Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its first three sequels and the first half of Midnight Sun, all of which are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. No party other than the submitting author may alter this work in any way other than font size and other reasonable accommodations to formatting.
And darn you, Hurricane Sandy! But at least I got this chapter hammered out. I do plan on doing NaNo this year, so do not be alarmed at any delays in November.
"Perhaps there was no sign, only millennia of practice," –Bella, Breaking Dawn
"This was a poor idea," I murmured into the night breeze. "Andrew isn't our spy."
"The master never touched him after the mission," said Demetri. "There's no other way to tell for sure."
"He's run away for some other reason; I'm sure of that," I said. "We'd do more good staying in Italy until this matter is finished. We could always find Andrew later."
"We have our orders, Brother."
Demetri looked away, satisfied, then shook his head. "France," he said into the thickening air. "Why do they always try to get to France?"
"A better question would be why they think they can get away at all," murmured Caroly.
It was the three of us again. A team this small could move almost as fast as a vampire alone and still retain the numbers to overcome almost any coven we met along the way. This wasn't the first time that Demetri, Caroly and I had tracked someone across the Pyrenees. Tracker, spy and warrior. We were Aro's three furies.
Over the years, Demetri and I had mastered the art of using my gift in concert with his. The more I watched the image of our quarry grow in Demetri's mind, the sharper the voice sounded in my head. I'd be able to hear Andrew as soon as we got within a few miles of him. I also became more intuitive about his motives and actions, but it was possible that I was only imagining that part. We'd worked the kinks out of this system at almost the same time as Caroly had figured out how to translate the patterns in her head into plans. Her sense of her prey wasn't any more concrete than mine, but put the two of us together and we could almost predict the future.
Going out on missions like these, the three of us, was one of the few true pleasures of being Volturi. Everything fit together like they were pieces of myself. If I hadn't already known what it was like to be with Bella, I'd think there was no better thing in the world. The feeling should have seemed new to me, but somehow it wasn't.
I wonder if Edward managed to get what he needed from Bella before we left the city, Demetri was musing to himself. Probably. She usually takes care of him. We can't afford another Kiev.
I gave half a laugh. "Never going to live that one down, am I?"
"I meant nothing by it, Brother."
"You have a right to your thoughts, Demetri," I answered.
And you had a right to certain things, Demetri answered. Since figuring out how my gift worked, he'd occasionally indulged in half-unintentionally communicating opinions of the masters that he would not have voiced out loud. "There's only so much a man can endure before something goes amiss."
"There is a lady present, Demetri," I pointed out. Thinking about my sex life was one thing, but there was no need for more.
"Who, me?" asked Caroly, one hand on her hip and wicked smile on her lips. "Hate to break it to you, but Bella's told me everything. You have no secrets, Mister Edward."
"I guarantee, Caroly," I answered, matching her play-for-play, "Bella has not told you everything," I said, tapping the side of my head.
"Speaking of which—" Caroly always changed the subject when she knew she couldn't win. "—any new information?" she asked, her face pale against the cityglow. Some of the streetlights were starting to come on, and we'd be able to move out soon. I closed my eyes, using the image-scent-essence from Demetri's mind to help me sift through the millions of sleeping and waking voices.
"Not yet," I murmured. "Let me look." Caroly grew quiet and let her mind go blank and still. Behind us Demetri moved through each memory he had of Andrew as if he were leafing through a dossier. Thick brown hair and thick arms; he'd blend in among the French working classes if he kept his mouth shut.
And then there was what Bella had told us before we'd left. Andrew had learned not to share his opinions, but he'd always been wondering what we did with the newborns after they were dismissed. We'd had perhaps fifteen calm newborns over the past twenty years, most in overlapping twos and threes. Our alumni did not return for visits and had never to date tripped the library radar.
"It might be a good thing if he were our spy," said Caroly in that half-apologetic tone that she used when she knew she was right. In her mind, I could see the patterns of loyalty that held our coven together. A newcomer like Andrew was out on the edges of the web. Losing him would do far less damage than if Heidi or Alec or even Marjane had gone rotten. I closed my eyes and pictured Andrew the way Caroly saw him, like a dull stone veined with loyalty like quartz veins in feldspar.
