Fire and Ice
The infamous tent-scene from Edward's POV.
1. Fire and Ice
Rating 4.5/5 Word Count 3844 Review this Chapter
"Please, do you mind!"
The thing is, if you happen to have the misfortune of being a vampire some people will automatically assume your self-control is never ending. Especially when you're a vegetarian.
The thing also is that "people" happen to be wrong on several occasions which leads us to the present time where I find myself facing one of the worst nights I've ever faced. If I were prone to over-dramatize things I'd even say I'm facing the worst night in the history of mankind but let's be realistic: it's merely the worst night of the century.
Of course, I seem to be the only one realizing the predicament judging from the thoughts of pure confusion the wolf is projecting at me.
"What?" he asks needlessly and I grit my teeth in frustration. Leave it to Black to forget that he's sharing a tent with a mind-reader. And the aforementioned mind-reader's fiancé. Now one would think that most people would realize at this point that visualizing doing the things he wants to do with the gorgeous – albeit half-frozen - fiancé in front of an ill-tempered mind-reader may not be the most intelligent thing to do. But nothing ever goes easily, does it?
"Do you think you could attempt to control your thoughts?" I snarl, teeth still gritted as to minimize the temptation of spontaneously launch myself at the dog (and tear out his throat) that instantly flushes in embarrassment.
"No one said you had to listen. Get out of my head," he mutters and I roll my eyes. As if I've got much of a choice.
"I wish I could." You cretin. "You have no idea how loud your little fantasies are. It's like you're shouting them at me."
"I'll try to keep it down," he says in an insolent voice and my instincts scream at me to attack. But no – there's Bella. I won't have her hurt. I won't.
So I merely grab a leftover bar of metal I couldn't fit in when I set up the tent earlier (They didn't use to make the instructions to set up tents this needlessly complicated in my time!) and squeeze, imagining it's his neck while I try to get a grip on my breathing. That is, I try to concentrate and breathe again because I keep forgetting to do it when agitated. Or hunting.
After a moment the anger passes, the bar has been re-modeled into many tiny little pieces and I start relaxing again. Everything will be fine.
'You realize of course that I can kiss her. Really kiss her.'
'Or not,' I think as my blood starts boiling in anger once more and I desperately start humming Grieg's Puck in my mind in order to calm down.
'The jealousy must kill you. Knowing exactly how I could touch her to-'
"Yes," I snap, knowing full well that if he thinks another word my patience will end. "I'm jealous of that, too." What does he think I am, anyway? A saint? 'I have a problem controlling my temper, you ignorant moron!' I think and barely suppress a growl.
"I figured it was like that." He smiles at me in the darkness and the fine hairs at the back of my neck rise as I desperately – desperately – struggle to remain in control. "Sort of evens the playing field up a bit, doesn't it?"
Grrr. Seriously, if it wasn't so uncivilized I'd be growling. Probably biting, too.
Instead, an inner voice – that sounds suspiciously like Carlisle – tells me that it is our self-control that sets us apart from the monsters. That grants us humanity in our inhumanity. Taking a deep breath I look up again (for I did not trust myself to gaze at the dog without keeping myself from attacking) and chuckle.
"In your dreams." Admittedly, I haven't even convinced myself with this repartee and judging from the dog's triumphant look he isn't impressed either.
"You know, she could still change her mind. Considering all the things I could do with her that you can't," he taunts and suddenly neither the melody of Puck nor Carlisle's calming influence is enough to keep my temper in check. My muscles tense in anticipation of a fight when my eyes – as they are wont to do – stray to Bella, lying comfortably in the brute's embrace. And as much as I hate to admit it – she'd freeze to death if it weren't for him.
"At least, not without killing her," Black rambles on, oblivious as usual and I strongly remind myself that Bella needs her heater. Tonight. Things will look differently in the morning.
It is that thought that gives me the strength to keep my voice relatively calm. "Go to sleep, Jacob. You're starting to get on my nerves." Which translates to: you're only a hair's breadth away from becoming my dinner.
"I think I will. I'm really very comfortable," he smirks and I instinctively snarl back, displaying my canines in a gesture that shows that I am as much of an animal as he is. Except for the fact that I have better taste in clothes, of course. Come to think of it, at least I wear clothes.
