Author: Lion in the Land PM
This is the story of Elie, an acidic vamp from Romania. Get to know the Cullens from a different, more cynical, perspective and take off on a new adventure with new characters to fall in love with and a few others to hate.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Chapters: 20 - Words: 78,271 - Reviews: 72 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 11-14-08 - Published: 10-06-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4579518
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Gregorio is going to be busy transitioning off some of his other duties over the next several days. I am supposed to be working on an outline of the long-range plan for the conversion of vampires to veganism and touching base with my vegan research subjects to assess their willingness to help out on the project. Since, unbeknownst to Viktor, that is already done and done, I've got some free time. I'm going to go see Father Pawel. It's been too long.
My little priest is still my secret. I will tell Gregorio about him some day, but not yet. I think perhaps one day soon I may even bring him with me to Poland, so the two can meet. The two loves of my life. What a day that will be. But this time, it will just be me and Pawel.
I know it seems absurd that I would leave Gregorio so soon after being reunited with him, but I now have more reason than ever to go to my faithful friend in Poland. Pawel needs to know that the tiny seeds he planted in me so long ago are about to flourish. We are finally going to make visible progress in bringing vampires toward a more peaceful existence. In his old age, Pawel will probably only have a very vague idea of what I am talking about, but he will understand my joy. And he will understand that he is the architect of that joy. I will make sure that he understands that.
I go to Father Pawel, and he isn't there. They tell me that he asked for me in his final days, but nobody knew how to find me.
I'm directed to a simple gravestone in a sparse graveyard on a desolate hill. He is here. What remains of my little Father Pawel is here. He asked for me in his final days, but I missed them. I missed my last chance to hold his warm hand, to hear his wise voice, to kiss his soft forehead. He's gone. He's buried here. I missed him. I miss him. It hurts. Oh, God, it hurts.
I sink to my knees in front of the cold, dead stone. Underneath me lies Pawel. The only person who ever loved me without question, without condition. The only person that never, never disappointed me, even though I must have disappointed him a thousand times. Disappointed him even in his last days, when he asked for me, and I wasn't there.
I rip the grass with my fingers. I dig pits into the dirt. I want to feel him. I want to feel him. It hurts. I hurt. I miss him.
I know he's in a better place. I know he's twirling sparkling angels under his arm in heaven. He's where he belongs, where he deserves to be. He was always too good for this earth. He was always a gift. A gift that I loved, that I needed. He was everything to me. I sink lower and press my face into the grass. Father Pawel is under here. I want to feel him. I know he's in a better place, but I'm selfish and horrible, and I want to bring him back. I want him, need him. My chest is open and leaking, soaking into the earth, trying to get to him.
The man is dead, and I'm still asking him for more. My face is pressed into the grass. This is exactly where I belong. Exactly where I'd have been for the last fifty years if Father Pawel hadn't rescued me. I deserve this pain that is ripping through me. I should feel it searing, tearing, pulsing through me every second of every day for the rest of eternity. He asked for me, and I wasn't there. He's gone, and I'm nothing. I'm nothing. He was everything, and now I am nothing. I am spiraling downward. I can't stop. I need Pawel to pull me up, but he's gone. I had everything, and now I have nothing. It hurts. It hurts. Oh, God, it hurts.
I am suddenly wrenched off the ground and turned and embraced. I fight to sink back down to the earth, where I belong. I want to feel Pawel. I want to feel Pawel. But the embrace holds me tight with my arms trapped at my sides, and I can't budge. I don't need to look to know that the unrelenting arms that hold me are Gregorio's. He has found me. Somehow, he has found me.
I stop my struggle to be free and begin a new one. I struggle to accept what I have lost. I sob. It's a long, torturous moan that emanates over the graveyard and sounds like something from hell. Like the grinding and gnashing of mournful souls in hell. I sob, and I sob, and I begin to shake, and his arms hold me tight. He doesn't say a word. He holds me, and I sob.
I would slip back to the ground without his support and never get up. I need him to hold me up. I shake. It hurts, and I sob, and I shake, and he holds me, and he doesn't say a word, and I need him. I love that I need him to hold me up.
