ENTRY IN THE VAMPSLASH CONTEST

Title: Windows

Author: shoefreak37

Genre: AU

Pairing: Rosalie/Bella

Rating: M
WordCount: 7046
Summary: ::VAMPSLASH CONTEST::I put my hands against the spots, understanding the dark masses were what had kept Rosalie alive. They might as well have spelled out 'The End' because that was how I felt—not just a chapter was ending, but my story was done. It began and ended with her.

Read the other entries on the VampSlash Contest C2:http:/www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/The_VampSlash_Contest/90655/

Warnings: This fic contains a few brief mentions of rape as well as graphic violence.

Author's Note: Thanks for my beta, ms-ambrosia, for being awesome, as always. Big thanks to ArcadianMaggie for pre-reading and hand holding. Writing about girls as opposed to boys sure has been an experience. Ha.

~oOo~

"Put a bird cage near the window so that the bird can see the sky? It's much better to look than not to, even if it hurts."-Klaus Kinski

~oOo~

She was like skinned knees and grass stains, part of my childhood. Unforgettable, she was, like the first breath of Autumn sneaking in on a summer breeze. Like markers that smelled of fruit, a glue stick colored purple, she was different and she stuck out to everyone—was what everyone wanted—but thankfully she stuck to me until what happened, happened.

But now, here she is, supposedly three years dead, her face so pale she might be a ghost. No, she's solid, flesh and bone and hair the color of wheat. Lipstick smoothed across two perfect lips parted in a private smile. She is different, but it's still her.

I would know her anywhere.

A breeze whips through my hair, filling my vision with brown tendrils and clouding my view. I tame the strands just in time to see her stiffen; she looks towards me. Holding my breath, I wait to see the flash of grey-blue that could calm an angry ocean or enrage a mewling kitten. But when she meets my gaze, the smile all but gone from her face, the eyes that bore into mine are not blue or grey or anything in between.

Her stare envelopes me with gold.

I blink and she's gone. I convince myself she was never really there.

~oOo~

Three years earlier...

"Rosalie," I whisper. She pretends not to hear me, although the way the corners of her lips curl, I know she does. "Rosalie!"

Whirling around, she wears a full grin as her hands travel to the hem of her shirt, playfully lifting the thin cotton to reveal her pale stomach. The moon overhead makes her look silver, ethereal. Like an impish Puck, she giggles and scurries away from me. Holding her arms high above her head, she shouts, "Look at the moon!" and she runs, as though she could chase it down. I wouldn't be surprised if she could.

Tomorrow is her birthday. Yesterday was mine. We always celebrate in between. This year is something to celebrate—seventeen years we've gotten to live, the beginning of our last year before adulthood. I don't remember a time I haven't celebrated life with Rosalie.

I look back towards the other end of the open field, towards the others at the bonfire. Rosalie invited them because she knew they'd bring booze and weed. Sometimes I wonder if I should be bothered by how easily she uses people. But she always excuses her actions by saying people allow themselves to be used. I can't say that I disagree.

Turning back towards Rosalie, I see she's gotten farther away from me, her shirt and bra discarded. I watch, unable to move, as she lets her hair loose and it falls in heavy waves down her naked back. She laughs, the sound like a babbling brook. My feet finally move, her laughter beckoning.

"Bella!" she practically sings when I reach her and she turns. Grabbing my hand, she interlocks our fingers. I'm breathless from the trek or beer or drugs, my head fuzzy. Rosalie throws her free hand in the air again, fingers twitching. "Look at the moon!" she repeats.

I oblige. I relax until the only thing I see is white rock and gray craters that seem to undulate and reach out to me. The only thing I feel is the pulse in my wrist beating alongside Rosalie's. Briefly, I wonder what the stuff I smoked had in it.

Finally, she looks at me, adjusting our positions so that we face each other full on. I glance at her breasts, trying not to stare. I've seen them countless times, but Rosalie's rounded flesh seems different now, the low light accentuating the lushness of her. I fail miserably at trying to avert my gaze and I notice the way her nipples tighten. She lets out a breathy laugh and I look away, blushing.

