A/N: Just a slight warning. After finishing the chapter, The Faerie Star, you could pretty much pick up Breaking Dawn and read it through to the end without changing the story line much. But this epilogue brings Prelude, Polar Night and The Necklace together, so the plot of this chapter moves into AU territory.
Epilogue – The Necklace
It wasn't until we were on the plane and over the Atlantic that I saw what Aro would send to Bella. Perhaps Aro had waited that long to make his decision, or perhaps it was my faulty vision. But as I saw a flash of that enormous, fist-sized diamond on that chunky gold chain, I shivered and winced. The vision brought with it dark memories of betrayal and confusion, and in my fragile state, that was enough to do me in.
I immediately felt Jasper's arm stiffen around me. "Alice, what is it?"
Jasper should record that question, I thought to myself, wryly, for easy playback at times like these. I'd jumped and projected alarm with nearly every vision I'd received since Jasper and I had been reunited. And while, admittedly, I hadn't been having half as many visions as I had been before, I was jumping entirely too much for any self-respecting vampire.
"Aro's sending something to Bella," I whispered, keeping my voice down so that the humans in the cabin couldn't hear.
Jasper sighed and smiled. "Thank goodness. I was hoping… well, I guess I was believing the faerie was right. But it's reassuring to finally know for sure."
"Nice? Jasper, this isn't nice! What are you talking about?"
"Aod said that Aro would send something to Forks to confirm that our agreement still held. That is what he's sending, isn't it?"
I thought for a brief second. He was sending Bella the largest and possibly the most valuable of all of the crown jewels that had been returned to him. With a note:
"I so look forward to seeing the new Mrs. Cullen in person."
Yes, I could see how this might reaffirm the agreement that he'd made with Emmett, Rose and Jasper. And he was also saying that he wanted proof of our end of the bargain. But clearly, he was also stating that Bella was more valuable than something he'd been missing for hundreds of years. The seriousness of it all was in no way lost on me.
"Alice?" Jasper rubbed his thumb along my cheekbone and I felt momentarily reassured.
"Yes, Jasper, that's exactly what he's sending."
I was somehow both relieved and anxious after returning to Forks. Luckily, though, there was so much giddy activity in the house, my jumpiness was easily hidden. Emmett and Rosalie were inordinately sated after weeks on end with nothing but one another's company and an empty house at their disposal. Thank goodness, we'd thought to call ahead, and they'd put things back in order and put on clothing in time for our arrival. Then we all went immediately to work fixing the couple's damage: patching up various holes, retiling the shower in the second floor bathroom, and replacing the broken windows. There was no reason to vex Esme right after her vacation.
Carlisle and Esme returned just sixteen hours after we did, and we all sat around for hours on end trading stories. Esme and Carlisle had visited with friends of the family in Brazil, and Jasper and I filled everyone in about Maggie, Siobhan and Liam. Jasper and I admitted to only spending a few hours with the Irish coven, and with the help of a little innuendo, managed to skirt around the particulars of what we'd been up to for the rest of our vacation. Carlisle's naturally modest nature made it easy to skip over the details. It wouldn't be as easy the next time Esme and I had a girls' day in the city, but I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.
And then, the very next day, Edward and Bella returned from their honeymoon.
Oh. My. God!
I would have cried if I could have. My brother was so in love. He couldn't contain that silly crooked smile, and he could hardly tear his eyes off of his wife, his mate. Finally. Officially. His mate. Every other member of the family was struck dumb and still as we gazed at them as they walked through the front door arm in arm, and smiled uncontrollably at one another on the front landing. I mean, we all knew Bella and Edward were made for one another, but to see my brother actually mated to a human… it was still very unreal. And wonderful. And it took my breath away to see the way Bella looked at him. I didn't know a human could feel like that.
Jasper squeezed my hand, bringing me back into my body. "It was all worth it," he whispered.
Edward's eyes shot a quick glance in our direction, and I willed all thoughts of the previous weeks to a small, dark corner of my brain. Then, I smiled bravely and bounced over to Bella.
"Bella, you look radiant," I whispered.
