AN: I love everyone who has been reading and reviewing, and give my best regards to SMeyer for her characters.
~: Chapter 3: ANGELS OUT OF CHURCH :~
June 19th, St. Petersburg, BPOV
Arkady was finally dying.
I dropped my last coins into the box and listened as they piled up. I lit every candle in front of St. Jude's icon and prayed, just as I had for the last week. I was doubling up today, at his request. It was a last request, though he hadn't known it at the time.
He'd been coughing painfully all afternoon, and I could almost count the number of heartbeats he had left before the end. But I couldn't tell him that. Instead, I'd teased him gently in the hospital about his cigarettes again, and he'd just scowled as I'd hugged him goodnight. "You go pray for me twice, Tatyana. I need twice for that."
I'd done his regular church and then hunted out another one. It had been hard to find one that was open, since it was well after midnight, but I'd found one of the traditionalists and made my way inside out of the wind. It was June, and the half-light that passed for night could be chilly when the wind came off the water.
I didn't technically feel the chill, but the part of my brain that was human always registered the weather for me. Extreme temperatures I could feel, but more often the sensations of the weather were like phantom limbs. A part of me knew that the feeling should be there, and penciled it in where it was supposed to go.
That same part of my mind was penciling in denial about Arkady's death. I'd known he was dying long before he did, but how can you share something like that with someone so adamantly opposed to giving up on life? Or even explain how you know, almost to the minute, how much longer their fragile heart will beat?
I knew, and the doctors thought they knew. They were keeping him comfortable, which was all that they could do.
Arkady was not in the mood for dying. Of course, I had yet to find someone who was, ever, in the mood for dying. He'd asked me for my secret, but I'd stuck to my line about his cigarettes. He hadn't bought it, hadn't for years, but he did believe me when I said it wasn't something I could do to him. I'd told him the truth—I wasn't like the others who could share themselves and make a family. I was broken, somehow, and I couldn't save him. He'd squeezed my hand then, and sent me to pray.
Since then, it had become a daily routine. I think Arkady liked the idea of me in church, and there was a piece of me that found comfort in the old buildings with their benevolent icons looking down at the flickering flames. Those wobbling, smoking candles represented hopes and dreams for the kind of life I would never have, as much as I wished for it. Monsters like me don't get to keep their families.
I knelt in front of my candles and started through the prayers. Death was the worst kind of lost cause. I felt my eyes tensing up with the ghosts of tears at the thought of losing the only father figure I remembered. I couldn't even cry for him. What was the use of being alive forever if you had to do it alone? All the others I'd ever met could make more of their own kind, but my teeth just brought numbness and death. I was only good for killing people and destroying my own kind.
As the candles burned down, Arkady's wasn't the only lost soul I tried to bring to St. Jude's attention. Even after I knew his heart must have stopped, I kept praying for him and my life without him. Working in his bar had allowed me to build a life around the illusion of normalcy, and caring for him had given me the sense of purpose I so desperately needed now that I wasn't taking death orders. I didn't want to go back to simply being a hungry one on the loose.
I needed a cause, and I missed my old friends. It was frightening to think that I could lead the Volturi to them if I visited. I knew that just because I hadn't been found yet didn't mean I wasn't being hunted. I'd been lucky so far, but I'd been in one place too long. It was only a matter of time before I was found here. Yet how could I have left Arkady when he was so weak? And how could I leave now? Where would I go?
I was still on my knees in front of St. Jude when I heard the doors open behind me. Instinctively, I hid from whatever was being sent as an answer to my prayers.
The old woman came sobbing up to St. Jude's icon and reached for the matchbox before noticing that all of the candles were already lit. When the realization hit, she dropped to her knees and sobbed out her request. It was old, bad Russian, and it took me a minute to understand her hysterical pleas.
"They are just little girls! It's so horrible. Please that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen. Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so hopeless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly for those girls. They are just little girls. They have them, I don't know what to do. I called the police and no one is coming and please and—"
She screamed when I touched her. I can only imagine what I looked like to her, looming over her in the dead of night, eyes black, hands cold, and my hair still wild from the wind.
