Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Help ( Chapter 22 )

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

Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is a fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its three sequels and the first half of Midnight Sun, all of which are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. No party other than the submitting author may alter this work in any way other than font size and other reasonable accommodations to formatting.
"I struggled to find words for the feelings that flooded through me, but I had no words strong enough to hold them. For a long moment, I drowned in them. When I surfaced, I was not the same man." -Edward, Midnight Sun

It was so good... It went from my mouth all the way to my belly, wiping all my thoughts away. It was so good, only there was something bad about it. But that didn't matter, not now. I didn't want to remember.

Strong arms grabbed me by the shoulders, hard, ripping me away. The snarl seemed to be born from the empty space between my prey and me as I scrabbled and pulled free so that I could round on my attacker. I had to finish. I had to get back to—

I froze in place to see Edward, a horrifying intensity covering his face as his arms reached out to catch mine. I clapped my hands over my mouth, pinky finger slipping in the wetness around my chin.

My mind was falling to the ground like a dead moth, light as a leaf, but stiff and frozen. The world was coming back. It was coming back, only it had changed while I'd been away. There was something dark and terrible that hadn't been there before. I could taste it in my mouth. I could see it reflected in Edward's eyes.

Something was making a noise behind me, a choked, wet whimpering. I started to look over my shoulder, and then Edward's hands were on either side of my face, holding me still. Slowly, never breaking eye contact, he shook his head.

"Easy," someone was saying behind us. "Easy now..." Only he wasn't saying it to me.

I could remember walking down the hallway a few minutes earlier, one hand pressed to the side of my face as if I wanted to stop myself from crying. I remembered thinking how ridiculous that was, wanting to be able to cry so that I could want not to cry. I'd been upset about something, but that hardly seemed to matter now. And then I'd noticed that it was the first time I'd really been alone since they'd let me out of the cell. I'd been glad. I knew that I'd been more and more irritated as the days had worn on and the only explanation I had was that Renata or Edward or Heidi or somebody was always in my face.

I'd had half a second to wonder what to do with my new and certainly temporary freedom when I'd heard someone trip in high-heeled shoes—I'd done it myself often enough to know the sound—and then there had been a funny, quiet little tearing noise.

Something was twisting me up like I was made of tar inside my skin. Something was wringing me tighter and tighter until I wished I would break.

Edward stepped toward me, fitting arms like steel girders around my waist. It wasn't an embrace; he was holding me back. I didn't fight. The smell of blood was still in the air, and I didn't know what I'd do next.

Edward gave a tug, he wanted us to leave, but I could still move my neck, so I looked behind me. A thin trail of blood stained the otherwise immaculate floor, just enough to make me awfully, terribly hungry. There was a human, held half-upright in Demetri's arms. Her face was screwed up as she held in a cry. Her right leg looked like an entire pack of dogs had been at it.

My stomach heaved, or at least, the rest of me reacted as if it were going to. Edward gripped me tighter, but I didn't try to get loose. Deep down, I didn't think my body was ever going to give this blood away.

She wasn't Gianna, at least. She looked about forty; I could see the half-millimeter of gray in the part of her hair.

"I am so sorry," I mouthed, but there was no breath behind it. I started to reach out toward her, but Edward grabbed my arm, his other hand getting painfully tight on my hip. I let him. I couldn't blame him.

"Easy," Demetri was saying in his cold, calm voice as he put his hands on either side of her face. His eyes were going black with the thirst, but he seemed every inch in control of himself. Is that what I'd be like one day? "Easy," Demetri said, more gently as the human's eyes stopped rolling and fixed on his.

"I'm sorry," I said, louder. The twisting feeling eased up a little. She wasn't dead. I'd gone for her leg—right where she'd cut herself—so maybe she wouldn't die.

Edward's body was so close to mine that I could feel every muscle go stiff as he shouted, "Wait! Don't—"

The crunching noise, worse than knuckles, went through the woman's neck, Demetri's hands, my feet, my bones, my soul. She cracked.

There was a faint ringing sound. There were high, deep cries echoing off the walls. It was all smaller. Edward, Demetri, the body, they were all further away and my feet were scrabbling against the floor and the cool wall against my shoulder blades was thrumming and crackling and any second it would give way and swallow me into it.

