Chapter 19 - Epilogue
Bella stood in front of the full-length mirror in her walk in closet and looked at herself. She had to admit it—she looked good. Her floor-length gown was made of emerald green silk, and the bodice was covered with delicate embroideries in gold and pearls. Around her neck she wore the pearls Jasper had given her, she didn't need any more. Her hair was pinned up on the back of her head with more pearls. She looked taller than she actually was—part of it was due to her heels, certainly—and the cut of the dress gave her every advantage. It was all Alice's doing—she had designed the dress together with Bella and then made it for her.
Jasper's scent made her aware of his presence. He stood in the doorway, looking as casual as ever. He was clad in all black, with his fitted suit and his dressy shoes. The smile he gave her was appreciating, and had she been able to blush she would have. She walked up to him, and he looked down at her. "You look amazing, Bella." He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek.
She giggled. "You look quite handsome yourself, sweetheart."
"Come, it's almost time." He took her hand, and they walked through their familiar bedroom and out to the main room. Charlotte and Peter were waiting for them. Peter was, like Jasper, dressed in all black, while Charlotte had donned a light blue dress. Her usually tied-back hair was flowing free and fell down her back in golden curls. Bella flitted over to her side and hugged her.
"You look amazing, Char. Absolutely stunning."
"Why thank you, Bella. You're not so bad yourself."
The four friends walked down the hallways and staircases, heading for the Hall of Audience. They were not alone in doing so, but everyone gave them space, letting them pass. The huge doors stood wide open, and the Hall was already full of people. They greeted many while they made their way to the front of the bleachers on the right hand side. Four seats were saved for them in front of the Cullens, who were all present. Bella immediately started to chat with Rebecca and Alice, while Edward listened with an amused glint in his eyes. Jasper, Esme and Carlisle spoke with low voices beside them. Emmett and Peter were joking, and the pealing laughter of both Charlotte and Rose chimed across the room.
The Hall was decorated in red and gold, and a myriad of candles spread their warm light. It was dark outside, so the light was needed to make all the gold shine. The hall was almost as full as the Hall of Judging had been on the fateful day Aro had been judged. Everyone was dressed to the nines; jewelry and clothes fought for attention. It was roughly fifty-fifty between those who preferred modern clothing and those who preferred their "own" century in style. It all made for a grand display.
More and more people came inside, and soon the bleachers were full. The floor started to fill as well, and the Guards had their work cut out for them trying to keep everything orderly. Then everyone fell silent. Faint movement could be heard and all heads turned toward the doors. Caius walked at the front with Athenadora on his arm. He was dressed in black as always—his cloak swirling around him—and Athenadora glowed red in the candlelight. She wore some impressive jewelry, and it glinted and sparkled in the warm shine.
Marcus came second with Draupadi on his arm. She was shimmering in a golden sari, and decked out with all the gold and gems you could expect of an Indian princess. She looked breathtaking. Vesta and Max headed up the rear. The Kings moved up to their thrones on the dais while their consorts gracefully took their seats on provided chairs to the side. Max and Vesta moved to behind Caius' throne—which was in the center—and Caius and Marcus took their seats. There was, however, a third throne on the dais, lacquer red and empty.
When the entourage and the audience all had settled, Caius rose.
"People of Volterra, honored guests. We have asked you to come here today to bear witness. Today is indeed a new beginning, a new era, for the Volturi. We have chosen a new third to join us in ruling, but this will not be a King. This will be a Queen."
There was some eager and anticipating murmur in the crowd before everyone fell silent yet again at the sound of soft footfalls coming toward the Hall.
Three well-known figures made their entrance, and Bella smiled at all three of them. Alec and Jane served as the honor guard, dressed as usual in black with their long cloaks and golden "V"s. Slightly in front of them walked Liberty. Under her black cloak she wore a long, sleek, and shimmering red dress, with a wide silver girdle. Her usual silver necklace rested around her neck, and her hair was in a large and elaborate knot, held together with several silver combs and bejeweled hairpins. She met Bella's eyes and smiled before the trio moved up to the dais. She alone stepped up to face Caius and she bowed before him.
