SLASH BACKSLASH 3.0 CONTEST
Title: A Light Exists In Spring
Rating, Disclaimer, and appropriate Warnings: M - I don't own these vampies.
Word Count: 9999
Please see all entries at:
A/N: Thanks to ArcadianMaggie for being a word Nazi. Thanks to ms_ambrosia for sharing my long time love of Mike and for fixing my typos.
Edward walks down the staircase, the spiral steps making him feel like he is chasing and getting farther away from himself simultaneously. The cloying scent of mildew fills his head, and the darkness is thick enough to suffocate even an immortal. There are torches, but none frequent enough to aid him in remembering what it was to stand in the sun. He is the face of a clock, unchanging as the seconds, minutes and hours constantly shift. The scent of fear cutting through the darkness reminds him of this.
The two vampires stationed in front of and behind him make him nervous. They walk in slow motion, drawing out the moments, fully taking advantage of their immortality. No reason to hurry. Not when they have been and will be existing for hundreds of years to come.
Unlike the human they are housing in the dankest part of Volterra. The human whose heartbeats have decidedly been numbered.
As he has done many times, Edward wonders why he is here. Why, when there are many horrible ways this could end, did he make the decision to come anyway. Bella had asked him the same question, so many times that he had become agitated.
"No one should be made to die alone, Bella," he had said, the finality in his voice inarguable. Still, she argued.
"Because it has to be me or you. I choose me. You know how I feel about this."
She took Renesmeee by the hand, quickly kissed Edward and left without another word.
Now, he fears what he will find. Now, he wishes to breathe fresh air, feel it in his hair, look at the moon as it grins down at him. Edward wonders if this will ever cease, or if Aro will find indirect ways to manipulate him until the end of days.
The trio of vampires make their way to the bottom of the stairs, and a brightly lit hallway opens before Edward like outstretched arms. He eagerly makes his way into the flickering light, the ancient stones that make the walls glowing like embers. Despite the light, the futility smells stronger here.
"You look ill, mind reader," Demetri says, a cruel smile curling the corners of his mouth. Edward stares at him, wondering what causes vampires to become so inhuman. Even in his darkest days, Edward felt the constant tug of conscience. A sense of right and wrong. This is wrong. This imprisonment of a living being, a human with no knowledge of blood or murder or immortality, is perverse.
"Do you always do things this way?" Edward asks, gesturing to the locked metal doors flanking the hallway. Seeing their age and wear, Edward realizes the question is needless. The hopeless smell is as embedded into the walls as the mortar that holds them together.
"In most cases, we use these cells for vampires, rarely for humans. Such things aren't generally needed to keep mortals contained," Felix answers. Demetri gives him a scalding look.
"Why now?" Edward stops walking and crosses his arms over his chest.
Demetri sighs. "Aro had a suspicion someone might come."
"He was right."
"Yes, he was right." Demetri gestures to one of the doors.
"Are you actually going to stay until it happens?" Felix chimes in. "Because it really stinks down here." The large vampire smiles. Edward does not return it.
Demetri removes a set of shining keys from his pocket, the bright brass and ornate carvings out of place against the rusted metal of the lock. Such strange jailers, these Volturi.
Felix stands between Edward and Demetri, attempting to dissuade Edward from any attempt to steal the keys. As though Edward were stupid enough to try, as though he did not know his chances of escape were nil. Not toting a human.
The door opens and Edward is relieved when he realizes the accommodations are not horrendous. His relief is short-lived, however, when he sees a thin form huddled in the far left corner. In the barely there light of a hurricane lamp, the young man looks at Edward, squinting to make out his face in the low light. An ugly bruise mars the left side of the boy's face.
"Cullen?" he gasps.
"Mike," Edward replies.
The people who took him thought it was odd when Mike asked for a notebook and a pen. Once he got over the shock of being kidnapped, he grew bored. So bored he began to be afraid. Mike feared he would never be free again, feared he would forget who he had been entirely. He begins each page like this:
I am Mike Newton. I sometimes wish I were taller so I could slam dunk a basketball. My hair is blond. My birthday is in _ days. I will live to turn twenty.
His first entry marked thirty-seven days until he would be twenty. Today, it is down to twenty-one. Had he really only been in this cell for that long? He looks at his watch, then touches his ribs and arms, the lack of muscle appalling. They feed him here, but not the kind of food he knows. He always tries to eat it. The hungry don't turn down food. It seems they want him empty and weak. Misshapen but not completely broken.
Even after weeks, he has no clue why he has been taken. In the beginning, he thought it a prank played by his frat brothers. Mike had just returned to his sophomore year of college, his first day of classes. Before he could protest, he had been grabbed, blindfolded, gagged and shoved into the trunk of a car. Somehow, he had fallen right to sleep. He doesn't know how long he slept, only that it must have been a long while, because upon waking he was stiff as a corpse, right here in this room.
At first, he laughed, thinking this the best prank ever. After what seemed like days-only hours- passed, he got antsy, screaming for help until his voice gave out. Then, he kicked the metal door until his legs gave out. Then, he pounded it with his fists until his knuckles bled. That was when someone finally showed up.
"Do you need something?" the strange man with the blood-red contacts had asked. Mike had been too stricken to speak. The man's eyes seemed to glow and stare right through him, unnaturally wide and prying. Mike felt a flash of fear.
"Uh, yeah," Mike started. "I need to go back to school. I need some fresh air and food. I also need you to stop staring at me."
The guy's hand moved so fast Mike hadn't seen it coming, but he felt the sting like a hot poker across his face. He was aware of thick, hot blood flowing down his cheek.
Immediately, the guy looked shocked at what he had done, coming to Mike and dabbing at the blood with his weird robe. "I apologize for that, Michael," he said. Mike almost believed him.
Having difficulty responding, Mike said, "I don't get to leave this room, do I?" He couldn't even ask the normal questions. Who are you? What do you want? Why am I here?