We both sit in silence for a moment as I close my eyes and listen to the sound of Bella's breath, turning up Grieg to reach the top volume inside my mind. Black's thoughts, too, seem to calm – his childish desire to hurt and taunt me leaving – which relieves me to no end because I was seriously afraid that I'd be forced to go through the entirety of Verdi's courses before the night is over (which are so much louder than Grieg).
'It's not fair.' His thoughts suddenly reach me and the music stops abruptly. Doesn't he ever shut up?
'Why can he invade my head and find out everything he wants to? How does he do it? That's unnatural even for the leeches! Was there a glitch in his brain even when he was human? And why – oh, why! – can he read my thoughts? As in…oh, hell. He can do it now. He can get all the answers he wants.' 'And some more,' I add mentally.
'And me? Nothing. I'd like to see how graceful you act when someone forces out all the answers from your head – but I forget – you only get answers. You'd never give them.'
I open my eyes at that, surprised with the level at frustration shining through. "Maybe I would."
"But would you be honest?" he asks, all aggression gone now, leaving only honest curiosity and suddenly I find it harder to hate him.
"You can always ask and see," I offer, amused despite myself and he tenses up immediately.
'He'll lie. Who's to tell me he won't?' Jacob thinks and I sigh. One would think I've learned a bit of patience over the last century but once again – one would be wrong. However, before I can answer he speaks again.
"Well, you see inside my head." 'Well-spotted, Sherlock,' I think dryly as I wait for him to continue. "Let me see inside yours tonight, it's only fair."
And this is where he has me. I'm a sucker for fair-play (unless I play video-games against Emmett but that's an entirely different topic!), so I merely nod. "Your head is full of questions." Which is so much better compared to the things your head was occupied with previously. "Which one do you want me to answer?"
"The jealousy," Jacob answers immediately. "It has to be eating you. You can't be as sure of yourself as you seem. Unless you have no emotions at all." 'Which would make my life so much easier,' I add but bite my tongue before I give him a snappy reply. There's no need to destroy our tentative peace any sooner than absolutely necessary. I give us another five minutes or so before we're at each other's throats again. Metaphorically, of course as I'm a vegetarian and without dental floss and take it from me – there's nothing as disgusting as having wolf-thrombin sticking between your teeth and no floss at hand. Oral hygiene is vital for a vampire. But back to the topic – my jealousy. Of course it's gnawing away at my insides.
"Of course it is," I agree, losing my patience considering this stupid question and the aggression bubbles up again as I suddenly no longer care about floss or the lack thereof. "Right now it's so bad that I can barely control my voice." Thinking of his filthy body next to Bella's with him thinking all these dirty thoughts about her and…I ball my fists so tightly that my knuckles come out white – well, white-er - against my skin. "Don't kill him,' I remind myself. 'She won't make it through the night without her heating-device. Better keep talking or I'm in danger of doing something stupid.'
"Of course, it's even worse when she's away from me, with you, and I can't see her." Or protect her.
"Do you think about it all the time?" he asks and the something in the way he asks makes my anger melt away. He almost sounds like…like he's looking for something. Reassurance, perhaps?
"Does it make it hard to concentrate when she's not with you?" Is he talking about me or himself? Does it really matter?
"Yes and no," I answer truthfully, feeling curiously relieved to talk about my feelings with someone who – despite our differences – understands me unlike anyone else can. Because he, too, loves Bella.
"My mind doesn't quite work the same as yours." 'And I'm grateful it doesn't,' I mentally add before continuing. "I can think of many more things at one time. Of course, that means that I'm always able to think of you, always able to wonder if that's where her mind is, when she's quiet and thoughtful." And ripping the meager remains of my soul into shreds while she's at it. Not that she wants to – Bella is far too kind for that – but she does. Goodness knows, she does.
We're silent for a moment and I'm surprised that Black doesn't use my admission to taunt me. He could have – but he doesn't and despite my better knowledge that makes him rise in my opinion.
'Does she…?' he starts, almost shyly, 'Do you think she thinks of me sometimes?'
I raise my eyes and meet Jacob's, finding the insecurity and vulnerability there far too familiar for my liking.
