This chapter is brought to you by the AMAZING efforts of YNotJacob and Shawnie. I would have never finished it without them. Please listen to the following song to set the tone while you read.
kristinhersh (dot) cashmusic (dot) org/series2/ - Song is called Flooding by Krisin Hersh
It moves slowly, crawling each painful millimeter toward oblivion. The thing inside of me wriggles within my flesh like maggots in an open wound, eating the flesh it needed to survive, invading through every possible opening. I can feel it, alive and greedy, anxious for my death. I lift my hand off the ground but it doesn't move, I cry out for release but I make no sound. The squirming death holds me captive, my body and my blood at its mercy, there is no escape from the progression of what has infiltrated into my system. It moves at the speed of light but I can feel every time its tongue licks out to taste the next victim within me.
The searing halts its movement, lingering, making sure to devour everything it contacts before moving on. I am paralyzed as I am eaten alive from the inside, the hungry virus revelling in the feast I have provided. My flesh burns as if it is being pealed away, leaving behind raw meat and muscle. My nerve endings scream as glass shards dig into my flesh but I cannot move. I writhe within my prison, screaming for release, panic rising in my throat as I feel the parasite within me taking over. My shoulder blackens from the touch of death, gangrene and inhumane, I am beyond salvation.
Within my head the screeching of the Thunderbird is deafening, it rattles within my skull, seeking escape from the encroaching invasion. The noise competes with the venom to overwhelm my senses, but there is no relief for me, I would give anything for the release of death or the oblivion of unconsciousness. But sinners receive no respite from the tortures of hell. I am the vessel of so much pain my heart bursts and spills, filling the spaces left empty by the venom with my love gone dry. The sacrifices I made were just a lie, like the life I was living and the hope I had.
Nothing...there is nothing for me but pain...
Every wound has a story: my scars, my beautiful tattoos, the cracks in my soul. The story of my life is written in blood and that blood will be the story of my death as well: the infected sludge that defines me is slowing. I lay here being consumed by the poison of my enemy as the Thunderbird weeps of betrayal. Misery would destroy me if I wasn't already dying in pieces as the venom crawls another step forward.
My defenses fall away. The world I was trying so hard to save only moments ago a distant memory; the all-encompassing pain of my death all that's real. This is the precipice of madness, here there is no love, no family, no forgiveness, only the slow flaying of my heart. I know that this agony is of no consequence in comparison to the destruction I brought down around us but still, I pray for someone to take mercy on me. The beginning and the end of time meet in me and nothing exists beyond the burning that inflames my veins, collapsing them into the dust of Alice's obsession.
The Thunderbird's screams reach a new pitch and I feel her terror as she retreats, curling herself up into the tattoo on my wrist that began it all. That venom snakes down my arm, reaching its tendrils out toward her. The evil within me aches for her, desperate to consume and destroy all that is good and right, her power and beauty the ultimate conquest. The war of good and evil wages within me and my heart breaks at all that I have lost holds me captive. My heart is stilling, each beat like a thunder crack within my chest, the storm moving further and further away. My humanity is slipping, everything is slipping.
The poison travels along my bloodstream at an agonizing pace, or perhaps it was at the speed of light and this place of desperation exists outside of time. The Thunderbird pulls away from me, abandoning me to my pain as she fights for her own survival. I can hear nothing but the lengthening silence between heartbeats, no whispered reassurances, no flutterings of hope. She is gone and I am glad that maybe, just maybe one of us will survive this.
Consciousness begins to elude me and the agony in my veins snakes around my heart, squeezing it until it stops completely. I am turned inside out, the hardness of my petrified heart unaware of the movement of the world, the turning of the earth has stilled on its axis, all that is left is the slow spreading of the venom. Galaxies fly by without direction as my inner chasm collapses in on itself, leaving me to suffocate in the darkness. My grasp on reality erodes and I feel my body lift away from me. I cry into the blackness for the Thunderbird, for Jacob, for myself.
Finally my soul submits to the spread of evil within me.
I awoke with a shock. Breath exploded from my lungs like a long held secret desperate to be released and I was stuck by the astounding absence of pain. I was still, terrified to move, analyzing myself slowly. I was aware of my fingers and toes and could feel where something was touching the bare skin on my arms.
I attempted to open my eyes but found the ability escaped me, my consciousness returned before my body and I was trapped within myself. Blackness surrounded me and there was a weight trapping me in place, pushing down upon my chest. Where was I? I began to panic, worried I'd been buried here, stuck forever unable to call out for help.
