DISCLAIMER – The Twilight saga and all the characters mentioned in it are the undisputed property of Stephanie Meyers. This story was written entirely for non-profit and the sheer love of the series and its memorable characters. Spoilers are included from pretty much included for every single book associated with Twilight.
To my darling and loyal readers –
Sorry to keep you waiting for another installment of Bree and Alec's joint tale. I hope you know how much I appreciate the tremendous and heartfelt support many of you voice for my stories in reviews, private messages, emails and on the forums. Your sincerity and sweetness is always overwhelming and I hate having to keep you in suspense. I promise I love this story as much as all of you and intend to keep writing it, even if it's not as frequent as we all would like. How can I stop when so many of you are so gracious and vocal in your enthusiasm and support? All I can do is hope that each chapter gives you something new and memorable to tide you over until I can update again.
Submitted for your approval…
Ashes through an Hourglass
By: Oy! Angelina
Rumors about Angels
Some vampires scorned the fallible capacity of the human memory but I adored it. Each passing second stole more details from their minds and a few plausible suggestions could make them invent events and facts that never transpired. Humans were unreliable witnesses to their own lives and – even with our striking looks - my kind could slip all-too easily from a mortal's recollection.
Although I was destined to become a beautiful stranger I tried to remain as inconspicuous as I could manage within the lobby. It was unavoidable that I would attract the occasional stray or lingering glance but – as far as anyone could tell – I was just fourteen year old boy sitting with a suitcase. Hardly the most out-of-place sight in a hotel.
The most attention I called to myself was when I left the luggage containing Bree's affects with the front desk for shipment. Gemma – the long-suffering hotel manager – was present at the time and made the assumption that I was related to Bree. From her stunted human perception there probably was a resemblance since Bree and I were both pale with dark hair, plus the staggering beauty of most vampires cause humans to get lost in the overall effect rather than distinguish specific features.
As helpful as this was to remaining anonymous I disliked passing myself off as Bree's brother, who helpfully attended to her luggage while Bree was sight-seeing. I had no qualms about lying, of course; it was simply the ruse itself I didn't care for. I already had a sister and I certainly didn't look at Bree the same way I did Jane – mercifully. Nonetheless, I played the part and waited patiently for my transportation to arrive.
Given her previous disapproval of Ionel's interest in Bree, I didn't expect Gemma to advertise my assumed identity but was careful to keep out of his line of sight all the same. The concierge's investment in Bree's stay threatened my discrete departure, which was ironically the sole reason Ionel still had a head attached to his shoulders. Questions were bound to arise if Ionel just so happened to disappear on the same day a mysterious, American girl he was fixated on vanished as well. I didn't want people asking more than a few passing questions about Bree's whereabouts and the chaos of the hotel's operations would ensure just that, provided I left Ionel alone.
Of course, my kind was blessed with a long, clear memory so – assuming I felt exceptionally petty – I could always pay Ionel a visit in a decade or so.
More than revenge, self-control was becoming an issue for me. The humans around me smelled especially delectable and the rhythmic surge of their blood had venom filling my mouth by the beat. If I caught the scent of someone with blood sweeter than the usual garden variety it would wreak havoc on my usual composure and I was already taking too many needless risks to chance any sort of slip. The Volturi were the paragons of vampire society, after all. How could I, in good conscience, brutally enforce laws if I didn't respect them myself?
More importantly, how could I apply the phrase "good conscience" to myself and not burst out laughing?
I suppressed both the desire to feed and laugh by focusing on Bree. I felt her in the corner of my mind and attentively kept her numb and oblivious of her confined quarters. I loathed keeping her in such an undignified position and it made me uncommonly restless and oddly…ashamed?
Guilt and remorse were such atypical emotions for me I barely recognized them, let alone knew how to handle them. I was capable of far worse than this and lived down to that lax standard on innumerable occasions so why would something so benign bring my conscience out of remission?
I postponed my uncharacteristic moral quandary when the hotel valet came to inform me that the car Santiago sent had arrived. I followed his lead to covered turnabout in front of the hotel where a polished black town car and a middle-aged driver in uniform awaited me. I was glad Santiago hadn't arranged for a more ostentatious vehicle, like those Hummer-limo monstrosities I occasionally saw rolling by. I hadn't yet decided how I intended to disperse with the car once I finished eating the driver but not having a gas guzzling urban assault luxury car made my chore somewhat easier.
"Good afternoon, sir. Where am I driving you today?" the driver inquired in Romanian as he held the door for me.
"The airport, please," I answered in the local tongue.
