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Darkest Before the Dawn

Summary:
The door opened behind me, with a cold gust of wind suddenly sweeping through the room, rustling the papers on the desk and carrying that scent! I froze. Not again!...I sensed nothing...The fragrance was maddening. I slowly turned my head, following the scent, and there she was. Standing, back pressed against the back wall, waiting. She was haunting me. A reimagining of Twilight from Edward's perspective, starting from the very beginning...The First Time - and continuing on beyond where Midnight Sun ends. NOMINATED: 2009 Bellie's category Canon that's Better than Canon NOMINATED: 2009 Indie's Top 10 Best Canon Disclaimer: All characters, settings, and a great majority of the dialogue are the property of Stephanie Meyer.


Notes:
I wrote the first five or so chapters of Darkest Before the Dawn before I knew about/read SM’s Midnight Sun. I have since read it, but have tried to stay true to “my” version of Edward, as well as staying true to SM’s original dialogue and plot line.


2. Chapter 2 - Redemption

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Chapter 2 – Redemption

The tires of the Volvo crunched on the gravel as I came to a sudden stop at the end of the long drive that led to our house. Jasper looked at me as if I was deranged, which I think I was, although it was easier the farther I was from…her. “I’m going to see Carlisle,” I said as they slowly got out of the car, unsure. Not waiting for a response, and not wanting to give answers, I sped away. Shame at my weakness ran through me as I glanced at them in the rear view mirror, bewildered and standing in the cloud of dust I left behind. I just knew I had to put miles between me and her.

I dropped them away from the house, not wanting to face Esme—I knew she would try to keep me from leaving, and I needed to go immediately. I could hear Alice still searching the future, trying to figure out what I was doing—but I hadn’t decided myself.

I tore through the streets on the way to the hospital where Carlisle worked, my mind casting randomly for a plan. Suddenly, Alaska looked very attractive again. I had friends there, who understood the terrible temptation I was facing and the horrible consequences of…giving in. And it was safely far, far away from her. I hoped that Tanya would still tolerate me, in spite of my terrible behavior before.

Carlisle was surprised but not alarmed, assuming my sudden urgent desire to head to Alaska had something to do with Tanya. I left him with that impression, taking his car, since he had a full tank of gas, and hitting the road again quickly. I would call them all later to explain, when I was safely in the wilds of the north.

I drove all night, at speeds that would make a racecar driver blanch. My built-in radar detector kept the police at bay, but the long stretches of Canadian and Alaskan countryside were mostly empty. I stopped briefly along the way to hunt, slaking some of the burning in my throat that had been a raw wound since Biology.

By the next morning, I had arrived in Denali. Never needing sleep has its advantages. The brilliant sun of Alaska filled the early morning sky, and I was sure Tanya and her family would be home. They couldn’t afford to go into town on a sunny day anymore than I could.

I had had time to think, prepare what I was going to say. Still, as I approached the door, I hesitated, listening. Tanya was reading, it was hard to say what, something classic. Her sisters were discussing their plans for the day, whether it would be cloudy enough later for them to go into town.

I stepped up to the door, knocking quietly. I could hear the surprise in their thoughts and I chuckled. I knew they seldom had visitors. They would have smelled me, if I was human, so Tanya cautiously opened the door. She was understandably surprised to see me. “Edward!” I hoped that was a note of pleasure in her voice as well.

“I’m sorry to come without calling you first. I hope I’m not disturbing you,” I said contritely, hoping she wouldn’t still be angry enough to turn me away. Her thoughts seemed more curious than angry. “I needed to leave Forks right away,” I continued. “Do you mind if I come in?”

She frowned at the unexpected urgency in my voice. “Yes, of course, come in. Is everything alright?” she answered. Where is the rest of your family? Are they alright? she thought.

“Everyone’s fine,” I answered her thoughts as I stepped inside. Except me, I thought ruefully. Her sisters gathered around us, and I suddenly felt embarrassed again. I hadn’t talked to my own family yet about this.

“Everyone’s fine,” I repeated. “I just wanted to…talk to Tanya.” I turned to Tanya, who was even more surprised to hear this. “Can I speak with you alone?” I asked quietly, knowing the others would hear as well, and hoping they would give us some space.

