Update: December 16th, 2012
Okay, so please don't faint, but yes, this is the epilogue to Grasping Darkness. Well, it started as an epilogue and has actually turned into a ... ahem ... mini sequel. I'm estimating 10 short chaps. Most of it is already written and I'll update weekly on a Saturday/Sunday.
As usual, enormous thanks go to my amazing beta, Irritable_Grizzzly, and my fabulous pre-reader, Vican.
The usual disclaimers apply.
Considering it's been a million years since the fic wrapped, you *may* want to re-read the last couple of chaps before continuing. If you remember all the details, by all mean, read on.
WindowWard has missed you. :)
It'd been so long since I'd dreamed, it felt like I'd forgotten how. My subconscious swirled through a myriad of locations from my past - Chicago, Alaska, Brazil, Italy. Through it all, images flashed and expanded, some lasting only a second, others unfolding over long minutes. Images of my life, both human and vampire. My family. A Labrador I'd forgotten we'd owned when I was fifteen.
Then the blood appeared, coating everything. Dripping from the bodies of my dead parents. Filling the eyes of the thousands of victims I'd claimed during my existence.
I was filled with horror as I looked around the vast dreamscape, and every corner overflowed with corpses. Relics from my hunger and arrogance, vacant and staring. Empty shells whose very lifelessness mocked and accused me. Whispered the word 'murderer' as they gazed at me with glassy, inconsolable stares.
When I looked down, I saw the blood rising like a flood, covering my ankles, my knees, passing over my thighs and hips, until I was drowning in it. I tried to push my head up, but it sluiced into my mouth and nostrils, choking me. I begged for it to stop, but I was alone, and the corpses around me rotted at an accelerated pace as their decomposing lips pulled back to reveal grotesque smiles.
The dead reveled in my torment. Wanted me to drown in it.
"Edward ... sshhhh. It's okay. Everything's okay. I'm here. You're fine."
Her voice. Beautiful. Soothing. Dragging me out of the blood. Back to my humanity. Letting me breathe again. Touching me with warm, reverent fingers. Whispering of her love.
At last making me feel worthy of it.
Then the faces of my victims flashed through my mind, one by one. They exploded into my vision, one second, bright and vibrant, the next, pale and cloudy. Fading. Dissipating like the ghosts they were. Finding peace in the mind in which they'd caused so much self-hate. Retreating in significance along with the bloodlust which had forced me to take their lives.
I mourned each one as they left, knowing I could never escape their legacy, but finally ready to let go of the guilt in which I'd shrouded them.
They were my past.
She was my future.
When the last face faded from view, the dreamscape was clean again, untainted by blood and death. A fresh canvas on which to paint a new lifetime of memories.
I awoke to pain. Sharp needles spinning through my newly organic muscles every time I moved.
Still, it didn't stop me marveling that I'd slept. Truly slept.
My dreams had been bizarre and nightmarish, but simply knowing I'd dreamed was beyond exhilarating.
I was human.
Everything felt different. I lay there for long minutes, just feeling. Celebrating how different I was.
My senses, my skin, the gentle expansion of my lungs, the strong thud of my heart.
It was astounding.
How ironic that the blood of my mortal enemy would ultimately offer me improbable salvation. My unlikely second chance.
I felt warm breath on my skin and opened my eyes.
My arm was around Isabella, and her head was on my chest. Her ear was pressed firmly to the place where my heartbeat was loudest. We were in my bed, in the basement. The same basement I'd entered a day and a half ago as a vampire.
Bella was sleeping peacefully, one leg draped over my thigh and an arm thrown over my stomach, the front of her body pressed to my side, warm and pliant.
I gently kissed her forehead and tightened my arm around her. She stirred but didn't wake. Instead she snuggled herself against me as a look of contentment settled on her flared inside me, but it took a few moments to fully understand that it wasn't searing bloodlust in reaction to her sweet scent. The absence of clawing hunger and tides of venom was completely alien to me.
My whole relationship with Isabella had danced on a knife-edge of violent compulsion versus tenuous control. That I no longer had to worry about that ... about hurting her ...
I inhaled again and pushed my nose into her hair.
Well, not nothing. I did have a painful urge to immediately be inside her, but certainly no desire to kill her.