"Certainly," the driver said, extending a hand towards my suitcase. "Allow me to take your luggage."
My grip tightened reflexively on the handle. I was concerned the driver would wonder if I packed bricks in the suitcase; perhaps he wouldn't even be able to lift Bree considering how dense the constitution of our kind is compared to humans. Beyond the practical issues of placing Bree into the trunk, I rejected the notion simply because she was more important than deadweight to be stowed somewhere. Transporting Bree in a suitcase was a necessary evil but that didn't mean I had to compound it with further indignities.
"Thank you, but I would prefer to have my luggage ride with me in back," I said, feigning mild effort as I lifted Bree into the car. "There are a few things inside I wish to have access to during the trip."
"If you wish, sir," the driver let the matter to rest there as I entered the vehicle. He shut the door behind me and rounded the car to start it.
Good manners are prerequisite for any hospitality profession but I appreciate them all the same. It reminds me of lost eras when people treated strangers with respectful courtesy. Nowadays, it seems like even the most casual acquaintances feel entitled to informality whenever they interact with one another. Whatever happened to earning trust while building relationships?
I suppose I shouldn't complain. This recklessness abandon only serves to benefit my role as predator and Aro himself is unabashedly familiar with anyone he encounters. How could he not feel intimate towards someone after sharing in all their life experiences through a mere touch? That is Aro's prerogative; however, where as I consider those who exhibit restraint, civility and even wariness amongst strangers be wiser, more respectable creatures than trusting souls or those too self-absorbed to recognize the simplest social boundaries.
And here I am contributing to the problem by making polite men like my driver a dying breed. If only the sunlight would make itself sparse so I could seek out a ruder meal…
Yet, as I secured the luggage containing Bree, I wondered if it was her irreverence that added to her appeal.
Yes, there was a measure of folly in Bree antagonizing a person who – by all accounts – is not someone to make a light enemy of but I met enough people over the centuries who feared or revered me upon first introductions. Initially I found such power intoxicating, particularly since I experienced nothing like it as a mortal and – though I never lost my taste for it, per se – it wasn't nearly as sweet as it had been. I missed the days when I was still building my fearsome reputation, when vampires underestimated and disrespected me because of my youthful appearance or friendly demeanor. Now, no one tested me – not my power, my patience or my limits. I simply entered a room and accepted unconditional surrender.
Bree was an interesting alternative. Her manners towards me were inarguably poor but what had the Volturi done to earn her trust or respect thus far, even without the Cullens sullying the entirety of our reputation? Most who survived a chastising from Jane would have simpered or cowered rather than risk my personal displeasure or that of the Volturi yet Bree maintained her guard and willing to at least be verbally combative with me.
It was a long-absent thrill to have someone expect me to earn their respect or obedience and Bree was adorably insolent. I'm positive some members of the Volturi would see that as an invitation to break her will and force compliance but it more as an opportunity to mold her perspective of me. Admittedly, sedation and abduction wasn't the best trust-building exercise to start out with but it was, by no means, the worst I was capable of. Bree would understand that once she got to know me and my coven a better.
"May I ask where you are traveling to, sir?" the driver asked, testing my mood for small-talk. I certainly welcomed any distraction that saved me from more demanding trains of thought.
"Volterra," I answered with a smile.
"Hmm," the driver nodded, likely unfamiliar with the city. "And are you traveling there alone?"
"No, I'll have company and I expect to meet my sister when I arrive," I chatted on.
"That's nice," the driver nodded again through the rearview mirror. "Is your sister older or younger than you?"
"We're twins, actually," I said, glancing at the traffic and shops through the tinted glass. This seemed like a good point in the conversation to begin compulsively lying. "I promised her I would take a lot of pictures, in fact, but I didn't get a chance to see the Carpathian Mountains. Do you happen to know a scenic route to the airport that would pass near them? I would like to get at least a couple pictures for Jane to see."
"I do, in fact," said the driver amiably. "It's a little out of the way, though. Would you be in danger of missing your flight?"
"Absolutely not," I said while weaving in a thread of truth to the yarn I spun. "That's why I insisted on my bag staying with me. My camera's in there and I hoped I'd have an opportunity to use it before I left."
"Well, it's nice you and your sister have a hobby to share," said the driver approvingly. "I have a daughter about your age and all she seems to take an interest in anymore is boys…"
"Ah. Jane is more of a bully than a flirt," I said with a chuckle.
The driver chuckled back. "Oh, that'll change! It always does for teenage girls."
"I suspect that's true for most girls but I can't see Jane changing anytime soon." Or ever, if I cared to be specific.
