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Edward's Eclipse

Summary:
For True Edward Fans. An in-depth, accurate portrayal of the heart,
mind, and soul of the beloved Edward Cullen as he deals with the complex
themes and events taking place during Eclipse. Canon. Rated T for intimacy. Eddie's and Bellie's Twilight Fiction Award winner for "Canon that's better than Canon", TwiFic Indie Award Nominee for "Best Indie Story by and Established Author We Know and Love".


Notes:
Eclipse: Edward's Story I do not own Twilight, nor do I own any of Twilight's characters. All characters and themes referenced in Eclipse: Edward's Story belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any quotations from Eclipse are purely for reference and are in no way an attempt at any copyright infringement. For me, Edward Cullen is one of the most fascinating fictional characters in postmodern literature. In my imagination, Edward's existence is a constant existential crisis. The elements of conflict, duality, and desperation embodied by his character are all so fascinating. I hope I've done him justice. Feedback is appreciated. I love critics. Enjoy.


8. Theme from Chapter 6 - Switzerland - Part Two

Rating 0/5   Word Count 6745   Review this Chapter

In less than six seconds, I exited my parked car, in broad daylight, and settled myself in the tree next to Angela’s house. After situating myself behind the largest branch, I finally allowed myself to slip carefully into a deep crouch on the limb. And I immediately regretted it. Of course, I wasn’t sure I could have fought it if I had wanted to; but my muscles were too tight, too painfully wound and now I wasn’t sure I could remove myself from the position without very careful concentration. I was in a desperately dangerous position. I was so very, very thirsty.

But perhaps even worse - my inability to move anywhere beyond this singular place, beyond this crouching position, for however long I might need to be here, threatened to do serious damage to my waning control. Pacing, running, anything would have at least offered a distraction, but those were not viable options. I had no choice but this one. Truly, what else could I do? Where else could I go? The thought of sitting idly somewhere away from her until she decided to drive home was impossibly frustrating.

Suddenly, I heard Bella, Ben, and Angela speaking, but I could not focus on them. My thoughts were consuming me.

The fact of the entire matter was that I needed to know what happened. Leaving now would only provoke my relentless, insatiable, irrational curiosity. That would be a living hell. Listening and waiting would be better than that option, even if that meant that I would have to exercise even more patience listening to a human conversation at human speed when I was already so thoroughly annoyed and agitated. Even if that meant that I might hear something that I would rather not. They were risks I would have to take because, quite simply, they were better options than leaving now and knowing nothing at all until Bella left. It could be hours!

The whole charade was entirely, utterly pointless!

I couldn’t help but grind my teeth in frustration. If I could just understand the situation, I wouldn’t have had to waste my time here, waiting to hear second hand what I deserved to hear from Bella directly. If she’d just pulled over, I could have already understood everything entirely, been on the hunt, and back to myself again. Right now.

And, I would also know now if Jacob Black was responsible for her departure from safety. I would know if he’d lured her, or if he’d done anything to provoke her to leave so rashly. I bristled at the thought, but forced my annoyance and seething resent to settle nicely into the back of my mind. I consoled myself. If he were responsible, I would no longer have to sit idly by and let him disrupt our lives, or place her in future danger. I could, and would, take matters into my own hands. And I would be justified.

But, the second sad fact of the situation was that – I was here. Because, Bella had – avoided me.

Me.

A pang of complex emotions made me flinch at the reminder. Bella had refused to pull over and instead of facing me, speaking to me, explaining the situation; instead she’d sought refuge in Angela’s home. She had denied me my confirmation of the circumstances. It was all so bizarre. Had something changed? Was there something she was fearful to tell me? I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that Bella had run from me. And it was not just on the road. As I’d passed her, she’d not even looked in my direction.

Bella had ignored me.

I wrenched internally as I listened to chatter from the house. I could not deny that the distance she’d placed between us with that action was heartbreakingly painful. In my sensitive condition, my emotions were even more intense, more erratic. And I was feeling the full force of the image her avoidance conjured - and it hurt: Bella, driving ahead, never looking back again.

It wasn’t just the hurt now, though. I’d had time to ruminate over her behavior and now her remembered actions unnerved me further, sending sensations of peculiar unease through me, fueling my doubt and my uncertainty, which in turn fueled my relentless questions. Questions I could not answer.

