Disclaimer: I am not Stephenie Meyer. She would never do the things I plan to do with her characters. ;)
A/N: This fic is based in England, UK. Male to Male Marriage is legal, it is called a Civil Partnership.
Warning: I don't like giving warnings, but rules are rules. This fic was never and will never be for the fluffy, kiss me in the rain crowd. It's my take on a Darkward and I promise no fairytale HEA. That said, HEA are subjective.
This may just get a little creepy. Maybe...
*Thank you to Project Team Beta for the help with chapter one.*
Chapter one – The Arrival
"Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall" -William Shakespeare
I was expecting a smaller house. I was expecting a nice neighborhood with immaculate gardens and homely people. I was expecting normal.
What was in front of me was nothing like I had expected.
The house looked like an old English castle. House wasn't even a word you could use to describe the building - it was the understatement of the century; an insult almost. This was no house, this was a manor. The Cullen Manor to be precise - and now it was home.
From the beginning of the drive way I could see the whole building. My eyes scanned the building, flicking briefly over each part. The middle, which held two large iron doors, was faded yellow, the rest were grey brick. To the left of the building was a tower, the windows all stained glass. Leading up to the iron-doored section of the Manor were three sets of concrete stairs. The building and grounds were pristine, yet even so, the whole place had a 'dead' feel to it. It felt like I had entered a graveyard; I had to fight the urge to bless myself.
A Whitney Houston song began playing on my iPod, and I quickly switched it off, taking the buds out of my ears and placing the whole thing into my pocket. I couldn't listen to music like that here; it didn't belong here. Nothing belonged here.
I had come from a normal life. Typical teenage shenanigans and close knit communities had been my reality. Now, Cullen Manor was my nightmare.
My step-brother, Jasper, was moving with me, both of us orphaned by my father's untimely passing. He was twenty-one, four years older than me. It was his ambition to enlist in the Army, but I was unsure if he still wanted that. My father's death had hit him harder than it had hit me. Jasper had been in my life for four years as my step-brother, but he had been my neighbour since we were young. His mother had died in child birth, and it had been a huge shock to both of us when his father and my father announced their love. I guess they had bonded over the pain of loosing their wives, and the harsh realities of being single parents. Whatever the reason, they had fallen in love, and married. Jasper's father was amazing. He was the more effeminate partner of the marriage, which I assume is why Jasper grew so close to my father. My father had served in the Army, and Jasper had decided it was his dream to follow in my father's footsteps. I had always supported him in this dream, until now. If Jasper left to enlist in the army I would be left here all alone. Alone amongst strangers that were distant relatives of my father, and not even blood relatives.
The car finally reached the bottom of the first set of stairs, and Jasper thanked the driver. Slipping out of the car Jasper walked around and opened my door, offering his hand to help me. He was born and raised a gentlemen. I couldn't imagine him not being here for me.
The driver climbed out of the front seat and popped the trunk of the car, lifting out my one bag. Jasper grabbed his backpack, flinging it over his shoulder, and held my bag with his left hand. He thanked the taxi driver and shook his hand as I continued to stare at the building.
"Good luck," I heard the driver say before retreating into his car and driving off.
I turned to watch the taxi leave with an ache in my stomach. Now I was truly stuck here. Jasper, noticing my woeful look, dropped both our bags onto the bottom step and pulled me into his arms.
"Don't worry, princess. It'll be okay," he paused and I looked up into his eyes. "I promise."
I smiled back, attempting to swallow my anxiety. It would be okay - Jasper had said so. He never lied to me. As usual, I felt the familiar tingle in my skin that Jasper's touch seemed to cause and I snuggled closer into the safety of his embrace. I felt his nose brush the top of my head, listening as he breathed in the scent of my shampoo.
"As long as I've got my action man here it will be alright." I giggled, teasing Jasper. It was a nickname that Jasper had earned from me and his father by being the designated 'take-the-huge spider-out-of-the-house' go to guy.
