Hello all! A new chapter in time for the opening night of Breaking Dawn, Part II! Even though I do not follow the movies or by any means encourage you to see them, I did insert a small nod to the cinematic finish of the series that inspired this bit of fan fiction. I've been in such a mood to write lately, so who knows? Maybe I'll get this story done in time to publish the final chapter on its third anniversary. Wishful thinking.


Aro was pacing alone in the courtyard, trying to articulate the perfect words for an invisible companion. As the sky began to glow a light blue with the signs of morning, he realized it'd been several hours since he slipped away from the bed he and Bella had shared for the past six months. Of course, as a sleepless immortal being tasked with leading vampire civilization, it was routine for him to leave in the midst of the night, but he was certain to return each morning before she woke.

As the sun peered over the horizon and his skin faintly glimmered in the feeble light, he turned to retreat into the castle only to be faced with a particularly somber looking Marcus awaiting him in the doorway.

"Ah, Marcus," Aro called in his typically smooth voice, hoping he wouldn't have to learn the reason behind Marcus' troubled appearance.

"I've noticed your peculiar habit of returning to this exact spot each night for the past week, Aro. Care to explain why you're here, or rather, whose ghost you've been colluding with?"

Aro chuckled. Marcus could be a master of subtly and an unparalleled negotiator in all matters but those in which he was emotionally invested.

"Well, it may please you to know," Aro replied in a playful manner, "I was not engaging in a discussion rather than rehearsing one."

"Oh?" Marcus inquired with a raised brow.

"Yes, and if you can keep it a secret, which I happen to know is a most excellent skill of yours, I will summarize its contents with this," he explained as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. He gingerly unwrapped it to reveal the secret- a ring. It was a simple white gold band, which Aro planned to be set with the stone on Bella's necklace.

"You intend to propose marriage to Bella?" Marcus asked, though he knew the answer well enough. He had felt Aro's growing affections for Bella throughout the years, which had only solidified in the past few months as a legitimate couple.

"Yes. I'm planning for St. Valentine's Day. Apparently it has some romantic connotations these days that make it the most auspicious date. I think she would like it," Aro explained with a small smile, eyes never leaving the ring in his palm.

"And you think this to be a wise endeavor?" Marcus questioned with the tiniest inkling of criticism. Aro perceived the meaning and returned his eyes to Marcus.

"Of course. It only seems natural that we make her a proper member of our coven and announce her as my official mate," Aro said without missing a beat. He'd contemplated the idea incessantly for a week. Or perhaps longer. Since the moment they kissed, he knew he never wanted to live life without her.

"Knowing you would need to turn her? Force her into a life with you without ever being given a real choice?" Marcus said calmly and yet with intensity in his eyes.

Aro frowned and opened his mouth to retort in anger, but stopped himself. Instead, he let out a reassured laugh and placed a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Don't worry, my ever prudent Marcus. If freedom is what she wants, then she'll simply refuse my offer. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's somewhere I need to be," he said before promptly disappearing into the castle.

Marcus let out a sigh and cast his eyes toward the red sky. How could a bird desire freedom when they have forgotten that they live in a cage?

~:-:~

Bella sighed as she trekked through the Volturi corridors to her room. It had been such a long and lovely day. She had an authentic Tuscan breakfast in the morning. She had been so spoiled by European delicacies for so many years she could seldom remember her former diet of American fast food tasted like. In the afternoon she had taken piano lessons from Alec, who turned out to be a very accommodating teacher. In the last few months she had progressed considerably, and he handed her a Chopin mazurka as her first full-scale classical piece. He assured her it was Chopin today and Debussy tomorrow. She played a number of games with Jane and Tessy for the remainder of the evening, and at some times even convinced a passing Marcus or Caius to join. They would sound reluctant at first, but Caius was fiercely competitive and Marcus had an incredible poker face. Aro appeared around dinnertime. He had been suspiciously scarce lately, and sometimes Bella would wake in the night and notice his absence. She didn't make a fuss since she knew he would return in the morning, so she let him go on believing he'd fooled her. But she felt it in her heart when he went missing. She had tried to resist, yet she was irrevocably happy with him. Guilt buried deep inside still nagged at her conscience, and she didn't know if she deserved a second chance, if it was fair. But everything seemed perfect in this hazy dream world. Why question it…?

