Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer still owns these characters.
Music that inspired me: "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve, "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" by Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, and Emmylou Harris
Note to follow.
Epilogue: Justice and Mercy
Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.
They say I laughed when Victoria died, but I can't remember. I know it makes my family nervous, or it did for a while, anyway. My husband is always quick to remind me, and them, that when I learned Sam was killed fighting the newborn war, I mourned him (which I can dimly recall) despite his previous unwillingness to let my life be preserved. I grieved for Sam, for the woman he left behind, and for all the families Victoria destroyed just to get to me; I have never stopped wrestling with the guilt. All those people. In retrospect, having rejoiced at the death of their tormentor makes sense to me, in a way. This—tonight—makes sense, too.
Lavender cinder blocks and dark, grey-green doors flew past me as I ghosted through the corridor, too fast for the eyes of the human guards who prowled so slowly from iron door to iron door, watching for a nighttime uprising. My swift steps were invisible and inaudible as I made my way through Unit Four to Cell Block D, Cell Six. There were no cameras for me to worry about in this hundred-thirty-five-year-old building. Washington State Penitentiary, which housed all male death row inmates, was located in Walla Walla, only forty-seven point six two miles from Pasco, of all places—less if one ran in a straight line over rivers and rocky terrain, like I did—and was no more than a few hours' run from my family's former home in Forks, where my husband waited for me now. Jacob had granted us special permission to visit, so long as we weren't seen and didn't stay long.
I paused at the large, solid metal plank. It would easily rip and crumble under my powerful fingertips, but that would be too noisy and would alert the guard far down the hall. He hadn't noticed my presence yet, and I intended to keep it that way—I wanted to take my time.
Quickly, I peered into the small, square, shatterproof glass window placed high in the center that was just large enough for the inmate to see my face if he wanted. His snores were a chorus of chainsaws to my ears, the loudest of thousands. Thanks to the traumatic stress that had altered me physically in my human life, I now had better hearing than most vampires, my blessing and my curse, one of many such double-edged gifts. Certainly it was the one I had the least control over, though at least it wasn't the most painful.
Once, before anyone realized the true extent of my auditory range, I'd overheard the others speculating that suffering PTSD had made me feel less human to begin with, so becoming a vampire was just the next natural step. That enjoying blood back then was all in my head, as were a lot of the things I did, like I'd tried to make myself a vampire in my mind, since the bad guys in my world were humans. A combination of manifestations of a damaged psyche and traits that I'd acquired to survive the hell I'd been thrust into, things I couldn't unlearn after getting out.
Now I viewed vampiric vegetarian feeding the same way I'd once viewed most normal human meals—just something I had to do to survive. So it was no wonder I hunted the way I did; not as a growling tigress like I'd always imagined, but as a bird of prey, the arctic owl that patiently tracks lemmings in the snow with sonar and glides in swiftly and silently. What was the point of deliberately stalking or toying with my food, anyway? It didn't make it taste any better, didn't make the experience more enriching, and to be honest, the emotionless efficiency was a nice break from having to feel so much all the time.
My brother tended to agree, actually, and often hunted with me for that reason. He was like me—we weren't bad people, and we didn't hate humans; we just hated pretending. Fidgeting, slouching, blinking deliberately—it was silly and we all knew it. Movements didn't tie us to the remnants of our humanity; love did. And I've always loved my family.
Mentally shaking off my momentary reflection and allowing myself one deep breath of better-ventilated, comparatively clean air, I eased my stolen key into the lock, making sure to support the door so that the hinges wouldn't issue any grinding sounds, and stole quietly into the cell, taking care to pull the door a few micrometers shy of locking up completely. I slid the key into my right pocket where my knife had once resided before I'd crushed it to dust. My wedding ring was already carefully tucked away in my left pocket.
The room held only one small bed, a stainless steel, industrial grade toilet and sink, and what passed for a human. I held my breath, kept both hands behind my back, and glared down at my prey.
Male. Dirty blonde. Eyelids that hid blue irises. Large build that didn't seem so intimidating anymore. Bright orange jumpsuit, crimson now in the color of night. His pulse throbbed at me, a baseline to his rumbling breath, singing with promises of a hot, wet, delicious quenching of the dull ache in my throat. I examined his dry, disgusting lips. Even through my murky human memories, I remembered his boiling breaths and slimy tongue on my skin with perfect clarity. Revolting.
I tilted my head to the side, considering him from another angle. Even in the dark, he seemed paler than I recalled, as if he never saw even the hint of the sun anymore. There were scars I didn't remember on his wrists: handcuff marks, I realized. He must have been restrained with far more force than was necessary many times over. Remembering my own experience, I couldn't make myself feel one jot of pity for this.
His body, I noted, seemed weaker for more reasons than my knowledge of my own strength. Though my indelible visions of him from before were unclear to these eyes, I could ascertain that he was in fact visibly thinner, less muscular, more haggard even in his state of rest. The bags under his eyes, which would have been purple in daylight, were now almost black. I wondered what he dreamed about in such a grim place, whether he suffered from nightmares or had anything that resembled a comforting memory to revisit, and I wished he would speak in his sleep as I once had.
How had this pathetic, impotent human ever held such power over me?
"Jimmy," I hissed into the darkness, my voice carefully modulated so that only he would hear it. He wouldn't be able to make out more than my silhouette in the dim light seeping through the window of his door, and there were no windows at all on the concrete walls of his tiny, grey-white room. He woke with a start; a light sleeper, though whether he had always been so or had learned the behavior after six years in a private hell, I could only guess.
"Wh-who's there?" He backed away into the far corner of his bed, clutching his rough, grey blanket as though it were the closest thing he had to a teddy bear.
"Hello, darlin'. I haven't seen you in ages," I toyed, remaining perfectly motionless.
Jimmy gasped in awe, though not recognition. "Who are you?"
"What's the matter, Jimmy? Don't you remember me?" My serene Waterford crystal voice rang across the empty space. And that was it for my air supply. I would have to breathe.
He inhaled almost greedily and held his breath, waiting.
Cautiously, keeping my muscles locked into place in a practiced habit, I allowed the air to flow through my lungs.
His delicious stench saturated the room, though thankfully he did not have many possessions that held the concentrated scent. Evidently Jimmy didn't shower as often as most humans and spent nearly all his time in this cell. The familiar heat of white fire flashed across my throat, brighter and more vivid than I'd known in a long while. Baking, dry, parched as I suddenly felt, Jimmy's sweet blood was almost irresistible. Almost.
"I can't see you," Jimmy answered. Barely two seconds had passed.
Calculating the angle of the light, I stepped silently to the right and pivoted, exposing my shocking white face. He would only just be able to make out the buttercream gold in my eyes. I smiled my most dazzling smile, and I knew now that it truly was dazzling. I wondered if he would react as most humans did, with bumbling incoherence.
His response surprised me.
"Are you an angel?"
I blinked so rapidly he would not have seen it, and felt my already tense muscles clench further. Of all the fantasies in my morbid daydreams of this moment, this possibility had never occurred to me.
This monster thought I was an angel. His angel.
And I supposed tonight I was.
Of a sort.
"Not quite. But I did come for you," I replied musically.
He waited, his breath coming faster as he stared at my glowing, marble skin, his distress both delectable and distressing to my fine tuned senses. I had to be careful about that. A double helix of any emotion, especially agony—spiraling, my brother called it—was very easy to drown in. It had taken a long time to learn to pull back without my haze to protect me anymore.
"So I hear prison hasn't been quite the vacation you might have imagined," I soothed, putting Jimmy slightly at ease even as I teased him. He'd been hoping for a nice, cushy mental facility, if his failed insanity plea was any indicator. "I understand the guards are particularly brutal." Apparently Charlie and Deputy Mark, now Chief Mark Anderson, had friends within the Washington State Department of Corrections, too. Forty counts of aggravated assault, thirty-two counts of aggravated sexual assault, and three counts of murder would have been enough to piss anyone off, but when one of the unreported victims was a lawman's daughter…
"Yeah," he breathed. "Pete got off easy."
Ah, McCoig. After being convicted of a dizzying eighty-five counts of aggravated assault and ninety-three counts of various drug charges, participating in abuse and unethical conduct within a mental health facility against patients entrusted to his care, and suffering the comparatively minor insult of having his license to practice psychiatric medicine revoked and his title and position stripped away, Peter McCoig had fallen victim to a massive stroke in his prison cell one night. His cellmate slept through the entire ordeal, letting valuable minutes of life-preserving time slip by. Pete had remained in a vegetative state for six weeks before finally passing away in a filthy infirmary.
"You could say that," I allowed—Pete hadn't burned at all.
I stood unnaturally frozen, an unblinking, golden-eyed statue, waiting for Jimmy to speak.
"So who are you?" Jimmy wondered once more, uncomfortable with my immobile stance.
"You really don't remember me, Jimmy?" I asked, smiling again. The last time he'd seen me I was nearly as pale but not beautiful, and most certainly not the one in control.
"No, I've never…seen…" he trailed off, lost in my slow, rhythmic movements as I let the light splay across my face in new ways, accentuating the set of my lips.
"I'm disappointed, little one. I thought you'd be waiting for me," I sang with mock petulance. I lowered the pitch of my voice until it sounded closer to my old human tones. "I'm the one that got away."
His shocked, horrified gasp filled the air, and his pupils almost completely blacked out the blue of his frightened eyes. "You…" he murmured.
"Yes, Jimmy. Me." I glared at him, just enough to scare him a little, but nowhere close to my full vampire capacity for eliciting terror. I didn't want him to scream.
"Bella Swan? How? How did you…? You vanished! Four days we searched for you, even in the ventilation shafts! Pete couldn't find your file, and then one day he told me to stop looking, that you were dead…" Jimmy dribbled into mutters and then silence. He covered his mouth with his blanket.
"He was quite right," I replied calmly, forcing myself not to cross the room yet. "I was dead. Bella Swan died that night. You helped kill her."
He moaned, reexamining my now flawless, unblemished, alabaster skin, and his eyes were full of new understanding.
"I came back for you, Jimmy," I said softly. "I have something for you."
"Oh god," he whispered, closing his eyes. "You're gonna kill me, aren't you?"
And within the infinite space of one moment, that was exactly what I wanted to do. To drain away the blood of this pitiful, disgusting, perverse abomination of a human being. To take his life, just as he had taken mine.
I suddenly pictured my mother, so gentle and sweet, who had nursed me to health all those long months and loved me selflessly in ways I'd never experienced before.
I vaguely remembered my human mother, who despite all her self-centered silliness really did love me in her own way. I had only seen her twice since leaving St. Vincent's: once at my wedding, and again in secret, while she slept, when she came to my funeral.
I thought of my fathers, both of them, loving and protective in their own unique ways, who wanted only good things for me, though they may have differed in their opinions of what constituted "good."
I saw my whole family, sisters and brothers and parents and husband, the sacrifices they had made for me and I for them, their loving smiles, the way we cherished each other, the battles we'd fought to keep each other safe and protected.
I envisioned Edward. Edward, my beautiful, kind, flawed soul mate, his kisses like spring rain in the moonlight, and the look on his face if I came home with eyes blazing crimson for the first time in years: sad, understanding, loving. We were trying to be happy and succeeding up to a point, but these had been long years for us, especially the last few. He was unfailingly patient and supportive through it all, blaming himself for not changing me sooner, before I had a chance to remember everything. Not a word had passed between us about my plans, but this evening, when I'd told Edward I was going to pay my respect to my father alone, his unspoken reaction was loud and clear. He would be at his old piano right now, staring longingly at my favorite cello nearby, conjuring up the sounds of our musical lovemaking, losing himself in the notes and chords, hoping to play away all his fears and worries.
Playing my lullaby.
The sweet notes floated across my memory, piano strikes and gentle humming, honey-lilac-and-sunshine breath, the lilting voice of my own glorious angel, singing away all the hate and fury that had poisoned me and made me wish to be a killer, leaving only peace in the wake.
All my plans and impulses blew away in the lightest imaginary breeze.
"No, Jimmy," was my tranquil reply a fraction of a second later. "I came to do something infinitely more difficult for my kind. I came to forgive you."
"To…f-forgive? I don't understand," he stammered. I could smell his pheromones fluctuating as he wavered between fear and disbelief.
"No, I don't expect you would," I spoke into the noisy quiet. "I'm not doing it for you."