The familiar tension of the moment broken, Jasper unhooked his arms from around me and retrieved our bags off the ground. It was often lately that myself and Jasper shared these intimate moments, and we were fast succumbing to the electric charge between us. Slowly but surely.
We turned to face the building simultaneously and my heart leaped into my throat as I noticed a man standing at the top of the steps, watching us. How long had he been there? Had he noticed mine and Jasper's embrace? Maybe he would think it inappropriate? Locked in a boy's arms was surely no way to meet your new guardian. I felt like some of the intimacy of the moment was stolen by the man's glare, and embarrassment flamed through me instantly.
Ascending the steps slowly, I focused my gaze to the ground. I wanted to look back at the man, wanting to know what he looked like, but I didn't as I was far too embarrassed. Jasper would be looking at him. He was never afraid of anything.
Reaching the final step I realised I no longer had a choice - I had to look up. The butterflies fluttering around my stomach didn't help. Were they butterflies? They could have been moths – that would have been more fitting with my bleak mood and the gloomy surroundings.
I was bad with nerves – I could never hide them. Raising my head slowly, I looked first to Jasper. He was looking at the man, shaking his hand and introducing us both. His words didn't really reach my ears. Nothing had really registered with me since my Father's untimely passing -as though I were underwater.
"Welcome to Cullen Manor." It was his voice. It penetrated the water, swimming directly to my ears and registering into my thoughts in a firm, certain way. Like a lullaby to a young child, his voice called to me, and my eyes finally found his.
Intense. That's what the moment became.
He was intense. His glare was intense. His presence was intense. This was intense.
"Bella, don't be rude. Say hello to Mr. Cullen," Jasper chided me.
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Words weren't working, so I attempted to nod politely at him. It came off much more like I had a random head spasm.
Perfect. Hey, nice to meet you. I'm Bella, your new lodger, I can't form words and I have random head spasms. Pleased to meet you.
Mr. Cullen didn't immediately recall the taxi and demand to have the crazy girl sent back to wherever she came from. Instead, the corners of his mouth twitched upward slightly. Not that you would have noticed unless you were as ridiculously focused on him as I was.
He turned to walk back into the house, and Jasper began following him, gripping my wrist with his free hand and dragging me after him.
What Century was it? Who decorated their home like this? The walls: deep crimson and dark wood panelling. The floors: solid wood to match the wall panelling. And the ceiling? Well that was so high up I couldn't make out how it was decorated.
I felt like I'd entered a picture from a school history book.
The main entrance was the grandest room I had been inside in my entire life. Facing directly across from the doorway was the staircase. Two stairwells, one on the left side and one on the right. They joined at the top, connected by the landing. The stairs were carpeted, even though it was ancient-looking and patterned.
I inhaled an open mouthed deep breath – expecting the air to taste dusty. To my surprise, and slight relief, I detected no trace of the clogging particles I had encountered when I'd entered the attic in our old house. The air was fresh and tasteless.
"Follow me," Mr. Cullen commanded, leading us to the left wing of the house, and snapping me back to the present moment.
There were no doors at the entrance to the hallway, but the walls to either side were littered with them. I counted the ones on the left. There were six.
Myself and Jasper followed him into the final door on the right. It looked to be an office and was bigger than the entire downstairs of our old house. The desk sat at the back of the room, centred, with floor to ceiling stained glass windows behind it. The walls to the left and right were giant bookshelves, floor to ceiling – just like the windows. It reminded me of Mr. Burns office in the cartoon The Simpson's that my father and Jasper had often watched.
"Sit," he told us.
Jasper dropped our bags to the floor, they made no sound on the rich, red carpet. We sat as we were beckoned to, across the desk from Mr. Cullen. For the first few moments he was silent, just looking at myself and Jasper. I took this opportunity to appraise him, as he was us.
He was wearing a suit. Black jacket, black pants, black shirt and black tie. No white. Even the buttons were black. His green eyes were the only colour about him, which only highlighted their startling vibrancy.
