AN: Thank you times a billion to Project Team Beta, SavageWoman, batgirl8968, and bookgeek80. I couldn't have done this without y'all.

Kay, folks, this is my submission to Project Team Beta's The Life and Times of Bree Tanner Challenge (here: http :/ www . projectteambeta . com / challenges-awards ) Voting starts on July 20th and ends on the 27th. I would be honored if you kept me in your consideration.





Ashes to Ashes: A Bree Tanner One-Shot

It wasn't supposed to happen like this. I was supposed to die peacefully in my bed surrounded by my fat, happy grandchildren when I was old and wrinkly. I never made it that far. Instead, I was followed home from school one rainy day and lured behind an abandoned building.

I know it was incredibly stupid of me. My last moment as a human was spent as a bad after-school special. Didn't everyone's parents tell them, at one point or another, not to talk to strangers? I know my parents did, multiple times. And yet, there I was chatting it up with an older and exceptionally handsome one.

He was probably the most attractive creature I had ever seen in my whole life. How could he not be? Riley was designed to do this, and I was just a foolish tween being led by what one could call the first stirring of desire between my legs instead of the voice in my head, yelling at me to retreat. I should have listened to my instincts.

The only way it could have been worse was if he drove a van with darkened windows and offered me a puppy or some candy. I'd be even more of a cliché then, if possible. Even now, I can't believe how incredibly foolish I was. Just fourteen at the time, but I should have been at least smart enough to know better. I mean really, Bree? Really?

Hindsight is twenty-twenty, eh? My grandma had used to say that all the time to me, and I never truly understood it until now. What I do and don't understand are of no importance where I am now; I'm not really sure if it's anywhere at all. I am of no importance. Ashes to ashes and all that, right?

Riley asked me where the nearest mailbox was, and before I realized it, we were in the alleyway behind an empty store. The rain had just let up then, and despite having lived in Seattle all my life, I was, once again, caught in a storm without an umbrella. I was soaked through and shivering. I didn't know it then, but that was the last time I would ever be cold.

So many last times just went by without knowing what they meant in the moment. The last time I saw my friends, slept in my bed, or spoke to my parents… just gone. I had been young and thought I had decades ahead of me, and then after the change, eternity. That wasn't how it worked out in the end, though.

Riley caught me in his web. Like a predator stalking his prey, he gazed down at me with a hunger I didn't recognize. I was lost entirely within his beautiful face and his charming grin. I didn't know that I was being hunted. It didn't matter that he looked at me like I was a particularly juicy fly, that something felt off about all of this, or that he was wearing those dark glasses on a cloudy day. I was so swept up in the moment that all I could see, all I could feel, was him.

When he stepped closer to me and brought his arms around me to keep me warm, I couldn't believe what I thought to be my good luck. Little did I know that warmth was the very last thing that he could offer me and that everything he said was a lie.

I thought that he wanted me - little old me! He did in a manner, I guess, though not as how I thought. That's how good an actor he was - because why would someone like him want someone like me in that way? No one would; he certainly didn't.

I was surprised that someone as mind-bogglingly beautiful as Riley would be interested in me. I was a nobody. At school, I had been like a ghost, just drifting from one class to the next, completely invisible. People say that being ignored is better than being hated. I disagree. At least if you're hated, you would know that someone somewhere is paying attention to you.

As a human, I hadn't been anything special, no great beauty, brilliant mind, or sparkling personality. I had just been one small face in a sea of many. I guess my greatest attribute then had been that I was so slight I could stand in the corner of a room and go unnoticed. No really, it had happened, multiple times. It would have been my super power, if I had one. It's a pretty worthless power.

I doubt that when I went 'missing' anyone had even noticed my empty seat.

Riley leaned in so close that I could smell his brand of laundry soap. He pulled me to him, so I had no choice but to hold on or lose my precarious balance. Clutching at him, I felt his strong, hard back under my hands and his sweet breath fan over my face. I was drawn to him, like no one else. He tilted his head, and drew my chin up with his finger. I closed my eyes. I thought I knew what would happen next.

It was my very first kiss. Every daydream I'd had about a handsome stranger leaning me back and softly touching his lips to mine came true. It was just like a movie. Except for the part when afterwards, he ripped my throat open with his teeth and almost drained me entirely of my blood. I might not remember much about my life as a human, but I am fairly certain that that was never part of the equation.

When we started, he was unbearably soft and sweet, his lips gently pressed against mine, undemanding and gentle. And then they weren't. His iron arms held me loosely, until they oh-so-slowly gripped on to me like vises and I couldn't turn away, even when I wanted to. By the time I finally realized that something was very, very wrong, it was too late. My fate was already decided for me, just like the apocryphal frog that is slowly boiled alive.

I don't really remember much of what happened after that.

Three days of insufferable burning later, I awoke into this new consciousness, barely aware of my surroundings. She was there with a "birthday" present. Without thinking, I grabbed it and drank in deep draughts, the warm, viscous liquid coursing down my throat. That unique taste of rust and salt was the most satisfying I could ever remember. Only after had I set aside my drained present did I realize how strangely familiar his face looked.

