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Like Footsteps (In The Snow)

Summary:
Rosalie, still a newborn vampire safe in Alaska, is haunted by memories of her brutal end. Edward is just haunted by Rosalie. EdwardxRosalie.


Notes:


2. Chapter 2

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3801   Review this Chapter

She’d broken everything – the door, the furs, even her own self control. The broken door didn’t matter much to her, but the loss of the furs left a dull ache inside her chest. Unwilling as she was to admit it, the furs had been her last piece of comfort in this strange and alien new world. They had reminded her of her own mother; of the soft warmth of Mother’s coat against her cheek when they’d hugged during Rosalie’s childhood. Mother had adored fine things. Sometimes when Rosalie closed her eyes she could almost smell her mother’s perfume lingering in the air. Though of course, that was foolish. And she could not be foolish anymore. They were just waiting for her to stumble, to turn to them because there was no one else left to turn to anymore. But Rosalie would be stronger than they could ever imagine. Given time, she’d find a way to survive on her own.

Or better yet, she’d find a way not to live at all.

But she could not indulge in thoughts of her own misery. She had her pride to consider. Pride was all that stopped curling up in a corner when Carlisle and Esme led her back into the cabin, their hands gentle, their voices hushed. Pride gave her the strength to shrug of their hands and say, “I’ll take care of myself. I’m quite well.” Head held high, bloodied face impassive, she went to clean herself up.

Then when she was sure of her isolation, she let the fear finally take her. Her body was no longer equipped to react to her feelings in any understandable or human way, but sensation ghosted over her like the echoes of lost limbs. Her palms felt hot and damp. Her chest tightened, limiting breath she no longer required. When she closed her eyes she could almost imagine the sound of her own heartbeat, rushing dull and frantic in her ears. The worst thing about remembering was not the memory of her death. That was just a repetition of the same images, a distant film reel flashing before her eyes. The worst thing, truly, was the way her body betrayed her. It was if she had no control over it at all. The way her flesh crawled at a gentle touch, the sharp bite of panic that crept at the base of her spine when she found herself alone – those were unwanted, hated things. Once she hadn’t felt like this. Once her skin had felt wholly her own.

God, she missed it.

She forced not to think of how Edward had looked out there in the snow; it just made her stomach tighten with revulsion. When he’d loomed over her all she’d seen were his predatory gait and the far too familiar narrowness of his frame, and together they’d sparked memories she’d rather have left for dead. She hadn’t meant to try and hurt him. But her limbs had moved faster than her mind, betraying her as usual.

She had control of herself now. She reminded herself of that, staring at her own hands, turning her wrists back and forth. Control, control. Rosalie washed away the blood, careful to catch all of it. She’d learnt that it could be tricky to wash it all away. It had a habit of staying under nails or between teeth (which was not at all as funny as it sounded). She braided back her hair to keep it away from her face and took a deep unnecessary breath, preparing herself for a return back into the bosom of her so-called family.

Carlisle and Esme gave her brief, concerned glances as she returned, but they did not ask her about what had made her attack Edward. Was her distress so obvious?

Edward was not looking at her at all. He was sitting on the floor, cross-legged and looking down at the ground. He was entirely still. His eyes were half-closed, pale slits of gold in the dim light. She hated him in that moment. Hated him because she knew that during the time it had taken Carlisle and Esme to guide her home she had been vulnerable to his mind. She had reached out for him, connected to him in a way that had nothing to do with gifts like telepathy and everything to with being broken and hurt and alike. He didn’t deserve what she had so foolishly given, and now he pitied her.

Fools. The both of them were such fools.

When she moved to stand by the window, tracing flowers onto the fogged glass, the older vampires moved to kneel by him. She gathered from their murmured conversations with their ‘son’ that they were interrogating him instead of her. Edward looked over at her then, finally. She could feel his gaze on her. Prickling sensation ran across her neck. Her hands curled.

But he said nothing to her. Not then.

He’d speak to her eventually, she knew it. Edward did not strike her as a boy who would let mysteries about other people lie, even when it would be prudent to do so. And yet… hours passed, and Edward kept his distance. He left the cabin once the others were done questioning him, and did not return for a long time. And she was glad, she truly was. But the wait was wearing her down, and the tension was growing slowly more and more unbearable.

“Where is he?” she asked, just once.

Esme was watching over her; Carlisle had left to talk to the Denali coven over some business. Rosalie couldn’t say that she minded being alone with her. Esme’s presence at least was far more calming. In response to her question, Esme looked up. A small smile curled her lips. Though Rosalie hadn’t specified which ‘he’, Esme understood “With Tanya, I suppose,” she said. “She’s the eldest of the Denali sisters.”

