Chapter 11 – Fight On
Even if our spirits are broken,
let's confront it!
Single-mindedly, let's fight on
with our fists more... with our spirits more...
with making all sharper.
Still more, let's fight on
even if we get sad and unable to stand up
let's confront it!
Single-mindedly, let's fight on
with our fists more... with our spirits more...
with making all sharper.
Still more, let's fight on
even if we get sad and unable to stand up
“Karate” by BABYMETAL
(roughly translated from Japanese to English via A-Z Lyrics)
(roughly translated from Japanese to English via A-Z Lyrics)
“Here, Edward,” Bella said softly against my forehead. “Carlisle said it’s time for you to take these.”
“M’kay,” I mumbled, sitting up and rubbing my face. “Any news?”
I blindly took the pills and the bottle of water she was handing me. It had been two days since the Denali family had shown up and three days since the Cullens had laid out the trap that should’ve led Victoria and whatever army she’d built straight here. My house in the city was closed up, making it look like there hadn’t been anyone home in a week. Carlisle had deemed me too sick to work, so I was excused from the hospital, which meant I’d been pretty much trapped inside the Cullen home, specifically Bella’s bed, the whole time.
I swallowed down the pills, which were potent antibiotics and cold pills for the symptoms, and raked a hand through my hair. My Bella was chewing on that bottom lip of hers when a cough rocketed through me. She looked even more worried when I snatched a tissue out of the box and blew my nose.
“I’m okay, sweetheart,” I rasped, chugging some more water. “Actually, this is the best I’ve felt in a couple days.” I rubbed my face again. “Though I could use a shave, I guess.”
Bella giggled softly, reaching out a hand to touch my cheek and then my forehead. “Nah, you do scruffy pretty damned good, baby.”
I chuckled, definitely feeling better than I had been. I picked up my phone and saw that it was early morning. It was difficult to tell with the snowy, overcast weather outside. Glancing at my phone again, I smirked.
“Well, happy anniversary.”
Bella broke into a heartbreaking grin. “You, too.” She pointed toward the window. “So much for doing something.”
I laughed, which ended in a cough. “I’m not exactly sure lawn darts are gonna happen today.”
Bella grinned. “No, sir. In fact, I’m not sure you should go any farther than the theater room.” She reached for my face again, and I leaned into it as she trailed fingers along my jaw, across my brow, and back through my bed-head once more. “I didn’t think… I wasn’t sure that we’d celebrate…”
Tilting my head at her, I shifted on the bed and opened my arms. “C’mere…” I couldn’t help but chuckle when she moved a little too quickly and scrambled into my arms. Instantly, I was surrounded by arms and legs and kisses pressed to my cheek and neck. “Hey, hey… Let me see your face.”
She stopped, pulling back a little, and I tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. Her eyes were a little bit more golden today as she gazed up at me through her long eyelashes.
Cupping either side of her sweet face, I brought her lips to mine for a soft yet brief kiss. “This, right here… This is a celebration all on its own, never mind what date it happens to be, Mrs. Masen.” I picked up her hand and kissed her wedding rings. “In fact, every day since I got you back, I celebrate. Every smile you give me, a celebration. Every laugh, every kiss, every touch…I celebrate them all, my beautiful Bella, so today is just a bit…more.”
Bella’s chin trembled. “I love you, Edward.”
“Love you, sweetheart.”
“I was worried about you. Your fever got kinda high, but Carlisle said you were okay. I stayed with you, just in case.”
Smiling, I kissed her again. “I’m okay. It’s just the flu. You know how many kids I treated just last week?” I asked her with a bit of a laugh. “It was inevitable that I catch something.”
“I don’t like it. Someday, Edward…” She trailed off, glancing down to her fidgeting hands between us. “I can’t lose you again, baby.”
I pressed my forehead to hers, nuzzling her nose, and when her eyes met mine again, I said, “Then I think we have our decision, Bella.” I shrugged a shoulder when her eyes widened. “It’s an easy decision to make when you break it down. I never want to live without you either. I’ve talked to Carlisle, and what we are is rare – perfectly matched as humans and immortal mates.” I took a deep breath and let it out, coughing and sniffling a little. “I think, and just…hear me out Bella. I think once this whole Victoria thing is over, I’ll make arrangements to ‘move away.’ I know Carlisle may move his family. He hasn’t decided yet, but he’s mentioned it. Before they leave, we’ll sit down with him and discuss details.”