"He's looking out the window," I murmured. "He's waiting for someone." A hazy image of a man's face swam in his mind. Andrew was not a very visual person.
Contact, Demetri concluded. A handler for a spy, perhaps someone interested in intel on the Volturi. But it could also have been a simple contact, someone who could provide forged identification chips, perhaps.
We should go get him, Caroly thought to herself. I looked at her sideways. Her eyes had gone a warm dark red. He'll get hurt if we don't go get him first.
"He's not one of us any more, Caroly," I murmured.
"I know. I'm just used to looking out for them." He might have had a good reason for leaving, she thought.
I grasped her by the upper arm. "Do. Not. Hesitate," I said.
"I know," she said.
"Believe it," I told her. "This is any other criminal. We're on any other mission." I wouldn't have Caroly injured out of pity for some dreg of a newborn who was almost certainly our traitor.
"How many people are coming to see him?" Demetri asked, cutting off any answer Caroly might have made.
It was always harder to nail down impressions than clear thoughts. "Perhaps just one, but I cannot be sure," I said. The words of Andrew's thoughts were peppered with nerves. This was someone important.
"We'll wait," Demetri said quietly. "We'll see whom he's come to meet, and then we'll apprehend them both."
I stayed silent as we moved from rooftop to rooftop. Andrew was waiting in a vacant apartment. The silence in the other floors told me that the building was under renovation, the work crews long since gone home for the night. I tried to piece together clues from the fragments of his verbal thoughts. I didn't like Demetri's plan. It required us to split up, for someone to take on an opponent alone, and our two targets were an unknown element and a trained newborn still in his strength. Knowing Demetri, he would volunteer to take Andrew on himself.
"I don't think it's a Romanian," I breathed as we got closer and the scraps of Andrew's thoughts became more clear.
Demetri looked at me. Why not?
I shook my head in our code for "not sure." Demetri turned back to the scene illuminated by the flickering streetlights. Ten years back, France had had to decommission some of its nuclear reactors. Even the capital had suffered rolling blackouts. Things must have improved if they could light this part of the city at night. At my right elbow, Caroly was taking in the layout of the streets below and making up a plan of attack. We'd done this so many times that she didn't need to read my mind to know where I would strike. We would be two jaws of the same trap.
But it turned out to be unnecessary.
"That's him," I breathed in surprise as I saw the figure approach, hands in its pockets against the chill.
You're sure? Demetri thought firmly.
"That's him," I repeated. "He's thinking about the room number. In English."
No one else is coming after? Demetri asked.
I looked back to the far wall, where Andrew was going over what to say to his guest. "Just him," I said.
"Change of plan," said Demetri. "You two remember Oslo. Do it."
Caroly was across the alley and on the fire escape before our visitor could take another step. She would enter the hallway and block exit through the door while Demetri and I came in through the unlocked window. It would be just like the hundreds of other times we'd ambushed one of our own kind. Nothing would be obviously broken. No evidence would be left behind. Only this time we only had until our new element made it into the building and up the stairs.
Crossing the gap to the other building was easy, but I could only open the window a few inches at a time without breaking it. Andrew had a full three seconds to realize what was happening. The low embers of his thoughts blazed up with indecision, and I had one of his thick arms pinned against the wall before he could recover. Demetri tossed a hood over his head, blinding him. Andrew thrashed as I dislocated his arms and legs, but it was halfhearted. He knew who'd come for him.
He went slack as Demetri and I dragged him out of the room, becoming dead weight. I couldn't help but smile. In many ways, it was easier to drag someone who was still struggling. Bella had taught him well before he'd gone deserter. Caroly brushed past us into the room, scrutinizing everything with an intense, practiced gaze. No evidence. No trace.
Three floors below us, Andrew's guest had opened the front door and found the staircase.
