Co-Authored with LATAS


3. Black


Dark.

My mind idly considered the situation, then just as rapidly dismissed it. What was, after all, the point? Darkness was as minute a problem to me as it was to a cat. Or a bat. I chuckled to myself, amused by my unintended wit.

Pain.

I lazily measured the concept. It had been so very long since I had thought about pain; it was a foreign emotion, one I had turned off years ago. Instead, I embraced the numbness that was currently, at this moment in time, my life. Or immortality. I considered immortality and the time frame it encompassed. This current odd situation I found myself in seemed wholly insignificant, when measured against over one million sunsets.

I could tell that I was bound with something, although what could possibly hold me was a conundrum. The last time I had been bound against my will was when they were burning the fields....

Odd, that. Human memories?

My father was rich, rich enough for a legion of sons to carry on his name and his power, yet he favored my other siblings. My brother, in particular. Older than I, and very careless, he nevertheless had power over me, being in control of the family wealth. I would have resented him, had I not been blissfully happy with my life.

The old memories were strange, like a forgotten tale.

Lilac. Vineyards ready for harvesting. The evening repast. My wife, readying food for the evening meal....

My wife.

My … wife. I had not thought of her in…. 3,000 years. Could I even recall her face?

Her warm skin, the blush on her face, the… love… in her eyes. My beautiful and willing helpmate. The child on her hip. Yes, I could vaguely recall her face. Heart shaped, with ebony pools for eyes. Full lips, curved in a smile whenever she caught my eyes, staring at her.

When my brother bound me against my will, it was to take what was rightly mine. Though he had everything, he was jealous of me. I knew this, and it burned with a hatred through all the filial loyalty that my father had spent two decades drilling into me. I knew my brother desired that which was rightfully mine, by oath.

Interesting. I had not thought of that in a very… long… time. I could not recall his name.

He bound me; he burned the lands on my relatively tiny estate, despite the vast acres he already controlled. My child suffered a mysterious accident. I remember watching, a captive, as they carried the infant from the watering pool. I could vividly recall, despite the memory being human, the white pallor of the child's face. I could remember my wife collapsing.

Shortly after this event, or so it may have seemed, I met my creator. I could not recall how or when it occurred. I could remember drowning in sorrow, my child dead, my wife taken. I had no regrets when I became…like this, immortal, strong, powerful. Our association, this creator and mine, did not last long. We both craved supremacy, perhaps, indeed likely, me more than he. We parted our ways only a year after my transformation. Through his thoughts, I knew the parting was coming before it was mentioned.

The blackness never faded into white. These memories weren't for fond reminiscing. It was for torment…like every horrible thought bounded me tighter. My own private hell.

My sister wanted to get away from my family more than me. Didyme was married off to an oaf of a man. After my transformation, and realizing I had the ability to read the minds of people with just a simple touch, all I wanted to do was bring her relief from her troubled world. A simple handshake showed me how off base he was. How cruel he was to her. How frightened he was of me, despite pretense.

My strength had made me power hungry and I wistfully imagined that her gift would be something more impressive than mine. I knew it was going to be, I just had a feeling. Flying, perhaps? Maybe the manipulation of people's thoughts instead of just absorbing them?

I was wrong.

Happiness. That was her gift.

Men, vampires…they all loved her. She loved only one back. Marcus.

…I had too. To keep Marcus, I had too. He shouldn't have fallen in love – her gift to please men firmly in her control… No. He shouldhave let her go. They should have never planned to leave. It was my right.

Fire. Death. She brought it on herself. She was to blame.

I burned her. Little ashes flying around the air as the wind blew her away. I did it. Myself.

Regret. Hmmmm. Another emotion I hadn't felt in a long time. Would that I were totally honest with myself, the emotion of regret had just been on hold, replaced with the never ending numbness. Now that I thought about it, all the time in the world apparently on my side, had I felt a single emotion since my love died?

Power. It was all I wanted. Yet, it brought on the worse memory yet.

