A/N: First of all, my sincerest apologies for being so late with this epilogue. RL has been tough but I won't go into details. It's here and I hope you enjoy it. To all those who left reviews, PMs, tweets and Facebook messages, I thank you. I wasn't able to reply to them all, but they all made me smile. I never forgot about you! Your patience was appreciated. I missed you all and I hope you enjoy! This is the end of In Darkness or Light. I enjoyed this journey with you. Thank you for making it worth it.
Thanks to the wonderful nikkiwindland and Andrea for their help with beta'ing and pre reading, to the lovely Tkegl for making all my banners and to all those who recommended these stories to others. The ride was awesome! Happy Reading
And oh yeah...there will be a threequel
Firewall – a barrier designed to protect a network and prevent unauthorized or unwanted intrusion/communication between networks or hosts.
Like fire... I burned for seven days and seven nights; burned like I was pinned to a stake in the middle of town above the pitchforks and angry screams of villagers. The fire sliced through my veins like acid, demolishing any and everything in its path, leaving no human cell unclaimed in its wake.
Pain...pain so bad that it hurt even to think - so hot it numbed me on the spot, so cold it burned. And with every passing second I transformed.
I felt the others nearby. I heard their voices come and go as day turned to night and back again. I felt Edward's touch, felt his presence at my side as the agonizing seconds crawled by, but even his touch burned. His cold fingers sizzled against my skin like ice on fire, and I found myself flinching away from him too.
I knew the difference between day and night only by the way their voices came and went. The hours passed in slow aggravation as I writhed and buckled on the floor. I was contorted on one spot, dying but being reborn at the same, and as parts of me died, new parts roared to life. And very slowly a new kind of strength started to unfold.
"I'm right here, Bella," I heard Edward say. "You are not alone."
"How...much....longer..." I grinded through chattering teeth.
He ran his fingers across my face and I flinched away from his touch again. Had I been more coherent at the time I would have realised the way he pulled his hand back sharply when his fingers touched my skin, as if it burned him.
"Edward...?" I gasped, reaching blindly.
"Don't try to talk," he answered. "It's not much longer now. You're almost there."
What he should have told me was that the worst was still to come. If I'd thought that the acidic burning of my insides was bad, the mutation of my spine as my wings spawned itself was much worse. My spine had to snap in five places for it to happen, and I knew because I heard as well as felt every agonizing crack.
The first break happened at the base, and though painful, I felt something new and alien calcify between the splintered bone. It happened like that all the way up and when the last fracture hardened and healed between my shoulder blades, the roots of my wings started forcing its way out.
My screams evolved into roaring, like a wailing animal being tortured in the middle of the night. I was drenched in sweat and shaking so violently my teeth chattered. Forced into the foetal position, I buried my face between my knees and gave way to the eruption in my back. It seemed like the burning acid from before had prepared me for this. It had killed my human cells and engineered new ones, giving me the strength to survive the torture of a new pair of wings.
Still, it was excruciating, but I bore every hellish moment of it until the end.
I bore it until my skin tore open between my backbones and spewed a new kind of blood, until the first of my black feathers made its way into a dark night.
They pushed out slowly and unfolded, one feather at a time, and already I could feel the difference in my body. I was heavier, like lead, but the heaviness came with an alien strength. Once my wings stretched out above me the pain started trickling away, and little by little my senses came to. I was acutely sensitive to everything in my environment all of a sudden. Sounds started coming to me; touch, smell, even the taste of acid on my tongue was more acute than before.
"How do you feel?" Edward asked, and I jerked when the boom of his voice crashed against my skull.
I raised my face and opened my eyes. The darkness was no longer a hindrance to my sight. I saw every detail on the walls and could count the particles in the air as they filtered past.
My wings... new, glistening and black, were wrapped around my body. I looked down and saw them for the first time and my heart leapt in shock, so much that an audible gasp escaped my throat.
They opened naturally when I moved as if they knew that I wanted to move, as if they had learned my body's will already and could predict what it wanted to do. I sat upright and looked down at myself, tracing the last of the burning with my eyes as it passed through my legs and exited my body at my toes.
It was over...and nothing would ever be the same, not ever again. I had become a Gargoyle.
"You made it," Edward said, coming to stoop in front of me. "My deliciae. You are here."
He raised his hand to touch my face but paused mid distance, eyebrows slightly crinkled in hesitation. He followed through after a second or so, and when his fingers made contact with my skin he relaxed with a smile.
"What is it?" I asked, wondering why he seemed afraid to touch me. "What's wrong with me?"
He shook his head and smiled with gazing eyes. "Nothing is wrong with you. You are perfect."
"Welcome, Bella," Carlisle said from behind me. "It's wonderful to finally have you here with us like this."
I was still wearing the white dress from the wedding, and as I moved to stand, the soiled fabric rustled gently and settled at my sides.
"How do you feel?" Edward asked.
"...strong," I answered with a small frown, surprised by the notion of strength in that body. That was never a word I could use for my physical self, so it felt strange to admit it.
I came to stand in front of him and soaked in his expression. Those first few moments when I looked at his face through new eyes were ones I would never forget. He was even more striking in that light. I saw every angle and smooth line of his face, every detail and shadow. He was brooding and breathtaking with dark, thick eyebrows. His eyes were translucent and clear, his smile perfect, and the bridge of his nose slanted with such sharp precision I wondered how I'd ever missed it.
"I love you," he whispered, and I smiled.
