Like Footsteps (In The Snow)
Rosalie, still a newborn vampire safe in Alaska, is haunted by memories of her brutal end. Edward is just haunted by Rosalie. EdwardxRosalie.
1. Chapter 1
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“Saints and whores,” Tanya repeated, sounding triumphant. Her thoughts were exultant: I’ve figured you out this time, Edward Cullen.
She kneeled down next to him. The snow beneath their crouched bodies was glittering pink with blood from the deer’s torn throat. Edward’s face was half buried in the ground, a sticky trail of gore dripping down his forehead, over his chin and onto the crumbled ice. When he lifted his head she trailed one finger over his cheek and he thought Oh, not again. How many times did a man have to say no?
“That’s your problem with women, Edward dear,” she said, ignoring the way he recoiled from her. Her eyes were fixed on his face. “You think we’re all one or the other. No shades or grey, just women you can love and women you can hate. And God forbid we falter!” She laughed, as if she’d just made a terribly funny joke. “I’m right, aren’t I darling? Tell me I’ve hit the nail on the head.”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” he snarled, drawing up to his full height in one fluid motion. “I don’t know what you want, Tanya – ”
“You know what I want. But you won’t give it to me.” She pouted. Her mind conjured up images of bodies in the dark; touching, crying out. Edward shivered. “Such a shame! But still, I think it’s my duty to tell you the truth. You really must lower your standards.”
She stood too, then, brushing the snow away from her knees. She was smiling. It was difficult for Edward to tell if she was merely teasing him, or being entirely serious. With her Cheshire Cat smile and her mind like a Gordian knot, Tanya was difficult to understand at the best of times. But he didn’t have time to figure her out, not then. He shrugged, just once, struggling not to scowl. Tanya laughed again.
“Go on home then,” she said. “But don’t forget this conversation!”
“I won’t,” he said, thinking it best to humour her. “Goodbye, Tanya.”
He ran across the snow, the smell of blood still all over him. It was wrong to take her so seriously. Tanya loved to taunt him, he knew that, but he couldn’t help falling for it time and time again. She had a way of finding just the way to annoy him the most – and all that without telepathy. Being around her was a dizzying and confusing experience, a constant game of cat and mouse. Edward didn’t particularly like being treated like prey. Usually he’d be better at resisting her. The real problem was that he was entirely off-kilter at the moment. The little family unit he’d grown so used to had fallen apart only a few days ago, and now he, Carlisle and Esme were stuck in Denali for the foreseeable future. Taking care of her.
She, of course, being Rosalie Hale, once an agonisingly shallow little socialite and now the most obstinate vampire to ever walk the face of the earth. Right now she was tucked up in the little cabin Carlisle had provided for his family, swaddled up entirely in furs. She still refused to accept that, as a vampire, the cold could not harm her. He hated that, and hated her. If not for her, he’d be anywhere but here, and he wouldn’t have to put up with the Denali sisters at all.
Today, Tanya had put him into a particularly foul mood. When he entered the cabin and found Rosalie in exactly the same position he’d left her in that morning, it was difficult to keep up the gentlemanly exterior he felt obliged to uphold. His mouth thinned. He doubted Rosalie would notice the difference in his demeanour. Right now she was thinking about her dress, and how little she liked the shade (a perfectly nice blue, in his opinion).
“Edward,” she said. Her gaze took all of him in: his wildly unkempt red-brown hair, the wet and bare feet on the wooden floor. His damp, red-stained face. Her thoughts were filled with nothing more than disgust. He hated her for that too. “You smell like…”
“Carlisle thought it might help you if you knew what you were missing,” Edward said calmly. He wiped some more blood onto his already stained hand and held out it front of her. “Try smelling it,” he coaxed.
She leaned forward, unable to help herself in the face of that mouth watering smell. Her crimson eyes widened. Then, as if realising what she was doing, she gave a little sound of distaste and recoiled.
“I don’t want anymore of that,” she said. “And clean yourself up, you look like an utter savage.”
“I apologise, Miss Hale. I’ll try and be more of a gentleman in the future.”