"Liberty. You have been here for a long time. You already serve as a Guard, and with your gift you have served us all. You have proven your loyalty, your honesty, and your kindness. Will you continue to serve with the same virtues as a Queen of the Volturi?"
While everyone waited for Liberty's response, Bella reminisced the many and long talks she and Jasper had had with her, convincing her that taking the throne was the right thing to do. And how baffled both Caius and Marcus had been at her and Jasper's suggestion for change. Bella smiled when the memory of a spluttering Caius surfaced—that had been a sight indeed. But the Kings had both seen reason, and here they were, crowning a Queen.
"Yes." Liberty's clear voice sounded across the Hall without hesitation. Another Guard stepped up, carrying a cushion in his hands. On it lay a golden "V," sparkling and shining. Caius took the necklace and carefully threaded it over Liberty's head, where it came to rest on top of her silver necklace. Then he gestured for her to take her place, and she stepped up to the third, red throne.
"Let it be known that Liberty is now a Queen of the Volturi, and she will rule and judge like the Kings. Her voice is equal to ours."
Cheers erupted all over the Hall, and the festivities began.
Blood was served from large, crystal bowls, and there was dancing. People laughed and talked, while the reflections of their jewels flashed across the walls. Bella and Jasper laughed, and talked, and danced—both feeling quite satisfied with how events had finally turned out. After a while Jasper led Bella off the dance floor and over to the bowls. He handed her a crystal goblet and took one himself. They clinked their glasses and drank. Then Bella felt an arm snake around her waist from behind. She stiffened for a fraction of a second before she caught his scent. Cedar wood and the ocean and herbs swirled around her, and she could feel how he took a deep breath in her hair. She turned in his embrace so she faced him and smiled at him.
He returned her smile. "Bella Bella." He chuckled under his breath.
Jasper stepped close behind her. "What, exactly, are you doing with my mate?"
Bella knew there was no real threat in Jasper's voice, and she could see how Demetri's eyes glittered and then darkened slightly.
"Nothing, Jas. But I could." Demetri's voice was at once deeper and quieter.
Bella took a deep breath, noticing the miniscule change in both males' scents, hearing the faint, enticing growl in both of their chests. Over Demetri's shoulder she could see Vincent come up to them. He casually leaned in and placed a kiss on Demetri's neck.
"What are you up to, my Captain?" His voice was calm but curious, and his eyes flicked between the three of them.
Demetri didn't look at his mate while he answered, but held Jasper's eyes. "I was just about to invite Bella and Jas to our quarters for … a nightcap."
Vincent's eyes widened and also became slightly darker. "Did you now," he muttered and took a sip from his goblet. His eyes roamed over both Bella and Jasper. Bella could feel her body respond to the hidden promises while images raced through her mind. Three gorgeous men. Could they all …?
Jasper's dark chuckles pulled her from her musings, and she felt how he let his own arm come around her waist, just above Demetri's.
"Maybe some other time, Dem. Our bond is still new. We haven't had our fill yet." Bella averted her eyes and leaned back into her mate. His scent encompassed her.
Demetri chuckled and reluctantly let her go. "If you say so. But if you change your mind …"
"I know where you live, Captain," Jasper grinned back. He then pulled Bella with him, and she followed with a shy little wave at Demetri and Vincent.
Jasper brought her all the way out of the Hall, then pushed her up against a wall and kissed her with abandon. She responded, fisting her hands in his hair. When he finally let up, he was smiling, and she giggled.
"Was that for real? Did Demetri just ask us to join him and Vincent in bed?"
"Oh yes. And I was sorely tempted for a little while."
When she looked at him, his face became serious and his eyes warmer. She traced her fingers along his jaw.
"You still love him."
"Of course I do. And I love Peter and Char too. But none of them come close to you, my sweet girl."
She sighed contently and leaned into his chest. He lifted her left hand to his lips and kissed her ring. She turned her head and mirrored his action, kissing his ring as well.
"What do you say to sneaking off?"
She lifted her head and looked at him. "Sneak off to where?"
"I was thinking Texas. Peter and Char will stay here for a while, help Dem sort out the Guards now that Aro is permanently gone. We have their house to ourselves, and if we want to we can start to look into that house of ours we're going to build. Think of it as a vacation."
