Where we left off:

We sat in silence for several hours before either of us said anything else. It was so nice to just be for a little while. My mind was silent as I took in the beauty surrounding us.

"Come 'ere," Jasper said as he stood up and offered me his hand.

We walked toward the stream and along it until we came to where it ran into a large circle. The flowing water stopped there as if it found its home and needn't go farther. Right where the stream flowed in, the water rippled, but the rest of the water was completely still. It created a silver, mirror-like effect. I stepped right up to the edge and looked down into the water. What I saw had me gasping for air my body no longer really needed.

"Surprised?" Jasper asked.

"Very."

Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own these characters...


Chapter Twenty Seven

Not So Different

The face staring back at me was me. I expected to look different…not sure exactly in what ways, just different. The red eyes and slightly paler skin were the only major distinctions between the human me and the vampire me. I couldn't help thinking I'd failed in this too. I couldn't even look like a vampire. How much more proof did I need? No matter what anyone said, the evidence was staring me right in the face.

"Bella? Why're you feelin' so self-deprecating? I thought this would be a good surprise." Jasper's confusion rolled over me, and I wondered how I could explain my thoughts.

"I'm the same." I sighed and turned away from the water after flicking my reflection with my fingertips. It distorted and rippled, matching my mood.

"Exactly. So why the long face?"

"Because I can't do a fucking thing right. My entire life has been a series of mistakes, right from the start. I was a mistake Renee should've gotten rid of rather than burdening herself with a daughter she didn't even want!" I was shouting at Jasper, and somewhere deep down I knew he didn't deserve it, but he was convenient and I needed to vent.

"Feel better, darlin'?" he asked even though he knew I wasn't. That just pissed me off even more.

"No. When will this end? I can't take much more. I want to rip my brain out of my head to make it stop for even just one second. I want to go into the nearest town and drain every last person in it for no other reason than because I can." I swung my arms around in an effort to release even an ounce of all the frustration I was feeling.

Before I even registered he'd moved, Jasper was on top of me. I reacted instinctively and threw him off, sending him into a nearby tree. The large trunk splintered and the tree began to fall, but Jasper was right back in my face. He grabbed my arm, twisting and pinning it behind my back, and snarled in my ear. The sound sent a wave of anger coursing through me. Somehow I was able to spin around and reverse our position. I growled at the satisfaction I felt from getting the upper hand. Of course that smug feeling didn't last long, and Jasper quickly had me under him on the ground, again. He positioned his body weight in such a way that it made moving nearly impossible.

"That all ya got, newborn?" Jasper taunted me as he pushed my face deeper into the damp soil.

For some reason, him calling me newborn, stripping me of my identity, made me even angrier. A feral sounding snarl ripped through my throat as I bucked up, knocking Jasper a good hundred yards away. He effortlessly landed on all fours and immediately came at me again. I fought with everything I had and relished each time I got a hit in or took Jasper down. He was probably letting me, but I didn't care. When I accidently ripped off his arm, I momentarily came to my senses.

"What the hell, Jasper?" I sputtered out in shock as I held his twitching limb.

Instead of answering, Jasper leapt off the ground and over my head, attempting to kick my chest as he hovered right above me. I reached up and grabbed his leg. The sound of it detaching from his hip was even more horrific than the one made when I ripped off his arm. This time, however, I had no qualms about taking advantage of his vulnerability. Teetering on one leg Jasper still wasn't giving up. He attempted to grab me with his still-attached arm. Before he could ensnare me, I swung his detached leg like a baseball bat, hitting him square in the chest and sending him soaring once again.

Someone breaking through the trees on the other side of the clearing finally had me backing away from the destruction I had caused. I shook my head in disbelief at what I'd done. Alice ran over to Jasper and asked him if he was all right. He looked up at her like she had lost her mind. Disgusted with myself, I threw his appendages in their direction and took off running as fast as I could. I pushed my body through the undergrowth and ran until I reached the ocean. I debated jumping in and continuing to put more distance between me and my horrific actions, but I knew that wasn't the best idea. It was bad enough I was out here alone when the Volturi were looking for me, when I could potentially stumble too close to civilization.