My lips were moving and I could hear something. Edward was next to me again, arms yanking me away from the wall, forward onto the floor as the words spilled out. "She wouldn've died. She wouldn've died. She wouldn've died..."

"With what you did to her?" Demetri said, words like a knife right into me. "It doesn't matter. Even in Volterra, hospitals ask questions. Our humans do not live to cause them."

"Demetri!" Edward snapped. His voice was like an ice pack chilled twenty degrees too cold. I needed it, but it burned me. "We have to keep her calm," he hissed. I was in no mood to complain.

Demetri let the woman's carcass fall to the floor. "Then teach her what these things truly are," he said. "They aren't pets. Yes, we see to their needs, but they are here to serve us," he said.

"You could have turned her." The words came out of Edward's mouth, and that alone made me start.

"So could you," Demetri answered. He turned and walked away, unhurried.

"Come on," Edward muttered in my ear. I nodded against his cheek. We left the room, but even holding my breath that smell, that wonderful smell of blood seemed to follow me.

I'd killed someone. Maybe I hadn't struck the final blow, but that didn't matter. If Edward hadn't pulled me off her, I would have sucked her dry. I could still remember the feel of that hot, wet, sweet—

No. I said. Jacob in the living room. Jacob walking away from me toward Sam. Jacob begging me not to come to Italy because if I did something terrible would happen...

My breath was coming in hitching sobs as I pressed my dry eyes against Edward's sleeve, but it wasn't really crying. It couldn't make me feel tired and clean afterward, like crying was supposed to. I held onto him, even though I knew he couldn't anchor me. I'd thought that I only needed Edward, but I needed him and I needed to not be like this.

"Edward, how do I..." I closed me eyes. "How do I stop?"

Edward's voice was strangely quiet. "You don't, Bella. There's no going back."

He'd warned me. He'd warned me. He'd warned me a million years ago in Forks, and I hadn't cared. I hadn't cared.

"Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."

I'd taken a hot shower the day I'd gotten back from Arizona. I'd turned the steam up until every inch of skin not covered by a cast had turned red and I'd scrubbed until Alice had confiscated my sponge. I'd managed to get rid of the hospital smells, but the feel of James's hands and incisors had lingered for weeks. Somehow, I didn't think it would work any better now.

"Edward?" I said quietly. He didn't turn, still guiding me toward the stairs, but I could see something dark and terrible in the side of his face. "I didn't mean to..." To what? Jump on that woman like a jackal? Make him regret teaching me how?

"I know," he said quickly, but in a way that made me think he only wanted me to stop talking.

I stopped moving, and he looked me in the face. "What is it?" he asked.

It was like there was a living creature behind his eyes. The clear amber seemed dark and alive. It was as if pulling something so good out of the woman had put something terrible into him.

I pressed my lips together as I felt them start to bob up and down. Even now, I had to fight back the urge to lick the rest of the blood off. Something had gone brittle inside me, threatening to fracture.

"Whoa, what did I miss?" someone was saying. I saw a vampire with short dark hair, red eyes slowly darkening at the sight of the blood on my face and clothes.

"Not now, Rolfe," Edward answered.

"The masters want you," Rolfe told him. "That means you've got to come."

I felt Edward nod against me. "Get Renata and I'll come. I think she's in the tower with the wives." Yes, Renata. Renata would be a relief.

Rolfe was shaking his head. "You're already keeping them waiting."

"She just butchered a human like she was a goddamned stuck pig," Edward said simply. "I am not leaving her alone. It's Caius's own orders that I not leave her alone."

"Fine," the man said reasonably, holding up two white, shining-clean hands. "I'll stay with the girl. We'll wait for you."

Edward's lip flexed. "Not in the audience chamber. Don't bring her in with us."

"Whatever you want. We'll stay outside."

I felt Edward nod, not looking at me. I wanted to go numb. I wanted so badly to zone out and feel nothing, but that must have been part of being human. I didn't miss a thing. He didn't make a sound as we walked past the empty reception desk.

Edward looked over his shoulder at Rolfe as we approached the tall double doors. "Don't," he said, with a voice full of heat and bile.