I reached out with my senses. It was silent. There was no movement or sound where I was but there was a lingering heat against my skin. Was that my humanity or a residual temperature? Further away I could hear the rustle of leaves and the hush of the wind passing through the trees. Further away I could sense the ocean and the warmth of the sun but my concentration was broken as my body cooled and a shiver ran through my skin. Loudest of all was the silence of my still heart. Desperation crashed down on me, I was dead, truly and completely dead. Alice had won.
The silence was shocking; within my mind was a deafening stillness. I could pinpoint the absence of my pulse as the flood of my solitude passed over me. I searched my mind for the Thunderbird's soft voice but she wasn't there. She didn't answer when I soundlessly called her name, keening for her, the loss more than I could bear. I was no longer human, no longer Jake's mate, I no longer had the Thunderbird's kindness wrapped around me, keeping me safe and warm.
Despair pulled me under, worse than the pain I had felt from the venom. I was alone, the ancient soul that had lived in the back of my mind was gone. What was I without the Thunderbird? What was I now? My sanity was clinging to a thread, the mistakes I'd made, the losses I'd suffered I longed to scream, to wail, to claw out of the grave I was lying in. But I was stuck, paralyzed by my own terror, the only company I had.
Slowly I forced myself to calm down, taking deep unnecessary breaths in the hopes that all of this was a dream, that I would wake any moment and find myself in my bed with Jake's arms heavily draped over me. I pulled my eyes open, straining to pull the lids up, freeing me from their veil of death.; the darkness around me was as engulfing as it had been with my eyes shut. My body slowly returned to me and I was able to move ever so slowly. The feeling was unlike anything else, I was struggling to get my limbs to cooperate, to do as I commanded them, but they were tied down, leaden. And yet, there was a complete absence of pain.
I'd stop feeling pain as a common part of life when the Thunderbird joined me - Did she survive? What happens to a spirit when its host dies? Shaking my head, I demanded my body comply.
I was tired and weak as I sluggishly pushed away the weight pinning me down. It was slick and difficult to move. My fingers gripped the rubbery object, losing their grip against the slippery sides until I dug my nails into the soft exterior. I tried not to breathe, to think too much about what was lying on top of me. With a final thrust I shoved and was free of the weight keeping me in place. My strength was quickly returning and I sat up slowly, steadying myself with my hands on the objects around me I didn't dare to look at.
As my sight adjusted I could see the specks of ash swirling in the night sky, the fire had been left to burn itself out, its flames too all consuming to put out. Those flames had licked at my heels and swallowed me whole, pulling me down into its raging belly. I came through the other side, unscathed by its attacks, but everyone around me was dead. Hunks of fur were scattered about, proving that the wolves were injured...or... I looked around and could see the purple haze still hanging in the air from the burning of vampire flesh.
Body parts were strewn about near an ash pile across the room still smoldering from the blaze, a pyre like the pack used to execute vamps. A spark of hope flared within my chest, someone had burned those bodies. Had it been the pack, my beautiful wolves, or perhaps the Cullens? Either way someone had made it out alive. Someone was still out there...Jacob...
The memory of Jake writhing on the floor flashed through my mind. The pain on his face had been too great, too consuming. How could he have survived it? So much pain had been inflicted on him. Would Jane have ever let him go? Or Jared and Sam...? Had any of my wolves survived or were they all...? Seth... God, my fucking foolish pride. I was so sure I could do it alone and now they were dead and the Thunderbird was gone.
Now here I was, sitting in this ashen killing field, without a burn on me. And yet I felt like I'd been buried alive. Was I a husk of who had I once been? Was I empty inside, a shell? Where was my Thunderbird?
I blinked back tears at the thought of being without her, they swelled within me and I was unable to stop as the sorrow spilled out, it was like losing a part of myself. How had I ever lived within this body alone?
I felt another weight on my legs and looked down, the unblinking eyes of Jessica Stanley gazed vacantly back at me. Her face was slack and in the warm night air I could see the deathly shine of her skin. I reached out to touch her face, she was still warm, her soul still so close. If she'd been bitten it was only a matter of time before she changed. My breath choked me, stilling my heart, clenching my soul. How many people had died because of me? Humans, vamps, wolves...how many lives lay wasted in the destruction around me?
My fault, this was all my fault...
