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Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.
Well, I'm all restless but I don't care
You don't like me much, well, me neither
You go read my mind like some kind of God
You live, let's have you trippin' on the same one you lost
"Restless" – UNKLE (feat. Josh Homme)
A chill settled over me as I chased after Bella. She flew through the woods with the stunning speed of a newborn vampire, her shape seeming to melt amongst the trees. It was easy for me to keep her within sight, though, while still maintaining some distance; I knew only too well how easily she could hurt me if she felt threatened.
The others followed behind, silent but for their steps whispering over the ground and occasional murmured words. My family's thoughts were clear, however, as they worried over the possibility of getting too close to human settlements. Several of them were also wondering how long it would take for the powerful newborn in our midst to injure me.
A sinking disappointment had come over me when I realized that I still couldn't hear Bella's thoughts; the vampire change had not opened her mind to me. I worried too, if any trace of the human girl I had known remained in the figure racing before me, or if the change had simply erased Bella's persona completely. The mating urge still surged inside me, as compelling as it had ever been, and pushing me to follow her with a force that I felt sure I'd never fully understand.
Beyond my calculated thoughts, though, it was as if my emotions had been switched off, even as I observed the girl running in front of me. I could hear Bella's easy breaths as she wove around the trees, as well as her small grunt of surprise when she realized she could not shake her pursuers. The scent poured off her, the floral and orange notes intensified to staggering levels that made my breath hitch. I caught a glimpse of her stark, white face when she cast a glance behind her, and I swallowed hard to be caught in a dark-eyed glare that was fierce and alien. There was nothing warm or familiar in Bella's gaze, at all.
We ran on, the others falling into place behind me as I made subtle changes to Bella's path, repeatedly approaching on her right to carefully drive her southeast and away from more populated areas. I knew, however, that it was only a matter of time before we approached a sizeable town or city. We had to get Bella to stop before she smelled human blood; there would be no reaching her then.
"Bella," I called, making my voice soft and coaxing. Her shoulders stiffened almost imperceptibly, and though she kept moving, that small reaction prompted me to try again. "I know you're confused, but I'm not going to hurt you. Stop a minute so we can talk."
The only answer was a low growl.
"We've got you, Edward, three and nine," Jasper said quietly, slipping into the military language that he had used during his human life as a soldier. Emmett grunted softly in agreement before Jasper continued. "Carlisle and Alice at six."
I held up my hand to signal that I had heard him, never taking my eyes from the moving body ahead of us. Bella growled again, her shoulders tensing against Jasper's voice as she shot forward with renewed speed.
"On my mark," I murmured, the words hardly past my lips before I sprinted forward.
I flashed past Bella, glancing at her shocked expression before wheeling around and coming to a stop in front of her. A vicious snarl tore through the air as the newborn's steps abruptly slowed. She glared at me, her face twisting with rage and her hands balled into fists. Bella's body was taut with tension, the anger in her face increasing when the rest of the family caught up to us. They positioned themselves around her, careful to give her ample space. Jasper stood on one side and Emmett on her other, while Carlisle and Alice covered the rear with Rose and Esme close behind them.
The numbness that had fallen over me during Bella's flight disappeared as I stared at her. The vampire change had done more than refine her prettiness; it had made her strikingly beautiful. The soft curves of her teenager's face had sharpened slightly, setting off her bone structure. Her hair hung in rich waves around her pale face, and her enormous eyes glittered dangerously as she glared at me. Desire crashed through me with an intensity that left me feeling slightly sick, making me swallow hard, unsure of what to say or how to begin, or even if moving a step toward the girl would be wise. It wasn't possible to discern her eye color there in the dark, but I knew well enough what I would see when the sun rose; crimson irises, bathed in fire. In the meantime, low light or not, it was clear what was missing from Bella's gaze; any trace of recognition for me or the other vampires around her.
"Bella," I began, pressing my lips together when she snarled loudly.
The newborn's gaze flicked from me to Jasper to Emmett, and I knew she was aware of the others behind her too. Her eyes narrowed as they fell on me again, sizing me up with animal cunning. Bella's face stilled very suddenly. Her expression lost some of its heat, and her lips slackened as Jasper sent a calming wave in her direction.
