AN: This was co-written with Moojuicey. WARNING: graphic depictions of violence and sexual violence.

Disclaimer: All recognizable elements contained herein belong to their respective owners.

Case Number: CA 01/23/78/3462

Incident: Homicide

Reporting Officer: Detective Edward Masen

Date of Report: 23 January 1978

At 1040 hours on 23 January, I received a call from dispatch to report to a crime scene where pregnant Teresa Wallin, 22, was found shot, stabbed, mutilated, and disemboweled. I spoke with several neighbors who verify that Teresa was home alone for most of the day. There are no signs of forcible entry. Teresa was shot three times, raped, stabbed with a butcher knife, several of her organs and one of her nipples were removed, and dog feces collected from the yard were placed inside her mouth and throat.

S/Edward Masen

That was just one of the seven reports he'd filed. This case was disgusting. The investigation turned up endless evidence against this sick sonafabitch, and there's still a possibility he'll get a cushy cell in SQ?

Edward returns his gaze to the article to read under the byline:

Sacramento, Calif. (AP) – The "vampire killer," who drank the blood of some of his six victims, deserves to die in San Quentin's gas chamber for his crimes, says the jury that convicted him. But Superior Judge John Schatz, who set sentencing for June 8, is not bound to impose the death penalty on Richard Chase, as decided Thursday by the eight-woman, four-man panel. The judge could sentence Chase to life in prison without possibility of parole. The jury last week found the burly, 28-year-old Chase guilty of the 1978 Sacramento murders and deliberated for 4 ½ hours in the penalty phase. The trial site was moved because of pretrial publicity.

The murders took place almost three years ago, but he can still remember every detail. The things Chase did to those people-to people Edward loved-he could never forget. Being Lead Detective on the case meant that Edward saw every disturbing image, talked to the families of every victim, and watched while She was carried away from the scene of Her death. He still has nightmares.

Like the one last night...

She smells like strawberries and cream. That scent drives him mad with desire, every day. So does seeing her behind in those tight little jeans she's wearing. It's just before dawn, and as she unlocks the shooting range's heavy entrance door, he can still see the moisture lingering in her hair. He wonders if she thinks of him when she showers, whether she wishes those beautiful fingers tracing a path across her toned stomach were his own. She does wish it, he thinks. They've been dancing, he knows, to this same beat for so long.

"Good morning, Detective Masen. Ready for another round?"

Bella doesn't turn to face him, but she makes no effort to hide the smirk in her voice. That smirk that she offers every day, it says to him, 'one day, sir, one day soon, we'll dance to something new…'

"Isabella, rest assured that I'm always eager for more of you," he replies, knowing full well that today is not the day for a new dance.

He hasn't worked up the courage to ask her on a proper date yet, so the verbal foreplay will continue indefinitely. But oh, how he fantasizes…

He follows Bella into her office, where she checks him in and hands him his standby: the Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-automatic and an extra magazine. He likes a gun that can carry more cartridges than the .45, it makes him feel more powerful. Transfixed, he stares at her mouth licking and biting at that fat bottom lip of hers as she makes her usual playful comment about the size of his weapon.

She turns, throwing that long feathered hair behind her and bathing him in that berry-and-dairy scent again. He's left to practice, a pair of noise-cancelling earphones and a target already prepared at his normal station. She works magic somehow, his Bella.

He aims and shoots, but never runs empty. He's got a seemingly endless supply of cartridges in those two magazines and the sweat on his brow leads him to wonder how long he's been toiling… The clock says he's been here only ten minutes, but that can't be right. Bella's sitting a few stations down, following his movements with sultry eyes, but no, she went back to her office hours ago. That skirt is lethal, he thinks. He wonders how he missed that when he came in. Surely she wouldn't begrudge him a little staring at those long, long legs.

She pushes off from her perch, and those legs are coming toward him, slower than slow, and he swears he hears a little moan from her unmoving lips as his eyes climb to that skirt again. Lethal. And now those lips are coming toward him, and she settles her bottom in front of him, next to that still-full 9mm magazine, and her fingers and lips and breasts and legs and breath and heat and want are all over his body and

"…dance with me, Edward…"

and her lips don't form those words but she's sure as shit the one who whispered them, he sees the letters in those doe eyes, and the strawberries and cream are demanding he drop to his knees, so he does.

The milk-white cream is there, all over her thighs. His tongue is jealous as his eyes feast on it. He pushes her thighs wide and whispers, "be a good girl, strawberry, and lay back for me…" At first, he sees pretty white lace obstructing the view between her thighs, but just as he wishes it were gone, it is. She's still focused on him, and she still moans without moving her mouth, and he dives tongue-first into her pink flesh. His gun is laying off to Bella's side, long forgotten in the furor of their new dance.