That was all it took to divert Edward's attention, and my smile broadened as I watched Edward bask in Bella's radiance, as if with my words, he was seeing her for the first time all over again.
"As do you, big brother. Marriage suits you, it seems. But, I never had any doubt that it would, thank you very much."
Edward smiled at me gratefully. "No, you never did, Alice. Thank you."
I threw my arms around Edward in a giant hug, forcing him to let go of his wife, and I allowed visions of Bella and Edward's college life to play through my mind. "I should have known, Edward. You men, you get us every time. But the house… do you really think that's the one?"
Edward dropped me back to the floor, a small frown on his face.
"Oh, you haven't found the house, yet. Well, you better hurry up, the semester starts in days!"
Bella was staring at the two of us with that little wrinkle between her brows that meant she was trying to figure us out. I stepped back to marvel at her, and she blushed bright crimson. Funny. Bella seemed completely unchanged physically, but at the same time, everything about her had changed since I'd seen her last. It was so very vampirish of her, that I was startled. She held herself differently, and she was more relaxed and confident, and I detected a conspiratorial glitter in her eyes. I was dying to know how it felt for a human to be mated, bound. And thankfully, I knew that we'd have plenty of time to talk over the next week.
"Today I'll let you settle in, Bella. But that's it. I can't believe you didn't give me more warning! We have to purchase a complete college wardrobe and furnish a home, all in a week!"
"Alice, I don't really think--" Bella began. But then I saw Edward grab hold of Bella's hand, and she stopped protesting in mid-sentence, turning instead to smile up into her husband's eyes. Yep, mated newlyweds, no doubt about it.
I heard Esme sigh from somewhere behind me.
"Welcome home, Bella," I said softly. "But be prepared for a trip to Seattle tomorrow. We'll leave at seven-thirty, sharp."
Bella's face snapped in my direction. "Seven-thirty! Alice, please, I'm still human. I need to sleep!" she whined.
"Alice," Edward chastised.
"Please, Edward, she has all night to sleep! There's not much time before…" but my thoughts were cut short as Edward arched an eyebrow in my direction, pressing his lips together in a thin line. No, of course Bella didn't have all night to sleep. Jasper was right: this would take some getting used to. I sighed, hopes of an eight-hour shopping day dashed.
"How does eleven sound, then?"
"Better," Bella breathed.
"Seriously, Bella. I hope you managed to sign up for all evening classes."
Bella giggled and hid her face against Edward's chest, and he wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. You didn't have to be Jasper to feel the love radiating off of them. In fact, this all made me long for a trip to my own bedroom, Jasper in tow.
"About that bet, Jasper," Emmett laughed behind me. I heard the sound of bills being passed off from one hand to another.
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Esme finally exclaimed, rushing forward, and the spell was broken as she took both Bella and Edward up in an enormous hug. "I can't wait to hear about everything. How did you enjoy the cottage?"
"The cottage?" Bella mumbled in surprise, blushing all over again as Carlisle made his way to the growing gathering at the front entrance.
Edward quickly looked between his red-faced bride and his mother. "Everything… Well, let's see… we met your parrots," Edward mentioned with a playful grin on his face, and Carlisle stopped in mid-step. Emmett and Rose laughed out loud, and I looked towards Jasper for some hint about what was going on, but he only shrugged his shoulders in response. I hated being in the dark. Damned faulty vision!
"And we watched Notorious," Bella added. Rosalie's laughter immediately died down.
"Emmett," Rosalie hissed under her breath as she folded her arms across her chest. I watched as the rest of the family tried desperately to suppress their smiles. How Rosalie could be jealous of Ingrid Bergman, who'd been dead and buried for twenty-four years, I'd never know.
"Thanks a lot, Bella," Emmett laughed grimly. "The gloves are definitely off now, little sister. You'd best watch yourself.
I looked back at Bella, and she was grinning and giggling, and her arms were wrapped securely around Edward's waist. She was finally comfortable, and she seemed to naturally fit into our family. Enough so that she'd make a joke at Rosalie's expense. And Edward, well, it would have been enough to say he was happy. But it was more than that… he was blissful. 'Blissed out', I think was the term Bella used once. And no matter what the future held, I knew right then and there, that everything was the way it should be. It was all worth it.
