Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 9

Chapter 9
BELLA
I flinched at the roar and crash that came from downstairs. Four days. Four days of anger and sadness that wafted through the house like a thick fog. I finally started to shield whatever room we were in. At the moment, it was Edward's and my room.
After our discovery of Archie, it had been decided in a family meeting not far from the house that we would try to help him. Since he posed no real threat, everyone agreed that he needed us, especially when I stood up for him. Demitri, Carina, Brandon, and Catherine offered to stay around just to help. We were all curious as to how Archie came to be, but Edward could only see what the vampire actually thought about. And therein lied the problem.
Archie was weak and scared and angry, but when he figured out we knew his maker, Victoria, any trust we'd built with him in those first few minutes was completely shattered. Gone. He no more wanted us down in his cellar than he wanted to leave the house. He shunned everything we offered him, including blood, which worried us all to no end, and he would lunge at Brandon, knowing he was taking away his ability to hide. No one wanted to hurt him or restrain him, so we let him be, though Carlisle hadn't given up trying. He went in every day – sometimes, more than once – to talk to him. Archie, however, had still not uttered a single word.
Victoria. I tsked, rolling my eyes and flipping the page of the book I wasn't really reading as I lay across our bed. What a nuisance she'd been – apparently for her entire existence. Poor Archie wouldn't listen to a thing we had to say about her, so he had no idea that she was no longer walking this Earth, thanks to Edward. Personally, I think it was something he needed to hear.
Edward chuckled from his spot at the foot of the bed. He was sitting on the floor and leaning back against the mattress, but his feet were planted on the steps that led down to the lower part of our bedroom. Soft notes filled the air as he plucked at his acoustic guitar. It was the one he'd bought for himself while he'd been away from me.
"Relax, sweet girl," he crooned, his head falling back to the bed and turning to look at me. He never missed a note he was playing. "He just needs time."
I ran my fingers through his hair, kissing his forehead. "I know," I breathed against sweet-smelling skin. "But he should at least hear that Victoria is no longer around. It's a fascinating story, where you're the handsome hero that saves the damsel in distress from a crazy psycho. We can leave out Jake's part in it all," I said with a grin.
He smiled shyly and sweetly, shaking his head at me and looking a touch embarrassed. "I was lucky, and it let me keep you, baby. That's all that's important."
The groans throughout the house made me laugh. "Don't listen, then!" I growled, rolling my eyes. "House full of nosy people," I muttered, scowling at the door of our room.
"That didn't take as long as I thought it would, love," Edward noted, though the sarcasm was clear as day. "We can still run away..." he teased, smiling and biting his bottom lip.
"Nah," I sighed dramatically and simply added, "Esme would be sad." I grinned at her sweet laughter that spilled up the stairs, but I changed to thoughts. Besides, we're her favorite children.
Edward laughed softly, stole a quick, somewhat upside down kiss, and went back to playing. I returned to my book, keeping my fingers deep within unruly locks, which caused a purr to join in with the guitar music.
It was a comfortable quiet in our room – an escape – which was nice, considering what the last few days had been like. The first few times that Carlisle had tried to speak with Archie, too many of us had gone in, which had resulted in snarls and growls that Alice had said would've changed to violence. Edward had tried to read his mind, but it was full of only angry and mistrustful thoughts. Now that he knew what we were capable of, Archie wouldn't let us in. Carlisle had then tried going in alone, with Esme, with Demitri, and finally, with just Edward, but the same thing would happen. Brandon was the worst target, so he had to stay up in the library to work his talent on poor Archie.
However, all that fighting did answer one question for us: how Archie was getting around without leaving any footprints. He was using the walls to travel inside that cellar. Basically, he looked like a lizard on a rock. Carlisle once again said that he'd found a way for his instincts to keep him hidden, keep him safe. And I wondered just how far back that went – perhaps even to Victoria.
I flinched again when growls traveled upstairs from down in the library. The slam of the bookcase door told me that Carlisle had failed again. My shield tugged hard at me, wanting nothing more than to go to Archie, especially when the keening wails started. My fingers gripped Edward's hair, causing him to hiss a little.
"God, sorry," I gushed, pressing kisses to where I had accidentally tugged too hard. "I'm so sorry, Edward." He was laughing as I tried to smooth his hair back down, but the adorably scrunched-up face made me kiss his ear, cheek, and temple.
He set the guitar aside, turning a little so that we were nose to nose. "You can't control it, can you? The shield, I mean?" he asked, taking my hand from his hair and kissing each finger. When I shook my head no, he nodded like he'd assumed as much. "Through your thoughts, I see that you fight it. Why?"
"Carlisle said to give him space..." I shrugged a shoulder. "It's not like he can hurt me...and my presence – along with every other woman in the house – makes him...wary."
Alice gasped from the next floor down, which seemed to catch Edward's attention. He tilted his head a little, so I knew they were communicating the way they always did. Our bedroom door opened to her standing there, a wicked smile gracing her features.