"You will, young man. On your birthday." The man stared at Mike, his fingers just resting on either side of Mike's face, not even attempting to staunch the blood anymore.
"I have made many mistakes in the past, Michael. I don't want any more teenagers in my midst. I also quite find the choice of date fitting."
"That makes absolutely no fucking sense, man." Mike flinched, expecting to be struck again, but the guy only laughed, flashing two perfect rows of teeth that made Mike shudder.
"It will. So you want some food, yes? Anything else?" He let go of Mike, gazing at the blood soaked hem of his sleeve as though he wanted to eat it. Mike feared asking, but he was bored and already feeling himself slipping away. He craved something to occupy his mind.
"Something to write on and with?"
The guy tilted his head. "Odd. But I see no reason why not." He turned to exit, leaving Mike wondering where his creepy accent was from.
"How long?' Mike blurted.
"Thirty-seven days." The guy left the room without turning around.
Mike barely made it to the tiny water closet before expelling whatever he had left in his stomach.
Although he wants out if the room, wondering what state he will be in when he is removed makes him think the room might not be so bad.
He is now sitting in the corner scribbling numbers that might be the dimensions of the room. The size is not unreasonably small. Maybe 10x10. He has a double bed, a table and chair, a lamp and a small bathroom. Matches and oil for the lamp.
Mike stops writing when he hears the key turning in the lock. Putting his notebook underneath him, he attempts to make himself as small as possible. He learned quickly it is best to not speak or make direct eye contact.
The door opens and the figure stands there for long moments. The silence becomes so heavy Mike is keenly aware of the beating of his heart, the drip of water on stone somewhere far away.
Glancing at the door, the form standing there is familiar but not. He tries to make out the face; the light streaming in behind the figure proves this difficult.
Slowly, the face comes into focus, the last face Mike expects to see. Relief floods him; someone knows he's here. Someone has come to save him.
"Cullen?" Mike is not embarrassed when his unused voice squeaks.
"Mike," says Edward, and Mike's hopes are deflated when the door shuts and locks, containing them both.
The words he could not find before come tumbling out at the sight of a familiar face. "What are you doing here? What am I doing here? Did you get kidnapped too? Where the hell are we?"
Edward stands unnaturally still, his mouth agape but silent.
Mike is and always has been easy going, slow to anger, cheerful even when situations seem grim, but the sight of Cullen staring and him with nothing but pity, answering none of his questions, makes Mike feel like screaming.
Instead, he lowers the wick on the lamp until it is extinguished and situates himself back in the corner. He has been alone in this room for weeks, and if Cullen is not speaking, then Mike can continue as though he were still alone. He is tired, so tired. The dark erases Cullen.
"Do you believe in monsters, Mike?" The voice is right next to him. He jumps and turns but, of course, sees nothing.
Mike hates the fear in himself, hates to be weak. No matter what went on around him, he has always been able to find a reason to smile, always been able to give a smile to someone else.
"Don't be afraid," Cullen whispers.
He did not realize how beaten he had become until this moment. Cullen sees the weakness in him, after only moments.
Mike is thinner than Edward remembers but not emaciated the way he had expected. His thoughts jump between weakness and fear, fear and shame. As though fear in this situation would be anything but expected.
Edward does not want him to spend the time he has left in terror, but what he has to tell him is they are both living a nightmare.
Knowing he is frightening Mike further, Edward backs away from him and walks around the room. Larger than he expected. New furnishings. Aro had this planned for quite some time. How had it been missed so long?
"But why are you putting it off? Why torture him further?" Edward had asked the ancient, not an hour earlier.
"He needs to be a man first, Edward. Look at how you turned out, being changed so young."
Edward ignored the insult. "You have members in your guard much younger than he."
"I had no control over that," he replied, looking disinterested.
"Do a few weeks make a difference?"
"Why, they have already made all the difference, dear boy. You are here now."
"Is there anything to make you change your mind?" Edward knew the question futile.
"Would you take his place?"
"Yes." The answer rose unbidden. Mike Newton had never done anything for him, but how could Edward leave him to suffer if there were a chance he could prevent it?
"So selfless, you Cullens." Aro paused, his face regretful. "Too bad I'm not willing to trade, not this time. But you are more than welcome to stay. Who would have known that tiny town of yours held such interest?" Aro had started laughing, the sound cold and raspy, dead leaves or hard packed snow.
"What if he doesn't want to stay?"
"Oh, he will."
What Edward had expected had been true; Aro wanted to draw him in, anticipating Edward's goodness would keep him here.
Aro is wrong about one thing: Edward will not stay after Mike changes. He will not be Mike anymore. Mike will be lost, drunk off human blood and feelings of unity from Chelsea. The most Edward can do is keep him from being alone as he endures his last vestiges of humanity. That and it seems Aro saved all explanations for Edward. Another part of the never-ending entertainment the old vampire demands from the Cullen family.
Edward taps on the door, wondering about its thickness. He hears a low chortle of a guard. Having known he could not escape with Mike, Edward knows now he could not even escape on his own. He is as trapped as Mike; although this was his intention, his chest tightens when he thinks of how far he is from home, from Bella and Renesmee.
He takes a deep breath and wills the phantom fingers of panic to loosen their grip.
"Do you?" he asks again.
"Do I what?" Mike replies.
"Believe in monsters." Edward ventures closer to Mike.
Mike thinks of Aro, thinks of bears and then thinks of a horror movie he watched as a child-a film that had been forbidden by his mother but allowed by his father. He thinks of Aro again. "Yes."
"That makes my explanation somewhat easier." Edward sighs and begins to tell Mike everything. To Edward's surprise, he does not interrupt.
My name is Mike Newton. From what Cullen tells me, I will be able to slam dunk a basketball, but I will never get any taller. My hair will always be blond. My birthday is in 20 days. I will live to be twenty, but not older than that.
I am going to die, but apparently not stay that way.
What a fucked up way to start my twenties.
