Chapter Two: Awakenings

It had been hours now, hours where nothing had existed but the painful screeches and the thrashing agony of Bella Swan. I knew that if these hours had been hell for me, they were a hundred times, no, a thousand times worse for the girl whose life I had stolen.

"How much longer will she be incapacitated?" I demanded of Alice. I hated being cloistered in a far off corner of the room, watching as my sister took over my responsibilities for me. It was so painful that I could barely force myself to stay.

Alice didn’t even look up at me, she just kept smoothing Bella’s hair away from her face and stroking her hand with gentle movements. “Stop shouting, it’s making her more agitated and she doesn’t need that,” she thought, her sharp words cutting into my brain.

“Sorry,” I said, sighing wearily. It wasn’t just Alice I was apologizing to, it was Bella as well. Not that I thought she would be willing to accept that apology.

One of Alice’s visions flashed through her mind, meaning it flashed through mine as well. I saw Bella’s breathing quicken, her body spasming with one last jolt of pain as the venom entered her heart. Then it ended, the transformation complete. Just thirty more seconds. I had to survive watching this for thirty more seconds, and it would finally be over.

The vision continued, but Alice suddenly focused hard on the actual Bella in front of us. Her vision dissipated.

“What is it? What don’t you want to show me?” I asked, stepping toward the bed where Bella was still caught in the throes of pain.

Alice refused to look at me, her eyes focused on the girl in front of her. “I know you want to be able to take care of her, but I don’t think she’s going to let you...”

I saw the future unfolding in her mind and I cringed away from it. It was a bleak vision, the kind that I had always tried to avoid. I saw Bella in all of her immortal beauty refusing my overtures of friendship... of love.

Which was crazy. I didn’t love her. I barely even knew her. I knew that what I had done made her my responsibility, but that didn’t automatically mean I was going to love her. “That isn’t... I don’t...” I began, but Alice shook her head.

“Edward, you know as well as I do that we don’t really know our own futures. This is what I tried to tell you before. You belong with her; I just don’t know how it happens. She won’t be easy to sway, she’s really afraid of you right now,” she thought, her face falling into a miserable frown. “I really want her to be my sister."

I didn’t know how to respond. The fact that Alice believed that Bella was my destiny, well, it was ridiculous. I had made a mistake and changed a human, something my family had promised never to do again. That didn’t mean that she would be my mate... did it?

I was pulled from these thoughts by the sudden absence of sound. Bella’s breathing was no longer labored, she no longer whimpered or squirmed and her heart no longer beat. Before I could think of the repercussions of my actions, I moved to the side of her bed, hoping that I could finally talk to her. “Bella,” I whispered, reaching a hand out to her.

Her eyes snapped open, the irises a deep blood red. I knew the moment they had locked on mine, not just because I felt an electric thrill run through me, but because she back-flipped off the bed and crouched in the corner. A snarl rumbled in her chest and she bared her teeth at me. “Stay away from me,” she growled, her voice ringing with malice at the sight of me.

Oddly, the first thought in my head wasn’t of the fact that she was threatening me: it was how different her voice sounded now that she was a vampire. As happened with every vampire, her voice was smooth, fluid, as though every imperfection had been filed away.

I held my hands up, palms forward, to show her that I wasn’t trying to attack her. I even took a step away from her to reinforce the message. “I won’t hurt you, I never meant to hurt you in the first place,” I said, my voice as soothing as I could make it.

“Jasper!” Alice shouted. I knew that she was trying to diffuse the situation with Jasper’s gift, but I was beginning to think that it wouldn’t be enough.

I took another step back, my foot hitting the door as Jasper bounded through it. “Bella, I’m so sorry,” I said, “I won’t ask you to forgive me today, but I want you to know how sorry I am.”

“Today? You think I’m going to forgive you ever? Do you actually think an ‘I’m sorry’ is going to fix this?” she snapped, her eyes narrowing in both fear and anger. “You stole my life from me!”

“Edward, run!” Alice thought quickly, her tone conveying fear. The vision that unfolded in her head happened so quick that I barely had time to react.

I turned and made for the door, feeling Jasper’s gift roll through the room just a half a second too late. Bella slammed into my back, her hands ripping my shirt off as she plowed me into the floor. I had the fleeting thought that this might be it for me, that she might kill me before Alice and Jasper could wrench her away from me, when her hands fell away from my body.

“What is happening to me?” Bella cried, crawling off of me. I turned to see her wrap her arms around her knees and bury her face in her dress. “What is happening to me?”

I knew then that Jasper’s ability had finally reached her, cutting through the haze of anger and fear surrounding her. I felt the insane desire to comfort her, to tell her once again how sorry I was for bringing her into my world, but I knew that it would only make things worse. Instead I watched as Alice knelt beside Bella, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. “It won’t be this way forever. Do you remember what I told you? Do you remember anything that I said?” she asked.

Bella nodded and when she responded her voice was thick with tears that she could never shed. “You told me that these intense feelings, this inability to control my emotions wouldn’t last long, maybe a year,” Bella sniffled, “you told me that you would all help me find myself and that you would be my family if I wanted you to be.”