He pulled me into a hug and put his lips on my forehead, and finally, his Gargoyle body didn't feel like a hard wall against mine anymore. Finally we were the same and both sound of mind. I matched him with even grace and firmness. His arms around my waist felt like home and I could hear his heartbeat without having to press my ear to his chest.
There were no words to describe the joy in my heart in those moments, and I doubted that worthy ones would ever exist.
"My eternity is yours," he said, passing his hands over my hair. "I almost can't believe it."
Still unaccustomed to the new sharpness of my senses, I found difficulty matching every sound and sensation to its source, especially since everything in my environment seemed to be screaming at my senses for attention. Slightly jumpy, I cringed at an approaching vibration and turned sharply toward it.
"Relax," Edward whispered into my ear, rubbing my back soothingly. "It's only Alice."
Before I could react fully, Alice was spinning me around to hold my face in her hands with a smile.
"Just like I expected," she said. "Beautiful."
Alice herself was even more stunning through Gargoyle eyes. With nothing left to the imagination, she was as pristine and perfectly put together as the finest china doll. Features I had missed before were suddenly as clear as day, ironically, since I'd only ever seen her at night.
"You suit us well," she said decidedly, with a nod of her head. "Very well indeed."
Behind her I saw Carlisle, Esme and Emmett.
"Can we take her for a spin?" Emmett asked with a slanted grin.
" Not yet, Emmett," Esme answered gently, ever the matriarch in a deviant world. "She's still a bit shaken. Bella, welcome to the Cullen host."
"Thank you," I answered, put off by the strange clarity and smoothness of my own voice. Then a quick sweep of my eyes confirmed the absence of Jasper and Jacob, and my heart leapt in discomfort.
"We can leave as soon as you sort some things here first," Edward answered quickly, passing a hand through my hair. His hands never left my body.
"You can't just disappear," he said. "You have to say goodbye to those you are leaving behind. You'll regret not doing it later."
Nodding rigidly, I curled my fingers into his cloak behind me.
"You don't ever have to face anything alone, Bella, not ever again," he whispered. "Tell me what you need and I will give it."
I turned to look at him, surprised again by the specs in his eyes that I hadn't seen before; deep gold behind the gun metal grey, piercing enough to carve indelible holes through my brain.
"Take me to Angela," I said. "I have to say good bye."
So far removed now from everything that was once my life, I stood on the doorstep of my apartment in Seattle and stared at the door. It was already close to midnight but I'd only ever have the night from then on, and if I wanted to get to Mirabel soon I had to say good bye to Angela quickly.
The sounds of Blade darting through the apartment when he sensed our presence broke my heart. He threw himself against the back of the door and barked wildly.
Sensing my rising anxiety, Edward took my hand and squeezed it. "You can do this...for Mirabel."
I heard Angela's movement next, walking though the apartment with an unsteady heartbeat as she made her way to the door.
"She's nervous," I said, studying the door. "I can hear it in her heartbeat."
Squeezing my hand again, Edward nodded. "It's late for Angela and Blade's reaction has made her nervous. Stay in control and she won't over react."
"Is someone there?" Angela called through the door.
When the door opened, Angela's face went stark white. Everything from shock to confusion, relief then fright, crossed her face.
"Bella?" She asked with a frown, passing her eyes between Edward and I. Blade launched himself at me, and finally it was my turn to calm him with a gentle touch to the top of his head. "Why on earth are you knocking? Wait...you didn't knock..."
Blade hunkered down at my feet at the touch of my hand and I tried to smile at Angela.
"Hello Angel," I said to her, gauging her suspicion as she looked at me warily. "I'm sorry to come by so late."
She took a defensive step backward and tightened her grip on the door with a deep frown. She sensed the peculiarity immediately, not that it was hard to miss.
"Why would you need to apologize?" She muttered, passing her eyes over me. " I mean...you live...here."
I knew I looked different. The changes in me were glaringly obvious, not to mention the oddity of the wedding dress I was still wearing. The fact that my shoulders were bare in weather below zero degrees should have raised questions as well, though she asked none. She only passed her eyes over me in indecision and awe, and kept a safe distance away. In a world so dependent on logic and sense, it wasn't hard to understand why she'd be afraid of me all of a sudden, even after knowing me most of her life.
I remembered then how petrified I had been of Edward the first time he showed himself to me, and that memory helped me deal with Angela. I tried to be gentle and coercing.
"It's only me, Angel. You can relax."
"It's you," she said, moving back some more. "Then why am I so confused?"
I walked into the apartment, slow enough that I didn't startle her and watched as she backed herself up against the couch.
"What's wrong with your eyes?" She mumbled.
I shifted my stare away when she asked that, and pretended to look at Blade.
"Contact lenses," Edward suggested from the open doorway.
"Yours too," Angela said to Edward in a shaky voice. "Wouldn't matching t-shirts have been easier?"
Edward chuckled with a half smirk then snapped his fingers for Blade. "I'll keep Blade occupied while you two talk."
He closed the door then and kept Blade outside.
"What's this all about?" Angela asked. "Where have you been? And why do you seem so...different?"
"I came to say good bye, Angela."
"Edward and I are going away, and we won't be back."
Self consciously, she put her hands on her hips then dropped them to her sides again, unsure about whether to challenge me or remain passive.
"I don't understand."
"I suppose you can say we're ready for a new life, new scenery. Things haven't been working out for us here, so we're leaving the country, going back to where Edward is from."
She was staring at my dress so I felt the urge to explain.
"We got married, Angel." And I showed her the ring. "Tonight."
Another frown penetrated her features and a look of utter pain crossed over.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you before. It was sudden. No one was there but us...really."
And a few dozen Gargoyles...
