Madame Mervin, Hammer of Sues (das_mervin) wrote,
Madame Mervin, Hammer of Sues

The Thorns Remain (Part III)

And here we are at the end. See? Told you it was shorter than "The Darkest Hour". I hope you enjoy the third part as much have you have liked the rest of it, and I hope this was a good continuation of "The Darkest Hour" in the sense that it is not just establishing Edward's relationship with his sister Rosalie, but also shows how his recovery after "The Darkest Hour" is going. 'Cause, you know, when you're beaten to death with a gurney, you kind of need a lot. Because Hyde is mean.

While I can't give you an exact date as to when the next aside will be out involving Edward's next sibling in line, I can tell you that a) Hyde is about halfway done with it, and b) it's awesome. Check that--it is Awesome.

But no time for that. Enjoy the final third of "The Thorns Remain". Thanks for reading and all of your comments and constructive crit!


Part III

Hunting was never a pleasant prospect, at least not to Edward’s mind. Skulking about behind rocks and bushes like the lowliest dog, hoping to snatch a meal that still fought back — every proper feeling rebelled against it. Even after all this time, when he wrestled an animal to the ground and prepared to tear into it like a savage beast, all he could hear were his mother’s lessons about proper dinner decorum, and he could only feel a grim sort of gratitude that she never saw him reduced to this.

The gratitude couldn’t mitigate the revolting taste of that the sudden, disgusting well of noxious fluid in his mouth, that he had to force himself to eat that. There was no pleasure in the act in any way, no satisfaction, barely even survival. It was moments like that that he couldn’t help but remember — no.

Well, at least this time, that wasn’t his concern — he wasn’t going to eat what he caught tonight. But was it really better, to be forced once again to act like little more than an animal while knowing that he was doing it at someone else’s behest and that he would get nothing out of it at all?

Edward ground his teeth at the sound of crunching grass beneath Rosalie’s lazily pacing feet. He told himself every time to tell her that she needed to learn how to do this herself — she needed to just do it herself — and yet it seemed that every time he went out hunting with her, her pouting anger at eating something so disgusting, and her obstinate insistence that she just couldn’t do that to “poor little animals” was just more than he could take. It always went like that, no matter who was going with her to hunt — and it felt like nine times out of ten, he was the one to go with her. And so, once again, he was doing Rosalie’s hunting for her.

This time, she didn’t really even have the excuse of her anger and discomfort with the whole process — now, she seemed to almost expect it of him. No wonder she always demanded that Edward take her hunting these days, rather than Esme or Carlisle — she knew she’d get an easy meal out of it. And Carlisle and Esme would just let her get away with it.

Eventually Edward had balked when she’d flounced down the stairs for the umpteenth time and demanded that he take her out and “help” her hunt, and she had taken immediate umbrage and it had looked like they were about to indulge in a spectacular row. But then Carlisle had taken him aside and patiently reminded him that she was having a very hard time, that they needed to do whatever they could to ease her way, and generally made Edward feel about two feet tall for refusing in the first place. He would agree, he always did under Carlisle’s gentle reproof and Esme’s stern glare, and they would soften and tell him that he was just there to help her — except that in Edward’s case, he never was “just there to help.”

That’s what he got for indulging her — now, every time he tried to gently but firmly tell her that she needed to hunt for herself, her eyes would go hard and her chin would jut out and her whole face would take on that imperious Princess Rosalie Hale of Kemmerer look, and by that point, it came down to either doing it for her or just leaving her there before he did something he would regret.

So, as always, he just ended up doing it for her. Like he was now.

He had no idea why he let her get away with this. Particularly, he thought as she let loose an exaggeratedly impatient sigh, in the face of such rank ingratitude.

“Can’t you hurry this up?” Rosalie hissed from behind him.

Edward silently counted to three before he spoke. “Certainly not if you keep making noise and scaring them all away,” he said flatly. “And if my methods aren’t fast enough to suit you, then perhaps you should consider doing it yourself.”

He heard an indignant huff from behind him, as well as a series of spiteful thoughts about uppity little boys not treating her like she deserved, and if he ground his teeth any harder, he would be the one scaring away the prey with all the noise.

There was a small cluster of antelope some yards away. The area was wide open and flat — not the best terrain for hunting, but it was the first potential prey they’d run across that night, and Edward was really in no mood to spend any more time with Rosalie than necessary — a sentiment that was entirely mutual.

