Chapter 12: Rattle

A/N: I own nothing. Characters are all Stephenie Meyers' creations really. I just enjoy playing with them. Love & kisses to my fic-wifeys (Gabbysway2 & CorrinaTFF) .

Thank you to Robrator for my beautiful banner (http :/ / yfrog. com / h0znr8j)

Also, thank you to Ysar who surprised me with a banner for this story too (a very fitting EPOV banner me thinks) (http :/ / yfrog. com/kh92np)

A huge thank you must go to Albymangroves for the work she did to get this chapter into shape.

She fixed it, but I meddled and may have broken it again.

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~ If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it ~

~ John Michuki ~

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Recap: Edward stalked Bella & seduced her. He drank her blood but was distracted by the sounds of someone coming to check on her. He had to get out of there fast and she was in the process of changing before he was able to try again. He found himself unable to kill her before she changed.

Bella woke to her new life and decided to follow Edward so that he could teach her about immortatily.

Chapter 11 Ending:

The true horror of what he'd done to me burned through my mind. I felt ashamed but above everything else, I felt angry.

How dare he do that, and stand there looking so smug.

My hand flew of its own accord, striking his face with a satisfying crack. Edward stared at me with open shock as I took a step backward.

I couldn't believe what I had done. I had never struck out in anger before, and although he deserved it, I didn't want to resort to violence to solve my problems. I couldn't deny that a tiny part of me derived some satisfaction from it.

Edward continued to stare at me in wide-eyed shock.

I took another step back before turning and running for Forks as fast as I could. I risked one glance over my shoulder to see Edward running off in the opposite direction.

I had no idea what I was going to do next, or where I was going to go, but I already felt like a part of me was missing.

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My cheek stung momentarily where Bella's hand had connected with it.

I was a little shocked that she had struck at me, but more surprised she hadn't done it sooner. I had tried to bite my tongue around her, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. Each day as she hunted, the scent of blood filled the air and made my mouth water. The smell would drive me crazy because I wanted it—in fact, I craved it with every fiber of my being—but I knew it wouldn't be satisfying. Animal blood never was.

What irritated me the most about Bella's hunting was that it wasn't only the blood that made me hunger. There was something utterly tantalizing about the way she moved as she stalked her prey. Especially in the short skirts and tight fitting tops which I ensured were in constant supply—even if it did take me longer to pillage items which would enhance her features. Watching her hunt stoked the flames of desire that had awakened the very first time I'd encountered her scent.

As the days passed, I realized that I was desperate for my next hunt. I needed to be satiated. I was going crazy with hunger and lust. I even briefly considered joining her in a hunt and trying to seduce her afterwards, which was evidence of how crazy and deprived I had become.

I grew more concerned as we travelled because I had yet to find a feast that would be anywhere near as satisfying as my last. I'd had a few prospects lined up prior to commencing Bella's seduction, but when I'd returned to the areas—with Bella in tow—the scents weren't nearly as appealing as I'd remembered them. Strangely though, nothing had actually changed about their smells. It was simply that I now had knowledge of the perfect taste, and everything else would pale in comparison.

With the conscience Carlisle had re-awoken in me gnawing away at my insides, I knew I couldn't take just any meal; I had to wait for the perfect one.

As I watched Bella running away, I began to feel hope that her absence would drive the memory of her from my mind and leave me to hunt in peace. Even as I watched her disappearing into the trees, I could taste the sweetness of her scent hanging in the air around me. It was delicious, but didn't make me hunger for her the way it had before, instead new desires coursed through my body.

I needed to get away from her, if only to clear my thoughts.

I stole one last glance at her retreating figure.

Good riddance, I thought before I ran in the opposite direction.

I hadn't gone far before my chest started to ache. I slowed my stride as my mind went into overdrive. It felt like I had forgotten something, something important, but I couldn't think what. I never carried items with me—unless I was actively procuring a feast and needed changes in clothes or other goodies. I had no need for identification or money. Whatever else I needed, I took.

The sensation continued to gnaw at me as I put distance between myself and the spot where Bella had left me. The feeling was unsettling enough that I ran faster to try to escape it. For the rest of the day I ran without stopping, but the instead of diminishing, the nagging ache grew with each mile.

