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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:


6. Chapter Six: Whence We Fell

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4674   Review this Chapter

I want to give you with this quote, to put you in an Edward-y frame of mind:

'Tis not where we lie, but whence we fell; The loss of heaven's the greatest pain in hell.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, events, etc. are the property of the original author, Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter Six – Whence We Fell

Bella stewed over her discussion with Charlie for the next two days. Even though I couldn’t hear her thoughts, I could read her expressions. The crease between her eyebrows hardly ever went away in those forty-eight hours. I wondered what she would come up with. She must have had some idea, because when she picked up Jacob on Friday, they did not put the motorcycles in the old Chevy. Instead, she drove down another nearly abandoned road. Again I was forced to be grateful for Jacob’s presence in the vehicle, allowing me to follow from a distance. Not hearing Bella’s thoughts was so damned inconvenient!

I had given up even trying to be grateful to Jacob Black. I hated him with my entire being; I wished he didn’t exist. I had never felt so strong an urge to hurt someone without also feeling thirst. I had once told Bella that I wanted her to run away from me, that that would be the best thing for her. I had said that I would not try to stop her, but I was beginning to wonder whether I could bear watching her belong to another.

With all the time Bella had been spending on her motorcycle, I had been getting abundant experience being in close proximity to her freshly flowing blood. I was finding it easier and easier all the time. The pain didn’t abate, but I became able to – almost – ignore it. The blood and gore on the other patients I saw during my time in the hospital parking lot barely registered. Maybe the next time I went through medical school I could actually start to practice.

A new plan began to creep into my mind more and more insidiously as the days went by. If I could resist the lure of Bella’s blood, perhaps she and I could be together. I would never change her, and maybe I could make her understand that. I would spend weeks on my knees begging her to take me back if that’s what she required; maybe some tiny part of her still cared for me. I could stay with her through her human life, and when she was gone, I would cease to exist as well. A lifespan in her presence was more than I could ask for from this world.

I resisted this train of thought as well as I could, but it was so tempting that avoiding it totally was impossible. There were so many other reasons for me to stay away, but reciting them to myself was beginning to lose its effectiveness. I didn’t think I had started to descend into madness again, but who was I to judge? I was exhausted from struggling against my own thoughts; I would have given anything for the temporary relief of sleep.

At some point during my reverie, we had arrived. I parked some distance away, as always, and crept silently but swiftly through the damp forest until I was only a few yards away from the Chevy. I had not been paying close attention to Jacob’s thoughts, as all too often that activity led to me imagining various ways to end his young life. So I was surprised when I realized where we were. This was the road where I had taken Bella to start our hike to my meadow, almost a year ago. The sky was overcast, not brilliantly sunny as it had been on that other day, but I would always recognize this place. Why would she bring Jacob to this trail? Surely she could not intend to take him there.

But she intended exactly that. Jacob was fiddling with a map and compass, and I could tell from his thoughts that Bella had told him about the meadow, and that they were going to try and find it again. The pain that gripped me then was the worst I had felt in weeks. How could she bear to do this? My memories of my time with Bella and the places where we had been together were sacred to me. I had hoped that she might feel that way too, that she would always remember me, keep some things close to her heart. It was selfish, but I was furious that she would defile my memories, our memories, by sharing our most precious place with the first dimwit who caught her eye!

And then clear thoughts left me as the pain closed in intensely, locking down my muscles and mind, leaving me helpless to do anything but watch and mourn as Bella and Jacob disappeared into the forest together. Watching as my last hope was shattered. I could not even be a part of her life in this tiny way. The emptiness overwhelmed me, a gaping hole that I could not imagine a bottom to. What had I done? How had I imagined that I would be able to go on without her? How was I supposed to make myself even want to?

I could hear Jacob whistling happily, hear his thoughts as he looked for opportunities to take Bella’s hand or support her over an obstacle. He deserved her far more than I ever would. She deserved someone like him, someone who would be able to give her all the things I could not. And I had to protect her, to make sure she survived long enough to live that life. I had to find the strength.

