AN: If you're still reading this...thank you.
Previously...Edward makes plans to spend the night of the full moon locked up in a cell in the basement of his parents' house. Banner discovers Edward's whereabouts. He shoots Edward but does not kill him. Bella, in an effort to save Edward is held hostage by the Banner. They learn that Alice's death was an accident and that Banner had tried to save the child she had been carrying. The doctor drains Edward's blood and then locks Bella in the cell with Edward, presumably to be murdered by the wolf—if she does not kill it first. Bella cannot bring herself to hurt Edward. She closes her eyes, resigned to her fate.
...And then when he is close enough for me to feel him breathing, hot on my cheek, I open my eyes one last time, and the wolf, he lays his head upon my lap.
I place my hand on top of his head. My fingers sink into the fur. It's so soft and so warm. He lowers his head, pressing against my palm, nuzzling his face into me. He looks at me with those golden eyes, the wrong color—but there's something in the the stillness...it's him. He knows me. I let all of my defenses fall, one by one they come crumbling to the ground. It's as if I'd been held underwater for a very very long time and I've finally surfaced.
The wolf settles down on the ground, close enough to me that we're still touching. The fur around his legs is matted with blood, but he doesn't appear to be in pain. Edward as a wolf is even quieter than he is in human form. I look around the cell for something to try and pick the lock with. There's broken glass, blood—Edward's and probably my own, and the knife. I try messing with the lock but give up after a few minutes. It's useless. Presumably Rose and Emmett are on their way back to Chicago. But Milwaukee is still a bit of a trek even if Rose speeds the entire way, which, knowing her, she will. How long has it been since I talked to Em?
Nothing about the events of this evening make any sense. Why didn't Banner just shoot us both when he had the chance? I settle back down next to Edward and try to examine his paws but he pulls away from me. My heart has just begun to slow, when suddenly Edward rises quickly, his body on full alert. He begins to growl at the door, low and menacing. Is it Banner? Coming back to finish the job he started? The doctor has barely been gone five minutes. Maybe he's changed his mind. I clutch the knife in my free hand.
I stand up to peer out the glass, but it's dark in the basement, I can just make out the shapes of shelving and dusty storage containers in the shadows. Edward will not calm down, he's gotten louder, more urgent. There is a light, and suddenly, a face in the window. He knocks on the glass, says something but I cannot hear him. I drop my weapon. It's not Banner. By now, Edward is going a little nuts. I throw my arms around his neck, pulling him away from the door, whispering soothing words in his ear, pretty much to no effect. The door slowly swings open and a uniformed police officer stands with a flashlight.
"Close the door!" I cry, barely getting out the words before Edward leaps from my grasp, springing at the man. He manages to close it in just the nick of time, before the wolf can attack him.
I hear the door open again, slowly, cautiously this time. It's ajar, just barely a crack, enough that I can hear him. "Chicago police. Miss, are you alright?"
"Are you hurt? You're bleeding."
I look down at myself. The small cuts on my hands from the knife have coagulated, but I'm pretty much covered in Edward's blood. A small alarm bell goes off in the back of my mind, but I push it aside. I'll deal with it later.
"I'm fine. It's not my blood. My...dog, he's hurt."
"Is there anyone else in the house?"
Maybe Banner? How much time has passed? Maybe fifteen, twenty minutes? He could still be nearby. And what is this police officer even doing here in Esme's basement. "There was a man, he attacked me and the dog and locked us inside the, uh...kennel."
Emmett had called the cops as soon as I hung up on him. Even though I told him not to. Thank god. He claimed to be a concerned neighbor and said that he'd heard gunshots at Esme's house. And that he'd seen a suspicious looking middle-aged man with dark hair and glasses hanging around. They arrived just in time to find Banner, bags of blood and weapon in hand leaving the house. He's in police custody now.
We were lucky. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Just a few minutes earlier and they would have witnessed Edward's transformation. But as far as they can tell, I was house sitting my agent's oversize mutt and some crazy man broke in, shot the dog, drained him of blood and locked us in the kennel. I couldn't offer an explanation why even if I wanted to, and Banner has refused to speak. The police haven't pressed me too much, taking my silence for shock.
