Hello there...so I promised to write before the end of the month. Technically it is 11:54 right now...does that count? Damit, it counts! it's not August yet. This chapter is meant to tie the story together, kind of like a filler. If I were to skip parts just to get to the good stuff right away I would be ruining it. That aside, I really enjoyed writing Gabe's little adventure. A sadistic type of enjoyment.

Failing Closure

There was no sound, no smell….

I did not know how far I had gone away from the Cullens' home but I no longer had any sense of closeness to Bella. Her heartbeat had faded completely and for a brief moment I actually believed she was gone in every sense of the word. It created a mini panic attack that took all my will to control and completely subdue. The irrational side of my mind had screamed at me that Bella's disappearing heartbeat meant it had stopped. It was moronic reasoning on my part, but I could not help it. The only solace I had was the faint prolonged merge. It was a stupid move on my part, but I refused to lift it from myself. I wanted that closeness to her no matter how restricted. There would be no more occasions to sit in her closet or kiss her in the dark, so I had to compensate. The faint lingering scent in my surroundings helped to keep me sane and willing to comply with the final resolution: leaving her.

So I did the only sensible thing possible in this situation: I went on vacation. It didn't strike me until the third day after I had left Prague, but I really was. With money I would pickpocket from dozens of strangers I managed to keep myself in third-rate youth hostels. I know the concept of youth was lost when it came to me, but it was this or finding a nice cover or rat hole to keep myself in during the sunny times of the day. Thanks to the large amount of wild game in the area Carlisle had left me, I had hunted to my heart's content. Looking back on it, I had overdone it an insy-bit. At occasions I would find myself choke-holding foxes just because they had a copper or red-like pelt and beady, conceited eyes. They would remind me of somebody, but I could not quite put my finger down on whom.

Slowly but deliberately I made my way away from Prague. My feet dragged behind me as if they were filled with cement. The small annoying voice in my head continued to chant, 'Look at Gabe go, he's a real dolt.' I wasn't sure what irritated me more; the fact that it was true or that it rhymed. My mind reeled and I was running out of activities to keep myself distracted. I had gone as far as to steal a small nondescript car and drive around instead of running, just to save my strengths. I also told myself it would serve as a means for entertainment, particularly since I had never driven in my life. It looked pretty easy: move the steering wheel where you wanted to go, accelerate and brake. It was cake.

Or so I thought. I slammed, totaled and ran into a ditch five cars before I realized driving was too time consuming, and I was tired of smelling brake fluid every time I would crash. That fun was out of the window quickly enough. It serves to prove how desperate I was for the distraction that I later thought I could learn how to ride a bike. I approached it when the rider got off and walked away, but the idea of mounting it was what finally broke the ice I had set myself in. Days had passed after leaving Bella, days, and yet I was behaving as if it had been an eternity.

This imaginary lapse of time had caused me to have a mental breakdown. I had given up only the mundane physical traits that made me who I was. I no longer slept outside, I did not run and I no longer looked at humans as carnage. I looked at them as what they were: living, breathing, materialistic drones. High five for the misanthropist outlook!

At some point I grew tired of this new façade I was building for myself. It felt pathetic and left a bad aftertaste of misery. By the fourth day I was frothing at the mouth through my lunacy. In the streets every girl or woman with dark hair were Bella. They would, smile, frown, even cough like her. Wide dark eyes hounded me from every possible corner. Even small children with big brown eyes would make my head turn. Gods help me; this malady was making me into a pedophile too.

Compared to the time when I had left Michael in exile for a hole in the ground, this was hell on earth. My chest ached mostly because I was panicking that Carlisle would break his word. How could I face her again if she knew? Her obvious trust in me grated my insides like a stubborn ulcer. Since I could not sleep or pass out I would spend twenty-four hours straight feeling tormented.

I was supposed to be a vicious killing machine, but I only found myself pounding walls down in rage because I was slowly forgetting the sound of her voice. Not even a week had passed but small details were fading away. I could picture her perfectly in my head but the feel of her warm skin and the rhythm of her heart were slipping gradually from my memory like water in cupped hands. There was no stop button to press. The harder I would try to hold on the faster it would leave me.

