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The Dying of the Light

Summary:
Once there was something magical and beautiful to her about the idea of being a vampire, of eternal youth and invincibility. But she knows now they are not flying off to Neverland. Edward/Bella, Jacob/Bella.


Notes:
Another one of my old fics I never got around to putting up on this archive before. This one is actually my first Twilight fanfic I ever did, over a year ago. It came from my opinion that if Bella really has to become a vampire (something I've never really wanted to happen yet oddly find myself writing about all the time, LOL), then it at least should be written about in a way that is appropriately dark and not too sugar-coated. Now that I look back on this fic and read it over again, I think there are parts I might have gone too far with that, but it's not all depressing by any means. In fact, I think of this as a pretty hopeful story about finding the strength to survive any suffering and loss and being able to find meaning in any kind of existence. So I hope Team Edward fans won't find it too off-putting, as this fic is meant to have something to offer to both teams.


2. part 2/3

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vi. i'll carry you

The transformation process was nothing. That was only the beginning of how ugly and unbearable it gets.

Edward helps a lot. It is assuring to her to know that he is always keeping her in check and is not going to let her make any mistakes she'll regret. This is a promise she knows will most certainly be kept. He cannot allow there to be any reason for him to think that letting her join them was a mistake. Nearly every one of the Cullens has killed humans for blood at least once. They are unnatural freaks and fallen angels with no place anywhere. They shouldn't exist, as he says. Yet he has allowed her to exist this way, and it can't be undone.

But there are some days that resisting human blood feels practically impossible because the instinct is so strong, like trying to kill yourself by holding your breath when the body just will not allow it. The ways she reacts to it do not seem like her, like Bella, making her feel more than ever like she has been locked in a stranger's body in a disorienting nightmare. She is constantly irritable and has discovered quickly just how strong she's become because hitting her hand against a wall as she's growling something in frustration makes the whole house shudder. Sometimes she uses foul language, words that Edward has never even known to be in her vocabulary before. It makes Emmett laugh.

She is ravenously, torturously thirsty all of the time. Edward, Carlisle, and Alice took her out as soon as she was ready and helped her hunt deer and raccoons. It is not of much help at all.

"Animals aren't going to taste very good to you yet," Edward explained. "Your body has to get used to it first. All it wants is human blood now."

Like he has to tell her this. They spend their days around the house with a cold few feet of air between them sometimes as they sit in silence, and it almost feels like even her desire for him has become secondary.

Today, though, she is calm and tired, relaxing in his arms as they sit on the couch in his dimly lit room with an Ella Fitzgerald CD playing as the moonlight pours through the window on them. "I'm sorry," she says quietly. "We shouldn't have done it here, still around so many people. I should have let us wait. . ."

"It's all right," he says. "You have to get used to it somehow."

She groans softly. "And meanwhile, drive all of you crazy."

Edward laughs lightly. "Believe me, we did know what to expect. Actually, you're doing considerably well for being at this stage. I didn't even have to force you to leave that hiker alone when we were leaving the meadow the other day."

It's impossible for Bella to believe what she's going through now could be seen as doing well. "I'm just sorry I have to get into such a rotten mood all the time. Some happy and loving newlyweds we are."

He laughs again. "Aren't we, though?" he says half-seriously. "Listen, if you have to deal with this all for me I can certainly deal with you. I can't imagine that this is much worse than what a husband has to tolerate for nine months while his wife's pregnant."

She doesn't laugh. It isn't until he looks down at her suddenly desolate face that he realizes what an entirely wrong thing to say it was. She stares away from him as still as a statue, suddenly picturing two black-haired children who were killed along with the old Bella a week after her wedding day.

Edward pulls her more tightly against him, rubbing a hand up and down her back. "This will all pass," he promises. "It gets easier." And the truth of this may depend on what exactly he is referring to - which thing that is difficult.

When he looks down at her again, she is thoughtlessly playing with the silver linked bracelet on her wrist, turning it so that the little red wolf charm and the sparkling heart skim over her wrist again and again in turn. She wears it on the same hand as her wedding ring, both always there, attached permanently to her.

It does get easier, but in a few more months she is still prone to complete losses of control sometimes. She keeps a great distance between herself and humans whenever she can, and will never go near them without Edward staying right at her side.

One day, they and Alice are in a mall and right in front of them a little girl trips and scrapes her arm against a stone pillar. As soon as Edward smells the blood he anticipates what will happen, and Bella has only twitched in the girl's direction when he grabs her and pulls her away into a hall that goes back into some restrooms.