My tears fell as I remembered the bright days when Jessica and Lauren had been the worst things in my world. Would I trade all that I had gained to go back to that simple existence? I would, if only it would bring her back...and Seth... He'd died a hero's valiant death, I'd only died, and I couldn't even do that right.
My strength flowed back into me and I could again control my body's movements. I sat upright, wiping my tears away, and stared at the dead girl I'd once considered a friend, lifeless and cold. Looking around I could see other faces I recognized and so many I didn't. My eyes filled again as I thought of the pointlessness of it all.
As I sat, losing my sanity into the downward spiral of death, I felt a chill fold over me. The air around me cooled noticeably making me shiver with eerie familiarity. I felt a soft touch fall upon my shoulder.
"Shhhh...you aren't alone anymore..." an angelic voice sang to me. I closed my eyes, wishing that I had died instead of waking to this fate. I was dead, I was lost, I was one of them now. Why couldn't I have been sacrificed in the place of all those who had died. That was all I had wanted! I did what I thought would reduce the number of deaths, not increase them. I had been willing to go with them, to give myself up and put off the fight until another day! But instead there was death and destruction all around me and I had accomplished nothing. I closed my eyes as terror gripped me.
I sat frozen and her hand glided slowly down my arm to my hand. The chill of her touch froze me to my core.
"You're still so warm sister," she marvelled, her hands never leaving my skin as she helped me to my feet. Jessica's body fell off of me like a forgotten toy.
"I...I still feel warm," I croaked, noting that finally the venom didn't burn and the pain had vanished; it must have worked its way through me. I felt nothing, no pain, no joy - I was empty.
"We didn't expect you to wake for another day at least, you always were a surprise." Her voice was light, soft, but I could feel it in my cells, vibrating through me. Anger rose within me and I kept my eyes down, my pain and hatred so complete I could feel them pounding in my mind.
"You will need to hunt as soon as you can so that the hunger doesn't overcome you."
"What?" I asked, lost in my own thoughts.
"You will need to hunt. We'll find you a camper or two in the woods, or maybe there are some children here left alive." She kicked at the body of a boy who had been in my gym class as if she were checking to see if a tire were flat.
"No...I..." Pulling away from her, my face must have shown my revulsion. Deep within me my blood began to boil. My senses sharpened and I shook off the foggy haze clouding my mind. Everything inside me snapped into place, and I could feel the lustre of the moonlight and hear the sigh of the wind; I was connected to it all, I was connected to life. I marveled at the warmth radiating through me and deep inside I felt a soft rustling within me, a faint flutter.
Alice stepped back from me slowly.
"No..." her voice was a hiss, a curse thrown out with more venom than her bite. I looked down at my hands and turned them over, seeing the pinkish hue of life. I felt the heat continuing to rise within me and slowly I could hear my pulse sluggishly begin again, a slow quiet throb that picked up strength as the fluttering sound of wings filled my ears. My life began again as I stood in the darkness surrounded by death.
"Alice?" Edward appeared at the periphery of the ruins which were once his home. "What's wrong? I ran back as soon as I heard you. She's awake..."
He stepped closer. I couldn't see his expression in the dark night but I could feel him, and he was afraid. My heightened senses were aware of their coldness in juxtaposition with the summer heat. My heart beat faster now, its pace increasing with each breath. I closed my eyes and embraced the fluid return of my life, savoring the heat of my soul and the welcome return of the ancient spirit re-join me.
You saved me, I said to her in a silent prayer
"Edward, something's wrong," Alice's voice was a whisper.
"Bella? Alice? What..."
I could feel his eyes on me, boring into my back. His gaze struck me with pinpoints of ice that melted against my blazing hatred. They had done this! Alice's obsession, Edward's betrayal.
The heat in my heart built higher and the air quivered around me, my heart raced at an impossible speed. I felt I would combust from rage and heartbreak. Molecules burst apart as the temperature flowed out of me. I could feel the tendrils of my hate reaching out, licking at their feet.
"Bella!" Edward called, but as I turned another voice flowed through my mind.
His call to me was full of anguish, disbelief seeping from every syllable. I had been dead, so completely lost that he believed me to be gone forever. I could feel his mourning, his desperation, as his heart leaped at the possibility that I was really here.
My love... the Thunderbird's voice flowed through me, travelling softly and reaching out to him. Death's own kiss had been unable to keep us apart.
A howl rose in the distance; the sound full of relief and longing. Soon other voices joined his and I could pick out the pack members, Seth's howl leaving an empty space where his harmony should have been. My anger mounted and I felt the Thunderbird fully blaze to life in response. My blood was racing through my veins so fast my heartbeat was a low hum.
I turned, my eyes blazing white as my clothes hung from me, black with the stain of blood.
"No!" Alice screamed, her hysteria mounting as she looked at me. "No! No! NO! You aren't! You are supposed to be one of us..! I have given you everything! I saw this! I saw this happen! Why didn't you turn?"
My smile was cruel as I focused on her, oblivious of the panic in Edward's eyes. I stood in silence, savoring the hate I felt for my beloved's enemies, for the ones I held to blame for everything that had gone wrong. I felt the power of the ancient spirits with me, filling me with their strength. I couldn't save anyone, but I could be the vehicle for their vengeance.
"You have given me nothing but death!" I sneered, taking a step toward her, causing Edward to retreat a pace.
"There's no way you could...you are mine! How are you alive?"
"You were wrong..." Edward's voice was broken and tired.
"No!" Alice's scream was defiant.
My eyes flashed yellow as a magnificent red wolf burst through the crumbling walls of the home. I turned and stepped toward him, the vampires behind me momentarily forgotten as I was overcome with his beauty. I reached out to him as he ran to me, digging my fingers into his fur, pulling the smell of last night's massacre into me.
"Jake..." I sobbed into him, as his massive head rested gently on my shoulder. He was shaking softly and leaning against me. Ignoring the evil that surrounded us, we stole a silent moment, the flame of love that flowed between us soothed my broken heart.
"Get away from her you dog!" Alice screeched, pulling our attention back to her furious red eyes.
I turned to her, keeping a hand on my wolf's side as a low rumble began deep in his chest. Together we stood against brother and sister. Together we stood side by side as we were always meant to be, our strength magnified by the other. He had known it. The Thunderbird had known it. Why was I always the last to know?
"You are mine!" Alice screamed running toward us, ignoring the towering wolf beside me, her insane mind completely focused on me.
"Alice! No!" Edward reached out to his sister with his one remaining arm, the stump of one I had severed hanging uselessly at his side. She darted away from him, her speed and prognostication allowing her to weave out of his grasp. "No...God..." he called as he stepped further away from us. I had never believed that vampirism alone had condemned his soul, but his gleaming red eyes damned him in every way. My friend died the moment he allowed human blood to pass his lips; now he was only a devil in the shape of Edward.
Jacob's growl grew beside me, pulling my own battle cry out from deep within the Thunderbird. I crouched as she rushed toward us, burning for revenge. Jacob's snarl rose to a frenzied pitch and the rest of the pack joined us, rushing in along the periphery. They had believed me lost, but they had never abandoned me.
In Jake's mind I saw how they had fought, how he had escaped from Jane's painful grasp when she argued with Alice over biting me. He had phased instantly and ripped Jane to pieces while the others chased the invading vampires through the forest. Brady had been attacked and killed, visciously bitten and ripped apart. Sam had been nearly sliced in two by one of the larger vampires, and although he was near enough to touch, the extent of his injuries made me wonder how he could ever recover? Quil would forever walk with a limp and perhaps, after tonight, may never be able to phase again. His hip had been crushed and without someone there to set it before he healed, the bones knit together incorrectly. I wanted to weep for what I saw. My pack!
Alice disappeared from view, but I was aware of her presence; my very essence was focused on her deathly scent. I shrieked into the night air, keening for the destruction that lay around me. This was my fault, I knew that, I held the blame squarely in my hands. I could roll it over, taste it and wrap it around me, but none of this, none of this would have happened were it not for Edward and Alice.
The pack instinctively backed away from my battle cry, their hackles raised in response. My banshee's scream spoke to them on some primitive level and they knew I was more dangerous now then I had ever been before.
"Please..." Edward pleaded from the edge of the forest, looking at me. I barely heard him, I couldn't hear anything but the thrumming of my heart and the pain in my chest.
"She's all I have..." he was cut off by Jacob's eyes, white and full of hatred. Q'woli stepped in front of me, his growl becoming a roar. Quickly he lunged at Edward and snapped at him, driving the devil back. Jacob gave chase, disappearing into the forest with Jared and Embry close behind. I knew my beloved; there would be nothing left of Edward Cullen by sunrise.
Behind me I felt the cold fingers of Alice's hatred reach out for me. I side-stepped her attack, turning so that I was standing directly in front of her. Her eyes were filled with hatred and surprise. If there was one thing that pissed Alice off more than anything, it was not getting what she wanted. Her ability to see the future had always given her an advantage which made her lazy. Now for the first time she was the one with the disadvantage, surprising her.
