Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Blind ( Chapter 7 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Two announcements! First, this coming September 11-14, I will once again be Supporting Stacie at the September Author Auction, hosted by Majick's World of Fanfiction. Show up to bid on short fanfics or just to cheer people on and watch everyone's goofy antics. (Last time, Kinolaughs and I kept spoofing Pride and Prejudice. No, really.) All proceeds go to Ms. Holeman's medical care.
Second, I always post my first drafts up at the Bloodfeud first, usually several days in advance. If anyone wants to chime in, that would be the best place and time to do it. Bloodfeud being an Underworld board it is permeated with awesome. Come for the Beckinsale, stay for the crazy.
I had originally intended this chapter to be from Edward's perspective, only writing this version as an exercise, but it just came out so well that it had to be chapter seven.
Again, these chapters are a work in progress. If any of you have a suggestion for how I can make my point come through with the sharpness that I'd love it to, please chuck the shyness and go for it.
NOTE: The ending of this chapter has been significantly changed as of December 2009. I realized I was pulling my punches. If you took a fancy to the previous version, though, it's up on Bloodfeud.
" I'd thought this was the one sure physical thing in my whole world: the flawlessness of Edward's face. I may as well have been blind." -Bella, Breaking Dawn

He hadn't thrown me away.

I'd been so afraid, so afraid of a hundred different things, but most of all that he would throw me away, reject me completely, tell me that I was everything I thought I was. And when the door had opened and I'd thought it was Heidi again but it had been him but he'd been looking at me like that and I was sure, so sure he knew—

I hid my eyes against his shoulder and tried to push the thought away. It didn't matter now, what I'd thought I'd seen on his face. It was as if I'd never seen him before that second, as if he were a young Zeus in his fury, thunderbolt in hand. But it didn't matter now, did it?

I tried to take a calming breath, but it didn't make me feel better like it should have. It was as if all the membranes in my lungs were scarred over and sealed. I could no more breathe through them than through the palms of my hands. Only my nose was still working, screaming dust, blood, metal, vampire, shame and fear in an endless litany of sensory overload. It was like being tied down in front of an IMAX screen with my eyes pinned open and the volume jammed all the way up. The world kept jumping at me and I couldn't shut it off. Even when I'd tried to focus on one thing, like counting the scratch marks on the door, I hadn't been able to crowd the rest out. My mind could do too many things at once.

I'd tried biting into my own fingers until my teeth hit bone and it hadn't been enough to stop that ...sweet, pulsing heartbeat

I shuddered, trying to pull myself together. I focused on the feel of Edward's hand stroking my hair. I counted how many threads I could feel under each fingertip where I clutched at his shirt: 237, 219, 251... Nothing worked.

"...come and see you whenever I can," Edward was saying. "You won't need to stay in here much longer. They'll be able to let you out as soon as—"

"No!" The word jumped out of my throat, punching the air.

I felt Edward loosen his hold on me, draw away as all my panic flooded back in. He was expecting me to explain. I didn't look at him. I couldn't look at him.

I hadn't thought it out beforehand, but I knew why I'd said it. I could remember clawing at the inside of the door, knowing there was something out in the hallway that I had to have, something I needed. At the time, I'd thought that it was Edward or Alice waiting for me, that there was something I had to do to help, but then the door had opened and I'd heard Heidi's voice telling someone to go in and then, and then—

"Bella," Edward said carefully. I could feel his fingers against my cheek and under my chin, but he couldn't pull my face up to his any more. He could only show me how he wanted me to move.

"I—I don't want to get out," I managed. "I can't... " I thought about the steel door, still there after all my scratching and pounding. "I can't hurt anyone if I'm in here." I must have shuddered again because I was back in his arms.

"It won't last," he told me gently. "This part doesn't last."

I buried my face against his smooth neck. It felt different to me ...not warm, not soft. He was a little cooler than I was, probably because I was still warm from... from...

No, I told myself, pushing the panic down. It was easier this time. There was something blocking the scent of blood, washing it clean from the air, from my mind.

Edward's scent. I recognized its sweetness, but now I could name it. Honey... almond... sunlight... and there were other notes that didn't match any scent I recognized from my human life, but all together they added up to Edward and no one else. Like his face, everything I remembered was still there, but there was more now than I'd been able to see before.