"I have to find the strawberries, Bella. I found the cream… where are the strawberries?" he wonders aloud, and she smirks that smirk of hers once her top disappears. Where's the skirt gone? It was just here, tucked around her hips, but it, too, is gone wherever her clothes went, but he can't bring himself to care because there are the strawberries all red and pink and ripe and crisp and just resting on the tips of Bella's beautiful breasts, waiting for a nice little bite and so he obliges…

He's imagined this moment for such a long time, wondering when they'd stop just flirting, and she tastes as sweet as he'd expected. She writhes beneath him on the king bed in his apartment, but that's not right, his bed is only a full size… but nothing distracts him from her strawberries—pink, puckered, and wet from his tongue and teeth. Finally, his clothes have gone wherever hers have gone, but he doesn't want to race to any finish line; he wants more of that sweet cream.

Edward takes his time, brushing his nose across her abdomen and the soft hair at her mons, wanting to make sure her anticipation is as great as his. Now, her mouth and body move in sync—she lifts her knees into the air and lets them fall to the side. He wonders if she realizes she's whispering, "lower, please, lower" again and again like a prayer. Edward is a merciful God, so he answers that prayer with a single long and languorous lick from her perineum up to her clit, where he stops to lavish some attention. Around and around his head is spinning, but no, that's his tongue drawing circles on her clit, drawing out both her soft music and his cream treasure.

It seems to him that the rougher he dives, the higher she climbs; his thumb traces the frantic heartbeat thumping away in her femoral artery, and he wonders just how rough she likes it…

And suddenly, he can't keep his mouth away from her heart's beautiful rhythm set in her thigh, so his fingers take over his mouth's work on her clit… he can feel the heat and life rushing through her… the blood just under the surface of her flesh thump thump thump thump thump thump thump

"…taste me, Edward…"

and again, her lips aren't moving, but her body is and before he can wonder why he does it, he sinks his suddenly razor-sharp teeth right into thatthump thump thump thump thump thumping.

He cuts through her pliant flesh and stills when he feels her artery split beneath his teeth. The blood, oh God, the blood is warm and sticky and it coats his suddenly parched throat… he's forgotten the strawberries and cream, they matter nothing now that he's discovered this hidden treasure beneath her skin…

The blood seems endless, the supply limitless, his stomach bottomless. At first, she seems lost in the pleasure, writhing and throwing off heat and music, but no, she's thrashing and sweating and screaming but that turns him on just as much as the moans and he can't control his grip and his strength is more than he's ever known and when he hears the crack of her femur under his thumb, he smiles, wild in his frenzy.

He pulls on the blood harder, desperate to empty her veins just as he was desperate to empty her cunt only moments ago. But her sex is the last thing on his mind now; now he wants all the rest she has to give…

Either his ears are rushing too loudly with her blood or she has mercifully quieted her screams; either way, all that matters is he hears nothing from her mouth, and her body is finally still under his heavy weight and he can take from her as he pleases…

Moments, or maybe hours later (he has had some trouble keeping the time), he disentangles his fingers from her flesh and unhinges his jaw from her mangled leg and surveys the destruction, finally sated. His chin and her naked body are covered in the crimson blood that missed his mouth as he spilled it. What a waste, he thinks; it was so inconsiderate of him… She was so sweet to offer it all, and he has the audacity to waste it? Determined, he retraces his steps and lovingly tongues the mess they made…

He feels some emotion he can't name, no, several emotions he can't name, because if he names them they will have no more power… it's word magic… With Bella, he's created blood magic older than words.

His eyes and his tongue journey up from her leg to breast, where her nipple, too, bleeds from his bite… He moves his stare to her lips, unmoving and now nearly white where they were pink with gloss when he came to the range this morning. But it's dusk, and time must have drained them of color, yes, that's what time does, drain things of color… But he looks now to her eyes, and they seem silent, but wait, he feels more alive now than ever, why isn't she the same? They learned a new dance together, and he found the strawberries and…

But her eyes are silent, and her lungs silent, and her body silent, and then he remembers the blood corrupting his stomach and retches wretched all over her body, where it was once pink and now, his thirst has drained the pink and his stomach empties all the red and oh god is she dead?

Every night Edward dreams about Her flirting, the banter, and the moment when everything spins on its axis. She is the object of his uncontrollably destructive desire. In his dreams he wants Her body, yes, but he also wants Her blood, Her pulse, Her life. He wants it all.

But he can't have any of it. He isn't worthy, never was. He was too late and he fucked up. Missed something somewhere. What did he miss?

Every day he faces himself in the early morning light. He brews coffee, reads the paper, and smokes four Camels before heading to the shooting range and then to work. Every day he is a dead man walking.

"…Earlier this week, the jury found Chase was sane when he did away with his victims, who included a pregnant woman and two children. He had pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

Psychiatrists testified Chase had a persecution complex and delusions, and was driven to drink the blood of some of his victims in the belief he would be 'cleansed.'

