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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


20. Chapter 20 Returning Home

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3697   Review this Chapter

Edward

I banged my head against the building’s wall, pounding my forehead against the brick until it started to crumble under the impact. I was a block from Bella’s apartment, in an alleyway between the coffee store and the drycleaners, having fled from there so fast I would have been invisible to any eyes watching. That was close, too damn close. I pounded my head again and again as if I could drive the bloodlust from me that way. I’d almost killed her. Stupid, shit-for-brains-stupid, stupid. How long did you think you were going to be able to pretend that you were human? You’re a killer, and that can’t be ignored. Venom started to seep into my eyes from the abrasions on my forehead, and yet I couldn’t stop as I damned myself again and again.

I’d been so close. Bella had opened up to me in Snoqualmie, and when I’d brought her home, I’d felt her willingness and her desire. She’d been in my arms, and then her scent had hit me like a sledgehammer. In the confines of her apartment, there had been nowhere to run from it, and it had set my throat blazing. The instincts of a hunter had started warring with my rational mind. I’d pulled her close and heard the wet sucking sound of the beating of her heart and the blood dancing through her veins. Unable to stop myself, I’d let my lips travel down her neck. She’d placed an arm around my neck, in innocent trust and the predator had chased the lover away. It had been only at the last minute that I realized I’d placed her into the kill position, and I’d dropped her in horror. What would she think? Would she think I’d dropped her in rejection rather than my realization that the next move would have been to kill her?

Damn, damn this life, if that’s what it was. I’d tried my whole existence to separate the vampire from the man. I’d never indulged in wanton killing; I’d culled only the worst humans from among them. I’d always thought I had the upper hand over the predatory nature of my being. How that house of cards had come crashing down, undone by Bella’s sublime smell.

I leaned back against the wall, clenching my fists and trying to think. But her scent still filled my nose, and every fiber in my being wanted nothing more than to turn back and quench the burning with her fragrant blood that held the promise of so much ecstasy.

This was it then; my choice had been thrust upon me. I could run far and fast, as Jasper had suggested, trying to keep to a life of vegetarianism. But it would never be fulfilling enough to give me the strength to be with her. I’d have to live my time without Bella, knowing that she was somewhere in the world, going on with her life. Her human memories of me would fade over time, and I would be just a shadow in her mind of some strange experience. Whereas, with the sharpness of vampire recall, every day I would see her as sharply as I could now, acute to every detail, down to the stray red highlight in her hair and the number of eyelashes surrounding her warm umber eyes. And every day I would know that I had let her go.

Or…

Or…

I knew there was one way that I could stand to be in her presence. It was the same way I had dealt with it the night I had saved her from those thugs.

But it meant someone would die. It meant there would be another body at my feet, another soul on my conscience, another name for my litany. It meant more months or years away from my family, more time on the road, more hours spent opening my mind, listening for the thoughts of the depraved and diseased. Was the chance of winning Bella’s love worth the price to be paid in human lives? Was it worth the price I would have to pay? The shame I felt had grown deeper with every year, and as my sins became more numerous, the litany had become the chain that kept me leashed to hell. Was I willing to forge more links on that chain?

I looked up at the dark sky. It was an illusion of course—an illusion that I had a choice. For I would choose the slight, fragile woman I had just run from over anything else that God had on this earth, and I couldn’t even say why for sure, other than the certainty that whatever I had spent years looking for was there within her arms. Whatever the cost to be paid, I would pay it now and in the future, over and over again.

I straightened up and stepped out from between the buildings. I raised my face to the breeze that was stirring a handful of trash along the curb and began to hunt.

I ran along the nighttime streets, heading for the docks along the shoreline, opening my mind as I ran. I could run fast enough that my passing was invisible though the dark city, and I listened to the thoughts of its inhabitants as I passed. This would have to be quick; the sooner I returned to Bella, the better. Perhaps I could forestall any damage I might have done.

Nothing on the tube this late…

I’ve got some coffee, you want some?

Mommy! Mommy!