"Don't what?" he asked.

Edward jabbed one finger at his temple. "Don't anything."

"Easy there," Rolfe said carefully. I couldn't blame him. He hadn't done anything awful.

Edward took hold of one heavy handle and pulled it open. I could hear faint voices inside. "I'll come get you later," was all he said to me. The doors swung shut behind him.

Rejection washed through me, black and bitter. Worse, I knew I deserved it. I wouldn't want to know me either. I wouldn't want to see me or hear me or live in my skin.

I didn't care how childish I looked. I wrapped my arms around my legs and buried my head against my knees. I'd ended up this way after my first kill, in my cell. Back then at least I'd remembered to hold my breath. I hadn't even tried this time. And things were only going to get worse.

At the edges of my senses, I felt Rolfe's shoes against the floor beside me. "Was it a human?" he asked. I really wanted to stay inside my own head for a while, but it seemed like he was trying to be nice. Weirdly enough after what had just happened, I felt like it wrong to just ignore him. I nodded.

Rolfe breathed in and out. "It wasn't Marta from accounting, was it? I liked her."

I shrugged. I didn't know her name. I hadn't known the other one's name either.

He produced a handkerchief from somewhere, tucking it against my hand. I took it and scrubbed hard at my face and hands. I wondered if I'd stain, like wine on a white countertop. God knew I felt anything but brand new. The handkerchief turned pink and started to wisp up like wet toilet paper, but Rolfe didn't say anything.

"Look, this isn't the first time somebody's gone after one of our humans when they cut themselves. Don't feel too bad about it. And it's not like you did it on purpose, right?"

I raised my head. I could feel my lower lip bobbing up and down again. Why couldn't Edward have said something like that? Why couldn't he have said that?

But at the same time, there was something off about it all. Rolfe was looking at me with a gentle, patient smile on his broad, smooth face, like a gym teacher trying to coax a band-aid onto a crying kid's skin-breaking broken leg.

Well I wanted it. Whatever it was he was offering, really offering, it sounded like it would take this pain away, and I wanted it.

"Aw, come on now," he said, putting a hand on my arm and patting awkwardly. It felt good. It felt so good to have someone touch me without fear, like maybe I wasn't so terrible after all. "There's no need to cry. Nobody's mad at you." I closed my eyes against the sound of his voice. "I know you didn't get to finish, but there'll be a feast in a couple of days and Heidi will make sure you get a share."

The snarl built slowly this time, like a long strip of rawhide streaking toward its target. The next thing I knew, I was on my feet and Rolfe was springing back out of the way.

"Hey," he said, holding out both hands. "Don't get mad at me," he said. "I'm only trying to help."

Yes, that was the truth. He was trying to help. And, in a twisted way, in the Volterra way, this was help.

But how could he see that I was this upset and be so wrong about why?

"Leave me alone," I said finally.

Rolfe shook his head. "I promised," he said. "And it's not allowed."

And with good reason. Look what had happened the last time I'd been alone. Closing my eyes, I sank back down against the wall.

Rolfe left me to my thoughts this time. I let my attention sink into the stone behind me. Whatever Aro and Caius had Edward doing, it wasn't making a lot of noise. I didn't think they were even talking in there. All that silence outside my head and all the noise in.

The minutes slipped by. Or hours. I couldn't tell and didn't care. I wished I could sleep and dream and wake up after my subconscious had sorted it all out.

Finally, the doors gave a creak and a heave, jerking me back into the world. Rolfe had looked up as well. I started to get up, but he held up a hand.

"Felix," came Caius's voice through the opening portal, "take her away."

I shivered as the bulky vampire walked past, but when I saw what was in his arms and smelled perfume and human sweat, I realized that "her" didn't mean me. I was on my feet in time for Aro and Caius walk past me, flanked by their guards.

I saw Aro look back, the light showing every crag of his face in profile, "Best to give him a moment, my dear ones," he said, and his eyes landed on me. "It isn't as if he does this every day."

I processed it all quickly. I hadn't seen Edward leave through these doors, and if he'd gone out the back way, he'd just have come straight back for me, wouldn't he?