Stumbling at first, slowly regaining my composure and stealth, I followed them through the forest. I quickly realized that their current path would take them nowhere near the meadow… Bella’s sense of direction strikes again. I was relieved. With any luck, I could be gone before they ever found it. The chances would be even better if I got a chance to tweak the map. The dark humor of the thought cheered me slightly. But still, for the first time I was wishing Laurent would show up so I could leave. Though, I had no idea where I would go next.

I followed the pair through the darkening forest, trying to make my mind numb.

* * *

Time passed on. Time has a way of doing that. Bella’s activities went on as normal. She got better with her motorcycle and, surprisingly, stopped riding it so often at approximately the same time. She and Jacob did a lot of hiking around looking for the meadow, but since they had decided to keep map and compass in her truck, had no success. Compasses aren’t difficult to sabotage, and grid patterns that keep having sections moved and erased are not terribly useful. A few times while I followed them, I smelled traces of werewolf, but I never saw the pack or any other supernatural creatures.

I had gained some ground in my struggles to numb my mind. I could not afford the complete daze I had achieved while I was attempting to track Victoria, but I learned to simply think about nothing for hours at a time, to pretend that the events around me did not affect me. While Bella was at school, when she was at work, and most especially when she was with Jacob, I would turn off as much of my mind as I could, keeping just aware enough to monitor the intentions of the people around her. It was just too painful to be thinking all the time. If I didn’t take a break, I would go mad.

I was getting rather good at it, so I really have no idea how long my cell phone was vibrating in my hand before I realized I had a call. I didn’t recognize the number, which was unheard of. Only my family was supposed to have this number. I opened the phone and held it to my ear, without speaking.

“Cullen.” It was not a question, but I answered anyway.

“Yes.”

“Sam Uley. We need to talk. Something’s come up.” It seemed the wolf was not one for unnecessary words.

“Where?”

“Just head towards La Push. I’ll meet you on the border.” He hung up.

I was outside Forks High School waiting for Bella to get out of class. I wondered how Sam could possibly know where I was, but if he had managed to get my phone number, maybe he had greater resources at his disposal than I had realized. Perhaps I needed to reevaluate my opinion on the La Push pack.

I quickly scanned the school. Bella would be at lunch right now, with several periods to go before she would be leaving the building. I would not be gone for nearly that long.

I swung myself out of the Fusion, which was parked inconspicuously around the corner from the school, and walked towards the forest. Once under cover of the dense growth, I picked up speed until I was almost flying through the trees, dodging thick branches without thought or effort. It had to be one of the best parts of my cursed excuse for a life.

Within minutes, I was at the border of the Quilete land. I crouched down on my heels and settled in to wait. What could Uley need to tell me? It would not be good news, of that I was certain. If the pack had found and slaughtered Laurent, he would have told me so over the phone, the sooner to have me well away from Forks. Before long, the hot and vile smell of werewolf reached me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I rose to standing just as the horse-sized black wolf stalked out of the forest. I didn’t see or hear any of the others, but I scanned the forest carefully nonetheless.

When I looked back at the ebony wolf, he had phased into the barefoot, naked form of Sam Uley. Even in human shape, he smelled like wolf. Ugh, they were vile.

“You came to meet me alone?” I knew my tone would betray surprise, but honestly I was glad. For some reason, I found Uley easier to deal with than the others.

“My pack is otherwise engaged at the moment. We’ve stepped up our patrols lately. You may have heard that there are certain… undesirables in the area.”

I acknowledged the rebuke with a tiny smile. He wasn’t giving me the whole story. He wasn’t the only one with access to information.

“How’s your newest pack member?” I asked casually. The others were patrolling, yes, but they were also supervising a new wolf that had “joined” the pack. I swallowed the excess venom pooling in my mouth. Instinct kicking in again.

A raised eyebrow was his only reaction. “He’s struggling. It’s difficult, in the beginning, to come to terms with a new reality.” A reality as a monster.

