Where to Start
The run's engine purred quietly as Edward and Jasper sat in the parking lot across the street from Wil's apartment.
Neither of them spoke, Edward staring at the Ledyard Apartments with his jaw squared and his teeth clenched, Jasper leaning with his head in one hand, shaking it slightly. His mind was blocked quite solidly against his brother, reciting the latest text he had read and how he would rewrite it later, correcting errors and stripping away its ridiculous bias against the South.
Edward, however, would not have heard Jasper even if his brother wasn't blocking him so effectively. His mind was mired in the night before, from the time Alice had called him, frantic, telling him he and Jasper needed to get across campus now, to finding Wil laying beside the dead man drained of life, to the long walk to Wil's apartment, her body cradled in his arms.
"You're doing it again," Jasper had told him softly, looking between the two of them and reading Edward's scattered, flustered emotions.
"No," he'd growled in response, though he clutched Wil closer to him. "Not if I can help it," he'd added as an afterthought, loosening his grip and staring straight ahead, refusing to look down at her.
I don't think you can, Jasper thought, probably to himself. Maybe you shouldn't.
"How can you say that?" Edward demanded, his eyes narrowing. "How can you think it after everything?"
Jasper had paused, turning to him, and Edward had stopped to wait for him. "Because, dear brother, you know more this time. You can avoid the mistakes. You can do it right." Tell her. Change her. Be with her, Edward. You deserve it.
Edward huffed as he sat in the car, echoing his response at the time. It was not the first time he'd been told that he deserved what the others had. He had heard it for years before Bella and for years after, and Bella herself had told him that on more than one occasion. Charlie had told him, for God's sake.
He just couldn't bring himself to believe it.
"There they go," Jasper muttered, and Edward watched Kate and Eve leave the apartment building and cross to their car. Focusing on them, Edward watched as Eve shook her head, reading her thoughts and grimacing. "What is it, Edward?"
"They noticed how late she was out," he explained, reaching for the door handle. "She remembers everything, but there were dreams after, and she can't tell them apart."
Jasper grabbed his arm, stilling him as he started to open the door. "That's good. She's brush it all off as a dream."
"There's more," Edward said with a shake of his head. "The newborn – we were right, it's the Rhonda girl that's been missing. And she was their roommate."
Edward pushed his way out of the car without waiting for Jasper to respond, shutting the door firmly behind him. He knew all of the arguments for staying away, and he wasn't sure what he was going to say, but he had to do something.
For a decade, he had been doing nothing, and it had gotten him nowhere.
It was easy to push the knob enough to get it to unlock for him, and he made his way up to Wil's apartment quickly, knocking gently on the door. He heard her moving in the apartment, coming over to the door and sighing quietly. Her thoughts were clouded, but he thought he picked up something about her mother, and there was a hesitation to open the door before she finally did so.
"Edward," she said in surprise, her eyes meeting his.
"Wil," Edward said smoothly, giving her a half smile. "How are you this morning?" He reached up to run a hand through his hair. She wore a baggy grey sweatshirt and a black pair of pants, her hair was damp, and Edward was suddenly at a loss for what to say to the haunted-looking woman before him. She stepped aside, gesturing him in, and after a moment's hesitation he took the offer. Crossing the threshold, he slipped his navy windbreaker off and hung it on an open hook.
"I've been better," she told him. Her face lit up slightly, and she held up one finger, saying, "Just wait here, I'll get your package and you can be on your way." When she turned away, he fell into step behind her.
"Really?" he pressed, matching her step for step as she went into the living room. On a side table sat a small square box with a gold flecked lid.
"Yeah, of course," she told him when she reached the box, picking it up and turning to him. "I had to do something after you gave me so much of your time. Here."
Edward set a hand on the box, gently pressing it back toward her. "That is not what I mean, Willa. You were quite out of sorts last night when I found you at that bus stop. Don't you remember?" The idea came to him out of nowhere. The least he could do for her, he decided, was to give her some peace about the evening before, some way to easily dismiss whatever she had seen.
She gasped quietly, locking eyes with him and studying him for a moment. "What bus stop?" she asked, her eyes narrowing. As she studied him, he slipped his hands into his pockets, adopting a casual air and smirking.
"I guess I was right about how you spent the night," he commented. "You were passed out on the bench of a bus stop, shivering for cold. I woke you up and escorted you home, but I suppose you were still…inebriated."