“Yeah, but, Edward… Your job, this life… I just…”
“I get all of that, but the fact of the matter is I never want to feel the way I felt when I thought you were gone. And now, what I feel for you is stronger, deeper, and it’s a choice that feels right.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, shifting closer. “This whole thing, this life… It feels strange, and it’s so painful. It’s like nothing about yourself is under control anymore.”
“Pain?” I questioned, laughing with no humor whatsoever. “Pain was the memorial service I endured when I couldn’t even find you. Pain was unpacking an entire house, our whole lives in boxes, without you there. Pain is the thought of being without you. So anything above that is a cake walk, sweetheart. I’ve thought about this continuously since I’d found out exactly what happened to you on that road in Forks; it’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly. But it was the easiest decision I’ve made in a long time. Almost as easy as putting my mother’s ring on this finger. Okay?” I pressed a kiss to her fingers.
She seemed to sag in relief, kissing my lips, despite my sick state. “Okay. When stuff settles down, we’ll talk to Carlisle.”
I nodded, losing myself in her sweet face, but I was still too weak to do much more than hold her.
“Esme’s made you breakfast, so if you’re feeling up to it, she’s downstairs.”
“Okay, let me grab a shower, and I’ll head down there.” I raised an eyebrow at her, unable to stop myself from teasing her. “Unless you want to join me.”
Her giggle was silly and sweet. “I do, but I need to check in on Jake. He’s been patrolling the woods north, closer to Canada.”
“Fair enough,” I said with a smile and one last kiss to her lips as I set her back onto the bed. “You can catch me up when I get down there.”
My shower was long, steamy as I tried to clear my head of the fogginess of medicine and sickness. I shaved, too, thinking it would at least make me feel human again, instead of the feverish zombie I’d been the last couple of days. That thought made me snort a little and shake my head, considering the conversation I’d just had with my wife about ending my human existence.
I was telling her the truth; it was easier than picking a college or even finding the courage to ask out the beautiful girl in the campus library. There was no life without Bella, and despite watching her struggles with immortality, I knew that there would be no regrets. My hope was when the time came, Bella would be there to help me, guide me – along with the rest of the Cullens, who had proven themselves trustworthy and kind.
The only worry was Charlie. In all of this, I hadn’t talked to the man much since Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, but he didn’t need a daily call. He knew my schedule at the hospital was rigorous normally, but I hadn’t checked on him lately. I knew I should. And I knew I needed to plant the seed that there was now a possibility that I’d be going away.
I sighed deeply at that thought as I stepped out of the shower and dried off. I rubbed my hair, trying to figure out exactly what to say. I’d come to love my father-in-law. I’d always respected him, even from the first moment Bella had introduced us, but he’d been there for me when I’d thought I’d lost everything. And he’d been dying inside. So I knew I owed him something.
I dressed warmly – jeans, thermal shirt, and a hooded sweatshirt – and it felt good to be up and about after sleeping almost a solid two days. I rubbed Steve’s head before I left Bella’s room, smiling when he curled up in the rumpled covers of the bed to sleep.
Not sure what I’d meet downstairs in the kitchen, I was surprised to find it was just Carlisle sitting at the kitchen table with a newspaper open in front of him.
His smile was warm and welcoming as he pointed to the counter. “I’m fairly certain between my wife and yours that they made enough food for an army. Get what you can, because Jake and the pack will clean us out.”
Grinning, I nodded, grabbing a plate. Once I sat down across from him, he folded his fingers together.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better. Not perfect, but better.” I nodded, taking a bite of pancakes.
“Good. That strain of flu going around these days is pretty strong. Some say it’s a touch of whooping cough thrown in for good measure.” He pointed a finger at me. “So see that you don’t overdo it too much, even if you’re feeling better.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, continuing to poke at my breakfast. Finally, I looked back at him. “Carlisle?” When he glanced up, I frowned a little. “I’m not stupid, so I know you heard our conversation upstairs, so…”
He smiled contritely. “My vow to you still stands. You and Bella are my responsibility, considering we caused this chain of events, so I’m here for you both – no matter what choices you make. And I understand you’ve been thinking on this for some time. You’re not frivolous, Edward. You know the consequences, you’ve seen things in this house, and your endless patience with Bella, despite her mood swings, is a testament to how levelheaded you are. If you want this life, I will help you.”