I breathed deep, finding the calm that I'd been missing from oxygen alone. His hand kept floating up and down my spine, as if he were afraid of holding me any tighter. What else had the fire changed about me? I ought to have been blushing like anything. I was used to feeling my insides warmer than my skin. I was used to seeing nothing but darkness in shadows. I was used to quiet and rain and hunger and fatigue... and...

"...sorry," he was murmuring. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I'm sorry any of this ever—"

I twisted enough to put one set of fingertips over his mouth. I simply thought about the motion and then it was done. I hadn't even needed to lift my head from his shoulder. I let my fingertips take in the impossible smoothness of his lips and then pulled them away. Again, it was like a flickering light. I thought about moving, and then my arm was snaked around his waist again.

It was selfish, but I couldn't bear it. I couldn't carry anyone's weight but mine today. I felt a new wave of guilt. Edward done something he abhorred to save me, and I couldn't even listen to him? I couldn't even—

"Shhh..." he said soothingly. I hadn't even realized that I'd gone tense.

"What's wrong with me?" I asked. "Everything I think, everything I feel. It's like the world is still on fire."

"Nothing," Edward whispered. "Newborns are like that. That's all."

Newborns... That's what I was, a vampire newborn. Edward had changed me himself.

"What's going to happen?" I asked. To us. To him. To me.

Edward paused, and when he spoke his voice was measured and rhythmic, like Renee's the time I'd asked her what we'd do if she'd lost her job like my classmate Amy's mom had. It was as if he knew that I wouldn't like the answer and was trying to think of a way to say it that wouldn't set me off. "I've been watching Aro's thoughts," he said. "He's the one who'll make the final decision. They're going to keep a close watch on you for the first year. You won't be allowed out into the city by yourself until they're sure you're not—"

"A danger to humans. A ravening beast. Everything I've ever hated," I couldn't help imagining him saying.

"—going to lose control," Edward hadn't broken stride. "In the meantime..." He paused. What wasn't he going to tell me? "Aro is waiting to see how you turn out before he assigns you any duties."

Turn out? What was that? What did it mean? Was there something about becoming a vampire that Edward hadn't told me? Could I end up some twisted monster with a bat's wings instead of arms or something? No, that was silly. Bats had nothing to do with vampires. I remembered Aro and Caius and their strange, rocky skin. I'd thought it was because of their age, but were they vampires gone wrong? I opened my mouth to ask Edward what he'd meant, but he'd already moved on.

"The Volturi have a beautiful library," he said, like a swim teacher trying to tempt a child into the water for the first time, "probably the best of its size in Europe."

I pushed a smile at that. So not everything about my life would be different? I could still love books? They were probably all in Italian or Latin or something. Well... It wasn't as if I didn't have time to learn.

"What about you?" I asked quickly. I had to know. The glittering sea of red eyes, the row of blurred faces filing by after Heidi's voice like children after the Piper of Hamlin. "What are they making you—" My throat didn't close up, not really, but I was so sure that it would that my words stopped anyway. "What is Aro making you do?"

Edward's explanation was careful. He would work for Aro and Caius finding vampires who'd broken the law, run too many risks or taken too many humans in one place. His words were perfectly chosen, perfectly clustered around each other, all trying to distract me from the frigid truth hiding behind them like a child behind a tree: He was a prisoner now; we all were, and it was my fault.

He shook his head, stroking my cheek again. "It's not so bad," he told me. "Right now, he's still fascinated with my gift. I just walk around letting him see his coven through my eyes."

I held on to half a smile, waiting for the rest. "He hasn't always liked what he's seen," he'd tell me next, or, "Right now, he's wishing he'd kept his eyes shut," or, "I showed him what an evil bitch Jane is and he had her torn apart like a year-old birthday card."

Instead, he closed his mouth and looked away, spending a split-second lost in thought. My stomach went cold. What was going on behind his eyes? What had Aro done that had taken that part of him away? The storm inside me churned and flashed. I wanted to take his head off. I could do that sort of thing now, couldn't I?

"Ow!" Edward said softly. I frowned, looking around for the danger, until I felt his fingers prying my hands away from where they'd gripped his arm too tightly. He met my eyes. "You're stronger that you realize, Bella."

"I'm sorry," I whispered, loosening my hands. Was I stronger than Edward? I'd made him say "ow."

"It's all right," he said tersely.

He still hadn't told me. I'd been paying close attention, and the patterns were matching up in terrible ways. "You," he'd said, and "I." No "we." No "her."

