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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.


9. Chapter 9 - Truth

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Chapter 9 – Truth

Port Angeles was silent, almost deserted, and in moments we were out of the sleepy town and on the interstate. The moonlight frosted the pines that lined the highway, but didn’t penetrate to the deep underbrush. The headlights of the Volvo swung back and forth along the sides of the road as it curved through the backwoods of Washington, flashing dead branches and frozen bushes.

We were silent for a minute, not sure where to begin. I wanted to know what she was thinking, and dreading it. The intimacy of the restaurant seemed to fade away into a quiet dream. Here, in the car, was the nightmare where Bella would finally understand what I was—and be horrified. In a strange way, I wanted her to know, if only for her to know me. This bizarre yearning I had to share myself with her was going to be the death of me. Perhaps I could still negotiate some kind of lie, some half-truth that would explain the extraordinary things she knew without revealing my true nature. Then, if only for a little while, maybe she would stay.

“Can I ask just one more?” she said, as I weaved down the road, preoccupied by my own thoughts. I sighed.

“One.” I really wanted to hear what she thought.

“Well…you said you knew I hadn’t gone into the bookstore, and that I had gone south. I was just wondering how you knew that.”

I looked away, out the window. The forest was bleak, like my outlook. A mind-reader that also had a fantastic sense of smell? That wouldn’t make much sense. How much could I tell her before she guessed? Did she already know?

“I thought we were past all the evasiveness,” she complained.

I almost smiled. Who was the mind reader, exactly? Well, she was right. She would know soon enough.

“Fine, then. I followed your scent,” I said, looking at the road. What would she make of that? I didn’t know but it was time for her to answer my questions…

“And then you didn’t answer one of my first questions...” she complained again.

I frowned at her, getting impatient. “Which one?”

“How does it work—the mind-reading thing? Can you read anybody’s mind, anywhere? How do you do it? Can the rest of your family…?”

“That’s more than one,” I pointed out, realizing she had already made the connection between the differentness of me and the rest of my family. A family of mind-readers? Better to leave my family out of it.

“No, it’s just me. And I can’t hear anyone, anywhere. I have to be fairly close. The more familiar someone’s…’voice’ is, the farther away I can hear them. But still, no more than a few miles.” I paused. How to make her understand this? I had not had to explain it to anyone for many years. “It’s a little like being in a huge hall filled with people, everyone talking at once. It’s just a hum—a buzzing of voices in the background. Until I focus on one voice, and then what they’re thinking is clear. Most of the time I tune it all out – it can be very distracting. And then it’s easier to seem normal,” I frowned at that word, “when I’m not accidentally answering someone’s thoughts rather than their words.”

“Why do you think you can’t hear me?” she asked.

I looked at her, wondering what it was that made her so special to me in so many ways. It was as if she had been made just for me—her scent, her impenetrable mind, her whole uniqueness—all designed to hold an undeniable attraction for me. The car was finally starting to warm up, and with it her fragrance was starting to build. My throat burned. My body ached to touch her.

“I don’t know,” I said softly. “The only guess I have is that maybe your mind doesn’t work the same way the rest of theirs do. Like your thoughts are on the AM frequency and I’m only getting FM.” I smiled, amused at this thought.

“My mind doesn’t work right? I’m a freak?” she blurted out, embarrassed.

I laughed out loud. “I hear voices in my mind and you’re worried that you’re the freak. Don’t worry it’s just a theory…” I stopped smiling. “Which brings us back to you.”

She sighed, and seemed to be weighing what to tell me.

“Aren’t we past all the evasions now?” I reminded her softly.

She looked away from me and noticed something else.

“Holy crow!” she shouted. “Slow down!”

“What’s wrong?” I was startled, but I knew there was nothing of danger…at least outside the car. The soft moonlight lit the surrounding forests as they whizzed by the car and the headlights blazed in front of us. The road was empty and, although it was night, the deer were far from the road. What was alarming her?