"Bella, Bella!" Alice says quietly as she struggles against Edward restraining her from lunging back toward the child. "Relax. Listen to me, you've got to hold your breath - "

She doesn't even process what's being said to her. All she is aware of is the smell of the little girl's blood and God, it's coming fromright out there in front of them -

As she brings a fist slamming against Edward's chest to try to force herself out of his grasp, something makes a tiny crunching sound that she would not hear nearly as clearly if she were still human. Edward looks down at her left hand with wide eyes, and everything sobers; she turns her wrist to see the tiny remains of the wolf charm on her bracelet crumbling, easily and mightily smashed into dust.

Bella stops resisting Edward's hold on her so abruptly that he doesn't have the chance to adjust to it and support her weight before she sinks to the floor onto her suddenly weak knees, her eyes big and unfocused, looking at something very far away from there. She suddenly remembers the name of a boy called Jacob Black, and all of these other fragile, small things. The recipe for Charlie's favorite dinner. The words of a Dylan Thomas poem she studied as a high school freshman. The colors in the dress that her mother is wearing in the picture of her she used to keep in her locker. Her stuffed elephant she got for Christmas when she was seven and named Peanut.

All of these things suddenly seem so elusive and impermanent. They slip through her fingers like dream sand as she tries to grab onto them and make them always hers. But they already feel like something that happened in someone else's life, one completely different from the vivid, crystal clear one she's in now that she remembers every moment of so far in flawless detail. If she is not careful to remember those other things, they will all crumble into dust. For her former life was made up of delicate and momentary things, not hard diamonds. In a lot of ways, more precious things.

vii. playing dead

"You know it's time to take care of things," Edward says to her, and she won't look up from her book to meet his eyes.

They talked about this. After a while they won't be able to keep up the charade of e-mails and occasional phonecalls. And it will be easier for Charlie and Renée if they think they know what happened to her than it will be if they never know for sure. Bella can adopt a fake identity, a new last name, in the place they go, and they will convincingly fake Bella Swan Cullen's death.

But who is faking anyway?

A desperate, pleading part of her isn't ready for this. Why now? I can have a couple more years, or just another year, a few more months, before I have to say goodbye for good.

But the other half of her pushes those thoughts away, like a rough hand forcing a misbehaving child to sit down in a chair - Be quiet!

No. She chose this. There is no compromise. She must accept it completely.

viii. one who will get a happy ending

They still come around to Forks sometimes, though they don't allow themselves to be seen. Bella and Edward like to visit the meadow together and she goes to Charlie's house and watches him sometimes. He seems to be doing okay. At least as okay as anybody can be doing when they lost a child ten years ago who, no matter what, is never coming back.

One time when she meets back up with Edward after spying on Charlie attempting to cook himself macaroni, he tells her he encountered Embry in the forest. "He's going through a tough time," he says, and his voice is actually a little sincerely regretful. "It's likely that a friend of his has a brain tumor. He was only phasing to get away from everything for a little while."

Something in his face makes Bella keep looking at him and waiting. There's something else.

Slowly, reluctantly, he meets her eyes. "Bella. . ." He looks distressed, clearly not wanting to have to say something, but knowing he needs to bring it up and get it out there.

After waiting a long moment with him still not continuing, she has to say, "What is it?"

"It's . . . It's nothing bad, exactly. . ."

Bella waits another long moment. "Jacob?" she guesses, her voice tiny.

He looks at her a long time again before finally explaining simply. "He imprinted."

As she goes completely silent, looking down at the ground, he stares at her closely, searching carefully for her reaction.

"Tell me," she says calmly, but still not meeting his eyes.

He hesitates only a second. "He met her just four months ago. She's a grade school teacher from Seattle named Megan. She was passing through town and her car broke down, and he saw her stranded on a street in La Push and pulled over to help...and, well..."

She nods. Her face looks strangely empty. "Well. That's good. He should be happy like that. I'm...glad."

Even though she really is happy for him - or maybe relieved is a better word - the words somehow feel wrong coming out of her mouth. It reminds her of when you find out someone is pregnant and you're not sure if "congratulations" is the right thing to say because you don't know if it was planned. She knows much too well how falling in love can sometimes almost be more trouble than it's worth. La Push and Seattle are not that far, but still a considerable distance, apart - enough to separate two lives. That woman's car breaking down might not have been a blessing in disguise but nothing besides a complete life-altering and troublesome inconvenience. If it hadn't happened, it's not like she ever would have known what she was missing.

No, Bella suddenly thinks, surprising herself. That's no way to look at it. It would be unforgivable for someone else to not take what a small, dormant part of her still badly wants but can't have.

"A schoolteacher . . . How old is she?" she asks, her voice merely curious.

He raises his eyebrows. "A year younger than him."

She can't help but look a little surprised.