He peered through the sword-like leaves of the yucca plant that concealed him. There were just a few, and mostly males. He zeroed in on one of them a little ways from the rest of the group, concentrating on keeping his movements as quiet as possible, and for a fleeting instant, felt a petulant wish for the speed and quickness of —

He quashed that thought before it could grow, focusing only on the antelope. And then he moved.

He raced out across the dry ground of the plains, his sneakers pounding the dusty ground beneath them, and the antelope heard him, looked up, and spooked. They ran, but he was fast, he was faster, he was almost there and — he struck.

He almost missed, but he managed to hook it by one back leg. They both went crashing to the ground; Edward got a face full of dust and a knock on the head, but he held on, scrambling up and ignoring the kicking hooves, and he threw himself at it, landing fully on top of it. It struggled, fighting against him, and it was making those awful frightened bleats that trapped animals always made and that he still wasn’t used to, and he couldn’t help his fangs coming out with the surge of adrenaline brought on by the hunt, by the catch, by the feeling of power — but he only held it, just wrestled it to the ground and then called for Rosalie.

She took her time about getting there, and the antelope managed to sock him a good one in the nose with its flailing, and his patience was just about gone by the time she finally knelt down beside him, her lip curled with disgust at the whole tableau and the thought of what came next. Of course, she made no move to restrain it for herself, merely waited primly and expectantly for him to make room for her while he held it down (which he did, of course, despite the black thoughts that accompanied the gesture), and she gave a small revolted shudder as her long needle fangs slid out to jut grotesquely from between her sweet red lips. She flicked one quick, almost accusing look up at him, her newborn eyes still golden and not yet faded to coppery orange, before she bent to feed.

The thick, rancid smell of the animal blood put paid to any lingering reflexive anticipation he might have felt, and his fangs retreated with all haste. He was left to hold the antelope as its struggles slowed and then ceased, and to take a certain sort of vicarious pleasure in the taste of what Rosalie ate — she’d never known anything else, and so didn’t know just how vile it was when compared to —

“Are you finished?” he asked brusquely as he felt the animal’s heartbeat begin to stutter to a stop.

Rosalie sat up, looking disgusted and unhappy, and reached for the towel she had tucked through her belt loop to wipe off her chin. “I hate this,” she spat suddenly, looking down at the cooling carcass on the ground between where they knelt, at the bloodied cloth in her hands. “I hate eating like this — I hate eating this.” She balled up the towel and threw it furiously off into the darkness. “And I hate having to kill animals,” she grimaced. “I can’t stand it — it’s cruel!”

Edward barely reined in his curling lip. “Well, it’s better than the alternative,” he drawled.

He’d meant starvation.

He knew even before she spoke that she’d taken it a different way entirely. He saw it in the way her face went hard, but he heard it in the drastic turn of her thoughts too, and he couldn’t help but jerk against the sudden onslaught of images, of memories, of sound and of fear and of pain, as she said in a cold voice that didn’t suit her pretty face, “No? Aren’t there some that deserve it?”

No.” Edward’s voice was harsh and loud, and Rosalie looked surprised for a moment before her eyes narrowed in anger that he should speak to her in such a way, but right now, Edward didn’t care about that. “No, Rosalie,” he said over her before she could speak. “No one deserves to be hunted down like an animal — no matter what they did or may have done. It’s not right.”

She knew that he knew what she was thinking, and her mouth twisted. “Oh no?” she hissed. “And what do you know about it? Did I deserve to be hunted down like a dog, then?”

No!” he ground out, gripping his arms and forcing his eyes open, trying so hard not to hear, not to see, not to feel what she was remembering. “No one, I said — no one deserves it. Not you, and not anyone else.”

Rosalie scoffed. “Oh, I see — we let the psycho go and do what he likes so we can feel good about ourselves — that certainly makes me feel better,” she mocked.

“It’s not like that, Rosalie,” he insisted, the relentless knife of her memories stabbing into his brain.

“Then just what is it like?” she demanded. “Since you know all about it.”

He took a ragged breath. “If we — if we kill people — any people — they’re still people, Rosalie, no matter what they did or might do, and we have to stay true to ourselves —”

“Oh, grow up!” she snapped.

Edward’s head jerked up, his eyes wide, her sneering, derisive face filling his vision — and he exploded.