Wil slowly set the box down. Her eyes pierced him, and a frown tugged at her features. "You're lying," she told him, trying to meet his gaze. He looked away before he could stop himself, the guilt at lying to her an odd companion. "What the hell, Edward? You avoid me for a week, then you show up on my door spouting lies?"
He gaped at her for a moment, jaw slack, then floundered for an answer. "No, I would never-"
"No, never," she sneered, quickly losing her temper. Edward took his hands out of his pockets, raising them slightly to try to calm her as he scrambled for some kind of response. This wasn't going at all like it should! He opened his mouth to placate her and she stepped forward, shoving him. He had the presence of mind to move with her, stumbling backward.
"Why are you even here? You've been ignoring my calls all week, and then you claim to suddenly swoop in to rescue me, lying about what really happened. What did happen, Edward?" she demanded of him. "Tell me before I start believing these dreams and convince myself I'm going crazy."
"I told you, Willa," he said carefully. "I found you, drunk and asleep, on a bus stop bench. If you were having bad dreams, it was probably the alcohol." He took a step back from her, raising his hands. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"Well, I'm not," she told him scathingly. "I'm suddenly dreaming of my dead roommate – did you know my roommate is the girl everyone has been looking for and talking about, the one that went missing and was probably attacked by some wild animal? Only she's some murdering psycho suddenly, and there's so much blood, and I think I witnessed something horrible last night, but for all I know I'm going crazy and dreaming the whole thing up. My mother and great-uncle are living in the hospital, and he's going senile or something on top of the heart attack he just had, and I feel like I want to cheat on my dead fiancé with a guy who can't decide whether he hates me or not. Life is, in fact, pretty shitty right now, and I don't need you lying to me on top of it all."
Edward froze. He stared at her for a moment, amazed by her outburst, and swallowed thickly as he ran it over once more in his mind. His lips parted, but no sound came out, so he licked his lips and tried again.
"You think I hate you?" he asked quietly.
"You think I was talking about you?' she snapped back. He felt something in his snap, and his body went slack.
"I see," he said softly, ignoring the thoughts in his head telling him that he should have known, should not have bothered even coming here. "In that case, I apologize for interrupting your day, Wil. Excuse me." He turned away from her as a startled look crossed her face. Jasper would be waiting out in the car, and they could go back to the house, see how the others had fared with Rhonda, and make his preparations to leave. He was done here.
This had been a terrible mistake – all of it.
"Wait," she said, and he paused, turning back to her with an eyebrow raised. "There was something I wanted to try." Taking him off guard, she stepped forward and brushed her lips against his gently. For the second time in just moments, she threw him for a loop, and he stood statue-still waiting for her to pull away, to realize her error and shove him away in disgust. Wil brought her hands up slowly, cupping his face to draw him closer, and Edward thought for a moment how different this was from kissing Bella, her body taller, her kisses more certain, her taste entirely different.
Bella's voice whispered in his mind, Be happy, and he slipped his arms around her waist, returning the kiss.
Neither of them expected the usual fireworks a first kiss brought with it. There was too much baggage, too much else going in both of their minds to lose themselves completely. It was tentative, uncertain, like someone who hasn't skated in years stepping out onto the ice again. Her arms found their way around his neck and they leaned into each other, their eyes closing as their lips moved together. After a short time, they broke apart, Wil resting her forehead on Edward's . He resisted opening his eyes, instead allowing herself a few more moments where nothing else mattered but this new and fragile…something…between them. When his eyes opened, they found hers, half-lidded and uncertain. A shiver ran through her, and it brought him back to reality in a thundering crash.
"We shouldn't do this," Edward muttered, pulling away slowly. "I can't."
Wil firmed up her hold on them, refusing to let go. "Don't, Edward. I know it's hard - it's hard for me too."
"It's not that." With a soft touch, he pushed her away from him and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, it is, but it's more than that too. You couldn't understand."
She couldn't. He couldn't explain it to her, refused to – she deserved more than that, better than that. In his mind, he saw Bella laying dead in their home at Forks, her eyes staring up at him sightlessly, and he took another step away from her as he imagined Wil staring up at him the same way. She was staring at him, but he kept his gaze on the wall behind her, not wanting to see the emotions in her eyes. Out of his peripheral vision, he saw her tuck a strand of hair behind her ear and nod.