Mr. Cullen was a handsome man; that was a fact. He looked no older than his mid-twenties. Why in the world did a young, gorgeous man like him live in such a depressing, morbid manor?
"I have taken you into my home as Mr. Swan was a close friend to my father. He left instructions for you to be left under his ward if anything befell both of your fathers. That said, Mr. Swan had not updated his will in quite some time and my father no longer lives in the country. I have allowed you into my home and taken you under my guardianship, but it is not without conditions," he paused, looking from me to Jasper. "I hear you have a quite a keen interest in enlisting in the army?"
"Yes, sir." Jasper's tone was matter of fact – like he was talking to his Army Major.
"Very well. I do not encourage layabouts, nor will I allow that to happen under my roof. It is to my knowledge that both of your fathers left you both a decent enough inheritance. You will have access to your half in under a year, Jasper. Until then you will be under my ward, and therefore I will provide your keep. The army is a solid environment for a young man. It builds character. I encourage you to sign up. I can arrange this for you."
I closed my eyes, blocking out everything while I waited for Jasper's answer. Even my heart slowed so I could hear better. I willed him to say no. I didn't want to be left alone here.
"Yes, please. I am still very much inclined towards joining the army. If you could arrange that for me that would be great."
My eyes remained closed as I willed the world away. What would I do without Jasper? He was all I had left.
"Isabella, I hear you are a keen dancer." Mr. Cullen's attention had turned to me.
Swallowing back the lump in my throat, I opened my eyes and nodded.
"Which form of dancing?" he probed.
"Interesting choice," he commented, but more to himself than to me. "Do you still dance?"
I nodded, then remembered I no longer had the outfits or a partner to practice with.
"I have a grand ballroom here at Cullen Manor. You are more than welcome to use it any-time you wish."
"Thank you," I replied, not informing him that I no longer had my ball-gowns or shoes.
Again, the corners of his mouth twitched upwards.
"Malice, will you both take Jasper and Isabella here up to their suite of rooms." He said, looking towards the corner of the room.
"Certainly." I heard one voice say.
"Pleasure," Another said.
I twisted my head around only to see two tiny, creepy looking twins. At first glance they looked around seven years old, but as my eyes adjusted, I noted they were much closer to my age. Maybe even older. Wearing matching outfits of white shirts with frilly collars and blue pinafore dresses they were impossible to tell apart. They stood at less than five feet tall and they didn't seem real. Hadn't Mr. Cullen just addressed them with one name? I'd heard of twins being close, but sharing a name?
Just when I thought things couldn't get creepier, they smiled at me.
I'd never been faced with such a frightening image. Two identical faces tilting at exactly at the same time inwards, so that there heads touched, and smiling. Only it wasn't a normal smile. It was creepy. Sinister even. I felt a shiver run from the very base of my spine to the top.
For an absurd moment I considered saying hello and introducing myself. Thankfully, I was saved from that by the voice now in charge of my life.
"Jasper will be staying in the red room." He paused, then continued, "Isabella will be staying in the room above the library."
The twins that apparently shared one name nodded without question and beckoned for us to follow them with two identical motions of their heads and two identical high pitched giggles – creepier than the carousel music at fairgrounds.
As I rose to follow them, Jasper thanked Mr. Cullen once more. I wondered briefly why Mr. Cullen had not named the room I was to sleep in, but I dismissed the thought quickly. Maybe the red room was the only room given a name.
"You're welcome. Dinner is to be served at six o'clock sharp. I expect you both unpacked, washed, dressed for dinner and in the dining room punctually."
He hadn't even given us a tour yet. How the hell were we to know where the dining room was?
"Malice will be at your rooms to escort you to the dining room," he informed us, almost as though he had read my mind.
I nodded at him.