Evidence in the case linked Chase to a grisly string of murders that started with the random shooting of Ambrose Griffin, 51. Shortly afterward, the shot and disemboweled body of Teresa Wallin, was found. His other victims were Evelyn Miroth, 36, and her 6-year-old son Jason; Mrs. Miroth's friend, Daniel Meredith, 52; Mrs. Miroth's 22-month-old nephew, David Ferriera, who had been decapitated; and Isabella Swan, 24, daughter of Sacramento Chief of Police Charles Swan."

Edward continues reading the Bee with clenched fists and bloody knuckles. Last night's sparring match at James's gym left him battered and bruised, but not sated.

When he arrives to the homicide division, he filters through stacks of shit paperwork, drinks more coffee, and swallows Tums. Emmett, his partner, tries to alleviate the tension with jokes and general good humor.

"Man..." Emmett slumps into his desk chair, sipping his coffee and chuckling low and soft. "I'd hate to see the other guy."

"What?" Edward looks up from the report he's typing, confusion covering his face.

"Your face." Emmett pokes a pinky in Edward's direction before setting his coffee cup to the side of some papers on top of his desk. "What, did you go without headgear again?"

Emmett shakes his head and laughs softly, not expecting an answer. Which is fine because Edward rolls his eyes and ignores Emmett's mocking jab. Emmett is harmless, and Edward has bigger fish to fry.

But Edward did go without headgear again. He also went without gloves. He and James usually fight without protection. Nothing stands in his way, and he can feel everything. He wants to feel it all.

"Hey, Ed." Emmett tosses a wad of paper at Edward's face. "You should come over for dinner next week. Rosie'll make that Beef Stroganoff you like so much, yeah?"

"Sure." Edward shrugs and doesn't look Emmett in the eye because he's got to stay focused, keep his eye on the prize. Which means waiting patiently for the day he gets to watch that motherfucker die in the gas chamber. And survive the goddamned dreams...

As the Bob Seger tune comes to an end, Edward drums out the last few notes with his fingertips on the Skyhawk's steering wheel, waiting for Bella's beat-up red Chevy to lumber into the shooting range's parking lot. She seems to be running a little late this morning, but he's the only one who comes in this early, so it doesn't matter much. At least this way he can watch her climb from her truck with a different vantage point.

It's still balmy out, though the night is long over; Bella's windows are rolled down, and he can hear the soft strains of Paul Simon drifting toward him on the breeze. As she approaches, she smiles at him through her sing-along and he can't help but fix on her lips as they form the lyrics.

He walks to her truck as she pulls it into her parking spot. Though she turns off the engine, she stays put in her seat and secures his gaze with a smirk and continues to sing, "I know a man who came from my hometown."

Chuckling, he joins her in the next line, which he knows is his awful truth: "He wore his passion for his woman like a thorny crown."

He doesn't normally listen to Paul Simon much, but he may have listened to a few tracks when he discovered her affinity for the songwriter…

He pulls the door of her truck open for her and helps her climb from the cab when she finally says hello.

"Good morning, Detective Masen. Ready to make some noise?" she asks.

"As always, Isabella. I love to make noise with you. Though I like to think of it as making music…" he replies, punctuating the sentiment with a kiss on the back of her hand before he releases it.

When they reach her office, he can tell she's a bit agitated: paperwork of some kind litters the top of her desk, and she takes a bit longer than normal to find her bearings and get him checked in. He wishes there were something he could do to lighten her load—he knows that the paperwork and sitting behind a desk so much get to her on some days. Were it not for her father, he suspects she'd be on the force too—the man is infamously against allowing her in dangerous situations.

Not that Edward wants it any other way; no, Bella would certainly attract the most dangerous of situations were she given a beat. And Edward just wouldn't be able to live with the stress of constantly wondering what she'd gotten herself into if he weren't with her.

He can't help but dwell on her and her obvious stress as he loads his 9mm as usual. He gets in a good hour of noise, and is sad when he realizes that she hasn't found a moment to leave her office for a break yet. His gun empty and his heart heavy for her, he enters the office to check out.

And there she is, elbows resting on the paperwork, palms pressed to her eyes, nursing what looks like a headache. Detective McCarty, booming too loudly for this hour of the morning, bursts into the office to check in for his daily practice. Edward tries to signal him to be quieter, to move with some respect for Bella's obvious ailment, but it is in vain.

"Bella baby!" he bellows, again much too loudly, and he finally notices her wince at his volume. "What's wrong sweetheart? Headache?"

"Just stress, Detective," she replies, terse. Edward wishes he could hear the familiar lilt in her voice, but she must be to be short with Emmett.

"Aww, baby, if you need some stress relief you know I'm always available for you," Emmett's has transformed into a smooth motherfucker now, apparently, and throws her a wink to cap it off. His new demeanor irritates Edward immeasurably, and he doesn't wait any longer to toss his partner from the room unceremoniously.