“You’re going a hundred miles an hour!” she shouted, looking panicky and glancing out the window. I rolled my eyes, not slowing a bit.

“Relax, Bella.”

“Are you trying to kills us?” she demanded.

“We’re not going to crash.” I drove the Volvo faster than her dilapidated truck, but then what vehicle wouldn’t? We were on the open road, so of course I was going to go fast.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” she said, more evenly.

“I always drive like this,” I said, smiling at her, teasing.

“Keep your eyes on the road!” This is was tremendously funny to me, as if my driving were the most dangerous thing about me.

“I’ve never been in an accident, Bella—I’ve never even gotten a ticket.” Considering I had been driving virtually since cars were invented, I felt that was quite the accomplishment. I grinned and tapped my forehead. “Built-in radar detector.”

“Very funny,” she fumed. “Charlie’s a cop, remember? I was raised to abide by traffic laws. Besides, if you turn us into a Volvo pretzel around a tree trunk, you can probably just walk away.”

“Probably,” I agreed with a laugh, but she had a point. “But you can’t.” I sighed and slowed down…slightly. “Happy?”

“Almost.”

“I hate driving slow,” I muttered. This conversation was difficult enough without having to crawl along the road to do it.

“This is slow?” she asked.

“Enough commentary on my driving,” I snapped. “I’m still waiting for your latest theory.”

She bit her lip and her anxiety had a gentling effect on me. This must be hard for her too, not knowing what I was, not sure what to say. Already I was a mind-reading freak with crazy strength and a keen sense of smell…if she had any sense she would be afraid, but she wasn’t. It occurred to me Bella was very brave.

I looked at her and promised, “I won’t laugh.”

“I’m more afraid that you’ll be angry with me.”

“Is it that bad?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

I waited. It couldn’t be any worse than the reality of the fiend that I was.

“Go ahead,” I said, calmly awaiting my doom.

“I don’t know how to start,” she admitted.

“Why don’t you start at the beginning…you said you didn’t come up with this on your own.”

“No.”

“What got you started—a book? A movie?” I asked.

“No—it was Saturday, at the beach.” She glanced at me. I was puzzled. The beach? With Newton? Certainly he didn’t like me, but what insight could he have had?

“I ran into an old family friend—Jacob Black,” she continued. “His dad and Charlie have been friends since I was a baby.” A childhood friend? How had that helped?

“His dad is one of the Quileute elders,” she said, and I froze. Of course—the only people in the area that did know what we were—the Quileutes. But Carlisle had made the treaty long ago, and part of the agreement was that they would keep our secret. Had they broken the treaty? I thought all the elders, the ones who changed, were long gone. Her friend could only be a boy—what could he know?

“We went for a walk—“ she continued, “and he was telling me some old legends— trying to scare me, I think. He told me one…” she hesitated.

“Go on,” I said.

“About vampires,” she whispered. My hands tightened on the wheel and I had to stop myself from crushing it. She knew—all of it.

“And you immediately thought of me?” I asked, my calm voice belying the dread building up inside me. This was the beginning of the end.

“No. He…mentioned your family.”

I stared at the road. They had broken the treaty. Well, probably not intentionally. The boy was only telling stories…but about my family. He probably had no idea they were true. Still, there was greater danger than I imagined here. It wasn’t just Bella, although as soon as it was clear that it was true, who knew what she would do. Certainly she wouldn’t want to be around me anymore. Already, our time had run out.

“He just thought it was a silly superstition,” she said quickly. Bella—always trying to protect her friends. “He didn’t expect me to think anything of it. It was my fault—I forced him to tell me.”

“Why?” I asked, trying to keep her talking while I composed my thoughts. It was so like her to take the fault onto herself.

“Lauren said something about you—she was trying to provoke me. And an older boy from the tribe said your family didn’t come to the reservation, only it sounded like he meant something different. So I got Jacob alone and I tricked it out of him,” she admitted, hanging her head.

I laughed and seemed to startle her. She was so worried that her friend Jacob was going to get in trouble! The fact that I was a vampire was just a small side matter. I could just picture it…

“Tricked him how?” I asked.

“I tried to flirt—it worked better than I thought it would.” She seemed disbelieving. She really had no idea the influence she had over the human males she encountered—or the inhuman ones.

“I’d like to have seen that.” I laughed darkly. “And you accused me of dazzling people—poor Jacob Black.” I laughed without mirth, imagining a Quileute boy giving up his tribal secrets to the enigmatic dark haired beauty that was Bella Swan. Was I any different? Hadn’t I just offered up all my family secrets, just to have a chance to be with her? And now it would make no difference…

She remained quiet, looking out the window.

“What did you do then?” I asked.

“I did some research on the Internet.”

“And did that convince you?” She knew all along, since Saturday. The computer research, her frustration, the stomping through the forest—she already knew. Tonight at dinner, through our whole conversation about mind-reading—she already knew. I clenched the steering wheel tighter.

“No. Nothing fit. Most of it was kind of silly. And then…”she stopped.

“What?”

“I decided it didn’t matter,” she whispered.

“It didn’t matter?” I glanced at her, incredulous. She wasn’t making any sense. How could it not matter? It was everything. Didn’t she understand the danger she was in? Of course not, she never did, never saw the dangers all around her. A sudden anger tore through me.

“No,” she said softly. “It doesn’t matter to me what you are.”

She couldn’t possibly mean this. Maybe she was just stalling until she was safely away from me. My anger still seethed…she could be honest about it.

“You don’t care if I’m a monster?” I mocked her. “If I’m not human?”

“No.”

I didn’t know what to say. She knew I was a monster, and she said she didn’t care. But she was trapped in the car with me. I would get her home—then she could run from me, safely back in her house with Charlie. I would stay away from her, pray she didn’t talk. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to see her anymore. The agony of that thought just barely sunk in. I stared blankly at the road ahead. I wouldn’t be able to go on without her. I wasn’t sure what I would do. Somehow will myself into non-existence? Die of a broken heart? Somehow I would end the agony…

“You’re angry,” she sighed, “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“No,” I said, “I’d rather know what you’re thinking—even if what you’re thinking is insane.” She knew the truth, she just didn’t seem to understand it. She didn’t see the danger she was in. That would change soon enough.

“So, I’m wrong again?” she challenged.

“That’s not what I was referring to. ‘It doesn’t matter’!” I said, gritting my teeth.

“I’m right?” she gasped.

“Does it matter?”

She took a deep breath. “Not really,” she paused. “But I am curious.”

Curious?? Not frightened—not shocked, terrified, panicked? Curious. Bella, your curiosity is going to be the death of you…and me.

“What are you curious about?” I asked, suddenly resigned. There were no more secrets left—and no time left for us.

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen,” I said, automatically.

“And how long have you been seventeen?”

I kept staring at the road. I suppressed a smile. She was irrepressible, and could charm me so easily. I would definitely not be able to go on without her, knowing that she existed in the world and I couldn’t be with her. When she left it would kill me. Maybe not immediately—I would still need to find someway to stop my undead body. But inside—the part of me that loved her smile, her surprises, her blushes—that part would be dead. I decided I might as well be honest with her in the time we had left. At least that way she would know me, for a little while, before our time was over.

“A while,” I admitted.

“Okay,” she smiled. I stared down at her, wondering if the panicking would start now or later after she was home. She smiled broadly at me, and I frowned. How could she accept what I was saying without coming unhinged?

“Don’t laugh—but how can you come out during the daytime?” she asked.

I laughed. This was so absurd. “Myth.”

“Burned by the sun?”

“Myth.”

“Sleeping in coffins?”

“Myth,” I paused, thinking of all those sleepless nights spent watching her, talking in her sleep, sometimes restless…and the nightmare. I guess that was about me after all. “I can’t sleep.”

This seemed to give her pause. “At all?” she said, after a minute.

“Never,” I said, my voice nearly gone. Even watching her in her sleep would be taken from me when I lost her. I looked into her eyes, soft, deep and brown. How was I going to endure this? I held her in my gaze as long as I could without breaking down. She had to understand what this all meant.

I looked away. “You haven’t asked me the most important question yet,” I said, coldly.

“Which one is that?”

“You aren’t concerned about my diet?” I asked, sarcastically.

“Oh,” she murmured, “that.”

“Yes, that.” Only the thing that had ruled virtually all my thoughts since I met her—the thing that made me the monster that I was. “Don’t you want to know if I drink blood?”

She flinched, finally. “Well, Jacob said something about that.”

“What did Jacob say?” I asked flatly. This Jacob was starting to annoy me.

“He said you didn’t…hunt people. He said your family wasn’t supposed to be dangerous because you only hunted animals.”

“He said we weren’t dangerous?” I asked, very skeptically. No Quileute would say that, not if they knew who we were.

“Not exactly. He said you weren’t supposed to be dangerous. But the Quileutes still didn’t want you on their land, just in case.”

I kept looking forward. So she thought she was safe with me, because she thought we only hunted animals. Somehow that was why it didn’t matter that I was a vampire. And the Quileute boy had a surprisingly detailed account of the treaty Carlisle had made with them. Who else had he told?

“So was he right? About not hunting people?” she asked, her voice amazingly even and calm.

“The Quileutes have a long memory,” I whispered. “Don’t let that make you complacent, though,” I warned her. “They’re right to keep their distance from us. We are still dangerous.”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“We try,” I said slowly, finally revealing the real struggle that had raged inside me. “We’re usually very good at what we do. Sometimes we make mistakes. Me, for example, allowing myself to be alone with you.” Did she hear the danger in those words? Would she finally realize what a horrible mistake she was making, just being in the car with me?

“This is a mistake?” she said, and seemed sad.

“A very dangerous one,” I murmured. This was it, the end. We were both silent as the car hugged the twists and turns of the road. I stared at the road, its inky blackness sinking into me. We would arrive at her house and she would flee, fully aware of the monster she left behind in the car and lucky to be alive. I wouldn’t see her anymore, but at least she would be safe. My heart felt like a stone sinking in a fathomless black pool. The last minutes we had were ticking by quickly.

“Tell me more,” she asked, sounding desperate. I glanced at her quickly. Did she fear this ending as much as I did? Would she miss me when I was gone? I didn’t know but I wouldn’t waste the little time we had left.

“What more do you want to know?”

“Tell me why you hunt animals instead of people,” she suggested, finally starting to sound a little panicked.

“I don’t want to be a monster,” I said, my voice very low and painful. I didn’t want her to know that I was a monster, but there was no helping that now.

“But animals aren’t enough?”

“I can’t be sure, of course, but I’d compare it to living on tofu and soy milk; we call ourselves vegetarians, our little inside joke. It doesn’t completely satiate the hunger—or rather thirst. But it keeps us strong enough to resist. Most of the time.” I stared at her, drinking in her scent that had been slowly building the whole while we were in the car. “Sometimes it’s more difficult than others.”

“Is it very difficult for you now?” she asked.

I sighed, the ever present burning in my throat more pronounced. It was insane that we were talking about it. “Yes.”

“But you’re not hungry now,” she stated, confidently.

“Why do you think that?”

“Your eyes. I told you I had a theory. I’ve noticed that people—men in particular—are crabbier when they’re hungry.”

I laughed, in spite of myself. “You are observant, aren’t you?”

“Were you hunting this weekend, with Emmett?” she asked, when I had finished my half-hearted laugh.

“Yes.” I paused, thinking about Emmett and my family. They would be horrified about tonight. “I didn’t want to leave, but it was necessary. It’s a bit easier to be around you when I’m not thirsty.”

“Why didn’t you want to leave?” she asked.

“It makes me...anxious…to be away from you,” I said softly, admitting my greatest weakness—it wasn’t just for her blood that I was weak, it was for her. I stared into those warm eyes, wishing somehow she could belong to me. “I wasn’t joking when I asked you to try not to fall in the ocean or get run over last Thursday. I was distracted all weekend, worrying about you. And after what happened tonight, I’m surprised that you did make it through a whole weekend unscathed,” I said, shaking my head. Then I noticed her hands, the almost healed scrapes across the heels of them. Had the night not been so intense, I’m sure I would have noticed the near-open wounds much earlier. “Well, not totally unscathed.”

“What?”

“Your hands,” I said. She looked down at her palms.

“I fell,” she sighed.

“That’s what I thought.” I nearly smiled. “I suppose, being you, it could have been much worse—and that possibility tormented me the entire time I was away. It was a very long three days.” Well, not counting the time I came back to watch you sleep.

“Three days? Didn’t you just get back today?”

“No, I got back on Sunday.”

“Then why weren’t any of you in school?” she asked, frustrated, almost angry.

“Well, you asked if the sun hurt me, and it doesn’t. But I can’t go out in the sunlight—at least, not where anyone can see.”

“Why?”

“I’ll show you sometime,” I said, and just realized that I had promised I would see her again. Spend time with her—be with her. Show her things about myself no other human could know. She, for some insane reason, was not afraid of me. I couldn’t fathom it. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t running away from me—as long as that was true, I knew I could not bring myself to let her go.

“You might have called me,” she said, startling me out of my reverie.

“But I knew you were safe.”

“But I didn’t know where you were. I—“ she hesitated, dropping her eyes. Was she worried about me? Did she miss me the way I ached for her? Even after knowing what I was?

“What?” I asked, trying my persuasive voice on her. I had to know what she was thinking.

“I didn’t like it. Not seeing you. It makes me anxious too.” And then she blushed, taking my breath away and making me groan inside. Not only was I putting her in danger with my mere existence, but I was causing her pain as well. How could I be doing this to her?

“Ah,” I groaned out loud. “This is wrong.”

“What did I say?” she asked.

“Don’t you see, Bella? It’s one thing for me to make myself miserable, but a wholly other thing for you to be so involved.” I said it quickly, the words too painful. “I don’t want to hear that you feel that way. It’s wrong. It’s not safe. I’m dangerous, Bella—please grasp that.”

“No,” she retorted, like a child.

“I’m serious,” I growled at her.

“So am I. I told you, it doesn’t matter what you are. It’s too late.”

Too late...too late…Only one way this can end with you and Bella…No!

“Never say that!” I said, low and harsh.

She bit her lip and stared at the road. This was so wrong. I loved her desperately and my life would be meaningless if she left. But for her to feel that way too—it was exactly what I wanted, but it was much too dangerous for her. It was one thing to live in my own agony, but I couldn’t bear the thought of her being in that kind of pain. I realized my words had been harsh—the thought of her cold, lifeless body...

“What are you thinking?” I asked, still pained. She just shook her head. I stared at her, but she wouldn’t look at me. I realized her eyes were shining…too much.

“Are you crying?” I asked, appalled. What had I done? She quickly rubbed her hand across her cheek, wiping the tears away.

“No,” she said, her voice cracking. Oh, vile fiend, what have you done?

I reached for her with my hand, but stopped. I wanted so much to touch her cheek, comfort her, but my icy touch would hardly be a comfort. I slowly, painfully, put my hand back on the steering wheel.

“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling tremendous regret that I had ever returned to Forks if this was going to be the result. I was nothing but danger and pain to her.

As the dark trees slipped silently past the car, I realized that she was as trapped in this impossible dilemma as I was. I couldn’t have her, couldn’t be with her the way I wanted, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to leave. She cared for me enough that it didn’t matter that I was a vampire. She wanted to be with me, but that put her in mortal danger. We were both trapped. I felt myself returning to that eternal now feeling from the meadow. Bella knew who I was, what I was, and it didn’t matter. There was only the connection that we had—it transcended the impossibility of our situation.