She told me the address, frightened but resolute. "I can show you."
"No, stay here and pray. If they are alive, I will bring them here." She nodded, eyes wide.
To say I stormed out would imply I moved slowly. In moments like these, I was the wind.
Storming between the buildings and flying rooftop to rooftop to avoid being seen, I let the last pieces of my so-called life sweep away in the breeze. The old, familiar cold settled in around my heart. My father was dead, and eternity stretched out before me as far as the eye could see. Nothing to do except make it interesting, right?
I perched on the first window ledge I came to on the building she'd indicated. The sky was still summer pink, but the sun was gone and a purplish twilight was covering the streets. For what I wanted to do it would be better if it were darker. Unfortunately, it couldn't be helped.
The little hearts I could hear inside could, though. There were three of them, beating fast as hummingbirds. Surrounding them were older hearts, the pounding of their wakefulness standing out against the rhythmic symphony of sleeping beats that governed the rest of the complex. I was on the wrong side of the building, and I let my ear lead me to the window that I wanted.
Peeking around the corner, I couldn't see anything. The window was blocked with a thick curtain shutting out the light. Closing my eyes, I let my other senses take over.
I could smell the raw blood like it was almost under my tongue. Foul, bitter wine. My mouth watered anyway. I'd been skipping meals to spend more time with Arkady while he still had it. My thirst was so strong that even the prospect of soured blood made my stomach clench.
Lost in the smell of them, the shot startled me enough to make me crumble the brick underneath my hand as I snatched at the building to keep from falling. Angry, I stood up. How could I have been so careless as to let those bastards spot me? I hated being shot at and they would pay for that.
And yet the lousy shot had missed me completely even though I was right outside the window. Stupid humans. They couldn't even hit . . . wait.
Three hummingbird hearts. Pounding furiously, frightened. One older heartbeat was missing.
They hadn't been shooting at me after all.
I used my fingernails to pop out one pane of the window, and unhooked the latch stealthily. The window swung out, its progress hidden by the curtain. I could hear my hummingbirds pounding just inside, with the old beats further back. Maybe if I was lucky it would be a separate room and I could snatch them away without killing anyone.
Nah. What fun would that be? I was going to kill them all.
Scenting the room, I knew they were alone when I slipped in behind the curtain. Three small girls were huddled together on a dirty bed, bruised and frightened. They were comforting each other, and not watching me. Their dim room didn't show much. I could hear their captors pacing around the rest of the apartment. I didn't have long.
I spoke to them softly in Russian. "I need you to close your eyes."
Instead, three pairs of eyes whipped toward the window. Kids these days, I swear. No respect for authority. Their hearts were pounding a mile a minute, and their curiosity still got the better of them.
"Who are you?" The oldest asked, clutching the two smaller girls into her torso, hiding their faces.
"I am Help Requested. Can you protect them?" She nodded. "Good. Hide under the bed, close your eyes, and don't open them again until I tell you it's okay." She stared. I snapped my fingers, making sparks. They scrambled under the bed and I twitched the bed sheets over the edge to hide them further.
As I moved to the door, I cast one last look over my shoulder at them, remembering the other thing. "Fingers in your ears, girls. It will be loud." I waited until I saw them comply. They wouldn't need these memories later to keep them up at night. The big one peeked at me and I shook my head at her, smiling sternly before opening the door and going out into the main room.
When I'm hungry, it never takes long.
Lady MacBeth had been right about blood. Once you got it on your hands, it was almost impossible to get out properly. Arkady's kitchen soap just wasn't doing the job, no matter how much I scrubbed. Out, damned spot, indeed.
I'd made a real mess of the apartment, and then gone trailing blood across half of St. Petersburg with the girls. Naturally, they had both peeked and listened as I'd raced them to the church. One of them had been sick from all the jumping between buildings, but they were alive and in one piece.