"But I'm your best friend," she argued. "I know things have been strange lately, but...how could you not tell me you're getting married? An invitation?"
"Please don't be offended. This had everything to do with him and me and no one else. It wasn't my intention to exclude you. It happened suddenly."
"Is that why you're dressed like that? Are you pregnant?"
"Yes...and no, I'm not pregnant."
Not anymore anyway...
"So it happened tonight?"
Lying was the only easy way out of it. In truth, I had been married a week ago that night before my transformation.
"Aren't you freezing in that dress?"
She passed her eyes over me from head to toe again and readjusted her glasses by wriggling her nose.
"When do you leave?"
"Great..." she gasped, throwing her hands in the air. "I don't know why I'm surprised. It's always something radical like this with you."
"I don't mean to be radical, though it's not something that's likely to change. This is what I have to do."
She crossed her arms over her chest and sulked, relaxing a bit.
"Well things have been happening with me too you know," she said, with a slight huff.
She shifted her weight from one leg to the next and nodded. "This isn't how I wanted to tell you, Bella," she continued. "But I guess things have changed, so ...I'm pregnant. Ben are I are going to have a baby."
A surprising jolt of joy hit me when she said it, and as soon as she did, I made the connection. It made sense. I dropped my eyes to her stomach and smiled at the child who would take my place in the human race.
The balance .
"That's wonderful news, Angel," I said with a wide smile. "I'm sure Ben is ecstatic."
"He doesn't know yet."
"But you're going to tell him."
"Eventually," she answered, biting her lip. "After finals maybe, so that he isn't distracted."
"Are you happy, Angel?"
"I'm not sure. I mean, I'm still in college."
"Yes, but by the time the baby is born, you'd have finished."
"Most pregnancies are," I answered whimsically, thinking of Mirabel. "But things have a way of working out."
"I can't believe you're leaving, especially now. I'm about to have a baby and you're ditching the country. What about school, Bella? What about your life here?"
"School isn't important anymore. I want to be with Edward and that's where I'll be. I didn't have much of a life here anyway. You know how troubled I am. Edward makes everything right. Besides, you have Ben and we both know that he will be a wonderful father."
Pausing with a squint she said, "You're so...strange...all of a sudden. You were always kind of strange, but this is...strange strange. What happened to you, Bella?"
Edward's whisper made it to my ear just then, a sound that Angela wouldn't have been able to hear.
"We have to leave," he said. "The sun will rise in the east in a few hours."
"This is goodbye, Angel," I said, taking a step toward her to kiss her cheek lightly. "Take care of yourself and your baby...and Blade as well. I will miss you both terribly."
She touched the spot on her cheek where I kissed and frowned again.
"What was that?" She gasped, widening her eyes.
"What was what?"
"When you kissed me...it burned a little."
"Tell her it's cinnamon lip gloss," Edward whispered.
"It's probably the cinnamon lip gloss I wore for the wedding," I said to her, feeling stupid. "I have to go...or we'll miss our flight. Good bye, Angel."
"This is so horribly odd! You say goodbye like I'm never going to see you again, and what about all your things? Your clothes! Your books! Aren't you taking any of it with you?"
Edward whispered to me again from outside and the sound made me turn toward the door.
"The journal is under the cushions of the couch, Bella," he said. "Get it."
I turned back and nodded to a stricken Angela with a tight lipped smile. "Perhaps one thing."
I found the journal easily where he said it would be, then made a hasty exit, becoming rapidly saddened by my lacking and hollow goodbye to the only human I ever considered a friend.
Blade was another heartbreak. As if he knew what was about to happen, he started crying and whining at my feet out on the front stoop.
"We can take him with us if you like," Edward said unexpectedly.
"What? You're serious?" I gasped.
"He understands us, and besides...we've gotten close. I think he'll be able to cope."
Staring at Edward with my jaw partially dropped, I froze.
"Get over it quickly, darling. We have to leave."
I scooped Blade up into my arms quickly, handed Edward the journal, and walked back into the apartment where a stunned Angela was still standing in the living room, motionless.
"Would you miss him terribly if I took him with me?" I asked her.
After staring at me dumbly for a while, she blinked and nodded. "I would, but he's yours. He was my gift to you."
"Thank you, Angel," I answered with a smile. "I'll miss you and I love you. I hope you can forgive me for this, once again. Thank you for being the best friend I could ever hope for, even if I don't deserve it."
"Why does it sound like I'm never going to see you again, Bella?"
Not knowing how to answer, I shifted on the spot with Blade's bulky form in my arms and nodded. "I'll be able to keep in touch by telephone I suppose. I promise to call you. Good night."
Edward was almost breathing down my neck by that point. "Now... Bella," he urged. "The sun waits for no one."
We turned swiftly then and left, rounded the apartment building to a secluded spot and jumped into the sky.
Flying wasn't like anything I'd imagined when I was human. It wasn't a gut wrenching, nerve twisting kind of excitement that put my body on cold fire.
It was easy. My wings had a mind of their own and they knew how to carry me. The wind parted for us reverently, and Edward held my hand in the sky. Blade however, was close to losing his wits, so Edward took him from me and cradled him under the same arm as the journal.
"I'll carry him," he offered.
"Be careful with him."
With a cocky smile, Edward chuckled. "I've been doing this a lot longer than you have, delicaie."
"I know. I'm sorry."
And not surprisingly, Blade calmed down in Edward's arms.
"Is it what you expected?" He asked. "Flying."
"Not even close," I answered, turning my chin toward the oncoming wind. "It's a million times better."
"Well that makes ones of us," he replied with a sideways smirk.