How could Bella have been so reckless – and so desperate to see Jacob Black that she would leave on a whim, to place herself and my family at risk? What had she been thinking? Why hadn’t she pulled over? Why go to Angela’s after I was obviously here, having returned in concern to save her from Jacob’s manipulations? Had he done something to persuade her? To change her feelings for me?

It was all so much. I balled my fists into tight clenches and took deep breaths, hoping to dispel some of the tension, the sadness, and yes…the anger that was still forcing my body into the various stages of tight sinewy constrictions.

I needed another distraction. Something other than focusing on controlling my need for sustenance, my instinctual urges to snap and drink, and the torturous venom, which arrived of its own will and design. The burning, clawing, and incineration of my insides. And of course, my heartbreaking confusion over Bella’s actions. A distraction. I focused intently on Angela’s thoughts. She was so good. It would be most helpful.

I concentrated hard, turning my diligent attention to Angela’s thoughts, while also focusing on keeping track of Bella’s heartbeat. Yes, it would be best to find a dual distraction. I heard Angela speaking and thinking quite clearly, which kept me listening and crouching.

Bella looks worried about something, I cannot believe she’s so nice to help me…Angela thought.

“Thank you for doing this, Bella,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart. Not only are you saving my hands from permanent injury, you also just spared me two long hours of a plot-less, badly dubbed martial arts film.” She laughed, sighing in resignation…Ben would surely have much more fun with Austin, although I would have gone if he wanted me too…she thought.

“Happy to be of service.” Bella countered, genuinely. I noticed it then. There was something off in her tone. I wished for Angela to just take one look at her so that I could see her face. Just one look. I waited. Nothing. Just a slightly untidy home, some toys, family pictures along walls, and a staircase.

I growled to myself, fighting to suppress the frustration yet again. And as soon as the growl escaped, I acknowledged to myself that it was a ridiculous and a completely disproportionate emotion for this situation. Just remain calm and focus, I told myself.

Breathing carefully and intentionally, I listened as Angela began to obsess over how she could secretly repay Bella for this service.

“Where’s your family?” Bella asked, conversationally.

“My parents took the twins to a birthday party in Port Angeles. I can’t believe you’re really going to help me with this. Ben’s pretending to have tendonitis.” She said. …I don’t blame him though, there are so many…

“I don’t mind at all,” Bella responded again with sincerity. Then, she gasped. And I nearly flew off of the tree until I heard Angela’s kind, worried thoughts quickly explain…oh man, I tried to tell her…

“I thought you were exaggerating.”

I should have told her an estimate or something… “I wish. Are you sure you want to do this?” Angela asked, completely serious.

“Put me to work. I’ve got all day.” Bella lied, also completely serious.

I felt instantly saddened by her dishonesty and my mood soured further, fixing a permanent scowl on my face. She didn’t have all day. I struggled to reason around her words. How could someone so absorbed in the welfare of others, to her own detriment, care little for how this entire fiasco made me feel? What did she think I would do when I’d left? Go home to Alice, wait for her at her home, or listen right now as I was doing? Would her words be for my benefit? I growled in annoyance, wishing again, for the millionth time that I could for once just hear her thoughts.

Why? Could some rift have developed? Some space between us that I had missed? No...

Had alienated herself from me on purpose? Did she not want to see me? The thought crushed me and I winced both from the pain of that possibility and from the new venom that began its indiscriminate, systematic progress down my burning throat. I closed my eyes again from the pain, which was so intense that I unconsciously grasped my abdomen as it blazed its way through me. The fire was becoming more intense. I struggled for once to listen as my head buzzed with thirst.

I realized then that Angela had looked at Bella, but I'd missed it.

Edward is doing... I froze, listening intently to the sound of my name in Angela's thoughts. “What is Edward doing tonight?” Angela finished verbally. What would Bella say? “Following me from Jacob Black’s home. Stalking me outside your window. Writhing with agonizing emotions and insufferable thirst because I felt the need to see Jacob Black. Again.”

“Emmett’s home for the weekend. They’re supposed to be hiking.”

why does she sound so uncertain…“You say that like you’re not sure?”