The sound of a small herd of deer had me on the move once again, determined to satiate my thirst. I stalked the animals for a few miles, relishing in the thrill of the hunt. I was focused solely on my next meal. The largest buck stopped and sniffed the air as if sensing there was danger nearby. I took advantage of his hesitation and pounced. In my haste to feed, I ended up tearing his head off. It rolled to the ground, blood gushing in all directions. I opened my mouth and let the red goodness land on my tongue. Soon I was covered in blood and more desperate than ever. Once all the buck's blood was gone, I pivoted and headed in the direction of another member of the scattered herd. The next one met the same fate as the first. I crushed every bone in the body of my third victim. After my forth kill, I rocked back onto my heels, taking in the carnage before me. Part of me was proud of my barbaric actions. I knew I should be appalled by my behavior, but as I stood there, staring at the gruesome remains, I couldn't find it in me to give a damn.

Piling the carcasses, I lit them on fire and watched as the flames consumed the fur, muscles, organs and bones. So much for being an exemplary newborn, I thought. I was pretty certain even Jasper would be flabbergasted by my activities these last few hours. With my thirst quenched for the moment, I began wondering what I was going to do next. There was no way I was going back to the Cullen house feeling like I did, especially since I didn't feel any remorse over any of it. I was a vampire. And for the first time since I became one, I actually felt like a vampire.

I found my way back to the shore and sat on the ground next to a big rock, leaning my back against its cool surface. The boulder concealed me and made me feel somewhat safe. Two days passed as I pondered my future. It took everything I had to keep me from searching for a nice warm human to taste. I finally understood why keeping a vegetarian diet was so difficult. I hadn't consumed a single drop of human blood, yet I craved it. The longing to totally give into my nature was overwhelming.

"Isabella." My name was spoken with reference and relief. Carlisle had been circling the area for some time, trying to pinpoint my exact location. I could have, should have, called out to him to let him know where I was. His expression as he looked down at me just about killed me.

"Stop looking at me like that," I pled as I turned my head away. Maybe I should have kept going, I thought as Carlisle sat down beside me, undeterred by my outburst.

"Want to talk about it?"

"No." I really didn't want to rehash everything and see a look of disappointment in his eyes.

"All right. Are you ready to come home?"

"No."

"You should know Jasper purposefully antagonized you. He thought you needed to get out some of that pent up aggression you were carrying around. He's impressed with how thoroughly you kicked his ass." Carlisle laughed.

"He was going easy on me."

"Actually, he claims he wasn't. He underestimated your abilities. He won't make that mistake again." Carlisle actually sounded proud.

"I was cruel."

"No, Bella, you reacted to a perceived threat. When Edward saw what happened through Jasper's thoughts, he said you were magnificent."

"I thought he detested violence."

"I think you would be surprised how much he has changed in the last ten years. You started a chain reaction, I think. He is better for knowing you and for loving you."

Without another word Carlisle stood up and held out his hand for me to take. He wasn't going to give me the option of staying. He was right, of course. I needed to head back to the house and face reality. Jasper wanted to work on honing some of the fighting techniques he'd been teaching me. I'd only been a vampire for a week, and I could already see how much time had been wasted sleeping. It was amazing how much I could get accomplished when I had all twenty four hours of each day.

We didn't rush back. Instead, Carlisle kept us at a leisurely pace. Well, a leisurely pace for vampires but still faster than any human could move. We talked about why I ran, and Carlisle was honestly surprised to learn it all started because of seeing my reflection. He pulled me to a stop and into his arms.

"But, Bella, you're exquisite. I don't understand why seeing yourself would have that effect on you. You were so close to perfection when human that there were simply few improvements that could be made. Your hair is three inches longer and a little fuller. Your waist pulled in an eighth of an inch, and your hips widened almost exactly an inch. The small lines around your eyes and mouth are gone. You look a few years younger. It will make blending in so much easier for you. I am certain you could pass as either a doctor or a student. Plus, your eyes are like the purest rubies, and I am almost ashamed to admit that I will miss the red when your diet changes the color to amber.

"Isabella, you are the most amazing, wonderful being I have ever met. I am in awe of you and love you with everything that I am."

His words touched my stagnant heart. It may no longer beat, but I felt emotions even more intensely than I had when it did. I hadn't thought it was possible to love Carlisle any more intensely, but he proved me wrong all the time.

"Thank you, Carlisle. I hadn't thought of it that way. I thought it was one more way I failed."

"Stop!" he practically yelled, shocking me. He'd never raised his voice at me before. His hands gripped me tightly around my upper arms, using just enough pressure to get my attention but not hurt me. "You most certainly have not failed. You are an extraordinary vampire, and you were an astonishing human. I want nothing more than for you to finally see that for yourself."

With that he pulled me to him and kissed me. It was a more forceful kiss than we usually shared, not that I was complaining. I loved when Carlisle let go a bit and allowed his baser self show. He was clearly a man on a mission, and I was happy to be along for the ride. He ripped what remained of my tattered clothing off of me without moving his lips from mine. I couldn't have stopped the moan that escaped even if I'd wanted to. There was nothing gentle about the way Carlisle was handling me, and I loved every second of it. I knew he would never truly hurt me. Having that absolute trust in someone was the most exquisite gift I could ever receive. The next few hours with Carlisle's feral side were a pretty close second, however.

"You are more precious to me than anything or anyone else ever has been or ever will be. I will love you for the rest of time and still feel like it is not enough time to love you." He showered every inch of my skin with soft kisses while we basked in our post coital bliss. "You are so utterly amazing. I know I do not deserve you." He pressed his finger against my lips to hold in my protest. "But, I will spend each and every day showing you how much I appreciate you choosing me. How much I adore you. I love you, Isabella."

"I love you too, Carlisle, so much," I stated emphatically.

"It seems our clothes are not fit to wear. Although, I cannot say I am sorry about that. When we return to the others, there will be no doubt in their minds what we have been doing. We reek of sex, which will reinforce the fact that you are mine, Isabella. You will always be mine. Just as I will always be yours.

"There is something else you should be made aware of before we return. While you were gone, some of the others went above and beyond, rounding up quite a few friends and such to join us against the Volturi."

I looked at him in shock. "That's amazing. But I still wish none of you had to face any of this. It's all because of me, and I'll feel horrible if anyone is hurt."

"Isabella, the Volturi have been taking unwilling vampires into their army for thousands of years. They search the world for those with talents they feel will be useful to them. I witnessed this myself while there. Alice and I were not the only ones on the receiving end of their wrath during that time. What we heard and witnessed solidified our resolve to do anything we could to prevent them continuing such practices. Even vampires deserve the choice."

We made it back to the house and were immediately thrust back into the madness. Esme was screaming at Edward. Alice was trying to calm her down while Emmett and Rose held back a growling Edward, who looked positively livid. The other vampires who had come to our aid stood in a loose circle. Some of them looked uncertain about whether or not they should intervene, and the others seemed amused or bored.

All eyes turned to us at the sound of our approach. Carlisle wrapped an arm around my waist and gently pushed me behind him, likely both in a gesture of protection and to hide my unclothed body from their view. Not that he seemed to care that everyone was seeing him in all his naked glory.

"That is enough!" Carlisle commanded, making it very difficult for me to keep from attacking him then and there, witnesses be damned. "Isabella and I are going to get dressed, and then we are all going to work together to prepare to face the Volturi."

Oh goodness, that was hot. Every vampire instantly bowed their head to acknowledge his authority. He didn't wait for any further responses before leading me into the house and straight to his room.

After dressing me in some of his clothes then dressing himself, we headed back out to face everyone. Carlisle left no room for argument as he took the reins and started ordering our small army around. He was magnificent. Power oozed out of him as he effortlessly took command. Jasper was appointed to lead us through some fighting exercises. For just over three days, we worked non-stop, following Carlisle's instructions. We were then paired off to hunt in turns. No one was allowed to wander off alone, and the house was never left unguarded.

After the fifth day, the tension between Esme, Edward and Carlisle came to a head. We had been focusing on preparations, and I had a feeling Jasper was using their dissonance to help us put our best effort into our practice fights. We had started off going too easy on each other, not wanting to hurt a member of our family or those who had come to assist us. However, within a few hours we were voraciously attacking one another.

When Alice finally got a concrete vision of the Volturi's next move, we were ready. I could practically feel everyone's need to end the uncertainty, to just get past the altercation, so we could go about our lives…or cease to exist. Alice had more visions of us winning than not, giving us more confidence that we would come out the other side, maybe not unscathed but intact. At least mostly.


A/N: Anyone still here?

Apparently, one of you amazing readers recommended this story to Twilightfamilysagas... I'll post the link on my profile since ffn is getting smarter about blocking links no matter how much I alter it...

Thank you. Real life has a way of interfering with my writing obsession...I'll always come back, though.

The M rating has been questioned...I chose M to be safe and because I knew it was going to get a bit gory (although, I did expect that to happen a bit earlier; these characters dictate their stories). M does not equal lemons, so I'm sorry if that's what you were expecting when you started reading. If that's news to you, make sure to check out the Rules & Guidelines section of the site.

Thanks Bunches,

~SP