And the next. Ditto for the one after. In less than three minutes, I was the sole "surviving" member of my family. If you could call it that; I wouldn't.

I was one of the first. Victoria thought that my youth made me look naïve. She was right. Riley trained me to lure others into abandoned buildings, into empty alleys, only to lead them into the darkness. I was a lost little girl, a runaway, and, most ironically, an innocent victim of a crime. It worked. Astoundingly well, in fact. Our ranks swelled.

We were hunters, fiends, the reason why children are afraid of the dark. And we were awesome. The rules couldn't apply to us; they were weak and we were strong. For the first time in my life, I felt powerful. It was like a drug. I liked it. I could bend iron pipes, snap trees in half, and most impressive, flip cars. After spending so much time being frightened, I was now one of the intimidating.

The corpses that lined our paths didn't matter. The loved ones that they may or may not have left behind didn't matter either. None of it did. The only things that mattered to us were the blood, dark and rich; and Victoria, our fiery goddess.

She was our creator and our destroyer. Every day was different with her. It was like being strapped on to a thrill ride that you couldn't get off. One day, you were her beloved pet and a pile of smoldering ashes the next. She liked keeping us on our toes that way. It made us anxious and even more prone to violence. Her plan was diabolical and it worked.

Yes, she was cruel and most likely insane. We followed her anyway; we would have followed her into the pits of hell, if she had asked. We didn't know how not to. So when she led us into the battle, we went even though we didn't know why, not really. She used me like she used them. I thought that I was different, special for once. I was wrong, again.

I was just like them, the brainless masses. She let me think differently. We all thought that we were our own unique little snowflakes. But I was always just a body to her, nothing more. That's what we all were. Even Riley. He was no better than the rest of us. He thought that he was the master of deception, but he only learned from the best. And she always had more than a few tricks up her sleeve.

Victoria had a plan from the very beginning. We were her army, made to do her bidding. She had us so blinded by our lust, blood and otherwise, that we made a wide path of destruction throughout the Emerald City. Our purpose was to incite fear, and we were unsurprisingly successful. It was the first time I'd ever met anyone's expectations of me. That felt good, too.

She filled our barren heads with stories about the golden-eyed ones, the freaks of nature. They were our enemies, the ones who wanted to destroy us and our recently acquired lifestyle. We were told that they wanted to kill us so they could regain access to the hunting grounds that were now overrun with so many very young, very thirsty vampires. And we believed her. Of course, we did; that was the point.

Lies, all of them, every last fucking one. After so many falsehoods, it became hard to tell the difference anymore between what was true and what was not. My head was already swimming in a confusion of blood and lust. So was everyone else's. She said what we thought as humans was wrong, but what she told us was the blackest of deceit.

We were the unwitting pawns in her game of revenge. She played with us in more ways than one, and we were helpless against her machinations. Victoria held all of the cards and we had none. We didn't even know that we were playing before the game was up. Then, it was all over- for all of us, even her.

We thought that we would live forever. We were the strongest, the fastest, the scariest. We had no reason not to; she told us that we were invincible. We weren't. We were disposable, like paper napkins, like the humans that we drained so indiscriminately, so removed were we from our recently forgotten humanity. Then, they were crumpled up and thrown out like trash, like us, in the end.

As I watched my fellow newborns go down one by one, I realized that I didn't even know all of their names. Those that were left were too dumb to recognize what this meant for all of us. The small fires that exploded onto the peripherals of my field of vision were my destiny too, and I was so caught up in the battle that I couldn't distinguish what or who I was really fighting for.

I wasn't veteran enough to know when the jig was up. Yes, I was strong. The river of blood coursing through me made sure of that, but my lack of experience failed me when I finally got cornered. I still fought on though, too ignorant to know what had happened until a golden-eye held me down and made me stop before I could do any more damage.

For one brief moment, I thought that I was going to be saved. One of the golden-eyes didn't want to destroy me right away. He said I might be useful. Then the human moved. Her scent drifted over me, sweet and strong, and I couldn't help myself from wanting to feed on her. I was so desperate to feel her blood going down my throat that I squirmed under my captors' grasps.

More came then. These new ones wore cloaks, but otherwise they looked like me, normal. They asked me questions about Victoria, whose name I didn't even know until just then, and Riley. Being the only one left who could, I answered them. I may have been foolish but I wasn't dumb.

I told them everything I knew. It didn't make a difference though. I felt a tug on my hair, heard a click, and then nothing. Yet another last moment that I missed.

Neither of my lives turned out how I thought they would. Both were so short that if you blinked, you'd miss me. That wasn't how it was supposed to happen. I was going to be meaningful, loved, and important. But in the end, I was none of those things. Not even close.

My ashes now lie on the forest floor. The little that's left of me is scattered by the wind and the rain, mixed in with the rest of my compatriots. So invisible that, once again, you could walk by and not even notice me.