A/N: Doing something a little different this week. Instead of Chapter 18, I'm posting this outtake, written for my 200th reviewer, the talented and kind BellaEdwardLover1991. In honor of her helping me make the double-century mark with reviews, I offered to write an outtake based on her ideas. She (like many of us) wanted a peep inside Nahuel's head, but rather than settling for one scene, she challenged me to write a series of vignettes that would reflect some of the changes Nahuel has gone through, especially in the early chapters of the story.
If you don't recall the earlier chapters very well, it may be a good idea to go back and reread chapters 3, 5 and 6 before reading this outtake. As always, thanks to my betas evelyn-shaye and MunkeeRajah.
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.
Fragments: A Season of the She Wolf Outtake
"Huilen is dead."
The words hang, thick and cloying, corrupting the peace in this too-bright, too-perfect room. They seep into the ragged wound of his awareness. Agitate the chaos and despair inside his head.
Between the last syllable and the next beat of his heart, he is ripped away from the calm and comfort of now. Hurled into the horror of what he thought he escaped.
Fear claws at him, dragging darkness over his eyes. The sane, calm reality of muted tones and concerned eyes fade into black bedlam. His nostrils flood with the stench of his own terror. For the first time, he recognizes the reek: it is the sickeningly sweet pungency of burning vampire flesh.
A calm, kind voice brushes the darkness aside: the doctor. He can't tell how much time has passed or what the doctor is saying. Like yards of spider silk, minutes and hours are now gossamer and ungraspable. Fragments of information make no sense until he has turned them over repeatedly in his shattered mind. Twice, thrice, sometimes four times.
He has trouble distinguishing the horrors he's actually experienced from those his sundered mind has conjured.
His throat is still raw from screaming. The wound in his soul still bleeds from her absence. The bruises and lacerations on his body still weep with pain. And the pain, ah yes, that assures him that everything is real. At least he can be grateful that he is not completely insane.
He hopes he is sane enough to do and say what he must. He's never been enough before. Not fully human, not fully vampire. Not human enough to be anything other than a monster. Not monstrous enough to be a vampire free of the weight of his conscience. He is both things, but not enough of either to entitle him to stand fully in either world.
Certainly, not enough to save her.
He is forcing the words out now. Grinding them out through fissures rapidly widening in the slipshod wall he has constructed around his mind. These rifts have been his enemy for days, threatening to let his fragile sanity leak away into nothingness. Now, he needs them. They are the only way he can convey what he must to these would-be protectors.
They listen, cautious but unafraid, these most unimaginable of creatures: vampires that do not feed on humans. For a century and a half, even longer, he had no dream that such a thing was possible. Yet among their number, these inconceivable anomalies now count four that have never taken a human life.
Including the other halfling. His eyes settle on her. For six years, he's drawn comfort from the idea that there was another like him who was not of his blood. One with whom he might share more than similar circumstances of birth. But now he sees her for the unattainable ideal that she is: perfect and peaceful and whole.
And the other, her mate (for it is obvious, even to him) … his eyes find the shape-shifter and quickly slide away. Like these luminous vampires he, too, is perfect. He radiates power and goodness.
Self-loathing suffocates him. It is blasphemy that he should pollute the air of this hallowed place with his fetid exhalations. He dreads each breath, certain the festering putridity inside him will pour out and poison these perfect creatures. Surely, he must disgust them. He disgusts himself.
While he was running, fleeing the horror, he told himself that he intended only to warn them of the danger. Now, cocooned in their purity and power, he knows it is a lie. Fear, not altruism, has driven him here. He came here not to save them, but to save himself.
"He destroyed her in front of me, and I could do nothing to save her."
And suddenly arms are around him. It is not the same—how could it be—as being in Huilen's arms, but it is still comforting. The kind one's mate, the mother, is beside him. Her eyes mirror his agony. He shudders at the burden of her sympathy, ruing the weight of it. But wondrously, her kindness eases, rather than amplifies, the misery.
The fear is cold and sharp, but her eyes strike a single spark of heat and determination. He will finish this. He will tell them what they must know to protect this transcendent reality they have created. If they choose to turn him away, so be it. It would be no less than he deserves.
He opens the vein of his shame: he has betrayed them. To save his life, Huilen has betrayed them. The arms of the mother tighten. Kindness and compassion, empathy and pity radiate from each of the unimaginable creatures in the room.
