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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?


28. Chapter 28 The Nature Of Being

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3863   Review this Chapter

Edward

This is wrong. This is so wrong. Bella was slipping away from me, and I was clueless about how to stop it. She belongs with me. I should be with her. Protecting her, loving her. She feels it too. I know she does. I saw it in her eyes when she came to my room.

But she wasn’t letting her heart lead her. This was about her faith; I knew it was. If I could have pried open her mind with my fingers−and I sincerely wished that I could−I was sure I would find it full of images of cathedrals, rosaries and crucifixions. A hot pang of jealousy made my hands clench involuntarily around the steering wheel. I wished that I could call Christ from his throne and wrestle Him for her, because at least then I could fight for her. Instead I was watching her slide away like a receding tide, and the sense of helplessness I felt was nearly suffocating.

We were in the Vanquish again, speeding south towards Forks. Jasper and Alice were tailing us in Jasper’s Camaro. We could have ridden with them, but selfishly, I wanted this time to be alone with Bella. Her face was pensive and her skin tones were cooled by the reflected light off the dashboard. The road was dark except for the very occasional streetlight. In this stretch of British Columbia, the highway was quiet and straight, and I let the Vanquish race through the dark like a thrown knife.

I felt like I was literally being torn in two. There was a jagged pain that extended from my chest downward at the thought we only had hours left. We belong together. She has to be mine. I knew it more surely than anything I had known in my one hundred and nine years. Glamour her, a part of my brain whispered. Oh, I wanted to. The temptation to make her bend to my will was almost overpowering. It was becoming all mixed up in the bloodlust, which had started to burn in earnest, until just the incessant need for her seemed a black hole in my soul, sucking everything into its gravity, except the one thing I could not have.

I glanced over at her. She had her face turned to her window watching the dark borders of the forest fly past us. You could kill again. Isn’t she worth it? Another temptation. I had done it once before to be with her. But how could I hold her in my arms knowing this was my primary reason for taking a man’s life? I’d made Jerry’s father a promise; I’d made myself a promise. And if I broke that promise, it would only drive me further and further away from being the person I wanted to be−the person I had to be−if I was to be with her. I would be back out there among the psychos and sociopaths, more worthless than before.

Miserable, I couldn’t help myself. “You must be glad to be going home,” I said coldly. “To get away from all the monsters.” There I said it. If she wouldn’t say it, then I would. I was monstrous−beyond monstrous even.

“No,” she said softly, not looking at me. “No, I’m not.”

“Oh? And why would that be?” I asked disdainfully.

But she knew me better than I had realized. She looked at me with eyes shiny with tears. “You know why,” she said, her voice tremulous.

I waited for her to go on. She was the one who’d said no. She needed to face what that was going to mean.

“Because even if you’re one of the undead,” she whispered, “when I’m with you, I am more alive than I’ve ever been.”

I groaned softly with the jagged pain running through me. For her to admit these things to me brought back in sharp relief my feelings of despair and frustration. I had to turn my face and look out my side window, but I could see her reflection in the glass, and I couldn’t stop myself from watching her.

“You make me realize I’ve been hiding,” she said.

“Hiding?” It took work to keep my tone calm and even.

She nodded. “From the life I used to have. From everyone that knew me. From pain.”

I turned to her. “I did that?”

Her eyes seemed huge; in this dim light her pupils were large and black, just as I imagined mine were. “Your litany,” she said. “We all have a reason to mourn.”

I didn’t understand how she related to the list that I felt like I had carved into my heart. That was my private penance and I felt a spasm of anger that she had been a witness to that.

“You have been hiding, you know,” I said matter-of-factly. I hated myself for saying the words even as they were coming out of my mouth. Was I really going to rip this comfort from her? “What are you doing in churches all the time? You are a young woman. You should be out living your life, not on your knees praying about it.”

“It’s safe there,” she whispered.

“Life shouldn’t be safe. It should be exhilarating, intense and full of passion. Not safe.” I shook my head disdainfully, wondering if any of this was furthering my cause with her at all. “What would be the point of living?”

She raised her chin, a gesture I was coming to recognize as a warning that I was pushing her too far. “Your litany, is that exhilarating?”

“Touche,” I admitted.

“We all hide,” she said. “Sometimes we hide from the pain we know is coming by blindly striking out.”

I glanced over at her to see her large, liquid umber eyes on me. She had my number, I had to admit. How could someone know me so well in so little time?