“That offer still stands,” Alice said, smoothing Bella’s hair, which had begun to tangle with her exertion, “We are so sorry for the way you were brought into our family, but we will love you and protect you for as long as you want to stay with us.”

Bella’s eyes moved up to mine, realizing that I had been staying perfectly still on the floor as I watched Alice comfort her. “Does he have to be here?” she asked Alice, still staring at me.

“I really am sorry,” I said, feeling as though my heart, which had lain dead in my chest for almost ninety years, was breaking. “I don’t want to cause you any more pain, so I’ll leave.” I got to my feet quickly and sped out of the house, needing the fresh forest air almost as much as Bella needed to be away from me.

"So, it sounds like your girlfriend doesn't want you around."

I groaned inwardly as Tanya's thoughts reached me. Apparently she had heard the commotion up at the house and had followed me out into the woods to terrorize me. It would never occur to her that I really needed some time alone. In her mind, it was a given that I wanted her company. I had the sudden urge to run as fast as I possibly could away from her, not that it would help. Tanya was just as fast as I was, and very determined to rub my nose in the fact that Bella not only didn't want me around, she was terrified of me.

I couldn't blame Bella for being scared of me, after all, I had attacked her and stolen her life away without a thought of what that would do to her. I was scared of myself as well.

Of course, when I left the house, I hadn't thought about where I was going or the fact that Tanya would be enjoying this moment. For her it was like Christmas had come early. How could Bella be a competitor for my affections when she couldn't even look at me without wanting to attack me? I usually disliked being in Tanya's head (her thoughts bordered on erotic around me and I was never comfortable with it) and now that Bella had entered the picture she was becoming vicious. I didn't like the person I was seeing in my former friend. It wasn't exactly making her more attractive to me, but that probably wasn't something she would understand.

"Edward, I can make you forget about all this," Tanya called to me, her thoughts a seductive purr as she got closer. "We can find a little secluded place out here and I can make you forget."

I bit back a snarl at the thoughts in her mind. They were such vivid fantasies, so vulgar and yet hopeful, it made me wish, as I had so many times before, that I could turn this damned mind-reading thing off. I wasn't interested in Tanya, and she was making it increasingly difficult for me to be around her. She was sorely testing my ability to be a gentleman. If she kept pushing me, I would eventually lash out and hurt her.

"Tanya, go home, can't you see that he doesn't want any company?"

At the sound of Kate's familiar voice, my body relaxed. Out of all of our Denali cousins, Kate was my favorite. She had a smile that would light up a room, and a bitingly sarcastic wit that made her an entertaining companion. She was also the only sister who had never made an advance on me and that endeared her to me quite a bit. The fact that she was going up against her sister to give me some time to myself made me like her even more. It was something that only Kate would do, as no one else was willing to face Tanya’s wrath.

"Why should I leave? It's not like that little girl is going to welcome him with open arms," Tanya snarled at her sister.

"How many times has Edward told you that he isn't interested in you? I doubt you being out here right now is helping your case much," Kate reminded her sweetly.

I heard a growl echo through the woods and then the distinct sound of Tanya’s furious tread as she sprinted back to the house (her thoughts venomous towards her sister). I felt my heart swell with gratitude towards Kate. She had given me the peace I needed, and I was indebted to her. I wondered what sort of gift I could give her without Tanya becoming furious at the blatant favoritism. I'd have to ask Alice later; she would know exactly what to do in this situation. She was, after all, much better with females than I was. If this afternoon hadn’t proved that... well, I wasn’t going to dwell on that.

"Sorry about Tanya, when I realized neither of you were in the house I figured you needed some rescuing."

"Thank you," I said graciously.

Kate's figure came into view then as she passed through the trees into the small clearing that was a favorite "thinking place" of mine. Her pale blonde hair shone in a halo around her head as she looked up and saw me perched on top of a small pile of boulders. "You don't have to hide anymore, Tanya went back to the house and the others took the girl on her first hunt."

I just nodded, not knowing what to say. Kate quickly made her way to my side. Though the boulders were covered with snow, they gave her no more pause than they would have in a warmer climate. She scaled the precariously perched rocks with nimble feet and landed at my side with perfect grace. She didn't try to offer me comfort and I was grateful for that, as comfort was the very last thing that I needed now. Instead she proceeded in a very Kate-like manner, being as obnoxious as a young cousin while still retaining all the charm of a lovely young woman. "Why did you run from the house?"

"Bella didn’t want me around her," I said, shrugging my shoulders as if this didn't matter.

"Since when have you run away instead of fighting for what you want?"

I was startled by that thought, turning to Kate with wide eyes. "Who says that I want Bella?"

"Well, you don't want her to be afraid of you, that much is obvious," Kate said aloud, "whether you want more from her is something I doubt even you know yet."

I paused for a moment, trying to get my thoughts together before I said something stupid. "Do you really believe she will settle into this life?"