“Of course,” she said and led me upstairs to her room. The others turned away, trying to give us some privacy, something very difficult to achieve in a small house where everyone heard everything. They thought I had come back to apologize to Tanya, and so they were happy to give me room to do that. Well, I needed to do that too. As we walked upstairs, Tanya debated if I had come back to tell her I had changed my mind, or something else. Why had I needed to leave Forks without my family? What had happened? She knew I could hear her thoughts, and was letting me know her questions before I would have to answer them in the privacy of her room.

When we were behind closed doors in her room, I dove right in to answer her unspoken questions. “I needed to leave Forks because, well, there was this girl,” I started.

“A girl?” she asked, bewildered. This was not what she expected.

“A human girl. I almost killed her. I don’t know why.” The words were tumbling out of me, and not very coherently. I took a breath, trying to organize my thoughts. “She was unlike anyone else. She had this incredible scent, and it was driving me mad, and I couldn’t read her and I…” I was overwhelmed with embarrassment, hoping desperately that Tanya would understand.

Her eyes grew wide. “You attacked her?” Her mind held an image of my teeth at the throat of a hapless human girl.

My heart sank. “No, no! I stopped myself. I don’t know how, but I stopped and I ran. I knew I had to get far away, or I might...I came here.” Her thoughts were a jumbled array of snippets trying to understand what I was saying. “I’m so ashamed, Tanya, I couldn’t face my family, I just ran.”

“You didn’t kill her? You didn’t attack her?” she was even more incredulous.

“No!” I felt she was missing my point. Didn’t she see how horrible this was?

“But, Edward, that’s wonderful!” I stared at her in blank surprise. Wonderful?

“This scent of hers…was it different than anything you’ve come across before?” she asked curiously. “More powerfully attractive than anyone else?”

“Yes,” I said, but I could barely understand her words. Why wasn’t she shocked?

She smiled at my confusion. “Edward, don’t you see? This girl is rare—a human that acts like a siren to us. For everyone it is different, a unique scent. But when you find one, they are almost impossible to resist. Except you did, Edward!” She was proud of me. This didn’t make any sense at all.

“Tanya, I almost killed her! I wanted to! I almost took her right there in the classroom!” Didn’t she see how terrible I was?

“Oh, Edward!” She pulled me to her, hugging me and wrapping me in her strawberry hair. “You are amazing,” she breathed on me, whispering in my ear. “You feel bad for wanting what we all want. Don’t you see how strong you are for resisting?”

Finally, I relaxed. That was what I needed to hear…I didn’t give in…I wasn’t a fiend. I hugged her back, her hair muffling my face. A thought flashed through my mind…her hair wrapped around my face with that incredible smell. Isabella Swan, the name came unbidden into my mind. I burrowed my face deeper in Tanya’s hair, and inhaled deeply, taking in her delicate inhuman scent, and trying to drive that thought out of my mind. I heard Tanya sigh, and I realized what I was doing to her. I pulled back, touching her face with my hand. “About last time, when we were hunting.”

“Yes,” she breathed into my face, golden eyes blazing at me. I let my hand drop and pulled back slightly.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the mixed signals.” Her face fell a little. This wasn’t what she was hoping for, I could see. “I really care for you Tanya,” I continued quickly. “I don’t want to lose you as a friend. I came here because I feel…safe with you. I’m just not sure we’re meant to be more than friends.” I waited, hoping I wasn’t hurting her like I did before.

“Oh, Edward. For someone who’s been around for so many years, you are terribly naïve sometimes.”

I was confused, a perpetual state for me lately, it seemed. “You aren’t mad?” I asked, but I could tell from her thoughts she wasn’t. It was more like disappointed, resigned.

“I wish you found me as…hmm, agreeable as I find you.” She flashed me a grin, momentarily charming me. “But if you’ll promise not to run off again, I’ll tolerate your lack of discerning taste.” I was stunned.

“You know you’re a much better friend than I deserve,” I said, meaning every word of it.

“Don’t you forget it!” she laughed. Then more seriously, “You look terrible Edward. I think we should go hunting. You’re going to need your strength when you call your family to explain why you’re here with me.” She grinned wickedly and was gone, leaping gracefully as a gazelle out the window, speeding to the tundra. I sighed at my incredible good fortune. Perhaps everything was going to be alright after all. I sped after her, looking forward to a good hunt.