"If she went in alone, shielded herself from his attack, then he would have no choice. He doesn't know what she can do," Alice gushed in a frenzy. "Edward, you can see that he'll at least pause long enough for her, because she gets pissed."
My eyebrows shot up as I glanced between the two of them.
A smile crawled up Edward's handsome face, but it fell just as quickly as it came. "And the blood?"
"She's fine, see? She shields the scent," Alice replied.
"You two plan on letting me in on this?" I asked wryly, closing my book and sitting up crossed-legged in the middle of my bed.
Edward looked sheepish but got up from the floor to sit down in front of me. "We think – or at least, Alice sees you making progress with him. She sees him taking the blood from you. He needs it. He's still starving. What Carlisle gave him the other day is still not enough."
"And I get mad...why?" I asked, turning my gaze to Alice.
She shook her head. "The reasons keep changing."
I pursed my lips at them both but looked to the doorway when Carlisle appeared. "You want me to try, right?"
He smirked a little at my snarky attitude but nodded. "I think anything is worth a shot. If you go in shielded and without fear...he may realize that he can't get anywhere with you."
"Assert my dominance?" I snorted, rolling my eyes. "Jake would be proud," I scoffed.
Edward chuckled, but one glance his way, and I had to fight my smile. His eyes had darkened at the mention of dominance.
Shameless, Edward, I thought to him, fighting my laughter. And just whose dominance? Mine...or yours?
He grinned, dragging his tongue slowly across his bottom lip, like he was already tasting me in the air. "Doesn't matter," he said, his voice laced with humor and want.
I patted him on the head condescendingly, loving my naughty husband that much more. "You'll have to hold that thought, baby. Apparently, you've signed me up for something else."
Carlisle barked a laugh at his son's crestfallen face and my cheesy grin but waved me forward. "Come, sweetheart. I'll get you what you need. I'd like to get two more bags in him soon."
Taking a good look at him, I reached out to brush what looked like dirt off his shirt. "Carlisle...did he throw shit at you?" I growled at his tentative nod, my nostrils flaring at the same time that Alice's laughter rang out.
"He's lashing out, Bella. We've disrupted his world. It's completely understandable," Carlisle defended, but that wasn't working for me.
I took the two bags of blood and the cup, walking to the bookcase doorway and unlatching it.
"Hey, Bells, you need me to—" Brandon started while pointing down the stairs, but I cut him off.
"No." My answer was sharp and slightly laced with a growl, but I turned when Edward's hand landed on my shoulder.
"Shield," he instructed, using a low-enough tone that only I heard. "He knows you're coming."
"He doesn't scare me," I snapped, and I was loud on purpose.
The very second my feet touched down on the bottom step, the debris on the floor shifted. Tucking the bags of blood under my arm, I leaned against the wall, shot my shield up around me, and waited. I felt where Archie was, in the far corner over by the cellar entry. But broken boards, shattered glass, and a cloud of dirt and dust bounced off my shield.
"You done, Archie?" I asked, my voice harsh, but I snorted when he tried again. "It won't work. You can't touch me."
When he didn't stop, my temper snapped, using my shield like a bulldozer, I scooped up every bit of trash and garbage on the floor, including his pile of blankets, and sent it barreling down the tunnel that led to the garage. The floor was spotless. It was just open bare concrete, except for a small wooden door in the floor that his blankets had been covering. Raising an eyebrow at it, I went back to the problem at hand.
"Now, maybe we can get somewhere," I huffed dramatically, ignoring the sound of my family's stifled laughter.
I sat down on the bottom step, feeling Archie shift. Just because he was angry didn't mean that he still didn't pull me in. At that thought, I let a deep breath out and set the bags and cup at my side.
"You know, I understand that you're upset and frustrated, Archie," I started, rubbing my face. "I also understand that Victoria was a nasty piece of work. If you'd give us five minutes, I could tell you how we know her – and how she met her demise..."
That must have gotten his attention because his movement within my shield came to a halt.
I tilted my head his way but then shook it. "No, you'll have to do better than that. You want to know what happened, then you have to earn it, Archie. Show yourself, and I'll tell you. Stay calm, and I'll feed you," I bargained, pointing to the blood at my side. "You're acting like a coward by hiding, and you're acting like a child by pitching these grandiose fits. I'm done. You had to have been around twenty when you were changed, so surely you remember your manners. You need to understand that we mean you no harm, and you're attacking the one man that means the most to us and who wouldn't harm you if you paid him. Yes, we're in your house, and yes, you're scared, but I'm pretty sure we've done everything to prove to you that we aren't going to hurt you. Trust me when I tell you that if we didn't want you here, if we didn't want to help you...there are enough of us with plenty of power to get rid of you. And it wouldn't surprise me if a few of them haven't considered that you're more trouble than you're worth."