The following days were a happy blur. Bella and Edward packed for school, Bella visited with Charlie and her friends, I tormented my new sister-in-law with frequent shopping trips, and she and Edward stole as much time alone as possible.
But my vision seemed to be deteriorating instead of getting better. And at night, Jasper and I would run into the forest ostensibly to give Bella and Edward some third floor privacy. In reality, we'd run to our cliff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where Jasper would hold me and comfort me, and tell me how much he believed it would be alright in the end.
Before my sight had taken a turn for the worse, I'd seen the day Aro's awful gift for Bella would arrive. It would be the day before she left for college with Edward. I toyed with the idea of hiding it from everyone. There were packages arriving almost hourly from one delivery service or another, what with wedding gifts still pouring in from hundreds of years' worth of Carlisle's acquaintances, and all of the things that I'd ordered for the couple's new home. It wouldn't be difficult to stash one small box in an out of the way location.
I tried valiantly to see the best way to handle the gift, but my vision was murky. I knew everyone would be home when the package came, watching the Mariners lose to Tampa Bay. (I know human baseball could never compare to what our family could do with a ball and a bat. But we'd considered the Mariners our home team, no matter where we lived, ever since the team's inception in 1977. We didn't miss a game, if at all possible.) But no matter how hard I tried; the only outcome that I could see was fuzz and static.
In the end, left with little else to go on except my intuition, I decided that straightforward honesty was the best policy. Well, unless you count it as dishonest to keep the fae's part in all of this a secret. Okay, maybe it was somewhat dishonest, but I wasn't ready to tell anyone else about what I'd been through. As long as Aro's deal with us was unchanged, I reasoned that no one really needed to know about my heritage.
But, in my heart, I knew it had to be done. Bella was still human. It's best we laid all the cards, er gems, on the table. And it felt pretty magnanimous to simply give the wedding gift to its intended recipient with no meddling.
Fine. Fine! No additional meddling.
Nevertheless, I still felt the need to be the one that held the gift first. I wanted to make sure, as much as I could, that the damned necklace was real, and that we had to interrupt the newlyweds' happiness. So I was prepared when the UPS truck stopped halfway up our long drive, and waited impatiently on the front steps as the deliveryman huffed and puffed up the incline to ask me to sign for the package. It was wrapped plainly enough in brown paper, but the weight of the thing gave it away.
I signed for the box with a mind full of ever-increasing static. The one advantage to my defective vision was that I could easily focus on nothing while Edward was around. It was frustrating… for both of us, and I often caught him looking at me with a confused and worried expression on his face. Luckily, the faintest whiff of Bella's scent was enough to distract him these days, and these days, she was never far off.
"Hey, Bella, there's a box here for you from Italy." Everyone's attention was immediately switched from the game to me, and the brown paper package I deposited on the dining room table. Of course, Jasper also knew what was about to be revealed, and I could feel him projecting calm throughout the room.
Edward was at my side in an instant. "What is it, Alice?"
"It's a gift. From Aro." I focused on the static and Edward scowled. It had been so long since I'd seen a sincere scowl on his face, I felt instantly guilty.
"Don't be ridiculous, Alice. There's nothing for you to feel guilty about. It's not like this gift, or whatever it is, was your idea." I jumped a bit at Edward's admonishment, but no one except Jasper paid any mind. They'd all become used to my new, jittery nature.
Bella took her time walking over to the table (or perhaps that's just the speed at which she moved). "Should I open it?" she asked hesitantly.
"It's a necklace. No spells or poisons or anything," I informed everyone.
By now, the entire family was crowded around us. Bella tentatively tore at the brown paper wrapping to reveal an ancient and ornate, jewel-encrusted box. "That's worth a small fortune in and of itself," I quipped, to fill up the staticky space in my brain.
