So this story is called By Way of Sorrow. The word sorrow is in the title. Just a reminder, although I promise HEA.
Thank you so very much for the response to the last chapter.
I own nothing and Donna is the best beta.
Immediately I become business like and detached. All I can focus on is how to fix it. With the exception of Carlisle and myself, everyone in my family has had their screw ups. We can deal with this. It happens.
"Okay," I say, studying the lifeless body at his feet. "It's okay."
Why do I keep saying this? It isn't remotely true.
I cut him off. If he talks now I'll lose my fragile hold on my control. Later I can be angry and fall apart. Right now he needs my help.
"No," I say, talking over him. "We'll get rid of the body. No one can know. No one, Edward. I mean it. It's nearly impossible to keep a secret in this family but Nessie can't know. The wolves can't know. They'll dismember you."
"Maybe that's what I deserve."
But Nessie doesn't deserve that. I don't either. Although the wolves would disagree, I don't think even Edward deserves it.
"Your eyes… did you drink?" I say, grabbing his chin and tilting his face towards mine. I study his amber eyes. Although they appear slightly darker than when I left him, they are not the blood red typical of our kind.
"Not much," he says, his voice shaking. He rips so violently at his hair I worry he'll be bald for an eternity. Staying crouched in front of him, I take his hands in mine.
"What happened?" I'm a little bit in shock myself here, and I work to remain calm and detached.
Apparently I failed to recognize Edward's struggle with bloodlust. He always seems so firmly in control, even when he had Tyler Crowley by the throat. And I left him here, alone and upset and totally right. I share in the guilt of this loss of life.
"I was angry and hurting and he scraped the palm of his hand and I started hunting," Edward says, still frantic.
I'm special. I stay myself, even near bleeding humans who smell particularly tasty. My family members are not so lucky. Most have fallen to temptation at one point or another. Jasper in particular struggles, as does kindhearted Esme.
Fourteen years ago Emmett passed an old woman hanging up her laundry and was unable to resist the draw of her blood. It sang to him, was more potent than any thing he'd ever experienced. We forgave him, although I doubt very much that he's forgiven himself. It will be the same with Edward.
Eventually. Right now I'm experiencing too much raging emotions to forgive or really comprehend any of this. I keep it all locked down as I determine how to proceed from here.
"But you didn't drink?" I ask, calm and detached. I've never seen Edward so freaked out and it seems even more necessary to be the strong one here.
"Not much," he repeats. "There was screaming and I remembered that I don't do that anymore, that you wouldn't want me to."
He looks at me with wild eyes, needing me to tell him if he was right.
"No, I wouldn't want you to do that," I assure him, speaking so quickly the words blur together. He squeezes my hands painfully hard.
"Before he was thinking things… violent, sexual things… I don't know if it was rape but… I hated him, Bella." My stoic composure and quiet disapproval crumbles slightly for the first time. This is so complicated and so my fault.
"Oh, Edward," I murmur, resting my forehead against his.
"I could drink," he says, half rising from his crouched position. "What's the harm in it? The damage is already done."
"No," I say, pushing him back into a sitting position. "Your eyes, Edward. Drink now and we'll have to run away. And it will change you. The blood will change you."
He whimpers and nods. "The screaming reminded me to stop, but it was too late. I bit him... the venom. I had to break his neck."
I wince, but manage to refrain from looking at the corpse that lies at the base of the small hill where Edward is crouched. There is no room for redemption for a vampire. One moment of lost control and it's over. Getting your poisonous teeth in a human is a death wish, even if you summon the control to stop. The venom will cause the change, even if you just take a few drops of blood. Edward had to kill the human or deal with consequences of turning him.
This is better.
"It will be okay," I say, business like once more. I am robotic and detached and plan to stay this way for the foreseeable future. "This will be fine. There is nothing about this death to make the wolves suspicious. He died alone in rough country of a broken neck, not of blood loss. I'll drop the body off that rocky cliff into the river a mile back. Between the fall and the fish and the water, it's doubtful the body will be found at all."
Edward states at me in horror although I have no idea why. What did he expect when I found out? That I would make him leave? Surely he knows better by now.
"But I killed him," Edward whispers. "He had a life and people who cared for him and I snuffed it out, Bella. Life. Remember life? I should be punished."
I slowly get to my feet, cocking my head to the side as I study him. In only a few months he has gone from full-blown vampire to ravaged with guilt, aching with humanity.
