Hello! Thank you so much for being patient with me. I know it's been a long, slow way, but hopefully I'll put myself together now and really dedicate time to this story. I'm really sorry I've made you wait and wait and wait. It'll all be better now, I promise. I love you all

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Sebastian

They called him Sebastian, or Aro did, anyway. Not that she cared in any way. In Alice's eyes, the moment the baby was out of her all responsibilities about him were only Aro's. To her, Sebastian wasn't her son. Alice refused to have any contact of any kind with Sebastian. Her refusal to breastfeed him caused us some problems, because no one had thought she would even think about refusing, and so my brother had to run and get some baby formula that he didn't even like.

Yet much as I hated her, I loved what she was doing. That she willingly stepped out of her duties as mother only cleared the way for me. I wanted that boy. Swiftly and effortlessly, Sebastian went directly under my care. Aro wouldn't trust anyone else with his very own son, and having me proved a wonderful asset. Sebastian was wonderful, a precious little baby. I couldn't get enough of him, and though I knew it was very wrong and stupid to allow myself to love him, when I realized what I was feeling it was too late to stop it.

Being Sebastian's nanny gave me exclusive contact with Aro. After all, I had to report how Sebastian was, if he'd slept well, what he had eaten, and how he behaved. Two or three times a day I delivered these reports to the proud new father, and he adored me. Sebastian seemed to like me, too; after all I was the person he spent most of the time with and we had grown very familiar with each other. I lived for those reports, and for Aro's looks of approval

Naturally, Alec was completely against the whole thing. He insisted that I was just causing more damage to myself, and tried every way he could think of to convince me of giving Sebastian up.

"He's not your son, Jane. You can't treat him as if he was."

"Alice hates him. I'm all he has, how could I just leave him on his own? He needs a lot of things, and Aro cannot give him all the time he wishes. He's all alone, and he's just a baby."

"Well, then let someone else take him. There are plenty of girls who would do a great babysitting job with him. It doesn't have to be you. It shouldn't be you."

But I was determined to keep at least this little piece of Aro, and so I held on to him with all the strength I had.

Unfortunately Alice, despite her obvious disdain towards her son, had finally settled as queen after bringing him into the world. Though Aro himself hadn't cared much whether she had a boy or a girl, it was obvious that the guard and everyone in the castle respected her more now that she'd produced a son. To them, she had succeeded in every way a woman could.

And though Alice didn't make a secret of her hatred towards Sebastian, Aro made no move against her. God knew what she was doing to keep him right around her finger, because the Aro I knew, and even the Aro I'd started to know after this girl, would have put her right in her place, wouldn't let his son grow up ignored and hated by his mother. Alice was learning to manipulate Aro, which was wonderful and terrible. Wonderful because finally we'd stop having the eternal battlefield the whole place had become, and Aro would be less irritable. Terrible because only she would hold that power, and obviously she would serve her own interests before anyone else's; what we needed now that she could control him was someone who could control her, and so far there was no one. The little girl who wasn't even fifteen years old was quickly becoming a danger to everyone. I decided to put her out of my mind. What was a teenage girl, compared to the bliss I was living at the moment?

I enjoyed very, very happy days with my baby. But when Sebastian was almost one month old everything changed. I picked him up and tried to give him his bottle, but he refused it. He had always been a good eater, so this seemed strange to me. I pressed my hand to his forehead and felt it warmer than usual. I paced with him in my arms for a little while, thinking it might do him good, but when I checked his temperature again it was even hotter.

After another half hour he was worse. I began to be truly scared, and sought every way I could to control his fever, but failed miserably. Sebastian started wailing, and then fell into some kind of stupor that was more terrifying than his cries. I kept listening to his heart, and noticed that it was starting to beat more softly. The fever was worse.

"Don't, don't, Sebastian, please," I begged him in desperation. "Please, darling, please, my love, what's going on? What do you need?"

I tried everything I could think of, but I finally had to accept that I couldn't handle this on my own. With Sebastian in my arms and my heart in my throat I went downstairs to look for Aro.

Alice's POV

I couldn't have been happier about giving birth. The kid came out painlessly and fast, and now I was only too glad to be rid of that weight. Aro wanted his child, well, there he had it; my job was done. I didn't even try to hold the boy, and avoided even looking at him. Every glance at him was a reminder of what had happened, of what his father had done to me, and of the ways he could still potentially hurt me. To see him was to live the pain again.

Aro was overjoyed, of course, and for a while too caught in being a father to mess with me. Apparently, he thought I was acting on hormones and post-baby feelings, and that's why he left me alone. It helped to have Jane, too: she was delighted to assume all the responsibility with Sebastian and so I didn't even had to think of how to keep him out of my way.

Aro had already made it very clear that he wanted another child by next year. I was desperate, trying to find a way to prevent that from happening; I was determined never to go through that again. I would never bring another of his children into the world. I'd had Sebastian, and that was it. Maybe in a few more weeks I could try to negotiate with Aro again; now that he had his son in his arms it might be a bit easier to convince him to let me go. Who knew, it might work this time.

And that's what I was planning while I sat in Aro's study. He loved spending time with me, and so he'd usually summon me to keep him company while he worked or read. That night he was engrossed in some paperwork while I sketched at his feet, cuddled up in a bunch of velvety pillows on the rug. Occasionally he would stroke my head, and I had to hold on to the pencil in order not to shake his hand off. It was in that moment that Jane appeared, with Sebastian in her arms and a look of worry in her face.

"Sir…" she began. If she could have been any paler, she certainly would have been. Whatever she was about to say terrified her. "Sir, I think Sebastian is a little sick." Aro's eyes met mine for a moment and we knew we were thinking the same: if Jane was letting this be known, and especially if she said he was "a little" sick, it meant something very serious. Aro took Sebastian from her and sent for Renata, and any other person in the castle that had experience with children. When he spoke, there was the same cold fear in his voice as in Jane's.

"Jane, he's burning. When did this start? Why hadn't you told me?"

I'd never seen her so anguished. "He was fine until a couple of hours ago. I thought the fever would get better, but… I honestly don't know what this could be, I swear I've taken good care of him, I really have."

I felt the need to reassure her, for she had begun to truly panic. "Don't you worry, Jane. We'll figure this out and he'll soon be fine again."

Everyone who had ever been a midwife, nurse, or had ever had anything to do with kids came to the study, but no one could quite point out what Sebastian had. Finally, the child grew so sick and Aro so desperate that he ordered to call a regular paediatrician. He wouldn't take any risks with his son's health.

The doctor arrived, and when I saw his face as he checked Sebastian I understood this was worse than any of us had thought.

"So?" asked Aro anxiously. "What is it? What's happening to my son?"

"I'm afraid the boy is very ill," said the man gravely. "I believe it might be something related to lack of antibodies, but I can't be sure until I have some tests done. For the moment I've given him an injection, but it's not having any effect, and he's too small to try anything else."

"What does that mean? What should we do?"

"Wait, sir, and pray. And… you should be prepared."

"Prepared for what?"

"For…" the doctor sighed. "Do be strong. There is a chance that we might lose him tonight."