Bella didn’t answer; instead I got a brief glimpse of her shrugging. What did that mean?And…”Supposed”. Did she know? I wasn’t sure, but I wished that Angela would look at her face again. I would surely be able to detect something. But Angela focused on the invitations.

“You’re lucky Edward has his brothers for all the hiking and camping. I don’t know what I’d do if Ben didn’t have Austin for the guy stuff.” Angela said.

“Yeah, the outdoors thing is not really for me. And, there’s no way I’d ever be able to keep up.” Angela laughed at that, unaware how truly accurate Bella was. “I prefer the indoors myself.”

Angela continued to focus her attention to the pile intently as she remembered camping once with her family. The memory for her was unpleasant – and very tedious. I found myself secretly willing her to look at Bella. I almost began mumbling the incantations.

My spirits plummeted to a new low as my wishes were granted. Angela snuck a glance at Bella’s face and I could see a serious, deep frown had formed. I could not help that her face in combination with her extraordinarily unorthodox behavior forced doubt to creep in further. My doubts about us, doubts about her feelings for me, and doubts about her commitment to our chaotic relationship.

Oh no. How happy could she be with me? From blissful to saddened in a half hour? The change in her spirit was either the result of the loss of Jacob’s company or my arrival. I didn’t like either option.

And Angela was confused. “Is something wrong?” She asked, whispering. “You seem…anxious.”

“Is it that obvious?” Bella replied, her voice embarrassed.

“Not really.” …but she does seem so quiet, I wonder if something is wrong… “You don’t have to talk about it unless you want to,” Angela said. “I’ll listen if you think it will help.”

I watched her again through Angela’s mind, waiting for her response, but Bella didn’t answer. I could nearly feel her palpable indecision. I caught myself leaning forward towards nothing as I waited in confusion. In human time, she’d waited for nearly four long seconds to answer. A long time for polite conversation. Angela grew concerned.

“I’ll mind my own business,” she promised. …she looks so unsure…

“No…” she said. “You’re right. I am anxious. It’s…it’s - Edward.”

Oh. My foot gave a little as I stood there, leaning against the large branch of the tree. I hadn’t expected that. ”It’s Edward.” As soon as the words left her lips, I felt trapped by her admission and the heavy uncertainty it carried with it. I couldn’t move past the feeling that something had changed now. Was she going to reveal her true feelings and let me find out through circuitous measures such as these? No, surely not! I felt ridiculous for even thinking it. But, she sounded so - forlorn.

Angela’s thoughts were silent in confusion. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Her voice was full of genuine feeling …Oh no, poor Bella and Edward…

“Oh, he’s mad at me.” Bella replied, sounding so sad again.

goodness, what in the world would Bella do to make him mad…

“That’s hard to imagine, what is he mad about?”…the way he looks at her I would have thought she could do no wrong, I hope it’s not ser-…

Bella let out a quiet sigh. “Do you remember Jacob Black?”

Images of Jacob Black filled Angela’s thoughts as she considered Bella’s mentioning of his name, causing my aggressive muscles to even tense further. It was so very uncomfortable. I was further tortured by the sound of Jacob’s name on Bella’s lips as it was repeated in Angela’s mind while she struggled to make the connection. Angela then understood as she recalled a conversation that she and Ben had regarding Jacob’s visit to the high school. She remembered the details as Ben had relayed them, and to him, it had appeared that we were fighting over Bella. And, we were.

“Ah,” she said.

“Yeah.”

Her words and thoughts were immediate, “He’s jealous.” She concluded.

My eyes fluttered and I struggled to take a deep breath, bracing myself. Jealous didn’t quite cover it.

But I cared little for Angela’s perception considering that she knew very little of the situation. I was more concerned with Bella’s reaction to such an accusation. This new Bella was unpredictable. Did she think I was jealous? I was, of course. Any man or individual would be, but had she never thought of that before? I couldn’t decipher her quiet defensiveness.

“No, not jealous…” Bella murmured, sounding as if she was torn between contemplating the concept herself and defending me. “Edward thinks Jacob is…a bad influence, I guess. Sort of…dangerous. You know how much trouble I got in a few months back…It’s all ridiculous, though.”