Finally, I had to stop.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

I tried to convince myself that the feeling wasn't mine. I certainly wasn't missing anything. If it wasn't for the fact that I knew no one else was nearby I would have assumed the feeling was something I was garnering from the mind of someone nearby. Only there was no one nearby. I listened intently for the sound of another's thoughts. For the first time ever, I longed for the interference, if only to distract me from my own thoughts. With my eyes closed, images of Bella from before and after her change haunted me.

No one else I had selected had ever affected me so. I knew it was because she was the only one I'd made a mistake with. She was the only one who had survived against all odds. My guilt and anger attacked me equally, rendering me insane.

I exhaled steadily.

I needed to do something soon to get her out of my mind, she was driving me crazy. I shook off the insanity that seemed to be cloaking me, and ran in the direction of the next girl on my mental list.

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It took two days of running and hopping between forests to reach the outskirts of Toronto. There had been a girl with interesting prospects there.

It was late at night when I finally crossed her scent again. I was pleased to note that it was stll tantalizing enough. She certainly wouldn't be the finest meal I'd ever had, but I hoped the hunt would at least be enough to drive the memory of Bella from my mind.

I scolded myself for allowing her to affect me so. She was like an insidious infection which polluted my very being with the essence of her. I could feel the strength her blood had given me seeping away by the hour, and in its place a cold fire burned through my body.

I watched the dreams of the girl play out in her mind and sighed. With her thoughts practically shouting her innermost desires at me, it was almost too easy. There would be no challenge taking her, and therefore the excitement of the prospect was dulled. Regardless, I would stay.

I needed something to take my mind off the immortal girl with long brown hair and iridescent red eyes.

I inhaled deeply, drawing the scent of my latest prey across my tongue and into my lungs to remind me of the reason I was there. My throat flamed and I rejoiced.

As I fucked the girl, she would unwittingly release me from whatever spell it was that Bella had cast over me. Her blood would drown my guilt and I would be cleansed. She would be my reminder of the thrill I had discovered when I'd met Evelyn so many years ago, in the darkest hours of my existence. The guilt I felt over allowing Bella to live and the anger at myself for making such a mistake would be washed away in a river of blood.

I wandered around the room, gathering the important details of the girl's—Annie's—life so that I could use them to procure her when the moment came. I thumbed through her school books and leafed through her diary. She was easy and predictable. I would be able to take her within a week.

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A few well-timed glances over the course of a few short days and a sad story were all it took to gain Annie's trust. She was popular, considered herself attractive so she wasn't the least bit surprised when I showed an interest.

She was vapid and vain, and after spending a few hours in her company the luster of seducing her had worn thin. I was left wondering what the hell I was going to do. I had invested my time and for that reason alone I wanted to take her. Another part of me, however didn't want to be sullied with her blood. After the purity and sweetness that I'd consumed with Bella, I wasn't sure that I wanted any part of Annie inside of me—or any part of me inside her. Regret over selecting the wrong prey just wasn't worth the short-term benefits.

Thoughts of Bella invaded my mind once again. I wondered whether there was another girl out there with a silent mind. It was such an exquisite rarity, even without the double benefit of Bella's delectable scent. It had been more of a challenge to stalk prey when I couldn't rely on my extra sense to see their every thought. It provided a sense of allure and intrigue that was completely unique and to top.

I turned from Annie, realizing she wasn't the one who would fix me. Taking a meal which wouldn't be wholly satisfying would only make the guilt worse. That was the last thing I needed while my mind was already addled over Bella. I began to run again, heading for the unknown. During the time I'd had Bella by my side, I had worked through my shortlist. I was left to search with the old-fashioned methods: dumb luck and instinct.

As I ran, I changed direction regularly, but my heading was always somewhere between west and north. It was almost as if I could see a compass in my head that was guiding me toward a specific point. I figured it was my instinct drawing me closer to an area which had once before held promise. Exactly what I would find there I had no idea, but I was compelled to go regardless.