"You do realize Jacob Black is now twenty-seven?"

She nods, but not until after a long moment. Yes, she realizes it, but it's hard to imagine. She will always remember him as being sixteen, an embodiment of teenage youth and the kind of carelessness and ease that comes with it.

She thinks of Jacob joking about how it would be amusing to see if she would be jealous if this ever happened. Smiling a little facetiously, she asks in a light and expectant tone, "So? Is she pretty?"

Edward looks to the side at her, looking taken aback. Then what is exchanged between their eyes in the next few seconds makes them both start to laugh lightly at the same time. They have to laugh because it's too much. Life and love is too complicated to take all of it seriously without going mad.

ix. as strong as death

In 2039 Jasper and Alice go to college together and Jasper is studying philosophy. Again. He wants to get a doctorate this time.

"I think he's just amused by the idea of becoming Dr. Hale for a degree in something as useless as philosophy," Edward says to Bella in confidence, smirking in the dark.

"I think philosophy is very useful for us," she contradicts in her strong voice that has matured to sound much more confident over the past couple decades. "When you don't have to worry about making a good paycheck but you're going to be living as long as you please and maybe then some, you better figure out the meaning of life while you're at it."

"I don't think you discover the meaning of your life in school, my love," he says in a warm and teasing tone, gazing down at her with a meaningful look in his eyes. "Well . . . that's unless Biology class counts."

She grins vibrantly in the moving shadows of the trees in their back yard and leans over to kiss him. They roll in the grass together, giggling and with their lips in smiles even as they kiss, Edward settling comfortably between her legs, but holding her face in his hands as delicately as one handles a hollow egg shell. Sometimes he still touches her so carefully, like he is forgetting he couldn't accidentally crush her anymore. Old habits must die hard for creatures with such perfect memories. She likes it. It somehow makes moments with him feel more rare and precious, more like something stolen that they're lucky to have. Even when she was human and she really was helpless and could be effortlessly hurt by him, there was always something oddly satisfying about knowing that even though he was so powerful, he was in control and could never actually harm her. Maybe she just has a bit of a masochist kink, she thinks, and cracks up laughing so that Edward stops kissing the hollow of her neck and looks at her like she's crazy.

Sometimes when Jasper leaves his schoolwork lying around, she looks through his books. Edward comes over and lies across the couch next to her while she's reading a book called Man's Search For Meaning, resting his head in her lap and looking up at the title.

"Ah. Viktor Frankl," he says. "Doing Jasper's homework for him, are you?"

She giggles. "Have you read it?" He shakes his head. "It's quite . . . inspiring. The way he writes about being in a concentration camp is unbelievable."

Edward sighs. "Good grief, like I want to be reminded of those days. If there was ever a time I felt so little sympathy for the most despicable kind of human beings . . . I don't know what stopped me from leaving Carlisle and Esme again after that," he adds darkly.

"You'd be surprised how warm and fuzzy it can make you feel for being a recollection of the Holocaust."

She keeps reading a while, and then he says, his voice softer, "Tell me about it."

So she reads him a specific passage from the book she likes, which describes how Frankl had been separated from his wife in camps for so long that he had no idea if she was dead or alive, and how one morning as he was walking to a work site something made him think of her and he had a vivid vision of her face in his head, as clear as if she were standing right before him. At that moment it did not make any difference to his ability to withstand all of his suffering whether she was alive or dead, because he realized she was so much a part of him. Just the memory of being with her was enough to keep him strong and make him want to survive, even if he may never see her again.

"And?" Edward asks after she finishes reading and starts staring off into the air, thinking. "When he got out, was his wife alive or not?"

She looks down at him and shakes her head, and he frowns. Then she stares off directionlessly some more, in deep thought again, and he notices.

"Please tell me what you're thinking," he says. He still can never tell for himself, of course.

She has to think of a way to put it into words before she speaks. "I was remembering the time you left me," she says, and it comes out easily; this is not a frightening, sensitive subject anymore. "The way Frankl saw his wife's face so clearly even though she wasn't there and it comforted him so much . . . It reminded me of how I used to hear your voice on my own when I thought I was never going to see you again. And I was just thinking that even if you never came back to me, I could have been okay. It wasn't impossible. I could have been happy if I just chose to be. If I'd really tried."

Edward's expression is still and calm. "Yes. I know," he says after a long stretch of silence. He sits up and holds her against him tightly, inhaling the scent of her hair deeply. "That's why I'm thankful every single moment that you still chose me."

She hugs him back, and he is not being careful today but squeezing her so tight she can barely keep breathing. "I'm glad I did, too," she whispers, and it's always true, but today she knows it's true and that makes all the difference.