“Oh.” She remembered Tanya: sharply pretty, with unkempt red-gold hair and a quick and wicked smile. Rosalie knew what boys liked to do with pretty blonde girls. It wasn’t difficult to imagine why Edward was spending time with her. “I see.”

It shouldn’t have surprised that when Edward came back he was bloody again, his shirt ripped at the collar. She watched him from the corner of her eye, from her place by the window – it was her safe place now, her new comfort zone, and she was unwilling to give it up in his presence. He ruffled his own hair, grimacing as he pulled at tangles and red filth. The floorboards creaked under his feet. Her body, traitorous thing, pressed closer to the windowsill as he drew in closer. Out of her line of sight, Esme was laughing at some joke he’d made. Had Esme already forgotten the hunt, in no more than the space of one night? Had Edward?

Rosalie thought of Tanya and Edward; how Edward had clearly gone in search of prey again, in the company of the Denali vampire with the quick smile. Maybe the hunt – the gore and the death, the rush of power – passed as some kind of aphrodisiac among vampires. The idea stuck fast in her head and she couldn’t shake it. She thought of the feeling the hunt gave her, like a rush of adrenaline so strong it burned gloriously behind her eyes. Perhaps they both like that. Something sordid for sordid creatures –

“And how have you been, Rosalie?” His voice, so forcedly casual, was right by her ear. He was so close, suddenly. Startled, she almost turned to look at him. Instead she leaned forward, her forehead pressed against the glass.

“I’ve been well,” she said quietly. Better when you weren’t here.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” whispered the boy, clearly troubled by her sudden animosity. But she didn’t care. The anger felt so good, so much better than the festering hurts, the brokenness.

“Do what?” she asked. His face reflected back at her in the window, all smudged pale angles and mussed hair.

“You know what I mean.”

“Oh do forgive me Edward, I forgot that my mind is open to your casual perusal,” she said, and hardly noticed that some of the numbness was seeping out of her tone. Rosalie didn’t have to look at him to see that his words had made an impact. He was probably thinning his lips, like he always did when she struck to close to the mark. “Is there even any need to continue this conversation?”

He gave a hiss from between gritted teeth. Then he said, “I haven’t done anything – inappropriate – with Tanya. I’m not like that –”

“It’s not my concern,” she said. She straightened up, lifting her head. Esme was probably watching them now, curious. After all, Rosalie hadn’t bothered to keep her voice lowered like Edward had. “Let me make this clear. I don’t care what you’ve done, or haven’t done. I have more important things to think about.” Now leave me alone.

“Do - do you know that you lean away when I come near you?” He said. He’d hesitated for a moment, but as he continued his voice became more firm. “You hate us – all of us. But you let Esme touch you. You let Carlisle touch you. But if I come near you always find a way to keep your distance.”

Rosalie looked at him then. His eyes were unblinking, steady on her face. “There’s no story here. Certainly no story I’m going to tell you.” She turned to look out of the window again. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Edward. A proper man… a good man would not try and force a lady to discuss something that so clearly distresses her.”

He was silent.

“Is that?” she queried, softer now. “No effort to defend yourself? Nothing?”

“I’m not going to lose my temper just because you want me to,” he told her, and inwardly she seethed (how dare he fake moral superiority; how dare he). “And we’re still going to talk about this.”

No, she thought. We aren’t.

He gave no sign of hearing her. Shoulders hunched forward, hands clenched, he stepped back out of the cabin. In her seat across the room, Esme was staring quite calmly into space, humming under her breath. She’d be silent throughout their exchange. Now they were alone with one another she tilted her head and gave Rosalie a sympathetic look that Rosalie did not return.

“I didn’t think you wanted me to interfere,” Esme said apologetically.

“I didn’t,” said Rosalie. “I can take care of my own problems.”

Esme nodded. As if she’d known that all along. “It will get better,” she murmured gently.

“So I’ve been told.” Rosalie knew she sounded bitter. She didn’t care.

The next time Edward returned, he did not come alone. Carlisle followed him in. And behind him a pretty young woman was leaning against the doorframe, her white teeth gleaming in a smile. Edward didn’t look too happy to have her there; his arms were crossed, jaw clenched.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” asked the girl, giving a meaningful nod in Rosalie’s direction.

“I already know who you are,” Rosalie said, speaking before Edward even had a chance to open his mouth.

Tanya gave a sound of delight, clapping her hands together. She looked so young. But her eyes were sharp and calculating, tracing each inch of Rosalie’s figure in silent assessment. “I thought it best to check,” she said. “The first time I met you, dear, you weren’t quite… yourself.”

Rosalie nodded stiffly. When she’d first arrived in Denali she’d been out of her mind, or near enough to it.