I scoffed, huffing loudly. So, I was ridiculous now? Fury brimmed again as my curiosity receded in its powerful wake, intensified by my heightened irritation. That was her defense? Her explanation? My mind spun as I realized that instead of stating that she’d gone to visit Jacob because of an emergency, which would surely be mentioned in some capacity, she’d pointed at my distrust of him. And with that, she’d told me what I needed to know.

Bella had gone to see Jacob because I was gone. Not because he’d lured her.

how is he dangerous, he always seemed nice to me, instead it looks like he’s in love with her…Angela thought….

And, that was enough. I didn’t want to hear any more this way, sneaking, listening, and crouching. I needed to talk to Bella directly. I blocked them both and sprang from the tree. I flipped my phone and spoke in flurry of words to Alice demanding she focus every ounce of her attention on Bella and Angela. She agreed that she would watch them both, and the house, to ensure their safety. And with that, I took off for the woods behind Angela’s home, running, thinking, and struggling to push back the painful thirst that I knew would threaten my ability to remain calm around Bella when I waited for her tonight. Waited to speak to her directly...in her room...alone.

Which was exactly what I intended to do.

...

I ascended her house in one clean jump, too agitated for graceful scaling. Perhaps I could jump on her tree and snap the branch, leaving a constant reminder of her actions right outside her window?

My mood was so sour and my anger so intense that I had actually let out a bark of laughter as I’d entertained the thought of watching her explain the broken branch to Charlie. My dark humor was a short reprieve from my frustrations. My distraction left me foolishly unprepared. Unprepared for what would have normally been on the forefront of my mind. Her scent.

The moment I breathed carelessly, absorbed in my own thoughts, it hit me completely that I nearly stumbled backwards into her wall. Which would have surely crumbled under my unusually restrained agility.

I shrugged, gaining control, tightening my fist, and steadied for the fight, cursing myself for being so careless and consumed. The war with my venom and my instincts began and I retreated to the corner of her room like a wounded animal, anchoring myself against her wall. Very carefully.

It began then...the systematic self-torture. I breathed and burned and seethed. Frankly, the outrageous situation was so wholly irresponsible and absolutely unfair. I was angry. Fear struck me at one point as I’d remembered the image from Carlisle’s mind of himself, starved and delusional stalking the deer in the clearing. The similarities were frightening. I felt irrational fear again seize me as I contemplated the risk she’d placed us both in. I knew it made my eyes wild and dark, but I was nearly helpless. Nearly.

With every ounce of determination, I used these emotions. And, I felt reassured as they ebbed and flowed at my will. It was as if I was cycling them through, allowing them to take me over so that I could eventually control them. Control them here, alone. It worked and I felt relieved as they slowly became my useful tools for fueling my ritual of discarding the venom and enduring its painful cycle in preparation for her arrival.

So, in this way I breathed to desensitize. I felt to conquer. I suffered to make myself safe for her. And I brooded and wallowed in my shallow pool of questions and regrets.

...I’ll be back so soon you won’t have time to miss me. Look after my heart – I’ve left it with you...And her words: “Go Have fun.”

Had she truly been waitingfor me to leave?

Why else go to Jacob when I was gone?

Was she taking advantage of my patience?

Patience that I’d struggled to perfect with every fiber of my being?

And yet, apparently, she felt it was given.

Excellent. Sneak off, keep secrets, insist on a friendship with my mortal enemy, demand that I respect the fact that he’s in love with you. Whichever you prefer…or all of the above. Assumedly, my patience wasperfect. And why? WHY? Truly, I was capable of exerting considerable effort to withstand considerable stress or hardship on her behalf. But, what was she thinking to recklessly endanger herself in such a way? To endanger herself for what? The dog?

I needed to speak to Bella. I needed to declare my intentions, to make myself clear regarding her departure, and to draw my boundaries regarding her relationship with the dangerous dog. Yes. I would make her understand.

After moments had passed, my control became slightly more secure and eventually, one part of my mind counted the seconds while the other continued to brood. And I spent one and a half human hours waiting in her room, breathing, seething, and stifling my irrational need to break something out of sheer frustration for the situation that I was in. Most importantly, the tree branch.

...

My eyes snapped open as I heard her truck. Out of habit, a deep, animalistic breathing overtook me and I struggled to control it. My lips curled back as my body, irrationally began calling relentlessly for me to follow her scent. The vampire inside could not smell her yet, but a part of my mind knew she was there, that her delicious blood sang to me, stoking the flames of my instinctual need. I heard her talking to Charlie and I focused all of my concentration on her heartbeat. It kept me strong.