"You're beautiful, Bella," she says, reaching out and running her fingers under the hem of my top. Her skin meets mine, just a brush across my belly, and I jump. She lowers her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "Do you want to touch them? You can, if you want."

I laugh as soon as she says it, feeling awkward, exposed. Because I don't know when or how or why, but after she asks I realize I do want to touch her.

Rosalie scrutinizes me without blinking, straight faced and serious. I can't continue to look at her, so I shift my eyes to our interlocked fingers. The last time she held my hand like this, so fiercely, was when we were eleven and my grandma died. Through the whole funeral, my hand stayed in hers. Afterward, she told me that she would learn to make snickerdoodles just like Grandma, she would learn the old songs Grandma sung. Like every promise she ever made to me, she kept it.

I don't know that this should be happening, now, here, when we're both so clearly out of our heads. It's not my head that I'm listening to though. Rosalie releases my hand and reaches towards the buttons on my shirt. She releases one, two, three, four, and I know she can feel my heart beating through the plastic fasteners, through the fabric that seems to move with each throb.

"Touch me?" she asks, moving so close that I can feel the heat of her. It reminds me how cool the night is, my chest exposed to the evening. I reach out to touch her, not understanding how I'd been unaware that my hands ached to know every bit of her.

Apparently, I'm too tentative for Rosalie, and she boldly moves closer, ensuring that my fingertips are met with skin. She is soft but firm, and I run the pads of my fingers over a nipple, testing the different texture of flesh as it tightens further. The tiny gasp that escapes her sends a new kind of heat through me, and I no longer notice the cold.

Leaning in, she wraps her arms around my shoulders, thin yet strong, bringing her lips to my ear. "I love you," she breathes. Her breasts press against mine, and, even through the cotton bra I wear, I feel each curve of her chest, the steady thunder of life under her sternum.

"I love you," I reply, not knowing how I mean it, but knowing it is in a different way than I loved her years ago, or even this morning.

Rosalie smells like pineapple schnapps and pink lemonade Lip Smackers. The need to know the flavor that goes along with the scent makes me weak kneed, so I hold onto her, losing my hands in her thick, soft hair. Even that is warm.

Her lips pucker, and she's kissing my ear, my throat, my jaw, laying a path that seems infuriatingly long. My lips are already pulsing, swollen, my body ensuring their sensitivity for when she finally gives me what I've only just realized I wanted.

Then her mouth is on mine. For someone so brash, the kiss she delivers is shy. Not demanding or pushy. Like someone posing a question they are unsure of the answer to, Rosalie waits for me to respond. And I do.

Normally, I would be considered meek, a wallflower, passive. But something about tonight, the unknown I've stumbled upon with someone I thought I'd known everything about, makes me audacious. I want to take.

My hands touch as much of her exposed flesh I can find. Opening her mouth with mine, my tongue meets hers and I'm filled with something akin to pride when she groans. Every thought I have is centered around her, every nerve ending in my body alert and awaiting her touch. Her hands are under my unbuttoned shirt, fumbling with the clasp on my bra.

These are the lips every boy in town wants to kiss. In this moment I have them. This girl—beautiful, charming and strong—chose to kiss me. The thought emboldens me further and I drop to my knees, pulling Rosalie with me.

I should be embarrassed, but I can't be. Not tonight.

Rosalie smoothes my hair from my face and I see her clearly. The normally prideful set of her jaw is soft; her eyes are calm as opposed to stormy. Her lips are full and red and shiny. I lean in to take them again when something crashes through the underbrush a few feet away.

~oOo~

Present Day...

For some reason, I feel a sense of urgency as I go through my storage. I can't seem to find what I'm looking for, and I wonder why I've kept so much stuff I obviously have no use for. After what seems like ages, I find the worn box labeled with one word, a name.

Rosalie.

I resist the urge to rip open the box, sit on the concrete floor and look at the mementos here, but I'm not far from my apartment. The desire to be alone with her without interruption is powerful, even if it is only her memory that will be my company.