"You're thirsty," I said, eager to leverage Jasper's efforts at quieting her. I spoke quietly in an attempt to be heard under what I knew was an overwhelming amount of stimulus, but those two words caught Bella's attention. Her eyes widened and her fingers twitched as she made a tiny, needy noise deep in her throat.
"It burns," she whispered.
Bella's raspy, unbearably sweet voice sent a jolt through me, forcing me to bite back a groan. Desire mixed with apprehension, flooding my body as I struggled to control myself. Whether Bella knew it or not, she needed my help; my staying calm was crucial.
"I know. You're thirsty because you need to feed. Let me show you where."
"Feed?" Bella muttered in question. "On what?"
"Blood," I replied, drawing a shaky breath. "You need fresh blood to settle your thirst."
Bella lowered her head, pinning me with her eyes as her body coiled tighter and another growl rumbled in her chest. I couldn't tell if she was angry or horrified by my words, and I held my breath, as did the others, everyone poised for an attack if the newborn turned on us. Jasper and Emmett were rigid with tension, and I knew from their thoughts that Carlisle and Alice were ready to take up for me at the slightest hint of danger.
After a long moment, Bella took one slow step toward me and then paused, watching me carefully. "Where?" Her head moved in a tiny nod as she took another careful step, clearly gauging my reaction.
Without looking away, I used my hand to gesture back the way we had come before stepping forward to close the distance between us. The newborn continued to watch me closely as I moved, her eyes never leaving mine, though she remained quiet. I drew up alongside her, maintaining some distance between our bodies before I gave her a small smile. Her lip curled in a sneer, but then a fleeting expression crossed her face, like surprise mixed with something less recognizable. I wasn't sure if the emotion was real or a result of Jasper's calming vibes, but the tension in my chest loosened by a fraction.
"I'll lead, if that's all right," I told her, grinning slightly when her lips twisted again. Inclining my head toward the woods, I murmured, "I'm sure you can keep up," before sprinting away.
I led Bella north, bearing slightly east and into the heart of the Olympic National Forest, toward the places where I knew game was abundant at that time of year. Bella was mostly silent as we ran, and though I trained my eyes forward, I felt her gaze on me often. The others followed behind, Jasper in the lead as he tried to keep Bella's emotions in check.
It wasn't long before I smelled salt and blood, mixed with undertones of mossy earth. Bella growled loudly as she caught the scent, and I fell back slightly to let her take the lead as we tracked a herd of elk; I knew better than to attempt to hunt with an hours-old newborn. We burst out of the trees into a small clearing, and Bella keened when she caught sight of the game. I slowed to a stop, letting her go on as the animals scattered.
Bella took down a large stag within seconds, draining the beast with savage swiftness before springing to her feet again. Another animal fell beneath her hands a moment later, and I closed my eyes when she let out a long groan of hungry pleasure. Watching Bella feed was both monstrous and deeply erotic. My chest tightened, a growl rumbling through me as I imagined stalking into that clearing and pushing Bella to the ground before crawling on top of her. I felt myself grow hard.
A light touch on my arm brought me out of my thoughts, making me aware of the rest of my family standing around me.
"She doesn't need any help, does she?" Alice asked wryly as we watched Bella take down a third animal.
"They never do." Carlisle stood on my other side, his voice and smile quiet, though I felt his eyes on me. "The instinct to hunt comes naturally to all of us."
"I certainly didn't have anyone around to show me at the beginning," Alice replied thoughtfully. Her expression darkened as she thought about those first, frightening days after our sire had abandoned her, but she smiled when Jasper slipped his hand in hers. "I'll always be grateful to you for finding me, Edward."
"Be grateful to Bella. She was the one that put the pieces together," I reminded my sister.
Alice rested her head against my shoulder as we turned our eyes to the newborn vampire in the meadow. I felt Alice hesitate before she spoke again, and smiled sadly as I heard the thoughts behind her next words.
"I can't see anything from Bella now," she said softly. "Not her decisions or any signs of what is to come. I know my visions are sometimes shaky but I thought ..."
Carlisle sighed. "Bella may not be capable of making decisions at the moment or ... know her own mind. The change is traumatic for the body, but it can be equally traumatic for the mind and psyche. She may need time to recover herself."