I called my family later that day and explained what had happened. Esme insisted I come back home, as I knew she would. Carlisle said I should take my time, which I did. I spent two more days in Denali before I felt normal again. I discussed my problem with Tanya, and she had a confidence in me that I hardly deserved.

“Just make sure you hunt often before you go to school, and you’ll be fine,” Tanya was saying, in such a manner of fact tone that it was difficult to doubt her. We were out in the wild tundra again, hunting elk.

“I certainly wasn’t fine that day,” I replied.

“You were caught off guard,” she said, insisting this was something I could handle. “The second time you smelled her, in the office, was it easier?”

“Only slightly,” I grudgingly admitted.

“See—and then you were still thirsty.” She turned to me and put the full force of her golden eyes on me. “You are strong, Edward—more than you know.” She smiled lovingly at me and loped after an elk, sun lighting her hair.

I wanted to believe her. I’d dealt with temptation before, just not this strong. Surely I could overcome the seductive call of one little girl’s blood. I missed my family, the daily routine of our lives. Spending time with Tanya was enjoyable, but I belonged in Forks. It was my home and I wouldn’t let a momentary weakness drive me from it.

The next day, I drove back. I prepared all weekend, hunting more than usual, talking with my brothers about this special temptation and how to deal with it. They surprised me by understanding, and even being helpful. I should not have underestimated them. Alice, of course, was the most curious.

“How did it go in Alaska?” she asked, eyebrows arched.

“It was just what the doctor ordered.” I gave her a sly grin, intentionally baiting her.

“I should say so,” she replied, not taking the bait. “You’re going to be fine in school tomorrow, you know.”

“Really?” I asked, very interested. Alice was rarely wrong. “Yes. You really are stronger than you think,” she said with a smile and bounced with that little dancing walk of hers, out of the room. I grimaced. She obviously had been keeping tabs on me while I was in Alaska, sneaky little thing that she was.

Full of confidence, I intended to go to school and treat this Isabella Swan as any other person. That plan was slightly complicated by the fact that I couldn’t read her mind, but I could still treat her as any other human. But she wasn’t…and that intrigued and frightened me at the same time. It kept nagging at the back of my mind…why was she so different? No matter. The fiend inside could still return and undo everything. I steeled myself, determined not to let that happen.

Monday morning I drove us to school, as usual. The rain from the weekend had let up, and it had turned cold. By mid-morning, the snow fell in wet lumps of frozen fun. There was a stir of excitement as students gathered up snowballs for impromptu fights between classes. Emmett was the worst, flinging soppy messes strategically targeted where they would do the most damage. No one was spared, not even Alice, whose eyes flashed for the mess he made of her clothes. She was already planning her revenge.

Lunchtime came quickly, my uneasy concerns washed away in the slippery fun. We met at our usual table. “Jasper, if you think I’m going to let that last snowball slide, you have another thing coming later today,” said Emmett with a grin.

“Ten dollars says Emmett can’t hit me with anything, let alone a snowball!” retorted Jasper, taunting Emmett, who was usually up for any wager.

“I’ll take that bet!” replied Rosalie, getting a hurt, abandoned look from Emmett.

“And you’ll win,” smirked Alice. We all laughed. Alice and Rosalie shrieked and leaned away as Emmett shook his dripping hair toward them. It felt good to be back into the routine of our normal lives.

I didn’t realize she was in the room, until Jessica said her name.

“Bella, what are you staring at?” I instinctively looked over and saw her. An unexpected shock we through me, seeing her again. I remembered her smell, but not what she looked like: dark hair, warm brown eyes, and pale skin. Our eyes met, then she dropped her head, letting her hair fall to conceal her face. I probed again, trying to read her, hoping something had changed—nothing. I kept trying, but Jessica’s jealous thoughts were blaring at me.

“Edward Cullen is staring at you,” Jessica giggled in her ear.

“He doesn’t look angry, does he?” Bella asked.

“No,” she said, sounding confused. “Should he be?”

Should I be? No, although I was still angry at myself for my lack of self control. She thought I was angry with her? Probably because of the horrified reaction I gave her the last time. Well, I could fix that. After all, I wasn’t thirsty—it should be no problem to act normally around her.

