So, this is an outtake from Edward's head that was originally part of the last chapter, however it would have made the chapter very long, and was slowing the action down so it was suggested that it be cut and posted as an outtake (thanks Alby!).
It's (mostly) been betaed, and for that I thank Liz, Alby and Annette – such wonderful generous women.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns it all.
This outtake follows on from the last chapter - Edward waits on the outskirts of Seattle with Rosalie and Emmett for Jasper and Alice to come…
~ Edward ~
We stand immobile through the slow passing night, a trio of alabaster statues unblinking in the gloom. Backs to each other and senses alive, we wait in the woods for Napoleon to return from Elba, for Jasper to come back to us from his barren and frigid exile.
There's nothing to do with the time, but think. Rosalie and Emmett stand so close that their thoughts crowd in on me, and together they push Bella to the background. It's an unusual place for her to be and, at first, I don't fight it. I find myself willing, for the moment, to allow them to fill these empty hours of waiting.
Emmett's mind is calm. His senses tell him there's no immediate danger to us and so, with his pure and beautiful simplicity, he feels no need to be afraid. He doesn't know what tomorrow will bring, and so it holds no fear for him. He trusts Alice's vision more thoroughly than even she does, certain that it will deliver the happy ending Alice has foreseen. He passes the time by thinking of Rosalie, his mind rolling lazily around disjointed memories of her. Rosalie in a pink dress as she danced with him in the woods in Europe, Rosalie on a white bed gazing over her shoulder as he knelt behind her, Rosalie singing softly to him as he mourned the death of his human mother, singing the mountain songs he knew as a child and feeling his pain, he was sure, as acutely as he did.
A cold hand clutches at my stomach and my heart, the familiar longing to have someone – Bella – look at me like that, sing to me like that. All the fear that Emmett has discarded as useless comes to dwell in me, adds its stony weight to my own fear, and I push Bella away, unable to bear thinking of her just now.
My own thoughts amplify, drowning out theirs.
Come, Jasper, come.
What do those vampires have planned for Bella? Why does the red one send a human girl to spy on her, to gather knowledge? They want her blood, but how do they plan to get it? And when?
Please come soon, Jasper, please please please …
I lean a little closer to Rosalie, brush ever so lightly against her, so that her thoughts drown out my own. Her mind is an echo of mine, seldom a restful place to be. She does not, on this night, roll out the hard ball of guilt that lives within her. She doesn't draw it out to be polished much at all anymore, as she so often used to do. The sharp barbs of accusation she silently aimed so particularly at Carlisle when she was first changed have dulled with the passing of time, and the coming of Emmett.
Carlisle was never as oblivious to her feelings as she thought him to be, was in fact acutely aware of her helpless devastation at being drawn unwillingly into this strange afterlife. He carries his own guilt from his actions all those years ago, realizing too late that summoning love from flesh and bones wasn't routine alchemy, as he'd thought. Giddy with the newness of his love for Esme, and sure of success again, he tried to manufacture love between Rosalie and I where it could never exist. There was no spark between us, as there had been between Esme and him before he changed her, and Rosalie happened upon love on her own.
Emmett changed everything, and Rosalie's strident, if unspoken, accusations at Carlisle of changing her without her consent melted away as she begged Carlisle to do exactly that to Emmett. Her relief at discovering that Emmett loves this life, and loves her with a joy and purity that don't allow regret and blame to flourish, is immense, but as long as I remain on my own, the cold ball of guilt remains.
Unlike Emmett, Rosalie thinks of tomorrow and wonders what the day might bring. She and Carlisle are the only two of our family who've never killed for human blood, and it surprised us all – and Rosalie most of all - when she was almost overcome with thirst for Charlie Swan's blood. His rich earthy scent licked at her throat like fire when she faced him in the meadow, and her certainty that she could never be tempted by a human was replaced with an unwelcome understanding of what it is to truly be tempted. She understands better than she would ever have thought possible how the red one could thirst so acutely for the Swan blood, and the knowledge fuels her fears for Bella, and for me.