It was a risk, staying in the same building, but the empty apartment on the top floor was a better site than we'd be likely to find in five square blocks. Demetri and I dragged a gasping Andrew with Caroly close behind. She closed the door to the stairwell behind us, just as Andrew's guest opened it, five floors below.
"Don't call out," I ordered in a level tone.
Oh shit, Andrew thought clearly, practically shivering as Demetri jerked the hood off his head.
"Where are we?" Andrew asked, licking his lips as he saw Demetri and Caroly standing over him. He swallowed hard and tried to look braver than he was. "I've seen you guys at work," he said. "I know your tricks. We don't have to do this." Am I the criminal now? Am I the enemy the minute I step away? Andrew suddenly looked very young. He'd spent only twenty-four years growing human bones and limbs and nerves and now his lack of experience was glowing out through his ember-bright eyes.
Demetri stepped forward slowly. In Andrew's mind, he looked like a demon gathering its tools, and he was the man who'd made the wrong bargain, hovering on the hook.
"You don't know all of our tricks," Demetri said.
It wasn't our smoothest interrogation. Green or not, Andrew was Volturi, and he could take some discomfort. At first, I detected no lies in his thoughts, telegraphing my findings to Demetri. The only way around this type of mental concealment was to depelete the subject's will, to wear him out and break him down until he could no longer think clearly enough to avoid the things he wished to hide from me. It wasn't about making him talk. It never was. It was about showing him who was in control of the situation. The more helpless he felt, the sooner he'd give in.
From my time with Carlisle, I knew the location of every nerve cluster in the human body. From my time in Volterra, I'd learned that a sharp steel stiletto could part a vampire's flesh.
"How long have you been working with our enemies," said Demetri.
"I'm not working with anyone," Andrew said between heavy, pained breaths. "I just wanted to leave. Look, there's no need for—" he cut off as I sank a third blade into what had been a brachial artery just eight months before. "—any of this," he finished. "Just ask me what you want. I have no secrets."
Caroly hovered behind him, out of sight. She was the perfect good cop, the disembodied voice with no face and no threat.
"Men with no secrets don't run," she said.
"I just..." he gasped. "I didn't want to end up like Stephen."
Demetri slapped him hard across the jaw. "Liar," said Caroly. "You're no coward."
I am when it comes to having my head cut off and my heart burned. Andrew's lower lip shook. I looked at Demetri and moved my eyes in our code for True.
Demetri was holding another of my knives, turning it over and over in his hand.
I'll scream, Andrew thought desperately.
I knocked him hard in the back of the head. "There's no one to hear you."
He thought of the man who'd come to meet him. I frowned. He was just some human, some human lured away to be his meal... I met Demetri's eyes and he nodded.
"Who came to see you tonight?" I growled.
"Nobody!" Oh God, please let them leave him alone, he thought. I blinked hard. I had never known Andrew to harbor sentimental thoughts about humans.
"What is it?" Demetri asked me.
"The human who came to see him," I shook my head, "he wasn't for food."
Caroly blinked. "What then?"
Mentally, I searched out to the room we'd left. I could see Andrew's contact already inside, looking left and right, then stepping toward the empty window and looking down into the alley.
Another joke, the man in the apartment thought bitterly. Break mum's heart again, will he?
I looked intently at Demetri but there was no code for this. "It's his brother," I had to say out loud.
I thought we screened them for human ties, he thought.
"No, some still have them," I answered.
"It's true," answered Caroly. "You can't get fresh humans who don't still know someone."
I mentally leafted through the briefing that Bella had given me before we'd left, wishing that she'd come with us. Andrew had been estranged from his family in England. Something about a family business and a deal that had gone south. Andrew had left for Italy after taking the blame.
No... not family. Andrew had been estranged from his parents.
Andrew looked from Demetri to Caroly and back.
"I had a brother," he said. "A real brother. I didn't want to do this alone."
"Do what alone?" Demetri asked, but Caroly was already there.
"Andrew, you idiot," Caroly snapped. "You can't just turn him. You'd only kill him."
"No I wouldn't!"
