness and disappointment. I didn't even know her, but her tone felt like a knife slashing across my chest. I knew I wasn't good enough for Edward, but it still fucking hurt to hear a stranger confirm it.
Apparently Edward wasn't very happy with her tone either. He tore his eyes away from me to glare at her.
"No! You don't get it, Alice. Bella is to me what Jasper is to you, so don't you dare give me that bullshit."
He looked back at me, our eyes locking across the distance. His sword twitched in his hand as he gripped it harder.
Everything happened so fast after that. As soon as the word left his mouth, Brent's voice filled my head.
"This is for your own good, Bella."
Then, with a monstrous snarl, he lunged at Edward. I screamed as I watched Brent's teeth snap closed in the thin air where, only milliseconds before, Edward's throat had been.
My voice was raw, breaking in pain as I realised that there was nothing I could do this time. Brent would not stop until Edward was destroyed. I couldn't send an arrow flying at him now – even if that could kill him, my instincts would never let me do it. Edward could try to fight him off, could try to swing that sword at his thick neck, but Brent had survived centuries of fights just like this. Edward was just an infant compared to him; weak, defenceless and easy prey.
I had doomed us both.
Edward and Brent flew around so fast that their movements seemed like a blur. I saw flashes of metal as his sword swung through the air, black against white, growls and grunts echoing all around us.
"NO! Brent! Please, stop! Please!"
I had never felt this anguished in my entire existence. Edward was going to die, I knew it in my heart, and the complete pain of that knowledge made me feel as if I had died all over again. Ripping, tearing, slashing, crushing pain slammed into me violently, making me feel airborne and rooted to the ground at the same time. I hadn't even lost him yet, and I still felt abandoned, still felt like I had lost my only grip on the Earth. There wouldn't be anything left for me when Edward died, and I would be forced to endure the agony of existing without him for another 80 years. I could beg Brent to kill me too, but how would my instincts ever allow me to actually follow through?
How can my heart ever allow me not to?
Then a howl of pain tore through the air, and a dark splatter of black blood appeared on the road as Edward's sword sliced through Brent's skin. Immediately, I felt the echoing pain slash through my own chest, and I screamed, clutching at the phantom wound.
A lifetime seemed to go by in the following two seconds. Edward looked up at me when he heard my scream, and I could see it dawn on him what he had just done. Hurting Brent meant hurting me, because of our connection. It then crashed into him that if he somehow managed to kill Brent, I'd die too. He couldn't survive this without losing me, and I couldn't walk away from here without losing him.
I could almost hear his heart breaking.
He was so completely distracted that he didn't see Brent's next move until it was almost too late. A giant paw swiped at him, just barely missing his abdomen, but the sudden attack knocked Edward off his balance. I watched with a sense of denial and screaming fear as he lost his grip on his sword.
It flew through the air, landing several feet away from him and skidding down the road towards me. Metal against asphalt shuddered in my ears, and I felt the sound echoing against my every nerve, like dragging a grater down my skin.
This was it. This was the absolute end. I was about to lose the only person who had ever really meant anything to me, the only thing in my miserable existence that actually mattered. When he died, I... I couldn't even imagine what my existence was going to be like. All I could see and feel in my heart was darkness and misery.
I looked down at the sword, just within arm's reach of me. Would it disappear when Edward did? Or would I be able to keep it? Would I be able to carry this one thing of his with me until I was finally allowed to join him in nothingness?
Brent's satisfied growl tore my gaze back up; Edward looked resigned to his fate. When he looked into my eyes, I knew what he was thinking.
Thank god it's me and not her.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout at him to run, to get away, to survive, because I couldn't... I couldn't...
He can't die. You can't let him die! Even if it costs you your own damn life, you cannot let him die.
If I'd had a heartbeat, it would have been pounding in my ears, drowning out every other sound. As it was, I could hear everything with a terrifying clarity. I could hear Edward draw a final breath; I could hear Brent's claws against the road as he crouched down, ready to leap. I could hear the others watching with silent acceptance, awaiting the inevitable.
Brent's sweeping tail snapped through the air, and Edward's eyes begged me to forgive him.
And then there was nothing.
I was running.
I had heavy steel in my hand.
I was screaming at the top of my lungs as I raised the sword above my head.
I distantly heard Edward calling out my name in an anguished cry, telling me to stop, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered except saving him. He couldn't die. I would not allow it.
Even if it meant sacrificing myself to do so.
Brent had no time to react. I brought the sword down with all my strength, even as every instinct, every damn particle in my body, sought to stop me.
The blade sank through his skin, flesh and bone cleanly, effortlessly, and I immediately felt pain like I had never felt before searing through my entire being. Brent's head and carcass fell to the ground, followed by the clatter of the sword as I dropped it.
Terrified. I was absolutely terrified as I felt myself disintegrate, felt myself disappearing. I couldn't believe I'd put so many souls through this agony, through this complete and utter terror.
