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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?


23. Chapter 23 Dances With Wolves

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5417   Review this Chapter

A/N So we last left Bella, screaming like an overheated pressure cooker in the confessional as she learned of the supernatural nature of the men she thought she knew. We go back a little bit in time now, to earlier that morning as Edward takes his leave of Bella after their night together.

Edward

She’s breathtaking, I thought, gazing down on Bella's sleeping form. Perhaps her mouth was a millimeter too narrow or her chin a hair too small for the unearthly beauty of someone like Rosalie, but it was perfect in its imperfection. The humanity, the spirit that shone out of her face, was like a beacon in the darkness to me. I’d stepped out to find a flower for her bedside to accompany my note, and when I returned she was asleep on her stomach, her mouth slightly opened and her hair tangled around her face. So fragile, so vulnerable, and yet so brave. I’d told her I would sacrifice everything for her, and I meant every word. Whatever she wanted, whatever she desired, I would see that it was hers.

She mumbled a few incoherent words under her breath and then flipped over almost violently, her hand striking the bed. The sheet covering her slipped down her chest, revealing one perfect sienna-colored nipple, and I fought the temptation to bend over to take it in my lips and to wake her to make love again. And again. And again.

Instead, I straightened up and inhaled once more the exquisite fragrance that emanated from her. Mixed with the smells from our lovemaking, it was a heady mix of the earthy and ethereal. It set my throat on fire, but it was bearable. I could stand there inhaling for days, but I had things I needed to attend to.

I’d leave her now, letting her sleep, and when I returned, I would take her to my house in Horseshoe Bay, just north of Vancouver. I would show her my human past, reveal my present nature and, if things went well, ask her to consider walking through the halls of time at my side. This was all happening so fast, but it had to. How long could I hold out against her scent? How many more would have to die?

It was in my house there that I kept all the photographs, mementos and other memorabilia from my life, and I wanted to share these with her. I’d show her the pictures of me as a child. If she could see the humanity I had once had, perhaps she would be less frightened by the name my kind was given and more easily accepting of the change that had been forced on me. Perhaps she could see me as the man inside, rather than the predator. With her by my side, I could finally see a future that I wanted to participate in. We could eventually join my family and live as they did, finding lives with love and harmony.

I was beginning to understand what Tanya had said about sexual lust helping to moderate the bloodlust. Bloodlust was a solitary ecstasy. The blood rushed through you, filling your senses, burning away the world in its potency. But it was an ecstasy experienced alone, with only the slowing beat of another’s heart for company. What I’d shared with Bella last night was ten times—a hundred times−more intense than that, not the least because the pleasure and the passion was shared. While she led me on, the heat between us built to incredible heights as her pleasure fed my own until every touch had become an erotic experience in itself and every gasp a whispered love song.

I spent the next few hours making calls and then visiting several different bank branches where I held my accounts, making large cash withdrawals at each. When I had collected sixty thousand dollars, I turned the motorcycle toward the direction of the tenements where I’d had my last meal.

I didn’t know what impulse led me to return to the place of last night's feeding or to bring the money with me. I knew better than to think that money would assuage the grief for a lost son or provide me with any kind of closure or redemption for my acts. Still, I brought it with me when I parked the bike and found the apartment house I had visited last night. I checked the mailboxes in the foyer, finding the name J. Rosenthal, Senior on one. That was most likely my target.

Returning outside, I entered the alleyway, noting the window I had entered in last night was now closed. I waited a moment and opened my mind to those around me, listening to any who had noted my presence or were looking out the windows. When I knew it was clear, I zipped up the side of the building and popped the window out of the frame, entering the bedroom as I had last night. The lamp and the table had been righted, but the wallpaper still bore a long ugly gash, evidence of Jerry's struggle to live.

The old man, Jerry’s father, sat in an aged overstuffed chair, his back to the doorway, watching a small television. The apartment was old and dingy, filled with books and papers. He sat slumped in his chair, wearing an faded plaid cotton shirt, suspenders crossing his defeated shoulders. His hair was thin and white and surrounded a bald spot on the back of his head like a monk’s tonsure. Hearing my entry, he started to turn around.