As the minutes and the hours pass by, Rosalie's mind eventually slows and drifts. She's almost drowsy, almost serene, thinking only of Emmett now, of his joy when he ranges through the woods around Forks, and how he loves her exactly as she's always wished to be loved, undemanding and accepting. How she tries, in her turn, to love him the same way. How she's never quite sure she succeeds.
My mountain man, she thinks, and the thought is meant for him alone.
I close them both out, visit with Alice's vision for a few moments, and then fling my senses outwards, like casting a net to the sea. I search for scents and minds both known and unknown to me, search for two pairs of vampires. I seek the red-eyed vampires I saw in Bree Tanner's mind, alert in case we are discovered prematurely and Jasper's requirement of surprise is lost, and search even more intently for Jasper and Alice, who must surely – surely – be close now.
There's nothing in these woods that shouldn't be here though, other than Rosalie, Emmett and me.
I push my mind further, stretching and clawing by inches, searching now, not for a scent or a thought, but for a feeling. A feeling that can only come from Jasper.
There's an aura surrounding him that's irresistible and compelling, a blend of emotion that radiates from him in waves and is made up of things he never thought would be his. Love and belonging, acceptance and peace, but chief among them – the part that truly brings us to our knees – is Jasper's wonder. It's a breathtaking thing, an outpouring of emotion so pure and pristine that it sometimes feels holy to me, for Jasper's wonder is not only that the love of our family exists, but that it exists for him.
Even if we couldn't feel it, we'd know it just the same, for Jasper is yet to call one of us to our faces by name. We are, in turn, mother, father, sister, brother, lover. He calls us what we are to him, miracles and saviours from the desolate existence that ended when Alice found him, and they, together, found us.
Jasper has an appeal that no one else does, and it's a bitter irony that people are drawn to him like lemmings to the sea, when he's the least capable of having them near. He's very careful always of keeping a safe distance from humans, but this time it was his own family who drove him away. He absorbed the intensity day after day of my thirst for Bella's blood, and Rosalie's for Charlie Swan, and it soon became more than he could bear. We nearly drove him insane with it, and worse, very nearly drove him to hunt for human blood once more, to kill when he has sworn he will never, ever weaken again.
Bella is the most real, the most alive, is truly a three dimensional entity only to Esme and I, but each one of my family has followed each step of Bella's odyssey to the meadow, to me. To us. They want her for me, and for themselves, but it's Jasper who wants her the most.
He feels my loneliness acutely, not just because of his gift, but because he once knew it himself. He knows what it tastes like, is familiar with the bitter ache and the hopeless yearning. He feels my desperation, feels the carefully disguised panic that I take such care to conceal from my family and from Bella.
Jasper's obsession with Alice's vision rivals my own, and the weight of his need for Alice to be right caused such a crisis of confidence in Alice, caused her to question her own gift so often and so profoundly that Alice came close to a breakdown. Alone in the Alaskan tundra, with only Jasper to dilute her intensity, Alice soon spun wildly out of control.
We've been unable to solve the riddle of why Alice is able to see her vision of the meadow, and no other part of the future. Why should that sliver of time be visible when nothing else involving Bella or the Quileute is? Acutely aware of Jasper's need for her vision to come to pass, she began searching the future relentlessly, trying endlessly to break through the black haze that shrouds the future. But there was nothing there but Bella and I in the meadow.
It makes no sense, and Alice began to question herself. She became completely fixated with her vision, felt the pressure of bringing it to bear more acutely than ever before, and her obsession summoned demons that she'd long hoped were banished forever. Fear took her over. Hazy memories of her human life came into sharper focus, memories of a life spent locked behind thick walls where madness reigned, and she began to question her sanity. Was her vision real, or had she manufactured it?
Alice became preoccupied with the jewellery that Bella wears in the meadow, jewellery Bella did not yet possess. How could her vision come to pass without it? The vagaries of the timing of her vision – does it take place this summer or next, or the one after that? Alice is never sure – were of no comfort to her. Bella must have the jewellery now, must be tied to the future and anchored to Alice's vision with it.
But it couldn't be found.