“See that you do,” she sniffed. Despite her imperious bearing, the strain of resisting blood – any blood – was starting to show. The shadows beneath her eyes were more pronounced, and when she drew the furs closer around her body her hands shook. She looked at his hands again. “I don’t see how you can do it,” she said, more softly now. A hundred small memories, of broken-winged birds and scraped knees, shifted through her consciousness.
For a moment Edward felt the urge to comfort her, to tell her that it wasn’t so bad really. At least they weren’t feeding off humans. At least they were trying to be good. Then he thought of pointing out to her that she had fed already and it hadn’t been that bad, had it? But in the end he decided on just shaking his head, leaving her so he could clean himself up. Her first kill had been bad for her, he could recognise that. Sometimes the memory of it would skitter through her mind: the sound of the wolf’s throat cracking, the bones splintering open, and her stomach-heaving revulsion mingled in with a hunger too strong to resist. Every kill since then had been made out of pure necessity, hunger taking over from her morals for a few brief and crucial seconds.
“I won’t be long,” he said, turning away from her.
Take your time, she thought. He looked back over his shoulder, smiling faintly. Her eyes narrowed and her hands curled into fists. She really disliked it when he read her thoughts. Maybe she knew just how shallow she must seem to him. Maybe she knew her beauty, as flawless as it was, left him cold. “If you really want me to,” he said, shrugged, and left her there.
Later after he’d managed to break through a layer of ice to get to the water and washed his skin clean, he returned to the main room where Rosalie still sat alone. He’d hoped Carlisle and Esme would have returned in his absence, but apparently it was not to be. Rosalie had moved, at least. She was standing by the window now, furs still clutched around her body. When he stepped back in she didn’t move, or turn to look at him. Her face was blank.
She was thinking of her childhood. Her thoughts made something deep inside him twist with pain. Like heartache. He pushed his damp hair back from his face, and tried to turn his thoughts to more practical issues.
“You still need to hunt,” he said, keeping his voice low so as to disturb her reverie as little as possible. This was the calmest she’d been in days. Carlisle would be pleased to hear of her improvement. “If you don’t do it soon you’ll lose control. Carlisle must have told you.”
“I hunted two days ago. I don’t need to do it again.”
But he sensed it there, in the back of her thoughts: hunger. “You’re a newborn,” he sighed, taking a few steps towards her. “You need more blood than the rest of us.”
Her mouth twisted. “Wonderful.”
“It won’t last forever.”
But this will, thought Rosalie. A curse of living death, forever.
“Two years, no more than that.” Edward said. “For some it lasts longer than others. I found the early years more – difficult – than Esme did.” He paused, then added, “And this life… this life, can be. More than adequate. Just give it time.”
Thoughts of Rosalie’s childhood faded from her mind abruptly. She turned to look at him, pressing her back against the window. Her beautiful face expressed her emotions perfectly, mirroring her anger and bitterness in painful detail. “More than adequate?” she said mockingly. “More than adequate? Wonderful! That’s exactly what I hoped for from the afterlife. No choirs of angels, not even fire and brimstone, oh no. Just the promise of more than adequate.”
He gritted his teeth. So this was what he got for trying to be nice to her? Well then he wouldn’t try and be nice anymore. He’d. He’d…
But no. Esme had asked him to be kind. “Treat her gently,” she’d entreated, holding one of his hands in hers in a way that always reminded him of his mother. “She’s so young, Edward. Promise me?”
He’d promised. So now he had to be good, no matter how antagonistic Rosalie insisted on being.
“I’m just trying to help,” he said, which had to be the stupidest possible thing to say because she pounced on his words instantly.
“You and all the others have already done enough, can’t you see that?” She gestured sharply at her body, all pale curves beneath her blue dress; the fur slipped from her shoulder. “I’m not natural anymore, I’m not myself anymore. And it’s all your fault, and your Carlisle’s fault, and – ”
“Don’t.” He swallowed hard. “Argue with me if you need to, Rosalie, but leave Carlisle and Esme alone.”