Once I'm home and settled, I open the box, keeping it at arm's length should the proof that she existed strike out like a snake. Reaching in, I pull out the first thing my fingertips touch—an undeveloped disposable camera. I put it down immediately, the memory of that night providing the sting I had anticipated. I don't peruse the box any further, instead going to the photo album I have on my book shelf, the photo album that should say 'Post-Rosalie.'

Glancing at the pictures—high school graduation, packing for college, my first apartment—I can't help but see the empty spot Rosalie should have inhabited. Each photo features me huddled to the side, leaving a gaping space that has no hope of being filled. Even the snapshots with Charlie or my mother show me shoved against them, fruitlessly leaving room.

It's a split second decision, and I know that if I think about it too much I'll chicken out, but I grab the discarded camera from the floor. Seeing her today—no, not her, just my imagination or a look-alike at best—has made me want to put my hands and eyes on my last memories of her. I begin to feel hurried and desperate, like I could warn the Rosalie trapped in a 4x6 frame that she is to be murdered, nothing left behind but blood, vomit and matted clumps of her tawny hair.

When I get to Walgreens to have the camera developed, they look at me strangely. The outside of the paper camera is showing its age, ragged edges and yellowed cardboard Rosalie had hated digital, said it was like cheating. She'd felt that not having the chance to delete a picture perceived as bad was the only way to get great photos. Now, I'm grateful, because why would I want to be left with dozens of pictures of Rosalie looking flawless? I have pictures of her with her eyes closed, mid laugh, face a blur as she turns away. For me, those are the perfect ones.

I hang around Walgreens while my pictures are developed. I end up buying two new colors of fingernail polish, a bag of mini Kit-Kats and a six pack. I'm afraid I might get carded, but I must look more haggard than I thought because at check out the cashier doesn't look at me twice. Grabbing my purchases with a mixture of relief and indignation, I hurry to my car.

This time, I can't wait to get home to look. I open the envelope with haste, the contents spilling into my lap and the floorboard. Frustrated, I bend over to pick the pictures from the floor, cursing and muttering as I gather them. The first time I hear my name being whispered, I immediately shrug it off, sure it was the wind. The second time, I know I must be going crazy.

"Bella," I hear, hitting my head on the steering wheel as I jump at the sound.

Rubbing the back of my skull, I look all around, my viewpoint seeming to tilt, my head spinning from the blow. I see nothing. I must finally be losing it. After keeping it together for three years, after losing the most important person to me ever, my mind chooses now to play tricks on me. Not only did I see her today, it seems as though I can hear her as well. I shove the pictures in the bag, start my car and leave the parking lot.

By the time I get home, my paranoia has reached a fever-pitch. There are eyes everywhere; my hair stands on end. I practically run to my apartment, fumbling with my keys and looking over my shoulder every few seconds. The ghosts in the air are so tangible I breathe them in.

I get inside, dumping the contents of the bag. The glass beer bottles clang against one another, momentarily drowning out the overbearing tattoo of my heart. I wait for them to settle and fall silent before picking up the pictures with shaking fingers.

And there she is, so real and beautiful and youthful. My eyes water but I don't blink until she is completely blurred out. The tears spill over and I realize how clammy my face has become; the trails make my cheeks burn. I throw the pictures to the floor, a poor representation of the reality.

"Hi," she says. Such a simple salutation, falling from her lips like the first notes of my favorite song.

I look at the pictures on my carpet and then back to her. I think of how, when I realize I'm dreaming, I blink until I wake myself up. I try that now before looking back at Rosalie, standing in my living room. She doesn't disappear. I must be awake.

"Hi," I say back. The reply is so dumb and flat. Nothing like the very same word she spoke seconds ago. There are too many questions waltzing around in my head, slow yet chaotic, to begin making their way to my mouth. It's like she knows this and begins speaking.

"I'm sorry," Rosalie says, walking towards me. The fear that I forgot returns and I scoot into a corner, knocking over my potted plant and winding up sitting in soil. I don't care, not about my white carpet or my pants. She looks sad and I feel guilty for retreating. But she's dead. Surely, she knows this.

"Rosalie?" I mutter. She nods although I didn't need the confirmation.

