Anyone who knows me knows that I barely read fan fiction anymore. That's right. I've become a loser that way. I have a grand total of five stories on alert. Despite all that, I still really do love to read. I just get caught up writing, and then reading becomes a distraction. I thought I would never find another story that made my heart pound like Tropic of Virgo, or made me cry like Poughkeepsie, or kept me on the edge of my seat and screaming bloody murder like The Lost Boys.
Enter the Indie Twific Awards. I happily joined forces to validate a flood of stories nominated for being grossly under-appreciated. That's where I found my current obsession--and subject of today's rec--Full Dark.
It starts off, as many stories do, just days before Edward and Bella's wedding. I had my fingers crossed that it wouldn't proceed in the cliche manner, and apparently that trick works because I was not disappointed. There's this point early on where Charlie is worried about Bella's safety after the mysterious death of a secondary character, and she is trying to convince him that she should stay overnight at the Cullens. Her inner monologue had me in stitches:
Carlisle guzzled the remainder of his lemon juice, earning sympathetic sourness from both humans in the circle, and said, "Charlie, Esme and I would have nothing untoward happening in our home. She's free to stay as long as needed. I'll see that Edward conducts himself like a gentleman."
That's one of my favorite things about this Bella. She's technically canon, because the story takes place right after Eclipse, but I think she succeeds as a character where SMeyer's Bella fails. She's strong. She's witty. She doesn't let Edward get away with his emo shit. There's even one point where she internally accuses him of not wanting to change her because having her around all the time would cut into his "brooding time." Clever, intelligent, and not pushover-y; I love this Bella.
All is progressing well in their relationship for the first two chapters. Edward gets an unusual brand of wedding night advice from Jasper, probably one of my favorite "teaching the virgin Vampward about sex" scenes in all of fan fiction, and we get to right before the wedding when catastrophe hits. Bella disappears off the street. Normally, that wouldn't be cause for concern with a family of vampires looking out for her. But that's the thing. Alice can't see what happened. Bella's future has disappeared. There's no trail to follow. And the Cullens are hindered from an immediate chase by trying to keep up human appearances with a ballistic Charlie.
Meanwhile, Bella is being held captive by the most unique of villains, and also one of the most deranged and terrifying I have ever met. This story is not for the faint of heart, although it's not the level of heartfail I've read in other stories. Being underground with this villain and a surprise friend who has been missing makes Bella even more powerful than she had hoped she could be. I'd like to think that in such horrible circumstances, I could react with half the class that she does. Rather than shriveling up and falling apart, Bella stands strong and survives, escaping with her friend just in time.
So that's where the story ends, then, right? Uh, no. Not by a long shot. We're talking halfway through. See, although Bella gets away and gets to spend a lot of recovery time in the hospital with an Edward who refuses to leave her side, the villain and posse are still at large. Not only that, but Charlie is starting to suspect that all is not as it seems in Cullenville. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say, I never thought I would read a story where Edward threatened to kill Bella's father for endangering her life. Charlie isn't a bad guy; he's just completely obsessed with making sure Bella is safe once she escapes her kidnapper, and in his mind, the Cullens do not equal safe.
There's little down time in this story. I couldn't even call one chapter a "filler" chapter. Between being released from the hospital and making final plans to move to Alaska, Bella and Edward--their official wedding day long forgotten--get married in the most tiny and intimate of ceremonies. They overcome the whole, "What if I hurt you?" - "You won't hurt me, just take me now please before I kersplode, thanks," thing and finally have sex; although not without prior help from Jasper and his hysterical use of stick figures and Kama Sutra. I have to say, here, that I have read a lot of Bella/Edward first-time canon sex scenes. This one sticks out to me as the most realistic, most lovely, meaningful first times I've ever read. Here's what the author had to say when I asked her about it:
I one hundred percent agree. It never made sense to me to have a canon first-time lemon feel like I was reading about two porn stars going at it. Not only is the sex scene real and gorgeous, but you find out something new about Bella's gift before she's changed into a vampire. I adored it.
The climax (yes, that's what she said) hits like a grenade. The villain returns with a foreshadowed "secret weapon" that renders the Cullens nearly useless. Yes, I was shocked, too. Bella is in complete control. In a different way from the psychological battle of Breaking Dawn, it all rests on Bella's shoulders in this hand-to-hand fight to save herself and her entire family. She's quite badass, actually, and I had to bow to her awesomeness.
A final thing, and this gets touched on more in the last chapter: I could not get enough of Jasper in this story. He plays a vital role to the survival of Bella and Edward's relationship, and sacrifices a lot to keep them together. He's my favorite character in the original series, and has some of the best moments in this story, like this one:
"Name a few."
"Being alone for all eternity. Being dead when the one you love will be alone for all eternity." He threw a post at me. "Being a virgin for all eternity."
I caught the post and held it up to the moonlight. I flattened my palm beside it and raised my eyebrows to indicate ‘Exhibit A.' Jasper crossed his arms and sat on our repaired seats. I proceeded to snap the post in half, then quarters, then eights. I put a foot-long length between my teeth and reduced it to splinters. I spat the splinters into a lifeless animal haunch, where they lodged like up-swung knives. I took a bow. "The eternal virgin rests his case."
In case you can't tell from that, Gina-bean also has a pretty wicked sense of humor. It's what drew me in to reading beyond chapter one in the first place. Just when you think you can't handle the high-intensity action and angst, you get Carlisle saying "What's wigging you out, daddy-o?" in an effort to be a cool dad, and then you just know everything's going to be okay. It's the perfect mix of action, romance, humor, and more real-life emotion than should be possible in a supernatural fic. It's a must-must-must-read.
letmesign's most recently completed insanity is The Daily Grind. She currently distracts herself from writing A Scattered Menagerie, her Twilight 25 entries, by laughing her ass off at the goings-on in Twitterland.