"Didn't we all, at least to some extent?" Kate asked lightly. She squeezed my shoulder and then bounded off into the forest, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

It was quite a bit later in the afternoon when I arrived back at the house. It had taken me much longer to gather the courage to face Bella and the situation she posed than I had thought it would. Like the coward I was, I had waited until I knew she was back from her hunting trip. Perhaps taking the edge off her thirst would help with taking the edge off her anger at me. I wasn’t really hopeful, but it was the only plan I had. Not that I really had any idea what I was going to do with her yet, but I knew that I couldn't hide from her any longer. I wasn't exactly helping things by not explaining why I had taken her life away from her... not that I really knew why myself. I still didn’t quite understand why she had affected me so strongly, but she deserved some kind of answer and I intended to give it to her.

When I entered the house I could hear Alice murmuring soothing words in the nearby sitting room. I braced myself as I reached for the doorknob, unsure of the greeting I was about to receive. I took a deep breath and opened the door, stepping inside of the room and coming face to face with the girl I had been avoiding all day.

The sitting room looked as I had remembered it from previous visits. It was filled with comfortable looking chairs, most of them in various shades of cream or light blue. There was also a large coffee table with an antique tea set in the middle of the room. I looked at all of this before looking at Bella. It was difficult to pull my eyes to her, knowing how she felt about me, but I knew that I had to face my fears and do the right thing. She had to understand how sorry I was, how willing I was to do the right thing by her, no matter what she felt that was. If it meant surrendering my life to her... I felt I deserved it.

“Bella...” I began, stepping toward her with an outstretched hand.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when she cringed into the chair she was sitting in, but the fact that her satiated bloodlust didn’t soften her opinion of me was a bit disappointing. Alice and Jasper stood at either side of her chair, prepared to stop her from doing anything she would regret, and they both looked at me with weariness (and in Alice’s case, sadness) in their eyes. I could feel Jasper’s gift working through the room, but even so Bella still seemed a bit jumpy. “Just, stay back, okay? I can’t really control myself right now and I don’t want to hurt you,” she said nervously, her eyes falling to the floor.

Wait, what? That wasn’t the response I had been expecting. She was worried about hurting me? “You don’t?” I asked, my eyes widening in surprise.

Bella looked up at Alice, who stood at her side like a sentry. Alice nodded at her encouragingly and I caught a glimpse of smugness in her thoughts before she shut me out again. “After my first hunt, Alice and I had a long talk and well... I can’t forgive you what you did to me, but I can understand why it happened. The moment I smelled that kodiak....” she trailed off, lost in a memory.

I knew what she meant, it was often difficult to keep yourself away from your prey. For Bella, on her first hunt, it wouldn’t have surprised me if she had torn the bear apart to get to the blood she so desperately craved. I hated that she had to go through that, but if it meant that her feelings toward me had softened, I would accept that blessing with grace. “It is difficult not to just attack what you want, right?” I asked gently.

Her eyes shot to mine, grateful that I had said what she couldn’t seem to say. “Exactly,” she whispered, “if you felt even a fraction of what I felt... well, I’m surprised you didn’t attack me in the middle of class.”

I laughed a bit wryly, “The thought crossed my mind several times a second for the entire hour you sat next to me. I’m just sorry that I couldn’t have walked away from you after school. You just smelled...” I trailed off after Alice glared at me.

“She doesn’t need to hear all the gory details does she?” she asked, her eyebrows raised expectantly. She was right of course, Bella would be better off without knowing what had been in my mind that day at school.

“... It doesn’t matter. The point is that I’m sorry for what happened and if you can ever find it in your heart to forgive me, I’d like to be friends,” I said, a twinge going through me as I saw Alice’s vision for me in my mind. I was going to love this girl and friendship may end up being impossible. I tossed that out of my mind for the moment though, focusing on the present.

“Friends?” Bella asked, her eyes growing wide in surprise, “You want to be my friend?”

“You are already part of our family,” Alice insisted as she injected herself into our conversation, kneeling beside Bella’s chair and taking one of the girls hands in her own small ones, “We want you to be happy, I’ve told you this already.”

Bella kept her eyes on me though, as if she didn’t believe what I was saying to her. “Can I think about it?” she asked, “I’m still really confused about all of this.”

My heart sank, but I did understand. Hadn’t I been a little upset with Carlisle at first? Of course, it hadn’t been quite the same because I had been dying, and I had no family or life to turn away from, but still...

“You can have all the time you need,” I assured her, my hand reaching for the doorknob, “Besides, it isn’t like either of us are going anywhere.”

Her face fell at my words and I realized that they could be misconstrued. “Right, we have forever, don’t we?” she said sadly.

As I walked out of the room I felt even worse than I had when I walked in. Would I ever stop hurting Bella Swan? Was I doomed to fall in love with this girl and have her hate me forever? I closed the door to the sitting room and then leaned my forehead against it, closing my eyes. My earlier conversation with Kate began to replay in my mind:

"Why did you run from the house?"

"Bella didn’t want me around her."

"Since when have you run away instead of fighting for what you want?"

"Who says that I want Bella?"

"Well, you don't want her to be afraid of you, that much is obvious. Whether you want more from her is something I doubt even you know yet."

"You really think she will settle in to this life?"

"Didn't we all, at least to some extent?"

I could only hope that Kate was right.
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