Bella very tentatively opened the box to reveal the enormous diamond. The round, intricately cut stone seemed to project rainbows of light, rather than just reflect them. There was a collective gasp around the table. Rosalie actually shielded her eyes and looked away. And unbidden, a vision of the first time I'd seen the gem played itself out in my mind: the bright blue cloudless sky, the emerald green grass, the two little men and their dusty casket, and the way the diamond had sent prisms of light dancing through the air.
Edward eyed me curiously. I shrugged.
"I always wondered where the crown jewels disappeared to after John of England pawned them in the thirteenth century," Carlisle remarked. His eyes flickered over mine, so quickly that even as a vampire, I might have missed it. Then, he turned to smile at Bella. "I suppose it doesn't surprise me that the Volturi have their share."
For her part, Bella looked frightened to touch the thing. And I knew that she would only become more frightened when she found the most important part of Aro's gift hidden underneath the gem. I wished I knew what would happen when Bella pulled out Aro's message to her.
"I so look forward to seeing the new Mrs. Cullen in person."
Edward spun around to face me. He'd heard my thoughts easily enough. Nothing was wrong with his powers. His eyes glowed with violent anger and deep concern, and I nodded to confirm what he'd silently heard. His face turned grave. And very quickly, and very forcefully, he slammed shut the lid on the box. "It's quite revolting," he managed to murmur to Bella, "not nearly as beautiful as you, my love."
What? No! He couldn't keep Aro's note from Bella. I turned to Jasper for help, and his eyes bored into the back of Edward's head, but my brother didn't bat an eyelash.
"And to think, that's the third strange necklace I've received today," Bella murmured, as she lost herself in Edward's loving gaze.
"The third?" I asked, alarmed. Goodness, I hadn't seen any other necklaces in her future.
"Yes, two other wedding gifts came this morning. Vampires sure have some strange taste in necklaces," she nearly giggled. "They're all so odd."
I saw Edward glaring at Jasper over Bella's head, shaking his head defiantly, faster than Bella would have been able to detect. I looked back and forth between Jasper and Edward, and knew that words had to be spoken. Edward had to let his mate know what was going on. I willed Jasper to look at me, and silently implored him to keep up the fight.
"Oh! Wow, Bella. New jewelry… Can I see the other two?" I asked, a little maniacally.
Bella looked around at the gathered vampires. We were all lost in our own personal struggles with Aro's gift. Rosalie was frankly jealous, and Emmett was trying his best to wordlessly console her. They should really have gone back to their room. I guessed that Carlisle knew more about the crown jewels than he was letting on, and Esme was attempting to silently figure him out. Edward was a closed book, fuming, and determined not to let the Volturi force his hand with his human wife. Jasper was wordlessly pleading with him to reconsider. I could almost make out the words of their silently raging battle.
"Alice, come on," Bella tugged at my sleeve. "Let's go up to Edward's… I mean our room. I'll show you the other necklaces." She cast a wary glance at around the table, ending with Edward. He absentmindedly kissed her on the forehead and gently squeezed her hand, and went back to grimacing at Jasper.
Bella carefully shut the door behind us, and rested her back against the door. She blushed a bit and looked away before meeting my eyes again. "Well, that was weird, Alice."
"Aro is weird, Bella. We don't take correspondence with him lightly. And Rose was jealous," I added as a distraction.
"Please!" she huffed. "No one's given Edward and I a house, like Esme did when Rosalie married Emmett."
"Leave that up to Edward," I mumbled as I flounced onto the leather couch. Did it have a bit more give than it used to?
"Oh, nothing." No reason to rile her up now. She'd find out soon enough. I heard voices rising from the dining room, and I fervently hoped that they would keep it down so that Bella wouldn't hear.
"Edward, be reasonable. You can't keep this from her any longer."
"I wouldn't lecture about hiding things, Jasper. Where were you these past two weeks?"
"One has nothing to do with the other, Edward."
"You've just proven your point, Jasper."
"I can't believe he's pushing us like this. Why would he send that note when he specifically told us not to tell Bella?" Emmett asked.