"Enough, dipshit. Go shoot," Edward commands, earning himself one of Emmett's middle fingers and a chuckle from Bella. Now they're on the right track. How to draw that music again? He sets his gun down on her desk, the spent magazines beside it. She thanks him with a short smile, closes her eyes, and tries to massage her own shoulders.

"Wow, you really are having trouble today. Can I help at all?" He figures this isn't the time for flirting, so he goes with genuine concern instead, which pays off as she allows him to replace her hands with his own. He sweeps her soft pile of hair to one side and kneads her shoulders and neck through her shirt, and finds courage somewhere…

"You should undo a few buttons on your blouse so I can get to your shoulders more easily…" he prompts her. She makes no effort to move, but hums in agreement. Assuming this is perhaps an invitation, he reaches down from behind her and unbuttons several slowly, waiting for her to protest… but she doesn't protest… when his fingers skim over her exposed flesh, she hums in pleasure again, so he continues… Not wanting to press his luck just yet, he continues working out the knots in her shoulders, her arms, her neck, and her upper back, speeding and slowing to the rhythm and tone of her moans and he wonders if she would sound the same if he were inside her and oh god the view of her chest rising and falling in her pretty yellow bra and her thighs pressed together and that strawberry soap scent coming off her and he just can't take any more, he has to touch her and so he drops his fingertips to the swells of her breasts and his lips to her neck…

"…mmm, Edward…"

"…that's it… make music for me, Bella…"

and her hands are gripping the arms of her chair and she's moving her thighs back and forth, the corduroy vibrating at the friction…

Desperate for more music, Edward picks her up out of the chair and lays her back over the unfinished paperwork littering her desk and wrests the cords and bra from her. She's naked and spread before him, her hair fanned behind her like water, a floating halo of chocolate and caramel… he climbs up on the desk with her, and his clothes have gone wherever they went and he's waited so long to sink into her and seeing her knuckles, white from the pressure of gripping the sides of the desk sends his control on the wind like his clothing and he plunges himself deep inside her warmth… sure enough, she makes that same music she did when he put fingers to muscles, and he finds himself quite keen to encourage the melody…

He uses his fingers again to massage her calves and thighs until his patience isn't enough to keep him from grabbing anything within reaching distance to gain leverage… one hand closes on the warm wood above Bella's head, and the other closes around a metal cylinder to her left side…

"…I love your body, Bella… it sings for me…"

And her eyes meet his, and they ask, "How does your kind define love, Edward?"

Same as all bodies… same as everywheres…

"…love is sacrifice…"

He laments it as her eyes shut, and he tightens his grip to combat his grief at losing them but watches her hair float above her and her strawberry pink lips open and shut around her cries and he can't help himself, the pleasure is too much, he pounds harder and faster into her, feeding off her melody, adding a harmony… His vice grip tightens again and again, imitating the tightness in his stomach and on his cock and much too soon the tightness erupts into fireworks all over the desk in her office… but no, that wasn't fireworks, that was his gun… but wait a minute, he emptied that gun into that target it was empty he saw to it there were no more bullets the magazines were all spent…

The recoil sent the gun to the floor, but the shell is still on the desk, next to her head… and her hair is still a floating chocolate halo, but now it's floating in the blood spilling from her… And it's blood and warmth and music escaping all over the desk… over the check-in log and the munitions checklist and a letter she was writing to her mother and his hands and knees and it's all ruined and she's ruined and it's all his fault, and there's no way to undo that song, it's far too late now, her mouth and eyes are already closed.

Edward is called into Charlie's office on a Friday afternoon. He can only assume that his grace period with Charlie is finally over, and Charlie has decided to dole out the punishment he deserves.

"Detective Masen," Jessica calls from across the room as she drops her phone receiver back into its cradle. "Chief wants to see you in his office."

Edward nods, tosses his pen to the pile of papers, and unfolds his lanky frame from his desk in the center of the precinct. Emmett eyes him curiously as he makes his way to Chief Swan's office.

Charlie is standing behind his desk, looking out the window, hands in his pockets. As Edward enters the room, Charlie turns to greet him, gesturing to a chair in front of him, "Have a seat, son."

Edward sits and pulls his crumpled pack of cigarettes from the breast pocket of his blue button down. He lights the cigarette and offers a smoke to Charlie, who waves him off only to grab his own pack of Marlboro's.

"I ain't gonna beat around the bush here." Charlie exhales his first drag, and it rolls from his mustache like smoke from a dragon's snout. "You got me worried."

Charlie's glare is unadorned and without apology. He silently tells Edward that this conversation will be brief, that it will have its desired effect, and that Edward's innate wishes are of no concern at the moment.