“I don’t think he likes me,” Bella said.

“The Cullens don’t like anybody…well, they don’t notice anybody enough to like them. But he’s still staring at you.”

Oops. I looked away.

“Stop looking at him,” hissed Bella.

They stopped talking about me. Well, Miss Bella Swan, I would have to make you forget that first awful day—I certainly wanted to. If we could be, well, friendly, then it would be much easier to move on, everything back to normal again. Alice had promised it would go well, and so I had every confidence it would.

By the time lunch ended, the snow had turned to rain. So much for Jasper’s bet—although I suspected that Emmett would be just as happy to hit Jasper with a rock. We walked through the rain to our respective afternoon classes. Jasper gave me one last meaningful look as we parted. Are you ready for this? he thought.

“I’m fine, Jasper,” I said, sounding more confident than I felt. Actually, I very much wanted to this chance to prove myself. He nodded, warily, and I wondered if he was planning on lurking outside my Biology class just to keep watch over me. If he did, he hid those thoughts from me.

When I reached the classroom door, she was already at our station, drawing on the cover of her notebook. As I entered the room, I could smell that amazing fragrance right away. I was tuned to it, my thirst flaring slightly. The hunting I had done just this morning kept the insanity at bay and made the burning easier to ignore. To talk to her I needed to breathe. I took a couple deep breaths, taking in the scent, trying to adjust to its effect. It didn’t help. I walked around behind her, her scent wafting up to me as I passed. I pulled out my chair and sat down. She ignored me completely. It was dizzying, having her so close. I moved as far away from her as I could, to dilute the scent a little, studying her face. What was she thinking?

“Hello,” I said, trying to be friendly, watching her carefully.

She looked up, an odd look on her face, as if she didn’t think I could speak. I saw why the male students were all eager to be with her. She was lovely, her dark hair framing her pale face. Her rich brown eyes stared at me like I was crazy. Her skin was almost luminous in the scattered light filtering in from the snowy countryside.

“My name is Edward Cullen,” I said, when she didn’t say anything in return. “I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan.”

She seemed confused, as if it was insane that I would talk to her. I stared at her, trying to understand what she was thinking. Not being able to read her was almost more aggravating than that scent that continued to float my way.

“H-how do you know my name?” she stammered.

I laughed softly. “Oh, I think everyone knows your name. The whole town’s been waiting for you to arrive.”

She grimaced at that. “No,” she replied, “I meant, why did you call me Bella?”

Was I not supposed to know she was called Bella? Didn’t her friend Jessica call her that? “Do you prefer Isabella?” I asked, politely.

“No, I like Bella,” she said. “But I think Charlie—I mean my dad—must call me Isabella behind my back—that’s what everyone here seems to know me as,” she explained.

“Oh,” I said, and she looked away. Well, so far so good. We were speaking and I didn’t have an overwhelming desire to kill her. She seemed to think I was acceptable to speak to, so maybe she would forget that other day.

Mr. Banner started class, explaining the lab we were doing today. The slides in the box were out of order. Working as lab partners, we had to separate the slides of onion root tip cells into the phases of mitosis they represented and label them accordingly. We weren’t supposed to use our books. I sighed. That would not be challenge for me, but I wondered about my new lab parter.

“Ladies first, partner?” I asked, smiling, trying to be as friendly as I could. She looked up and stared at me. Did I say something wrong? I realized suddenly that I might be completely socially incompetent without the crutch of reading the minds of others. This thought disturbed me.

“Or I could start, if you wish,” I said, trying to recover and decipher what she was thinking.

“No,” she said, “I’ll go ahead.” And then she flushed. It startled the breath out of me—her scarlet cheeks were pulsing with the warmth of the blood flowing in them. My throat burned and a strange electric current welled up inside me. What was this?

She snapped the first slide into place under the microscope and adjusted the lens. She studied the slide briefly. “Prophase,” she said. By this time the flush had subsided, and I started breathing again, my momentary panic fading with it.