The mind-reader is speaking now. How had he forgotten this other creator? This one that is both like his sire, and not. A creator by chance, not design. No, not just a creator. Not a sire. A father. His eyes find the girl again, the one who shares his genetic formula but who is nothing at all like him. Of course the mind-reader would love her. She is his perfect progeny. She is flawless, serene, beautiful.
He has always been inadequate.
Bile rises in his throat, along with the self-loathing of a lifetime. He realizes he must finish this before his fear and hatred choke him from the inside out. He gasps out his warning.
He knows his presence here will now bring his sire down upon them. They must be prepared. They must know what they face. They must know he is responsible for bringing this fetid blight into their transcendent existence.
He watches them struggle to comprehend the depth of his betrayal. In a moment, they will understand and they will cast him out. Defenseless. Broken. Lost. Deserving of the death he is sure his sire will deal him.
He will welcome the end of the pain.
Suddenly, light and heat and roaring sound flood the room. The haze of horror around his mind is pierced, shredded, flayed away by shock at this intrusion.
A human woman stands in the door.
At least, he thinks she's human. He has never seen a human woman that looked like this one. She is tall and long-limbed. Dark hair falls just below her strong jaw. A pink undertone to her coppery complexion reassures him his guess is correct: she is human.
Her eyes are what give him doubt. They snare him as surely as any shackles his father used. They are a rich, lustrous black, but not the cold, flat black of obsidian. This is a fire-filled, bottomless black. They draw him in like a star-filled night sky. He falls into her endless eyes.
She is speaking.
She is angry.
No, she is furious.
Confused again, his mind casts about for the source of her fury. She is shouting. Again, he feels something other than fear and anguish: surprise. She is shouting at him. She is angry at him.
"So you came running here? You've exposed Jacob and Renesmee, the Cullens, our pack—all of us—to this psycho! You lousy coward …"
His overwhelming emotions have been slowly strangling him. He is used to being in control of himself. His inability to break the fetters of fear and despair has fueled his mind's descent into chaos. Each confusing, frightening emotion has been another garrote around his neck, constricting tighter the more he tries to struggle free.
A dark fantasy materializes before his eyes: she grasps each pain-soaked filament emerging from the miasma of his soul, wraps the rotting mass around her strong wrist and forearm, and slowly begins to twist. With each rotation, the filaments writhe together and fuse, forming an unbreakable cable.
For the first time since Huilen's murder, his head clears. The background noise of his internal cacophony drops away. Heat blazes through his limbs, outward from the ice that has massed in his core. All his confused, indefinable, uncontrollable feelings coalesce into a single pure and focused emotion.
"When Joham shows up here, he'll be in for a majorly nasty surprise."
For hours, his head has been silent. The numbness is a blissful relief from the tumult of his disarrayed emotions.
Now, the young shape-shifter's words shred his cocoon of detachment. A piercing shriek shrills into life inside his head. If it would do any good, he would cover his ears against it. As it is, he can only clench his teeth to keep the horrible sound from slipping out between his lips.
His eyes dart around the room, looking for the horror he is certain must accompany that name. He is sure that merely speaking it is enough to invoke the appearance of his sire in the cold, dead flesh.
Belatedly, he realizes he has not found a safe haven here. He has destroyed the safety and tranquility of this place merely by stepping over the threshold.
His eyes scan the room again, weighing escape options. If he runs, will the evil pursue him and leave these innocents alone? Or will his flight leave them completely unwarned and unprotected?
The internal war between indecision and terror leaves him paralyzed save for the trembling of his body. He shakes as if in the grip of palsy. Panic begins to claw at the crumbling edges of his control.
In the moment before the fragments of his fragile composure disintegrate into dust, his desperate eyes fall on a hand. Outstretched before him. Steady. Calm. Strong.
His eyes latch onto this hand, and follow the sweep of warm, coppery skin up the arm until he meets the owner's eyes.
She is standing before him. Offering her hand.
"I'm Leah. You're safe here."
He stares at her hand, aware he is allowing time to slip. The bitter aftertaste of anger rises in the back of his throat. He is angry with her, he remembers. Still, he knows that he must conjure an appropriate response to her approach.
He searches his hazy mind for a suitable action. He should take her hand in his, as he did with the older woman when she greeted him.
Without further thought, he raises his hand and slowly slides his fingers around hers.