“Don’t you dare tell me to grow up!” he roared, leaping to his feet. He saw her eyes go wide with shock, but then she jumped to her feet too, oh, she was ready, she was spoiling for a fight, well, then she’d get it, how dare she speak of what she didn’t know! “You know nothing — you don’t know anything about what it’s like to kill, and what it’s like to know that you’ve killed, that nothing will ever change that, you don’t know what it’s like at all —”

“‘I don’t know what it’s like’?!” she screeched. “You’re the one who doesn’t know what it’s like! You don’t know what it’s like to be dragged off in the woods, to be helpless, to not be able to fight while he — does things to you, while he hurts you, and then you, you who can hear people, who know what people are like and know what people can do, you stand there all self-righteous and tell me that some people don’t deserve to die?!”

Yes!” he bellowed. “Neither you nor I nor anyone else has any right to judge!”

Yes I do!” she shrieked. “He killed me!”

It doesn’t matter!” he snarled. “What’s done is done, and he’ll pay in the end, but we can’t just kill him for it!”

Rosalie’s head snapped up, her eyes so wide that he could see whites all around, and he felt as if a sudden weight had dropped into his stomach as she was suddenly inches away from him. “Who?” her voice was low now, low and cold (he knows he knows of course he can hear them he knows). “Who can’t we kill?”

“We can’t kill anyone,” he said, his voice rough as he tried to dismiss her. He moved to turn away, but his arm was seized in a grip like iron.

Who, Edward?” He tugged fruitlessly beneath her hand; her newborn strength implacable (you know you know and I know you know). “Who can’t I kill?”

“Dammit, Rosalie!” he hissed. “It’s over, it happened, and there is nothing we can do about it!”

(you know you know YOU KNOW)Who did it?

“Rosalie — listen to me,” he said, and he twisted his arm so that he could grip her by her shoulders; she was stiff beneath his hands, humming with a dark energy. “You can’t — you can’t let this eat at you — you have to let this go — you can’t just dwell on it, it’ll drive you crazy —”

“I’m dead!” she shrieked suddenly, and he flinched back. “I’m dead, he killed me, and you know who did it, and now you tell me who it was!

“No, Rosalie! You can’t!” He was shouting, but he was almost begging. “You can’t do this — you can’t just kill people because of what they’ve done, or hunt someone down because what he might do, you can’t —”

(what he did what he did to me — what he might do? you knew what he might do oh you knew all along you knew you knew YOU KNEW!)


It was wrung out of his throat, but it was all that he managed to say before she was on him, before she threw herself at him, her teeth out and her eyes wild, and her clawed hands closed on his neck as they hit the ground and she squeezed as she howled, “You knew, you son of a bitch, you knew! You knew and you let him kill me!

“No — Rose — please — no — I —” He didn’t need to breathe, his lungs didn’t work, but he could feel her hands squeezing, squeezing, and the bones of his neck creaked and cracked in protest, his windpipe closing in on itself, collapsing, and his voice was strangled into nothing but a whistling wheeze beneath the force of her crushing hands.

Tell me!” she screamed. “Tell me who it was! Tell me who killed me!

He did know, he had known, and he’d done nothing, she was right (YOU KNEW YOU KNEW), and he’d let her die, because he’d known all along that he was dangerous, that he was crazy (he laughed he laughed he hurt me and he LAUGHED WHILE HE DID IT), but he’d done nothing, and so he’d taken her and he’d hurt her (tearing, fire burning through her, it hurt, it hurt, no, no, not that, anything but that no please NO PLEASE OH IT HURTS MAKE IT STOP IT HURTS) and it was all his fault, he’d done nothing, and now she was dead (TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME)

Royce King!

It came out as little more than a choked whisper, but it was enough. She heard it, and she let him go. She sat back, her weight still on him, and she just stared down at him as everything poured out of him in a torrent. “Royce King,” he panted as his windpipe began to reform itself. “He — he worked in your father’s mine — I only saw him once or twice, but he — I swear, Rosalie, I never thought — he killed animals, that’s all, just animals, he’d never hurt anyone before, I didn’t know — I never thought he’d hurt any people, if I’d known, I would — I would have done something — please, Rosalie, I didn’t know — I didn’t mean — I’m sorry, Rosalie — I’m so sorry!