As she placed a hand on the doorknob, she noticed something was amiss. There was a smell emanating from her room. An earthy, musky scent that seemed so familiar. Almost…

Her eyes widened as she finally found the memory. She pushed open the door and immediately recognized the intruder.

"Is that really you…? Jacob?"

It had been years since Bella had seen him, but he looked just as supernaturally tall as she remembered, albeit slightly less muscular. Any signs of childhood softness were replaced by hard lines. His high cheekbones and strong jawline were even more defined with age, his black hair neatly lining the sides of his face, which was now marked with a few faint scars. He dark skin was covered with a light sheen of sweat, evidence of his three-story climb up to her window. Her curtains billowed around him as a cold wind invaded her room, and even in the Italian winter, he wore only a thin shirt and jeans.

"Bella," the specter replied with a low growl.

This couldn't be real. He was a ghost. Or she was dead. She'd died in her sleep and gone to heaven. Or maybe this was hell, and he was her reckoning. There was only one way to know.

She cautiously approached him, a different emotion following each step. Complete despair. Unadulterated joy. Sickening confusion. Immense relief. She reached out a hand and placed it on his chest. She almost gasped at the heat.

The anger Jacob had harbored for years, at her but primarily himself, dissipated with her touch. He took her small, pale hand in his and drew it up to his cheek. Her scent, which had been long dead, was all too welcome.

"Bella," he repeated, yet this time in a softer voice almost resembling a whimper.

She let go of a small sob as a he pulled her into a full embrace. Tears rimmed her eyes as she held onto her long lost friend. It was if no time had elapsed since they last met, and it occurred to her that their last parting hadn't been much different than their reunion. She almost expected his lips to seek hers. But Jacob had grown more temperate. Perhaps through years of disciplining control over his wolfish tendencies.

"Oh, my god. Oh, my god, my god!" she cried as the reality finally sunk in. Jacob was here. Jacob was alive! He wasn't a ghost and he wasn't dead. He was here, he was warm, he was breathing and his heart was beating. She cupped his face, ran her hands along his shoulders, tugged at his hair. All the dreams she'd had longing to see him again, all the times she'd told herself she never would. It was as if suddenly anything were possible.

"I thought…" she started, her voice wavering as her chest tightened. She couldn't muster the will to say it out loud, but he understood.

"I know! I thought you had, too."

She looked at him with tears in her eyes and shuddered. Not from shock or the cold, but the unexpected urge to laugh. It didn't make sense, but neither did this moment. Before they knew it, they were both in hysterics. Hugging, crying and laughing all at once. When they finally caught their breath, Bella felt the urgency of the situation.

"Jacob, you shouldn't have come here. They'll kill you if they find you."

She felt his grip on her tense as he stared at her with fiery eyes.

"You think anything could have stopped me from getting to you once I knew you were alive?"

"How did you find me?" she asked with genuine curiosity as to how this miracle came about.

"Charlie. He received a letter from you two weeks ago, and-"

Before he could finish the answer, the door opened. Jacob snarled as he defensively pulled Bella closer and shielded her with his arm, which instantly increased in size while sprouting fur and claws. Jacob hadn't lost any muscle; he had just grown more adept at shape shifting.

Jane, looking more murderous than Bella had ever seen her, stood with fangs bared and eyes narrowed.

"Let her go, and maybe I will spare you," she hissed.

"Are you kidding me? I'm never letting go of Bella again!" Jacob barked.

"I won't let you kidnap her!"

"Me, kidnap her?! You are the kidnappers!"

Bella felt dizzy. It felt like she was watching the end of the world. Her old life and her new one were violently clashing and destroying each other.