"Exactly, Emmett. I will not let Aro dictate the bounds of my relationship. I'll take her to the ends of the earth to keep her human… if that's what she wants."
"At what cost?" Rosalie asked quietly.
"Enough!" Carlisle's voice cut through the heated discussion, and everyone fell immediately silent. "Esme and I spoke to Alice before the wedding. We know you've all been doing your best to help Bella and Edward. But this has frankly gotten out of hand, and it's time that Esme, Bella and I were informed about exactly what has transpired. And if anyone can inform me how one of the twice missing crown jewels of England has landed in my home, I would appreciate an answer to that as well."
Bella was rooting through her luggage, pulling out a mishmash of shirts, shoes, undergarments, and socks, searching for the necklaces. I'd been hoping that she was so caught up in her search, that she wouldn't hear anything going on below. But as she continued to root through her luggage, the disorganization was just too much for me to bear.
"For Pete's sake, Bella. This is unacceptable! What a mess. Please, let me re-do this for you!" I quickly crossed the room, intent on repacking everything for her. Really, how could a woman take so little care with her wardrobe?
"Here, found them!" Bella spun around with the necklaces just as I was going to grab for the clothing in her luggage, and my hands closed over the necklaces instead.
Static surged through my hands, coursing through my body, and burning my eyes. I dropped the necklaces, dropped to my knees and pressed my hands to my eyes.
"Alice! What happened?" Bella was on the floor besides me, her warm hand rubbing my back.
As soon as I'd dropped the necklaces to the ground, the feeling passed. I opened my eyes, and focused on the jewelry in front of me and gasped. The first thing that caught my attention was a very tiny string of dried red-orange berries. It was almost as if it took up all of my vision, and I couldn't focus on anything else.
"Where did you get that, Bella?" I asked, pointing to the beaded berry necklace.
"I mean, who is it from?" I growled. Bella inched away from me, and I felt instantly guilty for frightening her.
"Umm, I don't remember. We've gotten so many things from people I've never heard of. Both necklaces came together. Let me see if I can find the card… I tied them all together to write thank yous."
Bella hastily jumped to her feet, eager to get more space between the two of us.
"No, no, let me find the card." She pulled out a huge stack cards and letters and a few sheets of legal stationary from a pocket inside her luggage. No wonder Rosalie was jealous.
As Bella began going through the cards one by one, I stared warily down at the other necklace. It was a small round stone, with a hole punched straight through the middle, and it hung from an intricately woven sterling chain. I didn't know about that one, but I had no doubt about the berry necklace. They were Rowan berries; often used for protection.
"Here it is…" Bella began reading aloud from the card:
For the brave Mr. Cullen and his new mate,
You've helped us more than you know. In the spirit of Feriae Augusti, please accept the stone necklace with my wish that you get everything that your heart desires. And take the red beaded necklace with the wish that the newest member of your coven lives in peace and safety.
"And this came with the mail?" I felt weak in the knees, desperate, and I couldn't bring myself to pick the items off the floor.
"Regular old USPS."
Suddenly Jasper was at the door. "Alice? What happened, baby?"
"Jasper, it's Aine."
It was as if I were dropping like a stone, a burning stone, hurtling towards the ground, but the ground never came. And all the while, something was being unthreaded from the fabric of who I was, and I writhed with the slowly unwinding pain, searing as it tore, bit by bit. And then a white-hot light ripped at my back, and I screamed over and over again. Until there was nothing left to unwind and I was only a body, and the pain that caused my undoing began to coalesce.
It was a glowing and unruly pain that moved from my fingers and toes, through my limbs and towards my chest. And then, after it concentrated and burned there for an unending amount of time (no, that's not true; it lasted for exactly three thousand thirty-six breaths,) it throttled upwards until it stuck in my throat.
And my furor at having this thing, this feeling, this unholy monstrosity lodged within my body, made me tear at my face with my fingertips, and shriek and groan. My eyelids finally snapped open and I was awash in unending dark detail. The world neither glowed nor sparkled, (and why should it, I wondered for half of a second exactly,) but I could see all of it. Every dismal detail sprung to life before my eyes. And I was unsatisfied.