Briefly, I entertained the notion of Jane falling for a boy. Undoubtedly, it was bound to be a twisted affair. I could imagine Jane being satisfied with anything too sweet and simple, after all, and she would have to be the one in charge. Part of me pitied this poor hypothetical boy while the rest of me felt the urge to snap him into pieces and mail a chunk to each of the four corners of the earth.
I was far too accustomed to being the only person Jane showed affection for that the thought of sharing her was almost too unappealing to consider. And that was just an imaginary scenario. Bree, on the other hand, was very much real and Jane was far less emotionally stable than I. And since Jane considered Bree too insignificant to even bother destroying I didn't have high hopes of a warm welcome.
"I'm more precocious than my sister in that regard," I said grudgingly while trying not to picture all the gory details of Jane's reaction. "There's a girl I like but I'm worried Jane won't understand my feelings for her."
That, of course, implied I understood my own feelings about Bree. I had a suspicion and didn't care for it at all because it meant the life I knew and enjoyed was – for all intents and purposes – over. The reason I always rejected the possibility of finding a mate beyond Jane wasn't because of some perverse affection for my twin or inability to comprehend love between vampires; it was because I couldn't stand the thought of not being in control of my own existence.
Mate selection (as if anyone actually gets a choice!) is momentous and absolute amongst our kind. Some described it as being hit dead-on by Cupid's arrow without warning or respite. Others likened the feeling more to the work of our venom; a force that was futile to resist and impossible to ignore as it methodically seeped into every fiber of their being until they were left forever altered. Once a vampire met their mate something innate and inevitable took over, leading to a single outcome and mutual understanding. Many of our kind waited as long as centuries to find that one person who would give their existence meaning and love worth immortalizing.
Perhaps this was as close to heaven as our kind would ever get but, to me, it sounded an awful lot like hell.
The last thing I wanted was to have my life commandeered by some unsolicited, non-negotiable compulsion that forever entwined my happiness and fate to someone I barely knew. Didn't I deserve a say when it came to choosing which person I would devote the rest of my infinitely long life to? It wasn't fair, it wasn't sensible and it offended me that my will meant nothing to the whims of Fate, particularly if Fate was as cruel as Jane.
Bree Tanner was not my definition of a perfect mate. Allegedly opposites attract but didn't you need at least a few things in common to make something of such magnitude endure throughout the ages? Perhaps there was something I was missing but all evidence suggested Bree and I were fundamentally wrong for one another. Bree was sensible enough to accept that plain fact and if she wasn't reciprocating my tumultuous feelings then it stood to reason it was all in my head.
Hands down the prospect I was experiencing a total collapse in sanity comforted me far more than the possibility of falling in love. Having a mate was a double-edged sword I didn't care to wield. What was the point of finding a person to supposedly complete me if they were also the one thing capable of destroying me? One of three things happened to vampires who survived their mates – they sought revenge until they achieved it or total self-destruction, they continued on as a hollowed out shell or they spared themselves the anguish by ending their own worthless existence. I just didn't see the appeal. I was a sadist, not a masochist.
And yet here I was…
I leaned my head back into my seat and released a sigh. What was the point in arguing with myself? Right or wrong, I had no intention of doing anything other than see this farce through to the bitter end. I couldn't just walk away and merely assume everything I experienced so far was the product of boredom, curiosity or some excessive lapse in sanity. I needed to know if this pull I felt towards Bree was, without a doubt, something or nothing and I wouldn't be able to confirm or deny these alien emotions without speaking to Bree at least one more time.
"So you have a girlfriend, then?" the driver wondered.
I snapped back to my present surroundings. Only a couple seconds passed in the pause between my statement and the driver's question but that was more than enough time for a vampire to thoroughly exhaust him or herself with an internal debate. I considered how to answer a question I myself didn't have the answer to.
"Her name is Bree and I've mostly been…admiring her from afar," I finally said. It was a generous and far less felonious interpretation of my actions as of late but honest nonetheless. "I'm not sure if we're really suited for one another, though."
"Why do you say that?" asked the driver, intrigued by my immortal teenage angst.
"We've gotten off to a bad start the first time we met," I said, lending as much truth to my dilemma as my supernatural condition would allow. "Bree encountered my sister a few months earlier and - as I mentioned - Jane has a habit of bullying people so when Bree met me she thought I was the same as my sister. It doesn't help matters that the family Bree belongs to puts all this unnecessary pressure on her to be someone she's not and I could see it's tearing Bree up trying not to disappoint their unreasonable expectations for her. I told Bree there was nothing wrong with just being herself but Bree took it the wrong way and ran off before I could explain myself or apologize. I've spent the whole day trying to track her down before she could vanish to America again."
