A special thank you to my ficwife Lambie, my beta TwilightMomofTwo, and my pre-reader Snshyne.
'Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well, yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless…' From The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles
Four years of wandering by myself.
I had checked in with my family from time to time, but even those lucid moments had dried up.
The boots I was wearing I had found on a dead homeless man, the jacket was the same I'd had for the last few years, but it was worn and dirty. The smell drove me to distraction at times, but if I pressed my face in it, sometimes my mind imagined it could still smell her.
My orbit around the planet had brought me almost full circle; I was still quite a distance away from her, but this was as close as I had been to this part of the world in years.
The snow under my feet made a muffled crunch as I placed one foot in front of the other. Through sheer will alone was I moving. I had to keep moving; if I stopped, it would probably be the last step I took.
In some ridiculously ironic way, immortality had its own costs.
Even though the driving snow whipped into my body, I was not cold, as body temperature regulation was not something I had to mind. My skin was left unaffected by the punishing wind, and I could see clear enough, even though the visibility was next to nothing to human eyes.
I would see better, sense better, hear better if I could bring myself to feed.
But everything had lost its taste. And even though I should try to sustain myself with something, I could not bring myself to do it.
I was wholly unworthy of anything.
I had taken love, I had taken everything that mattered in the world to me, and threw it away like garbage.
And so my eyes remained like two hollow holes in my face, my mouth a grim line, and the burn in my throat confirming that, through some miracle, or cruel joke of fate, I was still in some form of existence.
And so I found myself on this road, wandering through blizzard conditions, as cars zoomed by. I huddled my shoulders against their presence, trying to ignore the instinct to pull them from their cars and bleed them dry.
I could hear them coming, their engines warm, the scrape of wipers across windshield glass. Inside, their drivers thoughts were louder than the engines carrying them forward.
An old Chevy passed me, and a man's thoughts echoed loudly to me.
Hope Santa suit fits me this year. Knew I shoulda bought the extra large. Gotta get through this snow. Kids are counting on me.
I wondered briefly if he even saw me.
The worst part is, if I were him, and he were me, I would probably have left him staggering in the snow as well. I would drive straight home to my beautiful wife and family.
God forgive us both, if He is watching.
I continued forward, and felt snow gathering in my hair, in my ears.
Another car approached, the engine sounding newer than the old Chevy's had. Whoever was inside had the radio on.
How odd, the rest of the interior was silent.
It was like the car was being driven by itself. But I knew this was not the case. There was definitely a heartbeat inside, wetly pumping blood through delicate warm veins.
My mouth watered with venom.
It had been a while since I had been entirely shut out of a mind. Not since her.
My thoughts lacerated me as I allowed a singular image of my love.
Her hair long and brown, flowing over her shoulders.
The nervous way her brown eyes would look away from mine, and her teeth biting into that plump lower lip.
Her skin, delicately pale from the lack of sun in Washington State, was marred by the occasional freckle, which had not faded from her childhood in sunny Arizona.
She was immortalized in my memories, forever freshly eighteen.
It was too much, this time. It brought me to my knees, and I fell, face first, into the snow bank by the side of the road.
I vaguely heard the approaching car stop, the engine left on, the wipers scraping against the window.
There were soft pants of breath and an excited heart rate.
I turned my face away, still lost in my tortuous memory. It was horrible, I could almost smell her again. I groaned, knowing it was some phantom vapor from my coat.
That voice, I could even hear her voice now.
"Are you alright? Do you need some help?"
The smell was stronger now, and I wallowed in it, clung to it, as I felt everything in me slowly start to shut down.
A hand was at my shoulder now, "Mister?"
I should be unmovable, but somehow, she pried me apart and turned me over.
I lay on my back, the snow falling gently against my face, like tiny frozen kisses.
Then there was a gasp, quiet, and the woman leaning over me fell backward. She landed on her backside, and crawled to get away from me. Her boots skidded on the icy road as she moved awkwardly backwards.
I was lost in the sensations of my memories still, knowing how real they were in my mind and not wanting to let them go anytime soon.
She scrambled back up, I could see her through my half closed eyes, but her features were grainy from between my eyelashes.
I felt a shaking warm hand brush snow away from my face, and the scent of human flesh, combined with my perceived hallucinatory memories awakened a hungry growl I didn't know I had in me.
She jumped back, a frightened sound escaping her. Then she edged closer.
This time, I opened my eyes, wide.
And there she was. Her face matured slightly, the youthful innocence gone, and her features seemed almost gaunt…her perfect face harsh with…grief?
I sat up, and from my lips escaped a name I had refused to think of for years.
And then, in the middle of that snowy highway, she crumpled. The strong girl I thought I had left behind was lying in the road, struggling to breathe.
The little strength I had, I gathered it inside of me. I willed my limbs to move, and slowly crawled towards her.