Heat blazes up his arm from the light pressure of their contact. Once in his brief, distant childhood, he sheltered in the forest on the edge of a clearing, watching a powerful summer storm dance above the treetops. A lightning bolt scored the sky, striking and splitting a towering evergreen not far from where he stood. The electricity surged along the ground and up his body, firing through every nerve ending until it reached his brain. The pulse knocked him out cold.
The blaze of her fingers feels like that nearly forgotten moment of vulnerability and humanity. Except now the electricity and heat do not flow to his brain. Instead, they throb in his groin. Suddenly, he is painfully engorged.
In his mind, he's already taken her. He sees himself stripping her naked, right here in her mother's home. Revels in the ecstasy of burying himself inside her. Hears her moans scurry into screams of pleasure as he drives into her, claiming her.
The sound of his own voice breaks his fantasy. "Leah," he breathes.
He is horrified. Mortified. In a century and a half, he has never reacted this way to a human woman. Anger rises again, like a serpent, hissing loudly enough to drown out his embarrassment.
She insulted him. Humiliated him. Struck at him without provocation or warning when he was at his weakest.
How dare she make him desire her? His fury blunts the edge of his lust.
"I remember you."
"What are you doing out here?"
Silently, he begs her to go away.
Leave me. Leave me. Leave me.
The plea reverberates through his mind. He would be humiliated to be seen thus by anyone. But having her witness his pathetic weakness is more than he can bear.
He has avoided her for days—no easy task when he is confined to the house she inhabits. He is certain she intends to drive him mad. Though he turns her aside every time she approaches, still she seeks him out. Her dark eyes are relentless. Each time he thinks he has escaped her notice for a few moments, she ensnares him with those cursed eyes.
Worse than her eyes, worse than her pursuit, is her inexplicable arousal. He already finds her scent intoxicating; it reminds him of a rare, exotic flower he encountered in the rainforest more than a hundred years ago. Yet within minutes of his arrival in her home, her scent changed, adding a layer it took him a full day to identify: lust.
She wants him, and he has no idea why.
Her desire fuels his. It is so maddening that he can bear no more than a few moments in her presence before his arousal becomes painful and obvious. He must either leave the room or take her. So each time, he leaves. And each time she pursues.
Now she has followed him here, to this beach, where he came to be alone with his thoughts. Where he came to examine more closely the kernel of a solution that has occurred to him.
"Getting away from you."
His own words make him frantic. Bad enough that he hungers for her, cravenly and irrationally. But now the goodness and innocence of these shape-shifters, the kindness of their human mother, have made him care.
Now he knows he must leave. Every hour he hides in her home puts those in it at risk. He has come to realize these shape-shifters and their human mother are every bit as good and innocent as the doctor's coven. He is resolved that he will not be the source of corruption and death in their home.
"I have to get away before he follows me here and kills you all."
She touches him. The electrical charge of that contact spears through his body, lancing straight to his shaft. The crippling ache surges afresh. The conflict between the disarray in his mind and the intensely focused compulsion of his body floods his eyes with tears of frustration.
"Look at me," she commands. He obeys, as naturally as if he has been following the direction of her implacable voice all his long, weary years.
"Your leaving wouldn't stop him from coming here. He knows about Renesmee now, and he wants you both. We can't undo that. We can only stand together and fight him when he does come."
He expected her to agree with him and tell him to go. He would have understood anger that he disobeyed and left the house without an escort. Even disgust would have made sense if she noticed his obvious arousal. But he did not anticipate this … commitment.
She disarms him at every turn.
Her patient ferocity opens some valve in his brain. The thoughts that have swirled there for the past week begin to drain out through his unwilling mouth.
He exposes to her his envy of the peace and perfection the Cullens have created. His feeble attempts to become something other than the monster he was born to be. His shame that he fed on generations of humans, without necessity or remorse. The humiliation and anguish of knowing his choices left him too weak to save Huilen or even himself.
He has never revealed so much of his soul before, not even to the only mother he'd ever known.
He does not want to look at her, certain that when he does he will see in her fathomless eyes—at last—the revulsion and rejection he so richly deserves. He clings to that certainty; it is his only hope that she will do what he is about to ask. For he has thought of a solution, a way to protect these beings he has come to value more than he cares for his own worthless existence.
He steels himself and meets her eyes.
"If I am dead, he will have no reason to come here. The Cullens, Seth, Sue … you … will all be safe. Help me, Leah. Help me make everyone safe."
Her fury is immediate, all-encompassing and incomprehensible.