It made me wonder how long it would take for me to forget her face as well. I knew I would never be able to forget "Bella" or the whole concept of her, but there would come the time when I wouldn't be able to recall details about her. She would be like a passing thought that resembled the paradoxical feel of nice daydream: pleasurable in its possibilities but bitterly disappointing in its falsehood.

Nights had meshed into days after I had forced myself to run from Prague. Before I had admitted my dirty little secret to Carlisle he had informed me they were going to move Bella from Prague to a farther and safer place. His complete idea was to take Bella and me, to protect both of us. My conscience forced me to open my mouth before he could tell me the new location. I couldn't know where they would keep Bella; it was for the best. Instead of doing the rational and callous thing by accepting his helping hand, I had done a one-eighty turn and slapped him in the face. Not literally, of course. Slapping was for weaklings who cringed at loud noises and squealed in high-pitched tones—like Edward. What I meant was that by expecting more of me Carlisle had received a sharper blow with the truth. I was not sure why he had had such high hopes for me. It was more logical for him to hate my guts; especially after the great treatment I had always given him.

After I bypassed Helsinki, I chose to settle in Turku. Having water close by was soothing; an extra escape route never hurt anyone. The only flaw to this new move was the unwelcoming presence of other immortals that were already there. This did not come as a surprise. There had always been a large nomadic group of individuals that would travel these lands, sometimes as small groups or solitary. The lack of sun for extended periods of time was ideal for a free range of hunting. I felt their surprise as I entered the city limits in the sense of great movement. The scent of an elder was as telltale as a great flashing beacon. Many fled and others stopped in their spots like deer in the headlights, or maybe they thought that if they didn't do any sudden movements I would not notice their presence. I hesitated and wondered if the smart thing to do would be to reverse and take a new route, but the action would have been cowardly. There was no way I could walk away after being noticed. I may have lost my sanity, but I still had my dignity.

As I made my way into the depths of the city life the darkness felt like a thick mantle, and the cold actually felt biting. I did not know if it was because of my weakened state or because my mentality was frail, but occasionally there would be a goose bump or two rise. I swear they were there.

It did not take long before a brave soul approached me. She was small with Asian features, and so thin that for a second I wondered if she was a starving newborn. Her hair was straight and stretched down to her calves. The calm thoughtful expression on her face and shrew magenta eyes was what let me know she was not new to immortality. There was certain boldness in her stance that was not held by youthful arrogance: she was strong.

This small frail-looking person made me feel like the sham that I was. As an elder I possessed the status to intimidate, but as an animal blood drinking enthusiast that was pinning for a lost sweetheart like a bonnet-toting heroine in a Jane Austen novel I was very vulnerable. She could take me in her bony little hands and squeeze me like wet clay—I just knew it. Shame of this reality and a sudden fear for my life I had not experienced in the longest time overwhelmed me.

"You are very tall," were the first words out of her mouth. Except that the four simple words took at least five times longer than normal. In reality it came out, "You….aare…veery….taaall," with pauses and extensions. I felt like somebody had pressed a slow motion button on her somewhere.

I did not even bother to reply and remained silent, because seriously? How did one reply to an obvious statement? "Yeah, and you are very thin"? I felt like, though it would not have been far from the truth, it would have been very childish of me to point out.


Frustratingly I found myself hanging on to her every word and waiting in vain for any type of information that would be considered new. Mostly I was only wondering if she was here to fight me, but she did not seem in a hurry to attack—or tell me.

"My….naameee….issss….Annnaassstaaaasiiia," I could have sworn this declaration took her a minute per vowel. I could feel my eyes widening in amazement. Was this really happening? Maybe my metabolism had slowed down so much that it had impaired my impression of the world at large. And why couldn't her parents have named her something shorter, like Ana?

I was at such a loss I actually replied blankly, "I'm Gabriel, nice to meet you... I think."

"I….knoooow," whenever she would speak her eyes would remain sharp but her facial expression was as monotonous as the tone of her voice.

"Oh—alright, what do you want?" I asked this in a rush, wishing she would take the hint.

"Yoour…preesscencee…shooockeed…myyy…maaasteer," she continued at the same pace and I felt my shoulders slump in bewildered resignation; this was going to be a very long conversation. Unfortunately her slug-like behavior was driving the very wit right out of me. I found I could not speak biting or sarcastically to her, mostly because it was no fun whatsoever. The pace sucked me dry and made my mind go blank. "Heee….ruuuleessss…thissss…terrriiitooory."

"Okay, what of it? What is the point of this?" I asked desperate, wondering where my life was going. I could have run to China and back if I had wanted to and she probably would have still been standing there enunciating the next consonant.


"So then why did this Casti person send you?" I asked honestly curious, but she ignored me and kept on going, which only peaked my frustration.


"In? In what?" I finally cracked under the pressure, "In Finland? In trouble? In love? What? Please just say it!"


"That's nice, I always like a polite welcome." I gushed and before she could draw in more breath for something else I cut in, "I'm invited to meet with him, right? Okay, don't say more, I'm honored. Just take me, we should go—no time to waste. Take me. Now."

Anastasia narrowed her eyes sourly at me, as if affronted by my rushing attitude. I was not sorry at all; even her scowling expression took a minute to form. It was like watching grass grow. Thankfully she finally nodded and gave a vague motion of the hand in a gesture to follow her. I nodded feverishly and gave a sigh of relief when she started to run. Thankfully she wasn't stunted in that area as well.

Ordinarily I would never have willingly gone to the wolf's den, but this situation was special. One more extended minute with Annnaassstaaaasiiia and I would have ripped the hair out of my head. Maybe that was the master plan all along. This Castigóne person would probably send this thin tortoise to mentally breakdown the enemy and weaken them enough to succumb to anything. It had certainly worked on me. He was a brilliant foe; I made a mental note not to underestimate him. The power of frustration was a scary thing.

"Heeereee weeee—"

"Yes, yes, we're here, no need to announce it, save your breath," I muttered when we finally stopped outside a rundown barn house yards out of the city limits. We would have gotten here sooner had Miss Slug not had strict law-abiding sensibilities. If a red traffic light or stop sign came up, she would actually stop and wait the needed time even when there were no cars or pedestrians anywhere to be seen. As with her odd speaking I knew it would be no use to hurry her on, so I kept my mouth shut and counted to ten. She might have actually replied back and that would have taken extra long. Once we arrived to the designated spot I was exhausted like a human.

Without being invited or told what to do I decided to enter quickly by opening the large barn doors in such a hurry I almost tore them off. Her slow ways made me antsy to prove that the world around me was the slow one not me. Unfortunately my hurried entrance was met with several pairs of cold and hostile eyes. This would have disconcerted me as it was, but my poor eyes were victims to such an attack of color I could not help but blanch in contrast to this new view. It wasn't just me either: a normal person could have stood outside the weathered-down barn and been equally if not a hundred times more horrified and disgusted as I was at that exact moment. The cavernous space resembled a hybrid cross between a circus and a gypsy's tent. There were so many bright patterns and colors draped on the walls and over the large windows. Large and small lamps of all colors were spread all over the room, including a broken down chandelier that laid in the middle of the ground as if it had fallen at some point and people had just chosen to walk around it rather than pick it up. Oddly enough it still emitted light to the room. There was no dirt or hay to be seen, only luxurious carpets and sofas dispersed to offer only comfort. Up to a dozen vampires were lounging lazily on them and they gazed back at me with annoyance as if I had disrupted their midnight nap. A long moment passed in which everybody stared and I refused to walk in further. They looked so lazy and tired I feared they were all like Anastasia. The very idea made my mouth dry and hands shake in terror. Vowels enunciated longer than a second…my new hell on earth.

"Elder! Welcome!" the booming voice made me jump, but the normal speech felt liberating to my ears. A tall immortal man with flowing black hair almost as long as Anastasia's and wearing a flamboyant costume that made him right at home in this demented place came with outstretched arms and a huge grin plastered on his pale face.

What happened next I put the entire blame on my wrecked nerves caused by Anastasia's eccentricity and the seizure-inducing colors of the psychedelic barn. My brain had cease function back at the fifth red light we had stopped on, so when the freak with the ringing voice (beaming at me like I was a shinning king) took my face in his hands and kissed me lightly I didn't react.

I would have liked to say I was entirely confident in my masculinity that a quick kiss by another man did not faze me, but I was really just in shock. Even as he proceeded to kiss both of my cheeks too all I could do was stare with wide eyes that screamed for mercy.

"O-okay," I stuttered pushing him gently away and stepping back, "You just…no you didn't—I'll pretend you didn't. I-I'm going to go and—do something…" I looked behind me at the darkness outside that looked so comforting to the crazy colors before me, "…over there."

As if on a silent cue Anastasia moved breezily and pulled the barn door securely shut, trapping me.

"Ah, this is an honor!" the kissing fiend continued gaily (no pun intended) and he grabbed me by the elbow to steer me further into the room. "When I felt your presence I knew immediately this was a moment of great change and opportunity! An elder of great power coming to our great Turku! I am Castigóne, and you are?"

"Heeesss Gaaaabbbrrrieeeell," Anastasia replied after a long prolonged moment of silence in which Castigóne expected a response and I stared at him in frozen horror.

"Ah Gabriel! How angelic," he laughed at his own joke, but I was not the only one who gave him a blank stare. The lounging immortals stared on with no interest even as he turned and addressed them, "Look everybody! An elder is in our midst, how will we show him a good time?"

No one responded and several actually leaned their head backs in a human expression of tired boredom. This lacking reception did not give me much disappointment, especially when all I could feel was sheer nausea. I had never been the religious sort, but I was positive this was the work of karma. All the horrors I had caused to others, especially Bella, and for all the random kisses I had taken without consent—well just Bella, really—I had been violated as well. I felt scarred for life.

"I'm sorry I sent Annie to go get you," he added in an undertone as he pulled me further into the middle of the room where a crescent-shaped sofa took up space. We walked around the pathetic chandelier as if it was not there, even as trailing pieces of crystals crunched under our feet. "She was the only one up for the job. Many seemed too intimidated at the prospect of encountering you all by themselves."

I highly doubted this. I was willing to bet none of the others had bat an eye after he had requested it.

Once he pushed me down forcefully on the couch and flopped down next to me my mind started functioning enough to grab his smiling face, so close to mine, and shove it away with my hand, "I don't know how many times your mother dropped you on your head as a child, but kiss me again and I'll rip your lips like band-aids."

Castigóne blinked with his grin frozen in place but slid a foot away on the couch giving me breathing space. He paused a second but in no time he was back to his cheery ways. He draped his arm close to me at a distance and laughed, "Feisty! I like that."

"Please don't," I said feeling panic again, but he ignored me and went on.

"You have no idea how boring it is to pass day after day in the company of these many imbeciles. They are far from entertaining. I think a group of drooling lobotomized humans would be more interesting than this lot. Annie is by far the best, and that says a lot doesn't it? I have to reserve a good portion of my day just to have a ten sentence conversation with her. "

Anastasia sat demurely by his side and did not react to his comments. The rest of the room seemed to turn a deaf ear as well, making it clear that it was not the first time they had heard this. She began to hum under her breath and twirl her long hair on her fingers at a rapid pace. Castigóne and I stared at her moving hand's movement until she somehow managed to tie two fingers together with a big knot. She gazed at it vaguely and tried to undo it, but it proved too difficult so she gave up and conformed to sit still and stare at us.

"She's the best one?" I asked dryly.

" It's like scraping the bottom of a very deep barrel, huh?" Castigóne said shrugging.

"What do you want from me?" I sighed slumping back and farther away from him and his draped arm. "I'm not here to brighten up your life with my sunshine presence, I have better things to do with my time. Not that I don't sympathize for your lack of…good conversation."

Castigóne laughed boisterously as if I had said the funniest thing he had ever heard, and for all I knew—I probably had.

"Yes, well I know you are not here to stay. You are an elder after all, are you part of the Priam?" his question sounded innocent enough but an odd sparkle appeared in his eyes, almost malevolent and coveting. I was caught unawares, especially since I did not wear a dog tag of some sort claiming the name of my owners. My silence immediately confirmed his suspicion so he nodded knowingly and leaned forward to give me a friendly pat on the knee.

"Hey! No touchy! I'll rip your hand off!" I snapped icily, but in reality there was turmoil within myself where I was fighting the urge to run in blind panic. If I had left abruptly now it would have shown great weakness on my part. That was the last thing I needed, so I bit my tongue and glared at him, praying to my deceased ancestors to protect my sanity, well-being and overall innocence.

"Heeeee…liiikkeeessss…preeettyyyy…thiiiingsss," Anastasia said giving me an indolent smirk, obviously aware of my discomfort.

Castigóne gave her an indulgent smile and turned to stare at me like a wide-eyed besotted lemur, "How long do you think you will stay here? I think we could have some fun for a while. I know you have to leave for Prague soon, but there is this great church that has a twenty-four hour daycare. The children are exquisite and the nuns are not bad once you get them away from their beads and candles."

"Theeeey…doooon't…liiikke….it…wheeeen…yooouu…seettt….theeeiirrrr…haaaabbiiitt…ooonnn…fiiirrree," Anastasia added thoughtfully, but I hadn't paid any attention. Castigóne's passing casual comment had taken the breath out of me and made my insides freeze.

"How did you know about Prague?" I asked austerely, standing up and pulling him up by the neck. He screeched like the girl I secretly knew he was and tried to push me away but my grip was iron. Anastasia remained sitting but sluggishly tried to reach up for him with her tangled hand. My sudden movement and Castigóne's obvious distress was only cause to make the snoozing group to slightly open their eyes and lift their heads, but only for a moment.

"Know? What do you mean Gabriel?" he asked trying to break my grasp, "You are hurting me!"

"How do you know about Prague? Who told you?" my grip was shaking with anger and fear. This was the farthest thing I had expected; distance was supposed to have been the key to keeping Bella safe, but here I was in a Finish city with crazy vampires who knew.

"There has been much movement in the form of trackers," Castigóne began, his eyes still wide as they looked at me, "Of course talk gets around. They say the Priam is heading to Prague to kill a coven of traitors. Everybody is talking about it, not just me, please let me go…"

I ignored him and allowed my mind to reel the sufficient amount before it went into cold, outright hysteria. It had all been for nothing: my departure, the declaration of betrayal…everything. It had all been done to keep her safe but now the situation was worse than ever. I would not have worried if it had been simple trackers; I had expected that, but this was different. The Priam may have been morons in my eyes, but they were corrosive with anything they touched. The Cullens would not survive them. Carlisle had said they would take her away and that made me feel better, but who was to say that once the entire family was threatened the ones protecting Bella would cave and give her up? Just how committed were they to her safekeeping?

"Hey—elder, let me go!" Castigóne kept on saying, but I continued to ignore him. Apparently that was not the smartest action on my part because before I knew it he had bent his knees and punched me straight in the gut. The force of the hit not only forced me to let go of my grip, but I went crashing to the barn wall behind me. Surprisingly the structure was stronger than it looked because I slammed into it without creating a gaping hole on it.

It took all of me to stand up immediately and fix my expression to something that resembled anger, not raging pain. The hit had been so strong one of my ribs had broken and pierced into my lung. I was grateful my lungs were not useful anymore otherwise the whole situation would have been a tad embarrassing. So as tiny bursts of light filled my sight and I gritted my teeth against the pain I walked back to Castigóne, unwilling to let them see just how weak I was. If I had been a normal elder that punch would not have even upset or left me breathless. It wasn't the case now: I had a broken rib.

"I'm sorry," Castigóne gushed waving his hands like windmills. Though his face was fixed into a grimace of remorse, his eyes glinted with laughter, "I'm just very impatient, I beg you forgive me elder, it was a reflex."

"Tell me everything you know about what the Priam is up to, and I will try my hardest not to cave in your rib cage with my hands," I said trying not to breath hard like I wanted to so that my empty threat would be more credible to the lunatic mess.

I don't know how or why I had ended up where I had, all I knew was that this was a serious predicament. It did not matter how demented this place really was. The truth was that I was weaker than the worst of them. They could have rolled on top of me like a bunch of overmedicated hedgehogs and it would have been the end of me.

"Why do I need to let you know what is going on with the Priam?" Castigóne asked suddenly shrew, "Aren't you part of them as well? You should know this by now, right?"

"We got separated, I have to go meet them," the lame lie burned my ears and felt heavy coming out of my mouth.

"Heeee…doeeessss…looookk…aaaaa…biiittt…looossssst," Anastasia added. The comment gave me enough time to compose myself and find a neutral stance I could be in without my eyes watering. Once she was done Castigóne turned back at me with a critical eye and eventually nodded briskly as he sat back down again, gesturing placidly at me to join him, as if the hit had never happened. Only it had…my inside Gabriel was sobbing uncontrollably in some deep corner of my mind, so I knew it had.

"Please join me Gabriel, let us not be rash anymore. You are my guest, I will tell you everything you want to know, but next time you want to play rough let me know," he added a sly wink to the last comment that suggested he might not find it adverse. I clung to the pain in order to keep myself from outright gagging. Why was it that every time he looked at me I felt a sudden urge to take a shower? With scalding water….and scrub with steel wool?

Against my better judgment I returned to sit, but at a safe distance, "Who is the Priam going after exactly?"

"I'm not sure, some petty animal suckers," Castigóne said shrugging again. He turned to Anastasia and grabbed her hand to begin the process of fixing the entanglement. The way he quickly went about pulling the hair in the right direction with proper force made it obvious that he had had plenty of practice. "All I know for sure is that this coven has been labeled as traitors. The Priam formally announced that they were to be appropriately stigmatized."

"Do you know what it is they did to be…stigmatized?" I forced myself to ask.

"They sided with an enemy of the Priam, so it has turned into a personal matter for the elders…and now for you too, I'm sure," Castigóne turned from his work and gave me a swift searching look. I nodded curtly and stood up. The movement turned to be much too quick for my taste. It produced a blast of pain in my abdomen that left me lightheaded.

"I have to go join them now that I know their location," I muttered and began my slow retreat. "Thanks for the hospitality," I added as an afterthought, but I could not manage to keep the irony from my voice.

"No! Why so soon? That's not fair," Castigóne groused and stood up just as fast, looking crestfallen. He had been gripping Anastasia's hair tightly so he had dragged her up forcefully with him in his outburst making her let out a dry and prolonged, "ow".

"Well, you know, life is not fair," I babbled walking backwards away from them, "I would have liked to live my entire immortal eternity without knowing the touch of a man's lips, but it seems I have very bad karma."

"Will you come back and visit?" he asked hopefully and Anastasia nodded next to him, "Yessss….vissssssittt…"

"My tourist visa is about to expire, but I will sure try," I said, making them frown. Apparently odd bipolar weirdoes could not appreciate my witty repartee. That, more than anything else, was my cue to make my exit. As I left not a single vampire lying around bothered to look up. Talk about anti-social.

There is no greater pain than to run while impaled. I learned that the hard way as I rushed back to Amsterdam. Even so, I felt like a rabid dog with a blank state of mind and furry in its blood. I was no longer the target in the Priam's sordid eyes. Every single action since my arrival overseas had exploded on my face. In a way I was still oddly calm, despite my blind furry to get back to Prague as soon as possible. Carlisle said he would move Bella. In all cases she was probably nowhere near the Cullen's home anymore. She would be fine, and in the big picture that was all that mattered. Why was I hurrying back like a madman then? Well, the Priam was a group of powerful elders and the Cullens were…not. It was farfetched to think that I would be able to help, I was very weak and injured, but it felt wrong to let them take the fall for me. The least I could do in this situation was die with them too.

I had turned into a model, virtuous vampire, I know. I was impressed by my selflessness and maturity too.

By the time I reached Prague the city was dead silent on the surface. A calm sheen of mist covered most of, but I couldn't quite enjoy the cooling sensation it created on my skin because I was too busy hyperventilating. The bone was deeply ingrained and by the time I forced myself to stop I landed on all fours coughing out a black substance that could only be dead blood from my lung. I wanted to rest for a minute and let myself fall to the ground, but as soon as I had reached the city limits I knew today was not my day. Not only had Carlisle been incompetent enough to keep Bella in the city, but now there were also trackers roaming everywhere like a plague of rampaging cockroaches. Why was it that things always fell apart without me? Couldn't they do their job correctly once in a while?

As I made my way around the city perimeters without actually going in I realized that the reason there were so many crawling presences around the city was because the Cullens were out there too. It was a relief, especially since none the enemies were as strong as me. The Priam was obviously taking their time, which suited me just fine. What did not aid my case was the black blubber I was coughing every so often. I felt like a dying human whenever I would try to run but was halted only to lean pathetically against a tree. It was not the best of scenarios, but I had been told by Bella plenty of times that I was a raging idiot, and I was of the belief that if people said something enough times it was probably because there was some truth behind it. So I set off to find the trackers one by one.

There was this stupid notion floating in my head, created probably by my unimaginative saintly conscious. I did not want the Cullens to be harmed, especially not by somebody that was after me. If I thought of it in my usual selfish way the reason I was so caring at the moment was because if they did come to harm I would feel indebted to them. Being indebt to such people was…whatever. Justifying myself nowadays was getting to be as excruciating as talking with Anastasia about politics would be.

It was a slow process but I managed to find the first tracker. He looked like a lost librarian, from the gold-wire glasses down to the soft leather loafers. The only reason I managed to entrap him by the side of a darkened dairy farm was because he had been too engrossed in a small map book as he talked to himself. Why a vampire needed a map, especially when he could simply locate his destination by scent, was beyond me. So I took him down, literally. I came from behind and, like one of those bulky football players that have no neck, tackled him to the frozen ground. It wasn't one of my most dignified jobs, but I got it done quickly. By the time he had stopped thrashing permanently I was gasping on the ground like cat with a hairball. Oh if my mother could see her son now…

By the time the third tracker was down I was on the verge of yelling at the Cullens for some support, even if just for the moral kind. I could not do this alone, how had I managed it for so long? The thought echoed in my mind as the fourth tracker bashed my head into an emergency phone booth on the shoulder of a main highway. He got a few good bonks in before I managed to break his right knee and neck. I fell next to him on the ground and watched a few dozen cars pass by without paying attention to the two fallen men by the broken booth. Humans could be so callous.

I managed to drag myself up and shuffled like a zombie away from the scene of the crime. Getting arrested in this condition with the Priam on the way would have been the stupid sort of move only an idiot would make. I should have made Edward come with me, what a wasted opportunity. When the sun started to rise I forced myself to hunt. The blood did enough to remove the fatigue and external wounds, but the broken rib was stuck. I could blow or hold my breath in, but the bone would not come out. The pain was like a second heart beat that gave every so often a throb of pain. There was no immediate solution for this. In this condition I made my way to the Cullen's home. It did not strike me until then that my presence would consider Carlisle's promise to me null and void. He could tell Bella what I had done…no, it was fine. My reason was valid enough to return, and if that was not good enough I could always rip his lips off like I had wanted to with Castigóne.

There was a welcoming committee on the front lawn of the house when I arrived. It gave me a warm gooey feeling inside. They cared, they really cared…

"The trackers just left one by one. When we reached Carlisle his tracker had disappeared already too."

"Did you get to see them? Did you fight them?"

"We were always a good distance from them so there was no real contact."

"How could they have disappeared just like that?"

Okay, maybe they were just clueless idiots who didn't appreciate me enough. I had fought skewered in pain for them. Skewered! Like a shish kebab!

"Well, either all of you are too slow, or I am just that good," I snapped snottily fighting the urge to wince with every step I would take, "I personally believe it was both. None of you managed to catch my scent. It was rather disappointing."

They stared at me, uncannily very much like I had probably stared at Anastasia every time she would open her mouth: shocked and piqued.