Oh, and Cullen can read my mind. I haven't spoken to him in twelve hours, but he keeps answering my questions. I'm tired, so I don't mind. I haven't been able to sleep.
I'm starting to sweat all those thoughts I had about Bella though. Oh shit, I need to stop remembering the thoughts I thought.
Mike stops writing and laughs. His stomach starts to hurt so he stops.
What am I going to do? I don't want to die.
"You know your watch is wrong," Edward says.
Right, Mike thinks, I'm in another country. "What time is it?" he asks, looking at his watch, ready to adjust it.
"A bit after one in the afternoon."
A six hour difference. Six hours less to live, to be human, to breathe. Six less hours for his heart to beat.
"At least I haven't suffered any jet lag." Mike laughs more and touches the bruising on the side of his face. The cut Aro made when he hit Mike is mostly healed, but the spot is still tender and it throbs.
"How can you do that?" Edward asks. Every word he has ever spoken to Mike has always been in monotone, but Mike notices his voice rising with the question. How has he never fully acknowledged Edward had to be something different? Every mannerism he has speaks of hidden things.
"Laugh down here."
"What does it matter? You know how afraid I am."
"I know you're afraid. But you're still you. You're not deranged."
"Should I be?" Mike thinks of how lost he had started feeling, how unlike himself he has become.
"No," Edward answers, and Mike isn't sure if Edward was answering his voice or his thought.
My name is Mike Newton. I don't really care about slam dunking anymore. I just don't want to kill people. My hair is blond, which I guess could be worse. I have eighteen days until my birthday. Soon, I won't be a teenager anymore.
Being stuck in here with Cullen isn't so bad. At least I can get answers to my questions. Find out how it's going to be. He says I'll have to drink blood. He says I'll want blood. I can't picture it. He drinks it from animals. When I told him I'd rather do that, he said it would be hard, especially since I'm supposed to stay here and be a member of the vampire police. I don't see me wanting to stay with these guys. They've been shitty to me.
Mike stops writing to draw a smiley face with bloody fangs.
Mike begins to feel a little depressed. He will not let it overtake him; he can't, not with two and a half weeks of imprisonment left to endure. It is simply a flash of darkness creeping up his spine, like unexplained chills. He remembers Jessica always telling him, It means someone is walking over your grave. You know, the place where you'll be buried?
Mike laughed when she said that, thinking it was ridiculous. Now, he knows it was ridiculous because he will never be buried. Too bad he will never have the chance to tell Jessica she was wrong.
Lying back on the floor, Mike begins to do sit-ups. He has sat in this room, letting the dank smell and shifting firelight get to him. He wants to gain some muscle back. Who wants to spend eternity puny?
"I'm puny for a vampire. I was much smaller than you when turned," Edward shares. He looks at Mike and frowns.
"You've changed much over the last few years, Mike. You're more a man than a boy." Edward turns away, jaw flexing as he grits his teeth.
"Jealous?" Mike asks, returning to his exercise. Edward moves towards Mike, kneels down and holds his feet, making the sit-ups easier. Never pausing, Mike grins. Edward returns the smile, half-heartedly.
"Yes," the forever-seventeen-year-old replies.
Edward notices the food brought to Mike is more palatable. Edward cannot help but think this is done for him. Mike smells more appealing with each day that passes.
Before he left, Edward had gorged himself. It had been a possibility the Volturi would not let him leave to hunt, once he had chosen imprisonment along with Mike. What does Aro hope to gain by starving Edward?
Although it has only been five days, Edward can feel the stirrings of hunger in his throat. The uncomfortable, raw sensation coupled with the close quarters make it impossible not to notice Mike's scent.
Watching Mike now, Edward appreciates him where he had not before. Mike writes down his thoughts, works them out on paper. What Edward frequently does through music, Mike does through words. What Edward had once mistaken for stupidity or ignorance he realizes was just Mike's way of keeping a blissful outlook. The thoughts he took for simple were only crafted that way. Mike is like a clear, blue sky in the Olympic Peninsula or the bridge of a song. Different and welcome.
Edward remembers Eleazar's words on his and Bella's wedding day: The boy from town, he is light. Made of light. Light so powerful, Eleazar had felt it, even as Mike was human. Edward had not meant to pass the thoughts on to Aro.
Edward knows it was his thoughts that brought Mike here.
"Mike, I'm sorry," Edward blurts. Mike looks up. The youthful roundness of Mike's face is gone. He is lean yet broad. Edward marvels again at the changes in him, the difference time can make on a human.
"For what?" Mike sighs. Edward knows Mike is weary, the time ticking by causing him sleeplessness when he should be taking advantage of the limited sleep he has left.
"I'm sorry you're here. This is because of me." Mike waves a hand, dismisses the apology.
"It can't be all bad. Super strength. Awesome good looks. Immortality." Mike glances at his socks, blackened on the bottoms from the stone floor. "I really don't want to kill people." He flops onto the bed, covers his face. Edward moves to sit next to him.
"I can't remember much from when I was human, but there are a few things," Edward starts, whispering. He knows the guard at the door will hear him regardless, but his human memories are precious, like secrets. "I couldn't have been more than eight or nine, and my mother had stayed after church to talk to the minister." Edward closes his eyes and tries to summon the memory, seeming yellowed with age and missing spots like a forgotten film reel.
"What was she like?"
"She was a lot like Esme. Doting and warm. She's the first person I ever loved." Edward opens his eyes to look at Mike who is leaning in to catch the quiet words. "But isn't a mother the first person any child loves?"
"Probably," Mike replies. "Although, I remember loving my blankie an awful lot first." Edward laughs, low, a warm rumbling echoing off the walls. "A blankie doesn't count as a person though."
"Right," Edward confirms. Mike nods for Edward to continue, thinking how he hopes Edward doesn't tell anyone about his blankie.