What had happened?

"What is it?" he asked, intensely. Apparently, I was every bit as easy to read as I had been with a heartbeat and a face that could blush or go pale.

"Alice?" I managed, practically shivering where we knelt on the floor. "Alice?"

He held me tighter at that, leaning down to whisper the answer in my ear, "Alice..."

I bit my lip, then stopped. His voice was so intense... but I had to know.

"...Alice got away. She's safe." I could hear the note of pain in his voice.

The whirlwind inside me was building to hurricane force. I couldn't stop it. I wasn't ready... Alice got away—was I relieved? Alice wasn't here to help me. She was with Carlisle and Esme. I would never see her again. But she had got back to Jasper. But I wouldn't see her again.

I heard Edward's breath rush in and the sound of cloth tearing. The collar of my shirt had ripped at the back of my neck. I was on my feet. I was on my feet and... and—everything!

"She's— She's o-okay?" I repeated, trying to force the words through my mind into my strong, shaking body. God, what would make it stop? It had to stop! I'd fall apart if it didn't stop. "Alice— She got home?"

Edward was nodding, a strange tightness around his mouth. "Alice got away," he said again. "The Volturi can never get her. She's probably back in New York by now."

I made myself picture Alice at Cornell, walking into the room where Jasper was taking his philosophy class. I pictured him getting up to hold her hands like he had back in Phoenix. He was picking her up and spinning her in the air, and she was sad, so sad, but safe.

I took another deep breath. There was enough of Edward's scent in the air that it worked almost as well as it used to. It was different; of course it was different, but it worked.

Edward had gotten to his feet too. He put his hands on my upper arms, rubbing up and down. I shut my eyes and just let myself feel as his arms closed around me again and he gently tugged me back to a sitting position. We stayed like that for a long time—or perhaps it was only minutes. My mind was working too fast for me to gauge how time was truly passing. He just kept his arms around me, the fingers of his right hand flat against my shoulder blades as he swayed slowly. It was too calming, like the sleep that I would never know again. Edward loosened one arm to stroke my hair again and we just allowed time to pass. If nothing else, we had plenty of it now.

I felt him shift beside me, like a terrier cocking its head at a new sound. Edward told me before I could open my mouth to ask.

"Felix is coming," he whispered in my ear before. I tried not to flinch. I truly did, but it happened anyway. Edward held me closer for a minute. By then I could hear the footsteps in the hallway. "Look, Felix might try to..." Edward's mouth soured. "If he starts anything..." his eyes closed. "Just don't rise to it, Bella. Can you try?"

I nodded, not sure what I was agreeing to.

"Don't look at him," he told me. "No matter what he says, you can't hear him, you just look at me. Ignore him completely unless—"

I could hear the scraping of the key in the lock. Felix was in no hurry but it didn't sound as though he were dawdling either, just like the other two times the door had opened. I fought back the bright, sick feeling inside me. "Does he—" the words were out of me before I could stop them.

Edward pushed up on my chin, and I did what eh wanted this time, meeting the terrible question in his gaze.

"Does he have anyone with him?" I asked, my voice breaking. I didn't want Edward to see me like that. I didn't want to know how he'd look at me then. I didn't want to have another human. Except for the huge, hungry part of me that did.

He shook his head. "No," he told me, fingers stroking my cheek. "No, it's just him."

I nodded quickly, sinking back into him in relief as the door scraped open, loud against the rough floor.

"You two better be finished in here. Aro wants you," came Felix's voice. Finished? With what?

"Of course, Felix," Edward said calmly. He was addressing Felix, but he didn't take his eyes off me. "Thank you for your help."

"Of course," I could hear Felix him slightly more clearly, as if he'd turned toward me instead of Edward, "if this one hasn't done the job I would be happy to finish up," he said with a leer in his voice that left nothing to the imagination. The hiss left my throat before I knew I'd made a sound but I managed to choke it off halfway through. I didn't look at him, just watched the reflection of his words on Edward's face. There was a flicker of disgust before he steeled himself. I could guess what Felix was thinking, but I didn't want to know. It looked like Edward didn't want to know either.

After that, Edward acted like Felix hadn't spoken, like getting up had been his own idea. He leaned back to pick up his cloak from where he'd dropped it on the floor.