"Stop, please…" she pleaded before her knees buckled.

She heard the people she loved calling her name as she faded into blackness.

~:-:~

When Bella woke, it was sometime late in the night and her head was pounding. Bella's first assumption was that the entire commotion had just been another dream. But then a worried Jane and Alec wouldn't be sitting by her bedside.

"I… fainted?" she asked as she blinked her way into consciousness.

"Yes. I can only imagine the ordeal that nasty wolf put you through," Jane replied, dabbing her forehead with a wet towel.

"Don't worry, Bella. We easily apprehended him- one wolf is no match for the entire Volturi coven. We've locked him away in the dungeon, and he'll face a swift execution in the morning," Alec said, assuming she would feel relieved. Instead, her face went white as she absorbed his words in horror.

"Execution?! No!"

Bella couldn't bare the thought of losing him a second time. She shoved her bedding aside and fell to the floor. Before Alec or Jane could register her panicked response, she was rushing out the door.

"Bella! Where are you going?!"

~:-:~

Aro sat in the main chamber, silent and livid. How DARE that monstrous creature lay a finger on his Bella. That lowly, filthy animal had infiltrated his home and frightened his bride-to-be. It was an intolerable offense, and he contemplated the true joy he would feel upon administering the fatal punishment the dog deserved.

"Aro!"

A very disoriented and distressed Bella stood before him. Yet in all her weak and disheveled appearance, there was the resonant sound of anger in the way she shrieked his name. Too concerned about her well being to understand her rage, he rushed to her side.

He placed a gentle hand on her arm to help her balance, only for her to forcefully shrug it off.

"How could you not tell me?" she shouted. Her face was bright red and she was nearly hyperventilating, either from running across the castle or from the deep barb of betrayal that was burrowing into her heart.

"Tell you what, my love?" Aro asked innocently, trying to calm the tempest storm swelling in Bella's chest.

"That Jacob survived! You said there were no survivors!" she screamed accusingly.

"Oh, come now. He was a wolf. Certainly you were only inquiring about members of the Olympic coven."

"You KNEW they were my friends! Like family! How many stories have I told you about my life back home?! How many times have I said his name with pain in my voice?!"

At this point the entire castle, already on alert from the situation of a dangerous intruder, was fully aware of the fight ensuing. Caius and Marcus stood on the opposite end while Jane and Alec simply watched stupefied from the doorway. No one else dared to enter the room, easily choosing a battle with a werewolf to an enraged Bella.

Before Aro had the chance to give her a sugar-laced reply, she continued.

"And the letters I wrote to my parents?! Why are they just now receiving them?"

For that, Aro had no excuse. He remembered the day she'd written them, how she looked almost optimistic for the first time since she arrived, and he simply did not have the heart to tell her sending them was an absolute breach of a thoroughly established security. Instead, he instructed Jane to dispose of them. He looked to Jane, whose eyes were intently downcast.

"Bella…"

"You lied to me!" she screamed.

Tears were now streaming down her face. He hated to see her so upset. He hated that he had caused her pain.

"I lied to protect you," he answered desperately.

"You lied to protect yourself!"

With those final stinging words, she fled from the room. Jane followed closely behind her, while Alec remained motionless in the doorway. Caius and Marcus looked pained, while Aro was frozen in shock.

"I hadn't hoped for this…" Marcus said, softly breaking the heavy silence.

"That mutt is acquainted with our Bella?" Caius asked.

"It would seem so."

Caius almost snorted at his response.

"That makes killing him a little complicated."

The two discussed the problem at hand while Aro stayed uncharacteristically mute, glaring darkly out one of the windows facing away from the conversation.

"I sense a strong bond between the two. Severing it could cause severe damage to Bella's psychological wellbeing. And she has already suffered a great deal," Marcus said, an empathetic sorrow in his voice.

"She won't be happy about this. But perhaps in time, she'll forgive us. A human heart heals with greater speed than the stagnant hearts of vampires."