“Do you mind if I look?” I asked, trying not to sound breathless. As she began to remove the slide, I caught her hand to stop her. She was warm, almost radiating heat. She jerked her hand back, no doubt because mine was cold as ice. Why did I try to touch her? What a stupid thing to do.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered, pulling my hand back immediately, and inwardly cursing myself. I reached for the microscope instead, wondering what she could possibly be thinking of that chilly touch. I knew what was on the slide as soon as I looked at it, but I lingered a little for effect. “Prophase,” I agreed, and wrote it on the first space on our worksheet. I switched out the first slide for the second, and glanced at it. “Anaphase,” I said softy, writing it down.

“May I?” she asked, clearly not believing that I could tell that quickly. I smirked and pushed the microscope to her. She looked through the eyepiece. Of course, I was correct. “Slide three?” she asked, holding out her hand without looking at me.

I handed it to her, careful not to touch her again. She looked at it, quicker, I thought this time—trying to compete with me. I smiled. “Interphase,” she said, and passed the microscope back to me. I took a swift look and then wrote it down.

We were finished before anyone else was close. Most of the other students were furtively looking at their books, or arguing amongst themselves—which left me with nothing to do but look at her. She completely captured my attention. Even without the smell, which seemed to fade in intensity a little as I sat there, I was intrigued…and frustrated. It would be much easier if I could just read her thoughts, rather than to have to resort to guessing about what she was thinking.

She looked at me and seemed to notice something.

“Did you get contacts?” she asked suddenly.

“No.” I was startled. Why was she asking that?

“Oh,” she said, “I thought there was something different about your eyes.”

What? I tried to look casual, shrugged and looked away. How had she noticed my eyes? This girl was more dangerous to me than I thought. I clenched my hands into fists on my legs. The scent, the inability to read her…and she was amazingly observant. It was a mistake to talk to her. I should keep my distance from her, just like the rest of them.

Mr. Banner came to our table then, to see why we weren’t working. He looked over our shoulders to glance at the completed lab, and then stared more intently to check the answers.

“So, Edward, didn’t you think Isabella should get a chance with the microscope?” Mr. Banner asked.

“Bella,” I corrected automatically, instantly wishing I hadn’t. “Actually, she identified three of the five.”

Mr. Banner looked at Bella, his expression skeptical. “Have you done this lab before?” he asked.

She smiled a little sheepishly. I had a hard time taking my eyes off her. “Not with onion root.”

“Whitefish blastula?”

“Yeah.”

Mr. Banner nodded. “Were you in an advanced placement program in Phoenix?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” he said after a moment, “I guess it’s good you two are lab partners.” I wasn’t so sure about that. She began drawing on her notebook again. I couldn’t just stare at her without saying something, so I tried, “It’s too bad about the snow, isn’t it?” It sounded inane.

“Not really,” she answered, intriguingly.

“You don’t like the cold,” I stated, especially ice cold hands touching yours.

“Or the wet.”

“Forks must be a difficult place for you to live,” I said, wondering for the first time why she came here.

“You have no idea,” she muttered darkly. I certainly didn’t and it was one more mystery that I found increasingly difficult to resist. What brought her here, to completely disrupt my life?

“Why did you come here, then?” I asked, almost demanding.

“It’s…complicated.”

“I think I can keep up,” I pressed, trying to keep the urgency out of my voice.

She paused, as she considered whether to tell me the truth. She looked directly into my eyes, and I think decided right then to tell me. “My mother got remarried.”

“That doesn’t sound so complex,” I said, trying to be more soothing, less demanding. “When did that happen?”

“Last September.” She sounded sad. I didn’t like it.

“And you don’t like him,” I reasoned, thinking I finally understood.

“No, Phil is fine. Too young, maybe, but nice enough.”

Now I was confused again. “Why didn’t you stay with them?”

“Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living,” she said, half-smiling. I couldn’t help but smile in return.

“Have I heard of him?” I asked.

“Probably not. He doesn’t play well. Strictly minor league. He moves around a lot.”

So, that was it. She came here because she had nowhere else to go. “And your mother sent you here so that she could travel with him,” I said.

“No,” she looked defiant, “she did not send me here. I sent myself.”

Now I was completely confused. I began to think I was incapable of having a sensible conversation with someone without reading their thoughts and already knowing what they meant. I hadn’t worked so hard to communicate since I was…human.

“I don’t understand,” I finally admitted, frustrated. Maybe now she would explain herself.

