3.09.2009

A Forever Moment, 2

part one

This piece's song is Lifehouse's EVERYTHING because anything less just wasn't going to work.




Bella heard him scream and a shock wave of anguish stole her breath. Her cry, when it came, was one of answering distress that echoed in her head. His pain was why she’d planned it this way—a spur-of-the-moment decision to help alleviate his stress—the reason why she’d made Alice swear to keep all hints of the imminence of the plan out of her thoughts.

Terrible, she hadn’t realized how terrible it would be for him—

The weird sensation at her throat—Edward had bitten her, something she’d imagined before but never in detail—suddenly felt like fire-heated knives being driven into her skin. Abruptly, the world spiraled away. Oh! She’d known it was going to hurt, hurt worse than anything imaginable, but the agony! It was a climbing tidal wave of black heat that filled her veins, moving slow, moving fast, setting her nerve endings on fire.

It was everywhere and suddenly, she was every surrender and protest of one being burned alive. Her skin trapped the building tempest inside, protected it even, holding her prisoner as she flailed against cage walls that weren’t…weren’t there? On the edge of exploding into pieces, she craved it, prayed for it. In answer, the tidal wave of black heat grew into a maelstrom of fire that burned blue. Her insides liquefied as the heat rushed into her lungs, and she couldn’t help but gulp the lava.
Drowning.

Dying-dying-dying-dying.

Sound and silence came, another inferno that rushed into every corner of her body before it retreated in a great vacuum that sucked her gut-first into a tunnel with no end.
Death wasn’t coming fast enough.

Braids of flame wrapped around the bones in her body, surrounding everything from toe to skull, drawing impossibly tight until she no longer felt the difference between force and fire. Color and darkness became one, battling with the chords of sound and silence, until pain and terror and hellfire was everything she knew.
Was all there was.
. . . . .

Edward watched her fight against the scream. Tension grew in her body until she was whipcord taut against him. The mouth he so loved to kiss was pressed flat in a grimace of torment. Small sounds of distress climbed in her throat, and he pressed his lips against her cheek. As if she sensed him there, recognized his touch, her face turned and their noses bumped. Her teeth clamped onto her still-tender lower lip, biting until blood welled up and dripped down her chin. The sight didn’t excite him, it just broke his heart again.

He moved his hand from her waist to her mouth, inserted a finger between her lips, prying her teeth off her lip. She took a strangling, gasping breath, her neck arching, and screamed, screamed, screamed. The sound tore like a live wire through every cell in his body, and the ache in his chest flared again. She screamed until her vocal cords tore and nothing came but a rasp, yet she continued to hold her mouth open in a silent cry. Curling even closer around her, he swept his tongue along the torn part of her throat. It was a wasted effort because she’d never feel the negligent pain of a torn vocal cord next to the venom burning through her bloodstream, but he’d have fed her his own heart if that would help.

Even though the flow of blood through her body had slowed, her skin was still warm. Maybe sixty-two degrees now, but it would be hours before her body dropped another fifty degrees, more hours after that while she burned as she changed.

Don’t, don’t think of that.

Her mouth still gaped in a silent cry, and mindless and desperate with her, he could feel that his face wore a similar look. With the exception of the time when he’d thought she was dead, no moment would ever be blacker than this one.

Eventually her neck relaxed and she slumped against the pillow. He pressed close enough for her to smell his breath, hoping it still had the power to affect her. Again, as if she sensed him there, she turned until her mouth brushed his cheek. The shape of her words against his skin stung like acid.

Help me.

He kissed his way down her face, only barely holding back his own despair as he pulled her impossibly close to his body, wishing he could somehow absorb her pain. Wishing neither of them had been put into this situation, most of all her. But wishing did no good. Wishing was for fools who had given up.
Far from heaven, in the depths of whatever there was below hell, Edward imagined that he writhed in the fire with Bella, forcing himself to relive the details of his own change as penance.

The venom had abruptly wrenched him away from the dazed fatigue, the muscle aches, the headaches, of the infection. For an instant, he thought he’d been injected with acid. When his eyes opened, he’d been aware of something close beside him, almost on top of him, and then the pain had driven away all thought. The venom had scored his insides from the throat-down with diamond-hard ice that expanded until he’d felt as if he would explode. And then he had—his body exploded into wildfire, but it was only a prelude to the hellfire that raged endlessly afterward.

He wasn’t sure when he started counting the seconds, wasn’t even sure why he thought to count them at all, but he awoke in hell at 241,015, convinced that God hadn’t forgiven him for losing his temper with his father. After all, he’d only asked for forgiveness after the disease struck. His father fell ill so hard, so fast, and Edward hadn’t had the chance to apologize properly. Even under the best of circumstances, the words I’m sorry were empty, just words.

He’d tried to accept God’s punishment, but found that it wasn’t lenient, that it fed on itself between one heart beat and the next, driving him literally out of his mind. And then he’d become aware of the presence--of Satan himself.

