Ginkgo00 called it.


Prompt #57: You Got Some 'Splainin to Do

As I chucked the redhead's remains into the growing pile of burning limbs and newborn body parts, the high of battle started to wear off.

Little by little, the remaining haze of rage cleared, and my surroundings slowly came back into focus. Wolf blood – pungent and sharp – saturated every breath I took. Holes, cracks, and curls of turned over earth dotted the once-serene meadow, and the ring of trees that had framed it looked more like random piles of sticks and broken kindling. Gray-white ash swirled up from the bonfire and rained down like snow.

In other words, it looked like World War III had just gone down on the Olympic Peninsula.

And fortunately, the Allies had won yet again.

"Get every piece," Jasper said to a still-grinning, only slightly injured Emmett and two of the less damaged dogs, as he simultaneously tossed in what turned out to be Riley's head. The rest of vampire – half a dozen other chunks and unidentifiable pasty pieces – followed, sizzling and popping when he hit the blue-white flames.

By contrast, Jasper wasn't even dirty.

I told you he was good.

"Are there any left alive?" I asked, scanning the rest of the field and stopping at the far end, where Carlisle crouched down beside a brown-black mass of fur. Patient, yet demanding like any good doctor, he ordered a half-naked teenager – one of the wolves who'd apparently been in good enough shape to shift back – to fetch his bag from the Jeep. Flabbergasted at being sent off like any old errand boy, the kid opened his mouth to argue, but changed his mind the second the wolf on the ground let out a high-pitched whine.

One corner of Jasper's mouth tugged up into a wry smile. "You mean the wolves or the newborns?"

I shrugged. "Either? Both?"

"All the wolves are accounted for, although a few are in pretty rough shape." He motioned down field to Carlisle and his writhing, canine patient. "That one's pretty much crushed on the inside. It'll take him a couple of days to knit back together."

I winced, because… ouch.

Been there, done that, and all.

"What about the newborns?"

Jasper made an irritated face. "Esme – you know how she is – she took pity on a couple of the younger ones." Arms crossed, he pointed with his chin to a trio of ragged-looking vampires who sat cross-legged on the grass between my mother and Rosalie. When one started to move, Rose cuffed him on the back of the head. He behaved after that. "She wants to take them up to Denali to see if Tanya can teach them a thing or two."

I snorted. "She'll teach them something, I guess."

"Poor bastards." Jasper's shoulders shook, as a memory of Tanya making calf-eyes at Emmett took shape in his mind. Of course, at the time, Em had been too busy drooling over the giant grizzly he'd just taken down to really notice, but Rosalie certainly had. She was not pleased with our cousin. At all.

We'll just leave it like that.

"You going to go fetch your girl, or what?" he said after a second, twisting at the waist to the only untouched corner of the clearing.

I winced again, although this time it had nothing to do with those mutts.

As I followed his gaze to where my love stood, wide-eyed, staring at me, and hugging herself in a way I'd not seen since I'd knocked on her apartment door so many weeks ago, her emotions, echoed in Jasper's thoughts, cut me like a dozen razors.

See, despite all that bravado and boldness from before the battle, my Bella was now terrified.

Again.

And in serious shock.

Which, okay, really wasn't that surprising considering the gruesome display of immortal combat she'd just witnessed. I mean, she was still very much human. And seeing a bunch of bloodthirsty vampires and horse-sized dogs literally rip each other apart less than 50 yards away was enough to try even the bravest of souls. There was no possible way she could have been prepared for that.

Without another word, drawn to her like a magnet (opposite poles, of course, for all you physics majors), I crossed the field, hands out to my sides, keeping my pace slow and carefully human. With each step I took, I prayed to a dozen deities that she'd not turn me away, that in my efforts to protect her from harm, I hadn't just wrecked any chance I had with her.

"Bella?" I said, barely above a whisper, as I motioned for my sister-cum-sentinel that I'd take her from here. Before she skipped off to find Jasper, Alice gave me a subtle wink and silently told me to chill and not to worry.

Yeah, right.

Not when my mate was staring at me like the very monster I'd just shown myself to be.

"Bella?" I said again, still keeping my hands spread wide. "It's over, okay?"

Mutely, she just continued to stare at me, eying me up and down like I was some kind of undead freak (no news there), and in the process broke my unbeating heart a little more with each passing second.

I swallowed… hard. "I'm not going to hurt you. I promise."

At that, she finally moved. Her nose wrinkled and her head tilted to the right. "What?"

Cringing, I stepped closer, still keeping plenty of space of between us. "I would never hurt you," I told her, cringing again. "I can't."

Her face really screwed up at that point, but then, as if she were the mind reader, not I, her brows climbed. Her lips parted into a small, surprised, 'o'.