Her face was cold as she stood. Edward tried to scramble to his feet, but his knees wouldn’t support him; he could only slump in the dust and take hold of two fists of his hair. “I swear, Rosalie — I didn’t know that he would — I didn’t know until that day after — didn’t know what he’d done — I wouldn’t have — I didn’t —”

She said nothing. She just turned away, her back straight, her face impassive. She wasn’t thinking of him, didn’t hear what he said, didn’t care about his apologies. She was only thinking of one thing.

(Royce King Royce King ROYCE KING)

He should have known. He could try and justify himself — that he was too shaken by his forced confession, that he was too guilty to speak up, that he was too wrapped up in his own troubles to notice what she was doing — ‘til he was blue in the face. But those justifications were just what they had always been: Lies. He should have known.

Worst of all, he thought that some part of him had known.

Yet once again he’d done nothing.

Neither Carlisle nor Esme thought much of their coming back that night so obviously riddled with tension. The two of them fought often enough for it to be commonplace, particularly when Rosalie started walking all over him as she was wont to do. When Rosalie sailed into the house, her back rigid and her face cold, before marching right back outside, leaving Edward to stand in the living room, quiet and dull-eyed, he felt them both look at each other with something like exasperation, and then they went back about their business. Edward just went upstairs and laid down on the couch in his room and tried not to think about what had happened.

His excuses did actually hold water for a few days, at least. Rosalie seemed equally determined not to speak of it, and she was going out of her way to avoid him. Not the deliberate shunning that she’d given him before — no, she made it clear that she didn’t want to be anywhere near him. Wrapped as he was in his own private cloud of guilt and misery, he was more than willing to oblige her.

But slowly, she began to spend more time in the house and to condescend to allow Edward to be in her presence again. As the icy, indifferent silence between them was preferable to the open hostilities of before, he made no effort to alter the situation. He just sat back and was quiet.

And it was then that he began to notice that she had changed.

It was the little things first. Getting used to the sudden vampiric strength took time; Edward himself had broken half the house before he got his own newborn body under control, simply because he didn’t know how to use it. He and Esme both had been quite annoyed by it when they were new, but Rosalie got so frustrated when she would break something — when she would underestimate her own power, sending a cushion flying through the room, crumpling the back of one of the kitchen chairs, crushing a vase just trying to pick it up — and it was as if it seemed to symbolize everything that was wrong with her and what she was now. The slightest accident had been like as not to send her into a tantrum.

But not anymore. When she tried to open one of the magazines on the end table one morning and ended up tearing it in half, Edward had braced himself — for nothing. “Oops,” she said tightly, and while her voice was brittle and the smile she gave obviously false, that was all she said before settling down to read the half with the article she wanted.

Edward, Carlisle, and Esme had all looked at each other with raised brows. Rosalie hadn’t seem to notice, just went on with her reading.

That was enough to alert Edward that something had changed, and so afterwards, he paid closer attention, and so started noticing other things. That she was no longer prone to bouts of weeping at random intervals. That rather than sit and sulk, she had taken to going out and practicing at being a vampire, learning how to run and jump and control her own strength. That she was going out at night like Edward used to, by herself, spending the dark hours running and leaping and learning, and would return home crackling with energy, disheveled and exhilarated. That she was actually hunting on her own — swallowing her pride and her disgust and learning to catch and kill the animals that she needed to eat.

She actually came downstairs during the day, rather than hiding up in her room. She talked with Carlisle, and asked him about vampires; about their abilities, about their history. She would even sometimes help Esme make piles of donated goods from the drives that she’d been organizing at the little church she attended.

Carlisle and Esme were filled with relief. Here they saw traces of the girl that Rosalie used to be. She seemed to finally be moving on, to be accepting what had happened to her, and what she was. They had great hope for her, and they let themselves be charmed.

Edward wasn’t so sure — because she certainly wasn’t behaving any differently towards him. That much hadn’t changed; oh, she wasn’t fighting with him anymore — but she was still scrupulously avoiding him.

Even so, Edward knew something was amiss. She was gentler, no longer screaming and crying and snapping — but she wasn’t softer. No — if she had hardened to marble with her change, now she was granite. No longer was she lashing out; her anger wasn’t that pulsing, seething mass of probing tentacles, blackly seeking something — anything — on which to let loose her rage. Carlisle and Esme thought that it was muted, dying down. But it wasn’t — Edward could still feel it. It just was no longer that random, blundering thing — it had coalesced, turned inward, where it seethed and bubbled, white hot. He could feel it thrumming just beneath that cool façade, and he couldn’t help but think that at any moment, it would explode.