One half of Malice grabbed my hand with a surprisingly firm grip and dragged me from the room. We were off up the corridor before I even had a chance to remember that Jasper was no longer by my side. Panic set in as I was led up one of the staircases in the foyer towards my new bedroom. I had no idea where Jasper's room was and I wanted him by my side. If I were not being pulled along by one half of the creepiest twins I had ever met in my life I would have pushed my bottom lip out and sulked, feeling very sorry for myself.
You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.
This was not a bedroom suitable for any female, let alone an almost seventeen year old girl. Even a Nun's bedroom would look like this. The walls were a plain white. Pristine, plain white. Not a single smudge mark. The bed: a single with pristine white linen bedding and one pillow. There was a hard wood floor – no rug. Behind the bed was the only window, and that wasn't even a window. It was a whole in the wall filled with a wooden object with holes that let through rays of light, like the wooden divider in a confessional box between Priest and Sinner.
Even though everything in the room was white, it was still dark. The only furniture was the bed and a small wardrobe on the left hand side. On either side of the bed, on the wall just above eye level were two candles.
"Lights." The half person informed me, noticing where my gaze was focused.
"Lights? Do I not have electricity in this room?" My voice went ridiculously high as I finished the sentence. Back home there had been a TV in every room.
Yes? Yes what?
"I don't get it. If I have electricity, why are my lights candles?" I tried not to snap at my one half of Malice, but I was confused and scared. Never a good combination.
"Yes there is electricity. No you do not have electric lights. Nowhere in the Manor does. We run on candle light. However, in your bathroom you will find an electric shower and on your wall where the light switch usually is to your right, there is a voice box. If you are wanted, you will be summoned through that."
"Summoned?" I questioned.
The only reply I received was another creepy laugh as she departed my room with a bed. I refused to call it my bedroom.
Alone now, the fear truly kicked in and the enormity of the situation finally hit me. This was my home now. My father was gone. Dead. Forever. Jasper's father was gone. Dead. Forever. I had no one. No one left in the entire world except Jasper, and soon he would be gone too.
One step to the bed and I dropped my backside onto it, sighing my frustration against the world. It just wasn't fair. Childishly, I hit at the bed with my fist. It didn't achieve much, but it helped.
There was only so long you could beat harmless bedding before you get bored. I slipped my hand into my pocket and pulled out my phone. I'd ring Angela, that would cheer me up. After dialling her number three times to have it not ring, I pulled the malfunctioning Blackberry from my ear and tapped my finger onto the screen. Sure fire way to fix your mobile, right? It still didn't work. Then I noticed it. The final nail in the coffin. My signal bar was empty.
Fuck. My. Life. I thought, allowing myself to curse in my head – something I did not do aloud.
I threw my phone in frustration, and it hit the frame of the doorway. I'd forgotten the door was open. Getting back onto my feet I closed the door, staring at the back of it for a second.
I was all alone, in a random house, in the back and beyond of nowhere. I wanted Jasper. Briefly debating if I should try to find him, I decided against it. Imagine finding myself lost in this house. Or worse - finding myself in a dark corridor with the creepy, we-share-one-name twins from hell. No thank you.
I picked my phone back off the floor, only to discover I had now broken it. I had no idea what the time was, and I found myself overwhelmed with panic. I had to bathe and dress for dinner. Mr. Cullen had said not to be late.
Opening the door on the right wall of my room, I entered my new bathroom. It was long and narrow, like a hallway. On the immediate right of the door was the toilet. Walking past that, there was a bath, built into the wall, with thick black curtains. Not even shower curtains, just curtains. Directly opposite the bath was the sink, and at the end of the narrow room was a built in shower. The glass wasn't frosted like normal walk in showers. I turned quickly behind me. There was no lock on the door. I would have to speak to Mr. Cullen about this at some point. All teenage girls needed locks on their bathroom doors!
The walls in the bathroom were decorated with grey marble flag stones – they reminded me of tombstones. There were no windows, but there were more candles. How can I be expected to bathe by candlelight? Especially in such a confined space.