I travelled slowly, taking my time to thoroughly comb each area to determine whether there were any suitable candidates. Each time, I found some flaw that precluded the prey from selection. I knew it wouldn't matter for too much longer though. It had been close to a month since I'd last fed. With the extra effort I was taking to find someone, I would soon be too far gone to avoid taking a life purely for sustenance. I rarely did it but if I was given no other alternative, I would have to.

It was either that or hunt like the Cullens.

As my mind conjured up their method of feeding, I remembered Bella's graceful style. There were so many alluring elements to her hunting technique, from the way her hips swayed as she gently loped through the trees to the hold she took the beasts into, which was almost a lover's embrace.

I found myself growing lustful and impatient as I thought about the sole immortal I had created. I wondered whether she had slipped and taken a human life; surely being alone for as long as she had been, it was almost inevitable.

If she had, what is the consequence for me?

Would it truly be on my conscience? Would it inflict damage on my soul?

Is she responsible for her own choices, her own actions—and am I therefore responsible for mine?

There was a strong possibly that her kills were my fault. If Carlisle was willing to accept responsibility for the deaths that I caused, was I not just as responsible for Bella's? If I couldn't accept that blame, my own kills must surely be tallied in the book of life at Saint Peter's gate. I knew my soul was damned either way—already burning in hell as my body lingered on eternally. Regardless, the prospect of additional damnation was terrifying. I wondered if there was any hope for salvation.

Almost as quickly as my mind had sought out thoughts of Bella and damnation, it rebelled against them. Redemption was for those who were willing to change their ways. I wasn't.

I shook off the ridiculous thoughts that had been consuming me and ran in the direction of the pull I'd been experiencing for so long. A new sense of urgency came upon me. While my body was in motion, I could concentrate on the feeling of elation as the wind rushed around me. I relished the feeling of freedom and exhilaration that running always gave me. . I pictured Bella's smile as she ran for the first time. Even without the benefit of being able to read her mind, I could tell she enjoyed the sensations as much as I always had.

I shook my head once more.

Somehow, my thoughts had again drifted back to the worst mistake I'd made. No matter what else I tried to concentrate on, she filled my mind. It frustrated me to no end. As I ran, I let loose a feral cry in an attempt to expel the presence she seemed to have left in my body. I needed to know how she had infected me so deeply; it was almost as if her blood had held venom that was still coursing through my body even as the strength it had given me faded away. I wondered how long I would have to bear its curse; another week, a month, or Heaven forbid, longer.

My guttural cry did little to appease my mind, but sent the scant wildlife scattering. I ran faster, hopeful that I could push myself until I began to feel the exhaustion that should accompany physical exertion so hard. I longed for something, anything, that wasn't the ache in my chest and the distinct feeling that I had left something far behind.

The further North-West I travelled, the duller the ache in my chest seemed to become. The effort I applied to move faster and push further must have been burning through the last of Bella's blood and ridding me of her poison. I vowed to never again succumb to so sweet a temptress—and regretted leaving Annie's not-quite-perfect aroma untasted—because the temporary high from the perfect drop wasn't worth the lasting effects it seemed to be having. The fact that the pain had only grown with the increasing distance between us must have been how her infection worked. I took the slow waning of it as proof that I was becoming free. I was going to be myself again.

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I'd run at top speed for nearly a day and was well into Canada when I stumbled across a discovery that was both remarkable and terrible at the same time. There was a patch of forest—so calm and serene that no human would ever suspect anything unusual from it—that was ripe with the scent of decaying flesh. The remnants of a large hunt were obviously buried beneath the soil and bracken, far enough below the surface that they would be undetectable to any passing human.

That I'd found a burial site of a hunt wasn't disturbing, I had stumbled across numerous ones over the years, however the fact that the disposed carcasses were animals was.

A trio of familiar scents crisscrossed the area and I was immediately on tenterhooks.

How had she found them?

I realized the scents were fresh.

How long ago where they here? Are they nearby now?

A series of almost-silent footfalls alerted me to a presence. I turned suddenly, sinking deep into a crouched position to defend myself.

What has she done to me? Why did I come here? "Well, well, well," Bella said, moving around to lean against a tree—mimicking my stance the first time I had seen her hunt. "Fancy seeing you here."