"I'm not so sure, Caius. Killing that werewolf would traumatize her. I don't want to fathom the consequences. Particularly actions she might take against herself-"

"Enough," Aro interjected abruptly.

"The wolf will be set free, so long as he promises never to return. Isabella has dutifully served us. She will be released in the morning to reside where ever she so chooses."

The pair looked to Aro dumbfounded, but before the other two elders could speak a word, he hastily retreated into what remained of the night.

~:-:~

Bella had lived in the Volturi castle for years, but never in that time had she thought to explore the dungeons. In this moment, she regretted that decision. Not only was it blindingly dark, but there was no semblance of logic to the mess of cages holed deep into the ground.

"Jacob!" she cried into the darkness. She heard his faint reply echo across the stone halls, but was unable to detect the direction of his voice. Right as she was about to surrender to frustration, she felt a small hand clasp hers.

"I'll lead you to him," spoke the soft voice of Jane.

"Thank you," Bella whispered as she let the vampire youth guide her through the darkness. To her relief, the portion of the dungeon where they had chained Jacob was partially lit by a small hole penetrating through the ceiling of the cell. As soon as she saw him, bruised and bloodied while pressed up against the bars, she rushed to him.

"Jacob! Oh, god! I'm so sorry, Jacob," she cried as she gently touched his swollen lip.

"It's fine, I'm fine. You should see the other guy," he said with a smile, which was now noticeably missing a tooth. She couldn't help but giggle at how one missing tooth could make the rugged, full-grown Jacob look like a child who had just fallen off a swing set. They both broke out into laughter, sharing the same thought. Bella closed her eyes and let out a soft sigh. She always had fun with Jacob no matter how grave the situation, and it seemed just like old times. When she opened her eyes, Jacob's face was stern, yet confident.

"Come home with me, Bella."

Her smile changed into a pain-stricken look. Jacob noticed and felt it puncture an old wound. She had made that face many times before, and even after all these years, he still remembered what it looked like when Bella was going to refuse him. But not this time.

"Jacob…" she started to protest before he quickly interrupted.

"Come back to Washington, Bella! You don't belong here, with those…" he started when looked to Jane, who was silently waiting in the corner. She did not look at them or flinch when Jacob poised to insult the Volturi, but only out of deep respect towards Bella. His honor wouldn't let him scorn someone who revered Bella as much as he did.

"With the Volturi. Come back with me," he said and reached out to gently touch her chin. She bit her lip instinctively, a habit she thought she had broken years ago. It was so easy to feel comfortable around Jacob, and she couldn't deny that she had missed him dearly.

"You know this place will never be a home for a human, and you don't need to give up your soul for me. You'll always be safe and warm with me. Breathing fresh air, heart beating, sleeping peacefully," he said in a calm tone, stroking a lock of hair behind her ear. His words were almost enchanting, his low voice enough to lull you into a dream.

"And my dad?" Bella asked, breaking her reverie.

"Charlie? He's tough, but losing you changed him. He never wanted to accept that you were really gone this time. He never stopped looking for you, believing you were out there somewhere. After awhile, we all thought he was crazy, even I…"

Jacob looked away, calming the anger he felt against himself. He had given up hope like everyone else. Only Charlie knew the truth in his melancholy heart's convictions. He should've done the same.

"Jacob, it's OK…" Bella reassured him. She didn't blame him for giving up hope. Sometimes that was better than breaking your heart every day by holding onto it.

"You need to come back with me, Bella. Charlie needs you. I need you. Please," he begged.

After all their kindness, how could she desert the Volturi now? She had finished her assigned task, her entire reason for staying in Volterra, but they all simply ignored the fact that she had finished well before the deadline. What could she do?

"Bella."

Marcus stood behind her, Jane now at his back. He took her hand and helped her up from the floor, placing a large set of bronze keys in her palm.

"Release your friend and follow me."