Looking into the mirror above the sink I looked at my reflection and allowed my self pity to rush through me. It wouldn't last long, I knew this. I was counting on my stupid over-reactions to remain my main emotion for a while. Once my grief actually kicked in I would be back to drowning in my own melancholy.
Running the risk of getting lost in my own thoughts, I made a snap decision. I would have a shower - not a bath. I stripped from my clothes and grabbed a robe from the back of the bathroom door, I stepped into the shower and turned the water on. Just my luck - I turned the nozzle the wrong way and was sprayed from all directions with icy cold water.
After the disastrous start, I had quickly figured out how to work the temperature settings and had – eventually – enjoyed a nice, steaming hot shower. The water spraying from all directions had been ridiculously loud, but after a while it became soothing. I just forgot about the outside world completely. Turning the water off, I stepped from the steam filled glass cage and slipped my dressing gown on, leaving the bathroom to dress.
Still wearing the dressing robe, I opened the wardrobe and sifted through my clothes. It'd taken no time at all to hang the few clothes I had brought with me, and now I was shivering from the cold air. The water droplets that had pebbled my skin had been replaced with goosebumps.
I had no idea what to wear. I'd never had to dress for dinner before. I pulled out a long-sleeved, baggy black jumper dress, along with my red tights and black ankle boots to match. Tossing them onto my bed to join the underwear I had already left out. Closing the wardrobe door, I slipped the towel off and wrapped it around my hair. My necklace – which I never removed – tangled around my neck. It was a silver chain with a ballet pump pendant that Jasper's father had bought me for my sixteenth birthday, right before he had passed away. He had confused my proffered dancing – which was ballroom – with ballet, but the sentiment was still the same.
After dressing, I towel dried my hair, leaving it damp as I had no hair-dryer. Another thing on my list to ask Mr. Cullen. Along with his name.
After applying some eye-liner and a hint of blusher I was ready. Now all I had to do was wait for Malice to come and collect me.
I didn't wait long before both halves of Malice came to collect me for dinner. Appraising me from head to toe, they did that tilting-their-heads-in-unison-and-creepy-smiling thing again. Fighting down my irrational fear of them, I followed them down the corridor and back down the stairs. I wondered if they worked for Mr. Cullen, or if they were related to him. Why did they do everything he asked of them? They must work here. I had no further time to speculate. The twins opened the doors to the dinning room, a door each, and I entered.
For the first time in hours I laid eyes on Jasper. He smiled when he saw me, and I felt instantly warm inside. I walked towards the dinning table looking directly at him, his eyes leading me along. I smiled back at him, and resisted the urge to wave.
A well placed clearing of the throat reminded me that we were not alone in the room, and instead of walking directly to Jasper and embracing him, I looked to the head of the table. Mr. Cullen was seated there, his elbows resting on the table and his fingers locked together. He was staring at me and I was prisoner to the vibrant green of his eyes. His gaze as hypnotic as a poised cobra, I was transfixed. I sat on the chair one half of Malice pulled out for me, but my eyes did not escape his. Sitting was awkward when not paying attention, but I accomplished it. I had no choice as my attention was no longer mine to distribute. I was a captive, a prisoner, held in the deep of the piercing green.
"How nice of you to join us, Isabella." He spoke, but he did not release me. Cocking his head to the side slightly, in a seductive yet sadistic way, he smiled.
It lasted only a split second, then he looked away from me – releasing me to think again.
I took in the enormity of the room, the grand table and the candle light all at once. Sitting across from me, Jasper was staring hungrily at the food. Watching him I remembered that neither of us had eaten yet today.
Again, right on cue, Mr. Cullen instructed us to eat.
The food tasted good, better than anything I remembered eating before. It was a feast fit for kings. The taste was only registered secondary though. All of my main sensory information was consumed with watching Mr. Cullen out of the corner of my eye. I don't know why I was so drawn to him, what it was that made me so incoherent every time he was around. Whatever it was, each time I looked at him he was looking back.
A/N: Questions? Constructive criticism? Happy emoticons? I'd love you to leave me a little something.