"Anyway, mother was speaking with the minister and I began wandering around the church. I found a steep staircase. Even while craning my neck, I could not see the top. I remember the stairs were carpeted in red, once plush but worn by use. I crawled up on my hands and knees, afraid of walking upright. I remember my heart pounding, pounding, pounding. I knew I shouldn't be where I was, but I had to know.
"When I made it to the top, I found another door. I opened it and was in the bell tower. My curiosity had been satisfied, but you know what?"
"What?" Mike asks, knowing Edward will continue even without his response.
"It wasn't enough to know what was up there, I wanted to ring the bell." They both laugh now, both remembering what it was like to be children, the innocence, the black and white mentality. The all or nothing viewpoint of a child.
"I did. I threw my whole self into it. I think it's the sound of the bell that helps me remember what it was to be mortal. The clanging so forceful I could remember no sound before it, the smell of wood and warm metal."
"There are things I don't want to forget," Mike says. "Like, sitting so close to a fire that your face burns but your back stays cold, or the taste of my mom's meatloaf." The words hurt Edward; he does not want to see Mike's humanity stripped, nothing left but the want for blood.
"When you're like me, if you want to keep from killing people, you have to throw your whole self into it." Edward lowers his voice even further and leans to whisper in Mike's ear. "Don't let the Volturi tell you who to be. Remember what you can and keep close who you are."
Mike smiles, but it's sad. Edward breaks a little.
My name is Mike Newton, but I think once I'm a vampire, maybe I should go by Michael. Mike the vampire doesn't sound very studly. I'm sure I'll still be just plain old Mike for eternity though. It's twelve days until my birthday. I'll be twenty.
Edward Cullen is a lot nicer than I ever thought he would be. I know he thinks it's his fault I'm stuck here; it's not. He has to be a good guy for Bella to love him. It's only now I can understand why. I mean, who would come all the way to Italy to confront the vampire police and sit in a room with someone just so they don't have to be alone when they die? Edward Cullen, that's who.
I asked him today how he's feeling. He said he was fine, but I think he's starving. I'm not afraid of him though. His eyes are almost black and he looks like he could use about a week of sleep. Still, he looks handsome. Kind of '90s heroin chic.
Mike stops writing to draw a picture of an apple tree, the sun and a single bird flying above.
I want to make a list of things to remember:
-My first little league football game
-My first kiss: Jessica Stanley, on the playground, third grade
-My last Christmas in Forks
-That paintball game with the guys: Sophomore year
-The chicken pox on my sixth birthday
-The first time I held my baby cousin (I'd always thought I'd make a good father, one day)
-That night the electricity went out in California
"The night the electricity went out?" Edward comes to stand over Mike's shoulder as he writes.
"It's silly," Mike says, feeling intruded upon for the first time. He knows Edward cannot help but pick up on his thoughts, but reading over his shoulder seems intrusive.
"Oh," Edward says, backing away. "Sorry."
Mike rips a blank sheet of paper from his notebook and begins folding it. When he is done, he holds it up for Edward to inspect.
"Perfect." Edward gently takes the folded thing, careful not to make it fall apart. "A crane?"
"A swan," Mike says, abashed.
"Why are you embarrassed?"
"I learned how to make them when Bella moved to town. I thought I could be super cool to write her a note and fold it like that. I chickened out. Wound up thinking it might be a little too cheesy. But I found out I'm really good at origami."
Edward entertains himself by flying the paper swan through the air. "It would have been, but most women like that kind of thing."
"You would know." Mike laughs. "Sorry for the things I thought about your lady."
"Your thoughts were nowhere near the worst, Mike. It's fine. I was always a little jealous."
"Because you're such a catch."
""A catch'? Wow, you really are old."
Edward acts offended but turns away and grins. Mike notices how young and old Edward looks in the same moment, his upturned lips speaking of something more, amusement foreign on his face.
"I've actually smiled more in the last months of my life than I ever have."
"Maybe that's why you still look so awkward doing it," Mike says. "A few months out of, what? A hundred years? That's not a lot of time."
Edward looks sad again, and Mike is sure he thinks of Bella and the daughter he left behind. Mike knows what Edward has not said: they both might die forever.
"No, not nearly enough."
"Let's play a game," Mike suggests, deciding he would rather not see Edward Cullen sad ever again.
Edward chortles. "That's not a show I could get into. Emmett loved it. Jasper wouldn't admit it, but he did too."
"You're not playing right."
"Oh, yes, I apologize. Um, Emmett."
"Funny you should say bear," Edward starts.
"Bear," Mike interrupts, louder now.
"Okay, okay. Grizzly."
Mike laughs. Now, Edward repeats himself, louder this time.
"Pizza," Mike says, between snorts.
Edward is amazed by Mike. He wonders why Bella clung to Jacob when he left her, when she could have enjoyed the company Edward is enjoying. Here is Mike, days from death or an eternity of servitude, and he strives to keep Edward entertained. Would she have even missed Edward, had she really gotten to know Mike?
The days seem to go by faster now, when all Edward's wants is to slow them down, or stop them all together so Mike can remain how he is now, forever: a human with an endless capacity for joy. Edward understands what Eleazar meant when he said the boy is made of light. Although the room is dark, mildewed and cold, Edward has not wanted for warmth.
But Edward cannot deny he is starving.
The hunger swells within him, thousands of wicked voices rising, and Mike's veins seem to stand out beneath his thin skin in the firelight. Each wet, warm beat of his heart makes Edward's teeth almost itch.
My name is Mike Newton. My birthday is in nine days. The big 2-0.
I think I'm going a little crazy.
This room has shrunk. I know it hasn't, but I can't get myself to believe it. I know that makes no sense. I can't breathe. Oh god, I can't breathe. It stinks so bad down here.
What are my family and friends thinking? Do they miss me? Did someone feed my clown fish? Are they looking for me? Is someone crying, thinking I'm dead, right now? I can't breathe.
God, I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I'll never see my mom again. I'm going to die in this room.