“Thank you.” I nodded. “I just… There’s one thing I need to consider.” I paused, and when Carlisle looked to me, I sighed, grimacing a little. “Charlie.”
Carlisle nodded, quietly folding up the newspaper and setting it aside. “Yes, he’s quite a concern – for you and Bella.” He shook his head a little, gazing down at his hands folded on the table. “Bella’s had no choice but to step out of her father’s life, but I know from discussions with Jake that you and Charlie leaned on each other through an extraordinarily tough time.”
I set my fork down, nodding a bit. “I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without him, but I also know that things must remain a secret, that he can’t really know…anything. I know we can’t stay, that we’ll eventually have to leave. It just seems unfair to leave him alone.”
Carlisle hummed in agreement. “Jake has already promised Bella that he’d watch over her father, but I know it’s not the same. This choice you’re making comes with some consequences, Edward. It’s fact. Unfortunately, Charlie will be one of those sacrifices. I can tell you from experience that the best way – or really, the easiest way – is to stay in touch as you slowly pull away, as if life is taking over. In reality, if you were to move away, it would only make sense that you move on away from your past and losses. You keep in touch, but you eventually stop.”
I sighed deeply, resulting in coughing and eventually another nose-blowing episode. Rolling my eyes toward Carlisle’s chuckle, I shook my head.
“Please get some more rest today. We’ll talk about this some more later. I’ve got to check in with everyone in just a bit. They’re all meeting here.”
As he said that, Bella walked in with Jake and Leah in their human forms. Their faces were somber. Jake and Leah made their plates, sitting down at the table with us. Bella came to my side and leaned against me.
“Victoria’s playing with us,” Jake finally said, shaking his head as he took an enormous bite of scrambled eggs.
Leah looked at her imprint with disgust at his eating habits but then turned to Carlisle. “She’s using the newborns to send us on chases, and while we’ve taken a few of them out, they’re still out there.”
“Is she taking you farther and farther away?” he asked her.
“Sometimes,” Jake answered instead. “Honestly, I think she’s testing us. We were a shock to the first few bloodsuckers that showed up, so I think she’s using her newborns to see what we can do.”
“There seems to be one, though… A young boy,” Leah continued while Jake shoveled food into his face. “He likes to stay away, hang back a little, so that when the chase starts, he’s…poof – gone.”
“It’s like he’s observing them or callin’ the shots. I’m not sure,” Jake said, glancing up when a few more of the pack walked in through the front door, along with Esme, Rose, and Alice.
The latter plopped herself down next to me, her face serious. “All decisions lead here. To you.”
“That’s not new,” I rasped, my voice still iffy with the coughing.
“No, it’s not. Neither is your decision,” she said, tilting her head, but her smile and her eyes gave away the fact that my choice to change made her happy.
My chuckle turned into a cough, but I nodded. I liked Alice, in spite of her almost meddlesome talent. I could tell she truly cared for Bella, that she had cheered us on from behind the scenes when both of us were suffering without each other. She may have been frozen at nineteen, but there was an old soul inside her that had seen some not-so-nice things. But there was also a childlike wonder and hopeless romantic in her that made her one of the easiest members of the Cullen family to be around. Her husband was the other, though Jasper had seen some truly dark times in his very long life. It was in his eyes, scarred on almost every inch of his hard skin – scars that were barely visible in certain lighting, but they were there. He’d told me a bit of how he’d received them.
The entire kitchen became a din of noise, supernatural beings speaking so quickly that I had no chance of keeping up. I caught words like plans, bait, fight, newborn, and I heard my name tossed around in there somewhere, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of much of it. I blamed the cold, the meds, or simply the fact that they spoke too fast, and my patience ran out, which caused me to sigh deeply. I coughed a little and then picked my plate up from the table and walked it into the kitchen, where Esme met me with a warm smile.
“You need more rest, Edward,” she stated gently, taking the plate from me and setting it in the sink. “Even if you just ‘veg out’ in front of the TV, like my kids say.”
I grinned at that, because technically, she was about two years younger than me and only four years older in human years than those she considered her “kids” – never mind immortal years – but she doted on them all like a mother would; it was a role she took seriously. And for some reason, she’d taken a liking to me, spoiling me. It was truly a feeling I’d lost with the death of my mother. Grandmother, for all her caring ways, wasn’t my mother, so Esme had slowly started to fill a role I hadn’t really known was missing.