C’mon bitch, you know what I want…

Better not let your parents catch you…

I’ll kill you, you know I will…

There it was, the image I was looking for. A face twisted in fear, thoughts jumbled into incoherency, the victim and the criminal staring at one another while they balanced along the knife’s edge of violence. It was the crux when the bloodshed was started, when the smell of brutality and cruelty saturated the area and the realization of the death to come hit both parties.

I zigzagged across the street and up the side of the building in a way that would make Spiderman proud, clinging to the brick façade from my fingertips and easily entering through the open window into a darkened bedroom.

In the next room, a young, desperate man was waving a knife at an old asthmatic who coughed and wheezed under the stress.

“Give it to me, old man! Where is the money?”

The answering voice was shaky and feeble. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have any money.”

“You stupid fucking shithead! Stop lying to me!”

There was a hoarse scream as the younger man, armed with a knife, slashed at the old man. From inside my dark vantage point, I could see a thin line of red appear on the old man’s grizzled cheek. He put his hand to his face and drew back, staring at the blood that glistened on his palm and fingers.

The smell of blood. I inhaled deeply through my nose, closing my eyes and letting it beckon to me while the tableaux in front of me played out.

“Give it to me!” the young man screamed, while the old man, cowering, took a step back and, tripping over a rug, fell heavily to the floor.

Normally, I would have grabbed the perpetrator and fled with my meal, so the victim was unaware of how his transgressor was delivered into God’s hands. But tonight, the bloodlust was pounding at me, Bella’s scent having wakened it. Keeping my eyes closed, I reached out and pulled the young man backwards into the darkened room, out of the old man’s sight. I heard the wet popping of his collarbone and shoulder blade crunch under my fingers, and he began to scream, much louder and higher pitched than the old man. With my fingers, I pinched through the tendons and muscle structures of his neck crushing the trachea and rendering the larynx useless. I had an arm wrapped around his torso from behind, and his arms and legs began to flail, knocking over a lamp and the side table it was on. Still clutching his knife, he waved it uselessly, making a long slash in the wallpaper. I captured his hand in my own, squeezing it and felt the bones in his hand compress and collapse, causing the knife to clatter to the floor.

His chest was heaving, but his movements were lessening as he started to suffocate, his esophagus having been pinched shut.

I took another two steps backward into the darkened room, and twisted him around, holding him close to me, chest to chest. I could smell his sweat and fear, and underneath the gurgling and whistling sounds he made through the ruins of his throat, there was the quickened pace of his heart, the moist thudding as the blood rushed through it. I draped his body across mine and gently cradled his head in my left hand, while his eyes got impossibly wide.

His beard stubble tickled my cheek as I nestled into his throat. I heard the delicate, delicious ripping sound as I pulled my lips back and sank my teeth into that tender spot just below the jaw line where the blood raced.

There it was, the blood—hot, sweet, soothing. Pulsing into my mouth with each hammering beat of his heart, I rolled it across my tongue as I drank, helplessly savoring it, as it pushed me into the state where there was nothing in the world but me and the blood. Me and the blood and the rapidly disappearing sound of a beating human heart. Hypnotic and transcendent, the rich liquid was alive in my mouth, causing me to shudder with pleasure.

I closed my eyes, still cradling his head and rocking him back and forth like a mother with a baby, wringing the last mouthfuls from him. Gradually, I relaxed my arms and his body slid to the floor. The blood was singing through me, and I could feel its rush to my extremities. Exhilaration and satiation tingled outwards from my throat, and I let my head loll back and staggered a step backwards, letting the feelings envelope me. Cold fire raced down my neural pathways, and I took a deep breath, relishing the taste and feel.

“My son! What have you done with my son?” In the doorway, the old man was crumpled on the ground, having pulled himself along the floor. “My son!” he was crying hoarsely as he reached out to the body on the ground.

I froze in surprise. His thoughts shouted at me. This was his son, his abusive, junkie son, and against all reason or explanation, the old man loved him still. He was the old man’s only son and I’d just killed him nearly in front of his eyes.

I felt the old man’s horror, and it meshed and grew with my own. I looked at the young man’s body on the floor; he was disheveled and emaciated, his appearance and scent screaming addict. He had fallen face up, one arm flung out and the other crossed gently on his chest, like he was napping. But his eyes were dull, glazed and wide open with the fear of his death still in them.