Bella was the first to approach me with the incredible hulk by her side. Her blank expression reminded me I had been gone for more than a week. I had broken my promise to her; she could not have missed that little detail. I wondered how long she would hold that grudge, but her hard stare was giving nothing away—especially not how ecstatic she was to see me.

When the hit came all I noticed was the sudden turn in Bella's eyes. As the force of Emmett's blow made me fly backwards there was a nanosecond where a contradicting combination of hurt and affection overcame her blank stare, but I could do nothing. My vision became clouded and pain took over, making me gasp. In my mind I fought for control to go to her. I wanted to turn my body over, but nothing was responding.

Her voice sounded much too far as she said, "Welcome back."

It was like a nightmare of the worst kind: Bella's voice fading and darkness taking me away.

I was unsure how much time passed as I laid on the ground and waited for a pause to the pain. Eventually I felt a presence over me, and a gentle hand removed the death clutch I had on my side. There was a poke and prod that made me scream like an amputee, and a cool touch on my forehead that made me open my eyes.

Instead of Bella, Carlisle was the one kneeled down next to me with a clinically detached expression on his face that did not entirely reach his reproaching eyes. Bella was nowhere to be seen.

"What happened?" I managed to ask hoarsely. My throat ached from the yell I had given. Esme came over and even the muscled giant was standing over me looking curious and somewhat amazed.

"It wasn't even that hard, I swear," he mumbled sourly but Esme only frowned and shooed him away.

"I don't understand myself," Carlisle finally said as he pulled me up to a sitting position that produced another coughing fit. Thankfully Esme and Emmett had left just in time to miss my lovely display of disgusting bodily fluids.

"This hit was not that serious Gabriel, how did it produce such damage? Were you hurt already?"

I nodded briefly but stopped because it made everything worse.

"I don't know what I can do for you except help you get up," Carlisle said after a pause. I finally turned to look at him in the face, ready to explain and beg for his silence but he only shook his head at me with a sorry look, "She knows everything already."

If I had been given a choice between smooching Castigóne willingly and facing Bella now, I would have asked where was the nearest pharmacy: I would need some Chapstick…the cherry kind. I felt worse than ever, not including the stabbing pain, especially when I looked wildly around and noticed she really was nowhere to be seen.

"You promised," I finally said, my voice hollow, "you promised you would not tell her."

"I had to tell her," Carlisle sighed and sat on the wet grass next to me, "Edward felt it…unfair for her to be pinning your absence. It just came out."

I nodded vaguely and stared back at the house, wondering if she was looking at me through one of the darkened windows, "Is she mad?"

"The reason why Emmett hit you was because she asked him to do it," he said coldly, giving me a hard look, "Not that you didn't deserve it. I don't want you here Gabriel, you must leave as soon as you can get up."

"So she hates me now," I muttered, ignoring his comment. How could I react to this? The deeply sensitive part of me wanted to shed manly tears while my more rational side was thinking of ways to fix it. "She knows…she knows me now—the real me."

I looked up at him with horrified eyes, the small amount of sanity I had was threatening to break, "She knows me Carlisle, what do I do now? No one knows me, but now she does."

"You aren't making any sense," he said attempting make me get up, but I remained on the ground.

Sense? What was sense anyways? Was "sense" falling in love with snow when you were the sun? Or did "sense" have to do anything with the feeling of a pain stronger than the physical one when you knew you had hurt something precious? I was a coward who deserved her directed blows and complete scorn, but the brief look in her hard eyes said it all: I had broken something. Something that I never knew I could have the power to affect.

How did Bella see me? For the most part I had concentrated on my view of her, but what about her perspective of me? Had I been a dominant paternal figure? An overprotective big brother? Or something more?

What had her eyes exposed?

Something more…you are something more…maybe.

Not anymore.

Yay Gabe got some guy action! Good for him. Anyhow, I have an announcement to make. This upcoming school year I will study abroad in Germany. It will be hectic and stressful, but I will try and keep updating as regularly as I possibly can. I think writing this will keep the culture shock at bay. Soooo comment and give me your priceless thoughts!