As much as I wanted to hear/participate with the conversation concerning Victoria and the newborns, I didn’t have the ability to concentrate, much less keep up when they truly got going as more members of the pack joined in along with the Denalis. I knew they were going to split up into groups, work together with the pack in order to corral the army into a place they wanted them, but as for me, there wasn’t much I could do, so I made my way upstairs.
The theatre room was painted a dark gray. There were no windows in the room, but there were three rows of theatre chairs, the largest flatscreen TV I’d ever seen, and speakers almost as tall as me. Along the back of the room was shelf upon shelf of DVDs and Blu-Rays, and I was pretty sure some weren’t exactly released publicly yet. Every gaming console known to man was stored on a shelf all their own, with all the top games I’d ever heard of and some I hadn’t.
The door opened and closed behind me, and I smiled, turning to see Bella entering the room.
“Action, comedy, drama…or classic?” I offered, holding up four cases.
Her smile was soft and sweet. “Classic. I know you love them.”
Smiling, I put the rest back and started the movie where awkward Jimmy Stewart gets wrapped up in the goings-on of the apartment building surrounding him as he suffers a broken leg, while the stunning Grace Kelly puts up with all his ramblings yet loves him anyway.
“Fitting, Edward,” Bella teased me with a beautiful, deep laugh. “Rear Window. You feel like Jimmy Stewart in this situation?”
Grinning, I settled down in a chair, kissing the top of her head when she curled in next to me. “A bit,” I whispered into her hair. “I can only observe, not participate. And there’s an element of danger around, so… Sure.”
She turned to face me, ignoring the opening credits. “We will stop her, baby. They’re doing everything they can. Just remember your promise… If we tell you to run and hide, go. Don’t think. We’ll find you.”
Nodding, I curled her up next to me, relishing the effects of the medicine kicking in and the full stomach I had. It wasn’t long until even the antics of the apartment dwellers on the large screen couldn’t keep my attention, and my eyes slipped closed as I kept Bella close.
A thundering crash snapped me awake what seemed like minutes later. At first, I thought it was a part of the movie, but I could see it was long over, with merely the home screen playing on repeat. The second thought I’d had was that Bella wasn’t in the room.
Rubbing my face, I sat up, a cough racking my frame, which usually brought someone running – Carlisle, Esme, Bella – but I heard nothing.
As foggy as my mind was with sickness and with just having woken up, I calculated all my options and then snorted when I realized that I was kind of shit out of luck. My heartbeat alone was a beacon to whatever vampire was around – good or bad. My scent was warm human compared to the falling snow outside, and my speed was nothing near what they could do. All of that meant my options were slim.
Stepping quietly from the theatre seats, I gazed around. The lack of windows was a disadvantage, but the soundproofing dulled whatever noise I was about to make. I knew if I could leave the theatre and get across the hallway, I’d be in Carlisle’s study, which had plenty of windows and French doors out to a deck. It was a faulty plan at best, but it was all I had. As I slowly and carefully turned the doorknob, I grimaced at the sound of smashing and laughter, growling and whispers. My first thought was that this wasn’t Victoria but her newborns.
I opened the door as quietly as I could, gasping when Steve was on the other side. He was black-eyed and twitchy, and his tail was bottle-brush puffy, but he barely made a sound my way before turning toward the other doorway of Carlisle’s study. He pawed at the closed door and then darted inside the room when I cracked the door just enough for us to slip through as silently as we could. I shut it behind us as carefully, thinking none of these wooden doors were going to stop these vampires, never mind they could hear everything we were doing. However, all I could think was that outside was better than being trapped in the Cullens’ cabin with them.
Across the room was Carlisle’s desk, and behind it was the French doors out onto the wooden deck. Snow was piled up as tall as the deck railing, and it continued to fall heavily with gusts of wind occasionally making it smack against the glass panes of the windows.
The desk was covered with notes, maps, and a handful of lighters, and not just cheap plastic ones but the metal ones that could take weather, water, and wind. The latter made me curious, until I realized that the only way for a vampire to dispose of another vampire was to tear them apart and burn the pieces. I took one, along with a folded map, and spun toward the door when the destruction of the Cullen home still continued outside the room. I shook my head, wishing I’d thought to grab my phone, but it was still upstairs on the nightstand in Bella’s room. There was no time to get it, and there was no time to think. The crashing sound from theatre room was too close, and I needed to move.