If there was ever proof of an unworthy soul being given a chance at redemption, my being with her like this, as a man ... as her equal, was certainly it. I wrapped my arms around her and sighed, content to let sleep drag me under again.
This time when I dreamed, there was no blood. There was only her.
The next time I awoke, it was to see Bella gazing down at me as she gently ran her fingertips over the blue veins on my bicep, a look of complete awe on her face.
"Wow," she whispered.
I cleared my throat, and she looked up in surprise.
"Good morning," I said, my voice a little rough. "And thank you. My bicep appreciates your approval."
I pulled her forward and angled my head so I could kiss her. I was astounded by how she felt under my new lips. Everything was heightened. I was dizzy from the power of it. I never really understood Bella pulling back from our kisses before, out of breath and gasping, but I understood it now. Kissing her made me oblivious to everything but her lips and warm tongue. Even the essential act of breathing took a backseat to her mouth moving with mine.
This time when she pulled back, we were both breathless. She smiled and wrapped her hand around my arm then stroked it as she bent to kiss my shoulder.
"Oh, I more than approve of your bicep," she said and rested her chin on her hand. "In fact, all of your new muscles get extra-special bonus points."
I frowned. "New muscles?"
She smiled wider. "You haven't seen your new self in a mirror, have you?"
"Oh, you're in for a treat."
I looked down at my body. I was shirtless and wearing boxer-briefs, and although I didn't usually spend a great deal of time looking at myself from this angle, it was clear my body had changed.
"Well, that's ... interesting."
My muscles were definitely more defined. Fuller. Judging by the way Bella was touching them, she approved.
I was a little perplexed. "Sweetheart, I don't want to alarm you, but Jacob's blood is full of steroids."
Bella laughed and ran her fingers down my chest. Then she slowed as she traced the grooves around my abdominals. I fought the urge to laugh. Apparently human-me was ticklish.
"Yes, well, he did transform from a scrawny kid into a seven-foot-tall buff-beast almost overnight last summer. But he's too big."
"You're talking about his muscles above the waist, right? Because I'm pretty sure that below, I have the advantage."
She smiled. "Well, I haven't seen things below your waist for a while. I can barely remember."
The way she looked at me made my skin hot. "Isabella, we made love about thirty-four hours ago. The night before the change."
"Really?" She trailed a finger down my chest. "I could have sworn it was longer."
"Is that what you used to say about Jacob's penis? Don't feel bad. I understand."
She laughed. "Hey, don't be hard on him. His blood allowed all of ... " she gestured to my body, "... this to happen. And for that I'll always be eternally grateful. I mean, look at you. I can't stop staring. It's unbelievable. As an immortal, you were stunning. As a human, you're … Is there a word that means beyond stunning?"
She smiled and sat up to get a better look at me. Luckily, it also allowed me to get a better look at her.
She'd changed too.
During the night she must have put on pajamas. She was wearing a tight tank top and tantalizingly brief sleep shorts. Although I'd noticed my vision wasn't quite as heightened as it once was, it was still well and truly capable of ogling the full curve of her ass cheek and detecting a shadow of nipple through her top. Like the incurable letch I was, I couldn't look away.
My body's reaction was immediate and painful.
"How's your pain this morning?"
The rush of blood to my groin was steadily increasing. "Getting worse every second."
"Is it your ..." she lowered her voice, "... erection?"
Just hearing her say the word made it worse. "God ... yes. Ow."
What a cruel side-effect of the change. I spent about ninety-five percent of my time around Isabella being at least partially aroused. If becoming hard continued to be this agonizing, it was going to get old very quickly.
"Well, if it's a problem, you might want to stop staring at my boobs."
The pain was becoming unbearable, and still I ogled her. Obviously I wasn't happy unless I was being tortured in one way or another.
"Isabella, no. I'm finally able to ogle your chest instead of your throat. Let me savor this."
I couldn't keep the tension out my voice, so I guess she decided to take matters into her own hands. Without warning, she pulled the sheet up so only her eyes and the top of her head were visible.
"No, I'm cutting you off."
"Just show me one."
"No! I can see how much pain you're in. Do you want me to get Carlisle? Do you need drugs?"
