Where Do We Go From Here?
Falling into Twilight
Spoilers/Pairings/Disclaimer – See first chapter
I don't usually do song-fics, but the shuffle function on my iTunes thought Radiohead's Creep
would be perfect for this chapter=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=Chapter 10 – Where Do We Go From Here?=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=
"Look, all I'm saying is that I don't think it's the best idea to get into a fight with an animal that is four times your size and has claws bigger than your whole finger. You're hurt and human, which doesn't give you great odds against a grizzly who will probably have a cub and be extra protective." Edward easily followed Xander as he heedlessly forged what appeared to be a random path straight back into the woods behind the Cullen's house. He wasn't about to tell Xander that it wasn't likely that they'd come across ANY animal life at all this deep into the Cullen's territory, especially a bear. Everything from squirrels to cougars instinctively avoided the scariest predators around and Xander happened to be living with an entire coven of them. It would take the human four hours or more at his current pace to get anywhere near bear territory, which was probably a good thing, considering his current attitude. Edward was content to follow him and try to keep him out of trouble until he tired himself out.Dammit, you just don't get it. That's not what this is about.
Edward frowned when he heard the frustrated unvoiced thought that was unconsciously aimed his way. He'd been wrong when he believed that hearing Xander's thoughts would make him easier to understand. He was more confused than ever, just from catching a few of Xander's louder thoughts. If this wasn't about violent frustration, which Edward could have understood and related to considering his own unique biological inclination, what was it about? He wanted to ask, but didn't want to admit to the human that he had apparently been given free reign to enter his mind by what was supposed to be the over-protective guard dog version of a spirit animal. His lips twitched at the thought that here he was, a century old murderous beast who was following a distraught, possessed human from another world through the woods like an overeager puppy in the hopes of earning his friendship or maybe more and satisfying his own roused curiosity and in the process had somehow gained 'courting' permission from said human's inner animal. When had his life turned into a supernatural soap opera and when did he start to prefer it that way?
Xander didn't even turn to look at the vampire trailing him as he ducked under a fallen tree propped up on it's still standing neighbors. His words were as defensive as his short abrupt strides and hunched posture. "Do you listen to me at all when I talk, Edward. Because, really, I could swear that I've told you about all the huge, clawed demons I fight on a regular basis. Sometimes they even spice it up with poison... and friends."
"Which you fought because they were hurting people and needed to be stopped, not just because you were feeling antsy. So this is about something else." Using his vampire speed to avoid the backswing of a heavy branch Xander had shoved his way through, Edward countered him calmly, refusing to rise to the bait. Xander was lashing out aimlessly, in his anger he really seemed ready to pick a fight with just about anyone. Luckily, his personality wouldn't let him continue to attack anyone who refused to fight back. Edward could wait him out.
Xander stopped dead, his shoulders rigid and tense. His breathing was too heavy to have been caused by their short walk, and he panted heavily through his mouth while he tried to regain control of himself. "Alice saw it right?"
Edward stopped short at this non-sequitor, Xander's thoughts were scattered, and the comment had barely arisen in his mind before it was blurted out. "What...?"
"That I'm never getting home." The human still wouldn't turn to face him, and Edward made no move from where he was, watching Xander's back. Sometimes, it was easier to get things off of your chest when you didn't have to make eye contact. "She saw something that meant I'm never going home, didn't she. That's why she and Jasper came after me and why you're all suddenly playing babysit the human. Hell, it's why Rosalie was capable of being in the same room as me for several consecutive hours. Pity. You all feel bad for me. Did you think I couldn't feel all your eyes on me. There's no way that I'm really that interesting." There was bitterness and grief and defeat and a slew of other emotions in his voice.
Edward had no idea what to say. How was he supposed to comfort someone who was just realizing that they had lost everything? There were no words eloquent enough. "Xander..."
The brunette whirled on him suddenly and his eye was full of self-righteous fury. "No. Edward. Don't you dare. I don't need your pity. I am not
weak. I am not
helpless and I don't
need to be protected. Tell me."
"She saw you searching for years and never finding anything. It broke you down piece by piece and you eventually gave up." He turned his face away, breaking contact with the brown eye he could feel boring into him. There were definitely things that it was easier to say without having to see the emotional impact they had. He wasn't going to tell Xander the whole truth. It was no longer going to happen and just hearing this much would be devastating.