This memory, very painfully sharp, an immortal memory. Remembering Tiziana…. She of the brown eyes. Eyes that I had loathed to change. But so selfish had I been, I had done it, despite wondering if I would be strong enough.

I had been new. Relatively new. To this life.

Did I refer to my existence as "life?" I pondered this in my curious prison. Thoughts flitted through as moths around a flame.

Tiziana.

Excruciating pain.

Odd that I thought of this now. I had come across her in the local market place where I was... Existing... with my Didyme. Tiziana was alluring. Tall, dark skinned, lush black hair which fell to her waist in an impenetrable curtain. I could recall the sway of her hips as she walked, and my astonishment at the feelings within me were as vivid in my dark prison as they were that day. She wore a white stola, indicating her social importance, yet her aloof manner didn't seem class-induced. She turned, staring right at me, but looking straight through me at the same time. I was immediately intrigued. And desperately thirsty.

I had stalked her. Through the streets of Ischia, plotting how to take her at the first opportunity. It had presented itself so quickly; I hadn't had time to prepare. Down an isolated lane I had followed her. Clever as she was, sensing me, she turned abruptly, facing me, running literally into my arms. Careless, that. Rather than kill her immediately, I had stared as each thought of hers had assaulted me. Married, unwillingly, to a cruel man who beat her daily. Dreams of escape, her thoughts as she stared at me with anger and wonder. Anger that she was followed. Her eyes held the same distant detached appraisal, but her thoughts were in turmoil. Wonder, is this who might hold salvation?

This last gave me pause. Had this been her thought or my own? 'Didyme,' my unconscious thought had broken through my reverie.

We stared at each other silently, she and I, until I heard a man's voice. He was angry. I recalled the fright in her face, but not caused by me. Not caused by my ice cold hands or my pallid complexion. Not even by my terrifying eyes, black with thirst. No. It was not me she feared, despite all that should have told her to run from me into the arms of her husband. I reflexively pulled her behind me. Why I felt like I needed to protect her, I'll never know. All I really wanted was to taste the richest and most profound blood I had ever had the pleasure to smell.

He came out of the nearby abode. All things considered, it appeared to be well appointed. I assumed he was in the copper trade. She clutched me closer to her as he rounded on us, and I lost what I assumed would have been my heart, had it been beating. I could still hear her heart, pounding; her thoughts swirling in an uproar. Her most recent miscarriage the result of yet another beating. She was so tired. Her hatred of him, a powerful emotion dominating the undercurrent of fear.

It was over in moments, and he was lifeless before us prior to registering what I was doing. I slowly straightened and turned, resigned to seeing the fear and loathing in her eyes, but was met with a calculating gaze, a raised brow. She knew. Sheknew, yet she very deliberately walked forward to take my hand and press my palm to her warm cheek.

Salvation. Was this her thought? Or mine? She had walked away that day with me, never taking a backward glance.

Many conversations, many tears on her part, agony on mine, to convince me what I must try. Her brown eyes, full of tears months later as the fever threatened to end her life, and still I agonized. It was always a struggle to keep her alive. Now that what she pleaded for was so close, could I deny her?

I drank deeply as her blood seemed to heat every bit of me from the inside. The fever made her blood weaker, helping to fight against the burning thirst. Was I strong enough?

I was. Against every odd, and with no understanding on what needed to be done, I had managed it. Not, of course, without causing her immeasurable suffering. Suffering which I lived every moment with and through her, clutching her to me, willing myself to take any and all of the fire unto myself. Every thought racing through her agonized mind brought me to my knees, her body arching in my arms. Her long slow rattling breath, sighing out the last bit of life before she woke into this new world.

It was still dark in my unknown prison. I chose to return to these odd memories, relishing the long repressed feelings they created in my solitary reflection.

Tiziana had remained my singer, despite no longer having blood that tormented me day and night. Now we were partners, equals. We roamed Europe, finding others of our kind but never remaining in one place for very long. Our kind was very territorial, and not fond of sharing territory. We settled near Rome.