While there was no heat from my body to comfort her, I curled myself around her, my arm wrapping around her side. I held my breath, trying to keep the torture of her scent at bay. But every uncontrolled wheeze she took sliced into me. If a dead heart could die again, mine would be, as she shuddered.
"Bella, sweetheart. Shhh, you'll make yourself ill."
She tried to speak, and it came out in a broken voice, "I-can't believe-it's you."
"It's me." I repeated the words over and over again, they were like a litany until they lost their meaning.
Snow continued to fall around us, like dead embers that had already burst from their birth in a fireplace. They melted on Bella's skin upon impact, but remained frozen on my skin.
Suddenly she was pushing against me. She grunted, and the sounds in her throat were like an animal. I dropped my hold on her immediately, and moved away from her as quickly as I could, before she hurt herself.
Her screech tore through the air, "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, Edward Cullen!" She was panting now, and I held my breath, her delicious scent permeating everything around me now.
When I left her, I thought I had been selflessly trying to save her from a life that was unnatural and obscene. I was wrong, to entice her into my world, and lead her into what was the rape of her perfect gentle soul.
I assumed I had left behind a happy healthy girl, who would forget about me, and move on happily with her life.
I had assumed wrong.
The last look in her eyes had been a broken one. I remembered it so clearly. It was hurt, denial, and then, worst of all, acceptance.
"You don't want me?"
"Well, that changes things."
Bella shakily got to her feet. She checked her phone, swore under her breath and pocketed it.
"I want to leave, like you did. I want to leave, and forget I left you lying in the middle of nowhere. But that is the difference between me and you, Edward. I. Can't."
"No. You do not get to talk, Edward. I'm going to open the back door of that car, I'm going to drive you to Forks, and then you will somehow contact your…family. You see, I'm not an asshole."
I flinched when she said the word, Bella had never used that kind of language before. But I was beginning to suspect Bella was not the same girl I thought I had left behind.
She opened the back door to the SUV, and I made myself stand. I should tell her to drive on, I should tell her to leave me here.
But I couldn't. I was weak.
Pulling myself into the SUV's large backseat, I lay down on my side and pulled my legs in just as Bella slammed the door shut. Her boots crunched across the ground, and the door opened and closed behind her.
I continued not to breathe.
She shifted the car, and we were driving forward again. The car filled with silence, and I enjoyed the quiet murmurs of her body's gentle rhythms. She sighed heavily and turned the radio on.
Forecasts for snow are likely to continue. Please don't drive unless you have to. And if you are out there, please be safe.
I tensed at the words, and wondered if she was thinking the same as me.
A white piece of paper, and my hand scrawling the words Be Safe across the page.
Folding it quietly and surreptitiously placing it where she would find it.
Hoping the single wish would be met.
I closed my eyes, trying not to think of those innocent days when our lives weren't so twisted and gnarled.
"Are your…are they back in Forks?"
"No. I'm not really sure where they are."
"What are you doing here, then?"
I took my time in answering, not really sure why I had brought myself this far.
"Masochistic, I guess."
She made a sucking sound with her teeth. "Is that a joke?"
Another crystal-clear memory, the way the sun fell upon her warm cheek, in an afternoon meadow.
"And so the lion fell in love with the lamb."
"What a stupid lamb," she had sighed.
"What a sick, masochistic lion," I countered, as visions from Alice had echoed in my mind. One of Bella laying pale and dead, drained. The other Bella awake and pale, but her very soul wrenched from her anyways. No. I could be stronger than the first, and find a way through the latter.
The drifting sounds of the radio filled the car. The small minute click of tiny snowflakes hit the windshield, and the efficient hum of the wipers followed at regular intervals.
But the sound that filled me most was that glorious rhythm that had been missing from my life.
Her heart beat.
Bella continued on, and I lay quiet in the backseat.
It seemed surreal, having her so close again. I so wanted to ask her what she had been doing since I left. I noted she didn't wear any ring on her fingers, and a very selfish part of me rejoiced. And then, I was saddened. She was supposed to move on. Had she?
I had wanted her to be happy. The thought of her smiling, even if it had been with someone else, both lacerated me and sustained me over the last few years.
If she had been just as alone as I had, I was more than a thousand times a fool.
"Have you been happy?" The words were out before I could recall them back.
She snorted, "You don't get to ask me that, Edward. You don't get to pretend concern for the sake of morbid curiosity."
That hurt. "It is not morbid curiosity, I assure you," I said, quietly. I allowed myself a breath, and her scent burned sweetly in my throat and down further into the darker parts of me.
I could feel the car speeding up, the pistons working harder as Bella gave the engine more gas.
"Then whatever it is, cut it out. I dreamed of this moment, did you know that? Maybe not exactly this, I was at least wearing make up and my hair was nicer. But I dreamed of seeing you again, and telling you EXACTLY how I felt."
The smell of salty tears reached my nostrils, and I squeezed my eyes shut, clenching my fists.