“No, don’t turn around,” I said softly but with command in my voice.

He tensed, but stopped his motion and after a moment settled back into the chair, his hands clutching the arms. “It’s you, isn’t it?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the TV while I stood behind him. “You were here last night.” His voice was wheezy with emphysema.

“Yes.”

“Have you come for me this time?” A legitimate question, but he was probably safer from me than anyone else in this city. Wiping out a family was a sin I didn't want on my conscience.

“No,” I murmured. “I only take the…evil ones.”

“He wasn’t evil, you know. He was sick. He’d been sick for a long time. It was those punks on the street corner…” I could hear the tears collecting in his voice.

Still, he needed to hear the truth. “He was going to kill you.”

“He’d never hurt me.”

“You know that’s not true.” I'd read Jerry's intent last night, and even now the old man was flipping through his memories of abuse suffered at Jerry's hands.

He started weeping. “He was my son.”

“I know. I’m sorrier than I can say.”

“Where is he?” he asked, pulling out a handkerchief from a pants pocket.

“The police will identify his body soon.” One of my calls earlier had been an anonymous tip to the police department.

“His body…” He’d known Jerry had died before we’d left the apartment, but to hear it confirmed in this way brought physical pain to the old man. “It should have been me. I wish it’d been me instead.” He bent over and started sobbing into his hands. In his thoughts were endless days of empty loneliness, those already spent and those yet to come. I knew that brand of loneliness achingly well, and I closed my eyes, swaying on my feet as the old man's grief swallowed me up.

I had no words of comfort I could give him. There was nothing I could do but bear witness.

Mr. Rosenthal ran the handkerchief under his nose. "When he was a boy, he loved to play Batman. Estelle would pin a towel around his throat and he’d run through the house, kicking and punching the imaginary bad guys.” In his mind, Jerry was still a laughing, sly six year old, full of life and mischief.

I closed my eyes. This was it. This had to be it. I thought I had reached the bottom in the extent of my self-loathing before, but I hadn’t realized there were still steps to be descended. The closer I tried to get to Bella, the farther away I became from deserving her. This was no way to exist. “He’ll be the last, I promise you.”

His broken sobs were tearing at me like lashes from a whip. He sniffed again. “He may not have been a good son, but he was my son."

"What was his name, his full name?"

"Jerome David Rosenthal, Junior." I could hear there was still pride in his voice and it was salt in my wounds.

"I will remember him," I promised softly. I would gladly have traded for the uncertain and faulty memory of a human, rather than suffer every day cursed with the sharp and vivid memory of a vampire.

"So will I," he said, his voice shaking with grief.

“There is money here,” I said, dropping the bundle on a table. “I'm leaving it with you.”

“Money? Money won’t bring Jerry back.”

“I know,”I whispered. “Still, it is yours.”

“I don’t want your filthy money,” he said angrily, starting to turn around.

“Then give it away or toss it out the window.”

He twisted in his chair and faced me for the first time. I could hear the surprise in his thoughts that I looked so young and yet so dangerous. His eyes were rimmed in red and bleary with old age and tears. He made a last attempt at understanding. "Why?' he whispered, and I knew he meant more than my monetary gesture, or even last night's violence.

I was perhaps the last creature to know God's mind and I answered almost angrily. "I don't know." Why was I, so undeserving, given immortality when so many innocents were snuffed out by the hundreds of thousands every day across the world? Sometimes I thought the endless cycle of painful, empty days and nights was a just kind of hell for one as inherently evil as I.

I left, slipping away invisibly back out the window. I got on my motorcycle, and headed back to Forks with the bitter taste of ashes in my mouth. More than ever, I knew that I had to stop this killing. Every victim, every name on my litany, had a mother and father somewhere. What I had been meting out certainly was not justice, but opportunistic vengeance, and even if my victims were the dregs of humanity, they were still human. I could feel the weight of their souls on my shoulders, and it was threatening to break me. I could only see one way out of the hell I had created for myself and its name was Bella.

I got home as the clouds started to clear up. Alice was waiting for me, sitting on the front steps as I pulled the motorcycle into the driveway and rolled to a stop. She had her arms around her knees while her painted toenails wiggled in the sandals she was wearing. Her cheek rested on her knee, and her short hair ruffled in the breeze while a forlorn expression played across her face.

