Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Yes ( Chapter 1 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
I'd been going to hold this back for another day or so, but I have an announcement to make. I realize that I've not built a reputation in Twilight fandom (yet) but this weekend I will be representing the fandom at the Support Stacie April Author Auction.
Stacie Holeman is a woman, a fan and a mother of three with four kinds of cancer and no health insurance. The folks at Support Stacie (dot) net have set up this auction to raise funds for her medical care and well-being. What that means is that, starting on April 3, 2009, you can go to Majik's World of Fanfic and place a bid for my services this coming April. Within thirty days, you will have a minimum 2500-word 'fic in either Twilight, Underworld, or Inuyasha fandom and Ms. Holeman will have minimum five of your dollars!
...this may come as a surprise considering the current piece, but I primarily write comedies ...comedies that get nominated for action/adventure awards, but comedies nonetheless. Ask for porn at your own risk. No rape 'fics.
Registration at Majik's appears to be required for bidding, so go check the place out! Other participants include ffnet's own AngstGoddess003 and the hilarious Kinolaughs.
Majik's Ithilwen page: http://www.majiksfanfic.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=101&t=2347
Majik's author auction page: http://www.majiksfanfic.com/phpbb/viewforum.php?f=101
Support Stacie: http://supportstacie.net/?page_id=9
The last clear memory that I have of Forks is of standing in my father's living room with two of my best friends, making a decision. Alice wanted me to go to Volterra to save Edward and Jacob wanted, needed, begged me to stay. Two people. Two paths. Two ways my life could have gone.
It was one of those choices that doesn't feel like a choice. Sure, I was physically capable of not picking up my passport, not getting in that car and not getting on that plane, but it just wasn't in me. No matter what Edward had done to me, I couldn't let him die without even trying to help. I owed him that much. I owed his family that much. I owed myself that much.
I simply had to do it.
"Stop!" I called out, struggling against Alice's arms. "Stop it!"
Edward was writhing on the floor in front of me, his mouth gaping as his eyes stared at nothing. I looked back at Jane. I don't know what I expected to see in her face. Concentration, maybe, like a fisherman with a fighting trout on the hook. If not that then anger or fear or something to match what was boiling up inside me at the sight of Edward in agony on the ground.
She was smiling. She was watching Edward with a mild, disinterested smile, like a woman stirring a batch of oatmeal.
"Jane," Aro said lightly, as if correcting a child.
Jane looked up at Aro and Edward went still. I held my breath.
Aro inclined his head toward Alice and me. I saw Jane's her bland expression falter as her eyes fell on Alice. The pieces fell together as I watched her lips press together. Jane had glared at Alice when she'd first walked in, and every time Aro spoke to her.
Aro meant me. But Jane was jealous of Alice. And he hadn't come out and said which of us he'd meant.
Behind me, I felt Alice's arms go slack. "Don't..." she murmured vacantly, but to who or about what I couldn't say. I didn't know what she'd seen, only what I was seeing.
The smile was back.
The world around me seemed to turn red. That Jane could do such things and look so calm! And to Alice, Alice! I felt rage explode in my chest. Hardly knowing what I was doing, I clenched my hands down on top of Alice's cold arms hard enough to bruise my palms, as if an inch of flesh and bone could make any difference.
And all of a sudden I could feel that she was there. Not see, not touch. I could feel her like a ray of light behind me. My breath caught in my lungs. Jane had to have gotten me after all. I had to have been hallucinating. I was really twitching on the ground, my brain firing up some vision to keep me sane.
Edward's head snapped around. "Alice!" he called out.
Nothing happened except that Jane frowned slightly. I could feel Alice grow tense again, waiting. Edward's face was still in panic. He was staring at Alice as if she were already dead. My heart hammered in my chest and I twisted to look at her face. Alice was tense, but not with pain. She looked back at me with her gold eyes full of fear and far away.
Jane snarled again, dark red eyes aimed at me this time. I flinched away from her. In my mind's eye, Alice's light died. At least her attention was on me this time.
"Alice!" Edward said again, in relief. "Alice, are you all—" he stopped. He looked from Alice to me and back. His eyes unfocused like a blind man's as he listened to something that I could not hear. Behind me, I felt Alice's head turn, but I couldn't see her expression, only Edward's. Something was dawning, sharp and dreadful behind his eyes.
Alice's hands gripped my arms, tight to the point of pain. I didn't care, just watching Edward's eyes, as if I could see through them to whatever reflected vision had taken over Alice's head.