It seemed harsh to say, but we'd tried coaxing, patience, and calm. Maybe the only other thing left to use was a firm hand and the cold, honest truth.
"I'm not Victoria," I growled, frowning at the thought of that nasty red-headed demon. "In fact, she was the reason I had to be turned."
I heard the sharp intake of breath before movement flickered across the room. Archie was wrapped around himself directly across from me, leaning against the wall. His pale skin was a sharp contrast to the dark brick around him, but he regarded me with black, emotionless eyes. He was still way too thin, almost emaciated. His cheeks and eyes had sunk in again, which told me that he'd used what little energy he'd had fighting us. He was almost back to where we started, and it had only been a few days. Looking at him, I was curious as to what he'd look like completely healthy...and clean.
Nodding once to him, I said, "Yeah, we totally have her in common. Thank you. I didn't like the idea of talking to thin air."
His face didn't change, but he rested his cheek on his knees, his eyes never leaving mine, except to glance once at the blood by my thigh. I ignored it; he hadn't earned that yet.
"I met Edward when I was still human," I said to start my story and didn't stop until the night when Edward changed me. I left out a few details, like Jake and the wolves and Edward's two-year absence, but I told him that Victoria had only gotten meaner and more vengeful over the years. "She's gone. I promise that she'll never bother you again. She's scattered ashes on the Pacific Northwest. Edward took care of her and then changed me."
I didn't elaborate that I'd wanted it, that it had already been planned to change me. Archie never would've understood that, at least not at the moment. I didn't need to read minds to know that he hated what he was and that he was terrified of it all, though Edward had explained it multiple times.
When I was done, I picked up the first bag of blood, feeling his eyes on my every move. "Listen, Archie," I told him, shielding myself from the scent as I filled the cup. "We aren't like her. That's my family upstairs...every last one of them. That's my husband, my parents, my brothers and sisters. We live as a family. We don't kill humans, and from what I've discovered about you...you don't want to kill, either, or Caroline Dixon would have disappeared that last night ten years ago. You suffer until you can't take it, until you snap."
I held out the cup, locking eyes with him, and for the first time since I'd set foot in the room, his expression changed briefly to that of surprise. It disappeared quickly.
"We feed on animals. Carlisle's tried to explain that to you, but you were too angry to listen." I waited for what seemed like a full five minutes, but he made no move to come get the cup that I was still holding out to him. "I'm not moving, and I'm not catering to you. If you want this, then come get it. You're going to have to trust one of us, and since I've been pleading your case since we found you, then it might as well be me."
My shield was firmly in place, so if he'd decided to lash out, he wouldn't have been able to touch me. But I flinched a little when he started to close the distance between us. He didn't walk, but he moved rather quickly. My heart broke for him because Edward was right. He'd forgotten his humanity. Hell, he hardly walked upright. Victoria had broken him down to nothing and just left him. It made me hate her all over again.
A shaky, skeletal hand reached out, freezing just before touching the cup. I raised an eyebrow at him, not moving. His heavy, black gaze broke from mine to the cup. When he took it from my grasp, he was gentler than I'd expected. I smiled when he drained it and then silently pleaded for more when he offered the cup back while he crouched at my feet. I gave him the next bag, and he drained that just as quickly, licking his lips. The blood went to work immediately on him, filling in sunken spaces, smoothing out pale skin, and swirling his eyes with red, only to blacken again.
"You know, if you get enough in you, everything around you won't be so overwhelming," I sighed, because when I stood up, he scurried back across the room to the opposite wall again. I gazed around at his now bare living space and shook my head. "I'm going to send Esme in here with some new blankets for you because those others are garbage. She's the only mother I have, so you treat her with respect," I told him. I took one step up but turned around to face him again. "Oh yeah, and you can have more...on one condition." I shook the cup in my hand. "I'll give you all you want once you've returned the things you've stolen from me and Emmett. Specifically, my box of letters. That was a low blow. The drill and the music were one thing – those can be replaced – but the letters... You have no idea how much they mean to me. Okay?"
I didn't wait for a reaction from him; I simply walked back up the steps and into the library to see Esme already there with a pile of new, soft, fluffy blankets in several different colors. She kissed my cheek on the way by. The boys, including Edward and Demitri, were staring with open mouths. Rose, Alice, Carina, and Catherine all nodded like it was about time someone had said something to Archie. Carlisle looked proud but still worried as he watched his wife take the stairs down into cellar. We held our breaths, but Esme emerged not a full minute later without so much as a sound from down below.
I handed Carlisle the empty bags and the cup. "He doesn't get a drop more until those missing things are returned. Anger, I can understand; thievery, not so much." I made sure my voice carried so that there was no mistaking who I was talking to.
At that, my brothers, Demitri, and Brandon, howled with laughter. Edward stood up from the piano bench and walked to me.
Cupping my face, he chuckled. "You're beautiful when you're angry."
I grinned, and my giggle grew until it was full-on laughter. "Whatever, Edward. You're biased."