"You still hate heights."
"And will forever, but it's not about me. How fast can you go?"
I shook my head and frowned. "I'm not sure."
"You'll have to test yourself prematurely, I'm afraid. If you want to get across the Atlantic tonight, you'll need to be at least as fast as I am."
"I can try."
"Then we have to stop and give Blade to the others. They'll bring him across tomorrow."
"And if I'm not fast enough?"
"Then we we'll have to stay here for another day and go to Mirabel tomorrow."
Before we could get to Alice and the others, however, a convoy of black wings intercepted us and we had to stop abruptly.
"Amun," Edward growled.
"I only came to warn you," Amun spoke quickly, flanked by his minions. He spoke to Edward but his eyes were trained on me, drinking me in from head to toe, taking in every living inch as if trying to convince his own eyes that what he saw was real.
"Whatever it is we don't have the time," Edward snarled. "You're lucky I didn't kill you the last time."
Shifting his eyes back to Edward he said, "Oh I think you'll want to hear this."
"Don't listen to him, Edward," came a voice from behind. Alice swooped by with Carlisle, Esme and Emmett then. "He's trying to get into your good graces so that Aro may show leniency on his trial."
"Trial?" Edward asked.
Alice took Blade and the journal from Edward's hold then.
"Believe what you want," Amun spat, "but I came to warn you nevertheless."
"That's enough, Amun," Carlisle barked. "You were ordered to leave for Italy. Why are you still here? There's nothing you can do now. Your trial will happen."
The scoundrel that he was, I still couldn't ignore the restlessness in Amun's eyes whenever he looked at me.
"What do you want to tell me?" I asked him.
"There is word that your child is..."
"I said that's enough!" Carlisle interrupted him with a bark.
Gasping with a quick hand to my throat I fell back a few inches. "Word of what? Let him tell me!"
"I'd rather you found out on your own, Bella," Carlisle warned. "What Amun has to say is merely speculation and you need full focus for the flight you're about to take. You don't even know how fast you are yet. You'll need every shred of concentration for this."
"And this is only wasting time," Edward growled, pulling me past Amun by my wrist.
"Have you spoken to Jasper or Jake?" I asked Edward anxiously.
"Yes. All they said was that we should get over there as fast as we can, though they wouldn't say why. They are being monitored. It's not safe to talk via cell phone."
"Amun seems to know something," I pressed.
"He has his spies over there as well, Bella. I don't know what he's heard."
"Why didn't you tell me that you had spoken to them about Mirabel?"
"Because of this," he clipped, tugging me further. "I can't have you distracted!"
"There will be trouble!" Amun screamed after us, and even though we were gone some way I still heard him. "I will bring it forth on my trial and Aro will finally see value in my point of view! I'm warning you, Edward! There will be trouble!"
"Edward, I want to hear what he has to say!" I begged.
"Bella!" He yelled, pulling me to a harsh stop. "Focus on one big thing at a time, please. Whatever is waiting for us on the other side of that ocean is more important than what he has to say. Distraction will only slow you down and I'm trying to take you there. I'm trying to get us to her as fast as I can!"
I tried to look back in Amun's direction but he stopped me with a quick finger to my cheek. "Never look back. From now on, only forward."
I nodded sharply at him and squeezed his hand. "Forward, ok."
"Then catch me," he said, and took off with a dart.
He was testing my speed of course. He wanted to know how fast I was and if I could make the trip across the Atlantic before dawn in the east.
Five minutes into the chase I was on his heels, potent energy licking through my veins. He looked back at me, his hair flapping wildly in the wind, and dashed off faster.
I had to push myself, finding that my wings needed more than just physical power to carry me that fast. They needed mental persuasion as well. If I was to keep up with Edward I'd needed to use every muscle in my mind and body to move my wings. Though what actually started happening was annoyance. When I felt myself struggling I got angry with myself, and ironically, with that anger came a fiery heat that made me stronger. The fire made me faster and before I knew it I was at his side challenging him to push me further.
I glanced over at him and he looked surprised...awe struck even.
"You're glowing red," he gasped.
He shook his head and snapped his head forward again. "Focus."
And he dashed off faster.
I followed, matching his speed for the third time until the smell of the ocean filtered up to my nostrils from below.
"You're doing it," he said, reaching his hand over to me, but when our fingers touched he pulled away in surprise.
"What is it?"
He held his hand out to me again and I reached for him. "Your body doesn't burn?" He asked. "You don't feel it? That heat?"
I felt the heat but I liked it. It made me feel powerful.
"I feel it."
"And you're ok?"
With a smiled he said, "I think we're getting a glimpse of your gift, Bella. And you're fast. We've already covered a quarter of the distance."
"I'm as fast as you?"
With a clucking noise of his tongue he let go of my hand and grinned. "Not yet, baby. Not yet."
And he took off again.
The chase was just what I needed to pull me across the ocean. He was still faster than I was, yes, and I knew he was holding back for my benefit, but the chase fuelled my determination. The more I charged forward the hotter I got, and the hotter I got the faster I moved. I was able to keep up with him at least.
We landed in Ireland half an hour before sunrise, and he took me to a perch where he knew we would be safe for the day.
I could smell the sun already. I even heard the sounds of early morning life awakening for the day...plants, birds, insects. Everything reached me.
"How does the sound of everything not drive you crazy?" I asked with my hands over my ears.
"You'll learn how to tune out most of it in time and channel only you want or need to hear."
"I can smell the sun."
He smiled gently and kissed my forehead. "It's about to happen," he warned me.
"I'm nervous, Edward. What will it feel like?"