But he could only think it — he didn’t know it. He couldn’t know, not for sure.

Because Rosalie had started singing.

After the initial outraged fit that marked her finding out that he could see everything she saw and hear everything she felt, she had demanded to know how to keep him out. He had, in the end, told her, and had offered to coach her. But when she realized the effort that would be involved, understood that it would not be a one-time thing, that if she wanted to keep him out, it would be forever, she flew into a passion again and blamed him for it, and demanded that he do something to stop listening — she shouldn’t have to guard every moment of the day from filthy peeping toms.

Nothing he could do or say could convince her out of her willful certainty that it was all his fault and that he could stop if he wanted to, so he let her rant and storm at him, just stoically endured until she burnt herself out, and then went about his business. Since then, she would make half-hearted efforts to sing songs or think of other things from time to time, but never with any regularity. Rosalie was not made for discipline.

Except all of the sudden, she was. Morning, noon, and night, her head was filled with songs and poems and radio jingles and nursery rhymes, and so Edward’s was too. It was even worse than with — than before, because rather than simply doing it to screen her mind, she seemed to be actually thinking it at him, as if she’d got it into her head it was an active sort of screen, not a passive one. His head rang with the lyrics of “Stardust” and “Fit as a Fiddle” and the words to “Jabberwocky” and Lord knew what else. And she was so forceful with it that he had trouble tuning it out like he had before — like he could with everyone else.

So he didn’t know. He couldn’t know.

But the evidence was all there. He should have known. But he didn’t. Not until tonight had he realized.

Rosalie had been singing all day — loudly. Edward’s head had been throbbing as it really hadn’t since his earlier days when he’d been unable to block out much of anything — because today, he couldn’t seem to block Rosalie out. She’d been upstairs all day, but that hadn’t been enough to muffle it. He’d been enduring an endless round of popular jazz numbers that he would have been heartily sick of even if they hadn’t become physically painful. He was counting the hours until the sun had set far enough for him to go out hunting just to get away from it all.

But Rosalie beat him to it. The sun wasn’t fully down yet, just touching the edge of the horizon, when she emerged. She swept down the stairs, wearing the plain, serviceable clothes that she’d only just deigned to wear in the last few weeks, her hair pulled back, and she was smiling.

It would only strike him later how cold that smile was — and how eager. But he didn’t see it then, because either the ceiling between them had been doing a better job of muffling her than he’d thought or upon seeing him she’d somehow managed to even further increase her mental volume, because his head was suddenly ringing with “Willow Weep for Me.”

“I think I’ll head out for the evening,” she said to the room at large, her smile bright and her eyes alight.

“So early?” Carlisle asked, smiling warmly back at her from where he sat with his newspaper, still pleased by her growing acceptance, even enthusiasm, of her new life.

“Oh, yes. (Willow weep for me bend your branches down along the ground) I’ve been inside all day, and it’s so clear out — I think it’s going to be a pretty night.” She flicked her eyes at Edward for the briefest moment (cover me listen to my plea hear me willow) before turning to Esme. “I don’t know when I’ll be back — I’ll be careful, though, don’t worry.” Her smile was brilliant.

Esme smiled back from her sewing, patching clothes from the donation basket from church. “All right, Rose,” she agreed, and gave a small chuckle. “I forget how much fun it could be, ‘practicing’,” she added. “You’re so much faster and stronger.”

Rosalie gave a tinkling laugh that sounded like shards of glass in Edward’s ear, and he rubbed his temple as his brain was suddenly lanced through with the near-shouted lyrics in his head. (GONE MY LOVELY SUMMER DREAMS GONE AND LEFT ME HERE) “Oh, yes,” she tittered. “So much stronger.”

“Well, just so long as you’re careful — stay to the usual paths, and don’t get too close to anyone — you don’t know how quickly you can lose control when it’s so new,” Carlisle warned gently.

Rosalie fairly beamed back at him. “Oh, don’t worry — I won’t.” (HEAR ME WILLOW AND WEEP for Him FOR ME WILLOW WILLOW WEEP FOR ME)

Edward jerked where he sat, his elbow skittering off the table where it had been supporting his chin; Rosalie didn’t see, she was leaving and didn’t look back, and Carlisle and Esme said nothing else, just let her go, her loud song lyrics fading rapidly into the distance as she broke into a run, and Edward could only stare after her, the pieces falling into sudden, horrible place.