Rome. I frowned at the memory.

My sweet was loathe to hunt innocents, and preferred the truly evil. I laughed at her, asking again and again what she believed we were. I could recall the shock in her blood red eyes as she measured her gaze at me. She believed in good. She did not believe we were evil. Tiziana had lived through evil.

A light insinuated itself into my consciousness. I sensed someone, maybe a threat? Was I remembering, or was this happening now? I struggled to regain focus.

As if the bounds were broken I could move again, my eyes opened to witness Alec in the corner of the dungeon, talking rapidly to Caius before he noticed his mistake. I was confused, caught up in my mind, my memories. I flinched, looking at Alec, and trying to clear my mind and make ready to spring at him. My self-preservation was on alert, despite my confusion. He was distracted for only a fraction of a second, yet instantly regained his ability to place his spell upon me.

Blackness.

My internal torment was not over.

My mind skipped forward several centuries, like the needle in a badly mangled vinyl record. My memories were now recalling my worst pain. Such that I imagined losing a limb would have felt, or as if I were slowly roasting in a fire. Each second I was in this blackness my mind played tricks on me. My memory was mocking me.

Was this a memory?

Was I in hell?

She was there, in front of me, eyes bright and staring, fingers only inches from mine.

I reached. I stretched. Still, our fingers never touched, my fingers forever being bare, never able to interlace with hers again.

An arm wrapped around her torso flinging her back into the darkness.

A wicked grin placed upon a faceless man.

She was screaming. Those screams, torment, echoing in the darkness, this velvety black that was now my prison.

I could not see, but I could hear. My memory recalling every sound as I ran faster than I had ever before. She was fighting for her life, the impossibly fragile echo of her body being torn apart causing my body to want to slowly crumble to the ground.

But I had to run. I had to save her.

I knew it was over before I reached her. The deep violet smoke billowed in the evening air; the scent gently drifted over the houses and tickled my nose. I trembled, and inhaled, despite my torment. I had no reason to actually breathe, other than to stimulate my sense of smell. My stone heart shattered.

When I reached the flames, I leaped into them, my hands reaching out, grasping flames. After each agonized attempt to grab at that which was no longer there, I looked down and my hands, full of fire, nothing else. It burned, but I could feel nothing. I was consumed with trying to prevent her death, though I knew that she was gone for eternity.

Tiziana had been caught in a fight with other vampires, stronger vampires. Why they attacked, I will never know.

Caius found me there, lying in the street, broken, torn…dead inside.

I was too late. I had been too late.

Late…

The memory lashed at me, the smell in the air made me sick with grief. A thick black fog surrounded me…was inside me.

I pleaded for death. I begged for them to kill me. They refused, watching Caius carefully, gauging his reaction. Marcus wanted too, after what had happened.... What I had caused him. His pain. His agony. Didyme. In the end, Marcus refused, wanting me to suffer how he suffered.

Suffer I did. Bitter and hard, both of us, Marcus and I, living breathing 'Gods,' incapable of love. That was what our.... Existence.... Had become. Side by side, not by choice, simply because of apathy. Cowardice. An inability to follow into the flames, and the lack of someone strong enough to dismember us by choice. One would not destroy the other. That would mean mercy. Marcus harbored no desire to make this existence any easier on me and I simply could not destroy the one creature who could possibly understand my suffering.

Volterra City. My coven. We made new laws.

Laws. Like we were royalty. Gods. We were worshiped as such. Eventually we settled on only a few laws. One such law stopped all vampire attacks within our "Holy City."

Still, this didn't ease my anguish. Tiziana, gone. Didyme, gone. Ash. Smoke. Wind.

Was this why I was so intrigued with Edward's relationship with Bella? Jealousy? I coveted their relationship…I desired their gifts. They had love, and I remained bereft.

I had a wife, yet it was mere convenience. Something Caius pushed upon me to help me 'cope.' After several hundred years and not moving, lying on the dirty ground, he had had enough.