I thought of him walking out the door. Selfish as I was, the thought of being without the ballast of his presence worried me more than anything he'd have to face on the other side. The sight of him sliding on that cloak—the Volturi cloak—only made it worse. I didn't want him to go. The feelings built inside me like a swarm of icy bees and I found myself halfway across my cell in one instantaneous movement, my hand on his wrist.

"Bella," he said quietly, stroking his fingers across the back of my hand before tugging it away. "I'll come back when I can," he promised.

"Hurry it up," muttered Felix. I barely heard him.

"I need to—" My thoughts were jumping in eight directions at once, many times faster than they had before. "How do I keep my mind off it?" I managed at last.

Edward nodded. "Your human memories," he said quietly, as if he expected Felix not to hear, as if such a thing were possible. "All our human memories but Rosalie's have faded over time. If you want to remember Charlie and Renee—"

Something like anger flashed inside me, white and hot. Of course I wanted to remember Charlie and Renee and Jacob! What kind of horrible person wouldn't?

"—then play them over and over in your mind. That's what Rose did. She lost most of the human sounds and images eventually, but she remembers that she remembers it."

Like a childhood memory, I thought. I could remember the time that Renee had tried to make cookies in our first-ever microwave oven, and how she'd ruined it by using a metal pan. I knew that I'd been there, and I knew I'd watched from my high chair, but I remembered it from the outside, as if I'd been a third person in the room, watching my mother and me.