"Ah," Aro's voice broke the silence in a way that made all the tiny hairs on my arms stand up. "Well that is interesting. Just to be sure," he said, addressing Jane, "you were aiming for young Alice, weren't you, dear one?"
"Yes, Master," she admitted with sullen anger, not taking her eyes off of me.
Edward eyes flicked to Aro. I felt my throat go dry at what I saw in them.
"And you couldn't hear her thoughts just then, could you, Edward?"
Edward didn't answer. Something had changed. Something had gone wrong. I watched the fight go out of Edward's posture, just like it had in the alley not even an hour earlier. Aro wasn't going to let us leave, at least not all of us. I closed my eyes in resolve. Alice and Edward hadn't broken the rules. He'd already said so. That only left one person.
When I opened my eyes again, I found Aro's gaze fixed on me. "Is that the first time you've done that, child?" he asked, something appraising in his tone.
"Done what?" I blurted. I hadn't done anything except freak out and almost die.
A long moment passed. I wonder how many wheels were turning in the head of this being who could carry so many lifetimes' worth of stolen thoughts.
Caius and Aro exchanged a knowing glance. "Well we can't let this go to waste, can we brother?" asked Aro. Caius raised an eyebrow and nodded balefully. Marcus looked on with dull interest.
"No," Edward said out loud. "She hasn't told our secret. She isn't going to. She's no threat—"
Aro held up one petrified hand in what might otherwise have been a comforting gesture. "Surely you meant well, young Edward," he said.
Edward was still shaking his head. "No," he said again, taking one sharp step toward Aro. "You and I both know that—"
Aro nodded to Jane. I felt a cry leave my throat as Edward collapsed back to the floor. "Edward!" I screamed. I lunged toward him, but Alice caught my arms again. "Edward!"
"That's enough, dear one," said Aro. He'd spoken to Jane but he was looking at me. "Has to be touching her subject, I suppose. Hardly unusual." I got the feeling that the comment was not directed at me. His cobwebbed eyes flicked this way and that. I knew that look, and I'd liked it much better when it had been Edward in the lunch room in Forks a thousand years before. Aro was trying to puzzle me out.
I had barely registered Caius's command before I was snatched away from Alice by something that gripped my arms so hard I was sure they would burst like rotten fruit. He jerked me across the room so fast that my head flopped to the side like a rag doll's. I heard a yelp, like a frightened puppy, but then I sealed my jaws, my lips, my throat. This man would not hear me scream, I resolved as I looked into the crimson-black eyes, too close, too close to me. Dibs, I could see in them. My breathing was coming too fast, making me lightheaded, but I set my teeth and raised my chin. Felix would never hear me scream.
Edward let out a snarl so deep I swore it could have shaken the building. "No," he swore darkly, making the word sound like the blackest curse ever made.
"You have committed a crime, Edward Cullen," said Caius. I couldn't take my eyes off Felix, but I could hear the smugness audible in his voice. "You have not kept our secret. The law is clear. You must face punishment—" I flinched in Felix's huge hands. "And the human's life is forfeit."
Was it over, then? My chest shook in a silent sob. Was Edward going to die? At least I wouldn't have to wait long.
"But..." Aro joined in. "...it is always such a shame to waste potential. And what this child displays," he paused, as if gesturing toward something, "is worth making certain exceptions—" Felix looked up as Aro addressed his last words to him. "...and taking certain risks."
What the heck was he talking about? I tried to push the fear out of my mind long enough to make sense of what was happening, but I was a deer in the headlights. I could only see the truck barreling down to snuff me out.
"He can't do it," Edward was growling back at Aro. "Felix doesn't have the kind of control for that." I pictured him, shaking with anger in my mind's eye. I still couldn't look away from Felix. "He doesn't even mean to! All he's thinking about is—" Edward cut off, grinding his teeth together.
"Come now, Edward, there's no need to impugn dear Felix," said Aro. "His control is as good as anyone's."
I barely heard him. I was staring at two thread-thin rings of red around perfect blackness. Felix was thirsty, thirsty and holding on to me like a farmer would hold a disobedient cat. The long silence stretched out around me and, without shifting his grip, Felix turned to watch Aro. I still couldn't pry my eyes off him, not even to look at Edward. Felix frowned, just barely, his gaze shifting from one place to another. I still couldn't look away.
My heart pounded, keeping time.