There was a sharp scent of saline as Xander's eye shone with moisture, but the tears were furiously blinked back before they could fall. "God. I think I knew all along. That I was never going to see anyone again- but it's another thing entirely to hear it said out loud. Shit." He looked so small and fragile in that moment, his crossed arms becoming more about self comfort than defensive posturing. His body sagged limply and he lost control of his weak knees, sinking to sit in the soft pine needles. "What the hell am I supposed to do now, Edward? I've lost everything and everyone I've ever loved. Hell, I've lost anyone I've ever hated or ignored or just passed on the streets. I don't belong here. Christ, I don't even exist here. I don't have an identity. In more ways than one. Can't exactly be a humanity saving, demon killing expert where there aren't any demons. Who am I supposed to be when I've lost everything that I've defined myself with over the years? I don't think I even remember how to be normal-Joe-Human-guy."
Edward reached out slowly and carefully gathered the shell-shocked Xander into his embrace, slowly pulling the smaller man until he was half sitting in Edward's lap, giving him plenty of time and space to pull away. The human didn't even seem to notice as his limp body was rearranged to suit the vampire, his mind was awash in memories and emotions and was wandering somewhere far away from the wet forests of the Olympic peninsula. Edward ignored the knife strapped to Xander's hip that was digging into this stomach, it wasn't like it could hurt him. He spoke as soothingly as he could, "I'm so sorry that you've had to go through this, I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But, remember who you're talking to. My family is uniquely suited to being sympathetic about your situation. We've all dealt with loosing everything. None of us really belong here either, we're just old relics of past ages. If you let us, we could all be here for you. I'll be here for you."
Xander mentally hummed a few bars of a song Edward didn't recognize and buried his face in the vampire's shoulder, his eyes slipping shut he sang softly to himself, Where do we go from here?
The scent of salt grew even stronger and Edward pretended not to notice when he felt the moisture seeping through his shirt.
They sat that way for a long time, Edward indulging himself with soaking up Xander's freely given body heat and counting the deep calming breaths. He fought back disappointment when Xander sniffled loudly and cleared his throat, shifting away from Edward's shoulder. The human seemed to realize exactly what their position was and who's literal shoulder to cry on he was accepting and shot to his feet. "Oh god, I'm sorry. I probably snotted all over you."
Edward could feel the peaceful comfort of the moment fracture as Xander gathered himself and hid his open vulnerability away behind it's usual buffer of humor. He decided not to let it slip away without a fight and stared up at the brunette, trying to meet his gaze, but the human steadfastly refused to look back.
"It's fine." He made sure that his voice was laden with deeper meaning. He knew he'd been heard loud and clear when his keen eyes caught the small flinch that Xander hastily attempted to cover by finding it vitally important to meticulously wipe every single pine needle off of his jeans.
Xander groaned. "Speaking from experience, it's really not. Being goo-ed on sucks. You're lucky I'm not a Fyarl or you'd be loosing feeling in your extremities right about now." He stepped forward and brushed inefficiently at the wet spot on Edward's chest with his shirt sleeve. The vampire watched him quietly, he wasn't about to discourage any voluntary contact. Deliberately mistaking Edward's intent gaze for confusion, Xander's face flushed and he elaborated. "They can shoot booger bombs or phlegm loogies or something. It's got a super powerful paralyzing ability and is in no way pretty to look at or experience."
"Xander..." Edward coaxed softly. Just pretending it had never happened wasn't healthy as had been proven with Xander's easy going attitude with their movie night. He could pretend that everything was alright, but it really wasn't and he needed to deal with that before it festered into something even bigger and deeper than today's minor breakdown.
"No, really. I woke up one morning to see a Fyarl looming over my bed. I almost had a heart attack. I mean it turned out to be Giles, who'd been cursed by Ethan after they'd gotten drunk together but..."
"Xander." He said more firmly, halting the stream of deflection. It sounded like an interesting story, but now wasn't the time. Edward would be perfectly willing to sit down and listen to the whole thing when it wasn't being used as an emotional smokescreen."There is no shame in mourning what you've lost."
"But they're not lost, I'm the one who got lost and I don't even know if they're still alive or where they are or what they're doing. I mean, Angel got sucked into another dimension and 300 years passed there before 4 months had passed for us and what if it's like that and they've all already died of old age. It's just so much worse
to not know and have to live with the fact that unless they find me I may never know. I'm not good with the sitting and waiting."
"... and you're afraid that while you wait for them, they might not even notice you're gone, because they're so busy living their own lives and they didn't invite you to come with them." Edward said quietly, remembering a lonely little boy, left alone in the library with nothing but his memories.
"What?" Xander's voice was deadly flat and he finally looked Edward squarely in the eyes. His normally cheerful, warm brown eye seemed to darken in his fury, almost like he was a vampire himself. "I never said that."
"No, but you were thinking it." The shutters came down hard over Xander's expression, slamming in his face metaphysically and forcing Edward out.