He doesn't do this every day... And Aro's gray-filmed eyes.

Not every day... And Aro had looked at me.

I turned back toward the hallway. I couldn't see reception from here, but had Gianna been at her desk? The bones in my back felt strangely light. I asked myself what shoes Gianna had been wearing, whether they were the same ones I'd seen on the woman in Felix's arms. I asked myself if I could remember her scent.

But I didn't have to ask what her dearest hope was, why she'd come to work for the Volturi in the first place.

Had she gotten her wish today? Had Aro ordered Edward to do it? Of course he had, I realized. Edward had better control than every other vampire in Volterra put together, and today, today, I finally understood what that meant. If there was anyone who could bite a human and not kill, it was Edward.

I closed my eyes, gritting my teeth against the sudden wave of emotions. I felt a kinship with Gianna, the human girl who'd wanted to be a vampire, but at the same time I didn't want her to have her own version of my moment with Edward, especially not now that it looked like he'd never speak to me again.

I turned to look at Rolfe. He was still looking at me nervously, as if he didn't know what to do.

I took a deep breath and stepped gingerly into the feasting hall.

The scent of human blood filled my mind, but fainter than when the woman had cut her leg. It was as if most of it had already been drained away.

"So I've got to, uh..." Rolfe's voice came from behind me. Whatever had happened here, he didn't want to be anywhere near it. "I'll just... I'll go find Renata for you."

As I approached Edward, I could hear a funny sound, like ice crystals crunching under my feet, but with a wetter, chalkier tone. I noticed sickly that his head was lying at an awkward angle against the first steps of the dias. Then I remembered what Edward had said about neck strikes. Something about them being even worse than a fractured skull.

I crept up behind him as his bones continued to knit. The sound stopped, but he still didn't move.

"Edward?" I asked. "Edward, are you okay?"

He didn't make a sound.

I crouched down next to him, palms against the floor as I leaned in to get a better look.

His face wasn't slack and dead like I'd feared. His eyes were screwed shut, lips pursed like the moment he'd known that he'd provoked James into hunting us, and for a second, I forgot the blood still drying on my skin. I slid closer until I practically had his head on my knees.

I wasn't sure what to do next, so I pushed his hair out of his eyes, as lightly as I could, with one finger.

His head gave a jerk, as if my touch had stung him.

That was it. It should have been nothing, but it was everything. I couldn't take any more. The human's dead, staring eyes and the blackness in Edward's voice and the way he'd said goodbye now and the way he'd said goodbye in the woods last fall. The emotions were beating against me like waves against a cliff and any second now the rock would crack and whatever I was would fall into the sea. It was the end.

I could feel it building, rising up like a flood to drown me, some change, some splintering of my spirit to turn me into someone who could live like this. Any part of me with the will to fight it off was completely spent.

I wasn't even sure I didn't want it to happen.

Then, quick as a striking snake, Edward caught hold of my hand.

Slowly, like a man trying to steal a jewel from a sleeping dragon, he pulled my palm to the side of his face. He breathed in and then out again, mouth barely parting before he spoke.

"Don't leave me," he said.

He opened his eyes, staring at me through my fingers.

Dark, vivid red staring back at me through my fingers.

"Oh..." I mouthed.

His other hand joined the first, holding my wrist. "Bella, please don't leave me."

I didn't answer. What would I say?

"Is she dead?" I asked.

Edward nodded against my hand.

"Was it Gianna?" I asked, but he was already nodding again. I swallowed. "Nothing we can do about it now," I said, and it felt good, saying what I wished he'd said to me. "But I know you didn't do it on purpose, so the only thing left is..."

I trailed off.

...he'd looked away.

"Edward?" My insides felt strangely hollow. "You didn't kill her on purpose, Edward," I said.

"Not ...entirely," he told me.

I stared down at him, not sure what I was seeing. Eyes, nose, jawline all became just a collection of shapes.

"I— I don't really know," he said. "Maybe I did."

"No you didn't," I said, but even I could hear the throb building in my voice. "Of course you didn't. How could you think that you did?" I demanded, my words echoing off the arched ceiling.

I saw his jaw flex as he grit his teeth, lip twisting. "Because I hate her," he said in a low snarl.

