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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?


33. Chapter 33 I Am Delivered

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3822   Review this Chapter

Edward

Bella's waking! I sped toward home, running straight out, reckless of anyone that might see me. I was moving so fast, though, human eyes couldn't have tracked me. Of course, I left the house for an hour and as fate would have it, that's when she would wake.

Alice hadn't been able to predict when Bella would rise, perhaps another side effect of the wolf bite. Carlisle had spoken with the Quileutes, looking for some clues on how our chemistry mixed with theirs, but they were as much in the dark as we were. At the moment, I didn't care at all. Bella was waking and I needed to be there.

I only slowed once when I had to remove my boots; my speed was burning through the leather. I ran through the park, faster than I'd ever pushed myself before. The events that had just passed in the church I pushed aside in my mind. I had no idea how to interpret them, and my concern now was immediate: how was Bella? Was she all right?

I was up the stairs and staring at the empty day bed before the front screen door even swung shut. I could smell Bella, but she wasn't there. Unexpectedly, from the corner, I heard a shy "Hello."

She was sitting in the overstuffed chair in the corner, her hands in her lap. She was beautiful, she was radiant, she was the epitome of everything I had ever hoped or dreamed for. It was Bella, with the flawless skin and crimson eyes of a newborn. They had dressed her in a blue shirt and pants, and it brought out the porcelain delicacy of her skin and contrasted against the rich, warm brown of her hair massed around her shoulders.

"Hello," I said cautiously as one might do around a nervous cat. I was almost afraid to make a sudden move−she might somehow disappear and the impossible dream I was in would end. "How are you feeling?"

Her face twitched minutely. "Good," she said as if just now assessing herself. "Odd, but good."

Relief broke open my heart and ran through my body like a dam bursting. I fell to my knees in front of her and wrapped my arms around her hips, laying my head on her lap. I closed my eyes, overcome with the knowledge she was here with me; she was awake and alive. I whispered, "I've missed you."

She bent over my head and kissed the side of my face, combing my hair with her fingers. "I'm here now."

I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, delighted that her scent was as complex and as fragrant as the day I met her in church. Some of the deeper, tangier undernotes were gone, and the blood lust no longer leapt forward when I drank it in; instead it had acquired these delicate and cool top notes that pulled at me. I realized as I raised my head and looked in her eyes that she smelled like love to me, love that was consuming and consummate, total and irreversible.

There was a shadow in her eyes. "I thought you would be here when I woke."

"I was here for the last five days," I explained. "But then I had to leave for an hour to go feed Darcy and of course, that's when you wake."

"Darcy!" she exclaimed. "How is she? Is she okay?"

"She's fine," I said, smiling at her concern. "I'm definitely not a favorite of hers, though. For a little thing, she's a spitfire."

She was gazing at me, as still as only vampires can be. "I never…" she breathed.

"What?" I asked. I realized her mind was still as silent to me as she had always been. It was right, though. It had always been right. I would have lifetimes to get to know this woman, and I would need them all. She would always be able to surprise me, and for immortal creatures, that was a very good quality.

"I knew you were fantastically handsome before," she breathed as she trailed her fingers down my face. "But you are so…"

Her fingers laid a trail of sparks down my skin and ignited my joy, which welled up, thrilling me and creating the undeniable need to move. In one swift move, I plucked her by the waist from the chair she was sitting in and swung her in a full circle around me. "You're here, you're here!" I cried, laughing, unable to believe that fortune had finally smiled on me.

She laughed as I spun her around, her hair flying behind her like a flag of victory. I set her on her feet and we gazed breathlessly at each other.

"You're really feeling okay?" I asked.

She moved up against me. "More than okay, now that you're here."

I pulled her up tight to me, reveling in being able to hug her as I wanted to without fear of harming her. Gone was the fragile, burning heat of her humanness against my skin, but it had been replaced by something so sublimely right that I didn't miss it at all. I ran my fingers down her cheek, and she closed her eyes and leaned into it.

Although her crimson eyes would label her a newborn, I was the one feeling reborn. There was a certainty I'd never felt, a rightness suffusing every cell of my body that told me that here, by this woman's side, was where I was meant to be and the last hundred odd years had merely been the road to this moment and from where it would lead us.

I took her face in my hands, while she looked up at me with smiling eyes. I kissed her right eye, her left eye, and then her lips. Thank you, thank you, I sent a prayer of gratitude into the ether. This was the miracle right here, that I could hold her in my arms.