Her newfound drive to practice, to learn her new abilities, to learn to hunt — and to kill. The bright, crystalline rage, no longer wild and unchecked, but sharp and honed down to a razor’s edge.

And the singing. Always singing. Singing so he couldn’t hear. So he wouldn’t know.

He stood so fast that he nearly knocked over his chair. Carlisle and Esme looked up at the sudden sound, surprised, and Edward coughed uncomfortably to cover his lapse, his eyes flicking desperately around — he had to get out of here, and he had to follow her — had to stop her.

“Sorry,” he muttered, and forced himself to stand by the bookshelves for a moment, appearing to peruse their titles until they went back to their work and he could slip out through the back door in the kitchen. He kept his steps even, his reflexive breathing slow, didn’t fidget, kept calm — until he finally escaped outside. Only then did he break into a run, headed west, chasing after Rosalie’s fading mind.

She was running, and she was fast, but he was desperate, and even though he was hungry and his body was screaming against it, he pushed himself harder, faster, because he had to get to her, to stop her, and he could hear her, oh, she wasn’t singing anymore, no, and he could hear, and he knew, and oh, please, dear God, no!


She heard him, and the mental walls of music slammed up around her mind so fast and hard that he almost staggered, but he kept running. He didn’t need to, though — she’d stopped. Even though she was singing, she knew he knew — he could feel that much.

She was standing still on the edge of a dried-up creek bed, silhouetted against the horizon, her hair burnished by the last light of the setting sun. He skidded to a stop in front of her, his body panting uselessly, and she just stared at him.

“Rosalie —” he finally managed, “— you can’t do this.”

The singing stopped. There was no point now, she knew, and so she answered, “Wrong. I can — and I will.”

She moved to turn away, but he leapt forward and grabbed her by the arm. “Dammit, Rosalie, listen to me —”

Her move was so sudden that neither one of them really knew she was going to do it until she did; she jerked her arm with a snarl, and her sudden strength flung him forward, and he barely managed to land on his feet as he tumbled down into the gulch below.

She jumped down and pushed her face near his own, her teeth bared. “I don’t have to listen to you about anything!” she hissed around her fangs. “This doesn’t concern you!”

Yes it does!” he yelled. “Because I know! I know what it’s like to kill!” He saw the flare of surprise in her eyes for a moment, but it barely registered — all he could hear was his own anguished voice, his words tumbling over themselves as they poured out from where they had festered in his heart for all these years. “I’ve done what you want to do — but you can’t — I can’t let you — you can’t do what I did — because it will never go away — you can never forget — you’ll always know that you killed him, that you murdered him — you can’t do it — you’ll have to live with it forever — you’ll know forever what you did, and you can’t take it back, you can’t fix it —”

“You’re right.” Her voice was implacable as she cut across him. “You held onto your precious pride and let that monster live and he killed me — and you can’t fix it.”

The air went out of him as her words hit him with the force of a blow, and he could only stare, his mouth hanging open as his outpouring of words dried up. There was a silence broken only by the soft shush of the wind, until he said brokenly, “Please, Rosalie — don’t do this — you can’t, I’m begging —”

“I begged Him,” she growled, and Edward’s throat choked closed and he shuddered helplessly against the memories of that touch, of those hands, of that pain. “I begged him to stop — but he didn’t. And now I’m not going to, either.”

And she turned to go — she was leaving, and she was going to — Edward’s voice rushed back with one final, desperate plea, “Please! You can’t — what you’re doing is no different than what they did — he’s still a human being — you can’t do this — you have no right —”

And then she was on him, her hands seizing him, lifting him, squeezing him, and her eyes were wild as she screamed, “I have every right! It was my life! Do you hear me? It was my life! And you and everybody else stood by and let him take it from me!

She threw him away from her; he flew into the side of the arroyo and landed in a crumpled heap. Dazed and overwhelmed by the burning rage and the terrible memories in her mind, he didn’t catch himself, and could only pull himself into a sitting position where he landed; he was shaking too badly to try to stand.

Rosalie was looming over him, her breathing harsh in the still night, but when she spoke, her voice was quiet and unyielding. “And now,” she said, “I’m going to take it back. And you’re not going to do anything.” Her words were a command. “You’re not going to do anything, you’re not going to say anything — and you’re not going to stop me.”

