She was in a place he could no longer reach by touch or words, preserved in the labyrinth of her mind like a small creature fossilized in amber. Edward/Bella.
1. Chapter 1
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1430 Review this Chapter
He closes his eyes.
Sometimes Edward remembers the past, and calls it a dream. But there are no good dreams here. He hardly even remembers the wedding anymore. Not Bella’s face, flushed and beautiful beneath her veil, or the fresh sweetness of roses strung all over the place; sometimes even the wedding night slips away (the taste of her mouth, like an overripe fruit and she laughed). Instead he dreams of the night of her first kill: Bella stumbling over the grass like a broken puppet with his arm wrapped around her shoulder, vice-like. And there is Carlisle, standing back, and Esme and Jasper and -
Look at her, says Rosalie. God, look at her Edward. Don’t touch her.
Later in his dream, when he sits with his head buried in his hands as he searches for tears, Alice’s soft voice breathes in under his skin. Take her somewhere new. Maybe it will help. He nods, agrees. He thinks it will help. That is how the dream always goes.
He opens his eyes.
Bella is still lying perfectly still. He looks at her and thinks: I made you like this. If I’d let you remain human, if I’d found a way to let you go, you wouldn’t be like this. He thinks it again, like a mantra. He wishes he could ask her for forgiveness.
Instead he whispers: “Time to wake up, love.”
Beside him, like a gleeful child, Bella begins to laugh.
He took her away, just like Alice told him to. Not to Denali, but to a secret place of his own, nestled in the snow and the quiet. He told his wife it was his sanctuary. It could be hers too, if she wanted it to be.
When they arrived the light was pale and white. “Milky,” Bella called it, and Edward agreed, wrapping his hand over her own smaller one. It was just the two of them that day, just Bella Cullen (née Swan) and Edward Cullen, standing under the large boughs of a fir tree. Bella was dressed warmly: thick buttoned black coat, blue scarf, hood pulled up over her dark hair. She didn’t need any of it, not anymore, but she’d insisted – and she insisted on so little these days.
Edward was stroking her wrist, his thumb slipping beneath the wool of her glove. If she realised how carefully he was watching her, how desperately his eyes were searching her face for every small delicate working of muscle, every flicker of her lashes, she gave no sign of it. Her mouth was slightly parted, revealing her teeth.
Time moved differently for vampires. Edward supposed that it was a side-effect of immortality, the way the hours could slip away like sand. But even he realised that they’d been standing there for a long time, watching the shadows move against the ground. Bella was under the shade thrown by the tree, but Edward was not. His bare arm gleamed.
“Bella,” he whispered. “Do you see the lake there? I thought you’d,” – love the beauty of this place, the sound of the wind through the trees, the music – “like it. It’s special to me.” He gripped her hand a little tighter and turned to look at the view in front of them. He felt grief ripple over his face and tamped it down. “But we can go somewhere else,” he added, desperation creeping into his voice. “Anywhere you like. Back to Phoenix, or even Forks – ”
But her hand shifted in his grip. An echo of a smile tilted her mouth.
“This is nice,” she said.
That was enough for him. They settled there like children playing a game, shaping angels in the snow with their backs and their arms because it amused Bella and he’d give - anything - to see a vague flicker of light in her eyes, which were otherwise glassy, dead. Edward hunted for the both of them and provided enough for their survival, even though Bella occasionally gave him away to their prey by snapping a twig beneath her foot as she followed him, or laughing.
But those were the good days. There were other times when she stopped moving altogether, and instead sat by the lake with her gold-brown eyes open and staring into nothing. In the beginning he’d try and talk her out of those states, his voice calm and measured. If you take my hand we’ll go up to the hilltop over there, I’ll find you flowers. I’ll tell you my darkest secrets. I’ll never leave you. When nothing worked he’d give into desperation and superstition and fairytales, kneeling by her and pressing his mouth to her own in a one-sided, too-soft kiss. But she was not sleeping beauty, and nothing could wake her up. Not even him.
Bella had a very private mind. As a human it had been her strongest trait, and as a vampire it became her curse. She was in a place he could no longer reach by touch or words, preserved in the labyrinth of her mind like a small creature fossilized in amber. There were glimpses of the Bella he’d loved, of course: in the way she moved, swinging her hips a little too jauntily, her limbs a constantly graceless tangle of motion. She still smiled the same, one side of her mouth rising higher than the other.
He knew Carlisle wanted him to bring Bella home. The others thought it was time for him to give up; time to take Bella back into the arms of their family, where she could be cared for by all of them like an invalid or a weak-willed child. He wouldn’t allow that - couldn’t allow that. She was improving, he knew it. He loved her too much to let this end in tragedy. Romeo devoted but forgotten, and Juliet asleep and screaming beneath her skin, where no one could see it.
He just needed a little more time.
Edward joins in when Bella pretends to sleep. He lies with her on the cold ground, prickly with ice dust and frozen vegetation, and nestles his head against the crook of her shoulder. Her hair always smells of sweet cedar and blood. She never moves when he joins her, just gives one long exhalation that means nothing at all.
He closes his eyes.
Sometimes Edward creates a new memory, and calls it a dream. There are good dreams here, in the sanctuary he has built for himself. He dreams he will wake up and find Bella staring down at him in wonderment, her eyes bright like stars. She will tell him she has missed him so much, that she will never leave him again; that without him by her side, guiding her every step, she would have perished there inside her head, alone and starved for love. He will sob tearlessly, pulling her into his arms and burying his face in her cedar-sweet hair whispering you’re home, you’re home. He will have a reason to live again. The road will not be so crooked, the days not so cold. He will have his soulmate once more, his heart, his other half.
But there are only good dreams here, and no realities. The world creeps in again as Bella stirs beside him, leaning over to the trace contours of his face with shaking hands. She is unusually hesitant to touch him: her fingers are still muddy from her fall in the dirt, and shaking as they trace the dark rim of his lashes.
“Edward?” she whispers.
There is a sudden tightness in his throat, choking the heart of him. She hasn’t said his name in a long time, not like that, not since – before. And yet he’s suddenly afraid, as if the small step from desire to hope will be enough to throw him off the edge he’s been surviving on. He steels himself and thinks of the long empty days by the lake, her staring eyes, her dead eyes, the way her lips stayed lax beneath his mouth. He waits for the laughter, vapid and hollow, to break from her throat.
Instead she whispers: “Time to wake up, love.”
And beside her, like a gleeful child, Edward begins to laugh.