“I am going to go study,” I heard her mumble to Charlie.

“See you later,” Charlie grumbled.

Then, I could feel the vibrations of her little steps as she ascended the case toward the door. I braced myself as I strained to focus on her heartbeat more completely, more diligently than I’d ever focused on anything. I breathed in steadied anticipation.

For the first time, I wondered if she would expect me here? My mind raced at the question. What if she asked me to leave? What if my presence was unwanted? What if her ignoring of me was her way of avoiding me? My eyes closed and my fists clenched as I considered what she might say, that she might not want me to be near her. I began to feel that mixture of deep sadness and anger well within me. I was breathing harder.

And the pain was excruciating, beyond any pain I’d ever recalled. Starvation was even more painful than the denial of my thirst for Bella’s blood that fateful day. Because, again, today, it was pure, unadulterated need that called for her now, not just wanton desire. I resolved to myself that regardless of what she said, I would say my peace. I would tell her what her actions had nearly done to us all. Ultimately, I would abide by her wishes, but first she needed to understand the severity of the situation.

I waited as she turned the doorknob.

And then. I smelled her.

The vicious venom scorched down the back of my throat in a new wave of torture, unparalleled in its intensity. I realized with shock and terror that I hadn’t foreseen a critical detail.

It wasn’t just her delicious scent that conjured the scorching venom this time, it was the mixture of her lovely, delicious scent with the smell of my enemy.

The smell of Jacob Black.

The two potent, provocative challenges for my instincts left me immobile. The doorknob turned fully and her scent preceded her in a charge against me, wafting in strong waves through the door and through the small vent above the frame of the entrance to her room with such intensity that it another torrent of venom through my body. I winced a little, but composed my face, but keeping my eyes closed in concentration. Instead, I breathed slowly and surely to control my response to the pain.

Finally, she began to open the door. My knees struggled to pull themselves downward into my hunting crouch, ready for her blood. But I fought them with all of my waning strength, forcing them to remain stationary. Forcing me to maintain a hold on that part of my humanity. The part of the man in me that didn't retreat to an animalistic crouch in the face of adversity, but stood on two feet. Ready and proud.

With this focus, I succeeded, leaning with dedication against her wall, but standing nonetheless.

She slid through and closed the door quietly. I snapped my eyes and watched her, first confirming that she was truly unharmed in case she’d put on a show for Angela of some sort, and secondly, judging her reaction to my presence. She seemed to be unharmed and more reluctant to approach me than angered by my presence. A wave of relief pushed through me, and a small part of me was grateful, but I still couldn’t move. Some thought crossed her face and she cringed, but I could not focus on comforting her, either. I had to stay in control. My mind struggled to abate my instincts, which demanded her blood while my body struggled to control my mind.

And I was helpless to do anything about the waves of scorching, venomous fire.

Bella took a step toward me, but I didn't move. Torn, I half-hoped my withdrawn demeanor kept her back, while I half-hoped I could touch her. Selfish! Please do not move forward, Bella.

I wanted to move backwards, not trusting myself, but I could not move. And there was no where to go. I had cornered myself. Unwise, Edward, unwise.

“Hi,” she said, taking another step toward me. Such a simple greeting.

Bella.

Somehow, the sound of her voice seemed to hit me hard in a strange, new way. It stirred within me a foreign, conflicting whirlwind of emotions: gratitude that she was here now, sadness that she’d left me to begin with, sorrow that she’d felt the need to resort to such measures, and of course, frustration that she’d not understood the situation. Lest I not forget the anxiety that if I didn’t do something to make her understand the seriousness, the violence of this situation, that she would only do it again.

I watched her, thinking hard. I did not trust myself to speak as her scent continued to whirl around me, challenging me, forcing me to struggle to control so much. I just needed time. Something in my expression must have showed her that I was dangerous. Her already wide yes grew even wider and her mouth parted slightly as she assessed me.

So, I glared at her sad, angry, frightened, and frustrated. Blinking furiously, she continued to watch me. I couldn’t help but observe that she looked frightened for once. As she should be. I was beginning to calm. I could feel the receding emotions as I adjusted the affect she was having on my presence. Until she spoke again.

