Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Hunt ( Chapter 58 )

[ 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 fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its four 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.




"It might be someone I know!" —Bella, Breaking Dawn




I was so messed up I could barely buckle my seat belt.

Usually I tried not to roll my eyes when Edward got nostalgic, but in this minute I missed being human so bad. A vampire body preserved everything. Every memory I'd gotten since my first day in Volterra was as sharp as ever. Sometimes that was great: I didn't need a picture of Caroly or Renata or any of the happy minutes I'd manage to scrape together with Edward.

The flip side of that was that my dad in a hospital bed full of tubes and worse and with no idea I was even there was going to be like a punch to the gut every day for the rest of my life. Now I knew why most vampires didn't bother to go look for people from their human lives. Poor Andrew was braver than I'd given him credit for.

I should have stuck to the plan. I'd convinced Edward that it would be okay if we got into the house when everyone was gone, left Charlie his favorite foods that I used to make him and then skedaddle. But then I saw the wedding photo. Charlie Swan had married Sue Clearwater, Seth and Leah's mom. That meant he might know about werewolves, and that meant he might know about vampires, and that meant we wouldn't really be breaking the law or more importantly his grip on reality if we showed up and said hi.

Edward had snuck a peek at Charlie's chart, but he hadn't told me what it said. That probably wasn't good. I knew Edward could hear thoughts from sleeping people, but he hadn't said anything about Charlie. That wasn't good either. Stroke. My studies in Volterra had focused more on languages and sometimes com technology, but I knew stroke. It was a blood-to-the-brain thing. It could be next to nothing or it could turn people into vegetables.

He was only in his sixties, hadn't even hit mandatory retirement. Humans were still supposed to live way longer than that, right?

We pulled over halfway up the road to the Cullen house. He held me until my hands stopped shaking.

"I wish we could stay," I said.

He turned the key and shut off the engine. The car seemed to settle into the pavement.

"I wish we could stay and help Sue take care of Charlie."

Edward reached over and brushed my hair out of my face, fingers soft as a river stone against my skin. "I know," he said.

I hadn't been that kind of free since I'd been human. Hell, I could have done it if I were a normal vampire who'd never gotten on Aro's radar. We could say Edward was his own nephew or something, live quietly, and wait for the Cullens to call. But no. The jerk was messing up my life from here.

"We've probably stayed too long already," he said.

And just like that, the steering wheel and dash just looked so punchable.

Maybe the house just looked or felt too different without any people or furniture in it, but Edward didn't seem any more ready to remember Alice. It didn't help that I didn't know what the Cullens had used to do all day. I saw Edward and Alice together a lot, but almost always when they were faking human at school, and we weren't in any position to go there. The school had been moved and rebuilt anyway, all ergonomic as a single building with covered walkways and probably central heating. Why when I was a kid, we'd had to go outside in the rain to change to classes in different buildings, warmed with portable heaters and fans. We'd also done it uphill both ways in the snow.

Edward clasped my hand tight. "Hunt," he said. "You'll feel better. I'll go park the car at the house and catch up with you."

Big jerk, thought I needed someone to tell me when I needed to eat as if I couldn't read my own ...okay, yeah I'd been thinking about it for a couple days but I was totally good for a few more.

"It's safe?" I asked, touching the side of his head as I undid my seat belt.

He nodded. "It's never a hundred percent, but I can't hear anyone for miles. Except..." he shook his head. "It's like there's no one there but there isn't no one there," he said. His eyes narrowed like he had a headache. Good. Vampire headache meant that he was doing something he couldn't quite process. He always complained about headaches after he came out of his brainwhammy when someone mentioned Alice. Maybe memory lane was going somewhere after all. Or I was still capable of wishful thinking. "The woods feel like when someone home-repairs a rust spot on a car factory-caliber paint. The car ends up the same color but there's this little depression where the light hits it..."

I didn't interrupt. I had never been into cars as he was. With freight maglevs I could cite you make and model but for automobiles my ability to impress people extended to "I can drive stick."