I shake, and he doesn't say a word.
And I love that I need him.
My sobbing eventually subsides. I am still as I lean on Gregorio and press my face into him. He slackens his grip around my arms and moves his hands to gently rub my back. I feel his lips press into my hair, and he whispers, "I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry."
I reach my arms around his ribs and pull myself tightly to him. I turn my face to the side with my cheek crammed into his shoulder and ask, "How did you know?"
"Carlisle called right after you left. Alice saw what was going to happen."
I nod slightly. Then Gregorio confesses to me that he's known about this place, known that this was where I disappeared to. In the early days, he was curious about where I was going. He'd sometimes trail behind me at the edge of my scent, never getting too close lest I pick up on his. After several tries, he figured out that I was staying somewhere in Poland. Many years later, he came close to finding the exact location of my visits, but my scent grew weaker around that area and eventually faded all together. Father Pawel had moved to the monastery. Gregorio eventually found the monastery, and bribed one of the monks there to tell him everything he knew about me and why I came.
After that, Gregorio stopped following me here and left me to my privacy, but when Alice got on the phone and gave him the details of what she'd seen, he knew what had happened and where I was. He dropped what he was doing and came for me, not even taking the time to rent a car. He ran the whole way.
It's starting to get dark, and we really should be going. There've been reports of a werewolf in this quadrant of Poland, and a full moon is brewing. But I'm not ready to depart the Polish countryside just yet. When I leave, it will be the final chapter of my story with Pawel, and I'm not ready to say goodbye. Gregorio agrees to stay the night, but insists that we shelter somewhere inside. I know the monks would welcome us into the monastery, but I don't want to go there. They won't let us spend the night in the same room, and I'm not willing to step away from Gregorio right now. We wander the hills in the darkening night and see a barn in the distance.
We creep up to the barn and carefully swing the door open. Gregorio peeks his head inside and then guides me in with his hand at my waist. The only animals in the barn are two large, grey horses. Any vermin have wisely skittered away as soon as they sensed us. The horses start to whinny uneasily, but Gregorio pacifies them by making guttural sounds from his throat and clicking noises with his tongue. I am totally impressed. He takes my hand and leads me up to a hay-filled loft. We'll stay out of sight up here in case the horses' racket alerted the farmer.
The loft is nearly to the ceiling, causing us to crouch, so Gregorio sits down with his back against a stack of hay. I slide down in front of him and snuggle into his chest. I ask him what he knows about Father Pawel from his detective work. He says not much. Once he ascertained that my relationship with him was nothing more than a quirky friendship, he didn't feel the need to learn more.
"I'm sorry that I didn't confide in you about Father Pawel," I tell him.
"I know in time, you would have told me," he says.
"Yes, I would have," I confirm. "Unfortunately, we ran out of time, didn't we?" I add sadly.
"You can tell me about him now," Gregorio offers.
I tell Gregorio all about my friend, about how he saved me, how he became a part of who I am, how he started me on my quest. And I tell him about all the things that I adored in that little man.
"I would have liked to have known him," Gregorio says with a soft kiss to the top of my head. I'm reclining with my back on Gregorio's chest and have taken up one of his hands in both of mine. I move my fingertips up and down the long, elegant line of his fingers.
"I told him all about you," I tell him.
"Did you?" he asks, sounding surprised.
"Uh huh. Right after Alaska. He was very happy that we'd found each other." After a brief pause, I add with a small, nervous laugh, "He thought we should get married."
"Did he?" Gregorio says with interest. Now his fingers start lightly tracing up and down mine. "Well then, perhaps we should. For Father Pawel."
"For Pawel?" I question, twisting my neck so I can look up at Gregorio.
"For Pawel," he answers as his index finger starts to trace a circle at the base of my ring finger where a wedding band would go. "For me…for you…for us," he finishes.
"For us," I repeat softly. I like the way it sounds. I push off of Gregorio and hold myself up with a hand pressed to his chest. My other hand is now palm to palm with his. "Gregorio, do you really want to be my husband?" I ask. I'd rather expected him to be reluctant to marry again after the disturbing incident with his human wife and child.