"She lives abroad?" the driver questioned, like logistics was the biggest issue dividing Bree and I. "Were you able to find her before she left?"
"I know where she is but we haven't had a chance to talk yet," I said without glancing to the suitcase beside me. "I'm actually not sure what I'm going to say to Bree. I've already managed to pick a fight with one of her know-it-all sister, Alice, and if I ever meet her friend, Seth, I'm positive someone will get hurt. I know they're going to try and convince Bree I'm a terrible influence on her but if she keeps listening to her family I'm afraid Bree's going to end up hating herself for no reason."
"It sounds like you really care about her," the driver observed quietly. "It's hard to come between family, though. Even if you don't agree with everything they say or do it's not fair to Bree if you try and force her to choose between her family's values and yours. Ultimately, the best thing for Bree is to let her decide what kind of person she wants to be and all you can really do to help that is try to broaden her horizons beyond how her family sees things."
I nodded in agreement with the wisdom of a man an eighth my age. "You're right. She'll just resent me if I keep pressing my issues with her family and their peculiar habits. I'm hoping she'll come spend some time with me in Volterra. I think it would be an excellent chance for her to get to know me better and be her own person for a while."
"It takes a smart person to realize the importance of being himself; for better or worse. Though - as well as you might think you know yourself - sometimes we see ourselves best only through the eyes of others," the driver said earnestly. "That's what I always tell my daughter, anyway."
"It's good advice. Thank you for sharing it," I told the driver softly as he smiled and nodded at my gratitude through the rearview mirror. I gazed at the serene wilderness with a pensive pause, knowing what I had to do next. After a few more moments of riding along the secluded highway I finally said: "Would you mind pulling over the car here? This seems like a good spot."
"Right; you had wanted to take some pictures," the driver reminded himself as he pulled onto the shoulder of the road.
I said nothing to correct the driver as he brought the car to a stop and turned the engine. However absent the driver's memory was about my fake hobby he didn't forget his duties as he exited the vehicle to open my door. I inched over a fraction to keep the sunlight from spilling onto my hand. Not that pretence mattered much at this point. The driver's fate was sealed the first time he opened the car door for me. Eating the driver was half the reason Santiago sent a car for me so why was I hesitating?
Some vampires took twisted pleasure in terrorizing their meals before consuming them but it wasn't my custom to play with my food. Over the centuries I prided myself on being fair when it came to selecting my meals. I was an indiscriminate predator. An equal-opportunity killer. However I cared to describe my feeing practices they weren't personal, just me adhering to my nature. I didn't play god with the lives of mortals. I never asked myself whether one person deserved to live or if another deserved to die. It was all luck-of-the-draw and that always seemed to be the fairest method of selecting my meals.
Except now it didn't feel as fair as I once thought.
I wasn't used to conversing with my food, at least not more than was required to lure them somewhere secluded. I didn't listen to them talk about their families or open up about myself enough for them to solicit advice. I liked the driver – as much as I was capable of liking humans anyway – and talking to him was about as wise as humans treating animals in a slaughter house like pets.
After three-and-a-half centuries one might think I would know better by now.
I stopped delaying the inevitable and stepped out of the car. An instant later the sunlight turned my alabaster skin into a prism of light flashing more colors than the human eye could perceive. Empirically, I appreciated the beauty of my kind's radiant complexion but, after centuries, it ceased to astound me. For humans, on the other hand, the effect was quite powerful.
The driver gaped at me with wide, disbelieving eyes as he took an unconscious step back. His mouth moved uselessly as it failed to produce the words needed to express his awe. After a moment the driver finally managed a question more common to my kind than "what's your sign?"
"Are you…an angel?" the driver asked, unable to fully believe the suggestion he himself made.
"Not in the slightest," I corrected him softly. "This is just you in the wrong place and me in the right light."
The driver didn't understand my meaning but he wasn't meant to. What was the point of explaining any of it? Was there any comfort or consolation in knowing that if I had other options available to me I wouldn't eat him? It didn't change what was about to happen. All I could do was ease the driver's passing with my talent. I seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
Before meeting Bree I was never burdened by thoughts like these. She was becoming a bad influence on me. Or a good one? It's hard to say since morality is so subjective. And annoying. Perhaps I shouldn't be so eager to keep Bree in my life if I was going to make me such a picky eater.
Ugh. If this was the first step towards "vegan" vampirism then I was already disgusted with myself.