I turned back to the road, thinking furiously. Think, Edward, think! How could I change her mind? What would be her motives for saying no? Was it just fear of the word vampire? Was it the diet of a vampire? She knew that animal blood could sustain us. Yes, she was scared of our nature, and she had every right to be. But I didn’t think that was it. She’d surprised me more than once with her strength of will. There were reserves of courage and resolve in her, and she’d used them to overcome her initial fear. It had been enough to let her mind start to work and excite her curiosity in learning about me.

Of course, my nature bothered her. It wasn’t an easy burden I carried. “If I were just a man, a regular man, would that have made a difference?”

“Of course,” she said, sniffing.

“Even if I had killed so many?”

“Even then,” she said intensely. “There is forgiveness for everyone.”

I reached across to run a finger down her cheek. It was like touching the heart of a star. “There is forgiveness for you, too.”

She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. “We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?” she asked, her voice muffled as she rested her forehead on her knees.

“We are,” I said, trying to make her understand. “We are a pair, Bella. Believe that. I do.”

“I don’t know what I believe anymore,” she whispered underneath the hair that had fallen over her face.

“Believe this, then. There will never be another like you for me.”

“Nor you for me,” she said without looking up.

I reached over and took Bella’s warm hand in my own, unable to keep from making physical contact with her. We were both silenced by the prospect that we might not have much more time together. We traveled miles, holding hands, trying to find comfort and strength in the other’s touch.

“Talk to me, Bella,” I finally pleaded. “Tell me about something you love.” I glanced at her, becoming aware that her eyes were brimming with tears.

“I can’t,” she whispered, her voice thick with unshed tears. She let her hair fall down between us like a curtain.

“Please,” I entreated. I brushed her hair back behind her shoulder so I could see her face. “Pretend we’re driving home from Charlie’s.”

She sniffed violently. I opened the glove box where I kept some paper towels for the car’s dipstick and handed her one.

She blew her nose loudly into the paper towel. She then balled it into her fist and looked at me with her chin trembling. “I am just trying to follow Christ’s words. Trying to be a good Christian.”

“I know, Bella, I know.” I could feel my face twist with grief. I hated that I was causing this pain in her. No matter which way I turned or twisted, I seemed to cause her pain. On the other hand, she was breaking me on the wheel of her denial, and although I was trying to keep our last hours together from dissolving into a deep well of misery, I didn’t seem to be succeeding for either of us.

“People are supposed to get old and die. Then they go to heaven to be with God. It’s the natural order of things.”

“Yes, it is,” I agreed, sighing. ”You don’t need to remind me of how unnatural I am.”

“So why do I feel like I am making the biggest mistake of my life?” she wailed, breaking into heartrending sobbing.

I pulled the car over to the shoulder. Holding her hand just wasn’t going to do it. I was out my door, around to hers and pulling her from the seat almost instantaneously. I gathered her in my arms where she sobbed against my chest.

Jasper pulled to the edge of the road behind us and killed his lights. Bella and I stood, clutching each other, in the dark by the side of the road somewhere in western Canada.

“Sh-h-h,” I said, holding her close and stroking her hair. I didn’t know what else to say. As much as I wanted her−needed her−this was a decision that she had to make. It would be the only gift I could give her. It was beyond doubt, that hardest thing I had ever granted to anyone.

“Why?” she sobbed into my chest. “I don’t understand why God would do this.”

I looked at the night sky, the stars wheeling above our heads. “I know God doesn’t care about me,” I said through clenched teeth, “but it’s killing me that He does this to you.”

“Of course He cares about you,” she sniffed.

“I don’t believe that,” I said softly.

She leaned back to stare into my eyes. “Well, I do.”

“Almost,” I said, “you make me want to believe. But how can I when He has brought us together only to tear us apart?”

“It’s you, it’s you,” she sobbed. “None of this would make any difference if it wasn’t you.”

“I know,” I whispered while her warm tears soaked my shirt. “I can’t ask you to abandon your God.” The image of her in church praying came back to haunt me. There had been something so pure, so serene in her face then. I couldn’t ask her to abandon God for me. I couldn’t ask her to renounce everything she’d ever known and loved, could I?The sudden weight of what I had asked her to do fell on me then, and I felt crushed by my own selfishness. She was right to go on living her life. It was plain; I didn’t deserve her.

She gradually began to calm. “Do vampires cry?” she asked, her voice muffled into my shirt.

“We can’t. There are no tears left.”

“That’s the way my eyes feel,” she said. She raised her face, and I saw how puffy her eyes were. Her nose was red and the skin on her face was blotchy. So much beautiful humanity. I reached in the car window and grabbed a paper towel, blotting at her tears.