"Of course I do," he says decisively, clasping his fingers around my hand. "The question is – do you want to be my wife?" he asks.
I keep him in suspense for all of two seconds before I fold my fingers down over his and answer, "Yes."
We stare softly into each others' eyes with delicate smiles on our lips. It's not the first time I've thought about marrying Gregorio. I am a woman, after all. Whenever I'd let myself daydream about it, I always pictured a private wedding on a sunny hill in Poland, our faces shimmering and my fuzzy-haired Pawel presiding in his white vestments. I didn't realize how much I'd hoped for this vision to become a reality until just now, now that it's an impossibility. If Gregorio and I do get married, it will be by a stranger. A stranger who won't be anything close to my Pawel…my Father…my savior…my friend.
The tears that I can't release well up in me again. I squeak out a few words of explanation to Gregorio before my face crumples, and I fall onto him and cry. His hands are on my back and in my hair, holding me, stroking me, helping me mourn what I have lost. My Pawel, my Pawel, my Pawel. I'll never see him again. He'll never meet my Gregorio. My life on earth will stretch into eternity without him. I cry for a long, long time. I can't imagine ever feeling anything but sadness again. My Pawel, my Pawel, my Pawel.
When I take a break from crying, Gregorio and I stay reclined against the straw. We talk all night. I tell him some more about Pawel and then start asking him about his history, things I don't know. He tells me about his days with the Volturi and how he first met Viktor. They were introduced when Gregorio was still with the Volturi and he worked with Viktor to stage the attempted coup by the New Romanians. I was just a young, human girl in a small village back then. Together, they carefully orchestrated the "battle" to ensure that both sides ended up with what they wanted. I'd had no idea about all those behind the scenes shenanigans.
I tell him that the only thing I remember about my human life was the day I went to the village well for water and saw a mysterious man with salt and pepper hair standing near the well, observing me. Somehow I knew that he was going to change my life. I must have been eager for a change, because I don't remember feeling frightened or reluctant when he openly leered at me with his strange eyes. And I don't remember putting up a fight when he lured me away from town to bite me.
I tell Gregorio how Viktor later told me that he'd been discreetly following me around my village for weeks. I'd caught his eye because I was always getting into trouble. He said he was intrigued by my spirit and my creativity and knew I'd be an asset to B.I.T.E. I tell Gregorio why I left B.I.T.E. and what my life was like after that. He's surprised to learn about me and Carlisle. He teases me and tells me that he'll be accompanying me on all future visits to America. I tell him, 'good.'
I want to know how Gregorio's vegan diet is going, but I can't figure out how to bring it up without sounding like I'm putting pressure on him. I think he must have had a few humans, because he's not as ravenous as he should be at this point on an animal-only diet. I'm not going to ask. If he wants to talk about it, he will. I won't push him.
Sometimes while we're talking, Father Pawel rushes to the front of my mind, and I cry again. Gregorio lets me. He lets me work through it. At one point, when Gregorio is telling me a story that happened a hundred years before I'd ever even lived as a human, I get scared. I'm struck with the notion that he and I were never supposed to meet. He's supposed to have lived and died hundreds of years before I ever walked the earth. We're defying fate by being here with each other. It scares me. It scares me to think that he could ever be taken away from me. I can't lose them both. I can't lose Pawel and Gregorio.
I fiercely clench my arms around him and begin go shake violently. It's the only time Gregorio tries to quash my emotion. He pulls me to him in a vice grip to still my trembling. He murmurs in my ear, "Shhh…stop, stop…I'm here…we're supposed to be together or we wouldn't be…I'm here…I'm here." I make it through the night because of him. Only because of him.
In the morning, we see that God has given us a cloudy day, so we stop by the monastery. I want to say 'goodbye' and 'thank you' to the monks for all of their hospitality over the years. One of the monks starts when he sees Gregorio and me together. He must be the one Gregorio bribed. I'm glad we stop by, because the senior monk hands me a small box of things Father Pawel wanted me to have. He didn't have much, but whatever is in this box is a bigger treasure than I ever hoped to have in my possession.