Strong arms grabbed me as I fell to the ground, but not even Edward could hold me together. I looked up at his face, his beautiful face, so twisted in suffering now. I wished I could cup his cheek one last time, but my arms refused to move.
An anguished cry left him, his screaming voice cracking with grief.
"Bella! No, no, no, no! NO! Bella, oh god… why-… Bella, please, oh god, please, please… Bella!"
His hand on my face, his eyes above mine, dark now with pain and horror at what I had done to save him, and his sweet voice in my ears, pleading desperately. His entire body was shaking and he looked so lost. I wished I could hold on for him, hold on forever, but there was nothing I could do now. I had made my choice, and if I had to go, this was definitely favourable to any other alternative. At least I got to see him one last time, knowing he was still alive.
"I love you…" I managed to tell him before everything went black and I could no longer feel anything.
Not existing at all was very different from what I had been expecting.
First of all, having a conscious thought seemed odd, considering I was supposed to be completely dead.
Second of all, I could very distinctly feel my toes.
Again, this seemed odd.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I could feel other extremities as well, like my fingers and arms. I started listening, and realised I could hear the gentle silence of stillness. I drew in a breath, and I could smell something so entirely warm and good. I could feel my eyes moving behind my closed lids, and a strange light seemed to be flickering above me.
Something was terribly wrong. What the hell was going on?
I gasped and my eyes flew open. I'd know that voice anywhere.
Edward's face was the first thing I saw, floating above me. I felt completely confused. He was smiling. Why was he smiling? Why was he here?
What the fuck was going on?
"You're not dead," he said, seeming to answer my unvoiced question. "Or well, you're not alive either, but... well, you know what I mean."
I stared at him.
His warm hand pressed against my cheek, but it felt... wrong. Off. It was supposed to be hot against my ice-cold skin, not pleasantly warm.
He laughed, and it was a sound so full of joy that I momentarily didn't care what the hell was going on if it made him this happy.
"You're not dead. You're still here. You're here, with me."
I had to sit up. Strange things like this could not be comprehended from a horizontal position. Edward helped me as I struggled, gentle hands guiding and steadying me. I was on a bed, in a room decorated only in light and gentle colours. I couldn't spare much attention to anything but the man sitting in front of me though.
I looked directly into his eyes with what I hoped was a no-nonsense glare.
He grinned but obliged me immediately. "Life Herself stepped in and saved you. When you sacrificed yourself like that, and went against all your instincts, she couldn't just let you be destroyed. She saved you." He paused to gently push a strand of hair behind my ear. "She saved me."
"What? I don't get it... What's going on? How... what?"
"She made you a Guide, Bella. Just like me."
His words were impossible. They made absolutely no sense at all. How could I be a Guide? How could... no way. This just wasn't happening, this was some... some weird dream or something. I-... this couldn't be real.
"You were supposed to become a Guide when you passed away, you know. If Brent hadn't been there when you died, Life would have made you one of us. She told me. She couldn't let someone as good as you just disappear."
"But... I killed Brent. How could... I should've been-"
"Death may have created Black Souls, Bella, but the raw material he used still belongs to Life. We are all Her's. She can do almost anything she wants to us. I don't know how she did it, but one second you were disappearing in my arms, and then this... this light started shining out of you, bringing you back to me. I didn't know what was happening, and I didn't care; all I knew was that you weren't gone. That I hadn't... hadn't lost you. But then you didn't wake up again, so I just... I don't know why, but all I kept thinking was that I needed to take you somewhere safe, somewhere that wasn't on that fucking road."
He then smiled at me gently and cupped my cheek. "So I brought you back with me. I guess I should have known immediately what had happened when I was able to bring you here – Black Souls can't enter our world, as you know. But I was half-losing my mind after thinking I was going to lose you; I couldn't be logical or calm or anything. Then Life was waiting for us close to the boundary line, and she told me what she'd done. She saved you, Bella."
I could do nothing but stare in disbelief.
It took him at least another hour to completely convince me of what he was saying. He never grew irritated at having to re-tell the whole story, of having to explain everything over and over. He did it patiently, waiting for me to fully understand what had happened, for me to fully grasp the complete fucking miracle that had occurred.
"I'm a Guide?"
"And you're a Guide?"
"And we'll get to spend forever together?"
Edward was grinning, and I finally allowed myself to believe in what he was saying. It had to be true. If I were destroyed, reduced to absolutely nothing, how the hell was I supposed to have dreams and thoughts and conversations that lasted an hour with my soul mate?
I was a Guide. With Edward. And we had forever.
"Holy fuck," I whispered.
He only laughed before grabbing my face and finally placing his lips against mine. His kiss felt just like home.
And there you have it.
If there's any interest for it, I might post a little side-shot thing to this, where the story about Life and Death and how Black Souls were first created is explored more thoroughly. When I first came up with this story, that part was the first thing I wrote, but it didn't really fit into the original o/s. So if that's something some of you might want to see, just let me know through a PM or a review or on twitter or whatever, and I'll post it as a third chapter.
Anyway, thank you so much for giving this thing a read – I hope you enjoyed it.