She swallowed loudly, "I would tell you how angry I was that you made me feel so small. How it took me a while to recover, like someone had died. And how it felt like most days, I was dead. How my exasperated father had to sedate me and ship me to Renee in Florida."
Bella paused, and I could tell she was working up to something, "Because he didn't know what to do with me, and I-and I-" The sound a sob sawing from her chest and in her throat, made me flinch, as if she had whipped me.
I wanted to hold her, to soothe her, and take her suffering away. But I knew if I touched her, she would fight me.
The car was silent as she tried to calm her erratic breathing.
"I'm sorry." I breathed.
Bella laughed over a wet sob, "No no no no no. You're not sorry. Why would you be sorry?"
"Because I love you."
Her heart sped up, and in the distance I could hear the engine of something large in the oncoming lane.
"No you don't."
"I do," I countered.
Silence and the larger engine was getting closer now. Her heart continued to kick against her chest, and the sound of her knuckles cracking on the steering wheel seemed loud in the interior of the car.
"You are such a fucking asshole, Edward Cullen. You're so selfish, and you're still playing with my emotions. I hope you-"
The sound of a horn blowing sounded, and Bella swore as she hit the breaks in a panic. I sat up, but was too weak to react. The large engine was an eighteen wheel death machine, that had veered into the middle of the narrow highway. The breaks locked, and we were sliding too fast. Bella attempted to gain control of the SUV. She tugged too hard on the wheel, and the car fishtailed.
One beat of her heart, and I tried to reach for her.
Second beat of her heart, and my weakened state had me moving too slowly to save either of us.
Third beat, and she swerved again to avoid hitting the truck. The car flipped over, and I was thrown from a window, landing on an icy field.
Her scream filled the air around me, along with the sounds of metal crunching and squealing.
The truck stopped finally, and sat there. The sound of running footsteps came forward.
"Hello? Can y'all hear me?" It was a male voice, and I could smell the acrid smell of unwashed human.
I stood up, my indestructible frame unblemished from the trauma. My thoughts were for Bella. Snow continued to blow around us as I trudged forward. An arm caught me, and I gave him a look that should have killed him.
He gasped. "Well, you seem fine. Unless you need any help, I'll be on my way."
He fled back towards the highway, and I had to choose between stopping him, or helping Bella.
I turned back towards the wreckage, and as I trudged forward, I could smell her blood, thick in the air. A growl, feral and hungry, ripped from my chest.
She could be hurt, she could be dying, and you are being selfish, once again.
I pushed away my hunger, my overlaying weakness and moved as fast as I could towards her.
The car had settled upside down, and Bella was bent over at an awkward angle. But I could hear her heartbeat. Joy surged through me, lending me strength. I moved closer, and slid on the snow to her side.
"Bella? Bella sweetheart, can you hear me? Can you open your eyes?"
She was unconscious, but breathing, which was a good sign. Panic set in, as I took in what her possible injuries could be. She was so fragile, and if I wasn't gentle, if I moved her the wrong way, I could paralyze her, or worse, kill her.
Rather than rely on the things I did not have, I tried to use the keen senses that came with immortality. Carlisle had tried to show me how our hearing, our sense of smell, and sometimes taste could determine injury or illness.
I listened for any odd trickles, anything out of sync with her normal circulation that would indicate some sort of clot or internal bleeding. There was none, except for the nasty gash she had on her head.
Leaning further into the car, I checked her limbs, listening for anything, feeling for the slightly fissure. Her ribs were badly bruised, but I did not think they were broken. Her right arm was broken, but the seatbelt she had been wearing had saved her life.
Snow fell in earnest now, and the Mack truck was long gone. I looked for anything to bind her injuries, but the interior of the car was bare. I ran to the trunk of the car, and pulled open the hatchback. Inside was various articles of Bella's: notebooks, a sweater, and what I would have expected form a sheriff's daughter: a small first aid kit.
Pulling it out, I stepped back from the car. I stood there for a moment, and in the quiet drifting snow, I knew I what I had to do. Pooling my strength, I bent and lifted the car, the metal crunched as I lifted it onto its side. Pushing it again, I guided it so it was right side up. Bella sat lifeless in the driver seat. My mouth set in a grim line, I pulled at the handle of the door, but it was smashed in. Gripping the frame work, I pulled, and ripped the door from the car.
Flinging it behind me, I was at Bella's side, and without breathing, I unbuckled her seat belt and lifted her from the car.
Snow fell around us, and I knew if I didn't get her warmed up soon, and under shelter, things would…deteriorate.
I felt helpless, and for once in my very long existence, I was helpless. I had no control over this situation, and I experienced a surge of panic. I looked down at Bella's face, and knew I would need to move quickly.
So I started forward, toward the forest, and into the trees. The snow dulled my sense of smell, and along with my wavering senses, I had never felt so vulnerable.
Was this what it was like to be mortal?
This was included in the Fandom Against Domestic Violence comp.
The second chapter can be found in the Foxy Fics comp. Link on my profile for more information.
Thanks for reading!