"And you'll let the girl go?" Edward asked. But he asked as if he already knew the answer.
"She knows too much," said Aro, as if he were commenting on the weather.
"And if I accept?" Edward asked quietly.
The message took a moment to sink in. Suddenly, I understood. Aro hadn't really been speaking to Edward. He was speaking to the crowd. Whatever Aro really meant, whatever Edward had really agreed to, none of us had been able to hear.
I started struggling in Felix's grip again. Marcus's eyes turned my way, and Felix gave a near-silent laugh, but there was no other change. It was like fighting a mountain. I shook my head, anger building like a bonfire in my chest. The room was still, but it was a lying stillness, as if we were all in a raft in fast water being buffeted by rocks on all sides and we'd just been released into the eddying stillness at the top of the waterfall. Any moment, it would all come crashing down.
Edward stared at Aro for what seemed like a long time and then, almost imperceptibly, he nodded.
"Felix," Aro said again, and I felt the iron arms release me. I stumbled, actually putting one hand to the floor as I fought with my abused ribcage. The world was going brown and I had to bring it back or I would not wake up again.
"Bella," Edward called quietly. His voice was calm, too calm. I looked up and saw that his features were composed, pain marring his eyes but nothing more. "Bella, come here," he said.
I stumbled to my feet and ran. He caught me before I could fall again.
He didn't look at me, turning his head to face Aro and Caius. "I would like to do this privately," he said. But Alice was already shaking her head, just barely. If I hadn't known her as well as I did, I'd have missed it.
"You do not choose the time and place of your punishment," Caius announced.
"Your duty," finished Aro, but whether he was correcting Caius or just adding to what he'd said, I didn't care. Edward seemed to want to hold me at arm's length, but I had my temple pressed against his chest, both arms around his waist. I knew how pathetic I must have looked next to Edward, like a dust bunny clinging to a designer suit, but I couldn't help it. I'd come to Italy to save him and he wasn't saved.
"And..." I felt Edward's eyes flick down to me. "...after?"
"Do not worry, young Edward," Aro answered with an indulgent nod toward Jane, "we have had newborns here before, though I must admit, it has been some time."
Newborns? New vampires...
I swallowed hard as I breathed Edward's scent into my lungs, forcing my breathing back into a normal pace. They meant to turn me. Aro wanted Edward to turn me. My fingers tightened on Edward's bare arm. I'd been ready for this months ago, I reminded myself. Hell, I'd been ready six hours ago on the plane from New York to Rome, but was I ready for it now?
"Are you certain that's wise, brother?" Caius was saying. "A newborn in Volterra? In the city itself?"
"Oh I'm certain we can all help keep little Bella from getting into too much trouble," Aro murmured back.
Behind us, someone gave a low chuckle. I felt Edward's arm twist me to one side as his upper body turned toward the sound with a deep snarl that I could feel rippling all the way to my bones.. Again the other vampires murmured disbelievingly at Edward, but Felix only smiled.
Marcus raised one smooth black eyebrow at Edward's anger, like a sleepy tiger watching to birds fight over a worm. He cast his bored cobwebbed eyes on Edward. "Why all this fuss?" he asked languidly. "Simply take her for a mate yourself."
I felt Edward flinch. As sick as this was, as much as it galled me for Marcus to speak of me that way, as if he had the right to speak of me that way, Edward's action still stung.
An eternal annoyance. I took a breath. At least I would have more than one lifetime to try to change his mind. Assuming, of course, that I could make it through the next ten minutes. Even with the purplish shadows beneath his hunger-dark eyes, I trusted Edward's control, but I didn't trust Caius and I didn't trust Aro. And I didn't need Edward's gift to know what was running through Felix's mind. It was one of two things and I didn't like either of them.
I turned to Alice, wishing that she could read minds too.
Am I going to make it? I tried to project with my eyes, but Alice only looked back at me, with the same sad, guilty look.
I could still feel Felix's hold on my arms like a shadow against my skin. I inhaled sharply, filling my lungs with Edward instead of him. "Thank you," I whispered. "I'm sorry."
His hands gripped my jaw, forcing my eyes his. They were black and thirsty, not the perfect honey-gold that I remembered. "This is not what I wanted for you," he hissed. "This is what I was trying to prevent. This is—" he closed his eyes, breathing deeply. "I lied," he said.
I stared back at him, not sure what he was talking about. The thick, electric air had grown heavy in my lungs.
