Fuil 'o mo chuislean
With sincerest apologies for the long delay in posting. If it helps at all I typed most of it with a broken hand. No kidding. Huge, heartfelt thank yous from me and snogs from Alistair for all of your reviews and PMs, especially those that continued to come in even though it must have looked like the story had been abandoned. I apologise to those of whose reviews I did not find the time to answer individually; I will do better! If it weren't for all of you, I would not have found the motivation to continue.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake – Auguries of Innocence
Twenty-three minutes and fourteen seconds. I was missing time, meaning that someone had decided to pay a visit. I closed and opened a fist, watching the hairs on my arm lie flat again and the muscles realign. I cracked the bones in my back as they settled and huffed in indignation. For all my unnatural long life and power, I was a puppet still, and all my wishing to the contrary would not change that. I turned my open palm upward and the possessive urge that followed my next breath made my eyes roll back in my skull.
Aye, lad, I brought ye a wee present.
On any other given day that phrase would not bode well. In this instance, I thought that my mostly silent friend had been more generous than my experience had led me to expect. Smeared on the whorls of one fingerprint was a small drop of blood. He had been busy. This was the origin of the infuriating fragrance, my sole focus as I had become aware of my surroundings. Every single human I ever had drank from, buried, or simply ignored had all been readily identifiable aromatic compositions. The blood on my fingertip did not follow these rules and it was making my head hurt. Hurt…ha! That was a sensation I'd not felt for a very long while.
'Ha' indeed. This is new. I don't like it.
"Then shut yer hole for the love of all that's holy. Do ye forget whose fault this is?" The small fern in front of me seemed unimpressed with the brutality of my demand and continued to wave insolently in the light breeze.
I closed my eyes and concentrated only on the messages being relayed to my brain by my nostrils. The vampire sense of smell can detect every individual chemical in the air, in any creature or thing. But where our prey is concerned, our senses categorise them in terms of the olfactory fusion that is peculiar to sentient creatures. Self awareness has its own unique stench.
Sentient? Have we ever smelled a dolphin?
"Be silent. I'm thinking. Damn yer hide I'm referring to humans, as well ye know."
All humans are made up of three distinct perfumes, just like a chord in music, which form the one overall scent by which we recognise them. There is the 'base', the most robust, which defines the largest and most instinctual part of the personality. The 'concomitant', determined by the things the person wished they were or strove to be, compliments the base by bringing out the best qualities of both. I vaguely remember putting salt on meat as a human, and this works no differently . The 'adiacente', the triangular opposite of both, harmonises the chord, and is a midway point describing both the person's family and to what toxins their bodies are most susceptible. This last functions to bring their scent into three dimensions, making them appear in the olfactory senses as solid rather than ephemeral. Just like humans themselves, their scents are a balance of emotion, mind and body.
Why not breasts? I like those. Why is there nae a smell just for breasts?
"I. Hate. You."
Aye. I ken that very well. The feeling isnae mutual; ye are far too entertaining.
We vampires have our own chords and harmonies, very close to what they were when we still drew breath. When we turn, the base and concomitant remain the same, but the essence of familial lines and vulnerability to substances is replaced by a much more strident component that simply announces 'vampire'. As family lines mean nothing to us and there are no substances of which we can fall foul, it makes a strange kind of sense that this is so. I do not know if the scent grows stronger or only seems to because of our heightened perceptions, but the result is the same. Even taking the call of blood into the equation, the smell of another vampire is heady and intense; our human counterparts are bland in comparison.
This blood was neither. I was not used to riddles and I felt angry at the tiny spot. I did the only thing I could do, and the one thing most in my nature. I brought my finger to my lips and took the blood onto my tongue.
Now ye are getting the idea, my young friend.
There was a cacophony of white noise somewhere but I paid it no heed. Colours turned black and then white and then nothing before floating into focus as themselves again. Though their carrier fluid was drying, the blood cells were plump and firm still, like the roe of the great sturgeon I had hunted as a man. They burst upon my tongue as it laved the roof of my mouth and the flavour registered violently in every one of my senses. Knowledge. I owned something. I needed the something and I needed to make it know that it was my thing and mine alone. The impulse jolted through my venom, racing to tell every part of my body that it must stop all others from coveting or touching what was not theirs.
My confusion lay in the fact that the scent belonging to the blood had no separate parts. Where there should be clear divisions between three aspects there were none, yet it was the headiest, most alluring scent I had ever come across. It called out to me with the strength of a thousand voices, yet it was just one, and it made no sense!
I swished the flavour around my mouth, re-catalysing the release of the scent. It announced itself in every pore; woman! it cried, no harmony, no chord. One and one only, this thing of mine, and woman it was.