"Breathe slowly, in your nose and out your mouth." Edward approaches Mike and gently pushes Mike's head between his knees. "Count backwards from twenty in your head. One number for each inhale and exhale." Edward leaves his hand on Mike's neck, hoping the coolness might provide some relief.
Mike does what Edward asks, and when he finally looks up, his face is red and wet. Edward pretends not to notice and places his other hand on Mike's forehead.
Somewhere over the last weeks, Edward has grown fond of Mike. He likes to think it must be how Carlisle felt, caring for Edward in his final days as a mortal. Edward feels a loss when he ponders how he will not be able to teach Mike the way Carlisle taught him.
"I'm sorry," Mike whispers, a foreign, dark chuckle unfurling from his chest. He tries to wipe his eyes discreetly. Edward looks away.
"Please don't apologize."
Mike shakes his head. "No. I'm acting like a baby. I'm fucking crying." He lets out another maniacal laugh as more tears leak from the corners of his eyes. "I should be stoked, if this turns out right. Who doesn't want to be powerful and live forever?"
"The only people who want to be monsters are monsters already."
"Except Bella. Most people who want to become vampires think they have to kill humans. And they want it anyway."
"She wanted it though. Why can't I?"
"You're being forced, Mike."
Mike turns away and goes into the small closet made into a bathroom. Edward hears something crash to the stone floor, shattering, and then the tinkling of broken glass. The water turns on. When he comes back out, Edward is sitting on the bed.
"I just want to be okay with this. I have to be okay with this." Mike runs a hand through his hair, rubs his face. "If I could just go outside for a minute. I want to...God, I just want to see the sky as me one more time. I need to breathe. I need to say goodbye."
"You'll still get to be outdoors when you've been changed. It will be better-"
"But it won't be the same. I won't be the same. Will I?"
Edward stands and walks to the door, tapping on it lightly. The guard grunts in response. "Would Aro allow us to go outside, only for a few moments?" he whispers.
"Doubt it," the guard replies.
Edward turns his head towards Mike. He is in the corner, knees to his chest, head down. "Would you please try? This isn't his fault."
It is many hours later when the door opens. The guard stands in the doorway, but moves aside as Felix, Demetri, Afton and Corin file in. Five vampires to escort a human and a solitary immortal.
Edward rouses Mike from sleep. "Let's go outside."
"What time is it?"
"A little after two in the morning," Edward murmurs.
"Eight days now," Mike sighs, straightening up and seeing the figures in the doorway. His heartbeat speeds up.
"They're here to make sure we don't escape."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Mike's voice is flat. He does not want to betray his anticipation.
The five vampires silently escort them outside, into the courtyard. There is no light, save the moon and stars. Mike's eyes take a few moments to adjust, but even before they do, his nose tells him he is surrounded by flowers. As they come into focus, Mike can see the brightness and variety, even in the almost non-existent light. He gulps in the floral air, swallowing it down, indulging in the heady fragrance of life in bloom.
Mike feels the sting of tears again, and he blinks them away. He turns his face towards the sliver of moon, winking at him as though they share a secret. The stars spot the sky like the freckles across his old Beagle's nose. The night is deep and dark and he wants to lose himself in it.
"This is the only place the Volturi can be in the sun," Edward says, nodding towards the high walls blocking in the yard. Funny, Mike had not noticed them.
"This is a nice place." Mike keeps his eyes on Edward, so pale he looks silver in the night. "If I have to be here, at least I know there is something beautiful about it now."
"You are amazing, Mike," Edward replies.
"You say that like you didn't already know," Mike jokes, lowering himself onto the grass. He takes off his socks, stands again and wiggles his toes in the dewy blades, curls his feet into the dirt.
"The night the electricity went out in California," Mike starts. Edward looks at him. "We moved to Forks when I was ten, did you know that?" Edward nods. "Of course you did. When I was little, my parents struggled. They had me when they were still in college. They both dropped to part time so they could work. Things were tough, but I never realized it until I was older.
"Regardless, I had a happy childhood. One night, and this is one of my earliest memories, the electricity went out in our house. I remember my mom walking outside and seeing all the other lights on, my dad looking in his checkbook. It got hot in there fast. We opened all the windows, but it was still stuffy. So they took me camping in the backyard."
"That seems like a sad memory," Edward says, perplexed.
"It was an adventure. Dad pointed out the big dipper, and made up a lot of other constellations. For years, I though Orion was actually Bob Vila and the three stars that made up his belt represented a tape measure, hammer and screwdriver." Some of the guards laugh at Mike's comment. "When the lights came back on the next day, we all cheered. We were so happy."
"I can tell you were."
"I wanted that, you know. A family of my own. A son or daughter to celebrate with. A chance to find my own way." Mike shrugs his shoulders. He sits to put his socks back on.
Mike straightens out his filthy socks. He cranes his neck to look up at Edward, who holds out a hand to help him up. Taking the offered hand, he realizes it's the first time he has voluntarily touched Edward. It's nice, the strength and sturdiness.
Pulling Mike to his feet, Edward brings him close, and for a crazy minute, Mike thinks Edward might kiss him. Maybe he should stop it, but he makes no move to. Instead, Edward wraps his arms around Mike and holds him-a long, comforting embrace.
Mike feels his face grow hot when he remembers Edward can read his thoughts. He does not know why he misinterpreted Edward's intentions, or why the thought was not unwelcome.
"It's okay," Edward says. "It's okay you wanted those things." Again, Mike misinterprets Edward's meaning.
"The fact you wanted a family. That you are mourning them now. It's okay to be sad," Edward clarifies. Mike appreciates Edward is completely ignoring his other thoughts. Deciding today is the day he has officially lost his mind, Mike pulls away from Edward and turns away.
"Yeah, but being sad doesn't help me feel any better about it." Mike looks to the sky again, trying to imprint the view of it deep within himself. Edward says everything will be better, brighter when he has been changed, but Mike wants to remember it this way, even if it be through the dull, half-blind eyesight of a human.
