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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.


6. Chapter 6 - All That

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 3482   Review this Chapter

Chapter 6 – All That

That night I stole into Bella’s room again to watch her sleep. Her steady heartbeat and rhythmic breathing soothed me. The hazy night light lit her face as she slept silently. No talking tonight.

I didn’t sleep. I didn’t need to, but sometimes I wished that I could, just to have that respite from the day. Watching Bella sleep—holding still, matching my unnecessary breathing to hers—I fell into a trance that came as close to sleep as I could manage. It certainly seemed like a softly lit dream, watching her…

In my waking dream, I could walk over to her and kneel down close to her, inhaling that amazing scent without the inevitable scorching rising in my throat…I would reach out and gently run my fingers through her long, brown hair…I wondered if it would feel as soft as I imagined, like a fine silk river running through my fingers…she would wake, but not be terrified of me, simply look at me with those amazing eyes and reach out to touch my face, curious as to why I had awoken her…I would bend close to her face, my cheek softly brushing hers and whisper soft words of love into her ear…

In my waking dream, I was more human, more deserving. I could be her beloved without any worry of harming her. In reality, I stood at the far wall, resisting the temptation to move even a little closer to her, not giving the demon inside me a chance to reappear. Her perfume permeated the room, and eventually my clothes as I stayed. The burning in my throat subsided to a low ache as I adjusted to being in her presence. It was getting easier…

Before daylight, I roused myself to leave. Emmett expected me at the house. Alice had assured us that the weather would still be cloudy enough to attend school on Friday—she, Rosalie and Jasper would show up as usual, maintaining the fiction of our lives. Emmett insisted on getting an early start on the weekend, and wanted me along. I was pretty sure he wanted to talk to me, probably about Bella. I sighed as I noiselessly opened Bella’s window, closing it again before I leapt to the ground. Whatever Emmett wanted to say, I was sure I didn’t want to hear it.

“Took you long enough,” said Emmett as I arrived back at the house, having run from Bella’s under cover of darkness. The sun had not yet started to lighten the sky and the pre-dawn darkness was complete, with no moon to illuminate the landscape and the stars hidden by the constant cloud cover of Forks.

“I thought we were leaving at sunrise,” I replied, conciliatory, trying not start the day badly already.

“Let’s go,” he said, shaking his head. He didn’t understand why I spent all night at Bella’s house, wondering what in the world I did while I was there. I didn’t think I could properly explain it to him, and I certainly had no interest in doing so.

We took the Jeep and went north towards Rainier. The cloudy weather had gone south, toward Forks, and the cloud cover over us soon broke as the sun started to rise, giving sharp shadows to the trees along the interstate. Our early start afforded us cover in the early morning sunshine, as we found little traffic along the road. By the time the sun rose in the sky, we had left the interstate, heading along dirt roads into the Wilderness. Tall coastal redwoods were intermixed with the ever present white pines. There were few deciduous trees this far north, making the forest an unbroken wall of green needles. We took the Jeep as far as the State Park roads would allow, and then went on foot to get deep into the forest preserve, where most of the bears could be found—at least the ones that were not still hibernating.

Emmett was silent on the ride up, although his thoughts clearly indicated he thought I was making a mistake with Bella. Not relishing this conversation, I left it alone, waiting for him to bring it up. We started hunting but found no bear trails yet. We ran through the forest, taking great leaping bounds over fallen trees and boulders. Emmett’s burly physicality made him strong, but I was faster. Running always felt good, the speed naturally exhilarating, making it easy to ignore the grumbling, disorganized thoughts coming from Emmett. I ran slightly ahead, pausing at the opening of a sun drenched clearing. I reveled in the light, the sun just above the treetops and filling the meadow with long, purple shadows. The tart scent of the white pines and the vanilla fragrance of the coastal redwoods drenched the air…and mingled with a trace of Bella’s perfume from my unchanged clothes.

Emmett, catching up, finally broke the silence, “So, letting the chips fall where they may, huh?”

“Look, I’m just tired of trying to ignore her, that’s all,” I said, trying to discern from his thoughts where he was going with this.