I reached for the door handle. By the time I got there, it was already open, being held open for me, to be more specific. Back in the day, this kind of old-fashioned chivalric behavior had made me nervous. No one did anything for free and what boys wanted from me had never been clear. But for Edward, it was just the way he liked to act, because in his day it was what everyone did. Maybe not everyone everyone, but everyone Edward knew. For him it was as normal as saying "you're welcome" after "thank you."

"Remember, east of the gorge, inland side."

I nodded.

"We don't want to antagonize the wolves," he said. "We don't know what they'll do."

This was another conversation we'd had too many times, but here we were on the same page: I was pretty sure I knew the werewolves better than he did—he'd lived near them longer, but I'd actually spent time with them—and my eyes might not protect me. This could be a whole new pack with people who didn't know or care that the Cullens had made a deal with their great-great grandfathers to be allowed to hunt here.

I was hoping to talk to Jacob while we were here, but it was better to play it safe. Worst-case scenario, we'd leave, meet up with the Cullens, and I'd send Jacob a weird letter that I didn't have to get a permission slip to chuck into the mail this time.

Well not the worst-case scenario... I'd been human at the time, but I had seen the werewolves in action. That vampire who'd wanted to eat me, Lawrence or something. He hadn't stood a chance, and Sam and the guys had been extremely focused. Sam was a reasonable guy, mostly, but if he decided to chomp first and ask questions later, there wouldn't be much Edward or I could do about it. He read minds and interrogated criminals and I offered supernatural protection and ran Volterra's boot camp; neither of us were primarily fighters, and we didn't have Felix and Rolfe and Caroly and a whole guard of newborns backing us up. If the wolves got it in their heads to kill us, we'd be dead. And Jake had to do whatever Sam said.

Edward kissed me on the head and drove away. He could make the drive in ten minutes and run back in half an hour. I didn't wait for him.

I breathed in the misty air. Spring had come late, but it was here. The ground was frozen deeper down but thawed at the surface. The rain had just let up, and there were still plenty of patches of snow. Sometimes water carried scent and sometimes it concealed it. This time...

Nothing to my nose, so I listened. Heartbeats... Give me big, squishy heartbeats pounding out from inside something hot and mammalian...

I took off into the woods at a trot, slow enough for me to make no noise at all. I didn't want to spook anything before I heard it—not that that was likely. I didn't even have the sound of my own pulse to give me away, though I could still hear the ringing of my nervous system if I got quiet enough. I'd run for thirty paces and then stop and listen, run again and stop again, waiting long enough for the birds to start singing. Nothing. I rubbed my arms. Had the humans finally killed off all the big mammals? I'd have thought the library squad would have picked up news like that.

This should have been easy. I was hunting in the real woods, for all that I more or less sucked at it. Most people learned to do this when they were newborns and their senses and instincts could make up for whatever practice they hadn't had. If I'd gotten to work through my change like a normal person, I'd have been an expert by now. I wanted to zone out and forget about Charlie and Edward and my complete failure to help either one of them for five minutes, there was only one thing on the planet that could make my brain do that, and I was still incompetent at getting it without either Edward holding my hand or the Volterra pig procurement squad supplying the saline.

What was I supposed to do again? Look for water? I'd read a military survival guide once, in between combat manuals. It'd said to find water by following animal trails to streams and ponds, so maybe it worked in reverse. I breathed in. Everything smelled like water. And ice. I listened for the sound of a brook or something. Zip.

On one hand, I wanted Edward to hurry and get his butt over here to help me out. On the other, I didn't want him to see me helpless on my own. He was as patient a teacher as I could hope for, but it could grate on me all the same. I didn't want to be hungry or alone with my thoughts. The new images in my head were heavy, and I didn't know how to carry—

A scent hit my nose and I ran.

It was exactly what I wanted. I just ran. The earth gave out a clean dirt scent with a hint of ice as my pounding feet ripped up clumps of slush and half-frozen earth. The air gasped past my ears, better even than my first time on a motorcycle. And better yet, I was running to something that was actually there.

I didn't know if it was moose or deer; it definitely wasn't a predator, but it smelled good enough to someone who hadn't fed in weeks. It could've been the Last Unicorn for all I cared.