"And why is that, exactly?" Edward inhales deeply from his cigarette and brings a leg up to rest his ankle on one swollen knee as he fidgets with the cuff of his pant leg.

Does Charlie have some kind of Sci-Fi Brain Reader or something? Does he know about the dreams Edward's been having these past several months? No, he couldn't. Because if he did, he'd be beating Edward senseless right now instead of claiming to be "worried."

"You're not fit for duty," Charlie grumbles and exhales again. "You haven't slept in weeks. You can't get any skinnier. And not to be a Chief of Police cliché, but you're no good to me like this."

Edward drags a hand through his hair. Maybe he should tell Charlie about the dreams that make him restless at night and reckless during the day. But no, Edward knows he's done enough damage. He doesn't need to rub salt in the wounds.

"That case… that sick fuck… took a toll on your… mental well-being." Charlie sneers as he studies his big, meaty hands and the lit Marlboro that is clenched between two of his fingers. "You're taking a Leave of Absence, Masen. Effective immediately."

Charlie and Edward have bond forged from horror and blood. The Vampire of Sacramento has a way of bringing people together. And even though Edward deserves a thrashing, Charlie sends him on vacation.

Edward has nowhere to go for vacation since he has no family or friends of his own. But he doesn't argue. He doesn't say that in his mind he seduces and destroys Charlie's only daughter, and that She asks for it with hips and lips. Nor does he tell him that She is berries-and-cream and sex in his dreams. Of course, She's never been more to him. Why repent for it now?

"Yes, Sir." Edward's voice is rough as he exhales his last puff of smoke and stubs out his Camel in the tin tray on Charlie's desk. "I will be more than compliant."

"Yes, you will." Charlie drills holes into the empty place where Edward's soul would dwell if he had one. "And I ordered up a few sessions with that shrink, Esme Cullen."

Edward doesn't argue, and he doesn't confess. He nods in agreement, and his trained mouth says things like "Sir" and "Yes, Sir" when Charlie gives him detailed instruction on his time off and subsequent sessions for analysis.

"Just get what you need from your desk," Charlie grunts and tosses his used cigarette into a Styrofoam cup of day-old coffee before gulping down the last of a fresh cup. "Everything else'll be here when you get back."

No, Edward doesn't argue, and he doesn't ask "why." He simply nods again and stands, walking toward the door.

"Get some rest, kid, and a shower," Charlie mutters from behind him. "You look like shit."

Emmett watches with barely restrained curiosity as Edward crams a few personal items into the pockets of his sport coat. Jessica files her nails and snaps her gum, cradling her phone between her ear and her shoulder; she's whispering and Edward isn't egotistical enough to think that she's whispering about him.

"Hey, man." Emmett follows Edward out the door of the precinct and down the stairs to where Edward's silver Buick is parked on the street. "What'd he say?"

Edward briefly wonders why it matters what Charlie said. He wonders if Emmett really wants to know the answer or if he just doesn't know what else to ask. Edward thinks about hitting something to ease the confusion and the tension.

"He told me to take some time off," Edward answers as he tosses his jacket across the backseat of the Skyhawk. "And you don't argue with the Chief."

"No, you don't!" Emmett chuckles and smacks Edward on the back. "You gonna be all right, man? Gonna get some rest? Those dreams have been fucking with your head. Maybe try some pills? Doctor prescribed, of course."

Edward concedes that he just needs some rest and says that he'll see a doctor about his sleeping habits during his time off from the force.

"This has been a rough case for us all," Edward says, gracefully angling into the vehicle and sliding his keys into the ignition.

Emmett knows what he means as he pats the top of Edward's car and watches him pull out of his parking space and head to the gym for another round with James.

On Monday morning, Edward prepares for his first session with Dr. Cullen. He goes about his daily ritual as if it were any other day-coffee, cigarettes, and the Bee. After skimming the headlines and squelching a burning desire to punch the shit out of the neighbor's lawnmower, Edward folds the paper and finishes his coffee. He doesn't need to finish reading the stories; he is intimately acquainted with the every last detail.

He stops at the Shell station on Embarcadero to buy a pack of smokes and a small coffee before making his way to the offices of Dr. Esme Cullen. He hasn't told Emmett, or anyone else for that matter, that he's seeing a psychiatrist. Everyone already thinks he's a fucking head case; he doesn't need to give them any ammunition.

Dr. Cullen's office is filled with plants and natural light. The sound in her private office is static from a white noise maker by the door. She strides across her office floor with an outstretched hand, as Edward enters.

"Edward," she says in greeting. They shake hands and Edward smiles faintly. "Please come in. Make yourself comfortable. I see you have coffee already."

Edward nods and pulls a cigarette from his pack. He asks for Esme's permission to smoke and she answers by grinning and delicately tapping a home-rolled cigarette from an etched, silver holder.

"Why don't we start with what brings you here today, Edward?"