"Yes, I would guess that she thinks about you often," I whisper for I do not trust my voice to remain calm if I were to raise it. "More often than I like. She worries that you're unhappy." I continue and in the blink of an eye the brief moment of connection is broken as a wave of frustration overwhelms me. "Not that you don't know that," I growl, my voice low and dangerous. "Not that you don't use that."
"I have to use whatever I can," Jacob says, a quiet sort of desperation in his voice that tugs at my heart-strings. I blame this all on the fact that I used to have a little pub as a boy that pulled the same heart-wrenching expression whenever it wanted something.
"I'm not working with your advantages," he presses on quietly and I raise my eyebrow. 'My advantages? Wit? Charm? Looks?' I think with dry humor and tilt my head to the side curiously.
"Advantages like her knowing she's in love with you." 'Who's the mind-reader now,' I wonder and bite my bottom lip.
"That helps," I admit when he expertly destroys all hints of compassion I've had for him with his next answer.
"She's in love with me, too, you know."
'Like hell she is!' I want to scream but find that I can't. And goodness, that hurts.
"But she doesn't know it," Black insists and I realize that he expects an answer.
"I can't tell you if you're right."
"Does that bother you? Do you wish you could see what she's thinking, too?" Damn the pub for being so perceptive or – and personally I suspect that's rather the case – for having such a knack of hitting exactly the spots where it hurts.
"Yes…and no, again," I reply, trying to buy some time. Of course I'd like to know what she thinks – not knowing has been a source of frustration to me often enough and yet…"She likes it better this way, and, though it sometimes drives me insane, I'd rather she was happy." 'And the scary thing about this? It's the truth. Bella may frustrate me to her heart's content if it makes her happy,' I think as our thoughts drift into silence once more.
A few moments pass, the night interrupted by nothing but Bella's breathing and the wind howling outside. It's quiet. Too quiet, I think as my hunter's instincts roar to life again but before I can voice my concerns the wind picks up, now blowing and howling more aggressively, shaking our little tent as if it were determined to blow it away, leaving us to the cold. 'Leaving Bella to the cold,' I think with a shiver that has nothing to do with the temperature as my eyes travel to my love, finding her warm and protected in his arms.
Tonight it's his presence that keeps her alive and no amount of wishing that I were the one to keep her warm will change a thing. I can't keep her warm. If she had her way I was to steal the warmth away from her life, leaving her in the cold forever. With me.
I shudder again and force my thoughts into another – less hurtful – direction. "Odd as this might sound, I suppose I'm glad you're here, Jacob."
"You mean," he replies with the hint of a smile, "'As much as I'd love to kill you, I'm glad she's warm,' right?"
I have to give it to him – the pub is perceptive.
"It's an uncomfortable truce, isn't it?" I grin, unwilling to out-right confirm his suspicions. Still, it seems to be enough for him as his face breaks into a self-satisfied smile.
"I knew you were just as crazy jealous as I am," he says smugly and I sigh. Considering the fact that I've admitted to this several times this evening I'm not too much impressed with Mr. Perception right now.
"I'm not such a fool as to wear it on my sleeve like you do," I reply, feeling incredibly mature – a fact that vanishes the next moment when I can't resist adding, "It doesn't help your case, you know." So, there.
He shrugs, or at least he attempts to do so as he still cradles my dozing Bella in his arms. "You have more patience than I do."
Once again I raise an eyebrow. Apparently I'm spending the night with Captain Obvious. "I should. I've had a hundred years to gain it." And still it didn't help too much. "A hundred years of waiting for her."
However, my melodramatic claim seems to fail to make the intended impression and he does manage to shrug this time (a feat that impresses me as Bella dozes on, oblivious to the world. Or is she?).
"So…at what point did you decide to play the very patient good guy?" he asks and I press my lips together in annoyance. 'Since I wanted to prevent you from taking the spot,' I think with a hint of bitter sarcasm then opt to tell him the truth.
"When I saw how much it was hurting her to make her choose." When I saw how much it was hurting me to realize that she won't choose unless forced to. "It's not usually this difficult to control," I go on, my voice carefully controlled as it does not do for me to start growling again. "I can smoother the…less civilized feelings I may have for you fairly easily most of the time." It usually suffices to retreat and go through a thorough work-out with Emmett or Jasper or break some furniture but I'm not fool enough to admit that when I'm not completely sure she's really asleep. "Sometimes I think she can see through me, but I can't be sure." Just as I can't be sure if..if…
It is Jacob who finally puts the thought I don't dare to think into words and hearing it out loud strikes me like a physical blow.