Another lucky coincidence, my "veterinarian" just happened to do emergency house calls. When the white van pulled up and the Rosalie and Emmett tumbled out, that got some funny looks as well. They came rushing toward me, wrapping me in a suffocating hug until they remembered that we had an audience. Still, none of the cops raised a fuss, happy to have someone deal with the enormous wounded beast locked up in the "kennel." No one could get near Edward without severe risk to their safety except for me. He looked at me those golden eyes, and at the hypodermic needle with what looked like comprehension, but I could have imagined it. I don't know. I gave him the animal tranquilizer, and he licked my face before his eyes closed and he fell softly to the ground.
I am back where started a month ago. Edward is in my garage, in the white van. And now I'm waiting for him to wake up. I can see it crystal clear in my mind, the body shifting, lengthening, the fur dissolving, pink flesh, bare skin, fingertips, the half moon shape on his nails, dark, curling eyelashes, the shadow of purple under his eyes that never seems to go away, the shape of a man. Where does it go? Where does the line between my Edward and the wolf lay? Is he more one than the other? Or is this a false dichotomy?
I imagine him on the floor of the van, a wool blanket draped across his body. He will rise in darkness, confusion, unstable as he finds his bearings. And then he'll see the thin sliver of light of the van doors, he will let himself out and find himself in my garage. There is a pile of his clothes, folded neatly on the floor where I know he will see them.
The door slams open, heavy footsteps running, eyes wet, warmth, heat, he is the sun and I am swept up in his arms. Big, calloused hands hold me with more delicacy than their size would suggest possible. Even in his desperation he's so careful. Touching me, eyes meeting mine uncomprehending, and then back down again, searching for any evidence of hurt. He doesn't hear me calling his name, telling him it's alright. He doesn't hear his father, or Esme. I don't think for Edward there is anyone but me in this moment. He immediately zeroes in on my bandaged wrists, cradling them in his hands.
"Baby, it's nothing. A scratch."
He envelops me in his arms. He runs his nose along my neck, lips skimming my skin.
"Is this real?"
Rosalie plops down on the couch next to Edward. She looks at him and lets out a long sigh. Shaking her head in disgust.
"Bella, what did I tell you when you first moved in?"
"Don't wear shoes in the house?"
"Yes. What else?"
"I don't know. Something about...bringing random guys home from the bar?" At this, Edward looks up at me. I can't help but notice the almost imperceptible flare of his nostril. I'm not proud to admit to myself that a frisson of pleasure rolls through me at this small display of jealousy.
"I think my exact words were, 'No pets, no drugs, no psychos.' Jesus Bella. I think you've officially broken every single rule. In new and creative ways I never could have imagined."
"Are you kicking me out?"
"I should, shouldn't I? Seriously, you should have seen the background check I did on you. Nowhere was there anything about a goddamned werewolf boyfriend and vampire doctors."
I shrug. "Serves you right for snooping."
"I think I'm losing my touch."
"Doubtful. Some things you can't plan for. I hope you don't regret letting me move in too much."
"Not too much." My roommate looks at Edward again, rolling her eyes. "And this one cooks and fixes things. And apparently is housebroken now?"
"Not quite," Edward says.
"I don't get it. Edward, you said you'd attacked Bella at your cabin?" Emmett asks. "What was different this time? Why didn't you?"
"Before, we were still practically strangers. I had been in that house for three weeks, but we almost never saw each other. He was avoiding me...for some reason," I say. I can't help the blush that spreads all over my cheeks.
Rosalie snorts, and I give her a little shove. "I think it's because...Edward knows me now. He wouldn't hurt me."
Carlisle is watching me from his place on the floor, his expression unreadable. I wonder how this revelation must feel for him. He spent years locking up his son, for Edward's safety, and his own. It never seemed like there was any other choice.
"Just let me...it'll stop the swelling. There's a—Edward!" Esme cries.
Suddenly, a bag of frozen peas goes flying across the room, and Emmett snatches it out of the air.