She searched every store in Anchorage, leaving Jasper alone with his reawakened thirst for human blood as much as she dared. She scoured the internet, had Esme and Rosalie looking everywhere for it, too. She drew the earrings and the ring over and over again, as if she could summon them into being if only she could draw them perfectly, was almost ready to try and make them herself, when she stumbled across a market stall near Anchorage. There sat a tribal elder, a wizened old silversmith, and when he unrolled his worn leather pouch to show her his wares, there were the very items Alice had been searching for.
Vindicated and relieved beyond words, the sun broke through the clouds and Alice's weary mind rested at last. Now Bella is tied to Alice's vision with those little slivers of silver jewellery, and Alice is calm once more. She holds her vision of the meadow close and sacred, wanting it desperately for me, for herself, for all of us, but wanting it most of all for Jasper. It will bring him another to call sister, and it will mean we can all be together again.
I've kept all this from Bella. I have no doubt that she can cope with the complicated personalities, with the dramas, both real and imagined, that plague my family. Indeed, one day soon she will have to learn to cope with them, but in the meantime, I have no wish to add to the burdens she already carries. It's a load comparable in heft and girth to Alice's flirtation with madness, with Jasper's battle to resist human blood, with Rosalie and Carlisle's guilt, with my love for her.
At just seventeen, she's questioning the validity of her relationships with her parents, coming to terms with her discovery of the supernatural world, with her father's role in this world, searching for the truth about her blood, saying goodbye to her beloved grandmother forever, grappling with the vast concepts of immortality and eternity, preparing to leave her family to join another, wondering if, when, who she'll kill. It's more than one person should have to bear, and I won't burden her more than I have to.
Soft moonlight falls upon we three shadows as we wait out the night, and I grow weary of my family. With no sign yet of Jasper and Alice, there's only Bella left to think of, and she comes to me now, like a wisp of mist slipping through the pre-dawn gloom. She melts into my skin and bones, and I let her, welcome her home. Rosalie and Emmett recede until they might as well be trees or rocks, for all that their thoughts intrude.
Bella will be denied no longer, and all I can think of now, is her.
It's hard to believe that it was just last night that Bella declared herself to me, that it was just last night that I backed her up against that wall, that I touched her as I've longed to, while she held me steady with her eyes. I left her sleeping restlessly in her bed just before dawn yesterday. I'd pushed myself to the outer limits of my control as I drank in the sight of her sleeping, the gentle sighs and aching moans, the feel of her in my arms, her scent. I could no longer bear the sound of my name falling from her lips, couldn't take another second of it. I kissed her forehead while she lay sleeping, kissed the dried and brittle orange blossom that she keeps under her pillow, and left her there to dream.
I took the forest before me, racing for distance before I lost all control. I hunted first, in such a state of disarray that I could not recall now, for anything in the world, the species of animal that I tore apart.
There would be time later to marvel at her declaration to me, to wonder at the miracle of her love, and her desire to be changed even without Alice's vision. But first, there were other less lofty feelings to deal with. The woods were no church to me this morning, no place for quiet repose and gentle reflection. They were a place where my wild wanting could be unleashed and tamed, at least for a time. I threw the shackles off, laid myself bare to the woods, and just remembered.
I relived it all this morning, how my endless fantasies began to be real, how I conquered the bloodlust enough to touch her. I felt it all as I leaned against an ancient tree; felt the curve below her ribcage, the swell of her hips, feminine and beautiful beneath my hand. How her leg slid up mine and wrapped around my hip, how she held me trapped and helpless. The shiver of her skin as I touched her, the slick heat and sweet fragrance, the shape of her mouth when she moaned my name, how her heart flew and her back arched and God, how much I want her. I turned to lean against the bark, frantic for her, driven to the edge of madness by my love for her.
And when I imagined it was her hand on me, and not mine, I was gone and done for, unhinged in the dirt. Bella's name was whispered to the earth and moaned to the red dawn sky.
The scent of her still on my hand.
To be joined that way.
My God, this girl.
I plunged into the river and swam for miles in water frigid from the spring thaw, colder even than my own skin, until I was finally calm enough to return home.