I heard the thoughts of my family, gathered in different parts of the house. Alice thought Jasper looked so happy he was almost glowing, and Rosalie was laughing in Emmett's arms. Esme was ecstatic that Bella had come through, while Carlisle was relieved that the forced change on Bella seemed to have produced no adverse symptoms.

"Come with me," I said, leading her by the hand to the long French windows that overlooked the meadow. Selfishly, I wanted some privacy with her; my family would have a turn soon enough. She would probably need to hunt as well.

She stood by the edge of the window. "What?" She was confused as she leaned out to look at the drop to the ground. I remembered how it took a while to get used to the enhanced capabilities, so I swept her up in my arms and jumped, thoroughly enjoying the yelp she let out on the way down.

"I keep forgetting you can do that kind of stuff," she said, laughing once I had touched down on the ground.

She felt so good in my arms, I didn't want to put her down. "You can do that stuff now, too, you know. Actually, you're stronger now than any of us."

She frowned at me. "I am?"

"It's an effect from being newly made. It'll fade, but you'll always be immeasurably stronger and faster than humans." Reluctantly, I set her on her feet.

Her face got serious. "Because we're predators, right?"

"Predators, yes. But we have a choice of who or what we prey on. Not an easy choice, but a choice all the same."

"I can't even imagine..." she said, shaking her head.

'What? Taking a life?"

She nodded.

"Hold on to that. It will keep your humanity, even if you're no longer a human."

She stared at the ground, lost in thought. I came up behind her and put my hands on her shoulders. "You're still who you've always been. There's just a new set of instincts."

She turned and looked at me. I could see the fear in her eyes. "Instincts?"

"I know this is all strange and new, but I'll be here every moment. We'll get through this together." I pulled her into my arms. I loved the way her head came up to just my shoulders. It let me kiss the top of her head easily and she seemed petite and delicate in my arms. It brought out these protective feelings in me; I wanted to shield her from all the ugliness of our existence.

We stepped out into the field behind the house, heading toward the forest. The sun was sinking in the sky, creating shadows across the field.

Bella walked among the tall grasses that glistened golden in the afternoon sun, holding her palms parallel to the ground and letting the tops of the stalks brush them. "It's so beautiful," she murmured. "It's like I'm seeing the world for the first time."

"In a way, you are," I said, smiling as she looked back over her shoulder at me. The sun caught her cheek, making her glow. It almost took my breath away. "Your vision is much more acute now."

"You're right," she said in wonder. She glanced at the tree line in front of us. "There's a flock of starlings in those trees."

In the dark line of trees a hundred feet way, the shadows were hanging low and dark. It took even me a minute to find the small huddled shapes clustered among the branches. "If you listen for them," I said, "you'll be able to hear them."

She cocked her head. "I do! I hear them!" She paused a moment longer. "There are squirrels over there," she said, pointing to the south, "and a larger animal in the underbrush over there."

"A fox," I confirmed. "You'll learn their scents."

She closed her eyes and raised her face into the wind. "It's incredible," she murmured. "There is so much…more."

"I want to show you everything," I said, planning the places we would go. I had so much I wanted to show her. I had over eighty years of wandering that I would share with her; together we would revisit the secret grottoes of the Amazon, the great cities of Europe, and the deserts where the bones of civilization poked through the sand like skeletons of bygone eras.

"I can hear the traffic on Route 101," she said, but it didn't really register with me. I was too overcome with my plans and watching the way her features changed with the shadows as she moved her face from side to side.

Finally, the time had come where I could express the most important sentiment that could be shared just between the two of us. "I love you," I said, and my heart was so full, I felt that with the next moment I would turn into a column of light, that this heavy, sturdy body I was in was too corporeal to hold the emotions I was having.

She turned to me, and I gasped with wonder at her beauty. Just the shape of her gently arched eyebrows, the curve of her cheek, and the delicate bow of her lips had me entranced. That she was mine−my mate, my companion−was almost too much for me to grasp.

Behind her, I heard the rumble of a delivery truck in the driveway as it pulled into the front of the house.

"I love you, too," she whispered as she stepped into my arms. I kissed her tenderly, sweetly, holding back the passion I felt. There was time now, plenty of time, to consummate our love and for once, that was enough.