She doesn't seem to have aged a day from the photographs littering my floor. The nod of her head causes her heavy hair to fall in curtains around her face, and I smell her, clean and floral as though she has just washed her hair. My stomach tightens and I begin crying in earnest.

"Rosalie, Rosalie, Rosalie," I say, over and over. I can't stop until she's kneeling in front of me, her arms encircling me, so firm and cold, foreign and familiar.

"I've wanted to tell you...every day, Bella," she whispers. Her breath wafts across my neck; it's cold and causes me to shudder. "I'm sorry," she says again, leaving me for only a second and returning with a blanket, wrapping it around my shoulders before she holds me again.

"W-Why didn't you?" I pull away to look her in the eyes, and although it's dark, I see that they are golden. I did see her today. Her chilly fingertips trace my cheekbones and down the bridge of my nose as she studies my features. I wonder what she sees. Just when I think she won't answer, she does.

"It wasn't safe." Rosalie swallows after speaking.

"Safe?" I reply. The shape of the word on my tongue is strange. I repeat it in my head several times more until all meaning is lost. "You were dead, Rosalie. All that blood, there was too much. Too much for you to lose and live."

I think about after I heard Rosalie had been murdered. I think about how I went to the crime scene two days after it happened, the yellow tape having fallen in places. I tried to read the words on the tape, as if they mattered, but they might as well have been in Czechoslovakian or Mandarin; they weren't computing. I remember thinking I would be met with resistance, that a guard would be stationed to chase away nosy teenagers, reporters or twisted sickos who got off on gore. But no one was there, only the waning moon and the whisper of the breeze.

In the dead of night, the blood was black. Splattered on trees, on the ground, across the branches, as though Jackson Pollock had tired of the monotony of canvas and paint and decided to go with something a little more natural. I had put my hands against the splatters, understanding that the dried dark masses were what had kept Rosalie alive. The useless spots and puddles and drips might as well have spelled out 'The End' because that was how I felt—not just a chapter was ending, but my story was done. It began and ended with her.

I found myself standing in a still damp puddle, the thickened, congealed blood clinging to my sneakers. I didn't move for a long time. I thought about the last words we'd exchanged only days prior.

"Rosalie," I'd started. "What happened tonight, does that change anything? You're still my best friend?"

She'd thrown back her head and laughed, her smile wide and the skin of her throat so beautiful it almost hurt to look at. "Of course, we're still best friends. Forever."

"Promise?" I'd asked, knowing Rosalie never breaks a promise.

"I promise," she'd replied.

I had thought it the first and last time she had not kept her word.

Charlie had freaked when I came home with blood on my shoes.

"Am I safe now?" I finally ask, thinking the question is ridiculous because I feel safe for the first time in years.

Rosalie swallows again before answering. "For the most part." I don't miss her eyes darting to my throat.

I open my mouth and the words begin tumbling out. How could she have survived? How can she look so different but not any older? Where has she been? Who has she been with? And, most importantly, who attacked her with such force that her blood had been flung across the forest floor?

She answers my questions, slowly, methodically and with a gentleness that calms me, yet each statement punctuated with a 'I shouldn't be telling you this' or 'This is against the rules.' She tells me about a guy who saved her, a family that took her in, made her one of their own. Rosalie mentions she was cared for by a doctor, who happens to be the family patriarch. She keeps saying the others aren't related, just 'like her.' She mentions the guy who saved her, Emmett, seemed to like her right away, saw her in trouble and took her to the doctor, Carlisle.

"Wait, wait," I interrupt. "What do you mean they're all like you?"

"Bella, I shouldn't be telling you this." She stops for a moment, the concentration etched on her features so intense that I think she must be inventing new words to tell me what she's thinking. "Do you remember when we were fourteen and we rented that movie with Gary Oldman in it? You know, the guy that plays Harry Potter's godfather?"

Of course, I know who Gary Oldman is; Rosalie knows that. She's stalling and I let her, playing along, although I'm not sure if it's for her benefit or mine.

"You mean the one where he plays Beethoven?" I ask, already knowing the answer, fearing it.

"No, not that one," she replies, fighting a smile. Rosalie has always loved being the center of attention, creating drama.

"The one where he's a bad priest?"