One of the guards mumbles they should be headed back in. They all seem to be nervous at having their prisoner out in the open.
The farther underground Mike goes the more he thinks the want to go outdoors was ridiculous; seeing the sky, smelling the fresh flowers has made it smell even worse down here.
Eight more days and he will be finished with the room and all its smells and locks and leaks and dampness, one way or another.
Edward has known since the visions began popping into Alice's brain, this was a possibility. Maybe they should have kept Edward away. Maybe they are what compelled him to come.
Though he has admitted it to no one-not his wife, not Carlisle, not even himself-he has wanted to know Mike Newton since Eleazar came to him. Maybe it was then Edward realized there was more to the boy. Maybe it was when the first stirrings of jealousy appeared at Mike's interest in Bella. Now he wonders: what had he been jealous of?
The metal door closes and locks, the sound deafening in the stony quiet. Edward knows this silence is the prelude. He knows what to say to orchestrate these happenings. If he is honest, he has practiced them in his head like a well rehearsed concerto. He feels only slightly timid as Mike sits on the bed, elbows to knees and face in hands.
Edward moves to stand in front of Mike and lowers himself to his knees. Mike glances up at him, confused. Placing his hands on Mike's knees, Edward meets Mike's gaze. They both remain silent for several moments. Mike's heart is thrumming like the quick beat of a snare drum.
"What is it that you want, Mike?" Edward whispers, using the moment to appreciate Mike, his cornflower blue eyes, the angles of his face, the unkempt blond hair threatening to hide him.
"I don't know," Mike says, but he thinks of an eternity alone, of being frozen in a moment where he is still confused about who he is, frozen in a moment where all he is is sad and lost. Mike thinks of dying without knowing if he has ever been in love.
"You would know, if you had been," Edward answers. For a moment, Edward sees Bella's face in his mind's eye. He has never doubted his love for her, and does not doubt it now, but he was not telling her a falsehood when he revealed how fickle a vampire's attentions are. He had thought himself superior, even to other vampires, when it came to fidelity, but he is quickly understanding just how inferior he is. In this moment, he would rather be here with Mike than anywhere else.
Edward moves his hands up Mike's thighs, feels the hum of Mike's blood as it rushes through his body, the warmth and life just beneath Edward's hands. He leans closer, brings his mouth within inches of Mike's.
"Would it be okay if I kissed you?"
Mike does not answer, but moves his lips to Edward's.
This had to have been inevitable, Edward thinks. Although he knows Alice's visions are not set, knows there were other possibilities and they could both still die, he still has no comprehension how he could have prevented this. Not when Mike's lips are against his, nothing tentative or questioning, as though Mike knew this was fated, just as Edward does.
Mike's hands tremble as he reaches out to remove Edward's shirt. Edward allows it to be pulled over his head and in turn removes Mike's. His heated scent saturates the air, but Edward knows he can resist drinking. The rest of their clothes seem to fall away as easily as leaves in Autumn, and soon they are naked, Mike pulling Edward onto the bed.
And it is so different for Edward, Mike's body hard in the places Bella's had been pliant, the heavy heat of Mike's arousal matched against his own, the delicious friction as their hips grind together in contained chaos. Edward wants to grab Mike's waist and thrust upwards into him, but he resists; Mike is hard but human still. Instead Edward parts his thighs and wraps his legs around Mike, urging him to move faster, harder.
There are many places Edward wants Mike to touch him, but he wants more to touch Mike. He brings a hand between their two bodies and grips Mike's erection, squeezing as Mike jumps from the frosty temperature of Edward's hands. Mike ponders, only for a moment, how strange this is, how he never would have conceived of such a thing, before he moans.
Mike wants to fuck Edward-his thoughts scream it, and Edward knows he will gladly let him. Edward takes Mike's hand, licks Mike's fingers and guides them to his entrance. Mike experimentally moves his fingers, finding that spot inside of Edward with ease. Edward groans, throwing his head back as light seems to explode in his vision. Mike takes the opportunity to devour Edward's throat, kiss behind his ear, lick across his sternum. God, how Edward wants to bite him back.
Bringing his knees upwards, Edward is letting Mike know he is ready, more than willing to accept Mike into his body. Mike pauses, looks Edward in the eye.
"What is this, Edward?" he asks, his hands still touching Edward everywhere.
"This is what I want."
Mike's thoughts race through the ramifications of what they are about to do, wonders what it would mean about him, about Edward, about eternity.
"Please." Edward moves his hips, rubs his erection against Mike's, the moisture gathering between their two bodies doing nothing to abate his ardor.
Mike moves his hips and brings his cock to Edward's entrance and pushes in, pausing as he becomes overwhelmed at the pairing of his heat against Edward's cold.
Edward cannot think of how this is adultery, sodomy or a complete act of selfishness. He cannot comprehend that this is Mike, a human who has been doomed to immortality, an eternity apart from him. All he can bring himself to know is how he cares for Mike, and how with his body, he can bring Mike some genuine bliss. Nothing forced or summoned, but visceral and real and complete. Mike pulls his hips back and thrusts, and Edward's own pleasure is doubled.
The movements become harder and soon Mike is angrily pounding into Edward, his thoughts loud and clear. Edward wishes he could tune them out, feels like he is intruding again. Mike thinks of the unfairness of it all, the angry ache that has been building since he has been delivered here. He thinks of how he has grown to care about Edward, what he wants, how he feels, and how embarrassing it is, that Edward would be reading his thoughts now.
Mike hooks his arms under Edward's knees, continues thrusting until sweat pours down his face, hiding the fact he has more tears leaking from his eyes. Mike thinks of what a pussy he is, fucking the hell out of a dude and crying. He laughs out loud and collapses on top of Edward. He looks up at Edward from his place against his chest; Edward feeling guilty for enjoying the thunder of life against his belly, Mike's heartbeat so loud he can almost pretend it is his own.
"I'm sorry," Mike says, breathless.