She stepped back from me, her brows furrowed, her hands at her throat. "What is that smell?" she wondered, her voice suddenly hoarse.

I froze in alarm. There was the scent of human; a human was making a delivery to our front door, and suddenly Bella was in pain and gripped by bloodlust. I knew that newborn instinct would take over and Bella would be helpless before it.

"What is that smell?" she demanded, her eyes glazing over. She whirled around and raised her face to the wind; this time her movements were quick and predatory. I grabbed her shoulders and tried to lead her farther into the forest.

"You must try to ignore it," I said soothingly. "It will be gone soon. Come with me now−"

"No!" she cried, shaking my arms from her shoulders. "That smell!" She whirled, insanely fast, and started for the house. Unless I stopped her now, that delivery man was as good as dead; self-control was not a strength of newborns.

I leaped at her back and managed to bring her down. Together we rolled on the ground, the grasses bending beneath us. "Bella," I commanded. "Listen to me! You must ignore it, you−"

"Ignore it?" she cried. "What is it? I have to find out what it is." She struggled beneath me. She had the strength of a newborn, and it was only experience that was allowing me to hold on to her.

"Emmett! Carlisle! Help!" I called, hoping they would hear me and help restrain Bella. She was beginning to flail wildly, and I tucked my head down, holding her waist, as we wrestled on the ground.

"Let me go, damn you! Let me go!" She got a foot planted between us, and with a tremendous thrust, she threw me into the air. Swiftly, she rolled on the ground and scrambled to her feet.

She was suddenly slammed back, in a tackle that would have made the NFL proud. Emmett's momentum carried her backwards, and they hit the ground together. Jasper and Carlisle were right behind Emmett, and they pounced on the wriggling bodies as well. I joined them, grabbing Bella's left arm in both of my own, while Emmett held down her right arm as Jasper and Carlisle each grabbed a leg.

We held Bella, while she screamed in frustration. She begged us to let her go; her hoarse pleas were heartrending. "Emmett, please, I just want to see. I have to, please let me go. I need to see, I need to find it, please, please."

I tried to reason with her, but I should have known she was beyond reach. Watching her, we all were reminded of our first time, dealing with the unyielding demands and unquenchable burning of the blood lust. It took time to learn how to develop the discipline to deal with it, a fact I knew all too well.

She started to scream incoherently with rage and frustration, struggling against us. The four of us held on to her, not letting her up. She cursed at me once, and it was almost more than I could bear. I was tempted to sit back and let her have what she was screaming for. Carlisle saw my wavering, and urged me to hold firm. Don't let her do something she will regret later, Edward. You must be her strength for her when she can't summon it.

The delivery truck drove away, taking the human scent with it. Gradually, intelligence returned to Bella's eyes and she became still, her eyes closed and her mouth turned down. Jasper sat back. "She's okay now," he said, and the rest of us released her limbs. She curled to her side away from me, hiding her face under her hair.

"Bella," Carlisle said. "Don't blame yourself. We were all like that."

She said nothing, just rolled to her stomach and buried her head in her arms. "She wants to be alone," Jasper said, standing.

"Very well, then," Carlisle said, rising. "It'll take time, Bella, but you'll find a way to deal with human scent. We'll be here to help you."

"Don't worry about it, Bella, we've all been there," Emmett said to her still figure before they turned back to the house.

I stayed crouched by Bella's side. She stayed face down in the grasses, not raising her head. The starlings had fled to quieter territory, and the shadows reached across the field.

"Is it always like that?" Her voice was muffled by her arms.

"In some ways, yes," I answered. "It becomes easier with time to control your reactions to it. But the desire will always be there."

"What would have happened if you let me go?" she asked, not raising her head.

"You'd have been unable to stop yourself. The first time is always the worst. You don't know what you're fighting."

She rolled to her side and looked at me. The sorrow in her eyes was inexpressible. "I'd have killed–whoever that was?"

I nodded.

"My throat felt like it was literally on fire, and finding that smell was the only way to stop it." She swallowed uncomfortably. "It still burns."

"Hunting will help." I rose to my feet, but she stayed where she was.

"Does everybody smell like that?"

I nodded again. "There are individual differences, of course."

She sat up and put her arms around her knees. "Did I smell like that?"

I crouched next to her. "Worse, much, much worse," I said, smiling.