I roared into the mountainside on which I lay, fists and furious cockstand sinking into soil and boulder. I could not calm, and peace was no longer a part of me. I snarled my anger at the blood which had hurt me with its submission, and at the friction boiling in my limbs as they prepared to chase down the owner of the scent. I saw the muscles of one arm begin to buckle and twist under the pressure of my anger and clenched my fist against its progress.
"No. Ye. Will. NOT." I shuddered as I waited to see if my body would obey my command. It did, and I was left to quiet away my thoughts as well as I could. This want was hurtful and desperate and led me to only one conclusion. I had heard of singers and knew them to be impossibly rare, even for the most nondescript of vampires. How strange must this human be that it should call to such as myself?
Singer ye say? Interesting…
I reached the outskirts of the town before I knew I had made the decision to leave my spot on the mountain. The sun was full upon me but my speed would have ensured that any mortal eyes would have seen only a brief flash, a star falling in the daytime. With more caution I stole along the outlying streets, slowing further when I began to register many heartbeats around me. Heartbeats were accompanied by ears, and ears by suspicions; I must be more gentle in my pursuit.
That's right, sneak around like a wee bunny, ye big jessie.
By the time I reached the paths that led to the river, the small amount of blood had stopped wreaking havoc within me, leaving only the briefest of aftershocks. I had to find its source or I would go mad with wanting it.
For once we were in agreement. That in itself was highly annoying.
It became harder to go unnoticed as I followed the maddeningly fresh scent trail down to the waterfront. Having hunted earlier I felt no need to feed, but every dawdling human grated on my nerves with their proximity to what was mine. I growled low and continuously in irritation as I approached a small building where the smell seemed to be concentrated. It was taking a great deal of effort not to kill everyone in the vicinity and I hoped there would be no-one inside, because they would not survive my arrival. With one last glance to ensure no eyes followed me into the small facilities, I ducked my head and stepped quickly through the doorless entrance.
Elvis has left the building!
I thanked no-one in particular for the lack of an occupant as every muscle in my body snapped taut as a bowstring. The scent was so many times more intense than before and my fingers crushed the tiled edge of the doorframe. I was fighting to remain upright and in possession of my wits. I could not afford to lose myself in it again, as much as I wished it. It was not difficult to see why my nostrils had been assailed so violently this time. A broken mirror was written on in a bloody script, and a smear of the same gore decorated the rim of the washbasin below. I was before them in a instant, leaning my head down to the mirror to draw as much of the scent into me as I could with one breath.
I recognised the handwriting all too well. A new feeling welled up in me, directed toward the owner of the silent voice. I was uncomfortable in its newness. For the first time in over two hundred and sixty years I felt…gratitude. My ancient passenger wisely remained silent as I reached this epiphany.
I muttered a mixture of blessings and curses under my breath as I traced the drying stains on the mirror with my fingers. They felt crusty, and I felt the loss of each miniscule flake as it sheared off the whole and was whisked into the prevailing wind from the waterfront. I wanted so much to stay here, communing with the scent. Perhaps I could…no-one could take it from me, or me from it…I could stand vigil, keeping all from finding what was mi-
Ye know better than that.
"Aye." I whispered. "I do. But what now? Not home…not…away."
Smell how fresh it is still? It cannae be far…
It was right. I had to move, and move I did. First out the entrance, then through trees, which whispered their encouragement as I passed their gnarly torsos. I reached a wooden bench on the other side of the trees and for a moment did not grasp its significance. Until I noticed the difference in the smell here.
Pain. Fear. My prize had been afraid. It had been hurt. Someone had thought to take it. A nail in the wood was dully red with the same blood I followed and held some few particles of flesh. There had been violence done here. The beast inside me unfurled itself and roared, rattling the bars of its cage. There was anger here, too, though. My prize had been angry. It had fought back. It knew even then that it belonged only to me.
"Sing for me. Tell me what happened." I crooned to the small drops of blood and tears that anointed the grass at my feet. The much larger footprints that crisscrossed the smaller, scented ones stank of something altogether different, and wholly within the realms of understanding; whisky and mould. I thought for a moment that those were simply from the garments of the owner, until I realised that this unhappy creature did in fact possess a scent comprised of these two things. The underlying family line was brutish and reminded me of a hermit who withered away his last four decades among the cliffs of my own time.
That old man washed twice a year and he smelled better than this fellow.
"Aye. But this one is about to become just as dead."
Something inside me keened as I abandoned the scent trail of my prize to follow the bog creature who offended so many parts of me. It was his unhappy fortune that he had not wandered far. More still that he chose the moment of my arrival to backhand the tiny child next to him across the face, knocking it to the ground. He turned at my snarl; it simply gawped in wonder. Then it cried out in pain and its scent reached out to me like a ray of light, pure and smelling of something innocent I couldn't describe.