“Jerry, Jerry,” the old man was weeping, calling his dead son’s name. The tears ran through the red streaks of blood on his face, mixing together. I was paralyzed with indecision and abhorrence. In my haste, I’d just violated every one of my own ethics in taking a human life. I couldn’t even move with the repugnance I felt for myself.

The old man pulled himself along the floor further until he could touch his son’s face. “Jerry,” he sobbed, his arthritic fingers brushing his son’s cheek. He looked up at my still figure, obscured by the dark and moaned, “Why?”

“I’m—I don’t—“ There was nothing I could say. Nothing that could assuage his grief at losing his son, and what had he died for? So I could be with Bella? With a wild inarticulate cry of my own grief and horror, I grabbed the body and fled out the window, leaving behind the sound of broken sobbing.

I ran along the rooftops, cradling the dead body in my arms like a figure from a pieta until I found a dumpster several miles away. I gently set him in it and started a fire, throwing in papers and broken crates until I was sure that the cause of death couldn’t be ascertained. If I had thought it would make a difference, I would have prayed, but there was no ear in heaven for my kind. I walked away from it when suddenly I froze again.

His name—I didn’t know his name! Jerry? Jerry what? I was making a mockery of the boundaries and rules I had set for myself. I needed his name for my litany. I had to have it. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise. I turned back to the dumpster, but it was in full blaze, and in the distance, I could hear a siren.

I couldn’t face the old man again. “I’ll find it, Jerry,” I whispered to the inferno behind me, where flames were now shooting ten feet above the lip of the dumpster. “I promise.”

I ran back to Bella’s apartment, unsure of what I would find there and wondering if the murder I had just committed would even count for something. The apartment was dark, and I let myself in silently. Bella was sprawled across her bed, her breathing regular and her heartbeat steady and slow. I was sure she was sleeping, but she suddenly sat up and looked straight at me, even though I had been soundless.

“Edward, is that you?”

“Yes, Bella.”

She reached for the lamp, but I insisted, “Please, leave the lights out.” I could, of course, see her perfectly well, but in the dark, she wouldn’t be able to see the bright red of my eyes.

She moved her hand slowly back to her lap. “Alright,” she agreed in a whisper. “You came back…”

“Bella, I’ve told you. I can’t stay away.” My voice was low and broken. I would trek through hell and back, distance myself from my family, break every value and violate every moral I had to be with her.

She sat on her bed, one leg crossed underneath her, her hair massed around her shoulders. She had on a pair of cotton shorts with the waistband turned down and the same lacy white camisole I had seen her in before. Her eyes were red and slightly puffy; she’d been crying before I came, and I kicked myself for my own heartlessness. Her scent was bowling me over again, but the bloodlust stayed in its cage, licking its lips with its recent meal.

“I don’t understand, why are you here? There have to be a million girls out there.” She took a deep breath and shook her head. “I… Why me?”

“Bella, you don’t see yourself the way I do. I’ve searched all over and I know there is no peace for me. Only with you.” I wished I could make her see. “Only with you,” I repeated, whispering.

“Why did you leave?” she asked, and I could hear the uncertainty and pain in her voice.

“I am so sorry,” I whispered. “It is harder for me to be with you than I realized. I had to…take precautions.”

“I thought I had done something wrong,” she said uncertainly.

“Oh no, Bella.” I took a step and fell to one knee before her as she sat on the bed. It brought our faces nearly level. “It’s me.” I let one hand rest on the blanket beside her, curling it into a fist and fighting the ache to touch the silky expanse of thigh in front of me. “It is so wrong of me to ask for your love, but I can’t help myself.” Her brown eyes were large and liquid, and I could have tumbled into them like falling off the edge of a cliff.

She put a hand to my face. I closed my eyes against the warmth of her palm. “It could be wrong of me to give it,” she whispered, and my chest seemed to collapse in on itself. “But I can’t seem to help myself either.”