"Don't be," Edward replies, cupping Mike's face and pulling him into a kiss. He opens Mike's mouth with his tongue, slowly, gently, a jolt of pleasure moving through him when Mike's tongue touches his own. The kiss is easy and soft, the salty flavor of sweat intermingling with the sweet flavor of Mike.
It turns into something else, this thing that started as an angry chase for release. Mike moves again inside Edward, both men's hips moving in syncopation, as though this were a practiced act.
They move and moan and touch and taste until they both find what they are looking for. They are a moment stolen and removed, hidden away and safe.
Mike wonders if by doing this, it has only made the pain of loss worse. Edward wonders the same thing.
My name is Mike Newton. There are only two more days until my twentieth birthday.
For the last six days, I have spent most of my time having sex with Edward. I'm pretty confused about that.
The truth is, I have no idea what to think, can't even begin to think about what to think. Was I into guys before? I don't know.
All I know is, I think I'm gay for Edward Cullen, and in two days I'm supposed to die.
Mike draws a picture of a wooden stake going into a cartoon heart.
I might love him a little.
Mike closes the journal and Edward's arms wrap around him. He feels a light kiss in his hair and turns around to find Edward's lips. The past few days have been an insane fight to have as much of Edward as he could, hoping the novelty of it would go away.
It hasn't though; if anything, it feels as though the constant intimacy has kindled the budding feelings Mike has for Edward, a conflagration having ignited without his permission. Mike thinks he should have taken Smokey the Bear more seriously.
Edward laughs against Mike's lips, the sweet flavor filling Mike's mouth. Mike stands with him, touches his cheeks, traces the dark circles under his black eyes. Edward looks so hungry.
"No," Edward says, before Mike can even fully formulate the thought.
"What? I was just thinking of thinking about asking if we could switch places." Mike tries to look seductive, attempting to emulate Edward's crooked grin.
"You know..." Mike conjures a mental picture.
"Oh." Edward bites his bottom lip.
"You seem to enjoy it. I thought I might too."
"I do. I simply feel it would put me in a position of too much control. That I might hurt you somehow." Mike understands Edward would want to bite him. He knows and he wants it to be Edward and Edward needs to feed.
"No," Edward says again, more firmly this time.
Mike becomes serious, hands finding their way under Edward's shirt, circling the rises of his shoulder blades, tracing down his ribs. "I want it to be you. Imagine if they take me, put me on some slab, somebody that doesn't give a shit if I live or die tearing into me. I know you can do this, that you'll take care of me. Please, Edward."
"I don't know, Mike. I haven't eaten in weeks. I don't want to-"
"Please. I'd rather die here with you than let one of them touch me."
Edward searches Mike's thoughts. He means what he says, and truthfully, the thought of Aro or any of the other Volturi touching Mike makes him ill.
Lips going back to Mike's, Edward leads him to the bed. He takes off Mike's clothing, placing soft kisses that might be goodbye over each new bit of flesh exposed. Once Mike and he are both undressed, Mike prepared and ready, trembling from the fear and thrill and adrenaline pumping through his veins, Edward pushes inside. Immediately, the urge to feed is overwhelming. The lust for blood and intimate gratification are so synonymous he almost cannot bear it.
Edward waits, for himself and for Mike. Mike is the one to move first, moaning softly and wiggling his hips. Edward cannot stop his hips from withdrawing and then thrusting forward, the heat of Mike's erection trapped between them.
All of it is too much, Mike's tight hole, the heat engulfing him, the bloodlust flaring. Edward reaches between them, strokes Mike as he writhes and groans. Mike bares his neck to Edward and props himself up on his elbows. His thoughts calm but set on repeat. Do it now. Do it now. Do it now.
Leaning down, Edward finds Mike's lips, kisses him harder than he has ever dared, because what does it matter now? Mike is enthusiastic, thrusting his tongue into Edward's mouth, drinking him in as though he were the starving one instead of Edward. Do it now.
Edward's lips find the pulse in Mike's throat; he holds them there, cherishing the heat and life under Mike's flesh before he stops it forever. Edward opens his mouth, his teeth aching, his throat burning, and bites down.
And God, it is so wonderful, the rush of heat, of life. The concentrated flavor of Mike envelopes Edward's tongue, coats his throat, fills his body. The joy of it is absolute. He swallows and swallows and before he knows it, he is coming, filling Mike as he empties him.
Edward feels Mike tense before he comes as well, the sound escaping Mike's mouth half exclamation of pain and half of pleasure. But Edward does not stop drinking.
Stop, Mike thinks, but Edward does not stop.
"Stop," Mike whispers aloud. It is the complete lack of fear, the complete faith in Edward that brings him back to himself, and he pulls away. The separation hurts, but Edward is already feeling the bolstering effects of human blood in his system. Edward quickly bites Mike's wrists as Mike watches him through half-slitted eyes, breathless from the release and the burgeoning pain.
Mike begins to groan as the venom starts to take hold.
The day that would have been Mike's twentieth birthday, the guard moves him from the room. They have a message from Aro for Edward: now that his job is done, he is free to leave. Wasn't he always free to leave?
Mike's transition is almost complete, his screams only increasing when he is lifted and moved. Edward feels helpless, unable to do anything but object. How had he ever thought he could just leave? He must speak with Aro.
"Let him go with me," Edward demands before he has even fully entered the room. He has no idea how he would transport a newborn and he does not care. He will stay in Italy if he must.
"No," Aro answers. His lack of emotion enrages Edward.
"You can't possibly do this. How can you do this?" Edward wants to claw Aro's smug expression from his face, tear him apart. The constant calm the old man exudes is sickening. How can this be allowed? Imprisonment through mind control and manipulation?
"He'll want to stay, Edward. Once I show him what he can have." Aro calmly inspects his fingernails, his mouth pulled down in a frown. His thoughts are jubilant.
"I'll make sure others know about this," Edward threatens.