Edward smiled sadly. There was a depth to it that I hadn't been able to see before. If I'd had any breath, it would have taken it away.
"Come on," snarled Felix, stepping all the way into my small cell, forcing Edward to scootch forward to keep their clothes from brushing. Edward held up one hand, like a nobleman shushing a servant. Felix only growled more deeply. Edward leaned in, as if to whisper something in my ear or kiss me on the head the way I'd seen him kiss Alice. I wanted to frown, but kept my face smooth, showing nothing. Something was off about this.
It all happened at once. I saw something shadowy in the corner of my eye and then Edward was on the other side of the room, ducking against the back of the open door as Felix's fist swung through the air where his head had been and collided with the far wall. I let out a scream, deafening in the enclosed space, as Felix snarled like a lion trying to take down an interloper. Edward snarled back, the sound less deep, less rich as it broke out of his lean body.
"Bella, get back!" he shouted.
Felix broke his growl long enough to laugh, "Right, Bella," he echoed, "get back." I barely had time to wonder what was funny about this as he made a move for Edward's exposed throat.
And I was glad that I'd had human eyes back in the spring, glad that I'd passed out from the pain. If I'd seen a fight like this one, my heart would have stopped. I'd thought I'd known how threatening a vampire could be when I'd seen James and Edward face off in the baseball field but I knew better now. I may as well have been blind.
Felix lunged for Edward again and Edward ducked, just a fraction of a second too late to miss the blow. It caught the edge of his cloak, which snagged and tore as Edward slid through Felix's crushing arms to get behind him.
Suddenly I knew how the ancient Greeks had come up with titans. Watching Felix was like watching a mountain that could move and fight, an avalanche that could think for itself. Edward didn't look like Zeus now, not with this monster after him. Felix was matching Edward's movements with a massive grace that seemed impossible for a creature his size. I could see that Edward was faster than he was, much faster, but that didn't count for much in here. Edward was even dodging a split-second before Felix threw his weight after him, but in such a tight space, Felix could follow up before his prey could move out of range. Edward was like a minnow trapped with a moray eel in a tank barely big enough to hold them both.
I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't even know why Felix had attacked Edward. I wanted to help. I wanted to hide. I wanted to scream until the rock walls shattered and this whole place came down and crushed all three of us.
The storm that had gathered inside me when Edward had told me that Alice wasn't with us was taking form again, except now there was no happiness to cut the fear—and it was fear. I felt my limbs shaking with contradiction. I wanted to run away. I wanted to fight. I wanted to be far, far from here. I wanted to help. I wasn't a weak little human anymore, so I could help, couldn't I?
"You'll hold still if you know what's good for you, girl!" Felix's words were barely intelligible, a roaring grunt.
Did I know what was good for me? Don't think about it Bella. I pressed my lips together, bracing my feet against the corner. I wondered if I should wait for an opening, but I knew I didn't have any clue. I took another useless breath, hoped to God that I didn't end up hitting Edward instead, and leaped across the sparse feet between me and Felix's unprotected back.
There was a tangle of bodies and limbs as I fought to get a grip on him or some angle to claw at his eyes. I was stronger than Edward, I remembered with round surprise, maybe even as strong as Felix, even if I didn't have Edward's gift or Felix's experience. I felt my fingernails scrabble against Felix's back, just barely brushing against the smooth skin of his throat before he sent me crashing against the far wall with one expert, open-palmed punch before I could even scratch his skin.
When I looked up, Felix had one knee on the middle of Edward's back, pinning him down while he held Edward's right arm locked above his head. Somehow, Edward's cloak had fallen to the far side of my cell, so that I could see every line in his hands as he tried Felix's grip. My mouth opened in a soundless "O" of disbelief and horror as they shaped Edward's name with no sound. The breath had been knocked out of me.
Felix growled then, a loud, deep, inhuman sound that carried all the way through the air and the walls and my bones and flesh and insides, and I suddenly knew, knew that the vampire who'd made that sound was bigger and stronger and more ruthless than I was and that the best I could do was keep my head down and pray he didn't notice me. I threw both arms over my head as my legs gave out underneath me. I could only imagine how much worse it was for Edward, trapped under Felix's weight. I saw his eyes narrow as the force of it hit him.
Earlier, with the courtly farewell and the forehead-kiss, Edward had been telling Felix that he'd do as he was told, but not until he was good and ready. He'd been saying that he wouldn't jump at orders or come running when he was called. And this was Felix's direct, undeniable, oh yes you will.
It didn't make any sense, not any. What was Felix going to do with Edward now that he had him? And he did have him. I carefully lowered my fingers from in front of my face and took in the line of Edward's body, my new mind registering the angles of his limbs and the bones underneath. Felix had Edward pinned. Edward had lost. The fight was over.
The fight was over, so why did I feel like something terrible was about to—
Felix locked Edward's arm and twisted it with a sickening, wet crunch, snapping it at the shoulder. For a split second, I registered Edward's jaws opening in pain as a startled gasp left his throat. It all ripped through me like I was tissue paper.
The world flickered in my mind's eye. The scene in the room was the same but not the same, like a cat's cradle in the second before it came together. The thoughts that had been swirling like moths in my head suddenly crackled and ignited with a roar into one solid red tongue of something that wasn't fear and wasn't anger and filled me and filled me until my whole body was bright with the flush of it. My lips were peeling back from my teeth in a hiss, revealing the deadly venom underneath. My fingers were curving into claws.
There was no hesitation this time. It didn't matter that Bella Swan didn't know how to fight. I wasn't Bella Swan. I never had been Bella Swan. She'd never been there.
My body knew what to do; I had to bite and tear and scald my venom into my enemy before he could do the same to me. Felix saw me coming and leveled a kick to the middle of my chest without taking his hands off Edward. For the second time, I crashed through a few feet of air and into the wall of my cell, but I was up and back at him quickly. This time I actually scored skin, my teeth biting down near where his face met his massive neck, scraping for purchase against the smooth, metallic surface as the muscles of his jaw clenched underneath.
Felix grunted in annoyance, taking one hand off Edward to pry me loose. I felt the larger vampire's weight shift as he twisted toward me, shaking like an earthquake to drive me off. I held at first and then slipped, landing where the wall met the floor.
I was on my feet again almost instantly, but it wasn't fast enough. Somehow Edward had twisted free and even now I could register how beautiful he was, lips parted over his razor teeth, the perfect line of his body as he crouched, even with one arm dangling uselessly from his shoulder. I took it all in with a longing that could have torn me apart just in time to see Felix wrap both meaty hands around Edward's free wrist and drag him bodily across the floor. I heard another yelp of pain before suddenly the air was empty and the cell door slammed shut hard with me inside.
It didn't take a second for me to register what had happened. Then the sounds in the hallway. The fight was still going on. Why was it still going on? Why wasn't I there? Eight new gouges appeared in the scarred steel door.
I screamed in frustration, blind with fear or rage or just need, as I scraped and clawed and slammed myself into the barrier over and over again. The damned thing just wouldn't give and I had to get out; I had to get out!
There had never been a town on the Olympic Peninsula. There had never been a city in the desert. There were no oceans or forests or long highways anywhere in the universe. There had never been a girl named Isabella Swan, or if there had been, she was long gone.
drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu