Chapter 17

"-and I have no idea why you as a species haven't been exploring your options, especially given the leaps and bounds humans have made in regards to technology and science in the last century. I mean, you've got problems and you've just, worked around them? Never tried to figure out why you lust for blood, why human is superior in taste to animals, why one person's blood can sing but another's cannot?" Bella is well a truly on a roll.

It's been roughly a half hour since she began to regal one of the three vampire kings with the 'tale of their epic romance', as she had termed it. And, while it has been fascinating to hear everything from Bella's point of view, Jasper does wish he were in a position he could have enjoyed the retelling from. As it stands, he has been locked in a crouch for the entirety of it, muscles coiled and ready to spring. Oh, he's well aware that he wouldn't be able to get out alive, that it'd be a fruitless endeavour if the Volturi decides Bella's death is necessary. That doesn't mean he wouldn't fight it though. No, he's here like this because he doesn't know how long these vampires have gone between feeding and he's aware that Bella's blood is... sweeter than most.

It is a blessing Edward is not with them; that additional thirst would have been far too distracting. Just like the thumb Bella keeps rubbing back and forth over his knuckles; the change of sensation between regular skin and scar tissue being brushed over isn't something he is well used to. Even among the Cullens, it had taken them some time to get comfortable enough to initiate physical contact, to stop instinctively dropping into fight or flight mode at the sight of him.

All of the Volturi guards keep giving him the occasional once over even now and Jasper doesn't doubt that these four have already been exposed to the Southern Wars. They are, after all, the ones who put down the first generation. He's heard tales of the twins and their powers; they're exactly the ones that Jasper wants to avoid fighting. While there's a chance he might be able to ramp up his own emotions to rebuff Jane's gift, he doubts there's anything he can do against Alec. Other than turn the panic of emotions he'd no doubt suffer under the other's gift onto him.

Again, not something he wants to test.

"-want to go into biological engineering. It's a degree level course that means I'll be studying how the body is made, the cells of it all and, most importantly, develop solutions for health-related problems and techniques that improve the quality of life. Which, I'm certain I could apply to your lives as vampire."

On the plus side, it seems that the Volturi are just as blindsided by Bella's ideas as he and the rest of the Cullens had been. It all seems so incredibly simple now, the idea of looking into how to improve their own way of life. In that respect, Carlisle has come the closest with his own strives towards a different food source. But his vegetarian solution has only aided in the morality of their lives; it has nothing to do with the physical aspect of it. And they had stagnated. Right up until Bella had smeared suncream across his cheek as a joke.

Sitting upon the stone floor and with a look of intrigued contemplation upon his features, Aro is utterly fixated on Bella. Jasper wishes he could get lost in the happiness of Bella's inquisitive emotionally bubble, but he can't risk it. Even as the hope and need for progress and motivation rolls in his stomach, seeps into his bones like it is a gift just for him.

"Fascinating," Aro breathes, the first other than Bella to talk in the past fifteen minutes. He steeples his fingers, hands resting in his lap as he considers Bella once again, lips slowly curling up into a smile. It is so exceptionally strange to see a vampire who is so clearly old. After all, Jasper's background still has him occasionally counting the lifespan of a vampire in days (fifty-one thousand, seven-hundred and fifty-nine days as a vampire; he's had fifty-one thousand, seven-hundred and fifty-nine days of his 'second life').

Then, the old one turns his eyes on him and Jasper knows what is coming next will not be a request. A hand is held out to him, not an invitation but an unspoken demand to allow the vampire king access to his every thought. He'll see everything he did under Maria's orders, will see the near desperate exodus he conducted with Peter and Charlotte. He'll see every time he has fallen off of the wagon, forcing the Cullens to move on to a new town, lest they be discovered, will hear every one of Jasper's thoughts in regards to his own lacking willpower.

And, he'll feel the surprise of Bella asking him to the dance, will be swept up in the bubbling sunshine of her emotions as Jasper has always felt them. He'll hear Bella's 'I've been reborn' spiral again but, this time, he'll feel the truth that zings through Jasper as she speaks. It isn't a demand Jasper can stand against though.

He shakes Aro's hand, watching the other vampire's features twist in response to the sudden influx of memories. Perhaps he'll even be able to feel the emotions that Jasper does right in this moment; the swirl of intrigue and anticipation from the Volturi guards, the hope that bubbles up among the worry and affection Bella emits. The caution and disquiet that nestles in Jasper's breast that is entirely his own feelings.

Aro releases his hand and Jasper slowly sits back on the balls of his feet, still keeping Bella's arm tucked against his own, their fingers still entwined. It'd be difficult to pull her into a protective position right now, but not beyond him. He's never had to fight to protect before. It'd been about killing newborns, then about killing animals to subdue his thirst. He's not had to fight another vampire to protect something before and he does not like his chances here.

The smooth calm of Aro's emotions is promising though.

"Three years," Aro says, looking the two of them in the eyes, one after the other, before he turns his gaze onto his guards, "at most. One year to finish your American education, then two years to remove yourself you're your human life. In three years, you will visit the Volturi again and you will be a vampire, Bella Swan." He smiles, hands slowly clapping together, as if this the happy ending they'd all been hoping for. And, while Jasper has little problem with the concept of eternity with Bella… she's never explicitly stated that it is what she wants. As she had put it previously, the idea of being a vampire had never factored into her life plans because she hadn't been aware it was an option. Jasper doesn't even know if she's thought it over yet.

He turns to Bella, watching the emotions flash across her face as surely as they filter through his mind.

"Right," she says, seemingly a bit dazed before she slowly but surely begins to firm up. "Right. Maybe we can move the Europe because they've got some super science stuff, or that's what I can tell Dad until I have my thirst under control and then, maybe, Hollywood special effects could do a mask to make me look older when I need to see him? Ah, that's a lot to think about, I'll need to plan and look at the courses on this side of the pond, though it might be nice to be in England again…" Bella trails off, one hand theatrically stroking at her chin. She's doing a good job of masking her turbulent emotions, of rolling with the punches that the Volturi had dealt out.

He's still worried.

"Ah, dear Bella, you do remind me of Didyme."

At that, both of them look up, Jasper straightening at the whisper of regret and affection. The guards too snap to attention, surprise flashing across their faces and that only makes Jasper tense up that little bit more, releasing Bella's hand to instead wrap his arm around her back.

"My sister," Aro elaborates, rising to his feet and gesturing for them to copy him. "When she was turned, Didyme could make all those around her happy. I was uncertain until Jasper shared his memories, but there is every possibility that, when you are turned, your gift will be something similar. Hope, most likely, given how often I have felt it brimming from you." Yes, Jasper can see that. Bella, as a vampire, inspiring hope for the future, for their lives, with her every action and thought. It would not surprise him in the slightest.

"There are worse gifts to have," Bella decides, brashly smushing herself to Jasper's side without a hint of shame, one of her arms around his back, the other half wrapped around her so that she might gather a handful of his shirt between her fingers. Her touch is warm, fingers brushing up against his abdominals and he's not even surprised by the zing of lust that shoots through her, nor the way she unashamedly presses her hand flat against his midriff for a better feel. Ever the opportunist. "You write to Carlisle, right? Can I have a Volturi penpal too? I mean, you guys are the oldest vampires I know and I have loads of questions to ask before I can start on my investigations. Pretty please?"


They leave the Volturi without meeting the other two kings; apparently, Aro had felt confident enough to deal with the two of them on his own. Jasper isn't sure if he should be thankful or worried by that fact, or pay more attention to the very serious offer the Volturi king had extended to them in regards to joining their ranks. Bella had giggled, shaking her head and turned it down, which had allowed Jasper the opportunity to state he'd rather remain with Carlisle, that it was better for his dietary needs. Even if the very idea of becoming a Volturi enforcer didn't make his stomach flip with the reminder of the Southern Wars, he doesn't doubt it would be a slippery slope right back to drinking from humans again. It is hard enough to remain on the vegetarian diet as it is. He's under no illusions when it comes to his own control; remaining with those who drink human blood would not aid him in any way.

"Well, that went well!" Bella chirps, her hand one again threaded through his own as they come out into the main plaza, the bell tower striking three times as the afternoon sun continues to burn hot on the back of his neck. The scent of his reapplied suncream is almost overwhelming, though it does not seem to bother the tourists that bustle around them, unaware of the monsters that lurk in the shadows. Perhaps due to Bella's discovery, they will soon be walking side by side with those very monsters. A monster that Bella is to become.

"Are you alright, Darlin'?" She'd had a future picked out for her, a course set and any deviation would result in instant death. Jasper had once lived under such rules, if it could have been called living. Bella blinks, cocking her head back to look at him and she smiles as if all is right within the world.

"I'm great. When Hot Doc told me about the rules, I kinda resigned myself to having to turn at some point, I'm just surprised they gave me three years. Which, hey, I'll be twenty, that's a year older than you, right?"

"Yes, I was nineteen when I was turned."

"Then you'll be my boytoy!"

Were he capable of it, Jasper rather thinks he'd have choked a little bit at that. As it is, his lips curve up into a bemused smile, his free hand reaching out to tug ever so gently at a tress of Bella's brown hair.

"I've got a solid century on you."

"Ssshhhh, let me pretend," Bella whispers, pressing one of her fingers to his lips and Jasper places a chaste kiss at it. Bella's response is to offer him a second finger, then a third, then a fourth as he keeps kissing at them. When she pulls back her hand and instead does her darn best to shove her face up towards his, he lets the thoughts of the Volturi go. He can focus on that later, once they're back at the house and have the chance to discuss things further. Jasper rises up onto his tiptoes too; Bella just crushes her face into his chest instead, making the most obnoxious kissing sounds he's ever heard. A passing father looks scandalized as he shuffles his children away.

"Stop traumatising the locals."

"Then stop getting taller. I'm the one that's supposed to still be growing, not you." Bella grumbles, wrapping her arms around his waist and pressing herself flushed to his body. She's warmer than usual, maybe from the Italian sun, maybe from the high of getting out of the Volturi alive and well. He's still struggling with the fact she'd asked Aro, the vampire considered the overall leader of the Volturi, to be her penpal. That the other had accepted is, well, something.

"No more growing," Jasper agrees easily. It's not exactly a promise he can ever break, is it? Leaning forwards, he presses a kiss to her forehead, then to the tip of her nose. When his lips meet hers, he can taste the mix of sweat, suncream and lip gloss, can feel the fractures in the skin where she's chewed a little too often on the delicate flesh there. But there's something remarkably human about the contact and, knowing those days are numbered now, he savours it.


While Bella lines up for an ice-cream sundae, Jasper calls Carlisle to regale him with the events of all that had happened. He's aware the other vampire will probably be feeling discomforted with the idea of turning Bella; Edward, Esme, Rosalie, Emmett, they'd all been turned because they were on the brink of death. They didn't have the option of living their human lives because they'd been dying anyway. Bella, Bella is a somewhat different matter, only somewhat because there is a threat that will end her life. Only, that threat has come about because she has gotten entangled with vampires. While a small part of Jasper regrets admitting to what they are, a far larger part of him does not care.

Bella wouldn't be in his life like this otherwise. He wouldn't be standing safely in the summer sunshine, watching Bella stumble through her order with the half-baked Italian phrase he'd had her rehearse prior to lining up.

"I suppose we best begin discussing how to handle this situation then," Carlisle says quietly, tapping what sounds like a pen (he can hear the spring and ink rattling through the phone) against something soft, most probably a notepad.

"When we return to the States please, Carlisle." It goes unsaid that Jasper wishes to just spend a few days existing for the time being, enjoying the sounds and sights of Italy while they can. Who knows how many years it will take Bella to get her bloodthirst under control? It could be decade. It could be longer.

"Of course, Jasper. Will you be attending the lecture with us tomorrow?"

The lecture is fantastic; Bella's already filled several pages of her notebook, scrawling notes and ideas she goes in the margins. She's also got a list of questions that she wants to ask Aro and it's going to be a hell of a lot easier sending those off to someone on the other end of a penpal relationship than it is to ask, say, Hot Doc. Because 'if vampire venom replaces all other fluids in the body, then how does sexy times work' isn't exactly something she wants to ask Jasper's pseudo father unless there is no one else with more life experience. And vampire kings have a millennium or so on Carlisle. Which, you know, cool. Aro was pretty cool actually and had sorta reminder her of Alice almost. Which, yeah, odd. Cool, but odd.

Better yet though, is the fact she and Jasper have one day left in Italy before they're hopping back on a plane to the States and Bella has ever intention of getting photographs of their foray into Land of the Euro to show her dad. Which means a mid-day costume change to make it seem like they've been to multiple different historical locations over different days instead of ramming it into one so they could go visit the vampire overlords that live in the shadows… She needs to do something nice for Dad, to show him she really appreciates the trust he's put in her to travel across the world with Dr Cullen and his son that she is most certainly dating.

Damn, it's a good thing Jasper is so responsible and respectful. If he'd been an oddball who whisked her into dangerous adventures every weekend or so, Dad would probably have had a different opinion on it all. Hell, he'd probably have had a different opinion if Billy'd have clicked onto who she was spending her time with and had chance to put Dad off. Luckily, Dad's spent enough time 'round Jasper to know it's a load of bullshit.

"What's on your mind?"

"You," Bella answers, swiftly and with style as she switches out her relaxed sit into a stomach sprawl across the ancient stone, legs bent and crossed in the air as she peers up at Jasper. "Pretty much always you. Either ideas about vampires and science because of you, thoughts about how pretty you are… a lot of thoughts about your shoulders." Gods above, she is obsessed with those shoulders. So broad and strong and so very… sexy. Yeah, she likes her a man that looks as if he can carry the world on his shoulders and Jasper fits that down to a tee. "Specifically, how Dad trusts you to spend time with me without him being in immediate reach. Which is why I'm laid out on Italian stone older than you, hopefully looking like a legit snack… and not in the vampire feeding way." Bella fires a wink at Jasper, a cheeky smile on her lips before she rolls to bounce up to her feet, hands digging through her bag for a camera. She's in outfit two right now, so photos are a go. She just needs to prompt Jasper into using his intermediate Italian to ask another person to take a photo of them.

"You have some of the strangest phrases, Darlin'."

"Don't pretend you don't love it." Jasper just smiles, holding out a hand for the camera that she places in his palm. She watches him walk away (and she'd say the whole spiral about hating to see him leave but loving to watch him walk away or whatever, but he's coming back) as she zips her bag back up. There's something very attractive about Jasper speaking another language, even if he's admitted he's far from fluent in Italian. French, apparently, he's very good with. Spanish as well, given he'd spent plenty of time down in Mexico. There are a few others, but he'd never bothered too much to learn Italian beyond 'the basics'. Bella's clever though and she knows what Jasper considers 'basics' is probably somewhere she'd be after three to four years of studying. Determined studying.

Languages were never really her thing.

"Heavy thoughts?" Jasper pinches her nose and Bella huffs, flicking out her tongue to catch the underside of his thumb. She's not imagining the way Jasper's eyes follow the action. On the plus side, when she's a vampire, she'll be able to do all the fun sorts of things she gathered Jasper can't do with a human. Which, yeah, that sucks. But hey, vampire. No sex is worth dying for… she thinks.