Gregorio and I take the box to a nearby hill. We sit in the grass and open it. The first thing I pull out is a rosary. I smile a little when I explain to Gregorio how I thought Father Pawel was going to burn me with it. There're also some trinkets from Pawel's limited travels. I wish I could have taken him to some of the places I've seen. At the bottom of the box is his well-worn, leather bound Bible. My throat constricts as I reach in and pull it to me, closing my eyes and holding it to my chest for several minutes.
I set the book down in my lap and immediately turn to my psalm and read the Latin words out loud. My voice breaks a few times along the way. Afterwards, I sit and stare at the words in my lap for a long time. These words have meant so much to me, altered the direction of my life, hopefully the direction of many, many lives to come. Seeing the very words that first spoke to me so many years ago is overwhelming. Gregorio stays silent while I stare.
When I shut the book, I notice Father Pawel's scrawl on the inside cover. I translate the Polish. It says:
'For Elisa, my little light in this world,
Know that He is with you always.
With sincerest love, Father Pawel'
I touch my fingertips to Father Pawel's handwriting. It is the smooth, flowing hand of earlier years. He must have decided to give this to me a long time ago.
Gregorio and I get up and gather wild flowers on the hill and make a bouquet, which we bring to Father's grave. As I'm setting the flowers down in the dirt at the base of the headstone, I read the inscription. I'd been too overcome with grief the day before to pay it any attention. It says:
'For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. Matthew 16:25'
Pawel is where he wants to be. Where he deserves to be. I feel good.
Gregorio has left a lot of work behind in Romania. I'm sure he must be anxious to get back to it, so I'm surprised when he suggests that we take our time getting home. We're going to make our way back on foot, and he doesn't even want to run, like he did all the way here. We walk over the hills, holding hands, taking our time. I ask him why he's not more concerned about getting back. He tells me that he thinks a little more time before returning to that world would be good for me. I give him a skeptical look.
He says, "My career at B.I.T.E. could all dissolve into nothing tomorrow, but you, my love, are going to be my wife. That's permanent; therefore, you pull rank."
I smile. The security of Gregorio makes me feel playful. It's nice to feel playful again. "So, you're actually planning on proposing then?" I say.
His hand flinches in mine. "Didn't I propose last night?" he asks.
"Oh no, no, no," I say lightly. "That was not a proposal. That was simply an exploratory discussion. You, my dear Gregorio, are not the type of man to propose in a barn," I tell him as I swing his hand casually.
"Really," he says. "Tell me, what kind of man am I?"
"Oh, you're the kind to do it up big. Whatever you plan will be spectacular and completely unexpected. You might even write me that sonnet. I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it," I gush facetiously.
"As long as there's no pressure," he says with a wry twist of his lips.
"Oh, don't worry," I say and squeeze his hand. I give him a sideways glance and add, "I have the utmost confidence in you." I hope he knows that I'm talking beyond the context of a silly proposal. He squeezes my hand back, and I see the opportunity to take up another piece of business with him. "It's probably best if we don't get officially engaged until after we know everything about each other, anyway," I throw in in a seemingly off-handed way.
"Everything?" he asks. "Didn't we fill in every possible gap last night?"
I step in front of him and turn around to face him. He stops walking. I wrap one arm around his waist and lift the other to trace a fingertip lightly up and down his mysterious scar.
"Oh," he says with a bit of dread.
"Please," I say encouragingly. "I want to know."
He groans and presses his forehead to mine. He clicks his teeth together and rubs his hands nervously at my waist. I don't think I've ever seen him this anxious before. "Gregorio?" I say as a question. I can't understand what the big deal is.
He says almost gravely, "I will tell you. But you must promise me…you must promise me, Elisabeta, that your opinion of me will not change."
My bottom lip pushes my mouth into a frown. How could he be worried about that? Doesn't he know that nothing could shake my attachment to him? Then it occurs to me that while Gregorio has always been forthcoming about his feelings for me, I've given him precious little verbal verification of how I feel about him. I've been leaving far too much for him to infer from a look or a kiss.
I take both my hands and lay them aside his sharp cheekbones. I hold him so his eyes are pointed to mine. I look into the soft black. It goes deep, deep, like I could stare into it forever and never ever reach the bottom. Then I speak.