"No. It's more of a horror. Remember you were so afraid you twirled my hair around your fingers and slept that way?"

"You mean Dracula?" I splutter, the words forced from my mouth like an explosion.

Rosalie taps her index finger against her nose, a familiar gesture that I know means You got it.

I can't believe it; Rosalie must be putting me on. My brain refuses to even think the word, the thing that Rosalie implies. But she is beautiful and frozen, her skin pale and cool to the touch, her eyes decidedly different from the way they used to be. She waits on me to respond and I breathe her in, her scent doing nothing to clear my head.

It seems as though my best friend, whom I had thought dead this morning, is undead. I know it's true; I've never been a skeptic. Precisely five seconds after thinking this, I realize I do not care whatshe is.

I give her a terse nod as though saying, There then. That's that. She lets out a long, slow breath.

Although I know I'm calm on the outside, my heart thunders; I feel it in my head, hear the blood pulsing through it. Rosalie gives me a tight smile.

"Your heart is beating so fast. Are you scared? Please don't be scared of me, Bella," Rosalie says, shifting from her kneeling position in front of me to sitting cross-legged, her knees touching mine.

"How do you...?" I start to ask, but then I remember that Rosalie is something supernatural now, obviously with supernatural senses. The thought embarrasses me and I wonder what else she can do. I try to discreetly smell my breath. She laughs at me.

"Your breath is fine," she states. I smile.

"So, when you said it wasn't safe for me, you meant...you might...eat me?" I ask, finding it difficult to entertain the notion of Rosalie ever harming me. She goes on to tell me that she lives off animals, which is what gives her the golden eyes. She doesn't stop there; she tells me of the intricacies of her condition, the bloodlust she controls, her new family, where she's lived, what she's been up to, but she avoids the question I desire to know the answer to the most.

"Rosalie, god, I've missed you so much," I pause, reaching out to touch her face, her skin cold and hard. The reminder of how different she is now, how much has changed, delivers a pang of sadness that dampens my elation. I move my hand to her hair and sigh with relief when I realize it feels the same, if nothing else does. I think how I should still be scared, how the things of children's nightmares have just been confirmed, but all I can think is that Rosalie isn't gone anymore.

"I've missed you," she replies, and I know it's the truth.

"Rosalie?" Her eyes have wandered, looking across my bookshelf, glancing at the doors. She returns her eyes to me. "What happened that night?"

Rosalie exhales slowly, her lips trembling as her eyes go shiny. Her reluctance is so unfamiliar; Rosalie had always been fearless.

"Nevermind," I say. "It doesn't matter."

"No. No, I need to tell you. It doesmatter. In fact, there's something I need you to do with me."

~oOo~

The next thing I know, I'm on a plane to Canada.

"I'm still shocked he didn't go farther, or to some country with no extradition," I whisper to Rosalie. She seems distracted, uncomfortable.

"He changed his last name. His parents bought him a new identity. It just shows you how far reaching a fat checkbook can be," she replies, scratching her throat with her perfectly manicured fingernails.

"Why not report him?" I ask for the tenth time.

"It won't help, Bella. Even if we got him back to the U.S., he'd get off with a slap on the wrist. Don't you think I've thought this through?" Her reply is almost snappish; I can tell she's irritated.

"Sorry," I mumble. She immediately softens.

"I'm sorry. All these people..."

"Are you in much pain?" I ask. Rosalie smiles and takes my hand in hers.

"It's fine," she says. "I couldn't do this without you."

We don't talk much more. When Rosalie asks me questions about my life since she's been gone, I don't have much to say. It's as though that time is blank now, blurred out by her return, her light so bright that I can't even remember the dark.

Rosalie and I stay huddled together until the plane lands. The more I think about it, I realize I'm not regretful about what we're about to do, and that thought scares me more than the vampire next to me ever could.

~oOo~

I don't ask Rosalie where she got the fake documents that got us into another country, and I don't ask about the names she uses to check us into a nondescript hotel.

She gives me a dress to wear with a skirt so short that I feel a breeze between my upper thighs. The heels she has me wear make me a few inches taller than her. I've never felt so exposed in clothing, but it's okay, because I'm not me here.