“Carlisle was the one that did this to me.” Her voice challenged him. His fingers began to itch, instinctual rage pulsing under his skin. He took another step forward, a floorboard creaking beneath his heel.
“Gave you a second chance at life, you mean? How terrible of him.”
“Maybe I didn’t want it.”
“You’ve made it very clear that you didn’t want it.”
“Oh good. I’m glad you’re finally starting to understand!”
“You –” He cut himself off, jaw snapping shut. Then he shook his head. “I’m not going to act like this just because you want me to. Goodbye, Rosalie.”
He stormed out of the cabin, back into the icy cold. There was something terribly satisfying about slamming the door shut behind him, hard enough to make its frame rattle and shake off a thin sheen of snow. He would have liked to run off somewhere and vent his frustration, but that would have been an even more juvenile gesture. Instead he sat down on the snow, pressed his back against the cabin wall, and waited for his parents to come home.
Rosalie, Tanya – the two of them combined were going to drive him insane.
It took longer than Edward expected for Carlisle and Esme to get back. They arrived silently, hands entwined, Esme’s hair loose and a small smile curving her mouth. Edward decided then and there not to ask what had taken them so long.
“We didn’t fight,” he said, by way of welcome.
Carlisle raised an eyebrow.
“Not for long anyway,” he amended, shifting lower in the snow. He clasped his hands together over his knees. “I thought it best to keep my distance for now.”
Carlisle and Esme shared a glance; then Esme slipped into the cabin, touching Edward’s shoulder lightly as she did so. Carlisle settled himself by Edward on the ground. The older vampire’s thoughts contained no judgement, no assumptions about what had happened in his absence. It was his ability to remain neutral that always made Edward open up to him. This time was no exception.
“I don’t think I can put up with her much longer,” he said, staring up at the steadily dimming sky. He felt Carlisle’s eyes on him. “She… doesn’t like me very much.”
“Thinks will get better in time.”
“I don’t think so.” Edward sighed. “She doesn’t want me to be nice to her. ”
“Nonetheless, you must persevere.” Carlisle settled a hand on Edward’s shoulder. It was strangely comforting. “She’ll come around in time.”
Unwilling to disagree again, Edward just shrugged. Carlisle lifted his hand with a chuckle, his eyes narrow with amusement. His mind conjured up images of the early years of Edward’s change.
“Carlisle!” Edward protested. If he could have blushed, he would have. “That was a long time ago.”
“And it’s still early days for Rosalie,” Carlisle said, gently chiding. He stood, offering Edward a hand. “Let’s go inside.”
They did and, much to Edward’s relief, Esme had calmed Rosalie down. And for a time they all sat together, talking and laughing, Esme commenting mildly on Tanya’s special interest in Edward, Carlisle touching a tender hand to her wrist – and it was like being a family again. For a short time, Rosalie did not bother him at all.
It was only at nightfall – when the sky turned to pitch, and the snow took on a grey cast – that things began to fall apart again. They could all see it, were all familiar with it too: Rosalie’s hunger was overpowering her. First the shakes became impossible to control. She curled onto her side, crimson eyes closed, murmuring incomprehensibly.
Esme tucked her back into the furs, stroking her hair and speaking quiet, soothing words to her. Rather than watching over Rosalie Carlisle stood by Edward instead, waiting for his son to speak. Eventually Edward said, “Her mind is starting to slip.”
Carlisle nodded. They both knew what that meant.
There were very few pretty things in the cabin, which was unusual for any building where Esme had stayed for a length of time. She had a habit of adding her own touches here and there: sometimes a painting on the wall, or a bouquet of flowers in a vase. But a house with a newborn was never a safe place. The loss of control, pure and violent, began next. Rosalie shredded the furs this time, strip by strip, her pale fingers scrabbling about as a keening sound broke from her throat. Edward winced, but he was glad she hadn’t gone for anything useful.
Not long now. Edward wasn’t sure if it was his own thought or someone else’s but it proved to be true. In a matter of seconds Rosalie was back on her feet. Her hunger was almost palpable, coming off her in waves. She stumbled forward, as if finding her feet. Then with a quick and sudden grace she ran through the door.