She grimaced. "Thanks." I was glad to see her sense of humor was intact. She picked at a long straw of grass. "Is it going to be like that with everybody?" she asked, not looking at me.

"Yes," I said. "You'll always feel the thirst. It's the constant of our existence. We don't talk about it, but it's there, nevertheless."

"How am I going to work? What about Charlie?"

"For now, you'll need some time away. When you're ready, we can come back and visit if you like."

"We?" she said, still keeping her eyes on the ground.

"We, Bella." It occurred to me she was still uncertain of her future with me. I shifted so I was in front of her. I took her hand in my own, trying to impress her with the strength of my conviction. Her eyes finally lifted to mine. "I don't make empty promises. Whatever is mine is yours. Wherever you go, I will follow. I'm bound to you in some way I don't even understand. I only know my hope for happiness is here, by your side."

"Oh, Edward," she breathed, putting her hand to my face. I twisted to kiss her palm. "I have nothing to give you. I'm still trying to figure out what you see in me."

"You gave me your life. Now I'm trying to give you mine."

This was the kiss I had been waiting for. She threw her arms around my neck and together we melted into the grass. Transcendent, such an ordinary word, yet it was the only one that came to mind. It was beyond the physical sensations; it was like holding joy in my arms, joy that I could touch and feel.

But trapped as I was in a corporal body, it also had reactions to her closeness. She broke our kiss, glanced down where we were pressed together and smiled wickedly. She was truly newborn, easily distracted, and while I loved that about her, I could also hear Esme and Rosalie watching from the windows of the house.

I glanced at the house. "Perhaps we should take a walk a bit further into the trees."

"All right," she said, rolling off of me but not rising.

"Let's take you hunting," I said. "It will ease the burning."

"What will we hunt?" she asked, rolling onto her stomach and grabbing another grass stalk.

"I suppose we should start with deer. It's kind of a tradition in the family, that deer is the first meal."

"Tradition it is, then." She stuck the grass stalk in her mouth, making her look like a hayseed. Her face contorted suddenly; she pulled the offending grass stalk out of her mouth and frowned at it.

"Didn't taste like what you were expecting?" I asked, amused.

"No," she answered, throwing it away.

"Come on," I said, rising and offering my hand. "We'll find something that tastes better."

She took my hand and rose. "Where are we headed?"

"We don't usually hunt too close to home, but let's head out toward the Hoh."

She looked at herself. "I'm not really a woodsy kind of person. The supermarket is more my speed. You're sure this is necessary?"

"The supermarket doesn't carry what we're looking for. Come on, you'll see."

"Okay," she said, skepticism written across her face.

"Let's run," I suggested. pulling her by the hand.

"All right," she said without enthusiasm, breaking into a trot.

"You can do better than that," I said, running backwards easily in front of her. "Try to catch me."

She snorted in derision, but she started to follow me as I ran through the woods. She got into a rhythm and soon was matching me stride for stride. The forest started to rush by as we dodged in and out among the trees, jumping brush and rocks.

"Faster!" I cried, starting to add some speed.

Her strides started getting longer, and I could see her put some concentration into it. Soon she was nearly flying, her hair whipping behind her, moving faster and faster. "It's incredible!" she yelled.

"More!" I called to her. We started to really fly then, the trees passing in a blur. She was laughing as she ran, as we got impossibly faster and faster.

I pulled up at a favorite spot of mine, a wide circular meadow. She passed me, laughing before coming back around. "That's incredible!" she exclaimed, her chest heaving with exertion, a human reaction out of habit. Her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm and wonder. "It's like riding a motorcycle without the motorcycle."

"There's so much I want to show you," I said, wrapped up in watching her.

"And I want to see it," she said, pulling closer to me. I surveyed the area, listening with ears and mind; there was no sign of anyone else about.

Truly, we were two halves of a kind. She looked up at me through her eyelashes. "We're alone now, yes?"

"Yes," I said, unable to stop a grin from spreading across my face.

"Good," she said, and I let her push me to the ground. She threw a leg over me and straddled my hips. "Because I have some plans for the immediate future."

She started on the buttons to my shirt. "I think I'm going to like these plans," I said.

"Like them?" she scoffed. "I'm offering a money back guarantee you'll love them."

I threw back my head and let my laughter float up into the sky like balloons released from a child's hand. Out there in the meadow, as the sun dropped into the trees and the restless wind whispered a benediction, the answer to my prayer was given to me.