"How did you know?" She danced around me, in and out of reach. She thought she was toying with me - how little she knew.
"Why is it I can't see a path for you? You're supposed to be dead! How did you not change?" She spat her questions in rapid succession, one after the next.
"I'm nothing you've ever encountered before. I'm nothing you can control."
"I don't want to control you! I want to love you! Jasper...Jazz is dead because of you and those fucking wolves!" Her red eyes flicked to the left as Colin and Paul entered the clearing behind the house in wolf form with menacing growls.
"You've never loved anyone but yourself, Alice!" I retorted as she flashed away from me.
She was so fast, but I could sense where she was going and had a sudden confidence that there was nothing to be afraid of. There was nothing else she could do to me. She had bitten me and I hadn't died, she had killed me and I had risen stronger than ever before. .
"No...I love you, I gave you everything."
"You tried to kill me!"
"I did kill you, but your heart...it sings with blood." She disappeared again, circling me, hunting me. I sensed she was no longer plotting for me to join her, now she only wanted to see if I could die.
I cut her off as she passed behind me.
She skirted away again, her hate smoldering. Suddenly she changed tactics and rushed past me, racing to attack the wolves who had joined me. Paul snarled and raised his hackles, unafraid and ready to defend himself, desperate for revenge for his fallen brothers.
I hurled myself after her, unwilling to see another of my pack fall at her hands, no matter how eager he may be to take her on. I was fast, faster than I had been before, and the Thunderbird screamed to be released. I was to blame for Seth's and the other deaths, I had kept her locked down when I should have let her fly free. I wouldn't make the same mistake twice. I released her fury fully, allowing it to blaze out of me in a white hot flash.
I had always kept her contained, controlled within me. Even when I transformed, my consciousness was always the one in charge. Tonight I allowed her free reign, taking full control of us. By submitting, I felt the depth of her love and devotion to me for the first time. I saw how her ancient soul bled for me every time I was cut and how she ached to be what I was to her. I was her connection to life, her second chance. By sharing my life with her I had given her the mate she never believed she would have.
And now I joined with her and we merged for the first time, becoming one in body and spirit. I was the Thunderbird.
We called to the heavens, our black and green feathers flat against our body; eyes white with revenge and hatred.
Alice stopped her advance on Paul and looked back at the inhuman sound that broke from my lungs. Her eyes widened as she backed away at the sight of my new form. I burst through the remaining pillars of the home, breaking through the ceiling above us bringing the house down upon my head. The pack fled the collapse, but I was buried beneath the rubble. Flexing my wings, I broke through the debris and lifted myself into the air.
"What the fuck..." Alice whispered, her red eyes wide with fear.
I focused on her with the sharpness of an eagle on its prey and swooped down to take her in my razor sharp mouth, intending to split her in two with one bite.
"No!" Esme suddenly appeared before me, running out from the woods, pushing Alice out of the way, causing me to lift up into the air before slamming down into the dew-kissed grass.
"Alice!" She screamed, shaking her terror stricken form. "Alice please, come back to us!"
Alice sat immobile in disbelief and shock, her stone heart filled with fear.
"Esme!" Carlisle ran after her, trying to pull her away from her adopted daughter. "We can't change what she's done. We've finally killed the ones she brought with her. She had filled their minds with so much hatred, how can we ever save her?" He pleaded with his wife as his eyes tracked me circling above, his fear eclipsing his worry for Alice. "Esme, we have to go, she's chosen her path and there's nothing more we can do for her."
"Alice, please!" she begged but Alice's eyes were trained on me, terror and disbelief rolling off of her in waves.
"Bella..." Alice whispered.
"She's gone Esme, she can't be saved. We need to leave!" The wolves were creeping toward them, closing in on my prey. I was nothing new to them, but the shock of my transformation had shaken even the normally unflappable Carlisle deeply.
"Please..." Esme's voice was soft and mournful as she was forced to see how far into darkness her daughter had fallen.
"She killed...so many," Carlisle continued looking at the ruins of their home. "Too many..."
Edward returned to the clearing, darting from point to point. I slowed the beating of my wings and drifted down toward the ground. At the sight of me he stopped, his crimson eyes wide. He stumbled backwards and fell as I called to the night sky, willing the spirits to come down and strike him where he stood.
As if on command, Jacob burst from the trees and bounded toward the horror stricken Cullens. Leaping over them he ran to Edward, teeth bared.