"Let them know! I turn away dozens of vampires every year who want to be a part of my guard. Young man, there are humans who beg to be a part of what we are. What could he have with you? An eternity of starvation and weakness? Wanting something forever? Do you think Bella would approve of what you two were doing down there?" Aro has leaned forward in his chair, eyes slanted. Edward swallows, wondering exactly what he could do for Mike if he were free to leave. How could he ever explain to Bella?
"He didn't want this."
"But he will. Isn't that what matters? He'll be content here. I can guarantee." Aro leans back again, a smile curling his paper thin lips.
"Would you please just let me be there when he wakes up?" Edward's voice has fallen. Although he is out of the locked room, free to go where he pleases, he feels more tethered to this place than when he was trapped. Part of him believes when Mike is changed, he'll see Edward and all the effects the guard use to manipulate him will become pointless. Being separated from Mike seems like an impossibility now, even in this moment when they are separate.
Aro looks like he is considering Edward's request, but Edward knows he is not. "No."
"You can wait here and see him after I've had a few hours with him. Put your mind at ease."
The thought of waiting is not a welcome one, not when Edward needs to be close to Mike now. Not when he has spent the last week in constant physical contact with him, surrounded by his scent, skin on skin. But he will wait. He is the face of a clock.
He opens his eyes and tries to make sense of things. The room is dark; somehow he knows this yet he can see everything. There are others in the room, four others. He smells them. Lemongrass. Gardenia. Cedar. Sandalwood. How does he know this? Who is he?
I am Mike Newton.
He is Mike. That much, he remembers. He hears footsteps high above him and looks towards them. Then he hears a shuffling to his left and looks there. He hears a short laugh. He smells someone walk by the door outside. He sees a color he has no name for. He stretches out his arm and feels the humidity in the air. He sits up and feels like he could fly. He swallows and wonders why there are knives in his throat. Mike stands.
I sometimes wish I were taller so I could slam dunk a basketball.
Mike jumps and is surprised and how high he can go. He lands without a sound. Someone moves again and a lamp comes on.
"Is today my birthday?" he asks, surprised when his voice sounds different, although he cannot remember how it sounded before.
"Yesterday," someone says. Mike looks and realizes it's the guy with the creepy eyes. The sight of him makes him unhappy.
I think I might love him a little.
A bell. A paper swan. A smile. Cool hands. Strong arms.
"Where's Edward?" At the remembrance of the name, Mike has an overwhelming need to see the face that goes along with it. The creepy guy-Aro, Mike remembers-walks over and touches him.
"Soon, Michael," Aro says.
"My name is Mike. And I need to see Edward now." Mike notices the room going lighter. He is curious as to why, but his curiosity does not outweigh the need to see Edward. Walking towards the door, Mike starts to get very agitated when a large vampire steps in front of him, a smaller one by his side. The light in the room gets brighter and their eyes widen.
"Calm down, Michael," Aro says.
"Get out of my way." Now, Mike is thoroughly frustrated, his impatience growing. Memories are coming back, holes in them like Swiss cheese. He remembers enough to know he wants away.
"Stop him," Aro orders. The guards all charge towards Mike. When they lay hands on him, Mike feels something unfurl from every pore in his body and he finds himself alone.
Mike's thoughts are in too many places other than here to ponder what happened. He simply wants to find Edward. He is too distracted to notice the piles of ash scattered about the floor as he leaves.
Later, Edward thinks back on what happened and regrets he never got to touch Mike as an immortal. Edward never felt his hair, ran his fingers across his everlasting flesh, felt the added weight of him after the change.
Mike bursts into the throne room, thoughts bordering on feral. He is followed by members of the guard who were not already in the room. Edward has been waiting, knowing the change was done.
Marcus looks up, generally seeming bored, with an almost surprised expression on his face. "Aro's dead."
The room erupts into a chorus of what? and how? but Edward already knows: it was Mike. The others seem to catch on as well.
"Kill him," Caius says, glances at Edward and adds, "Kill him too." Caius is putting on a show, acting upset and vengeful when he is nothing but grateful.
What happens next is so quick, Edward can make no sense of it. Within seconds both he and Mike are flanked by guards, Edward evades his easily but sees Mike seized on all sides. They mean to immediately execute him. Mike's crimson eyes meet his and the newborn flashes him a smile, thinks a final word. Go. The scream does not even make it to Edward's lips before a light so bright fills the room Edward has to cover his face.
Edward feels heat unlike he has felt since the change. The only way he can escape it is through the sewer grate a few feet away. Screams fill the room as Edward slips inside, burrowing through the cold corpses of the Volturi's most recent meal. He stays there for hours, hoping Mike will follow soon, searching and stretching out with his mind. Nothing. He finds nothing. He waits for the sounds of agony to cease. When he finally emerges, the room is filled with ashes.
When Edward makes it back to Forks, his family is already gone. He knew they would be. Forks will not be safe for them until they know for certain all the Volturi are dead. Alice should know this soon enough.
Edward feels heavy, strange and lost. Unsure of where to go and what to do. He is haunted now, Mike living forever in a different way.
Maybe Edward had loved him. Maybe he still does.
He walks into the empty house, already packed up, furniture covered in sheets. He ponders staying, wondering if someone will come to avenge the deaths he caused. Edward wants to fight, wants to take this out on someone.
Finding himself in the garage, Edward retrieves the keys to his Volvo and slides inside, places his forehead against the steering wheel. He notices something out of the corner of his eye on the dash. He picks it up and places it gingerly on his palm.
It is a bell, folded out of notebook paper.
Unfolding it carefully, Edward tries to make sense out the words written in a familiar scrawl.
I am Mike Newton. I sometimes wish I were taller so I could slam dunk a basketball. My hair is blond. My birthday is in 31 days. I will live to be twenty.
Today, for no apparent reason, I thought of Edward Cullen. I wonder what he's doing now. Guess I'll never know.
A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.
It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.
Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:
A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.