Not that one. We don't hurt that one. It's important.
I didn't get as far as voicing my agreement before not-my-arm flung out not-my-hand and grabbed the child's small woollen garment. Rage. I could feel the change happening faster than I ever remembered, the shocking fuzz stood out from my limbs and I felt the hackles on my neck ripple to rearrange my hair into a spiky mane. As gently as a monster could, not-me deposited the small creature on the other side of a hedge, hearing its feet land in the soft earth of a recently turned flower bed. A growl ripped from my throat as I turned to the transgressor in the vomit coloured clothes. I was relegated to the background as my beast came out to play.
"Have fun, my friend." Was the last thought I had before a satisfying splash of red obscured vision that quickly turned black.
It didn't take a genius, or in my case a vampire, to figure out what had happened. I heard the wind rushing as Bella ran toward some unknown goal, and then her footsteps slow. It seemed strange that there would be anything that Bella was putting above her own safety at this point, until I heard her talk about a child. I looked over as Esme, who smiled knowingly at me and squeezed my hand. She was her father's daughter, certainly; Charlie's kindness and self sacrifice were as natural to her as breathing. But I had enough ego to recognise that Esme and myself had had some hand in how she turned out, too. I would take time to feel proud of her later, though; right now, feeling frightened for her would serve us both better.
"Bella, are you still there?" I heard a sniffle, thankfully accompanied by footsteps.
"Carlisle…I yes." She sobbed softly, sounding not just a little mucusy. "Carlisle I'm a…I'm an a-a-asshoooole." She wailed. The footsteps stopped. "I'm a complete, absolute, dribbling asshole. I'm so sor-"
"Yes, Bella, you're an asshole. And as much as I know you love a pity party, we don't have the goddamn time for you to stand there feeling sorry for yourself. If you don't want all the things we've been dreading these last three years to come true, I suggest you move your ass. NOW." I cringed as I shouted the last words at her. I hated myself for speaking to her so harshly, especially when I meant not a word of it, but I had to get her moving again.
I could follow her line of thought pretty well. What small wrenchings of the heart she might be feeling as she walked away from the child she'd befriended had led her to think about what she had put Esme and I through when she disappeared. The sniffling, talking and sobbing all stopped, but the footsteps started up again, more hurried than before. I scrubbed my palm over my face in equal parts relief and frustration.
"Bella, sweetheart, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that; I just needed you to start walking again. You can cry as much as you want when you're back with us again, I promise, just please don't stop walking." I heard a quiet snort on the other end of the line.
"It's OK, Carlisle. I needed that. And even if you didn't mean it, you were kinda right." She exhaled loudly. "I can do this." She sounded determined, her voice hardening. "Fifteen more minutes and I'll be there. How much can happen in fifteen minutes? Don't answer that one, Carlisle, it was rhetorical."
I remained silent as requested; I really didn't want to dwell on just how much could happen in such a short time, and I guessed that she had a good idea anyway.
"Are there people where you're walking, Bella?"
"A few. Not so many that he probably couldn't kill them all if he really wanted to get to me but enough to make it a little more work than it's worth…perhaps."
I shifted my gaze to Alice who gave me a double thumbs up and a smile.
"Bella, Alice says you're going to reach the train station with no problems. I'm going to pass the telephone to her for a moment. I need to speak to Esme and make some other calls.
"OK, Carlisle. And…thank you."
"You're welcome, sweetheart. Here's Alice."
I ushered Esme out of the room; we would need to move quickly if we were to catch up with Bella by the time she reached her destination in the South. Esme keyed a number on her 'phone and I heard the answering service for the private jet we kept on standby. I smiled; she always knew what I was thinking.
I wiped a snot-free sleeve across my face. It came away less snot-free. Would I be dead before I got the chance to do some laundry, I wondered. I'd put my chances at about fifty-fifty at this point.
"Bella." Carlisle's voice had segued straight into Alice's; damn sneaky vampires can't even make a noise handling an object that contains a microphone.
"Alice." I was out of practice smiling but the tight feeling in my cheeks was welcome even if the split lip wasn't. I felt the weight of my own failures but there was something about Alice that calmed me, that had always calmed me. "I just…I know there's a lot I have kept from you guys, and I will explain when I can, I thought…" My head wasn't keeping up with my mouth the way I had hoped it would.
"Oh, Bella." The tears in her voice told me all I needed to know about her instant forgiveness. Yup. I'm an asshole. "We'll talk, sweetie, we will, I promise. Just keep yourself safe until we can get to you and you can let it all out then."