I landed half on its back and felt the vertebrae crack. I sliced down, clamping onto the artery like a lamprey, not caring when it fell to its side with my leg pinned underneath. I let myself go in a way that I hadn't on the Burren. I didn't think about Edward or Alice or my dad. I felt like my venom was real venom, that I wasn't just pulling the animal's life out but infecting it with hate and disappointment. When it finally shuddered and died, that would die too. But it didn't.

I pulled back and looked at the body. Elk, maybe? Whatever. Most days, something this big would set me up, but not today. Today, there were too many living things in the world. I didn't stop to wonder why Edward hadn't caught up with me yet.

I contemplated running down another beast when a new scent caught my nose, an enticing, vein-throbbing scent. I was off before the elk's neck hit the ground.

My whole body shivered as I ran. Blood. Realblood.

I just wanted to lose myself again. And if I had been a newborn out hunting for the first time, I would have. I'm sure I would have. Instead I stopped, toes down, cutting dark ruts in the ground as I threw my arms out in front of me.

I didn't fall, leaning back to throw my weight in the right direction. Then I stepped back and stepped back again, hands over my mouth and nose. The only thought in my head: Who the hell was that?

When my brain caught up with the rest of me, I was able to answer part of my own question: That was a hiker, probably a tourist. An adult male white guy with dark hair. And very dead, with wet blood still seeping from his face and neck.

Most of my mental focus was heaving against the instincts in my veins. I was still hungry, and there was human blood, and it might even still be hot. And the hardest part? It wasn't as if I had to kill him. He wasn't using his blood or any other part of his circulatory system any more. It'd just go to waste.

I stared at the blood, the neat, even shreds in the neck and wrists. I focused on one droplet, slowly watching the surface tension increase as it dried. The proteins would be condensing, forming and unforming bonds as they congealed. Fibrin. Fibrinogen. Platelets. Erythrocytes. Sweet and still almost hot. It would be worse not to eat it. Why kill some leaf-eating little deer if this dude was already gone? Yeah. That was it. My morals were satisfied. Ethically speaking it was totally cool to clamp down on what was left of this guy's aorta and see if he was good to the last drop.

I managed to hold still. Because ethical or not, this was fishy as hell.


Edward caught up, just like he'd said he would. He took one look at the dead guy, one look at me, and put his hands over mine. "I'm sorry. I was so sure these woods were empty." He licked his lips. "It's a lapse," he said, nodding, "everyone lapses now and then. We should probably hide the body. I suppose we could leave enough of his personal effects near one of the cliffs for his family to..."

It took a few more moments of blah blah blah before I put his thought process together. He was darn lucky that I'd've needed to take both hands off my face to strangle him. I managed to give him enough of the evil eye that he took another look at the goddamned corpse.

Even a new-turned rookie could tell those were knife cuts.

"That wasn't you?"

I stiffly and very angrily shook my head.

"Well ...good," he said. "We should probably get out of here. I..." he stopped, staring into space for a minute. "If it wasn't a vampire kill, then I think we should report the dead human to the police."

I felt my eyebrows shoot up into my hair. The last time I'd been that close to a dead human body, I'd been in Volterra. Just because we didn't feed on humans didn't mean we didn't have to help clean up after meals like all the other graycloaks. Edward had been promoted out of it a while after he started working with Demetri, but I'd been dragging out dry corpses until my third batch of calm newborns. That had been years ago, but now when I saw a human body my first impulse was still to size it up for the incinerator. But out in the human world that was the opposite of what we were supposed to do.

For the guard, the police were to be avoided. They were humans specifically trained to notice things and look for threats. They were problems with two eyes each. Edward's first screwup, the one in Zhengzhou, had involved the police.

But felt strange, but Edward was right. Reporting a crime just like... well not like real humans but like real vampires who were pretending to be humans instead of vampires who were part of a very non-pretending shadow government with an assassination-based economy. Edward was taking a step away from Volterra, and that was a step in the right direction. Also, the dead guy's family might be able to bury him and whoever'd killed him might go to jail and stuff. Holy hell, human criminals got to go to jail.

He put his arm around my shoulder. We walked away at a human pace. Something was nagging at me to be as human as possible.

"Think we could find a phone?" I asked, careful to breathe only out.

"What, like a payphone?" Edward asked, a smile in his throat. "Those were on their way out in your day, millennial."

I elbowed him in the neck.