The granny had promised to get them back to their parents. Her blood smelled safe, and even though I would have liked to make other arrangements for them, I needed to get off the streets before full dawn to avoid attention. I knew I was a mess, but it wasn't until I got back here that I realized just how much blood I had all over me. My sweater was literally sopping with it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Pulling it off, I managed to smear my face with blood. Again. My little room in the back of the bar reeked of blood, and there were drops all over the place. I'd be scrubbing for days to get rid of the nasty stench of dead evil around me, and I still needed to go back and get rid of the bodies. Angrily, I threw the sweater in the trash and bent over the sink to scrub my face again.
The thud on the floor behind me was someone I should have heard coming. Looking up into the mirror to see over my shoulder, I braced for the Volturi, but it was another shadow from my past that was standing just inside the open window.
"Tanya," he said, eyeing my exposed back, "you're looking well."
Coolly, I turned off the water and reached over for a towel. Drying my face, I looked him over, trying to decide what to do. Leaning back against the sink, I opted for playing it cool.
"James," I said. "You're looking exactly the same."
He laughed at that, continuing to give me the eye as I finished drying my face and mopped the water off my neck. Strands of blond hair floated out of his ponytail, touching gently down on the shoulders of his white linen shirt. Light colored pants and sandals completed the illusion of an Italian summer stepping into the room.
In fact, everything about his appearance seemed casual, summery, and calculated to reflect on our past together. I could see him lounging against the doorframe of the balcony of the apartment we'd shared, watching the sun go down while we got ready to hunt. Arguing with me over newspaper articles. Swimming with me in the bay. Pulling me into his arms . . . then disappearing for weeks or months and returning with orders. Always more orders.
"It's been a long time, James. What are you doing here?"
"I was in town, looking for something else, and I saw you. How could I resist?"
How indeed. I knew that blood trail had been a stupid move. You just had to play the rescuer, didn't you, Tanya? Now look where it's gotten you. Shirtless with your ex-boyfriend, the traitor, standing not five feet away!
"Traveling alone?" I asked, cocking one hip suggestively. There were ways to make this into a positive situation. Or at least distract him.
His smile broadened. "Why yes, yes I am." He swung himself into one of the wooden chairs at my small table, straddling it and looking at me.
I wondered if he knew I could tell when he was lying? Probably best not to let on. I made my own smile a little bigger, and told him the truth.
"It's been lonely here. I don't like being alone." His grin widened even more.
"Well, sweetheart, I'm here now."
"Mmm-hmmm." I strolled up to him and ran one hand down his cheek. He raised his own hand to mine and brought it gently to his lips. I laughed and slipped away from him, walking toward my closet.
"Let me put something on and I can show you the city." I flipped quickly through the hangers, looking for something thick and unflattering. I was not amused by his ogling. "Where's Victoria?"
"Vicky and I had a little falling out." Humpf. I bet. I'd hated sharing, but I also felt bad for her. Not even unlovely monster girls like us should have to put up with monster douchebags like James. If Arkady had taught me nothing else, he'd at least given me that. James had enjoyed running between our beds and playing us off against each other, but Victoria had felt it more.
"I'm sorry to hear that." I said, sincerely. I was sorry, just for her. I wondered where she had gone? She could never seem to be free of him either.
I kept my back to him as I selected a shirt. I was buying time to think of a way to get rid of him . . . permanently. After his arrangement with the Volturi, how could I ever trust him again?
"Tanya," he said. "Look at me."
"What?" I said, turning.
Thump. Thump. Thump. The impact of the shots knocked me back into the door of my wardrobe. James smirked at me from his perch in the chair, an odd-looking gun balanced across the top of the back.
I looked down, expecting to see holes where the bullets had gone. Instead, there were three little darts embedded in my chest. The asshole had shot them at me out of his funny gun.
The nerve of this guy was just incredible. Did he not know the night I'd just had? Had he not tracked me across the city this morning? I'd had a bad day and weaponry was the last thing I wanted to deal with right now. What is it with people and shooting at me? It's as if they don't know how much it upsets me. And these darts looked just like—
Whatever James was expecting, sitting there looking down his barrel at me like a smug bastard, it wasn't what he got. The gun clattered out of his hands as I picked him up and slammed him sideways into the wall so hard it cracked the brick.