She giggled. "Like a honeymoon?"
"If you wish."
"What are we waiting for?"
They were walking back toward their flat when they saw a couple making out against a wall. They quietly sneaked by, and Bella had to clasp a hand over her mouth when she recognized them. Parts of Draupadi's golden sari was on the floor, and Marcus' shirt was pulled up from his trousers, his cloak discarded. Draupadi's eyes were closed while Marcus seemed to be covering her neck with kisses. Bella and Jasper rushed to the safety of their home, and they didn't start to laugh until they were safely inside and the door closed behind them.
"They were making out like teenagers!" Bella giggled.
Jasper chuckled. "You know they are lovers."
"Yes, but knowing and seeing are two different things. They look good together, though."
"Mm. As far as I know, he changed her because he fell in love with her when he found her. When you lose a mate like he did, you only have three options: you kill yourself, you mourn for eternity, or you move on. He moved on when he found her."
Bella smiled while she started to take the pins out of her hair. "It's a beautiful story."
"If you don't count her first year. From what I've heard, she was a vicious newborn."
Bella raised her eyebrows. "Hard to believe."
"Well, you saw the newborns in the battle. That's what they are usually like. You are the exception, Bella." He leaned forward and kissed her on the nose. "Oh, and happy birthday, sweet girl. It's September 13th."
"As if that matters now," she said and giggled again. How he loved that sound.
While they changed and packed what they needed, Bella frowned.
"Nothing new on Gertrude?"
"Not a peep," Jasper answered and zipped his bag closed. "But I don't think we need to worry."
Bella put the last of her clothes into her own bag and looked around the room.
"I will miss this bedroom. We'll have to tell Esme to make our new one just like this."
Jasper pulled her into a hug. "Your wish is my command."
A few days later - Texas
Bella and Jasper lay in their bed—their new, whole bed—and listened as the wind whooshed by outside. The house had been as they had left it, and now they enjoyed being alone. She turned on her side and looked at him. The only light in the room came from the stars outside, and she reached out a hand to trace his scars. He rolled on his side as well, facing her, and gently tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. Her lips turned up in a sweet smile at him, and she sighed contently. He felt how happy she was, how safe she felt. He felt the same.
"The prophecy came true," she finally said.
"You changed the Volturi. There's a Queen now."
He pondered that for a second. "That's true. I didn't really overthrow them, though. I think that was what the prophecy actually said."
She propped herself up on her elbow. "Close enough. Will you ever return, you think? To serve again."
"I don't know. However, I'm eternally grateful you advised me not to take up the offer on kingship in the end. You were right. I'm bored with the Volturi. I've had enough of the eternal scheming, plotting and gossiping." Then he frowned slightly. "Do we really have to discuss the Volturi and prophecies now? Here? When we are finally alone and in a bed?"
She smiled at him, a brilliant smile which lit up his world. She leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.
"You're right. We don't need to talk about that now. Or here."
He put his hand on her shoulder, and caressed her skin, over her arm, down to her waist, over her hip and her thigh. Once again he marveled at the softness of her skin, her warmth and her beauty. In the blink of an eye he found himself on his back, with her straddling him. She supported herself with her hands on his chest and looked down at him with loving eyes.
"What an amazing view," she whispered.
"I agree," he answered.
Then she leaned down and kissed him.
Thank you so very, very much to all of you, for taking your time to read this little story of mine.
This wouldn't have been possible at all (and I'm not kidding) if it weren't for my two wonderful and amazingly patient betas: Bree and Amy. Thank you!
Another person deserving of thanks is my dear husband, Anders. Despite hating everything Twilight, he has encouraged me to do this, to practice my English.
And last, but certainly not least, a huge thanks to all my readers and reviewers. It truly warms a writer's heart to hear that you actually are doing something good (or at least something worth reading …)!
EDIT: Captain of the Guard has been nominated for "Best Bella/Jasper" on www. thenoncanonawards . wordpress . com (remove the spaces)! If you'd like to vote for it, head over there :).
There are a few one-shots and short stories about these particular AU-characters in existence, and I will try to post at least some of them. Keep your eyes open!
Shade and Sweet Water to you all.