“So, I am alive.” She offered.

I wanted to roar in frustration. I was less successful in suppressing the disturbing anger her comment generated, nor could I fight the growl that rose in my chest. ALIVE? As if that was my minimal consolation! The thought of her riding on the damn motorcycle flashed forward to the forefront of my mind. I wasn’t sure why, but then and now, again, she’d placed her livelihood at risk with him. And for that, this was to be my consolation?

“No harm done,” She said again, shrugging.

And that was the final straw. My mind went blank with fury. I moved towards her and then instantly regretted it. My muscles were clenched so tightly and the disturbance of the air around her fluffed her scent towards me again. In a vain attempt to comfort myself, I closed my eyes and pinched my nose, willing my senses to calm, desperately reaching within myself to abandon my calming method by stopping my breathing, for the first time, as the smell of her and the dog continued to attack my mind and my body. I removed the image of her on the bike and resolved to start calmly.

“Bella,” I whispered. The words teetered on my tongue. Control. Yourself. I tightened my stomach and began.

“Do you have any idea how close I came to crossing the line today?”…TO DESTROYING YOUR “FRIEND” WITH MY BARE HANDS… “to breaking the treaty and coming after you? Do you know what that would have meant?”…DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ME?...DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW INCONCEIVABLY FRUSTRATING THIS SITUATION IS FOR ME?...

Yes, Bella…this is the monster you love. I wanted to shout. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

She gasped, processing my spoken words. Understanding, hopefully, what her actions meant for her, for me, and for my entire family. I listened to her heart race, hoping she would finally understand. She said nothing at first. And I felt anguished at her lack of response. I didn’t want to scare her and I knew my expression was hard.

“You can’t!” she shouted, her eyes wide with fear. She reached her hands out from her body in an odd gesture as if in a panic, as if I was going to run to La Push now and she would be the one to stop me. I searched her eyes diligently, unable to touch her yet. She stared back at me, unflinching under my intensity.

“Edward, they’d use any excuse for a fight. They’d love that. You can’t ever break the rules!”

They? Ha! She obviously failed to understand the satisfaction it would bring the darkest parts of my heart to tear that mongrel from limb to limb, destroying his threatening existence completely. I couldn’t tell her that though, I could see in her eyes that she was already frightened. I flexed my jaw once before speaking lowly. “Maybe they aren’t the only ones who would enjoy a fight.”

“Don’t you start,” she snapped at me, pointing her finger towards me in accusation. Her gesture surprised one part of my mind that hadn’t expected her own form of aggression. “You made a treaty - you stick to it.”

I seethed at her words. I made a treaty, I stick to it? Regardless of the threat? Intolerable! I wanted to shout again, I wanted to rage, I wanted to storm, but I flexed my jaw and my clenched hands again. I was in control and I would stay in control. I'd come this far. I'd faced much worse preparing for her arrival. I could do this. She just needed to understand that although the treaty was in effect, it would be broken if anything happened to her. “If he’d hurt you –“ I began, realizing my voice was shaken with emotion at the very thought of him losing control with her.

“Enough!” she spat. “There’s nothing to worry about. Jacob isn’t dangerous.” She finished, holding her ground.

I watched her; unable to understand what evidence she could possible use to support this. Maybe she didn’t have anything to support such a claim, she frequently put herself in danger - …Yes, that was it. She had no idea what was safe or not. I felt the anger push aside as my concern for her drew itself out. She was so trusting, so good. “Bella, you aren’t exactly the best judge of what is or isn’t dangerous.”

“I know I don’t have to worry about Jake. And neither do you.” Jake. Jake. Jake. The familiarity spurned on the dying, weakened frustration again like blowing against kindling of a fire. I struggled for a moment, grounding my teeth together in an effort to compose myself to speak. She watched me, concerned or saddened, undoubtedly by my inability to control myself.

Then, she moved towards me, taking a deep breath, which blew across the space between us. I stiffened, cornered. Her heart sped up as she came closer.

And I knew I was done for as she came so close I could feel the heat of her delicate body come closer, soothing and easing my tension. Comforting Bella.