"Mmhm," he hummed against my forehead. "Perhaps." He sighed, pulling back and then glancing around the room, only to turn back to me. "You treated him like his mother."
I snorted, giving the bookcase door a scathing look. "I treated him how Charlie would've treated me. Immortal or not...he wouldn't have put up with this shit."
That caused a few snickers throughout the room.
"That...was badass," Emmett praised in a whisper.
"No kidding!" Kevin chimed in. "Hey...can you do that same shit with my fucking laundry upstairs?"
"Kevin!" Esme growled. "I still have soap. And I'm not afraid to use it on that mouth of yours." She sighed, turning to Edward. "Play something. Maybe the whole house will calm down."
Edward barked a surprised laugh but looked like a child when he nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
~oOo~
EDWARD
"I wanna know what's under that trap door," Emmett whispered to Jasper as they played some sort of war game on the Xbox.
"No...no, you probably don't," Jasper answered with a chuckle, not taking his eyes off the TV. "That may be William Varner's true hidden room, but if our friend downstairs threw out his animal kills into the garage, then just where do you think the human ones went?"
"Well, he obviously didn't take a hike in the woods," Adrian muttered wryly, rolling his eyes.
"You think he'll return the stuff he took?" Kevin asked.
"If he ever wants to eat again, he will," Demitri said with a harsh laugh. "He's now living with a family that carries no blood and that can obviously feed themselves outside the house. And if Carlisle suggests it one more time before her shit is returned, the little one may snap."
Chuckling, I nodded in agreement, gazing around at the men in the room. The girls were in town getting some clothes for Carina and Catherine because they were staying longer than they'd intended. Brandon had gone with them.
It had been a few days since my Bella had descended the stairs and put her foot down. She'd drawn the proverbial line for Archie, and he'd followed through for most of it. She'd shocked him, that was a fact. Her power and temper had scared him, but her calm demeanor had scared him even more. The retelling of Victoria's demise had settled him a little. The blood she'd given him had cleared his mind a lot. He'd felt chastised, like his mother had once made him feel. He'd felt guilty about taking things that weren't his. But most of all, he'd felt like a fool when she'd accused him of acting like a child. She'd known more about him than he'd realized – his age, his fears, and his feeding habits. The mention of the last tenant, Caroline Dixon, had sent him reeling.
Jasper had felt something akin to respect echo up out of the cellar when Bella had finished with him, but not one peep had been heard from Archie since.
It was a waiting game – and my beautiful girl was determined to win.
"It's a battle of wills now," I said with a laugh and a shake of my head. "I almost feel sorry for him."
Jasper cracked up. "No shit, bro."
Kevin grinned. "The Goddess is a stubborn thing, that's for sure."
"Don't I know it," I sighed, rolling my eyes at their laughter.
I heard Carlisle's mind before he even entered the kitchen.
"Don't do it, Carlisle," I warned him, smirking when he sighed in defeat. "You're right, he needs more, but not like that. Bella was getting somewhere..."
His heart ached for how this vampire had come to be, and he didn't know what to do about that. He knew Bella was right in her actions, because if we fed him now without Archie doing as she asked, we'd be back to square one. His compassion for our guest downstairs was almost overwhelming for him. Bella's request that we pretend Archie wasn't there was proving extremely difficult.
Emmett chuckled. "Oh, Dad... What he's saying is... Please don't piss off the baby girl because he's the one that'll have to settle her down."
Snorting at the bare-bones truth of that, I said nothing but simply pointed at my brother and nodded.
"Or...are you bored, Dad?" Jasper teased. "You know, there's an opening at the hospital. I checked."
The whole lot of us laughed when he leaned in the doorway from the dining room. "Are we approaching your bet, Jasper?" he asked, smirking at us and folding his arms across his chest. "Who's out already?"
"Emmett and Rose," I said, smiling at my brother's low growl. "They said a week. They've been out for a while. I have more faith in you. Bella and I gave you two months, so take your time. You have another few weeks." I grinned over at Demitri when he laughed. "He won't make it."
Carlisle chuckled. "I fear I do need a hobby. You people are starting to drive me crazy."
"Yeah? Try high school, Dad. It's thrilling," Emmett scoffed, rolling his eyes.
My laugh cut short, and I had to rub my chest. It seemed the girls had gone a little farther into town. My family mentally noted my actions but said nothing because they were used to Bella's and my connection. However, Demitri caught it.
"How far can she go?" he asked as my brothers went back to their game.
"Ten miles seems to be the line," I told him, "but we've gone farther."
"Marcus was wondering if you were able to build on it. You know, stretch it out," he mused, pulling his hair away from his face. "I'm guessing...no."
"We've tried, but it's more painful than it's worth, especially on Bella's part." I sighed, rubbing my chest again at the ache that was there. Jasper sent me a calm feeling, and I nodded to him. "Thanks."