"Edward! Sit still!" Carlisle berates him.
"Honey, I was just trying to help. You've got a nasty bruise "
"Man, did you ever play football in high school?"
This earns Emmett a smack on the arm from Rosalie. "Don't be ridiculous! You know he was locked up in that basement."
"Only once a month," Esme pipes in.
Edward sits slumped in the living room wearing just a pair of sweatpants. His father tends to the his feet, a bowl next to him with two bloody bullets and shards of glass.
"Carlisle sweetie, I really think we should take him to the hospital—"
"No hospitals." Father and son both say in unison. They look at each other and then look away immediately. Twin grimaces on their faces. I have to laugh.
"Me and the boys play sometimes down by Depaul on the weekends. You should come sometime." Emmett says, tossing the peas back to Edward.
I stand up and grab Emmett by his shirt collar. He's still wearing that ridiculous basketball jersey. "Okay Em, it's time for you to go. You too." I snatch Rosalie's phone out of her hand.
I push them toward the kitchen, and then turn back to the living room. "I'm sorry Esme."
"I was just trying to help."
"I know. Edward knows that. But I think, what he needs right now is some quiet. Just for a little bit."
She looks at her husband and he carefully avoids her gaze. "Alright, I'll be in the other room."
I turn to leave with the rest.
"Bella. Stay. Please."
I take my place next to him on the couch. He takes my hand, careful to not press too heavily on my bandaged wrists.
Carlisle looks at us, as if he can't quite make sense of what he is witnessing. He wraps clean white gauze around Edward's feet. We all know this is completely unnecessary, practically speaking. Those wounds will be gone by tomorrow probably. But I think Carlisle needs to do something right now with his hands, to feel useful. We're still coming down from the insanity of last night and we need an outlet for that energy. Carlisle needs to take care of his son, even if his son doesn't need it anymore. And me...I just want to be in the same room with my boyfriend right now.
"Are you going to press charges?" Carlisle asks me.
I only hesitate for a moment before saying, "Yes."
"I don't want to tell you what to do, but I just hope you'll take under consideration the...unique circumstances that we're dealing with. It's a bizarre story. Going forward with this could bring a lot of unwanted attention to..." He nods at Edward.
"She can do whatever the hell she wants Carlisle. No one will believe Banner anyway. He's a fucking nutjob."
"I know that Edward. It's Bella's decision. I'm not pressuring her either way, I just want to make sure she knows what's at stake."
He holds up my bandaged arm, still careful to not touch my wounds. "She fucking knows."
Carlisle is silent. He stands up and extends a hand to me. "Do you want me to look at that Bella?"
"No. I'm okay. They cleaned me up at the hospital. Just a few stitches. I should be fine."
The doorbell rings. I look through the peephole and relax immediately when I see who it is.
"Hey Bella…" Mike says, rubbing the back of his neck. "I just came to pick up my van, that's all."
"Sure, come on in."
"I'd love to hang out but I've gotta go pick up my girl, otherwise I'd...do shots with you. Oh hey Edward." Pausing as he finally takes in the tableau—my bruised boyfriend, the bowl of bloody broken glass and bullets, and then back at me and the bandages wrapped around my wrists.
He leans down, dropping his voice. "Are you okay Bella?" There's nothing remotely lascivious in Mike's tone, just genuine concern.
"I'm fine. It's not that bad. Just a scratch."
Mike isn't buying my nonchalance. He looks like he might say something else, but is carefully weighing his words.
Rose walks in and tosses the keys to Mike. "It's in the garage. Thanks." And then she walks back out.
Shaking his head, he offers me a weak smile. "If you need anything, anything at all. I'm here for you. Call me, or text. You have my number."
"Thanks Mike. I really do appreciate it. You have no idea."
"Take care of yourself girl."
I lock the door behind him. It's not even eleven yet. An early morning for Mike. He's not a bad guy. I can see why Emmett is such good friends with him. I need to go down to the police station to fill out some paperwork, but there's still a bit of time before I need to leave.
Carlisle lets out another long sigh. "Does he know too?"
"Mike? No, he's doesn't."