"No, I think a paper note," he said. "I think they still use paper."

"I'd better write it," I said.

"Your father might see it and recognize your handwriting. Mine's less known."

"No kidding. They stopped teaching cursive years ago. What you write is like a..." I shifted my diaphragm, "monk's manuscript." By then I'd used up most of my air, but even at a walk we were getting some distance, steps like a steady heartbeat against the half-frozen ground.

Right. That was it. This human had been killed by another human, and if I messed up the body, the police would have a harder time catching said other human before he killed yet another human. That was why I had to let the slushy ground drink all that delicious mortality. That had to be what was setting off my spidey senses

Edward's eyes scanned the canopy, shifting left and right.

"Bella, while I've got you here, I need to tell you something. Since we got to Forks, I've been feeling ...strange."

Well no shit; half his memories of this place had little Hello Kitty stickers plastered over where Alice's face was supposed to be. But my psych book had said not to pressure him or ask him leading questions. I was supposed to just let him run with his own thought process and not give him anything he could use to construct what he thought I wanted to hear. Or not. For all I knew, it was wrong and I was making everything worse.

"What kind of strange?" I asked.

"Like I'm being watched," he said. He eyed me critically. "Why are you smiling?"

"Am I?"

"Yes, Bella. I'm trying to tell you I have a funny feeling about this place and we have a dead stranger and you're smiling."

"Just am I guess."

Hell yes we were being watched—by a future-reading little pixie. As far as I was concerned, she could watch what I planned to do to Edward under the Sitka spruce out by the cottage if she liked. I'd had far less savory people catch me in the act. Since her visions weren't real-time, she might even be watching already.

We'd gotten some distance now and I was feeling more confident about the air. I gave a tiny sniff and even though I could still smell human blood, it wasn't overwhelming. Now that I was expecting it, it was just one more note in the half-frozen forest air.

"So you feel like you're being watched. Can you hear the thoughts of anyone close enough to do the watching? Like ...from a satellite?"

He snorted. "Aro would love his own satellite. I'm surprised he hasn't put the acquisitions department on it. But ever since Marjane found a way to pirate the high-caliber signals it's just been cheaper to eavesdrop on military surveillance satellites."

"Yes. Aro. Spying. Evil organization secretly rules the world," I said. "But this feeling?"

He shook his head. "It doesn't feel like Aro."

Score! Why was he not putting this in the win column?

"With Aro, being watched was..." he shook his head. "I know you don't see it that way Bella, but it felt more benevolent."

My face must've gotten as gray as the half-melted ice.

Edward dipped his shoulders, "Whatever the circumstances, he was a good ruler."

"You can't say whatever the circumstances if he created the circumstances."

"Fine. Whatever he did to the two of us personally, he also did his job and I'm not going to hate him for it."

"I'll do it myself then," I said. I'd remembered Alice for both of us. I could hate that jerk's craggy, half-petrified butt for both of us too. "So what does it feel like?" I asked.

He exhaled. "The closest thing I have? It feels like Rolfe."

I didn't know what to say at first. "Which Rolfe?" I asked. The sweet-as-you-could-get-in-Volterra Rolfe or the two-faced obsessed backstabber who'd almost put the vampire world in chaos?

"It reminds me of watching Rolfe put together fake memories to fool Aro. I didn't have much time to think about it at the time, but it was kind of like staring at a false 3D for too long. One part of my brain was saying 'yes' and the other was saying 'no.' It reminded me of getting seasick."

"And you who hadn't yet eaten any lunch to lose," I said.

He rubbed his forehead with one hand but I saw his mouth move in that lopsided smile that I'd liked so long ago. "Bella I know you're mad at me for doubting you, but really was it that unreasonable? Yes, I don't suppose you'd lose control after all these years but when I saw the dead body right there, what was I supposed to thin—"

We both stopped at the same time.

"Oh God," he said.

A vampire standing next to a dead man? Of course you'd think she killed him, if you knew what vampires were. Which some of the locals did. And, thanks to me, that whole glade probably reeked of eu du bloodsucker.

"Where's the car?" I said, breaking into a trot.

"At the house like I said," he answered, pacing me as we both began to run.

In the distance, a wolf began to howl.




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