"Fine then," she said in a wavering voice. "It's been a pleasure, Edward. Thank you for all your help." Her voice cracked on the last few words, and the sound tore at Edward, making him wince. Slowly, she went to the door. "Goodbye?"
The way she said the last word as a question twisted the knife already in his chest, and his eyes snapped to hers finally. She was staring at him, her eyes glistening with unshed tears, and the pain in her eyes made him frown. A battle seemed to war within him, and he pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes shut. What should he do? What was right?
He was causing more pain again, just like he always did, only this time he was doing it on purpose. His mistakes with Bella had been mistakes while trying to make her happy, give her the best life she could possibly have. Hurting Wil intentionally… That would make him a monster.
Without opening his eyes, he closed the distance between them, reaching up and shutting the door behind her.
"Come sit with me?" he asked in an almost-desperate tone. "Please?" Finally, he opened his eyes, meeting her gaze with urgency. His fingers closed around hers, leading her out to the living room, and they sat down on the couch together. He didn't release her hand.
"I'm not sure where to start. There is so much." Edward stopped for a moment, staring into her eyes deep in thought. "I do not hate you. I am not sure I could hate you."
"You've had a funny way of showing it," Wil chastised gently, squeezing his hand to take away any of the sting from her comment. Her grip was warm, gentle and comforting, something that he wasn't sure he was ready to acknowledge.
"I know, I know," he told her with a crooked grin. "I would be a liar if I said it was not intentional, Wil. I am not good for you, you need to know that."
"Please, let me say my piece," Edward asked, shaking his head when she tried to cut in. "I am equally afraid of hurting you and of being hurt, Wil. Terrified. There are things you need to know before I can even consider spending more time with you. I let this go on too long." He leaned forward, her hand still in his, and watched her intently. "Tell me what you think happened last night, and I will tell you if it was a dream."
The sudden reversal caught her off guard. Unprepared, he caught a glimpse of her mind, of the horror from the night before. She shuddered, her mouth hanging open as she tried to form words, and Edward realized just how much she had witnessed before passing out. "It's crazy," she whispered, shaking her head.
"Please, Wil." Edward gazed into her eyes, his voice gentle but insistent, and she pulled her hand from his so that she could wrap her arms around herself.
"I was walking, like I do every night, and I heard this groaning in an alley," she began, hesitant in her telling. "I thought someone was hurt, that they needed help, so I got my flashlight out and saw someone huddled in the alley... She looked up, and it was Rhonda, and she was covered in blood, Edward. There was so much blood. Oh God, Edward, it sounds so crazy that it has to have been a dream, that's what I keep telling myself. One minute she was in the alley, and the next she was in front of me, so close I could feel her breath... She had this terrible look in her eyes, they were blood red, everything was so red..."
She clutched at herself as she trailed off, her gaze growing distant, and Edward recognized the beginning stages of her shock. He had anticipated this, but at the same time it took him off guard; this was no Bella he was dealing with, unphased by all the horrors she had witness. He pulled Wil into his arms, then on to his lap, rocking her gently as she set her head against his chest. "Shh," he murmured into her hair, surrounding her as well as he could with himself. "I have you. I won't let anything hurt you."
It was the most true thing he had ever said to her.
They sat there for a few minutes, Wil shaking in his arms, until finally she was able to push the images from her mind. The tremors that skittered over her slowed, then finally ceased. "Sorry," she muttered, and he could smell a blush creeping over her. He smiled when she pulled away slightly.
"You are so normal," he told her. "This is more what I feared I would find this morning, and it is almost a relief. You were too pulled together. Have you told anyone else about this?" He let her slide off his lap, watching as she slowly pulled herself back together. She ran a hand through her hair, shaking it out, and settled her hands in her lap with her legs crossed beneath her.
"Of course not," she said with a bit of an edge. "They would all have me committed." Edward chuckled softly.
"Of course not," he echoed back at her. "So normal, and yet not at all. The first thing most people would do is run to the police."
Wil shook her head. "And told them what, that my dead roommate has turned into a vampire and is running around the city slaughtering people?"
Edward stiffened. No, she was not Bella, but she was certainly just as perceptive. What now? What should he do? He thought of the way she had felt in his arms – the way he had felt with her – and took a deep breath. If I'm going to go to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly, he told himself, remembering his words from so many years ago. Reaching over, he took her hand, finding calm from her grasp.
"Willa, this sounds ridiculous, but that is exactly what has happened," he told her grimly.