"Hello, sister," I said amiably, trying to recapture the lighter feelings I’d had when I first had left Bella.

“Hello,” she answered as I realized the house behind her was empty of any other family.

“Where is everybody?” I asked, setting the kickstand and dismounting the bike.

“They’re at a meeting with the elder Quileutes.” She frowned, and I heard the concern in her voice.

“Oh?” I asked, encouraging her to go on.

There was worry in her mind for the safety of the family. “They have some concerns about your presence among us.”

Damn. I knew there would be repercussions from that meeting in the gas station. I climbed the steps before sitting down beside her. “They were the ones that got all riled up. I tried to remind them of the importance of the treaty for both sides.”

She smiled at my slang. “Yes, well, they recognized the color of your eyes and that made them nervous.”

“So, Carlisle has gone to meet with them?”

She nodded. “And everyone else went along for a show of strength and support.”

“But not you?” That seemed unlike Alice. She might be petite, but she was never anything but brave and fearless, especially when it came to family.

“I wanted to, but there’s quite a few of them now. They have some kind of mojo that just blocks me completely.”

I could see in her mind as she tried to see into the future of the meeting with the elders. It was like walking into a sudden fog bank or a complete snow whiteout. It was disorientating in its sudden entirety. She rubbed her temples. “I get close to a bunch of them and it’s, like, migraine time. Carlisle made me stay behind.” She looked at me curiously. “They’re in your future as well.”

“Really?” That was not surprising. In fact, a part of me almost hoped for it. I’d never borne them any enmity before, but the fact that they had known Bella before I did set me on edge. She was mine now. I looked into Alice’s mind. She saw me driving off in Jasper’s car towards Seattle, but then the fog bank descended.

“So what was Carlisle going to say to them?”

“Well, what could he say? That you are under our protection and that the people of Forks are safe from you.”

I sat down on the step next to her. “Will that be enough?”

She shrugged. “Carlisle can be pretty persuasive.”

That he was. Years ago, I’d seen the way he reached out to Ephraim Black and crossed the divide that separated our species. It had been Carlisle's extraordinary diplomatic skills that had produced the treaty. “Well, I am going to get out of town for a few days. Maybe things can quiet down.”

“Where are you headed?”

“I want to take Bella up to my house near Vancouver. I’m going to show her some of my childhood and past there.” I couldn’t help but smile at the prospect.

Her tawny eyes narrowed as she smiled back, but there was concern in her voice. “You think she’s ready for the truth?”

“I hope so. She has to be. I don’t want to rush things but I can feel time is running out.” I felt like Dorothy trapped in the Wicked Witch’s tower as the hourglass ran out. Too many different things were converging. “Let me ask you, do you still see her as one of us?”

I could see Alice fight the urge to look forward; there were some things she was trying to conceal from me.

I turned her chin gently so she would look at me. Her petite, delicate face reluctantly turned to mine, and when I looked in her eyes, she was unable to hide any longer. Bella’s future branched out along so many different lines; most of them were hidden inside the blanketing fog banks of Quileute interference, but the few paths leading out of them were not good. Mostly, they ended with Bella’s dead body lying in my hands. There were a few where she grew old along with the Quileutes, and finally there was one where I could see her smiling in my arms with the bright red eyes of a newborn.

I grabbed Alice’s shoulders. “That’s it! That’s the one I want!” I exclaimed. “How do we get there?”

“Edward, I can’t tell you.” Following the path backward led directly into one of the fogbanks; it was impossible to see what decisions led to that fate. The throbbing started in again behind her eyes, and I could see her eyes close against the pain.

I loosed my hands from her shoulders. “I’m sorry; I don’t mean to make you suffer.”

Her pale face was drawn, and her eyes shadowed with concern. “I would help Edward, but I can’t.”

“I know,” I assured her. I kissed her on the cheek. It was cool and smooth under my lips, so unlike Bella’s heat and softness.

“So Jasper was okay with me taking the Camaro again?”

“Sure, the keys are in it.”