We'd learned to deal with the connection. All of us. Distance and time apart tugged at the two us more than a normal couple. Marcus, Demitri, and Carlisle had researched it for us and discovered that there were mated vampire couples that were able to live with completi l'anima quite well. They didn't separate for long, and they always had to reconnect when they were reunited. We managed it much like we managed our thirst.
My phone alerted a text immediately.
B: I'm okay, Edward. You?
I smiled, the ache in my chest dulling a little at just this small amount of communication.
E: Missing you every minute. Buy something small and lacy. ;)
B: Too late. I already did. But you have to earn it, Mr. Cullen.
E: Name it. It's yours, my beautiful girl. What color did you get?
B: Purple. I'll think about it and get back to you. How's my stubborn friend?
E: Just as tenacious as you, love. Hurry back to me. You look amazing in purple.
B: Believe me, I'm trying. Love you... And don't let Carlisle cave!
I laughed, shaking my head and sending her an "I love you" right back.
Emmett grumbled at the TV when his player died, but Jasper celebrated his victory. Getting up from the couch, I wandered into the library, eying my piano. I always felt a little lost when Bella wasn't home, but I wasn't alone in that thinking. Every man aside from Adrian and Kevin were feeling the absence of their mate today. I gazed out the windows over the backyard and into the dull, dreary day. Fall was officially upon us, and soon, it would be bringing with it heavy snows and slushy days. The leaves had changed colors, giving the trees a kaleidoscope of oranges, yellows, and reds.
There was a small part of me that wanted to run, wanted to take off for a little bit just to enjoy the crisp, chilly air, but I changed my mind. Two reasons had me taking a seat at my piano instead of tearing off into the woods. The first was that my sweet girl would be home soon – not that she couldn't find me, but I'd rather run with her. And the second was surprising. My freedom was so easily taken for granted.
"Damn, Archie..." I sighed to myself with a slow shake of my head. "How could you have stayed here this long without just...running?"
I heard no answer from him, but Carlisle voiced his opinion.
"Fear is a powerful emotion," he said, shrugging a shoulder as he wandered into the room. His mind noted all our guitars on the wall, but really, he was reminiscing about my change. "Just ask Jasper," he added, smiling at my brothers and Demitri when they joined us. "Fear and self-doubt can cause the strongest of us to second-guess their decisions." He sighed, pulling a rather large book from the shelf. "I can imagine that William Varner wasn't an easy man to live with...or easy to please. At least, that's what I gathered from his notes."
Carlisle walked to my piano, placing the book on top and opening it. "I've been reading about agoraphobia since you mentioned it. It's more than just the fear of leaving one's home. There are different manifestations: the fear of being alone, the fear of leaving home, or the fear of being trapped. It brings with it states of panic of being someplace that you can't get away: crowds, busy places, that sort of thing. It leads to panic attacks, which only increase the fear. I think Archie is dealing with most or all of that."
We were quiet as he flipped through his medical journal.
He gazed around at us, but his eyes landed on me. "With a human, this would be easier to treat with medication and therapy. We can't really do that in this case."
"The medication part, anyway," Emmett pointed out, remembering Bella's talks with Carlisle after we came back from our time away from Forks.
"Yes, there's that, but he'd have to want therapy, want to talk about it, which I don't see happening anytime soon," Carlisle countered. He took a deep breath and let it out. "Archie had major disadvantages from the beginning, probably even as a human, too. Most of you had someone to teach you, guide you, even if it was someone not-so-kind." His eyes landed on Jasper, who nodded. "You were told what you'd become and what was expected of you."
There were times in my long life that I'd hated what I was, what I'd been turned into, but I'd never hated Carlisle for it. The very second I'd awakened from the burning, I could see that he'd needed me in some way. What I'd also learned throughout the years was that I'd been extremely lucky. He'd had more patience with me than I'd deserved. He'd been calm, educated, and easy to talk to, even when I'd rebelled against it all. He'd been civil. When immortals like Adrian and Jasper had been thrown into a world of hate and blood and terror, I'd woken up to the complete and total opposite. And I wasn't the only one thinking along those lines. Emmett and Kevin – even Demitri, who'd been changed in Volterra – were, as well. Had the girls been here, they'd have agreed.
"From what I've seen – which isn't much, mind you," I started, looking up at Carlisle, "Victoria had planned to drain him – at least from what he can remember her saying – but she was interrupted by something so she left him. Once the venom started to take root, his memories become fuzzy. He remembers waking up here in this house, though. He remembers everything his father said to him at the end, too. He feels he shouldn't eat if he hasn't hunted, and he's afraid to go outside because the last few times he was outside, terrible things happened." I grimaced and shrugged, but that was the truth of the matter.
"Well, Dr. Freud," Kevin huffed, rolling his eyes up to Carlisle, "what do you make of that? Hmm? This'll be the first time drama and psychosis doesn't stem from the mother, but from the maker."
