He stood in the doorway, watching over her like some forgotten sentinel, some gloriously timeless watchguard. And perhaps she subconsciously sensed his protective presence, because before long the shuddering stopped and the sobs quieted. Mild Jasper/Bella.
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Her heart was crashing in her chest like thunder, if thunder could be ambrosial. If thunder could be magnetic.
If thunder could be deadly.
But lightning was the lethal one, wasn't it?
It was hard to remember, this close to her. Five feet--the nearest he'd been since he'd nearly killed her last year. It was hard to remember anything, anything at all, anything that didn't have to do with the alluring scent of her life current, with the way the vein in her white neck pulsed blue-green, the way blood stained her full lips. So vulnerable. One swift movement, one light caress, and she would be--
But he had to remember. This was Bella. He was watching over her while Edward hunted. Keeping her safe. Bella Swan, his brother's intended.
And for some reason, indecipherable to even him, with his uncanny ability to read emotions, that saddened him.
He had often been amazed and bewildered by Edward's self-restraint; his ability to be close--really close--without hurting her. But now, in such close proximity to her, her emotional essence, aura, if you will, her fearlessness, innocence, maturity, her--well, beauty--it wasn't so difficult to comprehend. How anyone could hurt her was beyond him.
Oh. Right. He very nearly had.
She still hadn't noticed his presence, shrouded as he was in the melting darkness of her doorway. He wasn't technically supposed to be here; he was supposed to be guarding her from outside, circling the house, but his empathetic nature had drawn him to her emotions, and he had crept in undetected.
Her breathing was jagged and uneven, agitated. Every move that she made, twisting her covers into knots, stirred the air, sending fresh waves of her luscious fragrance to swirl through the room and pool, stagnant and seductive, in his nostrils, in his mind.
Her emotions were a confused mish-mash, running the gauntlet from joy to fear to sorrow, but all intertwined with an overall thread of anxiety. And it saddened him even more that it should be so. He wanted to comfort her, replace her worry with peace, her restlessness with lethargy, but dared not alert her to his presence--Edward had told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to do so--by changing the emotional atmosphere.
And so he remained in his hiding place, engulfed in equal measure by the aroma of her blood, so much more potent in the hot, close summer night, and by the whirling waves of alternating panic and ecstasy. He remained still as a statue, quite literally frozen in time, a glistening dark apparition on the margins of her reality.
Sometime towards midnight she began to cry, in little, whimpering gasps that slowly grew into a crescendo of bed-rocking sobs. The tears boiled--startling clear, dripping down her flushed cheeks and through her shivering fingers, glittering as brightly as the diamonds on her ring. Whether she cried for joy or for sorrow he could not tell, and something told him that she could not, either.
The salt water held her scent, even more potent in liquid form, but somehow he felt an irresistible urge to catch her tears on his fingertips, pool them in his cupped hands, and use them with which to bathe his face, purge his soul, and then soothe her care-ravaged features; rather than to drink her blood, even as his throat ached and his insides burned with thirst.
Mind over matter, Edward was fond of saying. Judgment over instinct.
But why not both?
Instinct and judgment told him to stay in the doorway, watching over her like some forgotten sentinel, some gloriously timeless watch guard. And perhaps she subconsciously sensed his protective presence, because before long the shuddering stopped and the sobs quieted.
The moon swung high in the August sky, and it streamed through her translucent curtains to grace her features with its light, creating a fragile vision of loveliness. He trembled in his corner, transfixed.
But it was only reflected light, cheaply borrowed from the sun. Why couldn't she see that? Why couldn't she see that fallen angels, no matter how they glittered, were still fallen?
She deserved better. She deserved better than a life without real light, a life filled with a hunger, a hungering always for the wrong thing.
The hysteria level lessened without his interference, and, drenched in starlight, she calmed down. Her breathing grew even, her movements smaller and more natural. Her round brown eyes, still shining with the sheen of her tears, slowly closed.
Edward had told him that she was prone to dreams and nightmares, and so he filled the room with a blank, nondescript blissful peace as soon as she shut her eyes, preventing her mind from even entertaining the possibility. She didn't need that. Not tonight.
When the moonlight seeping through her curtains was replaced with a fainting purplish half-light, he finally broke his soldier's stone stance and crept soundlessly towards the window. His shift was up.
But she moaned softly in her sleep as he raised one leg to vault himself out the window, as if sensing his departure, and he automatically froze. He half-turned towards her sleeping form, noting the tension in her face, the furrow on her brow. The empath in him cringed at the surfacing pain. Oh, to comfort her--
He was at her side in a half-instant, and the aroma very nearly over-powered him, inebriated him, and so he tried very hard not to breathe. And then, tentatively, tenderly, his arm went up as if of its own accord and his cold fingers lightly brushed her sweaty temple, in a gesture that felt shockingly intimate. At once the conflict and worry in her aura left as though exorcised.
But his self-limited sense of smell could not prevent him from feeling the way her blood, rich and warm, red and vital, refreshing and so sweet, pulsed beneath his fingers, only a hairbreadth away, filling him with a savage hunger. . . .
He tore himself away and leapt out the window, grasping, gasping for control of the beast within. Running running running--
Because he could protect her from only so much, least of all himself.