Just as quickly as my erratic, wild emotions had consumed me, I felt my anger recede as I saw her sad, agonized face. She was attempting to apologize in her own way. My resolve crumbled further as we touched. I closed my eyes as she came to rest against my chest. The heat and the resonating thud of her heart enveloped my angry, complicated world. It was the purest distraction from the war within myself, the war against the venomous monster I didn’t want to be, and the war against Jacob Black.

It was then that I completely lost it. In genuine tenderness, her little hands came to a rest at the small of my back, pulling me towards her. I wanted to breathe in her scent as she laid her head against my chest, but I didn’t trust myself just yet. Oh. I wanted to touch her badly, to hold her, to feel her comforting warmth even more, but I didn’t. Selfish I was, reckless I was not. And I knew with certaintly that my hands wouldn't crumble from their comfortable clench as easily as my resolve had.

“I’m sorry I made you anxious,” she whispered, tightening her hold against me as she spoke. The gesture was so sincere. The kindness in her voice and in her hold told me what she’d probably never say. I'd been such a fool. She didn't want me to suffer. Would I ever make her understand how much she meant to me? Was there a way to explain this in a way she would understand? I hadn’t been anxious and helpless! I’d been frightened. Frightened of losing her, of losing us, of losing this. Her scent, her comfort, her love, her closeness. Diligently, fresh venom washed through me, but it was of no consequence. I was in control still.

I sighed at her loving embrace and its immediate affect on me. “Anxious is a bit of an understatement,” I whispered, thinking of my intense anxiety, my muscles, which were still so tightly wound, and my erratic emotions which I’d wrestled with all day. “It was a very long day.” I admitted.

I wanted to tangle my fingers in her hair.

“You weren’t supposed to know about it,” she said. What? I flinched at her words. She pulled away from me slightly in response and I watched her wide, exquisite eyes in strange curiosity. She blinked innocently at me, growing concerned over something, perhaps my face? “I thought you’d be hunting longer.” She added quietly.

“When Alice saw you disappear, I came back.” I explained, thinking of that agonizing trip.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” she pleaded. “Now you’ll have to go away again.”

I looked down at her soft, beautiful face. She was frowning again, her heartbreaking expression contorted into a sad mask of anxiety and despair. I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to go. I wished I didn’t have to. Technically, I could find a way around it, surely. It would be frustrating for a while, but I could hunt small game. My thirst was under control now and I was practically starving. I could. I could do anything for her. It was as if my need for her on all levels had superseded instinct under the most extreme circumstances…if I could handle this...a quick trip twice a day would be sufficient…

“I can wait.” I resolved, hoping she would find comfort in my words. In my sacrifice. But, she frowned again.

“That’s ridiculous. I mean, I know she couldn’t see me with Jacob, but you should have known-“ She trailed off, speaking mostly to herself.

“But I didn’t,” I interrupted her, thinking of my wildest imaginings as I’d sat in my car, listlessly agonizing over her safety. It seemed so far away from now, from this moment with her. I never wanted to feel that helpless again. “And you can’t expect me to let you – “

“Oh, yes, I can!” She erupted shockingly. “That’s exactly what I expect – “

I spoke slowly. “This won’t happen again.” I hardened my expression, narrowing my eyes into hers, desperately hoping to clearly show her how desperate this situation had been for me. She was unmoved.

“That’s right! Because you’re not going to overreact next time!” She cried, throwing her hands in the air, moving back away from me. Instantly, I wanted her back. I longed for her, but I didn't reach out. This wasn't the time for pining. She needed to understand.

“Because there isn’t going to be a next time.” I warned.

“I understand when you have to leave, even if I don’t like it –“

“That’s not the same. I am not risking my life.” I explained, fixing my expression.

“Neither am I.”

“Werewolves constitute a risk.” I whispered waspishly, leaning towards her, hoping it would click for her somehow. It was in vain. Her expression hardened at my harsh tone.

“I disagree,” she said, shaking her head in petulant disagreement. She could disagree all day long, but I would not let her endanger herself again. “I’m not negotiating this, Bella.”

“Neither am I” she said, provoking me with an arrogant head tilt. I tightened my fists, as the decaying frustration welled again and I felt legitimate annoyance at her lack of understanding, her lack of concern for herself, and her blind, willful trust in dangerous things, including myself. I struggled to think of something to say to convince her, but before I could say something, she spoke.