Pulling the hood up on my sweatshirt and stuffing the lighter and map into the front pocket, I crept to the deck doors. I glanced over my shoulder, pushing them open and urging Steve out into the storm. I had to get him out to keep him safe. They’d already tried to hurt him at my house, and we hadn’t been home, so I couldn’t imagine what they’d do to him in order to get to me. Another explosion of noise had me scooping the cat up and escaping out the door.
“Shit,” I gasped at the frigid temperature that cut through everything I was wearing. No jacket, no boots, just a long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, jeans, and sneakers.
I could barely see through the flurries, but I knew Esme’s garden shed was straight ahead, and that was where I ran as fast as I could, despite the snow. Once inside, I set Steve down on the closest worktable, leaning back against the door. It was a trap, but if I could leave Steve in there away from the newborns and out of the elements, then it was a win.
However, it was stupid to think a shed – even a shed as high-end as Esme’s – would keep the newborns out. I heard them coming, and I glanced around to find something, anything that would help me either brace the door, or defend myself, which was a ridiculous notion. They were impervious, and they could break into anything. The first thing that caught my eye wasn’t the rake but the can of bug spray. Fiddling with the lighter in my hoodie pocket, I made a decision and stuck to it.
“Steve, stay back,” I muttered, flicking the flint until the flame was the only light in the shed.
The newborns moved silently, but they made enough noise on the other side of the door to give me a chance to ready myself. The very second the shed doors were ripped from their hinges, I sprayed the can through the flame, causing a flamethrower effect. Two very young, red-eyed vampires – a man and a woman – shrieked in shock and surprise, because they may have been impervious to any weapons I may have had and my fire wasn’t going to end them, but their clothes were instantly aflame, which caused their flesh to smolder. The smell of immortal skin burning was spicy, almost the scent of incense – smoky, choking, dreadful. They flailed, tossing the remnants of the door in several directions, and one piece of wood caught the side of my head. I shook my head to clear it and then shot another shower of fire their way.
Their pain was enough pause for Steve and me to get out of the shed. Not knowing exactly which way to turn in the falling snow, I followed the ginger cat into the woods. Steve’s four legs versus my two, despite our size difference, meant he pulled ahead until I could only see his footprints in the snow. The benefit of the woods, though, was that the wind wasn’t as harsh. I don’t know how far into the woods we went, but when I finally caught up to my cat, he was arched up, puffy and hissing.
As if my cold wasn’t enough to cause the pounding in my head, the bump from the door was making it worse, and I could barely see to where he was glaring. All I could tell was that he was pissed. His head swiveled around as something or someone shifted in the trees, using the snow as cover. They moved so very fast, and just when I expected red hair, I frowned in confusion when a tall, young boy with light-brown hair stepped out of nowhere.
His red eyes gave him away. His sneer was fierce, and his hands were balled into fists. I could hear noises, voices, growls out in the woods, but I couldn’t exactly tell if they were friend or more newborns, much less from which direction they were coming. And a prickling sensation crawled across my skin when I realized someone was right behind me.
“Oh, she’s far, far away,” the eerie voice cooed in my ear, and I closed my eyes when it dawned on me that Victoria had worked very hard to make this work in her favor. “I’ve made sure she wasn’t around when I came. None of them are. Not even those mongrels.”
Turning to face her, I caught more movement off behind her, and what I saw made me smile.
“You’re about to die, and you smile?” she asked, reaching up to trail a finger across my face, which made my skin crawl.
I was used to the immortal touch – Bella’s touch, and even Esme’s… – but Victoria’s touch was like being touched by a corpse.
There was another shift behind her, and I smirked again her way as I shook my head and looked her in the eye. “You won’t live through this. Whether you kill me or not, Victoria, this is it for you. If the Cullens don’t kill you, the wolves will. And I’m not sure my wife won’t take her time with you should something happen to me.”
I shrugged a shoulder, but my gaze drifted behind her again, locking with the amber eyes of Jacob’s wolf form. I knew him; I knew that he was mentally commanding his pack, that should he move in too soon alone, things could get nasty. At the moment, he was outnumbered with Victoria and her young male friend. He shook his head one, slow time.
Bracing myself, I looked back to Victoria. “So…apparently, I’m not the only one about to die. What do we do now?”With a maniacal smile, she reached back and then shoved me as hard as she could. The sensation of flying was startling and over in an instant. It was the sudden stop that had the snow, my surroundings, and my consciousness fading away.