I sank deeper into my crouch, baring my teeth.

She laughed and a high, tinkling sound filled the air. It made me want to rise out of my defensive position, so instead I sank deeper into it.

I snarled a warning at her, "Stay away!"

Another soft chuckle fell from her lips. "You're the one who couldn't stay away."

She smiled wickedly, a wry smile that lit up her eyes and warned me that she had more to say. My instincts were telling me to move toward her—closer, closer, closer still—but I stood my ground and remained in position.

"What have you done to me?" I hissed.

She tilted her head to the side. Her look of utter confusion made me pause for a moment. My legs straightened a little.

"What do you mean?" she asked quietly. "I haven't done anything."

I wondered whether it was possible that she didn't know the terrible curse her blood had left in my body. I also considered the fact that she might be playing dumb.

"You're the one who followed me," she whispered quietly before taking a step away from me.

My fingers twitched in her direction as the distance between us grew. The scent of her was sending my body into overdrive and I had lost control of my faculties. It excited me much more than it should have, and that fact terrified me.

She turned away from me and the ache in my chest flared once more. Almost instantly, she was in a position to run. It was almost as if time slowed down in my mind and I knew I had to do something to stop her. I couldn't watch her run away a second time, at least not before I made my peace with her.

"Wait!" I called softly to her.

She'd already started running and had put a significant distance between us. For a moment I'd wondered if she'd even heard me.

She stopped slowly and twisted around to face me.

"Is this just another game to you?" she asked.

Her question took me by surprise and I straightened completely, taking one step in her direction. I looked into her eyes and couldn't help but notice they had faded from a vivid red to a ruddy amber and felt relieved that she hadn't given in to temptation. My mouth twisted into a slight smile.

"It is, isn't it?" she huffed. "I should have known."

She turned on her heel and began to run again. The ache in my chest and feeling that I'd left something behind spiked, driven to a new level. I knew I just needed to touch Bella, to take her hand and tell her properly that I was sorry I fucked up with her. Then I could be free to find my next feed without the ghost of my guilt coming back to haunt me.

I ran after her with all my might, struggling to close the distance between us. Her newborn strength had worn off a little, but she still had significant speed—and a head-start.

I pushed harder, calling on my last reserves to give me the edge over her. Slowly, the distance between us began to close. Her scent became stronger, enriched by her physical exertion to stay ahead of me. It almost made me feel light headed and made the aches within me fade away.

When I was close enough, I leapt for her, trying to catch her around the waist and slow her down.

Instead of me taking her down, she twisted within my arms. In one swift motion, she grabbed my shoulders and pushed me into the ground. She straddled my stomach and held my arms in place at my side with her legs.

"Why are you doing this to me?"

She punched my shoulders and chest.

"Why couldn't you just leave me alone?"

Her voice held a hysterical edge.

"Everything I ever cared about it gone now, and it's all your fault!"

I knew she was no longer talking about finding her again in Canada. I felt a renewed stab of guilt that I had inflicted the pain of eternal life on her and realized that I needed to get the fuck out of dodge.

She smacked me once more as a horrendous sob tore from her chest and into the surrounding trees. She collapsed onto my body, crying tearlessly for the life I had stolen from her. My chest ached, almost as if the sobs that she was releasing where taking a physical toll on me. I didn't know what spell it was that she had wrought over me, but it rendered me near useless in the face of her pain.

As her body melted against mine, my arms were freed from their cage.

I was uncertain what to do with them, so I wrapped them around her shuddering torso as gently as I could.

I was certain I didn't do it for her comfort.

I did it because there was nowhere else for me to place my hands without becoming uncomfortable.

I stroked her hair softly and avoiding whispering lies and palliative words.

I didn't do any of it for her benefit.

Not. At. All.

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A/N:- Okay I'm going to admit I've had a massive case of writer's block on this story and have been sitting on this chapter waiting for inspiration to strike to get the next one out. So I will apologise for this one taking so long, but it may be a little while before the next one too (I'm hoping a few reviews might get the juices pumping again).

Thank you to DutchGirl01 for the very lovely PMs giving me a little shove to get moving on this.