“But look at you now!” continued Tanya. “You’re very pretty, really, aren’t you?” She stepped over to Rosalie, taking one of her hands in her own. Tanya’s skin was even paler than Rosalie’s; there was a bluish hue to it, as if the cold had seeped into her blood. “Walk with me?” she said softly. “It’s so rare that I get to see a new face.”

Rosalie wanted to refuse at first. But there was a challenge in Tanya’s tone and in her face. She didn’t have to be psychic to know that this was, in some way, a test of her strength. And Rosalie couldn’t stand the thought of appearing weak.

“If you like,” she said, and Tanya smiled, giving her hand a small squeeze.

“I’ll come with you,” Edward said abruptly.

Don’t, thought Rosalie, but Tanya had already shrugged one shoulder, saying, “You can tag along if you like, darling. But I’m quite sure we’ll bore you half to death.” There was little Rosalie could say after that, so she settled on ignoring Edward as the three of them went outside and began to walk. She was glad to at least have Tanya as a buffer between them, for what little good it would do.

Rosalie didn’t know what Edward had expected to happen between her and Tanya – he’d certainly seemed eager to come along. She doubted he’d expected Tanya to talk about her family. Her ‘sisters’ in particularly, especially Irina, who apparently annoyed Tanya with her bullheadedness and explosive temper. “She’s not very forgiving,” Tanya said. “She still has a grudge against me over ruining her favourite dress, and that was, what, a decade ago? Hah!”

Eventually Edward’s eyes began to glaze over, and he began to lag behind. Only then did Tanya drop the prattle. Her voice was still light and unconcerned, but her words were not. “He’s fascinated with you,” she said, gaze flickering towards Edward and then back again. “I don’t think he’s stopped looking at you. I’m almost jealous.”

“You don’t need to be,” Rosalie said, voice chill. “He hates me.”

Tanya laughed. Quietly, so as not to alert Edward of the sudden turn in conversation. “I once told Edward that he either loves women or hates them. I was just teasing him of course; he doesn’t understand yet how closely hate and love can entwine, poor boy. But I think you do, don’t you?”

“I don’t want to have this conversation,” said Rosalie.

“Well, we can’t all have what we want,” Tanya replied. “You loved someone and he hurt you. It’s all over your face, you know.” Her voice lowered. “People think I’m a silly thing, but I’ve seen it all before. If you don’t start overcoming what he did to you, Rosalie dear, you’re going to end up hurting yourself even more - and Edward. I don’t want that. I’m quite fond of Edward, really.”

Rosalie tried to walk away from her, to turn around and go back to the cabin – but Tanya took hold of her wrist, her grip almost bruising. If Rosalie had been human, it would have been enough to crush her bones to dust. “Are you going to run away from the truth?” Tanya asked, voice still mockingly light. “A shame. I didn’t think you were a coward –”

Let go of me.

“That’s enough.” Edward was in front of them in a flash. He took Tanya by the shoulder, his face grim. “Leave Rosalie alone. Tease me all you like, Tanya, but leave her be.” When Tanya arched her eyebrows, he gave an uncomfortable shrug. “She’s still a newborn,” he explained, awkward.

“I was only trying to help,” Tanya said with a breathy sigh that didn’t at all match with the calculating mind that lay beneath her pretty exterior. “But if you insist.”

She released Rosalie’s wrist, shaking off Edward’s hand. She still looked entirely untroubled by what had occurred, which to Rosalie seemed extremely unfair. Inwardly Rosalie was seething, panicked. How had Tanya seen the hurt in her so easily? The mark of what had happened to her – her brutal death, her fiancé’s horrific betrayal – had to be all over her. On her skin.

If you don’t start overcoming what he did to you… No. No. No.

Tanya left, murmuring a few laughter-edged to Edward as she did so, words Rosalie couldn’t catch in her frozen state. Edward shook his head. “Sometimes I don’t know why Carlisle trusts her,” he murmured, pushing his hair back from his face in what Rosalie had started to realise was an unconscious habit. He looked at Rosalie; took in the sight of her blank face, her hands clutched tight around her chest. “Rosalie?” he said.

“Leave me alone,” she choked out. Her mouth felt dry.

He swallowed hard. “I can’t just leave you here. Not when you… what did Tanya say?” She didn’t respond. He shook his head, eyes still steady on her face. “Can I help you, Rose?” He held a hand out towards her, not yet touching. Just letting her know his intentions, like a tamer handing a wild animal. “Trust me,” he murmured.