"You mean more to me than anyone besides Father Pawel ever has. I already had you up on the highest of pedestals, but after last night, after you showed me the depth of your love and your compassion, that pedestal is unshakeable, impenetrable, and nothing could ever knock you off of it." While I'm talking, my fingertips trace lightly over his features. By the time I get to this point, they are at his lips. He is staring raptly back at me, taking in every word. "You could tell me that you got this scar by kissing the devil himself, and I would have no doubt that you defeated those demons long ago and are a better man now."
My fingertips stay at his lips, moving slowly back and forth and around them as I speak. "You are the very best man left on this earth, and nothing, nothing, nothing can change my opinion of you. My love for you is infinite, and I will walk with you anywhere."
I've worked myself up with this little speech. Saying it all out loud makes it that much more real, and I'm gazing into Gregorio's deep eyes with renewed desire. Gregorio starts kissing my fingertips. Soon he's pressing his lips passionately to the palms of my hands and down my wrists. Before I'm even aware of how it happened, he's busy at my chest, kissing and nipping through the thin fabric that covers my breasts. I clutch him lustily to me, and he pulls me down into the long grasses. He slides his sure hands under my linen garments and does things to me that he's never done before. Things that make me arch my back and whimper and shudder with pleasure.
I am definitely going to start telling him how I feel more often.
We get up and straighten our clothes and start moving again toward home. I want to touch more than Gregorio's hand, so I climb onto his back and straddle my legs around his waist. He holds onto the back of my thighs, and I circle my arms over his shoulders. As he carries me through Poland, I kiss his neck and nuzzle his hair and tell him that I love him a hundred times. I hear a soft, contented purr vibrating at the back of his throat.
After a while, I rest my chin on his shoulder at the crook of his neck and inhale his scent. He's not saying anything. Nothing at all. He's hoping that his skilled fingers have made me forget all about my earlier question.
"Are you going to make me ask you again?" I say.
He exhales slowly and keeps moving across the land. After a brief pause, he says, "Very well. Here it is." His foreboding tone makes me think that maybe I don't want to know, after all. There must be some terrible reason for him to be so hesitant. Before I can change my mind, he plunges into his story.
"It was about eight or nine years before you rejoined B.I.T.E. I was with the organization and living in Romania by then. My designated hunting territory was Eastern Hungary. I'd taken my prey into the forest there. While I was feeding, a small creature leapt onto the corpse from out of nowhere. I was startled and pulled back from the feed, and saw that it was a rabbit. I swear to you, the creature had latched onto the main artery in the wrist of my kill and seemed to be trying to feed on it. I ripped the rabbit away, but before I could toss it into the trees, it lunged at me and sunk its front teeth into my lip. I tore it out, but not before it had done permanent damage."
He pauses. His eyes are fixed intently on a distant point as he recalls the details of his story.
I am holding very still. I'm afraid any movement might set me off, so I hold still. But I have to ask, to make sure that I understand correctly, "Gregorio, are you saying that you got that scar from a bunny rabbit?"
"Yes," he sighs somberly and continues to stare at that distant point.
I press my lips tightly together and bite them hard to hold back my smile. Every muscle in my body tightens to hide my reaction to the utter hilarity of my brilliant, strong, stalwart Gregorio being bested by a bunny.
"Yes, well," he continues in his grave voice, "it was stunned by its collision with a nearby tree, and I took that opportunity to exit the scene and abandoned my prey."
This is too much. "You…you ran away from it?" I squeak. My giggles are way too close to the surface. Gregorio must sense them, because he turns his head abruptly toward me, causing me to lift my chin quickly from his shoulder.
His eyes narrow as he says defensively, "It was about to launch itself at me again at any second."
That's it. I've lost my battle for self control. I openly guffaw right into Gregorio's ear, which is only about two inches away from my mouth. I slap his shoulder repeatedly and plead, "Let me down…let me down," as soon as I'm able to speak.
He lets me down, and I bend double in laughter with the tip of my nose nearly touching the top of the tallest grasses as I picture a rabid puff of fur chasing a terrorized Gregorio through the forest. I know laughing at him isn't very nice, especially since he's sensitive about telling me, but it's just so fricking funny!