She sighed. I caught my breath again. Her very breath seemed to contain that delicious scent that was raising the tension in this entire conversation. It washed over me again, stunning me.

“She stayed with me at first,” she went on explaining, as if I was completely dense, which apparently I was, “but she missed him. It made her unhappy…so I decided it was time to spend some quality time with Charlie.” Her voice seemed sad again. I really didn’t like that sound.

“But now you’re unhappy,” I said, wondering why she would choose to be that way.

“And?” she challenged.

“That doesn’t seem fair.” I shrugged, but couldn’t take my eyes off her, trying desperately to understand what was going on in her head.

She gave a small mirthless laugh. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you? Life isn’t fair.”

Well that summed up just about everything in my life lately. “I believe I have heard that somewhere before,” I agreed. She appeared so at ease, but in reality she was unhappy inside…how familiar that sounded. “You put on a good show,” I said slowly, not sure if I was talking about her or myself. “But I’d be willing to bet that you’re suffering more than you let anyone see.”

She grimaced at me, and looked away. Bingo. “Am I wrong?” I pressed.

She seemed to want to ignore me. I couldn’t let that pass. “I didn’t think so,” I said, probably a bit too smug.

“Why does it matter to you?” she asked, obviously irritated. I was taken aback. I didn’t mean to upset her, I just wanted so much to understand her. Why? I was supposed to just talk to her, like anyone else. Make her forget that anything strange had happened. Get through the class without killing her. Why did I care?

“That’s a very good question,” I said softly, not sure if I wanted her to hear that or not. She sighed, scowling at the blackboard. I definitely upset her. I upset her. As if she wasn’t driving me mad with her very presence!

“Am I annoying you?” I asked, archly amused at this turn of events.

She glanced at me and said, “Not exactly. I’m more annoyed at myself. My face is so easy to read—my mother always calls me her open book.” She frowned, apparently not liking that description. She was being honest with me and I felt compelled to return the favor.

“On the contrary, I find you very difficult to read,” I said.

“You must be a good reader then,” she said.

“Usually.” Ha! I had to smile at that, amazed at the utter truth of it. It felt strangely warm to be honest with her.

Mr. Banner called the class to order then, and she turned to listen. I leaned away from her again, not realizing that I had relaxed my pose, leaning in toward her as we spoke. She pulled me, like a magnet and even leaning away from her was difficult. I gripped the edge of the table, careful not to crush it while maintaining my distance. When we were talking I was so fascinated with deciphering her answers that her incredibly delicious smell, and the urges it brought inside me, faded into the background. But just sitting here, looking at her, smelling her, it became almost overwhelming again.

When the bell finally rang, I rushed out as quickly as I had the previous Monday, grateful to have managed another class period sitting next to Bella Swan without killing her. I paused just outside the door, to clear my head. I heard Newton’s thoughts as he moved to take my place at her side.

“That was awful,” he groaned. “They all looked exactly the same. You’re lucky you had Cullen for a partner.”

“I didn’t have any trouble with it,” Bella said. “I’ve done the lab before, though.”

“Cullen seemed friendly enough today,” Newton commented, his thoughts showing how little he liked that. Surprisingly, that made me smile.

“I wonder what was with him last Monday,” said Bella. So she hadn’t forgotten—but at least she seemed to think it was better now. I was surprised at how glad I was for that too.

I hurried off to my next class before they came out and found me eavesdropping. I felt triumphant, and couldn’t wait to see my brothers and sisters and tell them how well it went, just as Alice had said it would. I was redeemed.

The next period passed quickly, and I walked through the mist to my car in the parking lot, waiting for the others. I watched her as she left the campus and headed for an extremely old and beat up truck. Of course that would be hers. She climbed in, looking incredibly frail in that giant hunk of metal. It was ridiculously loud when she started it up. I stared as she unzipped her jacket, put the hood down and shook out her hair. I couldn’t smell her from here, but I could imagine the scent filling the cab. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

That’s when she saw me, staring at her. She looked swiftly away, as if angry, and almost put the truck into a tiny Toyota Corolla behind her, stopping just in time. She pulled out again, this time more successfully, and drove straight past me, not looking. She was absurd. Entranced, I laughed out loud.