"Your guilt will be your punishment," I tell him, feeling so incredibly sad. "I'm not innocent here either, Edward."
"What?" he snaps.
"You're right, that I can't carry on this way. I left you here and I was wrong and you were a wreck," I murmur, reaching out to run my fingers through his hair.
"I… Bella… I…"
"Okay, there is really no need to talk about this now," I say.
"I've made a mess of everything," he groans, sounding unbearably miserable. "It's never felt like this before."
He rubs the heel of his hand into the place where his heart sits still in his chest.
"That pesky humanity," I say, covering his hand with mine. "It's new to you."
"How can I ever even look her in the eye again? After this?"
My heart hurts, as does my head.
"Nessie is wise and understanding and kind," I say, absolutely hating this. "But we've all worked very hard to protect that joyful innocence of hers. She can't know, Edward. Nothing can change. And the wolves would try to kill you. It would get ugly."
"And it can't happen again."
"Be better now, Edward."
I wipe the blood off the corner of his mouth with my thumb, cleaning my finger with a nearby leaf. If the wolves somehow happen upon this spot in the next few days (unlikely but possible) we're screwed. We'll be hunted and everything we've built with our allies will be destroyed.
I can't even think what it would do to Nessie.
But I'd kill them all for Edward, even if our daughter would hate me for it.
There is nothing we can do about our scent and the smell of the dead. Just pray for rain and luck.
I give Edward my best attempt at a smile as he gazes up at me with wide eyes. With one more look, I turn on my heel to figure out this body situation.
There isn't much blood, but I shiver slightly when I get a good whiff.
I pat him down, looking in pockets and through his bag for any way to identify him. There is nothing.
The whole thing is quite tragic, and that unnatural bend in his neck is rather unpleasant looking. I lean down to haul up the body, planning on tossing it over my shoulder.
Edward's low whisper stops me.
"You shouldn't have to do that. I'll do that," he continues.
I let him, but refuse to look. The image of my husband with a lifeless body thrown over his shoulder is not one I want burned into my brain.
I take Edward's hand, looking at our feet as I lead him to the looming cliff perfect for body disposal. It's morbid, but I'm numb to it. I let the vampire stay in control because I don't want to feel this.
I look away when Edward dumps the body in the river.
He squeezes my hand.
"Did we pray?" he murmurs.
I look at him. He stares at the river.
"Just now?" I ask, confused.
"No. When we were living, breathing people. When we had life. Remember life?"
"Yes. We prayed. Daily. Extra on Sundays," I reply, totally in awe of the man next to me.
"Do you remember how?" he asks, his voice almost getting lost in the wind.
I look at the river. The body, what once used to be a person, is long lost in the current.
"Barely," I reply.
"Do you think you could try?"
"Okay," I whisper feeling vulnerable and small. I'm still holding his hand. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from e…evil."
My voice breaks over the last word.
"For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever and ever," I whisper.
I have no idea where this comes from. It probably has nothing to do with death or Christian lore for putting someone to rest, but it's all I've got. It feels haunting. I squeeze Edward's hand like a lifeline.
"Amen," says my undead husband.
We wander back to our cabin, not really knowing what else to do. It's too quiet. For a moment I think we're ghosts but we have to open the front door when we get home.
I hold onto Edward like he's the only thing keeping me tethered to this world. All that strength I've managed to uphold for the last several days seems to drain right out of me.
"Bella?" Edward asks into my hair. I lean heavily on him to keep from collapsing.
"I'm fine," I murmur. "We have to burn these clothes. The blood is there. It's faint, but there."
Edward stokes the flames and then we strip each other, throwing each item in the fireplace. He reaches for me when the deed is done. I stumble slightly against him, letting out a quiet whimper.
The throbbing in my head just gets worse, although I'm not sure why.
"Bella?" He's pleading with me, wants something from me. Again, he rubs his palm into his chest, as if this action alone can dispel the ache. It won't. Nothing will.
I don't have the energy for words, but we need to shower, to wash away the stench of death from our skin. Keeping his hand in mine, I lead him to the shower and turn on the water, as hot as it will go.
We stand under the spray, staring at each other. His eyes are wide with horror and I can't seem to do anything but look back at him with heartbroken exhaustion. Still, he needs something from me. Wants something from me.
He reaches out, hand digging into my hip as he pulls me flush with his body. I touch his heated skin, thinking about him as a human. I wonder what the human Edward killed left behind. Did he have a family? A mother? A child? Someone who loved him as much as I love Edward?