~:-:~

Dawn was breaking when Bella and Jacob entered the council chambers. Marcus had informed her that the Volturi had decided to give her control of her fate. Aro, Caius and Marcus were all assembled at their respective seats while Jane and Alec stood solemnly by the door. On the surface, it appeared like any other day for the Volturi. But in each member's heart, they felt a strong anxiety as Bella advanced toward the council with her decision. She felt a sudden affection for all of them, but she sought out Aro. However, he was resolute in avoiding her gaze.

"So Bella, have you made your choice?" Caius asked.

"I… I have," she responded meekly. Aro's eyes finally met with hers. In them, she heard all his thoughts, even if she wasn't psychic. She wished she could open her mind to him this once. Truly let him know how much he meant to her, since her words wouldn't be able to help him understand.

"I will return to Forks," she declared in a loud yet wistful voice. Aro removed his gaze from her, stoically looking forward while Caius made the official judgment.

"In that case, we the three Volturi leaders, enforcers of the Vampiric world order and punishers of Immortal injustice, hereby release Isabella Marie Swan from our service. In return for our hospitality and mercy, you are expected to remain eternally silent of vampire existence and are expressly forbidden from revealing said existence to the human world. Any and all infractions are punishable by death… though I'm sure you understand everything clearly, Bella," Caius said, ending his formal declaration with familiarity as a small acknowledgment of their friendship. Bella accepted it with a reciprocating nod.

"As for you," he said, turning to Jacob with a less cordial tone, "you are henceforth banished from Volterra for the remainder of your mortal life. Disregard of your sentence or silence will be rectified by a swift death. Do you understand, Mr. Black?"

"I do," Jacob said curtly. He hated every minute spent in this prison, but its wardens had kept Bella safe and healthy, so he would be grateful for that.

"Then you are both free to go," Caius said in a firm tone, but without his dutiful spirit.

"Let's go," Jacob said, insistently tugging at Bella's arm.

"Wait!" she protested, freeing herself from his grip and turning to Jane and Alec. The twins were mirror images in their disappointment. She got down to her knees to speak to them at their level.

"Bella, why are you leaving? Don't you know you don't have to go?" Alec asked with the pleading eyes of his human age.

"Oh, Alec, I do have to go. But promise me you'll keep playing music, even if there's no audience. Always do the things you love for you, not for anyone else," she instructed before looking to Jane.

"Jane, keep your brother company. You are lucky to have a sibling because it means you'll never have to be alone. Both of you remember that. As long as you have each other, and as long as I'm alive, you'll never be alone."

"We promise," they answered in perfect unison. As she reached out to embrace the heart-breaking children, she felt the tears in her eyes. They eagerly scrambled into her arms, reluctant to let go as she stood to leave.

She looked over to the council chairs and noticed that Aro had gone missing.

"Aro?" she called out in a heavyhearted cry. She was abandoning her lover and greatest friend, and he was doing the same.

"He's versed in many texts and adept at many skills, but saying goodbye was never one of them," Marcus said, sensing her guilt.

"I just… Give this to him, won't you?" she asked, removing the pendant from her neck and trusting Marcus to return it.

"Keep it," he insisted, carefully re-clasping it around her neck, "I'm sure Aro would want it that way."

Bella stared at the sapphire, her own Volturi emblem, before the tears finally fell and she rushed into Marcus' arms.

"There, there," Marcus said in his paternal tone, "you will be alright. You will live a beautiful life. My only regret it that I won't be able to see it."

Bella stifled a sob and nodded as she pulled away from him. Marcus had been a patient and attentive mentor for her recovery from the start. She owed her life to him, but it was a debt he would never expect to be paid. All the members of the Volturi, underneath a cold guarded exterior, were what made Bella certain in her belief that vampires must have souls.

As Bella left Volterra and took steps into the morning light, she couldn't help but feel that she was leaving home more than returning to it.


The end… Just kidding! I've still got three more chapters in store for you. I hope you enjoyed the latest, please read and review to fuel inspiration for the next chapter!