"Edward, that was Gianna," I half-shouted at him. "She never did anything to us; she just worked here. She wasn't so different from—"

"Don't compare yourself to her." His words came in a dark hiss.

I went quiet at that. How was that girl different from me, really? She was prettier. She was older. Perhaps Edward had seen something in her thoughts that he hand't seen in mine, because she wasn't a mental defective.

"Don't think for a second that you're anything like her. She isn't—"

A monster. A killer. A stone around his neck.

"—good. There's nothing good in her, Bella. And I hate her for it."

I had no idea what he was talking about. I knew today that I wasn't good, and Gianna wasn't bad.

"Like today," he said, wedging an arm behind himself until he was half sitting up. "Bella, I could tell you didn't mean it; I didn't need to hear your thoughts to see that you were eating yourself alive, and I hated that I couldn't do anything about it. It was like lead in my heart that I couldn't do anything about it."

I felt my hands fall back to my sides, light as leaves as he rose up to his knees beside me.

"But the pain you're feeling is a good thing. It means that you can feel guilt," he said. "None of them do," he said, pointing where the others had gone. "And neither did she."

"But you killed her?" I asked in a small voice.

"I never would have gone looking to harm her," he said like a promise. "I used to kill people whom I thought did not deserve to live—you know that—but those days are long behind me. But when I was..." he trailed off, closing his eyes. "I'm not sure that I could have made myself stop. All I know is that I didn't." His eyes on me were dark. "I'm not proud of it, but I can't make myself say that the world is poorer."

I was quiet. Everything finally felt quiet.

"So you're not..." my words stopped. I licked my lips, twitching hard at the taste on them. "You're not... you're not angry?"

He seemed confused, "What, at you?"

I nodded tightly.

He put his hands on either side of my face. "No," he said, looking me square in the eye. Everyone lapses, Bella, especially when we're new," he was saying. "It's happened to Esme. It's happened to Emmett and Alice. It is an unavoidable part of being what we are."

With my new eyes, I could see the way his lower lip tensed. I knew him well enough and had been watching closely enough to know that was what he did when he lied. It did bother him, what I'd done. But that didn't matter, not today. The important part was that he'd said it, and that meant that he wasn't angry all the way through. After all, he must have felt this way about Alice once, when she'd done it. I could see it now, in my mind. Edward would have been free then. He could have just left Alice with Jasper or Esme and gone off by himself until he could look her in the eye again. He'd have hidden his feelings until he'd mastered them. Except now, in Volterra, he had to either stay with me himself or leave me with someone like Rolfe.

In a way, it was almost good. Of all the things to make Edward disappointed in me, actually killing someone wasn't such a low threshold. Maybe it meant that Volterra hadn't gotten to him yet.

I didn't say anything for a while, and he sank back down beside me, resting his head against my knees. I reached out to ...I don't know, stroke his hair or whatever, but there was still something that didn't feel quite finished, something he'd said, and I couldn't put my finger on what it was.

...unavoidable. The air felt cold in my throat. It felt like a wet November wind all the way down to the pit of my stomach, making everything so clear.

My human memories were dim, but my mind was sharp. I could put the pieces together. I could see Jasper at my eighteenth birthday party. I could see my memory of Edward in the woods, telling me that he no longer loved me.

And his lip had tensed up.

He'd lied.

"That's why you left Forks," I breathed.

I could hear him pull the breath into his body and push it out again. "Yes," he said, not opening his eyes.

I felt like a sooty fog was breaking up, rolling away to let the light come through. The words were stuck in my chest, like moths beating against a screen, and I wasn't sure if I should let them out. In the end...

"So you did love me."

He looked up at me then, dark broken-garnet red so clear that I could see all the way through him, but he looked away. "Very much," he said.

I turned away, licking my lips. My hand found the side of his face again. I felt his eyes close against my touch. He had loved me. He'd only left to save me from a terrible fate that I'd been unable to understand until today. And even if Volterra had killed it, I would always know that he had loved me, very much.

"I am sorry that I failed you, Bella," he whispered into my fingers. "Please don't leave me."
"Okay," I murmured back. "I won't."
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