Perhaps the facial twitch was not Sam Uley’s only reaction. I could see his hands beginning to shake with the effort of containing himself. Memories flashed through his mind. Uley had been the first of his pack to reach puberty and change to a wolf. No one had prepared him; no one had helped him get through it. He had only found help from the tribal elders some weeks after the initial change. At least we’re able to help Embry. He doesn’t have to do this alone. I hope they’ve got him well away from everyone.

Despite myself, I was overwhelmed with respect for the young man before me. What strength of will he must have! I tried to imagine what would have become of me if I had been born into my new life without the benefit of Carlisle’s guidance. I shuddered involuntarily.

Uley seemed to take that the wrong way. It was just as well, I was sure he had no need for either my pity or my respect.

“Let me get to the point,” he brusquely interrupted my thoughts. “We’ve found traces of more of your kind, leech.” The insult seemed automatic.

“More? How many?”

“Two, we think. A male and a female. The male is the one you described. The female has red hair and smells like insanity.”

“Victoria. I killed her mate last year, so now she must be coming for Bella. Can you tell if they’re working together?” I could not keep the naked panic from my voice. This was the last thing I needed.

“They haven’t been traveling together, but they have met to talk a few times. They’ve been keeping to places where we can’t get them, but I think it’s coincidence. I believe they have no idea the pack is here.” Uley’s voice was confident. But then, his loved ones were safe. Bella was… I groaned

He met my gaze with concern, not speaking. How did he manage to leave her? It’s killing them both.

I looked away, pretending I hadn’t heard him.

“It’s none of my business, I know, but this might not be entirely your decision to make. It affects her too.” God knows, as pack leader I shouldn’t be saying this. I should just thank my lucky stars he plans to leave. But anyone who saw the poor girl would know…

“You’re right. It is none of your business,” I was proud of how detached my voice sounded.

“Then I think our meeting is concluded. Bloodsucker.” The epithet really did sound like an afterthought this time. No heat to it at all. “I just thought you should know what we’re up against.”

He turned away and phased. I had seen it before, but it was still disconcerting the way his body seemed to explode outwards and reform itself into the enormous black wolf. He bounded away into the woods with a low growl.

Laurent and Victoria. What next?

* * *

But despite the added danger, the tortuous monotony continued. It was amazing how a situation could be so emotionally painful and yet boring at the same time. I just wanted it all to be over, for Bella to be safe, so I could… I did not exactly know what I was going to do. I couldn’t think about that right now.

I never caught a whiff of Laurent or Victoria near Bella’s house or anywhere else she was likely to go. Once I found traces of Victoria on my house when I went there for a change of clothes, but the traces were a few days old and I could not risk falling for another diversion with the stakes so high. Other than that one instance, the only reminders I had that things had changed were the werewolf traces Bella and Jacob unknowingly crossed during their futile search for the meadow.

I stayed in a state of emotional withdrawal as much as I could. I knew there were things in my mind waiting to be dealt with, but I could not deal with them right now. I created a wall of indifference around myself. Maybe if I pretended I didn’t care what was happening, someday it would be true. It was unlikely my defenses would ever be that good, but I was proud of my achievement. With a little effort I could almost manage to be amused at some of the predicaments Bella managed to land herself in.

Like the plan she brokered to get a big group of people together and go to the movies in Port Angeles. Bella forgot to factor in that most of her former “friends” were now more like enemies. The only people in her group who were still speaking to her were Mike and Angela. And Mike didn’t count. Now that Bella was getting back to normal, he was back to his accustomed thoughts of getting a date – and more – with her.

Bella’s grand plan for the movie night was shot down when Lauren and Jessica refused to come and stopped some of the others as well. A few more were sick, and Jacob’s friend was grounded, so when it came to a head count only Bella, Jacob, and Mike were going. This might actually be entertaining without my needing to make an effort.

I chuckled at the way things had turned out. Mike was disgruntled, Jacob was feeling supremely confident, and Bella was blushing in a most enticing fashion. This was going to be a most uncomfortable evening for her. I didn’t even feel sorry for her. Mike started to walk toward his Suburban, but Bella called him back.