I flopped back onto the bed, hard as a rock and beyond frustrated. "No. I need this pain to go away so I can have you. That's what I need." The ache was excruciating. It felt like my erection was being maintained with spinning razor blades instead of pulsing blood.
I closed my eyes and exhaled, trying to breathe through the agony as I accepted that looking at Bella's stunning breasts might not be the best idea right now.
Carlisle must have been listening from upstairs, because within a few seconds he was beside me, asking permission to give me pain relief. At Bella's urging, I grudgingly accepted.
He gave me an injection in my thigh, and within a few minutes my eyes were drooping as a hazy euphoria washed over me.
Isabella stroked my face, and I gazed up at her, smiling blearily.
"You're so bewful," I said and pulled her against me. "Love you."
She kissed me as my eyes closed all by themselves.
"You're bewful too. And I love you more. See you when you wake up."
I was dreaming of heaven. Isabella was there, naked and magnificent, walking toward me with a look of pure hunger on her face.
When she reached me, she put her hands on my chest and grazed her fingers over it, waking up every freshly animated cell and neurone, making them all want her in a new, powerful way.
I clenched my fists, willing them to stay at my side. It was too dangerous to touch her. My strength. My teeth. I'd hurt her.
Then she shoved me and threw me dozens of yards backwards. I landed with a thump on my back, surprised and winded. Before I had time to breathe, she was on me. Her long thighs squeezed my hips as she bent over to lick my neck.
"No more being careful," she said in a voice that would broach no argument. "You can't break me any more. But still, I dare you try."
Her words instantly inflamed me, and I shoved my nose into her neck. She smelled like food. Different food. Wetness flooded my mouth, but it didn't burn.
"You're drooling," she said, raking her nails over my chest as she ground herself onto my erection.
I trailed my nose over her throat, simultaneously inhaling and swallowing the excess saliva. "That's because you smell delicious."
Everything hurt. I didn't care. My cock felt like it was on fire. I reveled in the burn.
"Hmmmm." I couldn't find enough of her skin. I was pulling at her clothes, trying to get my hands underneath.
"Are you hungry?"
She shook my shoulder. I groaned and grabbed for her again. I cupped her breast and pulled her closer, so I could kiss it.
I opened my eyes to find Isabella in my arms, trying to remove my hand from her breast as my mother waited patiently with a tray of food. Esme raised an eyebrow. I immediately pulled the covers over my crotch and ceased groping my girlfriend.
"Good dream, sweetheart?" Esme asked.
I swallowed the saliva still flooding my mouth and nodded. "Yep. Pretty good."
She placed the tray in front of me and tried to stop the smile that was creeping onto her face.
"I'll just leave you to it then. Lunch, I mean. Not sex. Although if you wanted to do that, too -""
I rubbed my eyes. "Esme ... please."
She stifled a laugh and disappeared up the stairs. I exhaled and looked at Bella.
"Exactly how long was I groping your breasts with my mother in the room?"
"Not long. About a minute and a half."
At least Esme's presence had relieved the pressure in my groin. However, my face was an entirely different matter.
"Bella, something's wrong. My skin is burning."
"That's called blushing."
"Really? This is what it feels like? It's off-putting and uncomfortable."
"Welcome to my world."
"How do you stand it?"
"You get used to it."
I pressed my hands against my face. I'm pretty sure I could have fried food on it. "I don't really want to."
"Then maybe in the future you should avoid copping a feel in front of your mother."
The scent of the food set my salivary glands off again. I eyed the simple soup and swallowed to avoid drooling.
"Oh, the way you're looking at that bowl," Bella said, a slight groan in her voice. "It's wrong that I'm jealous of soup, isn't it?"
I scooped some of the liquid into my mouth and swallowed. "Isabella, as far as I'm concerned, you have nothing to be jealous of. Ever."
She sighed. "Yeah, well, the wolf pack keeps going on about how amazing Esme's food is. Jacob says it's the best thing he's ever put in his mouth."
I almost dropped my spoon.
I turned to her as heat rose just below my stomach. "That's because Jacob is an idiot who never took the time to please you orally. I, however, am not an idiot, and I can safely say that no matter how delicious Esme's food it, you will always, and forever, be the best thing I've ever had on my tongue."
This time it was her turn to blush.
I ate the rest of my soup in smug triumph.
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Thanks for reading.