Dropping me off at a club, Rosalie repeats some information before she leaves. "He won't recognize you. Keep calm. He'll take the bait. I'll be waiting. You're perfectly safe."

I believe her. Every word.

Once I'm inside, I see him immediately. Walking towards him, I keep my eyes forward, my face so heavily made up that when I catch my reflection in the mirror over the bar, I don't even recognize myself. I take a place right next to him. When he looks up at me, his face shifts into a lurid grin. I feel a wave of sickness when I think about what this man has done. I return his disgusting smile anyway.

"Hello," I say. "I'm Beth."

He takes my hand and puts his filthy lips to the back.

"I'm Royce," he replies.

~oOo~

What seems like only moments pass, and I'm in the woods, the drugs I'd slipped Royce taken hold, making him pliant and agreeable. He barely protested when I wanted to tie him to a tree; all I had to do was promise I'd go next.

He doesn't realize I've brought him here so we can take our time with him, so no one will hear him scream. I know he'll scream. His type always does when the tables are turned. At least that's the way it is in the movies.

I know Rosalie is here, waiting. When she decides to show herself, it's as though she's illuminated by a spotlight, her hair, skin and eyes glowing even though the night is moonless. Royce lets out a gasp, only slightly louder than mine. It takes me a moment to rip my eyes away from her face and look at her clothes. She has on a tattered and bloodied Forks High T-shirt and cutoffs, the last thing anyone saw her wearing alive.

Her eyes are completely different from the last time I saw her living though. Now they seem cold, black and predatory. She doesn't even look at me; her dark gaze is only for him.

"R-Rosalie?" Royce's eyes narrow then widen. I can tell he's trying to make sense of what he's seeing, trying to explain it away.

"Surprise!" she shouts, throwing her hands in the air and grinning, paying no attention to the fact that Royce is near tears already. Her teeth are frightening, even though they don't grow to a point the way I had expected. He moans in a manner so pathetic, I almost feel sorry for him. But not quite.

"There's something not right about you, girl," Royce mutters, sweat beading on his forehead and upper lip despite the chilly temperature.

"What? You're not happy to see me?" Rosalie shifts her face into a pout, her lower lip jutting out as she bats her eyelashes. Taking a few steps closer, she glances at me and winks. I pull the pocket knife from my purse. It's small and dull, just as Rosalie wanted, a cheap illustration of a bear with a fish in its mouth painted on the handle, purchased from a gift shop in the city.

Royce doesn't even attempt to hold back the tears as they begin streaming down his face. He's hiccuping and moaning, mucus running freely from his nose. "I'm s-so so-sorry, Rosalie! I was fucked up. You w-were such a cocktease!"

To think, for a moment, I'd almost pitied him.

Rosalie is in his face in less than a second, pulling back her iron fist and punching him. I think she's broken his jaw because when he tries to speak again, the words are indecipherable.

"So it's okay to fuck me without my permission? Because I...what? Accepted a ride home and didn't want your hands on me?" Rosalie's words come out in a growl. Anger and hurt, for her, have always been synonymous. "Then, when I threaten to tell, you fucking beat me to death with a beer bottle? And you're 'sorry' because I was a cocktease?"

She punches him again, this time with more force and his jaw dangles uselessly, the split skin of his cheeks the only thing holding it in place. I don't look away; all I seem to be able to see are the vivid images that Rosalie's words bring forth, the trees and forest floor covered in her blood.

I'd always known that Royce was responsible for what happened to her, but the police believed he'd been murdered as well, or possibly taken for some kind of ransom. His parents were rich, after all, and there had been a good amount of his blood at the crime scene. I think of how they so easily explained Rosalie's death, an innocent bystander in a kidnapping, no witnesses left behind. She had been almost an afterthought, even though I know Charlie tried his hardest to help. What more could he do, really? There was no body.