Following after him, I snatched his shoulders on the bounce back and threw him onto the floor. Leaning over, I punched him in the gut and grabbed the ponytail at the back of his head when he lurched forward, dragging his face up toward mine.
"Did Edward put you up to this?" I hissed angrily into his shocked face. "Did he put you up to this, James?"
His eyes were wide and his mouth was hanging open, but no sound was coming out. I shook him furiously.
"I asked you a question, James. Did Edward put you up to this?"
"No," he choked out. "Edward's dead."
I knew that was a lie, too. "Bullshit, James," I said, throwing him hard back onto his side. "Edward isn't dead by my hand, which means he isn't dead."
Temporarily out of my grasp, James tried to roll for the gun. Unfortunately, I'd seen that movie, too, so I grabbed his leg and yanked. He face-planted into the floor inches away from his target.
Furious at decades of his lies, his stalking, and his audacity in actually attacking me, I yanked the leg I gripped up toward my face and ripped away his khaki pants. He looked down just in time to see me sink my teeth into his Achilles tendon.
I looked right into his eyes as I drank, fighting the churning in my stomach. Who would have imagined my ex would taste so disgusting? He didn't smell that bad and usually I could eat anyone and be fine, no matter how vile their personality. It was part of what made me such a threat—nothing turned my stomach, not even my own kind. Something was seriously wrong with this vintage, although it could have been his eyes.
His brown eyes shone with pure horror as the arrogance he'd relied on all these years wilted away. I'd always been a killer to him, never a threat. I was just a woman he was with who was useful. He was a master tracker. There was nobody smarter than him, faster than him, or better than him. James was the king of his own personal universe.
My teeth in his leg must have been like the meteor hitting the dinosaurs.
To give credit where credit was due, it wasn't as though he was just lying there taking it. With his good leg he tried kicking me in the head. I saw it coming and jumped up, spattering him with his own venomy blood.
"That's not nice, James."
He pulled away and tried to stand, but with his tendon severed by my teeth he wasn't getting far. I grabbed him up and threw him back up against the wall. "How does it feel, James? You've tracked me down and now you've caught me."
I tilted his head to one side, exposing his throat. Tradition has its merits. I licked his neck and dragged the edges of my teeth along his veins. Really, he smelled good enough to eat. Always had. My stomach lurched anyway, but it wasn't the time to flinch. I'd waited for this moment for the last three years. "Whatever," I asked, continuing to threaten him with my mouth, "are you going to do now?"
"Bomb," He whispered. I could tell he was weak from his pathetic struggles to push me off. A bomb? The cowards, I thought, digging my teeth in and muttering, "Liar."
"No! It's true. We used a bomb. You can kill me, but you can't bring him back. Just like he can't fix you."
Unfortunately for us both, I was drinking instead of listening closely, thinking he was threatening me, and didn't process that last part until James was no longer capable of speech.
I spat out his vile taste and shook his body fiercely. "What do you mean, fix? I barely know Edward, why does he want to fix me? James, answer me when I'm talking to you!"
His head just lolled over, as limp as the rest of him. His raisined skin had the tell-tale grey tone that let me know I'd gone too far. Disgusted, I threw him to the floor and stalked over to the bed where I'd been packing. I ripped the frame away from the wall and knocked loose my special brick.
Then I threw up, which was both horrible and unexpected. Damn you, James, I thought, one hand holding me up against the bricks as I vomited violently into the chasm between the bed and the wall, retching long after my stomach was empty. Looking down, I could see two of the vial darts still lodged in my skin. I plucked them free with a shaking hand.
What was in these?
Sitting back onto the bed, I removed my box from the hollow in the wall. Compared to the darts I'd kept from Edward's jacket, these were longer and seemed to have a different formula. Edward's were green, like his eyes, and these were a dull brown.
And mostly empty.
Shit. What was in these?
AN: Reviews get teasers, and I hope you're all just dying to find out how Edward & Co react to this! I'd also love to hear your questions about what's going on, and what you'd like to know most in the chapters ahead.