After several minutes, I regain a semblance of control and straighten up. Gregorio is staring me down with his head tilted and his jaw set, like he can't believe I'd betray him like this. I didn't think it was possible for me to love him more than I already did, but I do, as he looks down at me with such raw vulnerability.
"Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry," I say with genuine remorse. I walk over to him and rest my forearms on his shoulders and twist my fingers in this hair. In those soft, black eyes, I see a flash of residual terror from his harrowing encounter with the woodland creature and more than a touch of embarrassment. It's an expression that I doubt many other people have ever seen on him.
"Gregorio," I ask, suddenly curious. "Who else knows about this?"
His typical air of superiority seeps in, covering his vulnerability. He takes my chin between his thumb and forefinger and says in a scolding manner, "No one else has had the impertinence to ask."
I feel a bit of chagrin, but not much. It's a sweet sensation to know something about Gregorio that nobody else in the world knows. "Poor baby," I say tenderly and press my lips lightly on his scar. While I'm there, I remember something, and I pull back.
"Gregorio, did you say Hungary?" I ask.
"Yes, near Repashuta."
My mind clicks. Yes. I think that's about where it was. "Do you remember what I told you about the first time I tried to leave Father Pawel? How I tried to feed on one of the forest animals, but it freaked me out?"
He nods, and looks at me quizzically.
"It was a rabbit, Gregorio. And I bit it, but I threw it down, and it hopped away. I may have infected his blood. You don't think……could I have created a vampire rabbit?" As I ask, I am filled with a wonder that is completely alien to me
Instead of scoffing, as I half expected, Gregorio looks thoughtful and says, "I suppose it's quite possible. I've often wondered how the rabbit had been able to break my skin. And I'd always been taught that vampire venom is the only thing that can leave a scar, besides werewolves, of course," he says, rubbing his hand absently down my side where a thin, silvery line still runs. He looks back at me with the same wonder in his eyes that I feel.
A new thought pops into my head. "Gregorio, that rabbit is sort of like our child, isn't it? I bit it…it bit you…we have a child!" I shout with delight.
Now he scoffs. "Child is hardly the word I'd use to describe that …that thing. Vicious monster would be more like it," he grumbles, but I don't listen. I'm occupied with my own thoughts.
I've never been the kind of person that ever yearned to have children, quite the opposite; I've always considered myself fortunate that it was not a possibility. But for some reason, I'm tickled by the idea of the bunny as a pseudo-child. It's something tangible that connects me to Gregorio. I want to find that damned rabbit.
"Gregorio, if it's truly a vampire, it's still out there…"
Gregorio watches the new determination settle on my face. "We are not going on any rabbit hunting expeditions," he warns sternly.
"Probably a good idea to wait," I acquiesce. "It'd be rather awkward to have to explain to junior that mommy and daddy aren't married. But maybe after the honeymoon…"
"No," he says firmly as I climb back onto him, and we resume our trek home.
I try persuading him from a different angle. "Oh, come on. If I'm going to be working more closely with the Cullens, I'm going to have to up my freak-factor somehow. Undead rabbit trumps pin-headed half human any day."
Gregorio only sighs and gives up trying to reason with me at the moment. As I wrap my arms adoringly around his neck and press the side of my face into his soft waves, I am filled with a sense of peace and good will. Perhaps I should stop giving the Cullens such a hard time, go easy on them from now on.
But let's be real – that ain't gonna happen. They are way too much fun.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thanks to everyone who had read this story through to the end, especially those of you who put it on your alert and/or favorites list. Special thanks to Samji who's been with me from the beginning. And a big 'Ya Hey Der!' to strapping, young author, Master of the Boot, who will feature Elie in a chapter of his fanfiction titled, The Big Hellsig – The Forks Affair. Check it out, if you dare.
I have some exciting news! I've been published. :) My original novel "Three Daves" is now available at .com, and my short story I Don't Do Valentine's Day is part of a collection of romantic short stories in "A Valentine's Anthology," also at Omnific. Please stop by my Web site, .com, to check them out.