"That's not.. how did you?..." You can read me?
The thought was nearly shouted in anger and flavored with a sense of betrayal. "How... How long?"
"Just the last few days. You were having a nightmare and when I tried to soothe you the hyena dragged me into your mind. I've been catching bits and pieces since then. The stronger the thought is, the easier it's been for me to hear it." Edward refused to look away at the admission. He watched the emotions playing over the human's face. Unfortunately, he knew he'd given the perfect excuse for the dimensionally displaced man to ignore his grief once more and instead concentrate on the anger he felt over Edward's invasion of his mental privacy.
For the first time since he'd arrived, Xander reacted predictably and did just that. All of his battered emotions were channeled into offended fury. "Is that what this is about? You see some sad memories and decide to befriend the poor lonely human? They didn't leave me Edward. They have their lives. I have my life... and we're all needed exactly where we are. We have to protect the entire world from the shit that goes bump in the night and eats you when you hear the sound and turn around. Unfortunately, that means we're mostly living on different continents. Sure, some part of me thinks that sucks, but as a fully mature adult I think I've got a pretty good handle on the whole 'you can't always get what you want' adage."
Xander angrily brushed past him and stormed back towards the house. Edward sighed unnecessarily as he said goodbye to all the progress he thought he'd made with the temperamental human. He wondered if this was what Carlisle had experienced when he'd rebelled against their vegetarian lifestyle and rejected the older vampire's compassion. He remembered the desire to just be able to destroy something, to make the hurt go away by making someone else feel it instead. He even remembered the mood swings and bizarre rationalizing for his actions. He'd had himself totally convinced that it was alright to kill humans, so long as they were 'bad people.' It was an excuse that was nebulous at best and playing judge, jury and executioner at the worst. Hopefully he could prevent Xander from doing anything so foolish.
"Where are you going now?" He doubted Xander had anything in mind, his thoughts were too tumultuous and mostly revolved around getting as far from Edward as possible.
"Again? Fine. I'll just come pick you up in a few hours when your temper is cooled off a bit. How does four o'clock sound? Does that fit into your moping schedule?" He followed the human back into the house, past his family, who were all still in the living room. It felt like it had been hours since Xander's proclamation of his vendetta against bears, but it had probably been less than forty-five minutes. They both ignored the curious golden eyes following them across the living room and up the stairs. Even when the others were out of sight, Edward knew that they were shamelessly hanging on ever word.
Xander stopped halfway up the stairs, and chose to utilize the high ground when his bronze-haired tormenter stopped at the bottom and gazed up at him with those deep, guileless eyes that people probably wrote romance novels about. "I can't stay here Edward... and you can't- you can't make me." Xander cringed momentarily at the angsty line spoken by teenagers everywhere, but it was true. He wasn't the Cullen's problem, and they had no hold over him or his actions.
"Why not?" Edward waited for Xander to deliberately misinterpret his words and get angry again.
"Lemme think about it for a- OH! I know! Maybe it's because I'm part of a complete breakfast for you." Xander threw his hands up in the air, rolling his eyes and spoke with irritation making it pretty clear that he thought Edward was the one being unreasonable. "Me drug, you addict. My life is pretty strictly rationed, like the Time's Square countdown, while you're on indefinite hiatus and standing by until further notice. Accidents happen- to me more than other people- so eventually there's gonna be an 'Oh my god you killed Xander, you bastard!' situation, and if there's not... What are you gonna do, keep me as a human pet until you're introducing me as Grampa Cullen- 'please excuse him when he starts mouthing off about vampires his mind's going.' This is like a reverse ugly duckling situation. You being the swans and me being the duckling. I should be with other ducklings. 'Yay' for segregation! You really don't need my kind here and I'm not fond of the title 'Emergency Rations.'"
"Where else would you go?" And damn him if those wide gold eyes didn't just make him feel like he was playing soccer using a puppy. How the hell did someone that old make him feel like he was ruining innocent vampiric hopes and dreams by denying Santa's existence. Xander had thought that Jasper was the emotion manipulator. He felt his resolve to be an angry bastard crumbling. That was so not fair. Edward was playing dirty, he just knew it, but couldn't put his finger on how, exactly.
"I don't know. Does it really matter? I don't need your pity. Do you know what pity really is? It's condescending guilt. It means you're looking at me and thinking 'Wow, my life is so much better than his, I kinda feel bad. Poor lost little human.' This may come to you as a surprise Edward, but while I don't have the grand title of centurian, I am a duo-deca...septarian or something. But the point is, that I am, in fact, an adult who is fully capable of taking care of myself and I don't need anyone hovering all over me. In fact, considering I've known you for less than a month and your inner cookie monster thinks I'm a fresh baked chocolate chip, it's really damn creepy. So stop."