“Hey, do you mind if Jacob drives?” she asked. “I told him he could – he just finished his car. He built it from scratch, all by himself.” Her voice was filled with pride.

“Fine.” Mike was sounding a little snippy. I have no idea what Bella sees in this kid. I’ll teach him a lesson.

“All right, then.” Jacob was the happiest one of the little trio, sure that he was winning the unspoken struggle for Bella’s affections. This is the loser who thinks he has a chance with Bella? I can’t believe I was ever intimidated by this guy.

They all piled into the newly pieced together Volkswagen Rabbit. It started without much of a hitch and Jacob started driving toward Port Angeles.

I didn’t pay close attention to the conversation in the Rabbit as I followed it. I did get the impression, though, that Mike was more on the receiving end of the lesson tonight. He got progressively sulkier as time went on. I was feeling a little sulky myself. Even through my carefully constructed wall of nonchalance, I could see how Bella and Jacob were comfortably flirting with each other as they entered the movie theater, Mike trailing behind.

The movie started rolling and I could sense the thoughts of both boys hoping Bella would reach out and take their hand in the darkened movie theater. I wondered why Bella did not take Jake’s hand. He held her hand often enough at other times. Perhaps she didn’t want to hurt Mike’s feelings; she was always overly considerate to people who didn’t deserve it.

Suddenly Mike’s thoughts became an unceasing barrage of Bathroom! Now! He was sick. This was hilarious. I could always enjoy Mike’s suffering. Jacob and Bella followed him out of the theater, Jacob making some comment about what a terrible movie Bella had picked. Carnage? Bloodbath? That was strange, Bella had always been one for the romantic comedies.

Jacob went to check on Mike in the bathroom, then he and Bella settled on a bench in the lobby to wait. His thoughts were in a state of turmoil, as though he were looking for the courage to do something. I paid closer attention.

Just spit it out, Jake. C’mon, you can do it. Just ask her if she likes you.

It was too late for me to tune this out now; my armor was fractured. I was riveted, waiting as anxiously as Jacob to hear what Bella would say.

Just not in the same way I like her. I can deal with that, as long as she likes me better than that loser puking in there. She was really hurt when the bonehead took off. I still see it in her every day. Maybe she just needs more time. I’m sure that’s what it is.

I saw an image of Bella’s face as he asked her the question. She cringed, as though the very thought of me were painful.

That is it. She can’t even say his name out loud. If I could just get my hands on Cullen… Well, his loss. And I can wait for Bella. I hope she knows that.

I was thrown by their conversation. Bella wasn’t in love with Jacob? She didn’t even have a crush on him? I would give up everything I had to be able to know what she was thinking about right now. Jacob was thrilled, over the moon even. And oddly enough, I felt almost happy myself.

Mike was staggering out of the bathroom now, oblivious to everything but his own misery. Bella helped him walk, and in a few minutes the trio was exiting the theater. Mike smelled awful, I could tell that from half a block away. I hoped that Bella wouldn’t catch whatever virus he had. Jacob smelled strange too, like perhaps he was running a fever. Maybe he was coming down with the flu as well. I snickered listening to Jacob’s thoughts. He had completely forgotten Bella for the moment, and his main concern was how to get Mike home as speedily as possible, keeping the Rabbit’s upholstery unspoiled.

By the time we arrived back at Bella’s house, Mike was too sick to drive, so Bella drove him home in his Suburban. Jake brought her back home, and as they got out of the car to say goodbye, the wind suddenly blew his scent to me. The hairs on the back of my neck rose, and my muscles tensed to spring. Werewolf.

“I think you might be right about the fever,” Jacob was saying. “I’m starting to feel a little… strange.”

I quickly scanned Jacob’s thoughts. He thought he was coming down with the flu – he had no idea at all what was truly happening. He was about to shift form for the first time, and he was here with Bella. NO! Leave. Leave now! My mind shouted at him. He seemed to hear me, because he shrugged off Bella’s offers of a ride and climbed into his vehicle. Thank God.

For the first time in the past few weeks I felt pity for Jacob Black. He had no idea how his life was going to change in the next few hours.