I bottled my emotions. My despair. They thought I had forgotten.

Imbeciles.

Internally, I burned, writhed, and shriveled at the pain. They didn't understand. Not one of them – they were oblivious - except one, the only one, Marcus, and we simply coexisted. We certainly had never confided in each other. How could we? I was responsible for causing this pain that he felt. This same pain that I was sure was destroying any humanity in the darkest recesses of our bodies. Numbness on the outside doesn't translate to happiness on the inside, though I played the part well.

The Cullen's didn't understand, either. Edward was too busy reading my current thoughts to dig too deeply into my mind.

Not true, I automatically corrected myself. Edward has simply not tapped into the depth of his gift. He was, relatively speaking, very, very young. He would learn over time to be able to probe deeper into thoughts, even without connecting.

Odd, that. Someone reading my mind for a change. I recalled his torment in Volterra, his pleading for death when he believed she had died. I refused to grant his request. Selfish. His love made me madly jealous.

Isabella.

She was why I was here. Why my coven had turned on me.

The thoughts were there, early on, but the plan was never firm. None of them thought it wise to betray me, my gift infallibly holding all their knowledge. There was slight unease with the Cullen's, although I could not, at the time, understand why. Why should they be feared? Eight weak disconnected immortals, hunting animals, for God's sake.

Why kill them? Carlisle was an old friend, even if an old fool. Caius was disapproving. 'They should be punished for making us look weak and undecided,' he once said. He was salivating for revenge, yet I thought him to be able to hold his tongue, bottle his reactions.

Again, I was wrong. Here I lay, bound tightly by my own guard, unable to leave my mind, my thoughtful stupor.

Would the Cullen 'family' survive? Perhaps they would. Perhaps they would actually triumph, unlike our last meeting. Maybe they would kill me. End my suffering.

Thoughts, memories, things I wished to never think again were boiling up inside me and spilling over. Was this the plan? My own personal torture? They didn't need Jane for this. Imprison me in the darkness and let me torture myself into insanity.

Tiziana. Now that I had opened the flood gates to her name, I couldn't seem to lock them up again.

That's why.

It struck me suddenly with amazing, chaotic, and blinding clarity. The silly human girl who answered the phones. The plan was death, yet I insisted on changing her. To everyone's surprise. Not the least of which was mine. Even to hers.

Gianna. She reminded me so much of my Tiziana. Her dark skin and long silky hair. Killing her was my first option, my 'original plan.' The reminder, too much. I did not realize it at the time, when she entered with Heidi.

There she was, in my chamber, ready for me to feast. Terror was present in her eyes as she tilted her neck for me. When I bit down, the taste was sensational. There was something there, different. The taste was almost the same…still, she held only one, one thousandth of a fraction of the spell Tiziana had on me.

Instead of drinking this human dry of life, I let go. She fell limply into my waiting arms. I held her for three days.

My 'wife'…enraged with jealousy, left. Disappeared into the streets of Volterra and beyond without a trace. I was astounded. She had never shown much affection for me. Truth be told, I was quite certain she loathed me. None of my coven has seen her in fifty years. Our bond, such as it had been, was easily broken over this silly human girl.

Tiziana may have ran to me for salvation, but maybe Gianna was mysalvation.

I wonder, and question if I care whether Gianna escaped Volterra, or if she was purple wisps of smoke floating above the forests that surrounded Volterra in the low lands…


Authors' Notes: Hi all! Sorry it took us so long to get this chapter up. In case you are wondering, we are no longer telling whose point of view each chapter is in. Don't worry, we will make it obvious. Now that we both have our stuff straight, we will hopefully be updating at more regular of intervals. (LATAS says "It's my fault, and know that Lola calls me daily to give me a kick in the tush to get me going, but life sometimes interferes...")

This chapter was in italics, mostly, because they are thoughts, less narrative.

Hope you enjoyed this chapter and please review! We love to hear what you have to say about our story.