“You are crying for both of us,” I said. I brought my hand to her face and kissed her closed eyelids tenderly, tasting the delicious saltiness of her tears and fighting the desire to crush her to me. And as I kissed her, and then cradled her head against my chest, I listened to her heart, every beat reminding me that time was passing, and we had so little of it left.

We had crossed into the States by a back road near Surrey that circumvented the customs booth, and we were nearing Seattle when Bella shifted restlessly in her seat. “So you think it’s just to make sure I’m okay that the Quileutes want to see me?”

“That’s what Alice and Jasper heard Sam say to Carlisle.”

“Sam? Sam Uley?”

“He’s the Alpha, the head of the pack.”

She shook her head, sighing. “I knew it. Of course, now it makes sense.”

“What does?”

“Sam is the head of the wolf pack. I bet Paul is a part if it too. They were always calling Jacob, taking him out until late at night. He’d come home smelling like cut grass and the forest and roll into bed just as dawn was breaking.”

Another reason to hate the Quileute. His stupidity in letting Bella slip through his fingers only reinforced my already despicably low opinion of him. “We’ll show them you’re okay and let them skulk back home,” I said, trying to be reassuring. “Although I hope that Carlisle presses them for some kind of disciplinary action. They broke the treaty after all. We’d harmed no one on their turf when Jacob went all ballistic.”

“Disciplinary action? Against who? Jacob?”

“He’s the one that broke the treaty,” I pointed out. “He’s risked your life with knowledge he had no business sharing. What was he thinking, phasing like that in front of you?”

“I think,” she said, giving him more credit than he deserved, “he was just trying to protect me.”

“Well, it was wrong,” I said, unwilling to hear how she was defending him. He had no defense, in my book. “There are consequences, serious consequences.”

“At least he gave me the truth,” she whispered.

A sudden spasm of anger crossed me. “Truth, Bella? You want the truth?” The truth is Bella, I don’t want to go on without you. “The truth is he recklessly endangered you, something I was trying to avoid.”

“And now you will be leaving me, so as not to endanger me,” she said.

There was a world of sadness in her voice and I felt it settle on my shoulders like Atlas. “Yes.”

Her face was grave as she looked at me. “It’s that bad?”

I inhaled a long breath through my nose, suddenly conscious of the aroma, recognizing finally that perhaps a part of my irritation tonight had been because I had to constantly fight against doing what it demanded of me. The scent was becoming overwhelming again, as my throat, my whole body started to ache for a taste of that blood. Her heart thudded quietly, in time, reminding me−as though I needed reminding−of the red ecstasy running through her veins. Thoughts began to flicker through my mind of pulling the car over to the side of the road, luring her into the woods, or even just taking her in the front seat and nuzzling into her neck where the pulse point quivered. I pushed the thoughts away from me, recognizing that it was getting harder to do so. “Yes,” I answered her quietly, “it’s that bad.”

It was nearing midnight as we got into Forks. We drove down the curved driveway, and the house came into view. I heard Bella’s heart rate speed up and her breathing quicken. “Don’t be afraid, Bella. No one will harm you.”

She shrugged, exaggerating an off-hand attitude. “Oh sure, this is just your average meet and greet with a coven of vampires.”

I was heartened by her sarcasm. It meant her mind was in gear and working. “Please, they prefer to be called a family. It’s what we are.”

Carlisle and Esme came down the steps as we got out of the car. I put my arm around Bella protectively. “Carlisle, Esme. This is Bella. Bella, you know my father, Carlisle and this is Esme."

“How nice to meet you, Bella,” Esme said, ever the gracious hostess even under circumstances like these. “We’re so grateful you agreed to come.”

“Good to see you, Bella,” Carlisle said.

Bella swallowed and nodded. “Hello."

Carlisle ignored Bella’s slight hesitation but his eyes flicked to mine. How is she doing with all of this?

Bella didn’t see as I shrugged my shoulders to say, Not so good.

Jasper’s Camaro pulled into park behind my car as Emmett and Rosalie came out of the house.

“Hey, Bella, how you doing?” Emmett said, grinning broadly, coming down the stairs. “So what do you think of all this? Pretty cool, huh?”

“Emmett,” Rose reprimanded, as she descended the steps behind him. “Give the girl a break, huh?”

“Come on, Rose,” he said. “Bella can handle it. She always struck me as tough.”

“Don’t listen to him, Bella,” Rosalie said. “We understand it can be overwhelming.”

“That’s a bit of an understatement,” Bella said ruefully, which caused Emmett and the others to chuckle.

“Well, we have to thank you for coming,” Carlisle said. “We are trying to keep relations with the Quileutes normalized, and well, when they felt you were threatened, it’s understandable they want to verify your safety.”