But my pity was mostly for Bella. She stood silently on the curb, staring blankly in the direction Jacob’s car had gone. She looked so forlorn that my heart broke for her. Even though her longing was for someone else, I couldn’t stand to see her hurt like that, especially knowing that Jacob would never be coming back. And that even if he tried, I would have to stop him. Bella didn’t deserve this, not again.

Bella blinked, shook her head, and turned to go inside.

* * *

Bella woke up that night, but not with nightmares. Charlie went in to check on her and found her curled up on the bathroom floor, woozy and feverish.

“Stomach flu?” he asked her.

Bella gave an affirmative moan.

Bella called in sick to work that day and spent all her time on the bathroom floor. At least, I had to assume she did. She was there when Charlie left for work, and she was there when Charlie got home. I spent my day in the woods behind her house, fretting. My mother and father had died of influenza. I would have died of influenza if Carlisle had not intervened. I knew this was different, not the same virulent strain of the disease, but I still was beside myself with worry.

By the time Charlie had gone to bed that night, I was almost frantic. The last image I had of Bella was that she was still curled unmoving on the cold tile floor, her head beneath the toilet basin. She looked almost dead. I paced under her window, debating with myself. I hadn’t been in her room since that night she had woken up and seen me. It was better that way. But what if there was something she needed? Something I could do, that Charlie didn’t recognize?

Giving in to the inevitable, I was up the tree and in the window in seconds. Bella was not in her bed. I checked once more to ensure that Charlie was sound asleep, then I padded silently to the bathroom door. I had never felt so much like an intruder, in Bella’s house, though I had certainly trespassed often enough. Tentatively I opened the heavy door a tiny crack. Bella’s scent wafted to my nostrils, combined with the smell of sickness and vomit. I could hear only her slow, gentle breathing; she was completely unconscious. I opened the door wider, needing to see her and assure myself that she was all right.

It was dark inside, but my eyes were accustomed to the darkness. Bella lay on the floor where Charlie had left her. She was even thinner than she had been, and so very pale. I knelt on the tiles beside her and felt her pulse. It was regular and strong, so she must be getting better. With a sigh of relief, I stroked her silken hair lightly, trying to soothe her however I could. I wished that I could be sick for her. I wished I could do something to ease her suffering in some way. She must be getting stiff and cold lying on this floor. I wondered if she would notice… even if she remembered anything, surely she would attribute it to delirium.

Tentatively, I slipped my hand under her shoulder. She didn’t react. I reached my other arm under her legs, and very gently shifted her until I was supporting most of her weight as she lay still on the floor. Again there was no reaction. I shook my head. My poor Bella. As slowly and softly as I could, I lifted her into my arms and cradled her against my chest. I stood and carried her to her bed. Fortunately Bella never made her bed, so I didn’t have to turn the quilt down. I laid her down against the cool sheets and smoothed the covers over her. She snuggled into her pillow. God, but she was beautiful. Even when she was this sick, the sight of her took my breath away… figuratively speaking, of course.

I returned to the bathroom and filled a glass with water, returning to place it on Bella’s bedside table. I looked around the room for something else I could do, not wanting to leave. The old rocking chair in the corner caught my eye. How often had I sat there through the night, watching Bella dream?

I sat slowly, wary of any creaks. Unblinking, I gazed on Bella’s sleeping face, drinking her in like a thirsty man gulps water. I was overwhelmed by my need for her, to belong to her and have her belong to me. The rocking chair runner wobbled over the loose floorboard, and I remembered the objects hidden underneath. Pieces of my past, fragments of my heart. For the first time since Friday night, I allowed myself to contemplate Bella’s conversation with Jacob. No matter how I twisted it, I always came to the same conclusion: she still cared for me in some way. Cared for me enough to keep her from committing to Jacob, if not from encouraging him in his crush. If she cared, even in some small way, surely there was hope for me.

Thoughts of my forbidden plan were coming. I needed to leave now. I tiptoed to Bella’s side and pressed my lips to her forehead.

“Be well, Bella.”