“Is this really just about my safety?” she asked suspiciously.

I looked down at her in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“You aren’t…” she started, losing her words. And then, it clicked. Angela. It seemed so far away now, too. Angela’s theory came forward and I remembered their conversation in explicit detail. I needed to end this right now, but she hadn’t been aware that I was listening. “I mean, you know better than to be jealous, right?” She continued, rephrasing carefully. I noticed.

“Do I?” I searched her eyes for the answers, but found nothing but hesitant curiosity. My silence concerned her; she lifted her head to mine, searching my eyes in return. I peered back, hoping she would be furious at my question. Her anger would demonstrate the outrageousness of the entire idea. But...she wasn’t.

“Be serious.” She sounded uncertain.

“Easily – there’s nothing remotely humorous about this.” I didn’t want uncertainty, I wanted insulted outrage. I wanted reassurance that my feelings were needless. Reassurance that he was nothing more than a friend, and nothing more than a friend that would eventually cease to be involved in our lives. The sooner the better. And, desperately, I wanted reassurance that her feelings had not changed.

She narrowed her eyes and I tightened mine in response. “Or…is this something else altogether?” She ventured carefully. “Some vampires –and-werewolves-are-always-enemies-nonsense? Is this just a testosterone fueled –“

My barely lit frustration wasn’t powerful enough to provoke me this time, so I stared at her in condescension for her ridiculous accusation. She flinched at the new intensity in my eyes and pulled back slightly, but I couldn’t focus on holding my face together. I was jealous, of course. But, my insecurities over their relationship paled in comparison to my concerns over his erratic temper, his dangerous habits, and his ridiculously unpredictable behavior. He did not possess the control, the discipline, or the will to hold anything back.

“This is only about you. All I care is that you’re safe.” I explained, hoping she sensed my sincerity as I'd sensed hers. Her eyes softened and she blinked a few times before sighing, moving her warmth even closer to me. I nearly sighed in relief. She dropped her head back on my chest and I wanted her to know how good it felt to have her close. I couldn’t relax yet, though.

“Okay,” she whispered into my shirt, angling her head inward to snuggle slightly against my collarbone. I closed my eyes as I thought about how close her lips were to mine and how badly I wanted to touch them.

“I believe that. But I want you to know something – when it comes to all this 'enemies' nonsense, I am out. I am a neutral country. I am Switzerland. I refuse to be affected by territorial disputes between mythical creatures. Jacob is family. You are…well, not exactly the love of my life, because I expect to love you for much longer than that. The love of my existence. I don’t care who’s a werewolf and who’s a vampire. If Angela turns out to be a witch, she can join the party, too.” She said, serious and concerned.

I almost shook my head in incredulous wonder. Did she truly believe I would buy into that? Her naïve words spun tiny webs of confusion, compassion, and comfort in my head. But, I chose to focus on her reassurances. “The love of my existence.”

Consumed with relief, I took a careless, deep breath first time and immediately regretted that, too. Jacob’s overpowering, vile scent tainted her so completely, and now that my anger was subsiding, it was even stronger. The scent had moved from a strong provocative smell to a colorful, powerful odor that sent the hairs of my neck to attention. I cringed a little, but she looked at me unwittingly.

“Switzerland,” she repeated, brows raised, encouraging me to agree. But, I didn’t. I wouldn’t. Not now. Not ever.

Without that anger and frustration to keep them company, my senses were on a higher alert. Distracted, I struggled for something to say that would indicate that I didn’t agree to her ridiculous assertion, but the disgusting smell of the dog would not subside and the venom was becoming unbearable. It was tainting my mind, lingering on the back of my tongue, in my nose, and in my mouth. I sighed, trying to expel it from my body, but out of habit, and without thinking I took in another breath. It was so strong. I cringed from both the pain and the disgust.

“What now?” she asked.

“Well…don’t be offended. But - you smell like a dog.” I admitted, smirking at her. And then Bella smiled back. But, it wasn’t just her usual radiant smile, it was the smile that destroyed every ounce of anger and frustration that I’d felt. It was the smile that conquered my demons for me, slaying them, beating them back in one clean stroke. It was the smile that I wanted to see for as long as I was afforded the privilege.

And, it was the smile of a truce. At least for now.