I gazed at his confused face for two impossibly long seconds before I flowed back toward the door, smoke on water, my fists still hidden behind my back as I focused my hearing to listen for footsteps or a pulse echoing in the hall.
"Wait!" he cried, stretching forth his hand and dropping his blanket from his face, a different kind of fear clouding the air now. I froze, eyeing him with curiosity. What would this worthless creature want? What did he think he had any right to ask for?
"Please," he begged, his eyes welling up with unexpected tears, "kill me."
Though I had in fact come here intent on doing exactly that, it was still a shock to hear Jimmy plead for it when I hadn't even touched him.
"You don't know what it's like in here," he continued in desperation when I didn't answer or comply. "They've been issued tasers now, and metal rods. They do terrible things to me every day, and it never ends."
I narrowed my eyes at him, and my face contorted into black fury. Still, I forced myself not to snarl at him like the feral animal he and Pete had conditioned me to be all those years ago.
"Oh god," he backpedaled rapidly, all the blood draining from his face when he saw mine, "oh god, you're right, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…"
I remained locked in place, considering him, calculating.
Though Jimmy and many others were on death row, no executions had actually been carried out in the state of Washington since 2001, well over a decade ago. With the strengthening death penalty abolitionist movement coinciding with an escalation in increasingly atrocious crimes that demanded harsh punishment, it seemed the issue was at a stalemate. Jimmy might well sit here suffering for the next twenty years and be brutalized as long as there were guards who remembered what he'd done to me and countless other women.
"You deserve it, you know," I reminded him.
"I know." Jimmy looked down at the floor, hopeless and miserable. "I just want this to end."
How well I knew that feeling.
"No fight left in you, then?" I asked, not meaning to taunt him but doing so just the same.
"No, ma'am," Jimmy answered in submission.
I tilted my head again, examining the frailty that was suddenly so obvious to me.
"In that case," I finally told him, "I've got something special for you."
His dim, dead, blue eyes rose up to meet my gold-tinged ones. I skipped to his side, moving just a fraction faster than a human pace. Still, it was enough to surprise him. He twitched.
"I wasn't entirely sure I was going to do this," I murmured gently, "but I came prepared, just in case."
I lowered my granite, freezing face to his soft, warm one and slid my icy right hand into his unkempt hair. The heat of his leather-soft scalp throbbed against my firm fingers. So tempting.
"Will it hurt?" Jimmy asked, eyes wide with wonder as he took in my immortal form and cool touch.
"Most likely," I said honestly. "But you might get lucky."
He shut his eyes, held his breath for five long seconds, and exhaled his hot, disgusting, delicious breath in my airway. My throat blazed in response, and venom flooded my mouth. Jimmy nodded and looked back up at me. "I'm ready."
I drew my left fist from behind my back and painstakingly eased open one finger at a time.
"What is it?" he asked in awe.
"Special K, charlie, and angel dust," I answered in my melodious, wineglass watersong voice.
He looked back up at me, afraid.
"Just think of it as a mercy cocktail," I sang peacefully with a reassuring, compassionate smile, listening to the pleasant melody of his heart.
Using my gentlest, most delicate pressure, I eased his face forward to my cupped palm. His eyes held fast to mine, blue gazing up into black.
"Thank you," Jimmy whispered reverently.
Carefully, with absolute control, I blew into his face.
A/N: Special K, charlie, and angel dust = ketamine, cocaine, and PCP.
A tremendous thanks to Shari, Sherry, and Jeanette for their unwavering support as I created this story. Love to everyone who read, reviewed, and cared about these characters enough to follow them on this journey. Thank you so much for reading my little corner of the universe.
As some of you will no doubt point out, though I did give Bella and the plot a sense of closure, I was vague about certain story elements. My reason for this is: I am writing another version of this story, from Edward's perspective, and I wanted to save some observations and conversations for his point of view. Sadly, it is not ready to be published at present. If you're interested in seeing Edward's point of view, please put me on Author Alert and be on the lookout for "Angels and Devils." I hope to have it ready within a few months. (Don't freak out. I started writing Fate back in October, and here it is, nearly September.) Expect a few other Twilight fanfiction projects from me in the interim.
I leave you with all my gratitude and appreciation.
--nosleep3, a.k.a. Chelleybell
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