Esme was waiting for me there, as she is each morning, a quiet figure in the garden picking the pink and yellow flowers that Carlisle so loves. She wore her old straw hat and her worn leather gardening gloves, familiar props in the theater of her life, a place inhabited not by the children she once craved, but instead by the cardboard cut-out replicas of humanity that we sometimes, for her sake, pretend to be.
I went straight to my piano and began to play for her, to let her know I was home safe and that all was well.
The piano keys rose and fell beneath my fingers in an echo of Bella's breathing, the tempo of the notes in tandem with her heartbeat, sometimes so strong in my memory it feels as though my own heart has sprung to life again. The melody rang clear and true through the joyous haze of what had passed between us, through the dream of Alice's vision, the ivory keys coming to life beneath my fingers just as Bella did last night. I played for Esme and for myself, a winsome and wordless tune, elusive and haunting, while Esme arranged the flowers and waited for Carlisle to come home.
I could never stay away for long though.
The music ignited my need to be close to Bella once more, and I took up my place beyond the tree line near her school, as I always do. I took a book with me, something to pass the time while Bella was in class and not really in anyone's thoughts. I drew a little and read a little, trying to gather the scattered fragments of my concentration and shape them into something worthwhile.
Nothing but Bella could hold my attention this morning though, and Eliot's poetry was nothing but words on a page, black smudges with no meaning and no magic. I put the book aside and lay on a bed of pine needles, thinking of Bella until my chest hurt.
Bella's smile and thoughtful brown eyes hovered over me, a beautiful hologram shimmering just out of reach, just as her mysterious mind always does. She is Venus to me, Juliet and Aphrodite, Ishtar following me to the Underworld, and it struck me, as I lay there, that while my love for her - that broad and eternal thing – hadn't been enough to conquer my bloodlust, her love for me had been. It was her love, not mine, that gave me the strength to touch her, to overcome one form of lust with another and to finally reach for her the way I've longed to.
The morning drifted slowly by in an iridescent green haze, rays of golden sunlight dancing through the trees and the trill of birdsong far in the distance, until the lunchtime bell rang in the school below. It has become a part of my daily routine to leave Bella's gift in her truck once the lunchbreak is over, but I hadn't looked for a gift for her in the forest this morning. I had the book though, and while I probed the minds of the children spilling into the schoolyard for a glimpse of Bella, Eliot's words leapt at me.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
He wrote of time and its stealthy march toward the only ending there can ever be, and my heart soared. Not for Bella, I thought. Not for me. I've cheated death and so will she, and impatient sparks of energy snapped through my body. I was on my feet and pacing, wanting just to begin. We could go anywhere, Bella and I, see everything and be anyone, see it all and do it all together. Bella, bright as a comet with me trailing behind her, adoring and inferior, as she explores the world, cities and villages, deserts and frozen wastelands, the depths of the oceans and the highest peaks, nothing out of reach.
I can imagine no greater happiness than being a witness to her discovery of it all, to see the wonder in her eyes as her world expands into limitless, endless possibility, and when she grows weary of it and wants to be still, I'll do that too. I'll travel the world or sit quietly beside her, wherever she chooses to be.
~~~ O ~~~
I thought I would tell her everything.
It would have been so easy to lure her in anyway, even without the truth as bait. A vampire set on seducing a human will always succeed, and once a human is in the sexual thrall of one such as me, there's no end to what they will do for you. It wasn't a thing I'd ever done before, but despite my diet, despite my efforts to deny my nature, I am what I am. Blood and sex, the domains of the vampire, controlled by one and controlling with the other. To have a human girl, especially one as innocent as Bella, infatuated with me would take no more than a look, a touch, cool lips and knowing words. She'd do my bidding if I chose to have her do it. But even back then, before her father taught me what it is to love and Bella showed me how, I had some scruples.
Or do I give myself too much credit; was it scruples or was it ambivalence?
My family seek refuge in each other to beat back the bloodlust. Sex is the physical expression of love for their mate, as it is sometimes with humans, but it's a mask too. A distraction. Each member of my family buries the torment deep within the one they love, obscuring the thirst long enough and often enough to make it through.