"That boy let you borrow his van and supplied you with enough animal tranquilizers to take down a large wolf, no questions asked."
"Yes. Twice, actually."
Edward pulls a shirt on and stands up, wincing slightly.
"Sit down!" Carlisle and I both cry out in unison.
Taken aback, he sinks down on the sofa. Carlisle looks at me, shaking his head, but a small smile playing the edge of his mouth. "You should stay off your feet for the next...just, take it easy son, if you can." Carlisle stands to leave.
"And Bella, I'd like you to come see me at my office as soon as you can. Just for my own peace of mind. Please."
"As soon as possible."
Carlisle gives me a loaded look, and I nod. I'm not thinking about that yet. He and Esme say their goodbyes, after making plans for me to stop by his office the next day.
Rose walks back into the living room, running a dry mop along the shiny wooden floors. Picking up the invisible particles of dust that only she can see. I see my grin mirrored on Edward's face. There's a lightness that wasn't there before. Something new. Hope. A future for us. The fear and the guilt that has been weighing on him all these years, keeping him separate is suddenly not there any longer. And then there's poor Alice and Jasper. It's cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless that Jasper hadn't been the one to kill her. Rosalie pushing that little swiffer seems so laughably banal in light of all that we have experienced in the past 24 hours. But nothing will prevent my roommate from performing her Sunday morning cleaning rituals.
"Have I ever told you that I love you Rosalie Hale?"
"No." She doesn't look up from where she's dusting the baseboards. "And thanks. I love you too Bella." Shooting a withering glance at Edward's bandaged feet she adds, "Edward...if you stop wearing shoes in the house I will overlook all of your werewolf baggage and let you stay."
"I never wear shoes indoors."
"I came home to muddy foot prints, all over my kitchen floor once. You'd gone running or whatever and came in through the back, and you left the door unlocked. I didn't say anything at the time because you know, cancer. I'm not a complete monster. But that sort of thing is not going to fly anymore. Especially if you're planning on staying long-term."
"Rosalie, I never wore shoes in the house. And I never leave the door unlocked."
"Bella, back me up here. Remember? It was that day that I burnt my scrambled eggs because I was so distracted and pissed off that there were disgusting footprints all over my floor? You'd just come back from seeing Esme?"
I did remember that day. Edward has his brows knitted together, shaking his head slightly.
"Are you sure it wasn't Emmett?" I ask.
"100% sure. He knows better."
"It wasn't me," Edward says.
I'd felt the sensation of being followed once or twice in the past few weeks. A stranger dipping just out of sight, train doors closing, a maybe familiar face in the distance. A slight pinprick at the edges of my consciousness, but I chalked that up to general paranoia and the weirdness that we'd been living of late.
"Banner." I say. "He was here." I knew how Banner had gotten into Esme and Carlisle's house, that stupidly irresponsible ceramic turtle in the back garden. But how could he even have figured that out? He must have been following us, monitoring Edward's condition for some time. The thought of that man in my home makes me want to throw up.
"No. I would have known if he was in the apartment. I would have smelled his scent immediately," Edward protests.
"Except you wouldn't that day because Rose burned the eggs. She had aired out the place before you got home." I'd come home to a freezing cold apartment, all the windows open despite the early spring chill, and a pissed off Rose huddled on her bed with a comforter wrapped around herself.
This new knowledge settles upon us uncomfortably. There are so many questions that I hadn't even begun to process, because there hadn't been enough time.
Thinking aloud, I say, "Banner went straight to the basement. He knew exactly where Edward was going to be. He came prepared, and at the exact right time. How could he have…"
With a jolt, Rose walks into my bedroom. We follow her, and she's poking around, moving my books, and other belongings around. I don't have too many possessions so it doesn't take long.
"What are you looking for?"
She pauses, surveying her surroundings. And then looks up. Pulling a chair from the kitchen, she stands on it and removes the grate from the air vent above our heads. I see her peeling back what looks like tape. She steps back down.
There is a small black recording device, a tiny green light indicating that it's on. She rips the battery out. Banner's been spying on us this entire time.