I stood up and turned to go in the house. “Please tell him thanks for me.”

“Edward..." She took a breath and then spoke without turning to face me. "What would you do if Bella refused you?”

I stopped on the steps, while a cold chill ran through me at her words. I searched her mind, but she knew better than anyone how to keep me out of it when she wanted. “Have you seen something?”

From behind her, I watched as she shook her head briefly, setting her short hair dancing. “I love you, Edward.” She turned to look at me. “I’m worried. I see you hanging all your hopes on one fragile human…”

I closed my eyes. Just thinking about having to return to the nomad life or even just being the solitary person in a household of paired members made my throat close with pain and longing. “That won’t happen,” I whispered. “I won’t let it.” I entered the house, determined that I would have Bella with me forever, damn the cost.

Several hours later, I telephoned Bella, imagining that she would be awake by now. Her voice made me weak in the knees, like some kind of lovesick schoolboy. I couldn’t tell which emotion was stronger, the strength of my attraction to her−so that she had become the center of my universe−or the incredulity that she was returning my affections.

It was when she said that a ‘friend’ had dropped off her truck, a truck that had been just fixed, that the alarm bells started to ring in my head. I hung up the phone, thinking furiously. Alice had seen that Bella’s immediate future was hidden from her. The only reason for Bella to be hidden was if a Quileute was with her. The uneasiness I felt grew larger and larger. A Quileute boy was the one who had made her pregnant and hurt her so badly. I was out the door and running eastward before I even realized my intention.

I started to think as I ran, trying to find the source of my sudden panic which was so great that I had abandoned my plans to take Jasper’s car. Even the motorcycle was too slow for me. I wanted to be with her now. I had no idea what lies the Quileutes would fill up her head with, but I would hold her hand and remind her of the undeniable connection that had grown between us.

The trees started blurring together, and still I pushed to run faster. Blasting through mature trees like a bulldozer through saplings, nothing could slow me; no obstacle could stop me. The uneasiness continued to grow, spurring me on until I was running faster and faster, leaving a trail of destroyed vegetation in my path like the wake of a small tornado. I swam when I needed to, faster than a cigarette boat, ignoring the danger of being seen.

I reached Bella's neighborhood and slowed, walking cautiously up to her house. The caustic smell of shape shifter saturated her front yard. I passed an ancient red truck, reeking with the acrid aroma. This was how she traveled? Might as well walk.

I climbed the front steps and called Bella's name through the screen door. I could hear the thoughts of the shape shifter in there, but where was Bella? If he had hurt her...

I yanked the front door open almost ripping it from its hinges, and entered her apartment. The Quileute stood in the living room, taller than I, built impressively and dressed in jeans and a tee shirt. He was brown-skinned with short, bristly black hair and dark eyes, and his straight eyebrows were drawn into a furious scowl. He dropped into a defensive crouch and I noticed his nostrils flaring as he caught my scent, recognizing it immediately.

In his mind, I saw the pocket of my shirt that the Quileute gang had ripped at the gas station. That's what had created the need for his impromptu visit with a suddenly repaired truck. My anger exploded inside me, and I struggled to keep control. I had no desire to start a war between the Quileutes and the Cullens, but I would brook no interference between Bella and me.

"Where is she?" I hissed.

Crouching, he said nothing, just continuing to watch me, but I could pick the answer from him unwillingly. I gasped when I saw how he had phased in front of her and how she had run screaming from him.

"You phased in front of her?” I snarled. “And scared the shit out of her?" I listened as his mind reeled back to the conversation that included him naming me as a vampire.

"You leave her the hell alone," he growled at me, his outline starting to shake.

"You told her?” I couldn’t believe it. He’d broken the treaty without a thought. “You told her everything, and when she refused to believe you, you phased in front of her?" I was stunned into motionlessness. In one fell swoop, he had destroyed everything I had been working for with Bella.

A shadow of confusion crossed the shape shifter’s face. How is he doing that? It's like he's reading my mind.

I shook my head, thinking furiously as to how to make this right with Bella. "Yes, you fucking idiot!” I spat at him over my shoulder as I crossed the living room. “I can hear every word of every puny thought that flits through your brain." Christ Almighty, she'd left screaming. I stepped to the back door, but there was no sight of her. The poor girl was probably a basket case. And because of this dog. I turned back to Jacob.