I understood. I finally understood. I'd laughed with werewolves and their claw-scarred families. I'd known good vampires with bright gold eyes. I'd been hunted as prey. All of a sudden I was very aware of exactly where I was. My eyes fell on the drains in the floor ...and the marks where someone hadn't quite scrubbed the stains away. I swallowed hard, suddenly sure of what this room was used for, and all of Aro's smiling courtesy seemed to twist inside me.
I understood why Edward thought he was a monster.
"You're not like them," I whispered. "You're better than this."
His eyes were strangely empty. "No, Bella. You are."
"Young Edward," Caius called over Edward's left shoulder. "Do you mean to carry out your end of this or not?"
I was suddenly aware of eyes, dozens of eyes, red and waiting.
"Yes," said Edward, eyes still on me.
Over Edward's shoulder, I saw Caius tip his head questioningly. Something hung in the air.
"Yes, Master," Edward corrected himself.
The word ripped through me like iron. I started shaking my head, or I would have, if Edward hadn't held me still. No. No, I wasn't worth it. Edward had to go back. Edward and Alice both had to make it back. I opened my mouth to tell him it was all right, that he really could leave me here, that I was happier to have had these few minutes with him than a hundred gray years. I wanted to remind him what about Emmett and Alice and Carlisle and Esme. I couldn't make a sound.
"Close your eyes?" he whispered. "Bella, please close your eyes."
I couldn't obey. There were some things in this room I wanted to memorize. Alice, with her dark gold eyes full of secrets, her mouth fixed in dismay. And Edward. I hadn't had a chance to look at him, really look at him, since that one frightened flash in the alley. Closing my eyes was the last thing I wanted to do.
Behind him, I saw Jane standing quietly in her dark gray cloak, that same poison smile on her face.
I felt my hands tighten on his wrist, my heart pounding until my skin burned hot. They couldn't have him. They couldn't have him.
It came as suddenly as it had with Alice. I imagined I could feel Edward in front of me, from his skin to his unbeating heart, and he was alive and as brilliant than Alice had been. Even more, he was part of me.
"Bella," Edward said quietly, rubbing the pad of his thumb across my chin. "Close your eyes, Bella."
I did as he said. After all, I could still see him.
I closed my eyes and was immediately glad I had. It was easier to believe that no one was watching. The red-eyed vampires around us all disappeared. Felix, Aro, Caius, Jane... They were all gone. We were in a silent, empty room, and this wasn't about anyone but us. I concentrated on the space around us and then on the feel of Edward's cold hands on my face and his blazing life in my mind.
I heard Edward exhale. I felt him lean forward and press his forehead against mine for a long moment. His hands shifted to the back of my neck as he gently turned my face away, exposing my throat.
At first, it wasn't so bad.
I felt his cold lips touch my neck, and then his teeth swiftly cut through skin and tendon to slice open the nest of blood vessels at my pulse point. It hurt, and just knowing that I was bleeding out was enough to make my head go light, but it was nothing to having my leg broken. The shards of glass in my arm on my last birthday had been worse. I swayed but didn't fall.
I could still feel Edward's mouth at my throat, feel his tongue smoothing across the wound in my neck, stirring up a thousand conflicting feelings. He was killing me. He was saving me. He was taking my blood. I was giving it to him.
My fingers flexed on the back of his head as the moment wound down. Somewhere in my blood-starved brain, I knew this was an illusion, another hallucination from my dying neurons as they waved goodbye, but I swore I could feel the swirling dust motes in the air go still around us, spinning out my final seconds into a peaceful dream. My heart beat steadily and I felt myself flowing into him. Yes, I thought, take this life. Take this body. I trust you, my love. I'm already yours.
Edward's light flared and I felt him shudder in my arms, from pleasure or revulsion. Probably both, I thought.
And then I couldn't think any more.
My eyes snapped open as a gallon of congealed battery acid plowed through my veins. I could hear someone's strangled gasp and I was pretty sure it was mine. I knew exactly what was happening. I had wanted it to happen, but that didn't make the pain any less. I was on fire from the inside out. The room spun and my eyes met the arched, shadowed ceiling. Edward had lowered me to the ground. My moment of peace was gone. Edward was all business now, performing his duty like an unwilling bridegroom. His teeth pierced my neck again, the insides of my elbows, pushing more venom inside me. Through the haze, saw him hesitate at my left wrist before driving his teeth through the scar James had left there. I saw a drop of my blood on his lips as he rolled up the wet cuffs of my jeans to bite the pulse at my ankle.