I drew in a long, shaky breath. "I'm not sure ... I'm not sure that is Bella. Not really." I shook my head as both Carlisle and Alice tried to speak. "She ran from us. From me. I thought at first that she was simply angry at me for what happened: for being taken and for being bitten. When we caught up to her, though ... Bella looked at me as if I were a stranger. There's no sign at all that she knows who I am. That she knows any of us."
"I think it's too soon to say any of those things, Edward," Carlisle said soothingly, "not when you haven't exchanged even a dozen words with her."
He frowned as he looked out at the petite figure in the meadow. Bella's movements had slowed as the extreme edge of her thirst was slaked. Though her need to feed would be urgent for some time to come, she seemed sated for the time being.
"Sometimes the thirst muddles the mind of a newborn," Carlisle said thoughtfully. "They are still becoming accustomed to so much new information, after all."
Alice asked the question that I could not bring myself to voice. "Do you think that is what's happened to Bella?"
Carlisle nodded almost reluctantly. I could see the apology in his eyes as he raised a hand to settle against the nape of my neck to comfort me. "It's possible. There's no telling what may happen as Bella settles into this new version of herself."
Though I tried to force it down, hope bloomed inside me, tightening my chest and making my throat ache. Before I could reply, a movement from the meadow caught my eye. Bella had finished feeding and turned her attention back to us. To me.
The pressure in my chest intensified almost to the point of pain when Bella's gaze locked with mine. She walked toward us gracefully, her eyes passing over our faces with cautious interest. Blood from the kills had splashed over her lips, chin, and throat, soaking into the neckline of her shirt. There was gore on her hands and sleeves, and her jeans were torn from her struggles with the elk.
She was a mess.
She was stunning.
"How do you feel?" I asked, when she drew close, then swallowed past the lump that had risen in my throat.
"Better." Bella's voice was smooth with the blood she'd drunk. "I'm thirsty, even after all that. My throat is ... it still burns."
"The thirst will continue for a while," I replied. "Your body will crave more blood in the beginning."
"Do you feed too?" she asked, her eyes moving again over the vampires around me.
"Yes. We are all like you." I felt light-headed with relief that Bella seemed both coherent and self-aware, and heard similar thoughts from Carlisle and the others. Her mind appeared capable enough; what remained of her memory was less certain. "We don't need to feed as often, now."
Bella cocked her head then, watching me closely. "What ... am I?"
"You're a vampire," I replied simply. Everyone stilled, waiting for her to react in some way as my words hung in the air.
Her gaze sharpened, as if she was trying to find a lie in my expression or voice, but she was silent and seemed unfazed. My stomach grew heavy with dread at the realization that Bella either didn't understand what had happened to her or, perhaps worse, didn't care.
"We can tell you about what's happened," I said hoarsely. "How you became the way you are."
The newborn cocked her head as she watched me. "You called me Bella. I think I know that name. It feels ... right."
"Your name is Isabella Marie Swan," I replied with a smile. "People call you Bella."
"Yes," she said, nodding as she seemed to turn the words over in her head. "Who are you?" she asked thoughtfully, watching me closely. "I feel as though ... do I know you?"
I nodded miserably, forcing myself to smile once more in the face of her crushing words. "Yes, you know me. My name is Edward Cullen."
She frowned, her gaze moving down and to the left as she appeared to try to remember. At last she met my eyes again and gave a small shrug. "I'm not sure ..."
Alice's grip on my arm tightened, and I nodded dumbly, unable to speak. That final confirmation that the girl I loved did not know me—wasn't really even there inside the graceful creature standing before me—was excruciating.
"That's all right." My sister's silvery voice floated gently in the air as she let go of my arm and took a single step forward. Alice smiled sweetly when Bella's expression softened. "You'll just have to get to know us all over again, Bella. I'm Alice."
Bella acclimated to her new life with unsettling ease.
From those first moments in the hidden meadow, she hunted more than competently, and quickly learned to do so as part of our group. We showed her how to conceal her kills and why, and spent time talking with her about the reasons that our family chose to hunt animals rather than humans. Alice took Bella under her wing, rebuilding the friendship they'd had as best she could. Jasper, Emmett, and Rosalie taught Bella how to fight and hunt larger game, while Esme and Carlisle gave her an understanding of the history of our kind.