I push the useless thoughts away.
He is hard against my stomach, and I look down, somewhat puzzled by what I feel there. Slowly, I tilt my gaze to his, cocking my head to the side as I study him. There is such intense need there, a desperation that almost scares me. He does nothing but look at me, his thumb caressing my hipbone.
His eyes seem to say please. I nod in response.
My feet leave the ground. As he holds me against the tile, my hand fists in his hair, and he's inside me, his pace demanding. A growl stirs in my chest as my body hums to life. I let it take over, the passion and the need. After all the death, this is as close to life as a pair of vampires can hope to get.
Sighs of joy and laughter are absent. This is about something else. It's part comfort, part primal need.
Tile cracks against my back, and instead of backing off, I demand more. His hands are rough and mine are no gentler.
My eyes never leaves his, but eventually his haunted gaze becomes too much. I kiss him as I watch, wanting to dispel the hurt raging in him. I never want him to hurt, and this seems like my only course of action in the moment.
The hitching of his breath sounds like sobs, and I swallow his sounds, my teeth sinking into his lower lip. He groans and grunts as I absorb his punishing thrusts, the pleasure laced with far too much pain. My body responds, and somehow it takes this for me to realize that I'm mad at him. He killed someone and I'm mad at him, but also so many other things. Mad is only a very small portion of the complicated whole.
He shifts his hips, hitting some spot deep within that has me crying out. I didn't imagine myself capable of getting there, but the demon craves this release. A few more disjointed thrusts and Edward joins me, letting out a wail that is part growl, part sob.
My arms come around his neck, and I hug him to my chest. He pushes his face into my neck, kissing me in a way that has me shivering despite my exhaustion.
"I'm sorry," he whispers against my skin.
"I'm sorry," I reply.
When he sets me on my feet, I find my legs are unable to support my weight and I slide boneless to the floor. I pull my knees to my chin, and glance up, somewhat confused as to how I got down here.
Edward's expression is unfathomable as he squirts shampoo into his hand. He kneels next to me and washes my hair. Closing my eyes, I hum in pleasure. His fingers against my scalp sooth my head ache.
My hair is thoroughly tangled from all the running, but he manages anyway. I angle my head to better let the water rinse my hair, and then silently demand the shampoo. He lets me wash his hair, and then we rub each other down with soap, making sure we smell nothing but clean to sensitive noses.
The water runs cold. Our bodies no longer hold the heat.
Edward helps me to my feet as we push through the glass door and then he dries my hair. I stumble against him when he attempts to move away to grab a towel. My legs still aren't functioning properly.
"Bella?" Edward says with a slight growl. He is very obviously concerned.
I just mumble under my breath. He gets the hint and guides me into the bedroom. He even has to lift me into bed and I smile faintly at the way he settles me carefully under the down comforter, amongst the unnecessary amount of fluff and pillows.
I tug insistently on his wrist until he crawls in next to me.
"I'm so tired, Edward," I whisper, my lips pressed into his neck.
"I know, love."
"Can we sleep?"
"Close your eyes and pretend," I instruct.
Edward makes a skeptical little sound in the back of his throat, but his eyes drift shut anyway. I smile dreamily before closing mine as well.
"I love you," I say.
"That seems just as impossible as pretending to sleep."
"I'll teach you." I wonder if he knows I'm talking about both things here. "Breathe like a human. Match my breath."
"Listen to the wind. Meditate. Clear your mind."
We stay like that for a long time.
"You were right," I say when I finally feel like my head has rested enough to speak again. I can tell by Edward's stillness in the last couple of hours that he's given up on the pretend sleeping, but he stays right here with me anyway until it no longer feels like my head is splitting in two.
"Well, that's certainly not something I've heard very often."
I giggle and snuggle a little closer.
"I'm serious here, Edward. I can't do it forever, but I'm so scared."
"Don't be scared, love," he says. It takes me a moment to realize that while I rested, Edward brooded. Now his distance breaks my heart.
I pull back to get a good look at his face. I might as well be staring at a brick wall, for all the insights it gives me to his head.
"No, that's the wrong thing to say. You should be scared, Edward. You need to understand how fucking scary this is." His eyes go wide, but I press on. "The Volturi are like some fable to you. An old folk tale or a bedtime story, the guardians of our world who protect our secret. You've heard whispers, but I've been part of it. They are scary, Edward. They have all the power and we have to tread carefully, but I'll try. We'll try."