Carlisle grinned, but Kevin had a point.
Jasper's lip curled in hatred as he shook his head slowly. His thoughts were interesting, so he couldn't help but share them. "What you want to bet that crazy bitch kept him in the dark on purpose, just to keep him under control? And what do you want to bet that she just grew bored and left him, especially since he was too afraid to leave?"
I waited, thinking our discussion would cause some sort of reaction from Archie, but again, he remained silent – both mind and body. Rubbing my chest again, I sighed a deep breath when the ache suddenly vanished. It caused a smile to cross my face. The girls were on their way home.
"My biggest worry is that he'll wait too long," Carlisle sighed, closing the book. "If we take what we know of this place, then you have to realize that he'd go months, even years between feedings. He may have just accepted what we gave him and is willing to wait."
"But..." Kevin held up a finger as a smirk crawled up his face. "We've done nothing but offer him trade-offs, and he's given in to each one so far. Granted, Goddess scared the shit out of him, but nevertheless, he did as she asked because she came through with her side of the deal. I vote he caves soon."
"Plus, he's got to hear us, feel us, even see us around him," Adrian murmured softly, frowning as he gazed out the window. "He's got to see that we're not like this...woman that changed him."
"Setting examples?" Carlisle verified as to what Adrian was trying to get across.
"Yeah, definitely," he said with a firm nod. "I mean...look at us. We laugh and joke and play music." He gestured around the room. "Hell, the day we discovered him, we were playing football in the backyard." He huffed a laugh. "Trust me, the man that changed me didn't play football."
Laughing, I locked gazes with Carlisle. "He has a point. We've allowed ourselves to stay fairly...human. Video games, TV, shopping," I said with a chuckle, jerking a thumb toward the din of noise now entering the front door. "Victoria was always a nomad. Perhaps she grew restless with him, so he knows nothing of life."
"Or love," Esme added, leading a string of beautiful women into the room, including my own right behind her.
"Or love," Carlisle gasped, like it had just dawned on him what Archie may have seen in this house as he wrapped his arms around her.
"Hey, sweet girl," I sighed in relief, opening my arms when she plopped down on the bench next to me.
"Missed you," she murmured against my neck, inhaling deeply as I hugged her tightly.
What once would have earned her jibes from our siblings was ignored now. When we were apart, they knew we physically hurt. If Bella said she missed me, then it meant she'd been in pain.
She was okay, Edward, Alice thought to me, showing me that they'd done their best to distract Bella from it. It took her by surprise more than anything because you two really haven't separated in months, except for a few times. I just don't think she was ready for it.
I nodded once, kissing Bella's cheek, only to bury my face in her neck. "Me, too, love," I sighed softly.
Pulling back a little, I took in her gorgeous face, brushing her hair from her face. She seemed happy, calm, her warm brown eyes smiling.
"Were you guys playing? I didn't hear anything when we pulled up," she said with a sweet lilt of curiosity to her voice.
Jasper chuckled at her from the chair. "No, baby girl. Not yet."
"Yeah," Emmett scoffed, rolling his eyes dramatically. "Dad was all...blah, blah, blah...sad shit we can't fix...blah, blah, blah..."
Bella laughed, as did everyone else, though her brow wrinkled at Carlisle, who couldn't decide whether to laugh or not. Instead, he focused on catching the girls and Brandon up on what he'd just gone over with us. When he was done, it was Esme that spoke up.
"If he'd just let us...help." She sighed, giving the bookcase door a forlorn glance. "His focus and control would be so much easier for him once he's had enough."
"It's really not that simple," I stated, running a hand through my hair. "Just getting him healthy won't suddenly make him all better," I sighed, looking up to a nodding Carlisle. Silent questions flew at me from just about everyone in the room, though the loudest was the angel's at my side. I gazed down at her, linking her fingers with my own. "He's so much more complicated than that. He was changed against his will, kept in ignorance, and probably terrorized by Victoria. He was a year old when they built this house and moved in. He's known no other place. His father sounded like he was overbearing and impatient, and he blamed his own son for the death of his wife."
Kevin scoffed aloud, rolling his eyes. He knew that feeling firsthand, but he'd had no shame in telling his father at the end that he was who he was and nothing could change that.
"Not back then," I argued, shaking my head. "A son didn't argue with his father in those days, Kev. It just didn't happen. Until you were a grown man, married with a family of your own, you answered to your parents. Period. Hell, you weren't given much choice as a vocation, either." I frowned, spinning Bella's wedding band, because the biggest argument when I was still human was school versus joining the war.
"He knew," I continued, pointing toward the bookcase door. "He knew something was out there, and no one listened. His father offered him up like a pig to slaughter, so he was changed with all this surrounding him. And now...he's been living inside himself for over a hundred and fifteen years. My age." I pointed to my chest so they'd understand just how long that was. "That's a really long time to get used to hate and fear and hunger."