She put her other hand on my face as well, and capturing it, brought her face to mine and kissed me sweetly on the lips. Warm and sweet, and soft—so incredibly soft. The softness beckoned to me like the sight of a still, mist-covered lake called to mind beset with chaos.

A rush of elation filled me. I fought the desire to crush her to my chest, to fling her backwards on the bed and rip her clothes from her. I would take this as slowly as she needed. Slow and deliberate was good. I’d have to be careful with her, so fragile and slight in her humanity.

“You’re trembling,” she whispered as she slid off the bed to join me kneeling on the floor.

“I’ll be fine,” I promised her, letting an arm snake around her back and carefully pulling her closer.

She stroked my face, shaping it under her fingers in the darkness. “You’re warmer.”

The blood I’d drunk would raise my temperature for a few hours as my tissues assimilated it. “Yes,” I answered, finding her hand and laying mine against it so they were palm to palm. My fingers were longer than hers by over an inch while hers were delicate and petite, the nails short and unpainted. Despite the size difference, my hand came to hers like a wanderer returning home. Never had my hand felt so comfortable and natural. “Not as warm as you.” The arm I had around her waist almost seemed to burn where I touched her, the warmth of her body easily felt under the thin chemise.

She raised her arm, and with it resting on my shoulder, gently stroked my neck with her fingers. “Your skin is so smooth,” she said, wonder permeating her voice. She was exploring me with her hands and the sensations were filling my mind.

The shift in her movement had caused the chemise she was wearing to shift as well, and now the last two fingers of my right hand were in contact with the supple skin of her back. I could feel the muscles slide under her skin as she made small adjustments in her position, and I was acutely aware of every millimeter where our skin touched.

I looked into her umber eyes, wide and trusting. I almost told her then; the urge to share everything with her was almost overwhelming. What held me back was concern for her. Her relationship with God was so important to her; could I ask her to break it for me? What if she decided not to join me in this shadow life? It would be tantamount to a death sentence, and so I held back, and this ruinous decision was to come back to haunt me.

Instead, I leaned forward the short distance to kiss her. Her lips were so electric, soft and yielding. They moved against mine, creating thrills of sensation that flew along my nerves, exciting my whole body. Her breathing was coming shorter, and her heart pounded faster, and I felt my body respond to hers. She put her arm around my head, tangling her fingers in my hair, pulling us closer even as she melted against me. I could feel the lovely softness of her breasts against my chest, even with the fabric of our clothes between us, and I let a hand slowly travel to her hip to meet the velvety skin at her waist.

She made a small gasp and broke our kiss. “I am going to need a moment,” she said, pulling away from me and rising to her feet. The air replacing the warmth of her was like a cool slap, and I kept my hands in my lap, afraid that they would, of their own volition, reach out to bring her back.

She let a hand trail against my cheek. “I’ll be right back,” she whispered and then padded into the adjoining bathroom. I turned my head away when I saw the light flip on as she entered.

I ran my hand through my hair. It felt coarse and straw-like compared to the exquisiteness of her skin. I looked down at my hands, flexing them, suddenly overcome with fear that they would somehow betray me and harm her. Sudden panic coursed through me. What the hell was I thinking? I could crush her in an unguarded moment of passion.

I jumped to my feet, starting to pace the room quickly, even as I was listening to the human sounds she was making on the other side of the door. This is insane. I could kill her. I almost had already. Is this worth it, Edward? It’s been so long since you’ve had a partner. What if you’re no good at human sex? What if you scare her away?

Insecurities suddenly filled me and I was frozen with dismay. Then the bathroom door started to open, and I hopped behind it, keeping away from the light. She flipped it off and looked around the dark room.

I had to ask. “Bella, are you sure this is okay? We don’t have to now if …”

She turned to me; I was sure I was just barely visible by the faint illumination of the streetlamps leaking into the room.

Paralyzed by indecision, I watched as she raised her hands to the back of her neck, causing her breasts under the thin shirt to lift in the most enthralling way. She undid the clasp of her cross necklace, and very deliberately, removed it from her and placed it on the dresser.

“If this is a sin,” she whispered, “let us sin together.” And with that, I was in her arms.