Royce screams, just as I predicted he would. It reminds me of the time Charlie had taken me hunting; I was barely twelve years old. We were supposed to bond, but frankly, it made me fear him for a long while. Charlie shot a deer, but it had been a messy shot, in the stomach of the animal. It ran a few paces and fell, the cry that rent the air making me lose my breakfast in the bushes. Charlie didn't allow it to suffer any longer than necessary, approaching the deer and shooting it in the head. But the sounds it made, the sound only made by something knowing they will die in pain, I can never forget. Royce makes it now, the sound more like the deer than it is a human. He knows he is to suffer.

I've never been bloodthirsty. Hell, I'd never even believed in the death penalty. Not until Rosalie had been subjected to such barbarism. Now, I feel no small amount of joy as Royce's blood paints his light blue shirt the darkest shade of red. I want his blood on my hands.

As though Rosalie knows what I'm thinking, she calls my name. I unfold the knife as Rosalie rips open Royce's shirt, exposing his skinny chest. I look into his face, a worn out version of the boy he was when he committed such a horrendous crime. I hear the sickening way he spoke to Rosalie and me when he stumbled upon us kissing that night. Do that again. Everything about him slurred, sloppy and just off. Rosalie was so sure she could take care of herself, that it was okay to let him drop us off, my house first. We had been drinking. We couldn't drive ourselves. It had been the safe, responsible thing to do.

In the moments before I begin cutting into him, I think of the path we could've gone down, had it not been for this man, this man that turned Rosalie into a statistic, a gruesome crime forgotten the moment the newspaper replaced it with another. I ponder the time I've lost with her, the firsts I should have experienced with her, and I begin to carve words into his chest.

As I slice out the word 'I,' I picture those last moments with Rosalie before she was lost to me, her promise of forever warming me all over. While I carve the word 'killed,' I have longer to think, and I remember my graduation from high school. The sympathetic stares from acquaintances, the vacant look on Mrs. Hale's face when her daughter was mentioned, the special tribute played out on the overhead projector. When I slice out 'Rosalie,' I realize how long it's been since I've written her name, the flourish of the 'R', the heart she always put over the 'I,' so I do that now, as well.

I look to her, before finishing my statement. Putting her last name on his body could give me away, but I understand when I see her face how much I want everyone to know I did this. I can disappear as easily as he did.

I hadn't known I'd been crying until Rosalie touches my face and wipes at the moisture that has gathered on my cheeks. "You're beautiful, Bella." She gives me the saddest smile I've ever seen that still manages to harvest hope.

I finish my work, spelling out the rest of Rosalie's name, branding Royce as the murderer he is. She puts her hand over mine and grips it firmly, although it is slick with blood. We cover the handle of the knife together, plunging the blade into his stomach and pulling upwards. Royce's final noises come out as gurgles. I watch with a sort of numb justification as his intestines spill on my feet, his body violated as he had violated Rosalie's.

How long we stand there, I do not know. Eventually, Rosalie takes the knife, folding it and placing it gingerly back in my discarded bag.

She takes my hand, gives it a squeeze, and leads me away. We leave him tied to the tree, forgetting him as he rightly should be forgotten.

~oOo~

We don't go back to Forks, and I know I may never see my family again. For a moment, once we're clean and on a plane to London, I feel panicky when I try to remember the last words I spoke to my father, hoping they were good enough. Still, I know that I chose this; Rosalie's life had been stolen.

Did Rosalie use me as means to an end? Maybe. I'm sure she could've completed the task herself. She wanted to do this with me, and besides, people allow themselves to be used. It didn't bother me then and doesn't bother me now.

I meet her family when we get to London and feel instantly welcome. I fit. I can't help the guilt that overwhelms me when I meet Emmett, the one who kept Rosalie from becoming non-existent. It's obvious he adores her. But then maybe I'm being presumptuous. Just because I'm here with Rosalie doesn't mean there is to be anything more between us. Maybe she is with Emmett in the way I want to be with her. The thought makes me sick with envy. I know I need to talk to Rosalie, and, now that Royce is dead, we can do that.

The first time we are alone, I find out how Rosalie feels without the need for many words.

She takes me to her room, our room, she says. And though it's been years since our first and only kiss, Rosalie is familiar in my arms. When her lips find mine, they are cool and firm, but I recognize them still.