"And no one was here to tell him differently," Bella added sadly, soothing me with gentle rubs to our clasped hands.
"Exactly." I nodded to her but looked up at Carlisle and Esme. "He adapted as well as he could, given the circumstances. He fed off what he could get his hands on...and he'd wait. There's a reason the town thinks this place is haunted. Because it is – by him. He's fought what he is his entire existence, but he couldn't deny it when someone moved in...and I'd be willing to bet the occasional vagrant that passed through. Bloodlust took over, and the self-hatred would begin again."
Jasper set his guitar aside, leaning his elbows onto his knees. "There's no feeling like it...being raised to fear evil, taught how to pray to God, and then suddenly, you are the evil. The guilt...it never really goes away. Maria turned a Catholic priest once," he murmured, his eyes glazed over with the memory. "I had to end him. He went mad with trying to reconcile what he'd become with what he once was. He refused it all – blood, women, the anarchy. His conviction was so strong that his new mind couldn't take it. I remember envying him because my own convictions lasted as long as that first taste."
The room was silent – even the minds were subdued – for almost a full three minutes.
Carlisle took a deep breath and let it out, his mind on each one of us he'd turned. He nodded once and then spoke softly. "He needs to remember who Archie Varner was. He's lived so long as a rat in the basement, as a scary secret, that he's lost who he truly is. It's what I've tried to teach all of you in my family. You are essentially the same person. You can overcome what has happened to you. It's not easy. It is basically the road less traveled, but it can be done. It's easier for some than others."
His gaze landed on Bella, then Rose, and finally on Kevin – the three among us that had not slipped in their bloodlust, besides himself. His pride in them was palpable. He was thinking Bella and Rose would probably never slip, but Kevin still had a very long road ahead of him. Bella relied on her shield to keep herself under control, and Rose was just tenacious enough to stay strong. Kevin was a touch impulsive, but he was surrounded by immortals that could help him.
Demitri stood up from the sofa and faced the windows, but his voice was gentle. "Everyone can be taught," he stated. "We all started out hungry, angry, and confused. Despite his age," he continued, this time, turning to face the room, specifically me, "we have to treat him like a newborn."
"Not until he trusts us," Bella argued, and even at the moment, her shield was tugging at her to go to Archie, to comfort him. All that she was hearing was only making it worse. "Victoria was cruel and a sadist. She enjoyed playing on people's fears," she murmured, looking up at me. "She knew exactly what to do to make you think the worst."
I kissed the top of Bella's head when her mind brought back the memories of the ballet studio and James. Victoria hadn't been there, but she'd been a key player in all of it. My beautiful girl thought that Victoria had been the mind behind most of the decisions, that James was simply the leader to carry them out.
"Then let me feed him," Carlisle urged, and I had to chuckle when the whole room groaned.
"No," she said, standing her ground and pointing a finger at him. "You want him to remember who he is. Well, he can start by owning up to the things he's taken."
I grinned, shaking my head at my stubborn girl. She was damn well determined to get her box of letters back. And she was talking loud enough so Archie probably had no choice but to listen, which he was, because there was a physical shift downstairs. Blinks of thoughts caught my mind, but they didn't stay solid. Archie was struggling to hold on. I could see his desire to feed again, but I also saw glimpses of nerves.
"How many bags do you have?" I asked Carlisle, because if Archie understood that there was plenty, maybe he'd come around.
"Ten more, why?" he answered, his eyebrows raising up when I tapped my temple. "They're all Archie's," he stated on purpose.
The room came to a standstill, but downstairs became a rush of activity. Jasper and I grimaced when fear, embarrassment, curiosity, and anger all flew at us at one time. There was nothing for Archie to throw around or break down there, thanks to Bella's shield and her temper, which only made him that much angrier. Bella shook with the force of her shield pulling at her. She knew he needed us, but this was something he had to come to terms with on his own. He either learned to trust us, or he didn't. It was that simple.
"Son, play something," Esme encouraged. "If it helps, then use it."
For her, I started with the song I'd written for her so long ago. Keeping to the softer songs, I moved on to Bella's lullaby, finally able to relax when Archie did. His thoughts had vanished, the movement down below coming to a stop. Though, I finally understood why music helped him. His mother played piano, quite well from the brief memory I was able to see. Using that to my advantage, I moved on to parts of classical pieces – Chopin, Debussey, Beethoven, Mozart.
The family settled down around the room, though my Bella stayed by my side. Her mind was saddened by Archie's reaction, but encouraged, too. However, it was Kevin's line of thinking that caught my attention because he was theorizing that Archie was closing in on himself – something he'd seen plenty of humans do in depression and anxiety. It was something he could understand, something he could relate to. His mind wandered to how he'd been before Alice and Bella had come into his life. He'd been trying to live day to day, but he'd had no connection to anything. He'd been trying to please a father that would've never been satisfied. Kevin felt he had that in common with Archie.