There were times before Bella when I sought the same distraction with others of our kind, when long legs wrapped around me were all that held me together. There was little pleasure to be gained from it for me, but I sought it out sometimes just the same. A sexual encounter spent trying to block the thoughts of one's conquest until those brief mindless moments overcome them is hardly a satisfactory diversion but sometimes, when the craving for human blood became too much, it was enough.
Bella, the beautiful vampire in Alice's vision, held some appeal for me. The human Bella I first discovered in Forks did not. She wouldn't really exist for me in any meaningful way until she was changed, and at first I couldn't imagine how or why she'd come to be a vampire at all. My family had always seen my ability to read minds as a gift, but to me it was a curse that stole the joy from sex and made love impossible.
Bella's human state was a complication no one had foreseen, not even Alice, as was the existence of the Quileute and their supernatural powers. I could not, back then, imagine the vampiric Bella to be anything more than another brief sexual conquest, and it was my family who convinced me to pursue Bella when I would rather have turned away. It seemed to me to be a situation that required more effort than I was prepared to make just for the reward of that moment in the meadow, until Alice made me really look.
Look at the vision again, Edward, look at your eyes.
When I looked closer, I barely recognized myself in that meadow, lying with this lovely stranger.
There's something about her that's different from the rest, Edward. Look at your eyes. You're in love with her. Somehow, it happens. Go to her.
The Quileute were a minor obstacle, easy to manipulate. I saw it all in the human mind of Harry Clearwater the first time I ever went to the meadow; Charlie Swan, his daughter, and the blood that sings to us all.
The best lies always hold a grain of truth, and we told Harry we could help his tribe against the red one, if she ever returned, but we'd need to get used to Bella's blood as well as her father's. If something happened to the father, we'd need the daughter's blood to help us fight with the Quileute, to help overcome the red one. Bring Charlie Swan to the meadow so we can meet him, but we'll also want access to his daughter, we said.
It was such a thin ruse, but Harry Clearwater would have agreed to almost anything to keep us around. He needed us to keep his tribe triggering to phase, and I knew it would make a kind of sense to him. He's a bitter man with an extremely narrow focus, terrified of death and seeing the world only as it pertains to his tribe. A man looking through a telescope is easy to sneak up on, and we had everything we needed from him in no time. We met Charlie Swan in the meadow, negotiating a worthless treaty to keep them all happy, and I began to follow his daughter.
And when I did, everything changed.
The first time I saw Bella Swan was in Port Angeles when I saved her from that van, and even from across the street I could smell her. I wanted to drain her even before the scent of her blood from that tiny cut on her hand invaded my senses. Maybe I would have, except that over the scream of her blood, beneath the alluring pulse in her throat, through the wailing of the bloodthirsty beast in my head imploring me to just take her, there was… nothing.
The miracle of her silent mind.
I tested her mind in that store in Forks, barely daring to believe it was possible.
But it was.
So it began.
The whole world opened up for me with the realization that there could be a meaningful future for me with this girl. Any thought of a heartless seduction evaporated and I probed and pondered her father's mind in the meadow looking for clues to a purer beginning. How could this human girl allow me in, give herself to me, allow me to turn her? Intrigued and hopeful, it was her father who gave me what I needed.
Bella knew nothing of the supernatural world. Her father had steadfastly protected her from it, was in fact obsessed with keeping her innocent. But she was suspicious and curious, he knew that, and it worried him.
She wanted to know the truth.
It would be so easy to make a gift of it for her. Tied up in my gleaming smile and knowing eyes, I'd offer her the glittering prize she'd be unable to resist, the biggest weapon in my arsenal, an arrow straight to her heart.
You want to know everything, Bella Swan? Well, here it is. I'm giving it to you. Look, Bella, look at all the things he's kept from you.
Half in love with her already, infatuated with the mere idea of a companion who could choose which of her thoughts were known to me, I'd make her an offering of the knowledge she craved. I would make her love me.
But time and again, the Swan family conspired to confound me.
This time, it was her father who set me on a different path.