Leading me to her—no, ourbed, we undress each other at a leisurely pace, knowing now that time is on our side. When I am pressed against her naked body, I shiver, although it has nothing to do with her cool temperature.

I'm in love with her, and I tell her this as my lips traverse the valley between her breasts, the scent of her arousal filling my head. She begins touching me in ways I've only touched myself, the thought of her filling my mind, then and now.

Rosalie has always been the bold one, and she flips us over, pressing her thigh between my legs. I moan at the rush of sensation and gratitude and elation the simple action brings. This is Rosalie, the one I had lost, the only person I can't live without.

I should have known that even death could not keep Rosalie from me.

Her hand snakes between our bodies and finds the apex of my thighs. The chill of her fingers against the heat of my center is welcome and I move my hips against her hand.

With her free fingers, she touches my breasts, featherlight. She looks into my face, our eyes interlocking before she kisses me again, the fierceness she has always exuded translated into the meeting of our mouths.

As we part when I need air, Rosalie whispers her love, slipping her fingers inside me. She places her cheek against my overheated one. I, in turn, push my thigh between hers, discovering, although she is cool everywhere else, the place I feel her now is warm and wet against me. The pleasure I derive from knowing she is so aroused brings me to a new level and Rosalie knows this, continuing to move her fingers inside and rub her thumb over where I am the most sensitive.

It's like I know it's about to happen. Rosalie's control has been mesmeric. Surrounded by Royce's blood, she abstained. She's told me she has never tasted human blood, and I believe her. But now, as we are both finding that edge of bliss and falling from it, her teeth penetrate my throat and she moans, the delicious pairing of pain and pleasure handing me a level of rapture I'd never thought possible.

I'm still quaking from the euphoria when I begin to burn, and even though we hadn't had the chance to talk about it, I wouldn't have it any other way.

~oOo~

"You love her?" I hear, trying to remember the owner of the voice. It's deep and warm and I begin to remember where I am. The voice belongs to Emmett.

"Very much." That was Rosalie. She sounds regretful. Don't regret a thing! I want to scream, but moan instead, the fire in my veins keeping me mute. It hurts more than I could have comprehended.

"Good," Emmett says. "You deserve to be happy."

"Em, I'm so-"

"Don't apologize. Just be happy now." His voice is sad, but then he chuckles. "It is pretty hot."

"Oh, Em," Rosalie chides, although her voice is light. There are a few seconds of silence and I feel Rosalie's hands on my face, smoothing my hair. "I didn't mean for it to be like this. I didn't mean for her to be like us."

I whimper and try to open my eyes.

"I've known her for a day and I can already tell you, she would have wanted this."

"You really think so?"

"Without a doubt."

"Still, I wanted hers to be a choice."

"Rosalie," Emmett starts. "She chose you when she left everything to be with you, when she did what she did for you."

I hear the smile in her voice when she says, "She did, didn't she?"

"Absolutely."

Rosalie sighs. "I think of all the windows I've watched her through, Em. First, when we were little girls and I'd come to her house. She would sit on the kitchen counter with the curtains pulled back until I got there. Then, when we were teenagers and I climbed the ladder to her bedroom window, in the dark after I'd had a nightmare. Just seeing her there, peaceful, sleeping, made me not afraid anymore. Finally, when she thought I was dead, I would look in on her from time to time. She always had those worried lines on her forehead like she does now. I can't tell you how many times I would try to smooth them away, just barely hiding before she woke up. I'm more myself with her than I am on my own. I can't think of a time I haven't loved her. If I have it my way, I'll never have to look at her through a window again." She stops talking to touch my forehead, her warming fingers spreading across the skin of my brow. Rosalie was always with me, and I heal a little more knowing I wasn't alone. "Is it normal that she's so quiet?"

Emmett says no. "She might be listening to us," he laughs.

"I'm glad I didn't kill her."

"You couldn't have, Rose."

Rosalie hums in acknowledgment. I try to open my eyes again, the pain still unendurable but the thought of seeing Rosalie easing it minutely.

"Shhhh," Rosalie murmurs. "Take your time. I promise, we have forever."

Knowing that this is another promise she will keep, makes the pain bearable.