“I’m sorry,” he’d screamed in rage at the devil, somehow mindful that the words meant nothing, yet hoping otherwise anyway. In answer, Satan morphed into an unforgiving God, and back again as it suited him. Until he could no longer tell God from Satan, could no longer separate reason from absurdity. And when Satan, who was incongruously blond-haired, repeated the words back to him—I’m sorry—Edward had felt well and truly mocked. How could God forgive him if his father hadn’t had that chance?

He felt that way now as Bella thrashed against him—as if he had committed a sin impossible to forgive. His heart made one decision while his brain made another, and now he had to follow it through. There were no words to describe the feeling, but he welcomed the pain the memory brought, absorbing with every fiber of his being, just where Bella’s love had brought her. He hoped it wasn’t to the brink of hell. It was his fault, and only his, for agreeing to turn her.

It’s not her fault, God!

He sobbed against her throat, terrified for her because no one knew better than he did that there was no peace in this life, that his kind was not forgiven. Hadn’t he taken her in every way possible now? Hadn’t he brushed aside all thoughts of conscience, disregarded every Commandment—human, vampire and otherwise—just so that he would never have to live without Bella? All those months denying his bloodlust…fighting against the all-too-real human desires that could also kill her…just so he could kill her this way.

Selfish, selfish, selfish.

Love didn’t always heal. Sometimes, loving someone was the worst thing possible.
Would she mistake him for the devil? Would he apologize, unable not to utter the words that meant so little, as Carlisle had done with him? Would she hate and fear him, as he had Carlisle?

Beside him, Bella stiffened and wailed, her body arching off the mattress. The sound slid upward in register and torment, bouncing back at him from the corners of the room until her vocal cords tore again. The venom could repair them almost as fast as she destroyed them. He kept his palm at her throat, his thumb moving back and forth and back and forth across the fading pink scars left by his teeth.

Edward?

Alice’s voice.

She’d come because of the heavy silence left after Bella’s screams. She had a need, a thin hope, to help stave off his mindless tendency of masochism.

Caught unaware, feeling oddly irritated, he felt a growl rise.

Bella went limp again, her face gray and stiff with repressed pain, eyes still closed. He didn’t know if she’d be able to see him, yet he wondered… Curling tightly, tenderly around her again, he pressed himself against her dropping heat. If only his body’s temperature could help soothe away what burned inside of hers.
Alice was at the top of the stairs now and the growl left his mouth. Barely eight hours had passed since he’d begun the process that would end Bella’s life, and she was still vulnerable--

Bella’s body arches, fierce anguish rolling off of her in waves. His hands are a constant caress against her body as she screams. Her cries die and her mouth gapes in a soundless scream. Fists rising, she pummels him with almost half of a newborn’s strength, breaking one of his collarbones.

He shuddered at Alice's image. Her gift wasn’t always a blessing, not when those visions revealed how the ones she loved could suffer. Especially not when he was already on the edge of insanity, feeling beyond helpless and frustrated at having to watch Bella suffer. Alice couldn’t help him now. No one could.


Bella needs to hear your voice, Edward.

His growl rose, unbroken and growing louder as she continued to advance and throw her visions at him in double time.

Bella sobbing, choking on her screams, pain and panic written on her face. On his. He yells at Alice—ugly, angry, unforgiving words, the monster alive in his eyes. Jasper is there, but he fights past, through, over the fabricated feelings of calm—he’s mindless-mindless-mindless—and they square off only feet away from the bed Bella thrashes on.

Alice pushed the door open. Edward turned, feeling both savage and vulnerable, but Bella’s rising hip unbalanced him and he was totally diverted. Her body, in the long white t-shirt he’d put her in, was already hard enough to lift his off the bed. Another of her screams filled the silence until she broke off in a sob, a dry
rasp of sound that tore harder through him than the venom ever had.

“Talk to her, Edward. She needs to hear your voice.”

And that’s when he realized his silence, an unconscious desire not to intensify Bella’s suffering by the pain and shock his voice could reveal, was just another selfish act of denial—a lie. Because even though he felt as if the world was closing in and he couldn’t breathe, he still did breathe. Ignoring the hot shame of that thought, because Alice was right, he took a breath, hating that it eased him when Bella would find no relief for days yet.

“Bella, love, I’m here,” he said urgently against the shell pink of her ear.

Could she hear him?

Did she know who he was?

Too anxious at first, he palmed the side of her body, then forced moderation because while her skin was growing harder, it still wasn’t tough enough to withstand his normal pressure. “I’m here with you.”
Long tendrils of her hair coursed over the pillows as her head thrashed back and forth. Her breathing was harder, louder now, different. Remorse washed through him again when he noticed her expression’s look of internal battle.

“You’re over halfway through,” he lied against the tidal wave of pain.

His body, bare from the waist-up, was curved impossibly over Bella’s, almost as if he was trying to sink into hers. His hair was in wild disarray, his face ashen, his eyes black and bottomless as he gazed at Bella’s face.

Edward metaphorically dying as Bella’s body died.

He felt himself shrink from what Alice saw.

“Sorry,” Alice whispered.

Like him, the force of her emotions had taken her by surprise. No one had been prepared for the reality of his misery because Alice hadn’t been prepared, because a vision couldn’t always prepare her—or any of them—for the real thing.