My focus was already fading when Edward jerked his head away from my leg, snarling loudly at something outside my blurring field of vision.
I heard a low chuckle. Felix. "You missed a spot," he called darkly. "Want me to get it for you?"
Edward glared and turned his attention back to me, smoothing my jeans back down over my calf and taking my face in his hands. His cold skin should have felt good against the heat but didn't. "I'm sorry," he said. "Bella, I'm sorry. I'm sorry!"
For the second time that day, I tried to tell him that it was all right. But it wasn't all right. I tried to touch his face, his fingers, but my movements were too jerky. I tried to stop making the sounds I was making. I could see him flinch with each one. I forced my teeth closed, pulled my lips shut over them. But I couldn't stop making those sounds.
The burning intensified. This wasn't the same. Back in Phoenix, I'd felt as if my arm were on fire, but this time the flames were made of liquid, sliding and sucking and sticking to my insides. Maybe it was that James hadn't been trying to turn me. Maybe it was that he'd only bitten my hand and not my neck. Maybe Edward's venom was stronger. Maybe—
I heard my voice echo against the stone walls as the thick pain in my neck ate its way down my body. I clapped one blazing palm to my chest. Intellectually, I knew exactly what was going on. Edward's venom was creeping down through my veins to my heart. But intellectual me wasn't holding the reins. Emotional me had shoved her out of the saddle, and she was chanting fear, fear, fear of what would happen when the venom started pumping through every cell in my body.
It was all so goddamned slow.
"Bella?" I could barely hear Edward's voice. His perfect, velvet-soft voice. He was holding me, his cool arms lifting my back off the tiles. I blinked hard and saw Alice, stricken and still, one hand just barely touching my right shoe.
"This is not what I wanted for you," the voice breathed into my ears. "This is not what I wanted. I am so sorry, Bella." The room was starting to fade. For a second, I dared to hope that I was blacking out, but the fire scorching my insides was as clear and sharp as ever. It was burning everything else out of my sight, out of my memory.
There were more voices, some soft and some shouting. I didn't listen. I had to concentrate on something steady or else I would fly completely apart. From this angle, I could see the corner of Edward's jaw as he spoke, but there was a haze drifting down over everything. I fought it back, but I didn't know how long I could keep it up. I just watched his mouth move as he said things I couldn't make out to people I didn't remember.
There was a flow of air against the tiny hairs on my skin as his hold on me shifted and he stood up. Why wouldn't he put me down and back away? I was on fire, and fire could kill him. I didn't want him to die with me. Why didn't he put me down?
Alice was speaking. Alice was telling Edward something, insisting it. And then we were moving. I found myself staring upward through the haze as the ceiling of the little stone hallway rushed past me.
My eyes were still open, but I didn't understand all of what I was seeing. There were sneakers and cameras and a hundred strange, confused human faces. Some of them turned to stare and I could see they were afraid. I was an ember. I was burning to a cinder while they watched.
There was another sound, and I forced my eyes to focus on a new person standing in front of me. I saw a small figure with a rosary around her neck. I couldn't make out the details, but she moved carefully, like an old woman. She seemed worried and confused and she said something that I couldn't make out, but from her posture and the tilt of her wide, frightened eyes, I was sure she was asking if I was all right. Edward murmured something in response, and she reached out one cool hand to my wrist, gripping hard, as if she could anchor me with flesh and bone.
There was another voice, sweet and silky and awful. The old woman turned her head and followed.
Edward's face seemed hard, his eyes strangely empty as he watched her go.
I was sure that something important had just happened. I felt like the pain, the woman, the look in Edward's eyes was a warning, and that I would be able to avoid disaster if only I could make myself figure it all out. But the burning filled my brain and heart and bones and fingernails and the clues all floated like dislocated limbs in my blurring vision.
The feeling didn't last. When the screaming started, I knew it was too late.
Because this chapter was posted ahead of schedule, it seems like a good place to mention something: CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM IS NOT RUDE!! ...unless the way you give it is rude, but inherently? Not rude. Go ahead and tell me that I've got a typo on my face, a continuity error trailing my shoe or a less-than-awesome shift in tone stuck between my teeth. I might not go back and change it (especially if you're reading this in 2011 or later; hey, it happens) but you will still not get the jerk treatment.
drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu