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The Voice

Summary:
Set during New Moon. Written from Edward's POV. What would happen if Edward found out Bella was in danger and he came back to Forks, but he didn't let her know he was there?


Notes:


3. Chapter Three - Deja Vu

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Chapter Three - Déjà vu

It was a short drive to Port Angeles, but on this evening it seemed interminable. I couldn’t help thinking back to the first time Bella and I had been to Port Angeles together, the night that I had confessed my true nature to her. The similarities between the two situations were striking, to tell the truth. She was out with Jessica, and I had been following her, unnoticed. Trying to protect her. Hopefully that would be where the similarities ended. On that last occasion, four men with evil intentions cornered Bella in an alley, and I only just rescued her in time. My foot pressed harder on the gas pedal as I remembered what I had seen in those men’s minds that night. A part of me still regretted not taking the opportunity to end their worthless lives, but it would hardly have been suitable to let Bella see something like that. Besides, I had sworn off vigilante justice decades ago.

I had arrived. I pulled up outside the theater and mentally scanned the crowd inside to find Jessica’s mind. I disliked Jessica Stanley intensely, but if she could help me keep track of Bella, then I supposed I would have to listen to her shallow and frequently spiteful thoughts and be grateful. It didn’t take me long to find her. I smiled grimly as the thought occurred to me that her mental voice was every bit as strident and irritating as her normal one. I wondered what Bella’s mind would sound like.

It seemed the movie had ended. It must have been a scary one; Jessica’s mind was full of images of severed limbs and dead-eyed zombies. Ridiculous. She would do better to fear the terrors that actually exist. Her residual fear was swiftly overtaken by irritation.

Where on earth did Bella get to? That girl just seems to get weirder and weirder all the time. She didn’t seem frightened at all by that movie, and then she just bolts. I have no idea what Mike sees in her. Ah, there she is…

She asked Bella a few questions about the movie, but Bella’s answers must not have satisfied her, because her irritation did not abate. If anything, it was aggravated. I was remembering exactly why I didn’t like Jessica.

Ha! Bella actually looks a bit like one of those zombies when she’s in her “blank slate” mood. I was hoping to get some details from her tonight about what happened with her and Edward; everyone is dying to know. No one has been able to get anything out of Bella for all this time. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, though. We might as well grab dinner and head for home. I wish I hadn’t come.

They would be leaving the theater at any moment now. They meant to walk a few blocks to the McDonald’s down the street. I got out of my car and positioned myself in a patch of deep shadow where I would still be able to see the theater exit.

I reached the shadows just as they got to the doors. There she was. My Bella. It was immediately clear that time had not yet had the brainwashing, healing effect on her that I had hoped for. She was deathly pale, and she had lost weight she could not afford to lose. She looked sad, even though I could tell she was making an effort for Jessica’s sake. More than that, she seemed frail and a little lost, as though her ties to reality were weaker than they should be. And she was still the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. My stomach twisted with my desire to go to her, to wrap my arms around her and offer whatever comfort I could.

All this was observed in a split second. Then she stepped into the breeze and her scent reached me. Sweet and floral and uniquely hers, I knew that fragrance would stay with me even if all other memories faded away. As always, venom flowed to my mouth and my muscles screamed at me to spring, to hunt. The dull ache in my throat became a burning, painful thirst. I was a monster still. In my panic for Bella’s safety, I had not stopped to feed today, and that oversight made my reactions still stronger. Yet somehow I was able to overcome the thirst with just a moment’s effort and I was left with just the sweet feeling of wonderment that Bella had always inspired in me. Perhaps my fear for her safety was lending strength to my rational mind.

Shrugging off my distraction, I realized that the two girls were almost out of sight around the corner. Hurriedly, but still moving at a human speed, I maneuvered myself into a position across the street and a dozen yards behind them, keeping to the shadows. They both seemed preoccupied; I was sure they wouldn’t notice me.

This street was dimly lit; the town should do something about that. I could only assume the drunken patrons of the seedy bar up ahead were responsible for most of the broken streetlights. It looked like that kind of place. I had never experienced being drunk, and I idly wondered what it felt like. What on earth could inspire normally sensible human beings to such heights of stupidity? By the look of them, the group of young men who had gathered outside the bar for a cigarette could give me some insight on that question. They were definitely under the influence.

Jessica was getting nervous, possibly the first sign of good sense I’d ever seen from her. Bella was still oblivious, lost in whatever she was thinking. Even as the thought crossed my mind she seemed to become more aware, possibly alerted by Jessica’s unusual silence. She looked around, getting her bearings. I saw her take in the group of men outside the bar, just as she was directly across the street from them. Rather than follow Jessica’s lead and walk faster, Bella stopped. She turned towards the open door of the bar, bringing her face fully into my view.

The look of confusion I had noted earlier seemed more pronounced. It was almost like she had been struck by the same sense of déjà vu that I had. She was frozen. Jessica had finally noticed that Bella wasn’t beside her and turned around.

“Bella, come on!” Her voice sounded tense and worried. What the heck is she doing? Those guys are scary… and not even cute!

For once, I wished Bella would listen to Jessica. But instead she stepped forward into the street, moving towards the bar. What was she thinking? Time seemed to slow down in that second. I took a closer look at the men outside the bar. They seemed harmless enough, but they were drunk, and rowdy. Their mood might change swiftly with the right catalyst.

Jessica had run up to Bella and caught her arm before she had taken more than one or two steps. She gave Bella a firm shake, then pulled her in and hissed, “Bella! You can’t go into a bar!”

“I’m not going in,” Bella answered, sounding like she was scarcely paying attention. “I just want to see something…”

“Are you crazy?” Jessica whispered. “Are you suicidal?”

For a moment Bella seemed shaken from her daze. She looked at Jessica with a guarded expression. “No, I’m not.”

Jessica looked shocked, and her grip on Bella’s arm loosened enough for Bella to shrug free. Oh my God, I think she really is suicidal.

All of a sudden I thought so, too. I had never allowed the thought that Bella might hurt herself to cross my mind. After all, she had promised not to do anything foolish. She promised!

The men across the street had become aware of the confrontation going on just a few short steps away from them and were watching with mild amusement. Under their breath, they launched into a lively discussion of whether Jessica or Bella was “hotter.” As if there could ever be a comparison!

Unaware, Bella made a dismissive gesture at Jessica and said, “Go eat – I’ll catch up in a minute.” She pushed Jessica away and continued to cross the street. The lustful thoughts of the men erupted with jubilation.

I couldn’t help myself, my rage boiled over. I hissed at her, “Bella, stop this right now!”

Bella didn’t react as I expected. She froze in place, and for a moment seemed to hunch in on herself as if in anticipation of a blow. After a second she straightened, and looked around wildly, her eyes wide with shock. She didn’t see me, however. And she didn’t turn back.

“Go back to Jessica,” I continued, my fury scarcely controlled. “You promised – nothing stupid.” And this definitely qualified.

Bella looked around and shook her head as if to clear it. She didn’t realize she had actually heard me! She thought she was hearing voices. Was her grip on reality really that much loosened?

Jessica and the four men stood as though locked in place, all looking confused by Bella’s actions. They were obviously far enough away that they hadn’t heard me.

“Keep your promise, Bella,” I said, more softly now. No need to push my luck.

Bella seemed to be thinking hard about something, her forehead deeply creased. Then a determined look came over her and she took another step towards the men, who were now debating among themselves about who would talk to her first.

I growled deep in my throat. “Bella, turn around.” My muscles tensed to spring if the situation should require it.

Her reaction surprised me. She gave a small smile, looking more relieved now than confused. Maybe I was making things worse.

Predictably, the most confident and least civilized of the four men had won the debate. He was tall, about my height, and blond. He stood with the arrogant stance of a man who’s feeling bulletproof and thinks he’s God’s gift to the world. “Hi,” he said. Nice opening line. His thoughts were barely more eloquent. Here she comes! She totally wants me! Score one for Steve-o!

I snarled in disgust. Bella heard me and smiled. It was the wrong thing for her to do, since the blond man took it as encouragement.

“Can I help you with something? You look lost.” I guarantee you I can help you with something, sweetheart.

Something in Bella finally seemed to realize that this was not a situation she wanted to be in. She didn’t look afraid, it was more like she was disappointed somehow. I really did not understand her motives at all, but at least she quickly wrapped up the conversation and returned to Jessica. The young men stared after them with expressions of chagrin and anger as the girls hurried toward the distant restaurant.

Before I had time to breathe a sigh of relief and resume my surveillance, the blond man separated from his friends and hurried after the girls. I think she’s just shy… if I catch up to her without these morons around, it’ll be different. Maybe her friend will be into it too. I didn’t need to listen any further to fill in the blanks. The minds of lust-filled humans were disgusting places.

“Steve-o” was about half a block behind Bella and Jessica when I silently caught up to him and pulled him into a side street.

“What the…” whatever else he was going to say was lost as I slammed my knee between his legs.

“I really don’t think she’s that into you,” I whispered, smiling for the first time since coming into sight of the bar. He groaned again and lost consciousness. I knew from my experience wrestling with Emmett that vampire limbs are as unforgiving as granite when they hit you. That would really have hurt. I, on the other hand, was feeling better than I had in days. Maybe months.

The whole altercation had taken less than a minute. I swiftly caught up with the girls and watched as they entered the MacDonald’s restaurant. The large windows ensured that I never lost sight of them while they ordered, paid, and swiftly ate. Jessica was furious, even refusing to talk to Bella. For once, I found myself in sympathy with her feelings. Bella had scared the life out of me, too. They ate hurriedly in awkward silence, and then returned to their car by a longer but better-lit route, much to my satisfaction.

I followed them home, always keeping at least one car between them and me. It was a painfully slow drive, but I had a lot to process. Bella was safe now, but it could have ended very differently, and my stomach churned thinking about it. The events of the evening played and replayed in my mind, and I didn’t see how I could have done anything differently, how I could have prevented the incident altogether.

Bella was always an enigma to me, but this time I was completely and totally lost. What had drawn her to that situation? If she were wrapped up in the sense of déjà vu, I would have expected her to run, or at the very least to seem afraid. But then, Bella never had done what I expected her to. Round and round my thoughts swirled, never coming to a resolution other than that I would need to keep even closer watch over Bella than I had planned.

We had arrived. I drove on past Jessica’s car as Bella was getting out and returned to my previous parking spot around the corner. I could hear Bella’s feeble attempts at reconciliation, and Jessica’s cold rebuffs. A car door slammed. Moments later Jessica passed me, still fuming. I can’t WAIT to tell Lauren about this! She’s always said there was something weird about Bella. I wish I had listened to her sooner.

I heard Charlie’s thoughts as Bella entered the house and greeted him. He was upset; he had been worried about her. I wondered why – he had known where she was, so what was the problem? Was going out for the evening so totally out of character for her lately? I was afraid I knew the answer.

Bella must have gone to her room, because I could sense Charlie going through his usual locking up routine. He checked the basketball scores one more time on the TV, slowly climbed the stairs to his room and was soon sound asleep. I examined my surroundings carefully. The lights were off in all of the few houses in this area, and I didn’t sense anyone nearby, so I decided to take a risk. I walked over to Bella’s front yard and stood by the tree outside her window, listening. Her window was open, taking advantage of the rare break in the rain, and if I concentrated, I could just barely hear the soft sounds of her breathing. She was already deeply asleep, by the sound of it.

The temptation to climb up the tree and enter her room was overwhelming. During those few months that would always be the golden age of my unnaturally long existence, I had spent nearly every night in Bella’s room, whether she was aware of it or not. She talked in her sleep, and those glimpses into her subconscious were an addictive pleasure. Those nighttime moments were some of my most treasured memories. It would be so easy – and surely she would never know. It would hardly fit in with my plan to stay out of sight, though. Better to be safe than sorry. I also doubted it would make it any easier for me to keep from revealing myself to her, or to leave when the time came. In the end, I sat down at the base of the tree and settled in to enjoy the sensation of being even this near to her.

To pass the time, I slipped into one of my favorite fantasies. It was made all the sweeter by Bella’s nearness, for I could almost convince myself it was truly going to happen. I climbed the tree as I had so many times before, and silently slipped in through the window. I crossed the floor to kneel beside Bella’s bed, and gazed upon her sleeping form. Her perfect features the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I allowed my eyes to linger on her neck, her collarbone, and lower, at an intoxicating shape only partially concealed by the thin quilt. Her lips were slightly parted, and I gently traced them with a fingertip. She smiled, but did not wake. I stroked her deep brown hair and the silky texture sent shivers of pleasure all over my body. I bent to nuzzle her neck, kissing the hollow just behind her ear, and her scent stunned me. I drew back to look at her face, and her eyes were open, their expression surprised and joyful.

“Edward?” she whispered. “I knew you would come.” A smile of welcome illuminated her perfect face, and she threw her arms around me. I could hear her heart beating faster and faster, feel the blood rushing beneath her skin, and I was content. I was with my Bella, and nothing could improve on this moment.

I don’t know how long I had been sitting there when I was shaken from my dream-like state by a blood-curdling scream from above. Without conscious thought, I was up the tree and looking in the window. I could hear Charlie awake, so I didn’t enter, but I needed to see that Bella was safe. She seemed to be still sleeping, but clearly her dreams were anything but pleasant. She tossed under her quilt, moaning and mumbling incoherently. I heard only one word I recognized.

“Edward.” The whimper in her sleeping voice broke my heart anew. I should never have allowed her to come to care for me so much. Curse my wretched weakness!

Charlie rushed in then to wake Bella and comfort her, so I silently shimmied down the tree and back to my waiting place. I was filled with remorse. Bella was having nightmares, nightmares about me. Even the serenity of her sleep, such an essential human pleasure, had been taken from her. Not for the first time, I wished that Carlisle had never changed me, that I had died of the influenza that was meant to take me all those years ago. Then Bella’s life would never have been tainted. But that meant I would never have known her. The pain of that thought shook me, and even the balm of Bella’s nearness wasn’t enough to save me from the shuddering agony. All I could do was hold on to the ground and wait for the torture to end.

When I could, I rose to a standing position. I needed to hunt. I could not afford to take any more risks with Bella’s safety than I already was, and my reaction to her scent would only be stronger the more time I spent thirsty. Bella would be safe; I would not go far enough that I could not “hear” any intruder approaching the house.

Before giving myself over to the sensations of the hunt, one last rational thought occurred to me. What was done, was done. I had been changed, I had met Bella, and my life was both enriched and impoverished. I could not change these facts. But it was my responsibility to repair the damage done if I could. I needed to stay focused, to stay sane, long enough to ensure that Bella was safe. After that, however, was an entirely different proposition. There was a certain appeal to madness now.