Edward doesn't know what to say. Does he confess to murder? Failure? What exactly is he guilty of? And is Dr. Cullen his confessor now?

"I was ordered by my boss to be here." Edward exhales and glances about the room noticing tribal masks mounted on the walls as well as several tapestries and prints that appear to be African in origin.

"Yes." Dr. Cullen nods. "But you could have refused. Why did you agree to be here?"

"I could have refused, yes." Edward scoffs. "And then I wouldn't have a job."

"Do you like your job?"

"Sure. Who doesn't?"

"Lots of people. My husband doesn't always like his job. I don't always like mine. If you were to answer that you loved your job one hundred percent of the time, I'd think we definitely had a problem here."

Edward likes Dr. Cullen.

He spends the next several weeks talking about his failure. Esme, as she has asked him to call her, is open and earthy. Edward is certain that she will be appalled by his sins, but she simply listens. She doesn't judge him. He tells Esme how he had forsaken the sweet, innocent girl whom he could never earn enough to deserve. He tells her about his dreams of blood and sex. He tells her that the dreams all begin and end the same. But the middle-the sex-is always just a tiny bit varied. He doesn't dwell on that, though. It's just a side effect of his work, isn't it?

"Tell me how you feel when you wake up from these dreams," Esme says with a gentle an steady voice.

"Like I'm trespassing," he answers immediately and simply. "I don't deserve to think about Her at all, let alone… like that."

Dr. Cullen nods, pursing her lips, "What do you think you do deserve, Edward?"

What does he deserve? That's a loaded question. He deserves scorn, to be rebuked, hated, banished. He wishes he could fall into a dreamless sleep and never wake up, no one recalling his existence.

"I don't deserve anything." His voice is quiet, restrained; underneath, a current of rage flows strong and deep. He doesn't even believe that he deserves the nightly beatings from James that allow him a moment of respite.

But there is no way around it, by the dream's end, She has been violated and betrayed by his lustful, destructive hand. If he could just take it back…

"You said that it's your fault," Dr. Cullen prompts him. "Tell me more about it being your fault."

How could it not be his fault? Every time he looks at Her-Her skin, Her hair, Her… lips-his thoughts are never anything less than covetous. His actions fly under the guise of protecting Her, keeping Her safe. But he's only ever objectified Her, hasn't he? The way he thinks about Her, the way he treats Her, in his dreams is… wrong. She should be revered, honored. Not defiled and brutalized.

"I lost focus," Edward exhales nicotine smoke. "I… dropped the ball. I was late."

"Edward, until you accept that you are not the only one in charge, the dreams will continue."

Edward doesn't really understand why he should be pardoned the dreams, they're the least punishment he should be forced to endure. He'd take it all, if She'd just come back. But She never does. He's always too late.

Edward rests his elbows against the concrete and finishes a smoke before Bella shows up at the shooting range. He's early, for once, and Emmett is sleeping in, as usual. The sun has yet to make its appearance, but that's OK with Edward. He'd rather see Bella's light than the sun's any day of the week.

He would never admit it, but that's why he comes to the range so early every day. To see her. To smell her. To be with her, first thing in the morning. Well, maybe he'll tell her one day. One day when they stop playing and start playing. Probably not today.

"Good morning, Detective Masen. Ready to test your weapon again today?" Bella asks with a playful smirk and a twinkle in her eye.

He watches as she twists her foot, stamping out the last of her Virginia Slim on the asphalt. His morning is immediately better, the playful jibe at his 'weapon' aside.

"Well, Isabella, practice does make perfect when it comes to handling dangerous objects," he replies, wondering whether his wit will ever match hers. Probably not, he thinks. She's always been better at playing this game than he has.

Some days, she shoots in the station next to him; he always finds it more difficult to concentrate on those days. Today is, of course, one of those days.

She pulls her hair high up on her head with some contraption, dons her earphones and protective eyewear, attaches a target, and loads her gun. He's already sporting wood, watching her finesse.

This is why he loves her—she's fun and funny and knows her way around cops and their guns. She's tough as hell, but somehow she isn't jaded from all the horror she must hear from the detectives who come through here. And she can handle Edward. He just wishes she would handle him already.

After a few reloads, he finds his attention (and eyes) wandering, as usual, to her. And her behind in those jeans. To his great surprise, she seems just as distracted.

Normally, Bella is the picture of focus when she has a weapon in her hands. She picked the .45 today, but she's eyeing his 9mm every few minutes with a quizzical look in her eye. When he catches her at it, she flushes pink and takes a bite out of her bottom lip, which does not help his focus at all.

"…I want to play a new game, Edward…"

And oh, he's waited so long to hear her say that, but it was only her eyes that did… somehow, that doesn't matter much at the moment…

He moves back to give her some room to stand in front of him. He hands her the Smith & Wesson, wondering where her sudden curiosity originated.