With a calming stroke of my hair and a kiss on my mouth he whispered. "You've already been through the worst of it. This part is easy, just not pretty. Today is important, Bella. You'll connect with your animal spirit for the first time."
"I'm glad you're here."
"So am I. We already have a glimpse of your gift."
"Fire definitely has something to do with it," he answered. "There was a red halo around you while you were up there. Your eyes even glowed red a little."
"Where are you going?" I asked, when he stepped back to put distance between us.
"It's time. Never stand close to anything when you're about to transform, not even me. And by the way, you're going to have to get naked."
With an anxious gulp, I undressed, keeping my eyes on him as the first ray punctured the clouds and touched my bare skin.
What came next was unstoppable. From the root of my body a shooting flash of electricity made my back snap backward. My bones popped, my muscles exploded, and a sweet cooling heaviness filled me like an empty bucket.
I heard Edward's roar, but then I heard mine too. And suddenly, I wasn't Bella anymore. I had never felt so far removed from humanity than I did in those moments as my body twisted and cracked out of shape. It wasn't painful, though it was extremely uncomfortable. Even still, it felt natural. Soon enough the deep, throaty rumbling silenced itself and my body became inundated with stone. Everything came to a complete still, and I relaxed.
I knew myself immediately. I sensed my animal spirit and the symbolism of fire started making sense. My spear tipped tail whipped to the front where I saw it glisten in the sun, and I stood there...a dragon... for the first time...facing my lion, in what was probably the most monumental moment of my new life.
As the daylight hours passed, I understood the need for freedom like never before. I remembered the way Edward couldn't wait to burst free of himself as the sunset drew nearer, and the desperation he exploded with at dusk every evening. Trapped and forced to stare at him all day long didn't help either. An animal attraction simmered inside of me, building to a slow high as the hours passed. His eyes were locked on me, staring back, his body in half lurch as if he was trying to reach for me.
I'd never be able to touch his stone surface again like I once did. I'd miss the cool, smooth lines of the lion under my human fingers but now I had better.
Now I had the first moments after sunset, when we burst out of our stone at the same time and lunged at each other like animals in heat.
"You're beautiful," he growled into my face as he pinned me to the rooftop.
Naked and desperate, there was no need for control – not ever again. He unleashed himself on me like he never had before, finally able to hold and crush and squeeze and penetrate without needing to be careful. I could take him now. I could endure his weight and passion with a smile on my face instead of a wince. His beastly lips didn't hurt. His roaring body didn't crush. And his pushing member didn't make me clamp in hesitation.
But he wasn't the only strong one. With a devilish smirk I hooked one leg around him and flipped him onto his back, laughing in awe at my own strength as his back connected with the roof underneath us.
"Impressive," he teased.
"That was nothing," I countered, passing my tongue over his lips. "Wait till you feel what's licking inside of me."
He ran his hands down my back to by butt and grabbed me firmly, making the churning fire roar to life.
"I feel it already," he whispered, staring back at me. "The fire..."
"Can you take it?"
"I'll take all of you and more, Bella."
"Then take me."
I felt when the fire raised to my eyes and a reddish tint touched everything in sight. He made me burn. He set me on fire, and the heat didn't simmer...it blazed.
He flipped me onto my back and I raised my knees to trap him with my legs. Then he buried his face in my neck and kissed everywhere from my breasts to where my forehead disappeared by my hairline.
"Does Gargoyle suit me, Edward?" I gasped as the head of his erection teased my center.
"Like you wouldn't believe," He growled.
With his lips cast to mine, he dug his fingers into my hips and thrust himself into me. The pleasure of having his body mesh with mine merited a scream. Feeling him lose control also drove me crazy. He didn't go slow. He wasn't sweet or gentle. He was greedy. He didn't take the time to caress and explore like he once did. He took my body demandingly and marked his territory all over the new Gargoyle.
I loved every animalistic moment of it.
It wasn't long before my walls clamped in spasmodic pleasure. He brushed against me at the perfect angle to rub my throbbing peak wild, and he nailed all the right spots on the inside. The pleasure was almost blindsiding. The orgasm came like an earthquake, so intense I had to scream to release the pressure. Together we rocked the still earth around us, too caught up in the rapture to think about the rest of the world.
His came right after, easing his hard thrusts to slow grind after the explosion then collapsed on top of me.
Long after the climax we stayed welded together, the same...gratified ..sated.
"Thank you," he whispered.
"For choosing me."
I held his face above mine and shifted my gaze between his eyes. "Thank you for letting me."
Moments later, he pulled me to my feet and started dressing.
"We have to get you something less conspicuous than that," he said, pointing to my white dress. Then he shrugged out of his black cloak and draped it over my shoulders.
"Mirabel," I said, looking up at the sky.
The flight to Rome was easier than the flight across the Atlantic. The distance was shorter and we weren't flying against the sun. I was also more comfortable with my wings after being connected to my animal spirit. They took me forward less rigidly, and with more grace.
Less than an hour into our flight Edward took my hand and pulled me to a stop.
My heart was already anxious. I wanted to see her so badly but I was also apprehensive because of the alarm Amun had planted in my heart.
"Whatever happens, Bella," Edward said, touching my face gently. "You face nothing alone. You don't have only me, you have our entire host and an army of Gargoyles on our side. You are one of us now, and we will do anything to protect both you and Mirabel."
"Why would she need protecting?" I asked, incensed by his implication. But his eyes couldn't give me the answer because just like me he didn't know. And just like me he sensed that something was wrong.
"I can't stand it anymore, Edward," I urged him. "Take me to her now."
Hand in hand we descended to a dark but open area where Jasper was waiting for us.
Jasper noticed me with pride and held his arms out for a hug.
I hugged him briefly, happy to see him again, but was more anxious to see my daughter.
"Where is she, Jasper? And where is Jake?"
"Jake stays with her every second of every night. He never takes his eyes off of her. He's with her right now. Come."
"So she's ok then..."
"Jasper, please answer me," I begged as we followed him at jet speed through the dark gardens of the Vatican.
He took us around the back to a section of lonely buildings at the far end of the expansive property, to where I assumed the convent was located.
My eyes were restless and searching as we followed, more eager with every second, my heart gorged with distension.
Then Jasper slowed and I caught sight of Jake sitting on a roof, unmoving and fixated on something. He was staring pensively across the courtyard and didn't budge when we came to his side, not even to say hello. I touched his shoulder and followed his stare.
"How is she, Jake?" I asked. "Where is she?"
He stood up finally and pointed to a window on the second floor of the building across from us.
"See for yourself," he answered grimly.
I looked through the open curtains behind the closed window panes just in time to see a toddler wobble by. The child stumbled into the open arms of a young girl on her knees and giggled.
"Is that...?" I gasped with a sharp frown, raising my hand to my lips.
But it couldn't be, because Mirabel was just over one week old.
"Where is she?" I cried out, refusing to believe it.
That's when Jake finally looked at me. From the corner of my eye I saw his profile move as he turned to watch me.
"You're looking at her, Bella. That little girl in there who looks like she's almost one year old already... is our Mirabel."
Shock consumed me in a brash second. I couldn't move. I couldn't talk. I couldn't think. And by Edward's absence at my side I figured that he was frozen wherever he was standing as well.
"Mirabel?" I wheezed. "But...but..."
"How?" Jacob finished for me.
I didn't have to look at him to know he was displeased. I heard it in his voice. "Tia is how, Bella. Whatever happened inside of your womb hasn't worn off yet and we don't know if it ever will."
"But are you sure...are you sure it's her?" I gasped again.
"I haven't left her once. I've sat here day and night and kept my eyes glued to her. And when I couldn't see her I followed her with my ears. I promise you... this is her."
Edward found my side then and ran his hands down my arms.
"Have any of the priests talked to you?" He asked Jasper.
"Yes," Jasper answered. "They are very concerned and of course they want to see you."
"Very well then," Edward replied, taking my frozen hand in his. "Show us where."
Jacob of course didn't move. He stayed perched there, resuming his position like a self imposed guardian to Mirabel while Jasper took Edward and I to the high priests.
My anxiety was so palpable my tongue tasted of acid. I couldn't say a thing. I only followed quietly, stricken and worried about what would happen next, and the fate of my child.
...A child I thought I didn't want until the absence of her bulldozed its way into my heart.
We entered a quiet building with long, wide hallways and pristine, velvet trimmings. The guards nodded and stepped out of our way as if they knew who and what we were.
When we got to the double doors that seemed to stretch to the ceiling Jasper knocked with a rhythm, and a few seconds later the doors opened. There were three elderly men inside, all dressed in gallant robes that touched the floor and cropped hats that sat on their ashy heads.
"Fathers," Edward said reverently.
"Edward," the one in the middle greeted, coming forward. "Please, come in, both of you. I'm assuming this is your..."
"My wife," Edward interjected proudly. "Father Romano, meet my Isabella."
"Striking resemblance to Mirabel," Father Romano said, gesturing for us to come in further. "Hello, Isabella of the Cullen Host. It's nice to finally put a face to the stories."
"I'm going to get straight to the point."
"By now I'm sure you know?"
"I've only had a glimpse of her, but...yes."
"And I'm sure you realise the predicament this puts us in, and by us I mean our order here in Vatican City."
"Father, just tell us what you want us to do," Edward spoke up.
"Well for starters, we were told that the baby would be human. She obviously is not."
"It's impossible though," I interjected. "I mean, I don't understand. I was human when...Edward...he was human as well."
"But there was interference..." The priest said with a slow nod, lowering his chin and raising his eyebrows.
I looked down at the floor then and let my hair fall forward to hide my embarrassment.
"Interference that affected your child," the priest went on. "It has changed things. We are not in the same situation anymore."
"Changed in what way exactly?" Edward asked. "She may be special...I know, but she is not Gargoyle, Father. She is more human than anything else and that makes it impossible for us to care for her. I've held her in my arms and felt the warmth on her skin. Her heart beats with a human rhythm and she is vulnerable. She is not Gargoyle."
"She is not entirely human either," Father Romano clipped, gesturing to one of the priests with a wave of his hand.
On command, the other priest went to an adjoining door and knocked.
"While we are willing to assist you, Edward," the priest continued. "Our allegiance is first and foremost to humankind and the church. We have to do whatever it takes to protect our own kind, and something like this is just too dangerous to get involved in."
"Dangerous?" Edward muttered. "How is it..."
The door to the adjoining room opened then, and low and behold, none other than Aro emerged with an arrogant smirk on his face.
"Did you think you could keep it from me?" Aro asked.
"Not entirely, no," Edward answered. "But I myself didn't know until a few minutes ago."
"Do you realise what this means for the Legion?" Aro asked.
"What are you going to do with her?" I demanded, taking a brash step forward. Edward's hand was on me in an instant, holding me in place.
"You're going to have to tell me what it means, Aro," Edward said in a more controlled voice than mine.
"It means unrest," Aro answered. "A human child with unexplained Gargoyle abilities implies exposure. She cannot exist in the human race without drawing attention to herself and her obvious differences. She herself will come of age eventually and seek answers about her heritage and why she is different."
Then he looked over at me.
"And I'm not sure you will be able to resist connecting with her. Especially now that I see that succinct urge to protect her in your eyes...something that wasn't there the last time I saw you."
"You're going to need to get to the point faster than that, Aro," I shot at him. "What do you intend to do with my daughter?"
"It's not what I intend to do with your daughter. It's what I intend to do to maintain peace and equilibrium in the Legion. You're asking the wrong question."
"It's the same question, you're just bullshitting your way around it by being politically correct."
Then I glanced at Father Romano. "Sorry Father..."
The old priest simply shook his head and sat in a lavish chair as if he was exhausted.
"I will not allow more upheaval in the Legion, Isabella. Already you have managed to divide us and set my own kind against me because of my leniency with you. As well as, one of my more stellar Gargoyles is on trial for offences against his own kind and for attempting to hurt you while you were still human."
"You're talking about Amun."
"Yes, Amun. His fate in this Legion is now at stake because of you and Edward. Now with Mirabel in the picture, it's only going to get worse. And don't think for a second that Amun is the worst there is. There are worse. Even so much as a hint of exposure from a mutant child will give other Gargoyles a reason to uprise. They will seek to harm the child if the Legion is at risk of exposure and this war you have started will get worse. I don't know about you but I'm tired of the fighting. I want peace in the Legion again. It's time it comes to an end. So I will end it."
"Exactly how do you intend to do that?" Edward asked suspiciously.
"There is something else you don't know," Aro said, side stepping Edward's question. "And this is by far more important than a Gargoyle war. Mirabel's peculiarity has contaminated the balance."
"What do you mean by...contaminated?" Edward asked, stepping forward.
"I mean that by her very nature...being suspended between human and supernatural like she is, not quite one or the other...the gateway to the balance has been blocked."
"Blocked?" I bellowed, a horrible, knowing feeling settling in my gut.
Aro's eyes shifted to me again and the hollow grey vacuums sucked the air out of me.
"As long as she lives, no human can be born into the world."
I grabbed my throat with both hands and looked at Edward desperately.
"Aro..." Edward began, but even he couldn't talk.
"People will die as usual," Aro went on, "but new life will be blocked, and so, the balance will be offset."
"But... my friend Angela is pregnant!"
"I didn't say pregnancies will be prevented. I said life will be. That child and many others will not see life outside of their mothers' wombs...and Mirabel is the reason why."
"NO!" I screamed. And even the priests looked surprised. Father Romano jumped out of his chair and looked at the back of Aro's head in concern.
"Are you certain of this, Aro?" Father asked.
"Never more," was Aro's answer. "We've never had an occurrence like this before. It's the first time I've seen it happen."
"It can't be allowed to happen," Father Romano muttered, in awe. He started fumbling with the beads that hung from around his waist, a frightened frown on his brow. "It would be..."
"The Elders and I won't allow it to happen, Father," Aro answered, still staring at me. "Mirabel has to die."
Without another beat, I turned for the double doors and slammed my way through them. Edward was at my side in a beat.
"BELLAAAAA," Aro called after me in warning. "Don't be stupid, Isabella!"
Racing through the halls, I muttered in response. "If you think I'm going to let you hurt a single hair on her body you have another thing coming."
"I'll go through you if I have to, Isabella." Aro called.
"You can try," Edward warned, dashing through the Vatican halls with me.
We didn't know what we were going to do or how, but we knew we had to protect Mirabel. And of course, Jacob and Jasper were already in the know. Jacob was at her door before we were and Jasper held watch at the end of the hallway to her wing.
"Just waiting for your word, Ed," Jake said, clenched fists at his sides as his eyes bore through the wood of the door between Mirabel and us.
"Let's get her, Jake," Edward said.
Right then, everything happened at once. Jake burst through the door. The nurse on the inside screamed. Jasper yelled a warning. Mirabel started to cry. And at least five Gargoyles, including Aro, flitted inside the room behind Edward, Jacob, Jasper and I.
"Get out," Jacob said to the nurse, taking Mirabel from her arms.
The nurse started wailing in Italian, "In nome del padre, e del figlio, e dello spirito santo….!"
"I'm the closest thing to God you're gonna see tonight, lady," Jacob growled. "Get yourself to safety now."
The overwhelming presence of so many Gargoyles in the room all at once had the poor girl cowering, but she managed to scamper out, crying Mirabel's name as she fled.
I took my crying child from Jacob's arms, flanked by Edward, Jacob and Jasper. The rest of our host were still on the other side of the Atlantic, but there were a few halos in the vicinity I knew.
No sooner had I thought it, three halos found their way to the door but Aro's minions held them back.
"Already...a spectacle," Aro growled. "I've taken enough from you by now, Isabella. I've let you get away with a lot, allowed you to divide us, gave you life, and you do this?"
"She is my child," I snapped, trying to soothe a crying Mirabel. She was plump and rosy and very warm in my arms, but we had scared her. She was beyond soothing and that made Jacob lose his wits. He kept trying to take her from me.
"We can't let you kill her, Aro," Edward charged. "You were right, I'm afraid. We have to protect her."
"Even at the cost of mankind? The very reason for your existence? This is why you exist, Edward! To protect the human race! Her existence threatens that!"
"I was created to protect," Edward growled.
"She is not human!" Aro challenged.
"She is more human than you or I. I'm sorry. I can't let you hurt her."
"Then you go down with her."