I didn't realised I'd been holding my breath again until I let it out in a whoosh. There was a lump in my throat, not from grief, just from the emotional weight of having these conversations. I felt lighter, though, despite knowing that I'd sinned, against all of them, but against Alice possibly the most.
"Thanks, Alice. You can spank me later if I don't get squished, OK?" The giggle I got in reply was just a little dirtier than I'd expected.
"OK, but don't tell Jazz, he'll get jealous."
"Jazz wants to spank me, too? And…you're OK with that?" This felt good. This I remembered. The easy to and fro between us, laughing even when one of our lives was on the line. I heard Jasper's deep chuckle on the other end of the line.
"Alice, I'm almost there now. What do I need to do when I get there? Can you see anything right now?"
I watched the people I passed while I waited for Alice to reply. Most of them seemed to be hurrying a little. Then I realised it was me who was hurrying, making them approach and move past me quicker than their own momentum alone would have done. They all look eerily normal as they brushed past, looked in windows, talked on 'phones. The occasional dirty look was thrown my way and I wondered just how bad I actually looked.
"Bella? There are overbookings on almost every train South. They're already pulling people out of coach. You're going to have to get in there and buy a First Class ticket to London on whichever train is on platform nine. I can't see which it is because the display keeps flickering, but I know if you don't go for First Class your future gets a lot fuzzier than I'd like. Which I'm assuming means he's way too close."
"Crap. Alice how in hell am I going to afford a First Class ticket?" I sprinted down the gangway, narrowly missing one couple with rainbow coloured Mohawks who reminded me of a pair of mating angelfish.
"Use the card Carlisle gave you!" If there was a font called Duh!, Alice's voice had just used it.
"Are you kidding? They'll have me goddamn arrested! There's no way I look like I haven't stolen it." My legs were pumping now as I approached the ticket desk. I scooted into place just in front of a party of five who huffed and tutted at me.
"Nuhuh. It's on Carlisle's account. They'll call to double check. Let him handle that part. Just get ready to haul ass the second they give you the ticket."
"OK, Alice, I trust you. But shit this feels like we're cutting it close."
"What would you rather?" She sounded exasperated. "A close call or no call at all because you're missing about seven pints of something really frikkin important?"
"Good answer. Goooood answer." I flipped the cellphone closed and plunged my hand into my now open rucksack, frantically searching for the telltale shape of Carlisle's black credit card.
First try…handful of tampons…fling them on the floor before anyone notices it was me…lalala. Second try…oh crap…meat and potato pie does not make for a good hand cream. Third time…Holy Grail!
I triumphantly slapped the card down in front of the sneering ticket agent just in time to announce in a proud and happy voice.
"A First Class ticket to London on the train leaving from platform nine, please."
I had no idea an eyebrow could reach that high on its own. Were they allowed solo flights? A corner of the mouth was trying to join it as the wrinkled and liver-spotted hand swiped the card from in front of me and plunged it sadistically into the machine. Damn. That was kinda rapey. I could feel how wide my eyes were as they flicked between the card machine and the ticket agent. The beep. I hated the beep. The other eyebrow joined the first, which apparently was not allowed out on its own yet after all. One hand picked the telephone. The other pressed numbers while both eyes kept me in their steady gaze. I was impressed. Shitting myself, but impressed.
"Hello? Is that Dr Carli-"
I think even the people on platform nine heard Carlisle as he interrupted the ticket agent.
Rosie and I sped up the driveway and straight through the open front door without missing a beat. Everyone was assembled in the living area and we reached a standstill just in time to watch a livid Carlisle scream down the 'phone at some poor sumbitch.
"That is my daughter standing in front of you looking like shit. She looks like shit because she was attacked this morning. If you don't process her payment and give her her train ticket right the fuck now so she can come home, I am going to buy the company you work for, in its entirety, with the sole fucking purpose of firing you and making sure you never work again. Are we fucking clear?!"
I took a step forward and caught Jazz's eye.
"Dude. What daaaa fuck did we miss?"
Very nervous about how well received Alistair's POV will be. Please let me know if you liked or disliked it. It was difficult finding how to go about it exactly, and this was the closest I could make it to how it was in my head, but if too many of you are unhappy with it I shall try and find another way to get his dual nature across (which is as much as I can say about what's going on inside that thick head of his for now). It was also a bit on the long side, but it would have had to have been broken up to shorten it and it all happened before the timeline of Bella reaching Sophie. There will be many liberties taken with the order of time by another character later on so I didn't want to push my luck. As always, helpful criticism, even just pointing out typos, is just as valuable as positive comments.