"I'm so sorry..." Edward sobbed just as Jacob reached him and took his head within his powerful jaws and pulled. Edward's body was dragged away by Embry and Paul and the screeching of metal ripping rang out as they began to dismember the vampire's struggling body.
"Nooo!" Alice and Esme screamed in unison. Carlisle stood and watched with unshed tears. Alice began to scramble toward her brother but the sound of Edward's head being torn from his body had stopped her cold.
Alice's anger exploded from her, vaulting her to her feet. Carlisle restrained Esme from following Alice as she crouched to attack.
I flapped my powerful wings, rising into the air before speeding back to the ground and grabbing her in my talons.
I flew high, the beating of my wings thrusting us toward the stars, taking Alice as close to heaven as she would ever come. She struggled in my grasp, screaming and clawing at me, but my talons were stronger than even her vampiric teeth. I swooped over the forest, letting her come to the realization that this would be her last night on earth. She began to thrash and I let out one more piercing cry before pulling her apart, splitting her evil body in two.
Out at sea lightning flashed and I heard the gentle sigh of of the souls she had killed.
I held onto her as I slowly descended, peace and the finality of her death soothing my pain. I dropped to the ground and I let go of her lower half before separating her head from her torso. Like a child's doll she came apart easily: a Barbie, nothing more.
The pack had started a fire on the decimated home of the vampires who had claimed to be our friends. Esme shook in Carlisle's arms, he could hold her for a million years and never take away the pain of watching her children die.
Rosalie and Emmett had appeared at the treeline and bore silent witness to their siblings' deaths. Slowly, without a word, the four vampires left us to our gruesome task. I knew we would never see them again.
Sam ran over to me, a long scar across his chest. It was still red and the scar tissue was bright against his dark skin. The intensity of this battle was too severe to walk away from unscathed, even for mythical beasts. He may heal fast but some things have consequences no matter how strong you are.
"Bella, give me the head." There was no smile on his face, no celebration, only hatred. The loss of Seth and Brady had aged us all.
I dropped Alice's decapitated body and held the head out to him. He took it to the blazing fire and tossed it into the center, a bright spark and a loud hiss announcing its ignition. I sighed and pulled my wings into my body smoothly, but for once the Thunderbird did not retreat to the back of my consciousness. She stayed, her soul intertwined with mine.
Naked, I dropped to my knees and finally allowed the sobs to come. My blood pounded in my skull and our loss tore at me, each breath was a thousand razor blades ripping through my chest, and my tears fell even harder knowing that my pain could do nothing to bring them back. My shoulder throbbed from the deadly bite. I was physically and emotionally exhausted in every way I could have imagined. So many lost, so many...all for nothing.
"Bells?" I heard his voice ring out like a cool breeze; it was like returning home. I was dying and he was the air I needed to breathe. I looked up and saw him running to me. His body covered in swiftly healing injuries. His gait was heavy and tired, his eyes shining yellow with love.
"I'm sorry," I hiccuped and looked away, shame and guilt weighing me down. Suddenly I was in his arms. He held me to him like a child. I had been cut down, shot dead, and he saved me again. "I'm so sorry..."
"Shhh..." he didn't try to appease me, tell me it wasn't my fault or any other lie. He only held me. Seth was gone, Brady was gone, others had been badly hurt; Edward and Alice were gone and so many human lives had been lost to violence or venom. They had died and flown away but the white lightening flashed in the distance, reminding us that we were never truly alone.
I cried and he held me, we were mourning for so many lives. His embrace never faltered and he kissed my head as we sat in the graveyard that had begun as a celebration. The fire sparked in the darkness, like lightning in a winter storm, illuminating the remainder of the pack walking away from the pyre. No one spoke as we stood vigil, watching the purple smoke of vampire pour into the sky, ridding us forever of their evil.
All of us were older now; we'd learned and lost so much. The fire blazed for hours and we sat, watching, making sure that every last trace of vampire was incinerated. As morning drew near we began the long walk home. The wolves phased and Pup leaned down, allowing me to climb onto his back. No words were spoken between us, and as the pack howled into the pre-dawn light, I looked back and said goodbye to my innocence.
Tonight had changed us all, everyone in the town. Even those who knew nothing of the real events as they had happened would be affected. The pain of what we'd lost would never be forgotten, but I knew that together we could survive anything: Jacob and Bella, Jake and Bells, T'ist'ilal and Q'woli.