I surprised no one by having a harder time accepting what had happened to Bella, though I tried to keep my feelings from her as much as possible; Bella couldn't help who she was, after all. Over and over, I reminded myself that she was essentially a blank slate, open to learning whatever was brought to her attention.
Without memories of her years as a human, Bella was amazingly serene. She exhibited little confusion or fear at the sudden change in her life, and felt no anger or resentment at being forced to walk away from the people she had known in Forks. So while Carlisle and the others told Bella the histories of our kind and family, I told her as much as I knew of the girl she had been before the universe crossed our paths and changed our lives forever. Bella listened with interest and some curiosity, sometimes asking questions about a particular person or place, but nothing I said sparked recognition in her eyes. To her, the stories about her life were simply that: stories about a slim, dark-haired girl with the same name. Bella didn't miss her family or friends, and was not distressed by the idea of their suffering for having lost her; she didn't know them enough to even begin to care.
The same could not be said of Charlie Swan and Bella's other family, however; I knew they were still deep in mourning for his daughter's apparent death.
"Why do you put yourself through this?" Rosalie asked after I had returned from making a call to Bella's father. "It's hard enough on you with Bella being ... the way she is." Rosalie waved her hand vaguely at a nearby copse of trees where Jasper was sparring with the newborn. "You could stop calling her father at this point."
"I know." I rubbed the back of my neck with one hand, nodding at Bella when she turned to look at us askance; the mention of her name always got her attention, no matter how quiet we tried to be.
"Walk away, Edward." Rosalie's voice dropped to a murmur, and I had to look away from the sympathy I saw in my sister's eyes. "No one would blame you. You've been kind to Bella's family through this, but you can let it go now. They will move on with time; humans always do."
"Stop beating yourself up for what happened. What's done is done." Rosalie rubbed her fingers over my forearm to soften her words.
I turned to meet Rosalie's gaze and managed a smile. "I just think it's wrong not to give Bella some idea of what she was before ... or rather who she was. Even if she doesn't remember that life, now or ever, she has a right to know where she came from."
Beyond the fringes of Bella's sheltered existence, things returned to some semblance of normal. Carlisle and Esme went to work and made appearances at the house in Port Angeles, coming back to the forest during their off hours. After several weeks, Bella's behavior had evened out sufficiently enough for the family to consider moving her from Washington to the house in Montana. As easy as it was to stay buried deep in the forest as we were, Carlisle and I worried about her proximity to her human relatives and friends; even Alice and Jasper gifts would be of no help if Bella somehow found her way back to Forks.
Jasper and Emmett took responsibility for planning the move to Montana, and we all did our best to calm Bella when she appeared uncharacteristically unsure about making the trip.
"Are you sure I can do this?" she asked me one evening.
I turned to meet her questioning gaze without hiding my own surprise; Bella normally went to Carlisle and Jasper with her questions. "Yes, of course I think you can, Bella. Jasper, Emmett, and Alice are going to take you east through the forests and past Mount Rainier. Once Rosalie meets you with the car, you'll be ... away from any tempting scents." She grinned shyly at my teasing.
"You'll be travelling at night, when there are fewer cars on the road, and it shouldn't take more than five hours to make it to the house in Montana." I shrugged and gave her an easy smile. "If you need to hunt midway through the trip, you can always get out and keep moving east through the mountain; there's more than enough space where you can lose yourself and still find game."
Bella nodded, and then licked her lips nervously, looking away for a moment before meeting my eyes again. "And you? You're going to meet us there at some point?"
I frowned and opened my mouth to speak, closing it again when Bella ploughed own.
"It's just that I know you're not happy that I'm here," she said in a rush, her crimson eyes flashing with rare high emotion. "I've been watching you and you seem sad and even angry. I feel as though you'd rather not be here."
"That's not it at all," I protested gently, wincing at the idea that had formed in Bella's head. Seeing a frown cross her lovely face sent pain lancing through me. "I'm not at all unhappy that you're here, Bella. Quite the opposite, in fact; I couldn't have wished for anything better than for you to be here with us, safe and doing well."
"But you miss the old Bella," she said, sympathy shining in her eyes. "The one who knew who she was. The Bella that you said ... you loved."