Edward didn’t move, and he didn’t say anything. He just sat there, slumped in the dirt, his head bowed. She stood over him for a moment more, and then she left, leaping nimbly up out of the ditch. She spared him one last glance over her shoulder, and then she began to run.

He didn’t stop her.

There he sat, and there he stayed, all through the night and now into the wee hours of the morning, just waiting for her to come back.

And eventually, as the black night skies above him began to give way to the soft purple of morning, she did.

As before, as he had known he would, he heard her before he really heard her. Felt the flicker of her mind against his own before he could hear or see her approach.

His head snapped up at the sensation, and he scrambled up out of the ditch, listening, looking, some tiny part of him begging, hoping, please, don’t let her have —

(mine mine my life my life oh yes my life your life so sweet my life again my LIFE)

Edward sucked in a harsh breath against the stabbing certainty that pierced his chest, and he closed his eyes. And when he opened them, he could see Rosalie coming back.

She flowed over the plains with a fluid grace, riding the prairie winds as her feet floated over the ground, running, leaping, flying, her cloud of unbound golden hair dancing and licking like a corona of flame, and she was coming closer, and he could feel the way she trembled and flowed with wild, restless energy, and she was smiling.

And he could hear her, hear the bubbling laughter that filled her mind, feel the reckless glee that surged through her body, that burning rapture that filled her to the brim and it was wonderful, so wonderful, all so wonderful, everything, and now who was the strong one, now who was going to suffer, oh, you’re only brave when you’re hurting girls, are you, but what about when the girls hurt back, no, you’ll never hurt anyone again, you can’t run, no, I’ll get what I want, oh yes, I did, and he’d begged and he’d cried but in the end he’d only screamed and how she’d laughed then there was the blood and the taste and it was glorious

Edward bent double, clutching at his stomach, his teeth long and hard and ready and he crammed his fist in his mouth to fight against the raging inferno of lust, of hunger, of desperate ecstasy that tore through him, his eyes twisted shut against what he could hear, what he could see, what he could feel.

Her footsteps slowed and then stopped, and she was in front of him, waiting, and he steeled himself and looked up.

It was Rosalie. She stood before him, a glittering golden idol caressed by the first light of the sun. She shivered like water, mercurial and alive, her every move a study in feral grace, her cheeks rosy and flushed and warm, and in that face worthy of a thousand ships, her golden eyes shone — no, they burned.

Standing there in the morning light, she had never been more beautiful.

It was the most horrible thing he’d ever seen.

They stood there, face to face as the sun began to peep over the horizon — Edward didn’t know how long — just standing, just staring. He, unmoving and cold, a pillar of salt, and Rosalie, warm and bright and beautiful, her hair fluttering ‘round her like a shower of gold, a goddess amidst the desolation around them.

Finally, she spoke. “This was my business,” she said, her voice the clear chime of a bell. “Not yours.”

“I told you — it is my business,” Edward said. Her eyes narrowed, but he only blinked and went on. “I told you who he was — and then I just let you go.” He paused and took a deep, unnecessary breath. “You’ve made it my business.”

“Fine,” she said with a toss of her hair. “It’s our business,” and then her voice went harder, colder. “No one else needs to know.”

“No,” Edward agreed after a moment, his voice steady. “No one else needs to know. It’s enough that we know.” He swallowed. “We know that we’re murderers.”

She gave him a sharp look, her eyes as hard as jewels, and then her chin began to rise, and he heard her righteous indignation bubbling upwards as she swelled, but he kept on. “We know that in the end, no matter our — our justification, our excuses, or for whatever we call justice — in the end, what we did was no different than what they did — what He did.” He stared her right in her burning eyes. “We know that we’re no different than them.”

Silence. And then, very quietly, he said, “And for however long our kind live, you and I will have to live with what we know.”

They stood there, face to face under the brightening sky, no sound between them but the winds; Rosalie glittering and defiant, and Edward solemn and still beneath the weight of his own deep grief. They stood, and they stared, until Edward turned away. He put his hands in his pockets, and slowly began to walk towards home, and after a moment, he heard Rosalie follow.

~ end ~

Table of Contents | Part I | Part II

ETA: The next fic in this series is up: "His Brother's Keeper," which is the follow-up to this aside where we see how Edward is coping with these events and where we meet Emmett.
Tags: fic: mrs. hyde's hours revamp, revamp: aside

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