Andrew had completed missions on four continents, and he thought he knew how to survive. He thought he could mentor a younger vampire. I leaned back in amazement. This boy hardly knew how to find food on his own.
The sea's rising and I won't have it drown me. Or Henry either.
"Andrew, you can't turn someone else. You don't know what you're doing," Caroly said gently.
"I was going to do what Edward did to Teacher Bella," he said.
"Then you'd have killed him," I said harshly. "It was only fool's luck that my Bella lived through that bite."
"This is not how this world works, Andrew," Demetri's voice cut through us like a panther walking across a field full of cackling crows. Everything else went silent. "You live as yourself. Your brothers continue the mortal bloodline." A father needs both. I looked away. Demetri did not like to think about his mortal family. I knew he remembered them better than most vampires did.
"Why didn't you allow Master Aro to touch you, Andrew?" Demetri asked.
"I didn't want to be in the same room with Stephen's body."
I looked at Demetri and shook my head. Lie. Demetri nodded.
I pulled another needle-blade from my sleeve, making sure that Andrew could hear the sound. He pulled in half a breath to speak before I had three of his facial nerves laid open to the air..
"Next time it will be an eye," Demetri said calmly.
"I knew..." Andrew panted. "I knew the master would make me stay if I saw him. Like that time when Keiko wanted to leave. And I had to go."
I nodded. This seemed true. Keiko had entertained thoughts of leaving. I'd told Aro of this, and the next day, she'd had no memory of being more content in any other place. All the meaning had drained out of her old life. It had been one of Chelsea's neater jobs.
"How do you report to your contact?" Demetri asked coldly.
Andrew's remaining brow furrowed. "What?"
I took hold of his hand and snapped off a finger.
"Where do you feed the information you steal?"
"You think I'm the spy? I'm not!"
The words bubbled up in my head and I so wanted to keep them behind my teeth. But it was my duty. "Andrew, did you tell Henry why you wanted to meet him here?"
"No," he said, sounding confused at the change of subject. "I never told him about us or the masters or any of it. I just said I wanted to see him."
I met Demetri's eyes and raised my chin slightly. Hit him.
I'd thought I'd had a difficult time during my first few months in Volterra, but I was dearly lucky to have drawn Felix's attention rather than Demetri's. The next blow fractured Andrew's jaw. I asked my question again while the cracks crunched and knit, over Andrew's strangled whimper. His words were halting, but his thoughts were clear.
Can you tell now? Demetri asked.
I nodded. "It's the truth. There was no evidence."
Realization dawned in Andrew's mind. "You weren't going to—"
"If you'd revealed the secret to a human, Andrew?" Demetri asked sharply. "Of course we would have killed him."
Caroly stepped into Andrew's field of view, "You know," she said, placing a hand on Demetri's shoulder, neatly trading her non-threatening position for some of the menace she'd picked up from Jane, "we still could."
Andrew swallowed hard. "What do you want?"
It was the same tactic that the masters had used on me. I couldn't say that it didn't work.
"You will tell us everything, Andrew," I answered
Andrew's lower lip shifted, just a suggestion of a quiver.
"I'm not working with anyone," he said, and something still seemed off about it. Not a lie, but certainly off... "I've been meaning to come get Henry for months." This seemed. War was coming, a human war, and his brother was of military age. Andrew had grown up hearing about the Smythe who'd died in Iraq and the Smythes who'd died in Vietnam and the World Wars. The Union entanglement in China was looming like a prophecy, like a dragon to snatch Henry's life away.
In the back of Andrew's mind, I saw something flicker, like a pale trout through a dark stream. gestured to Demetri. Follow this.
"When did you first have this idea?" Demetri asked.
"I don't know. A while ago? Before Istanbul?"
A nomad had come to him in the countryside. A man. Tall and pale and heavily muscled. Just the sort that the Rumanians liked in their foot soldiers.
"Who was he, Andrew?" I asked. "Who said you should turn your human brother?"
Demetri didn't look up, didn't twitch, but his mind was alive with it. He always coiled in on himself like a snake when he knew I'd sighted our prey.
"The man, Andrew," I prompted. The images cropped up like mushrooms in Andrew's thoroughly ordinary mind. Tall and pale with wide shoulders. Powerfully built and unmistakably one of our kind. His shaggy hair and red eyes suggested an albino ox.
"When did you meet him?" I murmured in Andrew's ear.
"I didn't meet him. I just..." Waiting out the day a few missions back. There was no crime in speaking to a nomad. We regularly allowed them to follow us as witnesses to the Volturi's justice. Or we had in more trusting times.
I let my head tilt back. Andrew's memories were scattered; he was trying not to think too hard about it, but there was a look in the stranger's eye that Andrew had entirely missed.
"What did he say to you?"
"We just talked. It was nothing."
They'd talked of the war. He'd asked about being Volturi, nothing dangerous, nothing that someone who wasn't expecting a trick would pick up on. Words about the masters. Words about newborns who aged out of the guard.
"Oh Andrew," I murmured under my breath as I watched this stranger plant doubts in Andrew's mind. Poor thing hadn't had a chance.
"And when exactly did you come up with this plan to come and turn your brother Henry?" I asked.
"Couple months ago," he answered.
"Before or after you met this nomad?" I asked.
Andrew got very quiet. It had been the same day. Damn it all.
"Was it the nomad's idea?" I asked.
Andrew shook his head. "No," he said. "In fact, he didn't say anything like that. Just that..." Andrew looked off to the side. "Oh..."
I closed my eyes. Just that he was sure something bad would happen, and how he wouldn't let any little brother of his alone in a world like that.
"Andrew's stranger knew we were going to be attacked in Xian," I said out loud.
What? Caroly asked.
"Huh?" asked Andrew.
"Maybe not Xian," I said, "but he knew someone would be attacked somewhere. He was priming Andrew to run whenever something big happened."
"No he wasn't!" Andrew snapped indignantly.
Demetri struck him across the mouth, almost absently this time. My mind was reeling. The newborn attack in Xi'an had involved an atrocity, a vampire kept alive without a body. If Andrew's contact had conditioned him to run away once something awful happened, and he'd known when that would occur... And to what purpose?
"It could be a cover," I breathed. "Someone wanted all eyes on Andrew, now."
"Because something is happening back in Volterra," Demetri finished.
"Or somewhere else important."
Whoever he was, he'd set a plan in motion at least two months in advance, and I had a funny feeling that Andrew was only one tiny part of it. Someone either had powerful supernatural powers or had known in advance that Andrew would be a suitable mark. Or they'd been working on other members of the guard as well.
This had the Romanians written all over it.
"How have you been feeding him information?" asked Demetri.
I met Demetri's eyes. True, I projected.
I nodded. "Andrew is undisciplined," I murmured. "There is no way he could have kept something like that out of his thoughts week after week."
Is that all he's got? Demetri asked.
"I can't be sure," I answered. "We need to take him back." Maybe Aro would find something I'd missed. That was the only way to prove that Andrew was innocent.
"No!" Andrew shouted. "No, they'll kill me!"
"Probably," I answered.
I hoped that Aro would find something that I'd missed, but it was beginning to look as if Andrew was not our culprit. The three of us began to prepare to leave. I gathered my knives. Demetri made a few ...modifications to Andrew's arms and legs, nothing that a human observer would notice, but enough to keep Andrew from moving at full speed, the vampire equivalent of leg irons. He was going back to Volterra, without a fuss ...or otherwise. It wasn't the first time we'd managed it.
Andrew was quiet now. It hadn't occurred to him until tonight that the man he'd met that day might have been up to anything untoward. He was going over the events in his head like a man checking Christmas lights for the one that went out. Andrew's ordinary thoughts passed through the front of his mind like yarn through the spinner's fingers, emotionally loaded words standing out like lumps in the line.
A chill ran through me.
No, no, Andrew had to have mentioned her first. He'd said something about "Teacher Bella" and the other man had answered him. That had to be it.
Because if it wasn't, then our stranger knew Bella, or knew of her, and there was only one conclusion that the masters would draw.