The lips that he has yearned to taste for days twist into a grimace that is ugly and intimidating. The delectable body he has dreamed of stripping naked and claiming vibrates with barely restrained rage. He gapes at her, astounded by the force of her wrath.
Truly, the woman must suffer from some mental disorder.
She is shouting at him again. Shouting accusations he can scarcely follow. Her voice has reached an astonishing volume.
"I take my apology back. You are a coward. A lousy, fucking, selfish coward …"
Too far. She's gone too far. Whipped him across a line he never dreamed existed until he met her. That word! That word again. From her.
It is the spark to the towering pile of tinder beneath his anger.
His body moves without his conscious direction. He has no explanation for how his hands have found their way to her arms, how his body has come to be pressed against hers. How his mouth has crushed down on hers.
He thought he knew the power she held over his body. Thought that she had already made him feel the most intense wanting of his long life.
He knew nothing.
Lust hammers his body, driving him to actions he has never taken before. He is devouring her with his mouth. He cannot be gentle. He cannot go slowly. He is driven by the need to consume, to possess. He knows his brutal grip must be hurting her, but he cannot loosen his embrace.
She molds her body to his, her fingers in his hair. Her tongue tangles with his, and she moans into his mouth. It drives him wild. His left hand descends below her waist and presses her forward against his straining cock. The friction of her warm skin against his swollen flesh is more sensual than anything he has experienced in the most intimate, yet cold embrace of the many female vampires he's bedded.
He needs to be inside her, needs to feel that scorching heat surrounding his engorged shaft. Needs to pour his pain and terror into her warm, welcoming body.
She tears her mouth from his and turns her face away. He senses her withdrawal, feels this intense moment of passionate connection slipping away. He cannot release her so easily, and his lips rove down her jaw.
He licks and sucks greedily at her throat, and a fragment of his mind marvels at his lack of blood lust. His venom glands lay dormant, and her blood does not call to him. But then, she has never smelled like food to him. Strength and power, sex and sustenance, but definitely not food.
His hands are burrowing beneath her ugly clothes. Suddenly, he hates the filthy mannish garments. He wants to rip them from her succulent body. His fingers tingle from the heat of her skin, his hands throb with the need to pull her even closer.
And then she is gone, torn from his grasp, stumbling backward away from him in the sand. His mind flails futilely to comprehend this development. The absence of her deliciously warm skin feels like falling into an icy mountain stream.
He gasps raggedly, still gripped by mind-numbing hunger. He reaches to draw her back into his arms, but she takes another step back.
"We need to stop."
He has trouble understanding the strange accents of these people, human and vampire, under the best conditions. The tremor of her voice and the roaring in his ears make it nearly impossible for him to comprehend her words.
When their meaning finally surfaces, he feels anger resurge, suborning the lust. "Why? You want me. I have smelled it on you all week. And I want you. If we are going to die soon anyway, why deny ourselves what we both desire?"
She steps back again, her voice gaining in strength with every inch and moment of distance between them. "We are not going to die."
Her certainty is so powerful, so imposing, that his fragmented mind joyfully leaps toward belief.
She is so much stronger than he. Her personality is stronger, her presence more powerful than any creature he has ever encountered, perhaps even his sire. Her confidence in their survival is a soothing balm on the ragged wounds in his psyche. His surrender to her conviction births a relief so intense that his knees weaken and will alone keeps him from collapsing to the sand.
She is still speaking in that calm, assured tone, and he struggles to absorb her words.
"I'm not saying no. I'm just saying not now. Not yet. But 'not yet' is going to become 'not on your life' if you ever bring up the idea of suicide again. Got it?"
Again, she unmans him.
He expected her to exile him from her presence forever, or at the very least forbid him to ever touch her again. Instead she has made him a promise. Her pledge to give him her body floods him with hope so exquisite it is beyond words. It is a promise of a shared future. It is permission to want her.
The power of speech is a distant dream for him in this moment, but he is able to nod his agreement.
When she turns and strides off into the night, he feels a pull centered below his breast bone, as if the cable from his first dark fantasy of her really exists. He is powerless against its draw, and he follows her back toward the distant lights of the town.
End Note: Hope you enjoyed this foray into the mind of everyone's favorite sexy half-vampire. I'll be posting Chapter 18 late next week, and will move this outtake to its own spot on at that time. Let me know if you want to see more of this kind of outtake and keep reviewing. I'll do another when we hit 350 reviews!