"Okay," he murmurs. "We'll try."
"We have to keep her safe," I remind him.
"I know. We will." He gets quiet for a moment and he reaches for me, but then lets his hands drop. I frown at him. "How do you do it, Bella?"
"Do what, now?"
"Have so much strength. How do you stay so strong?"
"I don't know," I whisper. "I don't feel very strong. I got lucky in some ways. I had to be, for Nessie."
"Also, it's your mother," I say. Still a century later the memory hurts the place where my heart once beat in my chest.
"God, did I love your mother. I think about her dying and how much it hurt. I think about what it felt like for you to die and what it felt like to be responsible for your mother's pain and that's why I don't want to kill people," I explain.
"Did a vampire kill my mother?" Edward asks, sitting up slightly. This is another failing of mine that I haven't managed to tell him about the end of his parent's life.
"No, nothing so extraordinary as that. Disease. Spanish flu. Do you remember the epidemic?" I ask.
"Just at the end of the newborn phase," he mutters. I can tell by the look on his face and the way he tugs on his hair that he's once again wracked with guilt. "We rather thought it a feast. James was thrilled to prey on the grieving but even then I preferred the dying. They teased me for my soft heart endlessly, I didn't understand why I was like that until you."
I give him a soft smile, but it hurts my face,
"You amaze me, Bella, with your strength."
"It's easier with the memories and the daughter, to hold on to those human parts. And now you have that too."
"And now I have it too."
"Edward," I murmur, taking his hand. Relief sweeps through me when he laces his fingers through mine. "What's wrong?"
He gives me a look, clearly questioning my sanity because right now everything is wrong.
"Besides the obvious," I explain, my thumb running over his knuckles.
Edward closes his eyes and drops my hand. He pinches the bridges of his nose, and then refuses to meet my eye.
"I'm a monster, Bella," he whispers.
"Aren't we all," I reply.
"I am," I insist. "I really am."
How many vampires have I helped the Volturi dismember for Aro's twisted purposes? How many times have I let the being I hate most in this world touch my skin?
"The monster is part of you," I tell him. "But it isn't what you are. The demon is there, waiting and wanting, but you are learning to find balance. You also have a good heart. You are a wonderful father and a loving husband, even if you don't know what that really means yet."
Edward lets out a huff of disgust, shaking his head and crossing his arms over his chest.
"I'm no better than him," he says with a hiss. "How can you even stand to let me touch you?"
I stare at him for a long moment, having no idea what he means by this.
"You are nothing like him," I whisper.
"Bella," he says, still unable to look at me, it seems. "What just happened in the shower… you didn't want that… and I don't know where it came from, but I'm not any better than—"
I slap him because he has officially deteriorated into the realm of the obscene and absurd.
He hisses and I see the demon flash in his eyes briefly.
"You are nothing like him," I say with a growl, using my hands on his cheeks to make him meet my eyes. I caress the spot where I hit him, feeling guilty. "You needed something in the shower and I needed to give it to you, Edward. I love you. That's just how it works. And it wasn't just you. Sex together is as close to living as we get, and I needed it too after so much death."
"Now hold me and just don't talk for awhile."
"There was no ID on the body," I murmur into Edward's chest some time later. "Nothing to indicate who he was or why he was so far out in the wilderness on his own, but I'll keep an eye out on the missing persons for the area, send money if I can find his family."
Edward sighs and strokes my hair. "It hardly seems like anything at all."
"It isn't," I agree. "And it won't replace what he was to whoever loved him. But it might make life for those left behind a little easier to survive."
My husband nods, but doesn't say anything else. He closes his eyes and I wonder if he is pretending to sleep. More likely, he is just done talking about it.
We stay in bed for the remainder of the evening and into the night, talking in whispered promises and regrets. We share our guilt and we heal, or try to anyway. I pretend to sleep. Edward watches me, tracing his fingertips over bare skin. We assure each other that this is real, what we are is real, and that everything will be all right some day.
It's so comfortable and warm in this bed, hunkered down with Edward. I feel cozy. I didn't even know it was possible for a vampire to feel anything like cozy, but here in our little cabin in the woods, in this plush bed with all it's puffy accouterments, I feel cozy.
I never want to move again.
We try our best to work through the guilt, to grapple with everything that has happened, but I know it will take time. Given Edward's state, probably a great deal of time.
But day breaks, the sun gets higher in the sky, and I remember that I am a mother. Nessie does the reminding.
