Now a recommendation of The Lazy Yest Discerning Ficster! (June 7, 2009)
The cloaked figures moved silently down the stone corridors. This part of the castle was never seen except by the guard and the oldest members of the order. An occasional sconce graced the walls and the candles flickered as the pair of figures ghosted past. They came to a carved wooden door at the end of the corridor which creaked as the figures entered into the dimly lit room beyond.
The room was opulently furnished with thick carpets, tapestry hangings and dark, heavy furniture. The only light source was the fire crackling below the ornate mantel. Blackness pooled around the edges of the room. A large winged chair turned to the fire held a sole figure.
"Tell me the good news," the figure in the chair demanded.
The cloaked figures threw back their hoods. "Arrigo and Sebastian have been dealt with. If we thin out the guard anymore, there will be questions."
"Thinning out the guard. What a delicate way to put it," the seated figure said thoughtfully. "Renata?" he asked.
"The lure worked perfectly. She didn't stand a chance. Mei-An's range is so huge, Renata went up like a matchstick."
Caius sighed. It was time to give Aro and Marcus something new to deal with. A chance for them to settle an old score. Of course, Caius knew he'd win no matter who walked away from that argument.
"Well, that is good news." Caius rose from his seat to turn and face them. "Then I guess the time has come."
"At last," said Alec.
Jane grabbed his hand with a triumphant grin. "At last," she echoed.
"Well," Caius said, looking around, "It will be easy to say goodbye to this dank hole. Let's go see to the end of the Volturi. Shall we?" He gestured toward the door.
"And then the Cullens, yes?" Jane asked eagerly, her eyes glinting with malice.
"And then the Cullens," Caius promised as they swept from the room.
"Rosalie! Are you finished yet? Let's go!" Jacob hollered up the stairs.
"Wait a minute, dog. I'm packing a leash." Rosalie came down the stairs, a huge purse slung over her shoulder and large suitcases in each hand. "Renesmee, did you remember your telescope? We should be able to do some great stargazing, without this constant cloud cover."
"Yes, I've got it." My suitcases were already packed and in the trunk of Rosalie's car. I had been packed for a week now. This was my first trip away from Forks without my parents and I was so excited. My uncle Jacob, my aunt Rosalie and I were making the trip up to the Denali National Park in Alaska to visit some old family friends. It would take us a good two days up to get there, well, maybe less with the way my aunt drove, and we would be stay for almost a week. We were going to stop in Seattle on the way home and do some shopping, so we'd be gone almost ten days.
"You packed your jacket, right?" Mom asked from behind me. "It gets cold up there at nights, even in August."
"Yes, Mom, I've got it." I rolled my eyes and Jacob grinned at me. Jacob, like my other uncles, was more of a playmate than an authority figure. Many times when I got into trouble with my parents, it was Jacob who'd been my cohort in crime. Although he would try to talk me out of my stupider ideas, he usually went along for the ride.
"And you've got your journal and biology text, yes?" Dad asked, with his arm around Mom. There were some distinct disadvantages to being home-schooled, not the least of them being that you lived with your teachers and couldn't make certain kinds of excuses. .
"Don't worry," Jacob said, picking up a small duffel bag from the floor next to him. "We'll make sure she gets her homework done."
"And if she doesn't, we'll say the dog ate it," Rosalie quipped as she headed for the garage.
"Hey Rosalie," Jacob shot back, "what do smart blondes and UFO's have in common? You always hear about them, but you never actually see any."
"Come on, you two, don't start," I said, all of us following behind Rosalie.
"She started it," Jacob said with a grin.
Jacob and Rosalie always had a prickly relationship. They were always doing this kind of bantering, but I could tell there was real affection underneath. Well, they both loved me enough to put up with each other for this trip, anyway.
Jasper, Emmett and my grandparents, Carlisle and Esme, were waiting for us in the garage. Emmett helped Rosalie with her luggage and then turned to face me. "Hey, Weed, don't grow too much while you're gone." His nickname for me was Weed, because he said I grew like one.
I hugged him goodbye and said, "Don't go endangering any species while I'm gone."
"Not a chance," he smiled back and turned to say good-bye to Rosalie. Jasper scooped me up next. "Gonna miss you, Nessie."
"You have a great time on your trip. Get me something cool?" I asked as he set me down.
"Of course!" Alice insisted as she put her arms around me. "I can't believe you think you have to ask!" Alice, Jasper and Esme were headed out to France and Italy tomorrow for a shopping trip. Alice, for fashion obviously, and Esme because she was decorating a new home for us in Newfoundland.
Jacob was getting last minute instructions from Mom and Dad. "Make sure she eats something once in a while, not just hunting, okay?" Dad said.
"Of course," Jacob said and grabbed me around the waist to rap his knuckles on my head. It wasn't quite the stretch it used to be, I was nearly up to his chest now. "We'll take good care of the little nugget." He shook Dad's hand and gave my mom a peck on the cheek before hopping over the door of Rosalie's convertible to settle his long frame over the entire back seat.
Esme handed a cooler to him. "I thought you might want something to eat during the journey."
"All right, Esme", Jacob said approvingly, as he snuck a peek in the cooler, before settling it on the floor.
I hugged Esme and Carlisle goodbye. "Take care now, child," Carlisle said. "Give my regards to Tanya and the family."
"Of course, Grandpa. Try to improve your chess game while I'm gone," I teased him. I had finally won a game against him last week after years of trying.
"I'll do that," he chuckled and made way for Mom to come hug me.
She grabbed my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. Her eyes were warm and golden, and as always, she was so beautiful. Watching her smile at me, I realized how much I was going to miss her. She was always my rock, never changing. We traveled so much, mostly because of me, and she had always been right there for me. It was too dangerous because of my supernatural growth rate for us to stay in any on place for too long where it would be noticed, yet at the same time my parents wanted me to know and appreciate others not like my family.
Now I was heading out without her and I felt suddenly conflicted. I had fought my parents long for this trip and I was looking forward to the freedom yet a part of me still felt very childlike and wanted my parents near.
I threw my arms around her neck and hugged her close. She was so solid in my arms. "I love you," I whispered. I showed her some of my memories of our favorite special times.
"We'll have lots more when you get back," she promised. "I love you, sweetheart" she said as she kissed my forehead and released me. "Have fun."
Dad was behind her, his eyes shining. "I am going to miss you fiercely," he said as he scooped me up into a hug. "Take care of my heart," he whispered in my ear as my feet dangled off the ground.
"I love you, Daddy." We kissed cheeks and then I turned around. The rest of the goodbyes had been said and Rosalie and I climbed into the car.
"Alice?" Mom murmured to my aunt, who stood next to her.
"Oh, Bella," Alice answered her. "You know I can't see anything with those two around. I'll get a headache just trying." My aunt Alice had the special gift of precognition, but it had its limitations, most notably around the tribe Jacob belonged to, and me of course. Shape shifters like Jacob blocked her ability to see possible futures. I was just so unique, we weren't quite sure why I blocked her.
"I know," Mom said. "Just thought I'd ask." She turned to my Dad with her eyebrow raised. They exchanged a glance.
"Nothing like that seems to be in their thoughts," Dad murmured to her, as Rosalie started the car and the garage door opened.
"Stop it, Daddy," I said. I wasn't sure what he meant but I hated it when he read my thoughts. We'd tried to work out some kind of compromise and he was usually pretty good about respecting my privacy.
"Bye, everyone, bye!" I yelled as Rosalie backed the car out of the garage and threw it into drive.
"Bye!" "Good luck!" "Have fun," they all yelled back. "Call every day!" That was my Mom.
The seven of them were lined up under the garage eaves with their hands raised. What a beautiful family I had. Maybe it was strange to be raised by a houseful of vampires, but it was all I'd ever known and I loved them all. In the seven years I'd been alive, they had nurtured and taught me and loved me. I was going to miss them, and I felt a lump in my throat as we sped down the driveway.
I waved at them, kneeling on my seat until the curves in the driveway took them from view. "So," I said to Rosalie as I bounced back into position in my seat, "when do I get to drive?"