Nuzzling her neck a bit, because he just can help himself, he speaks. "Bella, I know you know how to fire each and every one of the weapons in that cage… Why the sudden interest in my 9mm?"

Normally, he'd leave it alone. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, they always say. But today, this moment, he has some unknown store of confidence and some strange faith that his attention will be well received. Luckily he's right, and she plays along…

Turning to offer her profile, her lips two inches from his own, she answers,

"…I know exactly how I would handle your gun Edward. I want you to show me how you handle it…"

With another sultry glance at him, she turns her neck back to him and waits, he supposes, for his hands to find hers and show her how he would fire.

He takes his time (what seems, to him, like several minutes, though the clock disagrees) to caress her shoulders and work the tension from her arms before placing his hands over hers…

"You need a firm grip, but not a tight one… your body should be loose, but your mind focused…anchor your right hand with your left, letting your right index finger rest on the trigger…find your target, and hold yourself steady for several moments…and then squeeze" (he held this word out for a few moments, reveling in her heavy breathing as she, too, imagined other games they could play pressed this tightly together) "the trigger."

Once she fires her shot, he watches as she lays the gun down on the counter in front of her and turns to face him with blazing eyes. He can't think as she grabs his neck and pulls his lips to hers and her mouth is warm and wet and open and her tongue is insistent and dominant and needy and oh god she tastes like strawberries, but that's not possible, when did Virginia Slims start making a strawberry cigarette? He should write to thank them, because she tastes like heaven.

He leans her back a bit, expecting to fall toward the counter, but no, there's his bed again, and so she's heaven on a cloud now…and he's God, devouring His angel of beautiful games…tickling and nibbling at each bit of flesh as he exposes it, and his angel of play laughs and returns the favor, and before he realizes, this undressing game is over though he wishes they could do it again and again and again

"…show me again, Edward…"

He grabs both her arms, obliging. Securing them above her head in only one of his hands, he smiles mischievously,

"with a firm grip, I anchor your right and left hands in my left…"

He takes a moment to drag his eyes up and down her naked body, stopping once at the wetness between her legs, already driving him insane, and once again at her nipples, already tight with desire. Unable to resist making them wet and pink and swollen to match both sets of her lips, he swirls his tongue around each in turn. Satisfied with her moans when they reach his ears, he whispers,

"my body is loose, but my mind singularly focused…"

Wanting her free to keep moaning, he instead focuses on her neck while he continues the 'lesson'. He realizes that he can take away his hands from hers now, because a simple rope now binds them to a bedpost, but that's not right, he doesn't own rope…but if it means he can use both hands on her 'trigger'…

His hands trace a path down her torso, teasing her nipples and her belly button and that soft patch of skin just inside her thigh and there are those moans he was waiting for…

Her neck is supple and succulent and he wants to touch it, but he's singularly focused, showing her just how he wants to handle her. So instead, he moves his fingers to her wet sex, two on his left probing just inside and starting a slow rhythm to drive her as insane as he, and two on his right finding her clit but not moving just yet. To explain, he offers, " I'm letting my right index finger rest on the trigger while I find my target…" and then he begins to move his fingers, slippery from the liquid seeping from between her legs, "holding myself steady for several moments…" and he listens to the timbre of her cries as it climbs…he holds himself and his rhythm steady as she loses control…and just as he feels her body lose rhythm all together in her ecstasy, he moves to "squeeeeeeeze the trigger… " and he squeezes her clit and her eyes and her cunt shut tight and her mouth opens in a silent scream and oh god she is coming so hard on his fingers and he can't wait to play this game again and again and again…

He moves his attention to her mouth and her neck again, allowing her some time to catch her breath. He can feel her heartbeat slow, and he is transfixed by it. She makes her own rules, her own rhythm, and he wants to play his game with both…

and so when she says, through unmoving lips again,

"…play that game with me again, Edward…"

he decides there's no reason not to change the rules. Her ankles are also roped to the lower bedposts now, which will make this game easier, he thinks. He replaces his lips at her throat with his hands and restarts his new game… "Anchor the right hand with the left…" and he does so. He moves his thumbs to rest on her esophagus, explaining, " let your thumbs rest on the trigger now. Hold yourself steady for a few moments…"

And she seems to understand how he's changed the rules of the game, but thankfully, her screams are still silent…

"…and squeeeeeeze the trigger…"

and he can feel her windpipe collapse under his pressure and there's the heartbeat he felt earlier and now he controls it…

thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump

thump thump thump thump thump thump

thump thump thump

thump thumpthump

thump

...

thump

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...

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thump

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...

...

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...

...

...