He stomped up the rest of the stairs to Edward's room and gently slammed the door. There was no point in damaging the beautiful woodwork of the door framing and their vampiric senses would pick up the firm emphasis he gave the impact of the door without having to make the whole house shake.
Esme and Carlisle had come to see what the fuss was about and turned to Edward in concern. He was still staring at the empty space at the top of the stairs where Xander's defeated, slumped shoulders had disappeared. "He knows he gist of what Alice saw, probably knew from the beginning and doesn't appreciate us trying to keep it from him. I didn't tell him about the Volturi."
They all moved back into the living room, where Edward collapsed onto the couch with a deep sigh. He felt emotionally wrung out from trying to keep up with Xander. He looked up as his concerned sire, "Did I ever thank you for everything you put up with when I was a newborn, Carlisle? Because I suddenly have a new appreciation for how much patience it must have taken to deal with my erratic behavior."
Carlisle chuckled, "It was no trouble at all. I may not have known exactly what I was getting myself into, but I've found over the years that our family has been worth every bit of effort and more."
"It'll be okay, Edward. I don't see him leaving again." Alice hopped over the back of the couch and slipped down beside him, patting his knee. She pulled her legs up to sit cross legged and propped her chin on her hand, staring blankly into the future. "He's probably just overwhelmed. I mean we all knew he was taking the whole situation way
"Yeah, it was totally unfair that he didn't freak when we told him we're vampires. What's the use in being a Hollywood monster if people aren't even afraid of you. I've never seen anyone but Alice be so unconcerned by weird life changing revelations, or as willing to irritate Rosie," Emmett chimed in with a laugh, "but we all know she's totally off her nut. He just might be sane after all, maybe. Y'know if the mental breakdown doesn't get him first."
Esme nodded, "It's probably better that he is attempting to deal with it now, than continuing to ignore everything totally, but still I can't help but wish there was something we could do."
"He's just trying to sort himself out." Jasper perched himself on the arm of the couch near Alice, his burgundy tinted eyes trained on the ceiling where Xander's heartbeat and breathing could be heard, muffled slightly by the floor separating them. "He's feeling too much at once and doesn't know what to concentrate on. Any well meaning overtures on our part probably wouldn't be welcome at this point. We'll have to wait for him to decide what he wants and come to us."
"Ten bucks says it takes him a week of brooding." Emmett looked at his brothers expectantly, "Who's in?"
"I don't care as long as he stays out of my way." Rosalie went back to her magazine. "He can off himself and stay locked in there forever if he wants, so long as his corpse doesn't start to smell."
"Aw, babe. You're totally warming up to him aren't you?" Emmett slung an arm over her shoulder. "Should I be worried?"
"Oh." Alice whispered mysteriously. "I can see it now. Xander is going to tame Rosalie's temper and they're going to run away together."
There was a derisive snort from behind a page of the newest Revlon nail polish colors.
What the hell was he doing here? Xander stared at the pale blue ceiling, just as he had for the last few hours, and still the stupid plaster hadn't deigned to give him an answer. He chalked it up to a bad spackle job. With a sigh, he flopped over on his side. His jokes and topic avoiding thoughts were just getting inane at this point. Which brought him right back to the topic he was trying to avoid in the first place. He had no way to get home, which meant that unless Willow could whip up a magical dimension location spell, he was stuck. He didn't even know if they were looking for him yet, if they'd missed him. Edward's words still rang in his head but he viciously shoved them away. No. It might be is biggest insecurity, but it wasn't true. He knew his girls would notice he was gone and they would do everything in their power, which in Willow's case was not a small amount, and they would find him. They would find him and get him back and then they would smother him half to death with their mothering and they'd probably never let him leave the Council headquarters again without a team of Slayers to babysit him.
But what if they didn't.
Aside from knowing several dozen different portal spells that would use Dawn up like a battery, which he would never want them to do, he wasn't sure there was much they could do for him. He wasn't the mojo master, but messing with alternate realities was probably heavy duty stuff. He really hoped that Willow didn't do anything scary and that Giles and Buffy knew enough to keep an eye on her. When she found out he was missing it would probably be even worse than when Buffy had died. No offense to the Buffster, but their friendship had been ratified in a spit laden secret handshake in kindergarden, and those were some potent friendship oaths. Willow really did not like spit, it reminded her of the slime on frogs, so she took the handshake very seriously. Not to mention the two decades of unstoppable friendship that had occurred after their yellow crayon pact. So he knew they were coming for him eventually, if they could. But the fact remained that he didn't know if time flowed the same here and they might never be able to find a way to come for him, no matter how long they searched.