“Hey, I understand that. I can’t even imagine trying to ignore Rosalie…especially when she’s in one of those moods…” he smiled, and his thoughts wandered back to the time he spent with Rosalie last night. Emmett and Rosalie, married a dozen times over, had never lost that initial fire that continued to rage every night they were together. Living with three madly in love couples was something I had learned to endure over time, but since Bella became a part of my life, it was increasingly difficult to ignore the passion that filled the Cullen house.

“Emmett, please…” I protested, trying to pull back from his thoughts, giving him and Rosalie some privacy.

“Right, sorry,” he said, trying to not think about Rosalie in such a detailed fashion. “My point is that there’s really only one way this is going to end for you and Bella.”

“Just because I’m talking to her, does not mean I’m going to kill her, Emmett,” I said, testily. “And neither are you. Besides, I’m being careful. I’m hunting as much as I can stand. I’m slowly working up to tolerating her for longer periods of time. I can control it.”

“Edward, you can’t even touch her,” said Emmett, as if I was a complete idiot. Emmett and Rosalie’s relationship had always been very physical. Of course they loved each other deeply, but I’m sure Emmett could not imagine a love where touching wasn’t an option.

“It’s not like that,” I said, hotly, resenting him bringing up the fact that I couldn’t come close to touching Bella without disgusting her, or worse. But I wasn’t sure who I was trying to fool—it was definitely like that. I wanted to touch her, hold her, and feel the incredible warmth of her skin on mine…my cold, icy flesh. Of course it wasn’t possible—my frozen touch would be revolting to her, just as it had that first day in the lab when I accidentally touched her hand and she drew back as if shocked. I could barely control the fiend inside me when I was sitting next to her. If I got that close to her, if I touched her like I wanted to, there was no way I would be able to keep the fiend boxed in. But that didn’t stop me from wanting it with every fiber of my undead body. It was that, and a whole lot more.

“Right,” said Emmett, looking at me as if I was deranged. “Look, in the end you’re going to have to change her. It’s just a matter of time—Alice has seen it.”

“What??” I asked, outraged. I had not expected this. All this time I had thought Emmett and the others were still determined to kill Bella—to keep our secret. Now they thought I should end her life, turn her into one of us? Even Alice—how had she kept that from me? Alice was an expert at disguising her thoughts around me when she chose to, but why would she keep this from me? Then again, I had also been ignoring her and her inquisitive stares.

“Emmett, I’m not going to end Bella’s life, just so I can touch her,” I spat at him, trying hard to ignore the fiend inside who relished the thought of tasting her blood, even for a brief time, and that other part of me…the one that could imagine what an immortal Bella would be like, even more beautiful, a transformed vision of silky white skin and…

“Why not?” Emmett argued. “Rosalie had Carlisle change me. Carlisle changed Esme. Carlisle even changed Rosalie for you, but you were a fool and let her go. Don’t be an idiot, Edward. This is your chance.” Emmett shrugged and held his hands out like he was explaining the obvious to a child.

“This is different!” I nearly shouted, wildly unhappy with this whole conversation. “You, me, all of us…we were all dying and Carlisle gave us a second chance. He would never have done this to us if we had another choice. Bella has a choice. She has a life. She is going to graduate, go to college, get married…” my voice trailed off as I realized she was going to do all those things…without me. And I knew I would not be able to go on without her. Once she was gone—away, out of my life—I would not be able to bear it. But change her, turn her into the very monster that I was and one that was a constant threat to her? No. Bella would have a life, even if I could not share it with her. My heart cringed at the thought, pain spearing through me.

“Emmett,” I said softly, despairing. “I can’t take Bella’s life away from her. It would be horribly wrong—I could never live with myself.”

Emmett shook his head sadly. “Edward, my brother,” he said draping his arm around my shoulder, “you are a fool.” Uncharacteristic kindness filled his voice. “I hope you come to your senses before it’s too late.”

His head whipped up as the scent of a bear crossed the meadow and reached us. Throwing me a final look, he sprung up and took chase. I let him go, mired in my agony. I couldn’t keep Bella, and I couldn’t let her go. Even being separated from her for the weekend pained me. There had to be another way—some way out of this dilemma—but I couldn’t imagine what it would be. Reluctantly, I followed Emmett’s trail. I would slake my thirst and prepare for the next time I could see Bella, not knowing how many of those moments I would continue to have.