My ears and eyes and nose searched the night for answers. I was full of rage and blinding agony and something else, something unrealized but vital. And as I looked down at my smooth, pale skin, glimmering faintly in the dim light of this dank alley, as I flexed my arms and legs full of glorious strength, studied the smooth edges of my fingernails, I felt I should know something… I should know whose body this was. And what this body was. How it came to be here, in this dark and dirty and lonely place.
Lonely. Should I be here with another? I searched my mind fruitlessly. Everything I knew from the moment of my first awareness played itself out in my mind; orderly, from start to finish, like a methodically organized catalogue. I didn't see any evidence of companionship. Nothing. Not a glimmer. But as soon as I'd had the thought, I knew that I should be here with someone else. But, who?
And then I heard it: my purpose. One of the missing, vital pieces of the puzzle was coming closer: warm, thumping, and sweeter than heaven. Heaven? My mouth watered and my throat burned, as a scent more delicious than life itself blew towards me on the breeze, eliciting sparks of sensation that coursed over my crystalline skin.
Suddenly, without thinking, I was off running, like the wind itself. I leapt and tackled, and then cradled something impossibly soft, pulsing and warm in my arms. I recognized it as a human female. My mind pulled the words from some unknowable dark chasm within myself, as the creature screamed and scratched with all the effect of a mewling newborn kitten. In one quick and graceful motion, I pulled chestnut locks out of my way, and sunk my teeth into her neck.
I was finally alive and satisfied, and I saw the details of this dim world in inconceivably richer detail, and I could smell with unexpected distinction. And as the flow of blood from the human slowed to a trickle, I luxuriated in the texture of the creamy human skin under my fingertips. It was like silk, or caramel, and as my eyes swept over it, I noticed that I was tearing it like tissue paper with my appreciative touch. The human's blood was streaming down my fingers as well as running down my chin, and I smiled appreciatively. I absentmindedly tugged at the silken strands of hair on the human's head, and they easily pulled free from the scalp: so soft, and so matted with warm and delectable, life-giving blood. I'd found one answer, at least.
And then, like an unwelcome guest, the loneliness returned. I needed more. More than blood. I sat, resting next to the lifeless human, running my fingers over the delicate features of her face, breaking each bone as I went. So delicate. So delicious. I needed to find another. Soon.
I looked at her large, lifeless green eyes, her long black eyelashes, and the way her short blue-black hair fell against her bloodied forehead.
And, in a blinding flash, I saw a female. She was like me: the same subtly glittering pale white flesh, the same grace, the same long limbs and short stature. She had a head of short, blue-black hair. I wondered at her eyes. To my knowledge, I'd never seen my own eyes, but hers were mesmerizing: glimmering like amber. There was something significant about her eyes.
My mind worked quickly, piecing together the puzzle. This female was the one I was supposed to be with: my partner, the one I needed. And she would tell me what I needed to know about myself. Who I was; what I was. In a swift and graceful motion, I tossed the human to the ground and stood tall. I was pleased to find that my legs were stronger than they'd been before I'd drank from the human. I knew that I needed another. And then I would find the female with the black hair and golden eyes. For I also knew that she was mine.
A/N: Wow! Finished! I can't wait to go and change the story description to "complete"!
First... Thank Yous: Jess is an amazing beta and a good friend. I think the sky could be falling and she'd still try to get my edits back to me in hours. Lindz... she practically runs FFFW, and she still takes time for my stories. And Jamie, without her, I'd never get vampire psychology right. And of course, my readers and reviewers: thanks for taking the time to read, and sending all of your reviews. I hope you've enjoyed this little ride, and I hope you try out Polar Night, an alternate Breaking Dawn.
Secondly... my beta warned there may be questions. This story naturally flows into Polar Night from here. So answers about the significance of various necklaces (unless you know about faerie lore) will all be revealed in Polar Night. Also, the newborn at the end... I thought it was obvious, but maybe not. Do you guys know who it is?
OK. Umm... can't believe this is finished! I love you guys! xxx, m