Maybe she'll change her tune once she actually gets Jasper in bed but, she'll probably be vamped up by then, so it'll be a moot point. Eh, that's not really her decision to make. She can certainly make her intentions clear but, if Jasper doesn't want to do sexy times, then sexy times won't happen. Because if there's no consent, then it's not sexy. Unless it's consensual roleplay. Hmmm, she'll shelve that thought for later consideration.

"Nah, but they sure ain't appropriate."

"Are they ever?" Jasper asks and Bella chortles, eagerly ribbing him over the fact he is 'finally catch on'. The look in his eyes as she says that makes her remarkably weak at the knees. There's all sorts of fondness, affection, and warmth in his golden eyes and she just wants to, well, Bella's not sure. Crawl into Jasper's embrace and ever come out, like some kind of greedy little gremlin? Run away with him to the depths of the rainforest, live in a little homemade treehouse and spend every day playing in the shallow waters of a nearby river? She's not sure what she wants, only that she wants it with him. Maybe Aro's decision is a blessing, forcing her into a situation that is as guilt-free as one could possibly get when ditching everything they've ever known to be changed into a creature that could kill all her former human acquaintances? Damn, she's gonna need a human-life bucket list or something. Eh, that's tomorrow's problem.

"Hey, history nerd. Is there a 'kissed my sexy-beast of a girlfriend' on your historian's travel check-list? Because if there isn't, there should be." There is most certainly one on her 'scientist in a foreign land' traveller's checklist.

"I should probably check the list," Jasper mutters mocking, tapping one finger against his chin, "but I left it at the apartment."

"Better kiss me then, just in case."

"And if it's not on the list?"

"Then I'll add it on." When Bella presses her lips to Jasper's, she can feel his are curved into a smile.


The photos all look good. Flicking through the digital camera (because they're the Cullens and Jasper has access to newest technology and Bella's sure as hell gonna use that to her advantage to take precious memory pictures of their latest adventure), Bella keeps the apartment's wireless telephone pressed to her ear. She's kinda clicked that they're not in the student accommodations but the 'important guests' quarterses. Which, yeah, that's cool. More importantly, they have a phone and she has a Dad she wants to speak to.


"Hi Dad!"

"Bells. You sound well." Now, one thing Bella most definitely misses about cored phones is the ability to sit curling the cord around her finger again and again as she's talking. Instead, she settles for flicking through the pictures from today, happy with the fact they look like they were taken over two different days. Hell, there's even two photos taken the other day when they'd been out in Volterra; she's got ice-cream on her nose on one. Very authentic. Damn Jasper for getting a picture of that.

Oh well. At least she's dressed cute.

"I am well! The lecture was super interesting! I definitely want to go into biological engineering; it's amazing! Anyway, no use talking about my trip around the world until I can ram my photos under your nose to discuss everything I've seen. So, how're you?"

Curled up in the armchair with Jasper writing something down in a journal (he has a journal; that's super cute and adorable and maybe something she should get into when she goes full on immortal?), Bella listens to her father talk through everything she's missed in town over the last few days. Which is to say, not a lot. Though Jake's apparently caught a fever which sucks for him. She'll pick up some Italian chocolate as a get well present. And some for Dad too, as a thank you for being an awesome dad. One of the best dads to ever dad. Hell, she'll get some Italian pasta too and make an authentic dish once she's back.

All in all, this has been a successful adventure. The only downside is that she hasn't been able to get Jasper's shirt off in the Italian sunshine. Oh well. There'll be another chance when they go to visit her Mum at some point.


Have I wrote nearly 9,000 words for this fic in the past 36 hours? Yes, yes I have.

Quick update is quick. We're not quite done with New Moon stuff yet, as you can see from the little hint I've dropped here, but I'm thinking it's gonna be shorter than the 'Twilight' segment of this has been.

In other news, I caved and ordered Midnight Sun. I donated all my other Twilight books years ago, so it'll be the only one I own. Out of interest, anyone else still got their old copies of the books?