“Are you sure that’s all they want?” I asked Carlisle so quickly that the words would have been unintelligible to human ears.

They understand that one of their members broke the treaty. He has some special ties to Bella. Out loud Carlisle added, “If it’s alright, we’ll head for the treaty line in a few minutes, then Bella can show herself and we should be done.” Is she willing to be changed? Carlisle asked me.

I had to turn my face away, while I shook my head ever so slightly.

Ah, son, I am so sorry.

“Bella, won’t you come inside?” Esme asked. “I’m sure after that drive you could use a drink and a little freshening.”

“Thank you,” Bella said. She glanced up at me.

“I’ll be right in,” I assured her, as Esme took her arm.

“So,” Esme said as she led her up the stairs to the house, “I hear you were in school with Alice and Jasper.”

“They were in the same class as me,” Bella answered as Esme held the door for her. I gave her an encouraging smile, knowing that Esme had a gift of making people feel welcome and at ease.

“I was so sure you had already turned her,” Rosalie said to me when Bella was beyond the reach of our voices. “Then we’d really be fucked.”

“I can hardly stand smelling her; you really think I’d have the control to turn her?” I asked bitterly. If I'd felt it was a viable option, I would have considered it.

“Looks like you were doing more than smelling her when we arrived,” Jasper said as he and Alice joined us.

“Is that so?” Emmett asked, grinning and looking at me with eyebrows raised.

“So what is your plan?” Carlisle asked. “If she won’t be turned.”

Good for her, Rosalie thought, her chin jutted slightly, knowing I would hear.

“I don’t know,” I said, shooting Rosalie a look. “She’s going to need some kind of protection. Unfortunately, she told her confessor about what she knew.”

“Confessor?” Jasper asked.

“Her Catholic priest,” I explained.

Carlisle’s breath hissed as he sucked it between his teeth. “That’s not good.”

“Yes, and he has some tie to the Volturi,” I added.

“She’ll have to run,” Jasper said.

“She’d have to run pretty far to escape the Volturi,” Alice said.

“The wolves made this mess,” Rosalie said. “Why don’t they protect her?”

I opened my mouth to protest, but snapped it shut as Carlisle’s thoughts reached me. It makes sense. They’re obviously concerned about her. They’re the one group I’ve seen that might hold off some of the Volturi guard if they came looking.

“Never,” I hissed.

“Seems like you’re running out of choices,” Jasper said.

“Just give me some time,” I argued. “Let’s get this midnight meeting over with and I’ll figure something out.”

I turned and climbed the steps while the others drifted along behind me.

Wolves.This should be fun. That was Emmett.

Really Edward. You need to be more careful. Gee, thanks Rosalie.

Seventeen forty-four. One thousand seven hundred forty-four.

That stopped me. I stood back and held the door, letting the others enter before me. Alice was last and her eyes had that faraway look they got when she in mid-vision. I checked to see what it was she was seeing. There was the interference from the wolves again, but on the other side of that, an echo was ringing with that number.

That was not a good sign, since my last victim had been one thousand seven hundred and forty-three. Alice and I paused, looking at each other briefly before entering the house. I didn’t ask anything and she didn’t either. Senselessly, some part of me hoped that if I didn’t formulate the thought of what that could mean, I could deny it from coming into existence.

We mulled around for a few minutes. Jasper emerged from the hall closet and handed out raincoats, saying rain was on its way.

That sounded like prophecy. “Alice?” I asked him, donning the calf-length black duster he gave me.

“Weather channel,” he smirked before giving Bella a borrowed yellow slicker.

Emmett and Rosalie took Bella and me out to the treaty line in the jeep. The rest chose to run there; it was not a far distance.

We bounced along a bumpy track for a while before pulling up in a meadow. I opened Bella’s door and she slid out slowly. “It’s so dark,” Bella said, almost whispering. “I can hardly see my hand in front of my face.”

“Put the lights back on,” Rosalie said to Emmett, and the headlights returned to flare against the night. Their lights seemed to create a wall of mist in front of us; the humidity was thick and a drizzle had begun.

Carlisle and Esme, Alice and Jasper came walking out of the tree line that bordered the east side of the field. With their hoods pulled up, they looked like street corner thugs, and I could feel Bella tremble under the arm I had wrapped around her shoulders.

Carlisle pulled his hood back and approached us. “How are you doing, Bella? Holding up?”

She tightened her lips and nodded.

Esme patted her arm. “You’re doing great, honey.”

Beyond the pitter-patter of a light rain hitting the trees, there was a rustle in the underbrush from the west side. Ten sets of eyes from the undergrowth reflected the lights of the car.

“The wolves are here,” Esme whispered.