“Tell me something,” I asked, trying to lighten the intensity.

“Yes?”

“What were you thinking tonight, just before I came around the corner? I couldn’t understand your expression—you didn’t look that scared, you looked like you were concentrating very hard on something.”

“I was trying to remember how to incapacitate an attacker—you know, self-defense. I was going to smash his nose into his brain.”

“You were going to fight them?” Bella truly had no sense of self-preservation and this upset me. “Didn’t you think about running?”

“I fall down a lot when I run,” she admitted.

“What about screaming for help?”

“I was getting to that part.”

I shook my head. “You were right—I’m definitely fighting fate trying to keep you alive.”

She sighed. We were approaching Forks. “Will I see you tomorrow?” she demanded.

“Yes—I have a paper due, too.” I smiled at her. She wanted to see me, still. A surge of guilty pleasure went through me. “I’ll save you a seat at lunch.”

We had arrived at her father’s house. The lights were on inside the house. I could hear Charlie watching the game. The moonlight fell on her beastly truck, parked in the driveway. I stopped the car and looked at her. The insanity of the night didn’t show on her face.

“Do you promise to be there tomorrow,” she said, anxiously, as if she believed I would not show up—as if she could keep me away.

“I promise.”

She thought about that for a moment, and then nodded, apparently deciding that I meant it. She pulled off my jacket, seeming to breathe deeply.

“You can keep it,” I said. “You don’t have a jacket for tomorrow.” I liked the idea of her having something of mine, to remind her of me.

She handed it back to me. “I don’t want to have to explain to Charlie.”

I grinned. “Oh, right.” She was supposed to have been out dress shopping. In the drama of the night, I had entirely forgotten that we had not pre-arranged our meeting, as much as Jessica might suspect it.

She hesitated, hand on the door handle. She didn’t seem to want to leave. Another pulse of guilty pleasure ran through me. I liked that she wanted to be with me. But if I was going to remain with her, I needed to keep her safe, not least from myself. Apparently Bella truly drew in all kinds of dangerous creatures, and I knew more than a few that existed in the world.

“Bella?” I asked, hesitating, hoping she would not take this the wrong way.

“Yes?” she turned back to me eagerly.

“Will you promise me something?”

“Yes,” she said, without condition, to my considerable pleasure.

“Don’t go into the woods alone.” I hoped she wouldn’t guess that I had already lurked in the forest near her home—on more than one occasion.

“Why?” she stared at me, confused.

I frowned, not sure how to properly warn her, so she would take it seriously but not be alarmed. “I’m not always the most dangerous thing out there. Let’s leave it at that.”

She shuddered slightly. “Whatever you say.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I sighed, knowing that staying with Bella, even to keep her safe, was the most dangerous thing I had ever decided to do.

“Tomorrow, then,” she said, and opened the door.

I felt a cringe at the idea that she was leaving. I didn’t want to have her leave and decide after some consideration of the night’s events that she was really better off without me, even if that was true. I wanted to leave her with something.

“Bella?” I said, and she turned back to me. I moved swiftly, leaning towards her so that my face was only inches from her. I could feel the heat of her body rolling toward me like waves. I heard her heart stop beating for an instant.

“Sleep well,” I said, with my softest voice, breathing on her. She blinked and seemed stunned. I leaned away, pleasure ripping through me at having this effect on her. It worked far better than I could have hoped. She hesitated and stepped awkwardly out of the car, using the frame for support. I suppressed a laugh. I would have to be careful not to dazzle her into falling down—she was far too prone to that.

I waited until she had reached the front door before turning on the engine and quietly disappearing down the street. I knew Charlie was waiting for her inside, and she would be safe for now—until I returned tonight to watch her rhythmic breathing. If I was very lucky, she might talk—but already I knew. I was going to be a part of Bella’s life now, whether it made any sense or not.