“Um, no I’m not sorry,” Alice said. “Bella never wanted this kind of suffering from you, Edward.”

He exhaled against Bella’s cheek, pressed his lips against her temple.

“She doesn’t see this as a death sentence,” Alice whispered.

“It’s hardly a gift of life,” he growled. Then shook his head. Why was he arguing with Alice?

“You’re wrong, you know. Once she’s past this, once you’re past this, you’re going to eat your words.”

He ran a thumb under one of Bella’s eyes, still puzzling over the look of consternation on her face.

“If you’d spend one of those breaths on yourself--stop castigating yourself for desiring love and happiness like the rest of us--I’d be able to show you. The simple truth of the matter is that Bella saved you, Edward.”

Leave me alone, Alice.

“This couldn’t have happened any other way. Besides, you’re tormenting Jasper.”

Bella’s eyelids twitched. Against the bedspread, her fist shook with the vehemence of her agitation and he reached out to cup her hand in his.

“I can’t change who I am. And Jasper doesn’t have to be here.”

Alice snarled.

Cut it out!

“We’re all here, Edward. We’re going to stay, too, because we love you both.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here,” he said to Bella. Her forehead knotted and he could see the scream building again. Lost, out-of-sync, still too much on the edge. That’s how he felt. Two seconds away from losing it. Alice was wasting her breath.

Too bad YOU’RE not okay.

Alice usually thought the most painful things because it seemed less intrusive, more like a whisper of confidence than an accusation.

--a challenge, always have to take you by surprise, and usually it makes me happy having you TO challenge, but not now.

Not now.

She was trying to distract him.

Jaw clenched, he turned on her. “Stop it.” And when that didn’t work, when she just stood there looking at him with his pain echoing in her eyes, he added: “Please.”

“Don’t you think Bella can sense your agitation?”

But she was grasping at straws. He wanted to both cry and rage at her efforts, but felt incapable of holding on long enough to either emotion.

It’s not all death, doom and devastation, you know.

Outside, the sun finally made it to the top of the firs and a weak ray of gold fell in a long line across the bed.

Because if it was, none of us would be here. Be together. Love each other.

He heard her, but the words touched his mind like whispered echoes.

“Just saying,” she said, and there was a shrug in her voice.

Bella began gulping in gasping sobs that shook her body against his, and his hands cataloged her limbs again: arms, waist, legs, still smooth satin. Her heartbeat was still too fast, but he knew that was the venom. He knew, because he remembered how terrifying the racing heartbeats were, remembered the sound of it, the unrelenting pain that stole the need to live. Even now, she was wishing for death. And the sunlight, even though it was still a shining ribbon across his body and Bella's, grew dim.

Pressing his lips against Bella’s cheek, and then her ear, he whispered the lyrics of the song she’d made him listen to a few days ago.

You are the hope that keeps me trusting
You are the light to my soul
You are my purpose
You're everything
And how can I stand here with you
And not be moved by you
Would you tell me how could it be
Any better than this
You’re all I want

He watched her brow slowly unknot, knowing he didn’t trust the intent behind the words, but holding on to the promise of her belief from that moment. And he felt a kind of soul-deep warmth when she curled tighter against him, as if she knowingly sought comfort. It had been exactly eight hours and thirteen minutes since he had felt that kind of warmth…

“I will always be here for you,” he whispered.

When his eyes opened, he saw Alice sitting in the chair.

“How much longer?”

She frowned at him.

Don’t ask yet. It’s still TOO much longer. I’m sorry. Besides, she can hear you.


Doubt and desperation had him imagining that his dead heart jumped. “How do you know that?”

“The short answer is because I know almost everything. Since you want the longer answer, I’ll tell you it’s because a good portion of her tension is gone now, and she’s not screaming as much or as loudly. Clearly, you are the antidote.”

His mouth twisted. How could he possibly—

“An antidote requires elements of its infection,” she reminded him. “Don’t be so pigheaded blind. Like she says all the time, she’ll be fine.”

But Bella wasn’t fine. She was dying, hurting, and terrified. Alice didn't remember the agony of the change, but he did. Nothing was going to be fine in his world until she was through this—and maybe not even then. He couldn’t pretend otherwise.

The shadows crawled across the bed as the sun retreated behind the clouds. He began to sing the song to her, some of the words coming out softly, some not at all. Alice left during the fifteenth refrain, and her voice in his head was both exasperated and apologetic.

Thirty-two hours, Edward. Okay? Thirty-two hours.

. . . . .

5 comments:

Virginia said...

Sweet, I am first to post a comment! THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!

I am your new number one fan. Just an amazing piece of writing. I am in awe, cannot, cannot, cannot wait for the next installment of this piece.

Unhinged said...

I always tell people that I can't wait for the next part, too. I have an idea of where I want to write, but when the words hit the page and character emotions take over, I'm just along for the ride, too.

Thank you again for comment, Ginny. 'Tis food for my soul.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is great! Eagerly anticipating next part! :D

Unhinged said...

It's definitely coming, Anonymous, I pinky swear.

Anonymous said...

Waiting impatiently for more -- love it!!!