"I think you were just worried that if you really forced her to choose, she might not choose you," he says, no trace of malice in his voice and again – for the fraction of a second – I recognize a kindred spirit in him. I am not the only one who is afraid of that, apparently.
It takes a few moments until my voice is steady enough for me to reply and when I do I detect the barest hint of a quiver in it, praying that Jacob doesn't notice.
"That was part of it." There was also the part of Esme giving me a rather…impressing talk about not being a controlling and obsessive boyfriend. Among other things. Pushing that intimidating thought away, I face Jacob again. "But only a small part." Which is relative, of course. "Mostly I was worried that she'd hurt herself trying to sneak away to see you. After I'd accepted that she was more or less safe with you –" Wait, I remind myself, we're talking about Bella here. "- As safe as Bella ever is – it seemed best to stop driving her to extremes." And myself, too.
Jacob sighs, his breath moving the hairs on the back of Bella's neck ever so slightly and I feel a wave of jealously wash over me. It should be me lying there next to her. It should be me inhaling her scent and humming her lullaby and…and it will be. My thoughts distract my so much that I almost don't catch his first words when he speaks again.
"I'd tell her all that," he says, sounding incredibly frustrated, "but she'd never believe me."
'Yes,' I smile to myself, 'that's exactly my Bella. Stubborn yet oh-so-irresistible in every little thing she does.'
"I know," I grin because goodness knows, I do know. This girl will do and believe what she wants and come heaven or hell, there's no way to convince her otherwise once she's made up her mind about something. With a start I realize that Jasper is right: I am so whipped. 'A lifetime of teasing is awaiting me,' I think before my smile vanishes slowly as my thoughts turn to the fight that lies ahead. Provided we all survive.
"You think you know everything," Jacob mutters and I can't stop myself from grinning again. He really is a child, playing a man's game, I think before my thoughts return to the next day. 'Will they all make it? What if…what if someone doesn't make it? Perhaps Esme who is like a mother to me? Or Rose, my horribly annoying sister whom I still love more than I'd ever admit? Or…or Carlisle? My father? My mentor? My…not Carlisle. Not ever Carlisle, please,' I think and the mere thought turns my insides into ice.
"I don't know the future," I reply silently, not knowing if it's a curse or a blessing.
~ * ~
Again, we drift into silence, Jacob's thoughts going along the same lines as mine – a soldier worrying about his comrades – and again I'm forced to re-think my opinion of him. Perhaps he's not that much of a child, after all.
"What would you do if she changed her mind?" Jacob suddenly asks, once again aiming for the spot where it hurts with deadly precision. How is it that this…child/man…can be so perceptive yet so blind at the same time? Idiot savante, perhaps?
'Never mind,' I decide, 'Idiot or genius – he won't rest until he's had his answer and I've promised to be honest.'
"I don't know that either," I admit, surprising myself how easy it is to say it. However, that does not seem to impress him as he seems to find something funny in this answer.
"Would you try to kill me?" Jacob asks, and I feel the corners of my mouth turning up into an involuntarily predatory smile. What does he mean 'try'? If I really were to set out and kill him then I…would not only disappoint Carlile but also hurt Bella. Deeply.
The smile drops off my face at that thought and my shoulders slump – almost disappointed. "No."
"Why not?" he queries as if driven by some perverse desire to inspire me to kill him. Does he not realize that Bella is the only reason keeping me from indulging my…less civilized feelings? Apparently not, so I decide to once again spell things out for him.
"Do you really think I would hurt her that way?" Idiot. Scratch the 'savante', I think but then he catches me by surprise again as he switches from child to man again.
"Yeah, you're right," Jacob sighs and I barely resist the urge to strangle him. He's so damn irritating. "I know that's right. But sometimes…"
"Sometimes it's an intriguing idea," I agree and before our respective protective shields go up again we share a smile of true camaraderie before he turns away, pressing his face into the sleeping bag to muffle his laughter.
"Exactly," he agrees and I sigh in defeat. Damn the dog for being so…like-able. And damn my tendency to go looking for love and friendship in the oddest…the most unnatural…places.