He removes his hands from her beautiful neck, and notices that his bedside clock once again tells him that the day is gone. Outside the window, the light corroborates the night… and her eyes, once his twinkling sunlight, aren't glowing bright anymore… his hands stole the light and stole the beat of her heart, but he can feel his own, frantic anew from his too-tight grip, as though it was adding her beat to his... and she offered him some, but he stole the rest and now it's crawling inside him, his heart is beating another's rhythm and though it's his Bella's, it still doesn't belong to him and there's no way he can give it back now, is there?

It's the day after Christmas, and Chase is still rotting in jail. That judge did end up sentencing the SOB to die in the gas chamber. He can't wait for that day, to watch him die for his sins against his beautiful girl.

Edward heads to Charlie's, even though he told the chief that he had other plans. It only seems right. Charlie has Sue to celebrate with, a family, but Edward wants to pay his respects. Not that he expects anything in return.

Esme has helped him with that—being able to accept the things he cannot change. Some things are beyond his control.

"Merry Christmas, Edward!" Sue greets him at the door. "We're so glad you could make it!"

She welcomes him with open arms. Charlie is in front of the television watching football season highlights. Edward accepts a beer from Sue and takes a seat on the couch. The Raiders were up against the Oilers on the 28th in the first playoff game.

"Dinner in fifteen minutes, guys."

"Real glad you could make it, Edward." Charlie holds up a can of PBR to toast Edward.

"Merry Christmas, Charlie."

They sit in silence until dinner, when Edward and Charlie both tell Sue what a magnificent ham she's cooked. Of course, they both remember the ham from three years ago as the best either of them had ever eaten. After dinner, Sue cleans up the kitchen while Charlie and Edward sit and sip scotch on the all-season porch.

"Sue's a good woman, Charlie. Too good for you," he chuckles.

Edward is kidding and they both know it. Charlie still tells him where he can go in no uncertain terms before changing the subject to something less lighthearted.

"You know," Charlie takes a drag off his cigarette, never taking his eye off Edward. "You should think about finding a gal yourself."

Edward shifts uncomfortably in his seat. This conversation feels blasphemous, especially since he's yards from Her room and Her bed.

"Jesus, Charlie…"

"Edward, don't think for a minute that I don't feel the devastation every single day. Make no mistake, I'm still lost without her. But she was my daughter, and my relationship with Sue has helped me move on. But you… it's been almost three years. You need to think about yourself."

Edward starts when the phone rings, interrupting their sacrilege. They hear Sue's voice answer in the kitchen, then the padding of her feet as she brings the receiver to Charlie, the long cord trailing behind her.

"He asked for Chief Swan," Sue whispers with one hand over the mouthpiece.

Charlie takes it and grunts a hello.

"This is Chief Swan. Mmmhmm… Mmhm."

He eyes Edward a few times and continues to grumble into the phone.

"I see. Well, we'll be there as soon as we can."

"What?" Edward asks, eyes dry from staring inblinking at Charlie so intensely.

"Chase is dead. They found his body this morning. They want us there to verify documents, procedures..."

Edward can see that Charlie is speaking, but can't hear the words coming out of his mouth. All he hears is a low buzz, likely his anger and desperation clouding his aural ability. Edward nods at random moments, only understanding that he's about to see Chase, the man responsible for all terrible things he has to face now, dead. He's not sure he's ready for this—Edward has been waiting for this moment, thinking he'd have a front row seat to this man's death, and it was stolen from him. He only knows to follow Charlie out the door, to the car, and it seems only moments have passed when he finds they've arrived outside the fortress. Tunnel vision guides Edward along the unholy walls.

They found his body this morning. Did an inmate kill him? Suicide? Whatever the circumstance, Edward hopes it was painful. That Chase suffere—that it was bloody and merciless.

He'd made Her suffer. He'd left Her in a pool of blood. He was inhumane, and if only Edward's car hadn't broken down that morning, if he had just shown up on time like usual…

If he thought seeing Chase dead would somehow bring him closure or satisfaction, Edward was wrong. Looking into his cell, he only found disappointment and death staring back at him. Edward tried to stare at Chase and feel glad the bastard was dead, but he was overcome by his realization that, even if Chase was dead, it didn't make Her any less gone from him.

The warden spoke. "Other prisoners have been trying to talk him into killing himself for a while now. I don't know what made him snap finally, but he did. Looks like he collected enough antidepressants to do the job last night… what a Christmas present, eh?"

And all Edward saw was Bella, the day he found her in the parking lot outside the range. Her cheeks, once flushed pink, pallid. Her soft skin, rubber. Her sparkling chocolate eyes, dull. Her sweet voice, silent. He saw her naked and mangled, her throat slit ear-to-windpipe on her left side. He saw her blood pooling beneath her once-shining hair. He saw the bruises inside her thighs and remembered the results of her rape kit. He felt no relief that Chase was gone, and in fact he was angered that the killer was able to choose the time and manner of his own death, the same way he had for his victims.

Edward also realized that now his was the only sentence that had not ended.

End notes: thanks to KrisBCullen for the red pen.