My breath hitched at her words. I closed my eyes for a moment to gather myself.
"I miss the Bella who knew who I was, yes," I admitted when I could speak. She looked surprised when I chuckled. "And I do grieve for the girl you used to be, because she was something else. I have never met anyone who drove me crazier than you did on your worst days as a human girl, Bella."
Bella snickered and seemed to relax. "So it's better that I'm like this, right? I mean, at least I'm not nearly as annoying on my worst day."
"You're just as amazing this way as you were in your human form," I said with a genuine smile. "Different, but even more wonderful. I'm enjoying getting to know you again."
"Why don't you just come with us then?" she asked, her brow puckering in confusion. "What's the big errand you have to do that's taking you away from me?"
A pang shot through me at Bella's possessive words. "I'm going to Forks. Your parents are holding a memorial for you and I told your father that I would be there."
"You'd do that for him?" she asked softly, a pained expression passing over her face. "From what you've said you hardly know him."
"I don't know him very well," I agreed, "but I'm certain he loves you. So do your mom and step-dad, and your friends. You can't be there, obviously, and I can't tell them what really happened to you. I can go to offer them some kind of comfort in your place, though. It's not much, but ..."
Bella shook her head and blew out a long breath. "It's more than a lot of people would do, Edward. You're a good person."
"No, I'm not," I began, holding up a hand when she tried to argue.
"He's not," Emmett tossed out casually as he walked by, breaking the spell. "Edward's a red-headed creeper geek; just be thankful he can't hear what you're thinking, the way he can the rest of us."
Bella was laughing as I chased my brother into the woods, his war whoops echoing through the air.
The Montana house was empty when I let myself in the door later that week. I wasn't worried though, because the scents of the others hung heavy in the air, particular notes of orange blossom and freesia jumping out at me immediately. I stood in the entryway for a moment, listening to the silence and watching the red rays of the setting sun play over the big room before me. The trip to Forks had been more draining than I had anticipated, and I welcomed a moment to myself, away from the others and the tangle of emotions that overcame me every time I looked at Bella.
I moved through the ground floor, going at once to the music room where I sat at the upright piano to think about the days during which Bella and I had been separated. While she had been open to the fragile friendship developing between us, my feelings for her had not changed; I loved and desired her as deeply as I had before her change. Being around her and fully aware that she no longer returned my feelings was frustrating and saddening, and I often hung back, letting the others interact with her while I nursed my grief and covered it with smiles.
My body ached for her with unrelenting intensity while I was away, but I had missed simply being around her, too, listening to her husky voice asking questions with an endearing innocence. Thanks to texts from Rosalie and Alice, I knew the trip East from Washington had gone well. I felt sure that Bella would be happy in Montana for the foreseeable future ... or until she decided to go off on her own.
Closing my eyes against that unhappy thought, I lifted the key cover and laid my fingers on the keys. I drew a deep breath and let my hands move, letting the music form without real thought or intent. Notes poured out of me, filling my body and soothing the melancholy I'd been feeling for weeks. I climbed inside the notes, rendered weightless and soaring, feeling as though I would burst with the sound. The music rolled over and through me, crushing me even as it lifted me high.
Time passed, though I didn't mark how much. At some point, I felt-more than heard-someone enter the room and come to stand by the side of the piano. I kept my eyes closed, chasing the feeling of oblivion inside the notes for a little longer. When I finally did look up, my chest tightened at the sight of Bella watching me, her beautiful eyes wide and slightly awed. Gradually, I let my hands slow, the music becoming softer as the song came to an end, until the last notes melted away into silence.
"I remember you, Edward," Bella whispered.
You didn't really think I'd leave it at Bella not remembering, did you? C'mon now. Hehe ;)
Thanks for reading and sticking with me. Seriously. I say it often, but vampfic fans are some of the most committed and patient I've ever run across. I'll be back with the last chapter soon. No, really, I mean to be back as soon as I can get the last chapter together.
I collaborated with Discordia81 again on an entry for the LDA contest - link on my profile. Today is the last day to vote, but you can always read ;)
My entry for the Happily Ever After Twific Contest, The Beach House, is up on the TwiFanfictionRecs Top Ten Completed Fics for April 2013. Squeeeeee ;) Info on my profile. Go vote for your fave completed fic.