Emmett and I hunted, but talked only sparingly the rest of the day. Emmett was not a terribly talkative person to begin with, and I certainly didn’t encourage it. His thoughts kept traveling back to Rosalie, which I tried to block out, unsuccessfully most of the time. His attraction to her was undeniably strong and it seemed strange to see her through his eyes. When Rosalie first joined our little family, we certainly were agreeable enough to one another. She was beautiful, and could be kind, if she tried. But I never saw her the way Emmett did—apparently from the first time they met—along with the angry grizzly that brought them together.

I had never seen anyone the way that Emmett saw Rosalie…until Bella. There had been other times, other chance encounters in our tight band of associates, but none had appealed to me in any meaningful way. And now, when I finally find the one I was meant for all along, I couldn’t even caress her face or hold her close. It occurred to me, and not for the first time, that Carlisle had made a mistake that day, long ago, when he saved me. I should have died then. The things that were worth having in life were not destined to be mine in this existence.

The sun, which had blazed all day, slowly sank below the trees. Dark came early in the forest. We had arranged for the others to join us later in the day at an abandoned miner’s cabin deep in the forest preserve. Rosalie called Emmett, saying they would wait until dusk to set out for the Wilderness.

Darkness surrounded the cabin when they arrived, with only a quarter-moon rising to light the night. All eyes were on me. Obviously, Emmett’s little speech earlier had been prearranged, and each had their own opinions about the wisdom of it. Rosalie clearly loathed the idea of changing Bella to join our family. Esme was giddy with expectation. Carlisle and Jasper were more reserved in their opinion, but Alice was the one I wanted to talk to.

“So, you think this is a done deal? Since when do you keep your visions from me?” I demanded.

“Since you were not ready to hear them,” she said calmly. I glared at her. “And since you were ignoring me.”

I rolled my eyes. Alright, I had been rather impossible to live with. “Sorry, Alice,” I said, my voice placating but not entirely remorseful.

“It’s alright—I forgive you. Besides, Bella and I are going to be the best of friends,” she said, bright little smile lighting her face.

“I’m not going to change her, Alice,” I insisted. “She deserves better than that. She deserves to live.”

“Well…” she said, looking far away, “we’re still going to be best of friends,” she said, smiling. “And you can always change your mind…”

I shook my head, resignedly. Alice and Bella, friends? The thought left me uneasy. “Is there anything else I should know?”

“It’s hard for me to see Edward. You keep changing your mind.”

“I’m not changing my mind. I’m not going to change her,” I said firmly.

“You’re not in this alone, my son,” said Carlisle, from the other side of the room where he watched me. I knew I could count on him to understand.

“You wouldn’t do this, Carlisle.”

“Maybe not, but I would understand if you did,” he said softly.

I shook my head. Not wanting to discuss this any further, I left, intent on spending the rest of the evening on my own. It was close quarters in the cabin—I was sure they wouldn’t miss me. No one tried to stop me—they were probably getting used to my moods by now. I heard Esme’s soft echo of concern as I ran out the door without looking back.

I briefly thought about heading back to Forks overnight. If I ran, I would have a few hours before the sun rose to watch her sleep. Getting back unseen would be difficult. I ended up watching the stars rise over the trees. Holding very still and watching closely, I could count time by watching the stars march slowly across the sky, one arc-second at a time. There was less distraction here in the forest than at home, but it was also more peaceful. I could get away from the constant ruminations of my always-awake family and just lose myself in thoughts of Bella. An immortal Bella, a beautiful angel of death, with a heavenly touch…and fiery eyes of red, lusting for the blood of humans….I shuddered. I could not do that to her. My soft, radiantly warm Bella, pulsing with life, blushing that breathtaking color in her cheeks. How could I destroy that—for my own selfish whims?