"Jacob, that's your name, right? Do you have any idea of what you've done?" Bella knew. She knew everything and she had run screaming.

"I've told her the truth about you and your whole fucking family! And you! I've heard about Edward Cullen, the bad Cullen, the killer Cullen." He saw my red eyes and they filled him with contempt.

"You fucking fool! You've just signed her death warrant!"

"You'll never touch her!" he bristled.

"Ha! I'll be the last of her worries! What did you think? That those in power are going to just let her walk around with this knowledge? You have killed her as surely as a knife to the heart."

A flash of uncertainty crossed his mind, but he hid his doubts. "We can protect our own."

"Oh you can, can you? You have no idea of the sleeping dragon you are waking." The idiot didn't realize the power wielded by the Volturi. With Caius's supposed antipathy towards wolves, bringing Volturi attention to the Quileutes could well be their undoing. "Your whole tribe will be destroyed. It'll make Wounded Knee look like a tea party.”

“I don’t care if a thousand of you leeches show up! We know how to take care of your kind. I won’t let you hurt Bella.”

“Me hurt Bella? I didn’t impregnate her and then leave her to the butchers’ knives!”

His anger and shame made him mindless. Unthinking, with a roar, he flew towards me, quicker than I imagined. His momentum carried both us backwards as we grappled, crashing into the sofa, flipping it before I brought my foot between us and shoved him flying across the room, through the doorway into the bedroom where he slammed against the bed. He pushed himself away from it at the same time as his body exploded.

I jumped to my feet in a defensive crouch as his clothing burst outwards in shreds, and a huge wolf suddenly shook itself as the last of the shimmers accompanying his transformation traveled from nose to tail. He stood on just the other side of the doorway, huge and brawny, his lips curling as a thunderous growl traveled up through his chest into a savage snarl, revealing canine teeth longer than my hand. The Quileute in his human form would have been easily dispatched, but this monster would be challenging, especially in this small space, where his brute mass would cancel out my superior speed. I saw his back legs tense and then he sprang forward, taking out the edges of the door frame with his huge bulk as splintered wood went flying. It didn't even slow him, however, as he bounded toward me, his white teeth snapping.

I waited, listening to his intentions, until he was almost upon me, and then with clasped hands backhanded him across the muzzle. He went flying in an arc across the room, smashing the TV set to the floor and crushing the bookshelves. The walls bounced with his impact and the picture on the wall above him jumped from its nail and crashed onto the wolf's back.

He got up a little slower this time, and I could hear him start to strategize in his mind. Now was when he'd become even more dangerous as he used his mind to augment his speed and strength. Growling, his lip still curling, he rose to his paws. Staying just out of range, he shuffled to the left and then the right, testing my defenses in the cramped room of the apartment, stepping through the pieces of Bella’s broken furniture like they were matchsticks. I crouched, watching him and shadowing his moves, acutely aware of his long teeth. These shape shifters were probably the only living things that were a danger to vampires, besides other vampires. The deep, rumbling growling emanating from his chest matched my own.

I could use his anger against him. It would make him too quick to attack, too full of rage to think. "You had Bella and you tossed her away,” I hissed. “Tossed her away like she was nothing.”

Not true. Lies. Always lies from your kind. The growling and rumbling in his chest grew louder, though, evidence that my words were hitting home.

“She is mine, dog. We spent all of last night together. She said I was the best she’d ever had,” I taunted, trying to make him lose control.

NO! His rage wouldn’t let him listen any longer. He pounced again, incredibly fast, driving me against the wall, my body denting the plaster deeply. I grabbed at the fur on his ruff while his deadly jaws snapped just inches from my face. Desperately I held him off while his superior mass pushed against mine, bringing his long, sharp, glistening canines closer and closer.

Finally, I threw him off, but not before he twisted, raking his teeth along my arm, shredding the sleeve of my shirt and ripping long tears in my arm. Time to take this outdoors, I thought, where I could use my superior speed. I counter-attacked him as he stumbled against the overturned sofa, punching him once in the ribs. I was rewarded by the crunch of bones as ribs cracked against the force of my fist.