Abruptly, without any warning, throwing down the shotgun she still held, my Bella shot forward at a flat run and before I knew it, her soft, warm, fragile little body slammed into mine. Snaking her arms around my neck, she jumped up and wrapped her legs around my waist. As I pulled her close without even thinking, hot, moist lips peppered my dumbfounded face and neck. "Idiot," she said between kisses. "I wasn't scared of you. I was scared for you!"

A searing, swelling heat surged through my chest, and I pulled back just enough so that I could look into her frantic eyes. "Yeah?"

"Stupid vampire," she mumbled, pressing her lips to mine. "I love you."

I swear to God, at that moment, a band of angels appeared in the sky, singing a loud, deafening chorus of, "Hallelujah!"

I'm not exaggerating either.

Seriously, the entire world lit up like a gigantic, incandescent candle. Colors seemed brighter. Shapes were bolder. And that godawful stench of wolf blood evaporated, erased by the most beautiful bouquet I'd ever scented.

"Yeah?" I whispered, kissing her this time, basking in the most intense, overwhelmingly good sensation I'd ever felt in all my years walking this earth. "Tell me again."

Bella's lips spread against mine and she chuckled. "Don't press your luck, Bub."

I couldn't help it. I grinned like the idiot she named me to be and repeated the same soft, "I love you," back to her a dozen times, until she finally rolled her eyes, relented, and with a matching grin, gave me exactly what I wanted.

Her.

Of course, as all things must do, eventually our little moment ended. From behind us, there was the soft approach of bare feet on grass and then a quiet cough. When I listened, the dog's mind spun in a tangle of anger, sadness, exhaustion, and shame.

"What do you want, Jacob?" my Bella growled, sliding down my body until her shoes hit the ground. Stiff and jerky, with her fists balled and on her hips, she stepped around me to face him.

"Bells…"

"What?!" My love's features twisted into that of absolute fury. "Are you going to tell me I can't associate with the enemy?"

And now it was my turn to growl, because… over my undead body would that ever happen.

Waving me off, she stalked toward the mutt. Her voice dropped. "Or are you going to kill me too if I choose to be with him?"

Every creature in the meadow froze, including me, waiting to see if World War IV was about to kick off.

The dog's mind flew to the memories that he'd tried to hide before, and as he finally let them loose, I saw Bella's father, screaming in agony as venom flooded his veins, and then screaming even louder as the wolves ended him. Jacob's features fell. "I'm sorry," he said, breathless, looking like he'd just been beaten. "I know it doesn't mean anything now, but we'd never come across one turning before. We didn't know what to do. We thought we were doing the right thing. We thought we were protecting you."

"Protecting me? You killed my father, you asshole!" my Bella screeched.

She flew at him then. Like a raging tempest, she landed a hard left hook that hurt her a hell of a lot more than it did him. I immediately moved to pull her away in case he reacted, but I'll give the mutt credit.

The dog didn't do a thing.

He didn't even raise his arms to fend her off.

No, Jacob just stood there, filled with regret and shame, and he let my love rail against him until she ran out of steam.

"I want to kill you," she said when she finally stopped. Her fists were purple and swollen, and I had to fight myself to stay where I was. "I should kill you." Her eyes flew to the shotgun still on the ground.

Of course, I knew as well as he did that that puny little thing wouldn't do much to him at all.

But… if my love really wanted him dead, I'd make it happen.

Happily.

Downright gleefully.

I'd move the earth if she asked it.

And that little fact, he knew with one fleeting look at my face.

"Go ahead," Jacob answered aloud to her, and then a second later, silently to me, as he hung his head. "It's your right."

For what felt like an eternity, we all just stood there, stock still, frozen, and waiting for my Bella to speak. Inside her chest, her heart slammed, running at a rabbit's pace. Without her mind, it was the only indication I had that she was seriously considering it.

After a moment, her eyes squeezed shut, however, and her heart began to slow. Another long second passed, and then she turned and softly said to me, "Edward, let's just go home."

Okay, not going to lie here, I wanted to argue.

Yet as I watched my love's shoulders slump and as I saw her shake her head in disappointment and sadness, I realized something else.

I suppose I had yet another epiphany of sorts.

Yes, my Bella was willful, defiant, and fiercely independent. And at times she could be wholly irrational and frankly, a little… volatile.

But she was also soft inside. Deep down, behind the wall of hurt and anger that went up the day the monsters came and her world turned upside down, there was sweetness, loyalty, and an ability to forgive that never died.

I didn't understand it.

I didn't agree with it.

But in short, I realized that I didn't have to. My mate was a better person than me.

So… never mind that I wanted those mutts drawn and quartered on her behalf, after a second, without another word, I picked her up, cradling her against my chest as gently as she'd allow, and did exactly as I was told.

I took her home.


PROMPT #58?