I've never spent much time in a particular human mind. I've had no need, nor any wish to. I flit in and out, checking that my family is safe from suspicion when we're masquerading as humans. The rest is just incessant white noise. Even during the years of my sullen, deadly adolescence, I never stayed long in the minds of my victims. Just long enough to pass judgement before delivering my particular brand of punishment.
The human mind has seemed to me to be a place of petty ideas and small thoughts, self indulgent and self conscious. Repetitive and dull. People, as a rule, do not surprise me.
But Charlie Swan did.
Here was a man consumed with love for his wife and daughter, a man so committed to protecting his only child from the threat of physical harm, from the knowledge that there could even be a threat, that he gave up half a lifetime with the woman he loves. And even when his wife and daughter returned to him, he lived resigned to his daughter's suspicions of him, made no move to dissuade her from her incorrect assumptions if it meant she'd look no further for the truth.
He thought of his wife and daughter, of their needs and their safety, before he thought of his own, in a way that my family have never had to.
I expected to love his daughter, but I never expected to have such respect and admiration for him.
Someone more noble than me might still have walked away, but Alice's vision was still there, unchanged, and the long nights at Bella's window began.
There were times I slipped up. Times when the vampire had more to say than the man, times when I said things to Bella that I shouldn't have, but with time I became better at it. I drew Bella a thousand different ways while I sat in that room with her, taming the beast a little more with every stroke. If Charlie Swan could live without his love for nearly two decades, I could make some sacrifices for mine. Still, there were times when even Alice's vision wasn't enough, when her blood sang to me so clear and so true that it was only her father who saved her.
I used him in the meadow in more ways than one. I drank in his scent, desperately hoping that familiarity with his blood might help me to resist hers. It was Jasper's suggestion, and it helped a little. Although the call from each of them is different, Charlie's rich, earthy scent the perfect foil to the sweet purity of Bella's blood, the nature of the torment is the same.
But it was inhabiting his mind that was so often the only difference between life and death for Bella. It was seeing what human love can mean, what it looks like and feels like, but more than that, it was seeing his daughter through a father's clear eyes, instead of through my bloodthirsty ones.
The letters and drawings she sent her father every week of her life, the drawing he kept on the fridge of the way she always wanted her family to be. Bella forging out a relationship with her grandmother despite the distance between them, her determination to love an old woman who was almost a stranger to her, her awareness that she was taken from Charlie's mother, just as much as she was taken from him.
Bella leaving the only home she'd ever known without question or protest so that her parents could be together, her joy at being with her father once more, at seeing her mother so happy.
He showed me that Bella was worth the torment, worth the wait and the risks. He showed me the goodness of her heart when all I could see was blood. He led me on a far different path than I would otherwise have taken.
Someday I'll tell Charlie Swan that time and again he did what he'd always wanted to do.
He protected his daughter from a bloodthirsty vampire.
He saved her from me.
He's the reason I've never told Bella the truth about the role of her and her father in this shadowy underworld. He's a man, just a man, a small and weak thing in a powerful world he has no business being in, trying desperately to control a situation that is, at best, only half known to him. He might as well be trying to put out the sun.
I'll take his daughter away, but I've vowed to leave him with something more than just the certain knowledge of her safety in return.
Bella and her mother once spoke bitter words of dignity and love, how the loss of one diminishes the other. Every time the wolf howls and I climb through Bella's window, I steal a little more of Charlie Swan's dignity away, but I've vowed to make a gift of whatever tattered scraps remain. It's not much, no more than a threadbare fragment, but when the time comes – fast approaching now – for Bella to learn the truth, it will be his to tell.
The night slowly lifts in the woods near Seattle, like a curtain rising to reveal a softly lit stage. Rosalie, Emmett and I wait quietly in the wings for Jasper to come, afraid to speak or to act lest we get our lines wrong. We wait with patience stretched as thin as a high note on a violin, wait for our director to take up his place beyond the orchestra pit, to lead us where he may.
And far away in Forks, far less the ingénue now than her father would wish her to be, the star in this dangerous and deadly show, the lead in every dream and fantasy I have, sleeps softly in her bed.
~ O ~
Thank you so very much for reading.
Peace & love to all xxxx