Literally through the door.
It gave way with a sickening crack, splinters of wood spraying across the room. Carlisle gave a sound of surprise, following quickly after her; and Edward buried his face in his hands to stifle his laughter.
“Oh, Edward,” Esme said with a sigh.
“I’m not laughing,” he protested, lifting his head, but it was hard to make the lie plausible when he couldn’t quite resist grinning. He could just imagine her face when she saw what she’d done during her bout of bloodlust. Sure, she’d make everyone around her suffer for it – especially him – but it would be worth it after seeing that.
Esme called his name, more impatient now, and Edward finally managed to rein in his amusement. It was safer for all of them to keep an eye on Rosalie together, so the two of them followed after the others. Newborns could fast be when they wanted to, and difficult to catch up with. Luckily Rosalie’s hunger had made her slow, clumsy, blinded to anything but the scent of blood. Edward followed the sound of Carlisle’s thoughts, not too far off in the distance, moving with all the fleet-footedness of a predator. He felt Esme move beside him.
They found Rosalie bent over a corpse – it was too mangled for it to be identified as anything more than plain old ‘dead’. Carlisle was standing over her. Her face was bloodied, her golden hair drenched to a rusted bronze. She was no longer faking breath, faking vulnerability to the cold or faking any other element of her usual human façade. Her body was entirely still. Her palms were flat against the ground. With her alabaster skin and eerie stillness she should have looked like some lovely stone figurine. But she didn’t, not at all.
To Edward, she looked like an animal.
The smell of blood made his own hunger rise. His focus began to wander, just like it had when he’d hunted earlier with Tanya. He was lucky his own thirst was mostly satiated, or he would have found it difficult to concentrate at all. The snow crunched under his feet. “Almost done?” he asked hoarsely.
Carlisle nodded. She’s calmer, he thought. Edward couldn’t tell if that pleased him or not. Carlisle kneeled down beside her, placing one hand on her back – and for the first time during a hunt, she didn’t flinch. A slow comprehension crept into her eyes. Her hands shifted against the ground.
Esme smiled in delight, joining them both in the snow. “Rosalie,” she breathed.
A flicker of recognition showed in Rosalie’s face. She tilted her head towards Esme like a creature seeking sunlight, blinking slow. Edward watched for a moment longer. He heard Rosalie’s mind begin to churn back into life. Feeling inexplicably jealous he moved to join them. “Rosalie,” he began –
A rush of thought like screaming sent him reeling back. He clutched at his own ears in a futile gesture, his eyes squeezing shut as a rough cry broke from his throat. It was not a cry of pain at first. Then he felt the weight of Rosalie’s body slamming into his, her nails running funnels through his flesh, and it became pain after all. Esme and Carlisle grabbed hold of her, their combined strength holding her back. And Edward finally managed to make sense of things, finally managed to open his mouth and shout, “Damn it Rosalie, it’s me!”
“Lord help me,” she whispered. Her hands slipped free from his skin. There was a sigh of communal relief as she went limp in the arms of the two older vampires. But her eyes remained wide. Lost.
“Edward,” murmured Carlisle.
Carlisle was worried about him, he knew that. He and Esme were shaken, confused. They couldn't understand what had ignited her fury. But neither he nor Esme could afford to let go of Rosalie right now, and Edward wasn’t going to worsen their worries by adding his own problems into the equation. He knew now was the time to appear capable and calm, to turn away and walk back to the cabin without making a fuss.
But couldn’t stop looking at Rosalie.
“It’s nothing,” he forced out. “I’m fine.”
If Esme and Carlisle saw through his lie, they said nothing about it. It was Rosalie, still dazed and blood-drugged, stumbling between them as they walked home, who saw right through him.
You’re not alright. Her shivering frame. The swing of her damp hair as she turned to look at him, and then away. The blood in her curls was beginning to dry, and flaked like a shedded skin over her shoulders.
Neither of us are.