He whirled, bringing those fierce teeth too close to me. I stumbled backwards, dodging them by inches. Turning around and pushing off furiously, I dived through the kitchen, exploding through the back door like a cannon ball. Curling into a ball as I landed in the back yard, I heard the glass and wood following my momentum into the yard, tinkling around me as I pulled out of the somersault.

I rose and, crouching, faced the splintered door where he stood just inside the apartmen looking out. He was aware that it was still late afternoon, and the yards of several other houses abutted this one. Even now, I could hear the thoughts of some of the nearby neighbors wondering about the crashing sounds coming from Bella Swan’s duplex.

Ha! I could be easily dismissed by onlookers as a rowdy teenager, but the appearance of a giant wolf in the neighborhood would surely raise some eyebrows.

Hold on Jake! We’re coming! I took a half step back, astonished at the sound of other voices inside the wolf’s head. He’s here at Bella’s, Jake answered the voices. We’re fighting.

On our way. Save a piece of him for us. Fucking filth. There were several other voices inside Jake’s head. I’d never realized the shape shifters had telepathy in wolf form, and it must be over surprisingly long distances, as their thoughts indicated that some of them were back in Forks. There were several that were closer, though, and their thoughts winked out as they phased back into human form to rush to Jake’s aid.

“Stay here, you cowardly mutt, while I go find Bella. I’m sure the elders will be interested in how you broke the treaty,” I sneered.

The giant wolf growled low in his chest. You broke the treaty the minute you entered Forks. She knows what you are now. She’ll never accept you.

“We’ll see, won’t we?” It was just too easy to taunt him. “She had a taste last night, she’ll be back for more,” I jeered with a confidence I didn’t have. I had no idea what kind of reception I would receive when I caught up with her.

Again, my words had pushed him over the edge. Without forethought, he sprang from where he was, flying across the small bit of yard before I anticipated. I leaped to the side but not fast enough; his shoulder caught me, and I was bowled to the ground, even as he was thrown off balance.

Like choreographed dancers, we jumped up together, and I could hear his internal wince at the pain of his damaged ribs. Here in the yard I could move, and like a fighter, I danced in and out, dodging his snapping teeth, landing a kick on his shoulder and then his back haunches. Even through the pain of the punishment I was meting on him, he continued to try attacking, but each time his jaws would close on the space which I had just left. Finally, he stood, a lupine monster incongruent in this urban back yard, panting heavily, unable to move with the broken bones. I delivered one last massive kick to his side, and he fell heavily over, unable to rise.

I approached him and stomped once more on his shoulder, hearing his bones crunch satisfyingly under my foot. “I will leave you alive, dog, because Bella wishes it. Just remember you owe her your life.”

In his head, I heard the voices of the others as they realized that Jake had been bested. He’s down! Faster, we must be faster! I swear, I’ll rip that bloodsucker apart bit by bit. If Jake is harmed, I’ll kill that leech and then Bella for her part in this!

Threats to Bella? Suddenly, I was scared for her. If war was starting between the vampires and the Quileutes, would they assume she had picked sides? What would they do to her?

Crumpled on the lawn, Jake whimpered slightly, his thoughts incoherent. Just before unconsciousness took him, the shimmering I had seen earlier started again, and I stepped back in amazement as his form shrunk and diminished into the curled form of a naked young man lying on his side.

Quickly, I surveyed the area. We had attracted more than a little notice; several souls were peeking timidly from behind their windows, dumbstruck by what they saw. It was well past time I was away. I looked down at Jake’s broken body; he’d have some healing to do, but his heart was still strong and even now his tribe was coming to his rescue.

I closed my eyes and, breathing deeply, surveyed the area for Bella’s scent. She had passed through here not long ago, and I started to follow the trail of that scent, running through the neighborhoods, following that aroma, still beautiful but tainted with the fear and panic she’d been feeling.

I came to a busy cross street, and a jolt of fear for her passed through me as I caught sight of where her scent trail headed. Damn. The last place I wanted to see her spilling secrets. The church.