Hours later, I was curled up in the back seat with a pillow and a blanket while the darkness outside sped by. The noise of the tires and the engine were lulling me into that dream state where you're not sure if you are awake or asleep. Jacob sat in the passenger seat up front, with the seat pushed back as far as it would go to accommodate his long legs. The only light was the glow from the dashboard. The radio, which had been playing softly, gradually slid into static.
I heard it click off and then Jacob said, "Not much reception around here. Did you want a cd or something?"
"No," Rosalie said. "I'm fine. How's Nessie?"
I heard the seat creak as Jacob shifted to turn and check on me. I kept my eyes closed and my breathing even.
"She's asleep," he said.
"Rosalie," Jacob said after a minute, "Thanks for having me. I don't get many chances to travel with Nessie, so this is a treat."
Jacob often stayed in Forks when my family traveled, which we did quite a bit. He had his own responsibilities with his tribe and his father depended on him. He ran a garage and everybody in Forks and on the res knew him.
On the other hand, I'd been all over the world. I'd met a lot of humans, and even knew three languages. But outside of my immediate family and grandparents, I couldn't say I really knew anybody well. I had too many people who loved me to say I was lonely, but I felt the lack of peers in my life. Jacob was the closest thing I had to a friend.
But things were going to change soon. As I neared what would be my "matured state" I would be able to join my family in their usual activities. Of course, we were all going to have to leave pretty soon. The family had been in Forks for almost ten years, and soon there would be the inevitable questions as to how unchanging their appearance was.
"You know it won't be long now before we make the move to Saint John for good," Rosalie reminded him.
"Why all the way across the country, for chrissakes? You couldn't find anything closer?" he griped.
"It's as rainy and foggy like Forks, for one. But the winters are still mild, and the hunting in the area should be good. Lots of moose, caribou and bears. The high school is a good one, that's important. This will be Nessie's first school."
"Too weird going to school with your parents as classmates," he grumbled.
"Hey, that's the way we do it. Don't knock it, it works," she answered, just a tad curtly.
Well, I was excited about going to school. I'd finally get the chance to see humans day after day, maybe make some friends. I'd been around a lot of humans, because Mom and Dad wanted to make sure I wasn't going to go all predator on them. I was just so curious, and I'd never gotten the chance to talk in-depth with any teenagers. What were they like? What did they think about? Weren't they scared all the time, they were so easily hurt?
Rosalie was saying"… what's best for Nessie."
"We all want that," he agreed.
"I mean the rest of us had a somewhat normal childhood," Rosalie said. "We had schoolmates and friends. We played with other kids and well, we had time. Time to be a child without this rush to grow up. Nessie's smart, but did we do the right thing by teaching her calculus when she was four? History at that age? How can you assimilate things like that when you're growing at this breakneck pace?"
"Well, she soaks it right up," he said. "I don't think we have to worry about what we should or should not have done. She's a great kid. She's always been so clear about what she needs, sometimes I feel like she is raising us."
"Ha! That's for sure," Rosalie chuckled. "Remember that time you were trying to get a diaper on her? She climbed up on the coffee table, pulled you by the shirt collar, looked you in the eye and told you, "No Jacob, I want big girl pants."
They both chuckled, and Jacob said, "Yeah, I remember. And she was right. She was potty trained from then on".
They were silent for a moment and then Jacob said, "Remember that time Charlie came to visit and bought a kids' book to read to her? Nessie jumped up and got Moby Dick and started reading to him."
"Oh yeah," said Rosalie. "His eyes just about popped out of his head." They both laughed again.
There was another pause while they both sifted through their thoughts.
"Jacob, I need to ask you something. We, like, never get a chance to talk just us two. What's this imprinting thing all about anyway?" Rosalie sounded genuinely curious.
"Geez, Rosalie, I don't know if I can explain it." I could hear the reluctance in his voice. Jacob didn't like to talk about this, and he certainly didn't discuss it with me. I think he just wanted it accepted as fact that he was a big part of my life and he was always going to be around.
"Well, try." Aunt Rosalie was nothing if not direct. One of the great things about Rosalie was you never had to guess where she stood on an issue, she had no qualms about letting you know.
He was quiet for a moment. "Oh, I don't know. It's kind of like, well, seeing God. All of a sudden your life makes sense. You know what you were meant to do with your life."
"And that means…?"
"Protect her, love her, see to her happiness. It's got to be like being a parent, I think. That kind of commitment. It never fades or gets old."
Rosalie sighed. "She's the closest I'll ever get to having my own child."
Jacob paused. "You know, it was really hard for me when Renesmee was born." I heard him swallow and heard the pain in his voice. I risked opening an eye.
"It nearly killed me to see Bella ripped apart like that and I can remember coming downstairs wanting to..." His fists clenched and unclenched. "But then I saw Nessie and suddenly none of that mattered. Oh, I still cared about what was happening to Bella, but my priorities changed. In the blink of an eye. Totally. Irrevocably."
"You mean like, love at first sight?"
"No, different, stronger than that. More fundamental." He shook his head. The glow from the dashboard barely illuminated his deep set eyes, but I could see the conviction in his face.
She chewed on that for a moment. "Did I ever tell you how I met Emmett?"
"Didn't you, like, rescue him from a bear?"
"Yes," she said. "And brought him home in my arms, barely alive, to be changed by Carlisle. I knew right away that he was what I wanted."
"And you hoped you could build a life with him."
"Yes, exactly," she said.
"Well, with me, there was no hope. I knew I would build a life with her. There was no life without her," he said matter-of-factly. His face looked surprisingly vulnerable.
"But, Jacob, she's no longer just a girl. She is nearly a woman."
"I know," Jacob groaned. "She's been menstruating for months now."
"How do you know that?" Rosalie was indignant.
"Wolf senses, remember?"
Rosalie pressed on. "Jacob, you've been a great protector and playmate for her and its obvious she loves you as a big brother. She may never see you as more than that. What will you do when she comes home with a date? If she finds a man that she can love?"
I was surprised to hear a note of challenge is Rosalie's voice. I realized I was holding my breath. They'd notice that, their hearing was so sharp. I tried to concentrate on breathing slowly and regularly.
"I don't know, Rosalie!" Jacob said, his hands covering his eyes. "I'll always want to do what's best for her."
Rosalie wasn't letting him off so easy. "And if that means letting another man have her?"
"Well, if it comes to that, and that's what she really wants…" he trailed off uncertainly.
I wasn't sure I was catching all of this. My mind was racing as I tried to put it together. I knew Jacob had imprinted on me, so he would always love me and protect me. But was there something more to the imprinting then I thought?
"You have to promise me Jacob, that you will let her decide." Rosalie's voice was stern. "That you'll give her the chance to grow up and not rush her into a relationship with you she may not be ready for."
"Of course, Rosalie," Jacob was starting to get angry. "What kind of a man do you think I am?"
Rosalie's voice softened. "I think you are a man who loves Nessie, who wants the best for her. Can you admit to the possibility that there could be someone out there who might be a better match for her? Promise me you'll give her the space to make that decision for herself."
"I promise, already," Jacob relented. "I would never push myself on her that way, not Nessie."
"That's what I'm asking," Rosalie said in a voice that was more demanding than asking. "Give her the room to find for herself what she needs. And, should she find someone, to let her go."
"God, you'd think I would be getting good at that. I'm getting enough practice." He said that lightly but I could hear the pain underlying his voice.
I knew about the imprinting. I just never thought about what it meant when I grew up. Jacob had always been the welcome visitor at our house, always ready to play with me, anything from dolls to video games. He was my best bud.
But to think of us as something more, wow. Did Jacob think of me that way? Did I think of Jacob that way?
"The engine's knocking again," Jacob grumbled.
I hadn't heard any change in the car's engine noise. Rosalie huffed indignantly. "It is not! This car is in perfect condition."
"Are you sure? What octane have you been using?" Jacob was needling her.
"The right one. There is no knocking." Rosalie wasn't having it.
"You can't hear that? I thought vampires were supposed to have good hearing."
"My hearing's fine."
"Did you check the valve spring? The fuel injector?"
The bickering went on as I gradually drifted off to sleep to the noise of the miles passing beneath us.
A/N Go ahead and review! Please, I won't bite.