And there it was, the lightest touch of her fingertips on her arm. Images burned in her mind’s eye: of Royce’s elegant hands, so much like Edward’s own, touching her in the dark of the alley as his friends had laughed. It had been such a chaste touch at first. Then he’d said her name, said, Don’t I have the prettiest fiancée? He was always so damnably polite, even when he didn’t mean it (like Edward, just like him). And then his fingers had moved from her neck down, touching at the swell of her breasts and she’d flinched and told him No but then -

Last time Edward hadn’t fought back, but this time he wasn’t frozen by surprise when she lunged at him, caught half-way between reality and a nightmare that wouldn’t die. No one else was here to intervene. His hands clutched hard at her wrists, wrenching them back to keep her scrabbling fingers from tearing at his face. He shoved her back, trying to create some distance between them. She heard him hiss her name, “Rosalie,” and suddenly the terror in her mutated into something far more horrible than violence. His hands were so big and she – she was so small. The memories hit her again, of how small she’d felt that night when they – when he…

Royce.

As a newborn she should have been more than strong enough to overpower him. But her limbs felt frozen. They trembled. She felt her body hit the ground. Edward fell with her, her wrists still in his hands, his body on top of hers. If she could have made a sound, she would have. But she didn’t know how to breathe.

Edward was looking straight down at her.

“You really think I look. Like him,” Edward said shakily. His eyes were wide. Horrified. He wasn’t moving; maybe he’d forgotten how, like she’d forgotten how and oh God, she needed to get away from here. “You… think I’m like him.”

“Get off me,” she whispered. He didn’t move. Her lungs ached. She gasped, raggedly, sobbing more than screaming. “GET OFF ME!”

He scrambled off her. She sat up, dizzy with fear. Her hands covered her face. “You just had to know, didn’t you?” she said, voice ragged. Her voice sounded alien to her own ears. “You – you wanted to see me like this.” Broken. Truthful.

His eyes were on her, she knew it. But he hadn’t moved from the spot where he’d landed, sprawled in front of her. She hoped he felt as horrible as she did. He deserved it for – trying to help her? Touching her?

He deserved it.

“I wanted the truth, but not like this Rosalie,” he said softly.

“You wanted it any way you could get it.” The sound of the wind pounded in her ears. The snow was cold beneath her and there was no way out, no way out. “Don’t lie to me. You thought my fear, the way I… I attacked you. You thought it was a mystery, that I needed solving. And now you get to see me being just like you wanted to all along.”

“No.” His voice shook. “I just. I wanted to fix this. I couldn’t understand why you hated me, Rosalie, why you – ”

“It was none of your business.” Hating you was easier.

“I didn’t touch you on purpose.” Desperate now, he continued. “I didn’t want you to feel like this. I didn’t, Rose –”

“Don’t call me that,” she demanded, clutching her hands tighter to her eyes. “Don’t talk to me. Just go. Don’t…” She trailed off.

“I’m not leaving you here,” he said.

Edward didn’t move. She didn’t have to be a mind reader to feel his guilt, to feel his thoughts. The silence lengthened out between them, a hundred miles of nothing. Rosalie grieved, inwardly. Her strength had failed. She’d failed herself.

“You. Sometimes you look like him. Like Royce.” The confession forced its way out of her. As if it needed to be said. She tried to sound nonchalant; tried to sound as if the words didn’t lie heavy and bitter on her tongue. But she was shaking, she was curled up like a child, she knew the lie showed in every line of her body. “Your hands. And. The way you walk, and how you sound, when you’re trying to be. Good to me. To lie.”

There were other things she couldn’t say, like: When you touch me I remember what Royce did to me, how he raped me and took away what it meant to be myself. I just want to fight the memory off but I end up trying to hurt you to keep it at bay. And when you fight back the fear consumes and I feel powerless all over again and I hate it. I want to hate you for it but really I just hate myself. He won. He won and I’ve lost because I can’t fight him, I can’t fight you, I can’t fight for myself anymore.

But Edward heard her.

“I’m not him,” he whispered. She wondered if he’d be crying, if he could. He was certainly shaking enough. Just a boy, really. “Rosalie, I promise you. I’m not him.”

She wanted to tell him that she knew; that it didn’t make any difference to her body, which still recoiled and blanked over with fear at the slightest reminder of what had been done to it. But she felt too weakened already to allow him that compassion. Shakily she rose to her feet, stumbling until she regained her balance.

He stared up at her, as if she were his judge and his jury, punisher and confessor. Rosalie realised, in a distant way, that she’d hurt him too. Some violations were not of the flesh. Tanya had told her, You’re going to end up hurting yourself even more – and Edward. It had come true after all. Earlier than expected, perhaps.

“Come on, Edward,” she said, numb and shaking. “Let’s go home.”

He stood. And together, silently, they did.