The more I thought of her, the more I wanted to feel the softness of her skin. I pictured what it would be like, but every time I envisioned reaching out to her, I saw her shrink back away from my touch. Even if I could control myself, caress but not attack, would she want that touch? I already put her too much at risk just being with her…

Before I knew it, the stars had faded and crystal clear sunlight filtered through the pine trees and roused me from my endless reverie. Saturday. Beach Day. Bella would be going to La Push beach with her friends, and that wretched Newton. My fate seemed horribly unfair whenever I thought about the ease with which Newton, or any human boy, could be with her, sit next to her at the beach, run and laugh with her, or softly touch her cheek without her cringing away in horror. In spite of the sun, I was sorely tempted to go down to La Push to see what she was doing today. Just to check and make sure she didn’t fall into the ocean, I told myself, knowing full well I would be going to spy on her. It was just as well that La Push was forbidden territory for us. The treaty Carlisle had negotiated decades ago still held, and was an essential part of us being able to continue to live in Forks. If I violated that, we really would have to leave.

I sighed. Strange that only a few weeks ago, I longed for sun filled days such as this in which to hunt—back when the thing I desired most was a beautiful day and something with which to distract my mind. Now, it was empty to me, as everything without her seemed to be. Leaping silently to my feet, I caught the scent of a deer in the woods to my left.

While I pursued the deer trail, I came across another trail—a mix of grizzly and vampire. Emmett was on the hunt. I followed the trail, curious to see if Emmett had finally bagged his bear. I arrived just in time to see Emmett take down the enormous animal, easily outweighing him by more than 200 lbs, as if he were catching a fawn. His triumphant thoughts shouted out across the forest. I suppressed a laugh, but he must have heard me, because he looked up sharply.

“Rather proud of ourselves, are we?” I said, wryly. He gave me a look that implied he didn’t think much of my intelligence, and continued to drain blood from the bear. It didn’t take long for Emmett to finish, but in the process, the bear got the better of Emmett’s clothes. When he was done, he loped rather grandly over to me.

“So, deciding to associate with us again?” he asked pointedly, thinking about my sudden departure the night before.

“Just wanted to observe the big score,” I said, trying to be warm, thinking I had something I wanted to ask him about.

“Well, Rosalie’s not going to appreciate your interruption—these clothes are the only ones I brought. She doesn’t like it when I’m…messy,” he said with a grin, and I just about laughed out loud. There were times when Emmett was just the right antidote to my gloominess.

“Is there anything that doesn’t annoy Rosalie?” I asked rhetorically.

Emmett grinned wickedly. “I know a few things.”

I rolled my eyes. Getting serious, I said, “I have a question for you.”

“Shoot,” he said.

“Did you ever encounter someone like Bella? I mean, someone that you found had an irresistible scent?” I corrected, not wanting to hear about his many exploits before Rosalie.

His golden eyes darkened, and he scowled slightly. “Yes.”

“What happened?”

He looked away from me, but his thoughts were clear. I couldn’t help it, Edward. I had her blood in my mouth before I even knew what I was doing.

I could see the scene in his mind— a woman doing laundry outside, hanging sheets to dry…Emmett walking nearby…suddenly the woman was silently screaming as Emmett’s mouth was at her throat…I shuddered and flashed back to that first day in class with Bella. I knew exactly what he meant—I still don’t know how I resisted destroying Bella that first day. The scent was overpowering, and if I had not been in that roomful of children…

Emmett was examining my face, wondering what I was thinking.

“Do you think that, maybe, you could have resisted, if you had been…prepared?” I asked. Emmett shook his head.

“I have no idea how you have been around Bella this long without…” he didn’t finish the thought, but I could hear the awe in his voice and thoughts. You and Carlisle…I don’t know how you do it, he thought. I was surprised and flattered that he believed me to be in any way as strong as Carlisle—but, of course, I knew he was wrong.

“Carlisle is a better person than I’ll ever be,” I said, half to Emmett, half to myself. Emmett looked at me skeptically, shaking his head.

“Are we hunting or moping today?” he asked brightly teasing me.

“Well, I don’t know if you can keep up,” I returned, “fat and lazy with grizzly blood, such as you are,” I finished with a grin.

“You better hope I don’t catch up,” he said, swiping at me as I jumped back out of the way. I streaked away from him, further into the forest. Today, I would hunt to my fullest. But tonight I would find a way back to Forks to see Bella again, if only to watch her sleep, perhaps to dream…