He thought he could probably cope with never seeing his friends again, but the thing that really bothered him was that everything was the same but different here. He remembered when Willow was tinkering with the Buffy-bot and had mentioned that the reason she/it was so creepy was some psychological theory called the 'uncanny valley' which run through a Xander filter basically meant that the more familiar something seemed, the more jarring and obvious the small differences became. This was not his world, but it was so tantalizingly similar that he felt like he could just pick up the phone and get Giles all excited in his glasses-polishing, Watcherly way about this new type of vampire he'd discovered that the Council had overlooked. Then it would hit him all over again that the Council didn't exist, Watchers didn't exist and Giles didn't exist and his world would crumble around him all over again.
So. What the hell was he doing here?
The carpeted floor didn't have an answer any better than the ceiling had.
He was still stuck on that thought several days later. He was sitting on the stairs to the back porch, staring at the woods without seeing them and absently carving celtic knots into the top of a stake he'd automatically carved out of a random piece of wood. Old habits died hard. The Cullens had somehow managed to make themselves scarce without seeming like they were deliberately avoiding him, even Edward. Part of him appreciated it and another was just glad he wasn't the only one inconvenienced by the crappy situation. He had only snuck out of his cave of solitude a few times to eat or attempt to shower the bad thoughts away.
He felt a little guilty that every time he raided the fridge he'd found a prepared plate of something delicious that just needed to be reheated. Esme really didn't deserve his cold shoulder routine, and while he was on that topic neither did the others. It wasn't their fault that he'd been stupid enough to get caught in a portal and dumped on them. They were actually being really awesome about it. They were feeding him and had gotten him clothes and were willing to give him his space, even when he was invading theirs. He wasn't sure how to react to them, they just didn't act like any type of vampires that he had ever met before, not even the souled ones and that left him feeling like he was constantly missing dance steps or puzzle pieces or something metaphorical.
And there it was again. The small reminder that this wasn't home. No matter how comfortable Carlisle and Esme's home was, it wasn't his. On the other hand he was pretty lucky that it wasn't. If he was back home then...
He was startled when a cold hand grasped his shoulder, and his instincts kicked in hard. He smoothly grabbed the pale wrist, dropping his shoulder down and back to thrust into the surprised vampire's stomach as he twisted and yanked the unresisting form, off balance, over his shoulder to land on it's back in the dirt. Before he could even think about who he had just thrown, his hand was coming down, stake aimed to pierce the soft spot directly between the ribs and dig deep into the heart. The vision playing in his head of the hundreds of times he'd made this exact move was halted when his improvised stake hit impervious skin and the force of his follow through shattered the wood in his hand.
The pain of a hand full of wood shards finally woke him out of the haze he'd been in and he looked down to see that he'd just tried to stake Edward. He ignored the blood dripping off of his hand as he stared down at the surprised and concerned vampire. Their locked gazes held for a long moment as they searched each other for unknown things.
"I'm sorry." It was everything he'd been thinking about in the last few days condensed into two words, but Edward's eyes continued stared into him in silence. When he let everything he was thinking freely flow through his mind, he received a quirky smile and knew that he'd been heard and understood.
"It's fine." This time he admitted to himself and to the vampire that he could also understand what Edward didn't say out loud.=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=TBC=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=
Thanks everyone for your reviews, this chapter was helped out by reviewers who pointed out that actually fighting a bear for no reason was a little weird and he was getting along with the Cullens too easily and too fast. I love it when you guys give me details like that to adjust my story a little better and most of the time you point out things I was going to elaborate on anyways. Makes me feel warm and fluffy inside that you're following my storytelling enough to pick up on stuff like that.
Also, the storyline is now set. Some of you will be happy, unfortunately others may be disappointed. I'm not going to tell you what I've decided to do, since what would the point be to write it if you already know, but I will say this. I don't bash. Ever. Unless, I'm writing crack or from someone's POV who is prone to bashing. (AKA Xander's thoughts on Angel) I try to give everyone reasons for what they're doing. So, I won't be throwing Bella under any buses. Sorry.
LS is rereading the chapter and beta-ing for herself
X - "What the hell am I doing here?"
iTunes (Radiohead's Creep
) – What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here.
LS -Stares at iTunes in shock- "… That's so 'Creep
Muse – "I'm so
glad you amuse yourself."Distribution: FFN (Lightning_Skies), Twisting the Hellmouth (LightningSkies)
Author has given no other permissions.
4,747 Words - 9 Pages - 01/14/11