But Kevin and I had something in common, as well – music. He tended to attach songs to events and feelings, so a memory of Bella singing a song along with the radio flashed to the forefront of his mind. It had to have been when I'd been working at the hospital in London because it was only Alice, Bella, and himself at the house Bella and I had been living in at the time. I stopped playing because the song was rather poignant. It was about fighting with your own mind.
He grinned shamelessly when I glanced over at him. "You were busy, Hot Doc. If you don't like my memories, stay out of them."
"No," I said with a laugh, waving off the old nickname Bella had saddled me with in London.
Bella giggled but was curious as to what we were talking about...or "around," as she was putting it.
"This," I said, starting the song. "You know it?"
She frowned a little and nodded. "Yeah, sure."
"Sing for me, sweet girl," I whispered the request against her lips. "I'd like to hear it."
The room was amused at the conversation, but no one interrupted. Jasper smiled, picking up his guitar again. The original song had violin in it, but he was going to add that part with the acoustic. I started again, begging Bella silently to sing it. It was something I thought Archie could truly relate to, and Kevin agreed with me.
"What song?" Adrian whispered to him.
"'Hello' by Evanescence," he answered, sitting forward in anticipation of hearing his Goddess's singing.
My girl's beautiful voice was tentative at first, but no less perfect.
Playground school bell rings again
Rain clouds come to play again
Has no one told you she's not breathing?
Hello, I am your mind giving you someone to talk to
Hello
I smiled when the call to Archie started to work. His mind was as clear as a glass of water. He thought her voice was like an angel calling to him, telling him that everything would be okay. She still frightened him, but he couldn't help but listen.
If I smile and don't believe
Soon I know I'll wake from this dream
Don't try to fix me, I'm not broken
Hello I am the lie living for you so you can hide
Don't cry
The emotions of the song seeped into her singing, but Bella's eyes watched my hands. They comforted her, fascinated her as I caressed the keys. She thought they were just as beautiful on the piano as when they touched her skin, which made my still heart almost expand out of my chest. It also made me want to test that theory.
Jasper joined in softly, giving the song a haunting sound before Bella's voice swelled for the ending.
Suddenly I know I'm not sleeping
Hello, I'm still here
All that's left of yesterday
"That's my girl," I praised when it was over, dropping a heavy kiss to her lips.
"Nice," Emmett gushed, nodding slowly.
Esme rushed to us, kissing all three of us on the forehead, which caused Jasper to chuckle. "So pretty," she simply said, though her mind was mesmerized by our talent.
Jasper tilted his head, his gaze locking with mine as something new hit him from downstairs: determination – though, there was still fear.
A few people started chattering, but I snapped my fingers because Archie called my name in his head. Alice gasped in surprise, showing me the decision he'd just come to.
Edward...I'm... I can't do this...too many. But I'm so thirsty... Sorry... He sounded desperate, sad, and scared.
I saw in his mind what he wanted to do, so I stood up from the piano and walked to the bookcase door. Opening it, I stayed up top. I knew he didn't trust us, but he was really trying.
"We'll leave, Archie, but one of us will have to stay to feed you. You know that, right?" I asked him.
Just one, just one, just one...
I faced the room, gesturing for everyone to head outside, and they did as I asked, most thinking they could use a hunt anyway. When all that was left in the room was Bella, Carlisle, Esme, and myself, Carlisle walked to me.
"I'll stay. I'll make sure he feeds. I'll wait in the kitchen until everyone is gone. Archie, you close the door when you're ready for me. I'll hear it," he spoke into the dark stairwell.
Nodding, I said, "He agrees." Turning to Bella and Esme when he left the room, I told them to wait for me outside, that we'd stay together until Carlisle called us back. When the room was empty, I spoke to Archie. "He's going to want to talk to you. You should listen...respectfully," I warned him slightly. "He's been where you are, and he's seen more things than he likes to admit, but he wants to help you."
The answer I received was silence, but that wasn't exactly a surprise. I walked through the kitchen on my way out to the back deck, where Bella and Esme were waiting for me. Placing a hand on Carlisle's shoulder, I gave it a squeeze for luck as he pulled several bags of blood out of the fridge.
"We won't go far. I'll hear you," I stated without apology, tapping my temple and raising my eyebrow up at him. He was well aware that I could hear him for several miles.
"If he merely feeds, son, I'll feel better about this situation," he replied, but his mind was saddened because it seemed Archie reminded him of himself quite a bit.
Giving him one last nod, I walked outside. Both Bella and Esme were glancing between me and the door, not sure if we should leave Carlisle alone, but neither voiced it.
Smiling, I chuckled and took both their hands. "Trust me, we won't be far. Come, my girls...let's run."
As we stepped into the line of trees, I kept my mind focused on the house behind me.

1 comments:

scarc91989 said...

A story that leaves you emotionally invested in it's characters is the best kind of story. If you want to see what happens next, the author is awesome. You are AWESOME!!!

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