"We should get up," Edward murmurs into my hair as we both recognize the delicate footsteps on the damp path that connects the big house to the cabin.
Edward chuckles at my incomprehensible groaning before sobering once more.
"Should I leave? I don't deserve to be around her, after what I did. I'm a monster, Bella," he says, starting to panic.
I catch his face in my hands, glaring at him. "You are not a monster," I whisper. This is probably a conversation we'll be having a lot in the coming weeks as he deals with his actions. "Monsters do not feel guilt. You did something very bad and you better not do it again and the guilt of it is never going to leave either of us fully, but this is not about what you deserve. This is about what Nessie deserves, and she deserves a father. So suck it up, and act like her dad."
He nods, eyes wide.
"Come now," I say, pulling the comforter off my body. "We wouldn't want our daughter to get an eyeful now would we?"
With a heavy sigh I pull Edward out of bed and push into the ridiculous Alice closet. He runs his hands up and down my sides, nibbling on my neck as he walks me forward. It wakes my body up.
We are dressed and calm and seated in the living room when Nessie skips into the cabin. She is bright and happy. I find her good mood contagious, and let her joy and innocence sooth me, but Edward has a hard time letting go of his tension.
He broods. Nessie notices. She asks him if he's okay and he attempts a bright smile, but our daughter is not fooled.
Letting out a big sigh she gets up, extending a hand down to Edward where he sits in his typical spot in the easy chair.
"Come on," she says, hauling him up when he takes her hand. "Let's go play the piano. That always makes me feel better."
As he follows her the smile on his face is genuine.
I'm relieved to see that the house contains just my family members when we make the short walk back. Edward and Nessie disappear upstairs to the music room, and I call a family meeting. Jake most certainly cannot be around for this one.
Despite lecturing Edward on the necessity of keeping this death a secret, I have to fill my family in. Better than anyone they'll understand. The seven of us sit gathered in the living room. They remain silent through the tale, already having some idea of what happened from Alice's vision.
"It's partially my fault," I murmur after giving them all the pertinent details. "He's so new to this life, and I took his control for granted."
"Why was he out there alone in the first place?" Jasper asks. I understand his confusion. I left out the facts concerning Edward's agitated state, desperate to keep this secret from my family for a little while longer.
There is only so much I can handle all at once. I can't do it, not now. They will see me different, and I'm still so fragile that their reaction would be the end of me.
"I hadn't told him about the Volturi," I say, attempting to wrap my lie in truth. It's how I've always managed to survive this way. "He was upset, feels like I'm in danger when I go, plus I was basically lying to him about it. We fought and I left before he could say anything he would regret. I shouldn't have left him out there like that."
There. Mostly truth.
"You couldn't have known, Bella," Rose says, being shockingly understanding. Although she still doesn't like Edward, apparently she has seen the difference in me. He brings me so much joy that Rose has lain off with the bitchiness in recent months, for the most part. "These things do happen."
Edward obviously can hear every word of this conversation, and it makes me happy that he is seeing the support he'll receive from my family.
His family too.
"And we couldn't really have created better circumstances," Jasper puts in. Although I appreciate his clear-headed approach to the situation, his insensitivity rankles. "The wolves won't know, and it sounds like this human was something of a wanderer. He won't be missed for a while and it's far enough away that there will be no suspicion on us."
I hum my agreement, thankful that even Edward's eyes remain almost unaltered. It's easy to cover up, almost so easy I feel even guiltier. But despite Edward's call for his own punishment, getting caught would be catastrophic.
"Bella," says Emmett, being serious for once in his unlife. "He's new. Like, really fucking new, especially given how he's lived for a century. That's a lot of bad habits to break. And no offence, you are a little freak and not exactly the optimal person to understand where he's coming from with that crazy control of yours. I'll talk to him. It'll be good for me too. Sometimes I still just want to drain the whole town."
"Me too," says Jasper.
"And me," murmurs Esme.
I look around at this wonderful family of mine, feeling like my heart is going to burst. I nod my thanks, too overcome to really speak.
We walk back to the cabin as the sun goes down. Nessie chats excitedly between the two of us, and I listen with half an ear as I watch Edward. The far away look in his eye scares me. It's like he's gone somewhere I can't follow.
These last couple chapters have been hard to write, so I imagine they are difficult to read as well. It will get better.
Edward has been killing for a long time. I don't think it would be so easy to stop, especially given his heightened emotions. He is a vampire, after all.
Thank you for sticking with me.