Something kick started inside of me when the lot of them charged at us all at the same time. A well of heat bubbled over from my center. Mirabel screamed when she felt it and Jake snatched her away from me quickly. Without even trying, an impenetrable wall of heat emanated from my body and circled around the five of us. Aro and his minions flinched when they connected with the invisible wall of fire and jumped back in bewilderment. The heat scorched outward and burned them, but more importantly, it prevented them from getting through.
"What is this?" One of them growled.
Edward looked at me concertedly, and Aro stared in awe. "She is a firewall," Aro said. "Look at her eyes...red."
"I can stand here all night," I warned.
"Then you are stupid," Aro mocked. "You think you can out do me? Let me remind you, newborn, you don't have only me to worry about. I am an Elder and the entire council is behind me. Add the panel of us to the army already against you, and you don't stand a chance. Already, you are losing Gargoyles from your own little army. They supported you when the elders and I sought favour with you, but I'm warning you, if we are against you, your followers won't risk it."
"We will face who and what we have to," Edward answered.
"I can't say I'm surprised. You are known for betrayal, Edward."
"Then let me correct you by saying that I will not betray my wife. I gave my heart to her a long time ago, and now she has my child. Stand with me or don't, but until you hold your own creation in your arms you will never understand."
The Gargoyle front tried attacking again, and the angrier I got the hotter the wall burned.
"I won't let you through," I growled.
"So be it," Aro answered, signalling for the others to back down. "I'm actually curious to see what you're going to do with her with the sun comes up. This isn't over. You'll see me again very soon."
"We'll be waiting," Edward replied. Then Aro and his minions left in a hurry.
The first few seconds after they left were monumental. The few halos that stood in the doorway stared at us with discomfort in their eyes. And like Aro said, the fight was different this time. This time it wasn't Gargoyles against Gargoyles...this time, it was us against the Elders. That was entirely different.
"I'm sorry, guys," one of them tried to explain. "But..."
"We understand," Edward answered, raising a pardoning hand. "You fought bravely for our sake and for that we will always be grateful. Thank You. You are relieved."
"Good Luck." Then the three of them left as well.
Jasper pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called Alice.
"I want to try holding her," I said, turning to Jake.
"Are you still hot?" He asked.
Edward touched my skin to test it and shook his head. "Still too hot. You can't hold her yet, Bella."
Annoyed, I walked away and started to pace the room.
"Calm down or you'll never cool off," he said, following my movement with his eyes.
"Get here as fast as you can, please," Jake said to Alice over the phone. "There is trouble, and we're going to need all the help we can get."
"We'll be there by tomorrow night," I heard Alice promise through the phone. "I love you."
"Maybe you'll do better outside in the fresh air?" Edward suggested to me, seeing how difficult it was for me to cool down.
I looked at Jake with Mirabel snug in his bulky arms.
"She's ok. I'll bring her," he said.
His protective arms around her made me jealous, and I found that every emotion only served to stoke my heat more, which in turn prevented me from holding her.
Frustrated and worried about the new trouble on our hands, I nodded at Edward. "Ok, maybe the cool air will help. But...we'll need to take some of Mirabel's things with us." I started ploughing through her things in the room then. "Blankets...milk...I uh...I..."
Seeing my pain at not knowing how to prepare for her, Edward pulled me into a compassionate hug. "I know," he whispered against my hair. "I know."
I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and tried to hold myself together. "What will we do with her at sunrise, Edward? We can't leave a baby on the roof unattended."
"Where is Charlotte when you need her?" Jasper clipped.
Charlotte would have been able to make Mirabel sleep for the entire day, but I wasn't sure how I felt about exposing her to another Gargoyle's gift. Things seemed to stay on her.
"I have an idea," Edward said. "Take her to the roof, Jake. Bella, go with them. I'll meet you there."
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"The least I say out loud, the better. I don't even know if it's going to work. I'll see you on the roof shortly. Go ahead."
Then with a quick kiss to my forehead he left the room.
A few minutes later I was cooler, sitting on the roof next to Jasper and a prominent Jake who refused to leave Mirabel's side, with my daughter in my arms. She was asleep and as yet I didn't know the colour of her eyes. Her soft warm skin was a direct contradiction to the cool firmness in mine. Her heart beat with a fast pitter patter. Her breathing was soft and even. Her lips were pink and pouty, her eyelashes long, and the rosy tint in her chubby cheeks drew many kisses from my eager lips.
"She's perfect," I whispered, turning my eyes toward the scent of dawn. "Where is Edward?"
"I don't know," Jasper said restlessly, "but he better get here soon."
As he said it, Edward landed softly.
"Come quickly," he urged. "We're going to a room in an abandoned wing of the convent."
"Indoors?" We all barked in unison.
"Just for the day. Tomorrow we have to find a better arrangement, and by then the rest of the host will be here. Please ask questions later. We have to hurry."
So we followed him soundlessly through the quiet halls of the convent until we came to a room at the end of a dark hall.
When we walked inside I was shocked to see the same nurse from before. The moment we walked in she jumped off the bed nervously and wrung her shaking hands into her apron. Rattling Italian off to Edward, he went to her and soothed her with a gentle response in her own language.
"What did he tell her?" I asked Jasper.
"He told her not to worry, we won't harm her."
I went to her with the best smile I could manage and gestured for her to take Mirabel.
"Edward, are you sure about this?" I asked.
"She has become attached to Mirabel and wanted to help. She is well aware that Mirabel is different since she's been with her through every step of her growth spurt so far. She doesn't want any harm to come to her. She agreed to help by hiding her here for the day and to be quiet, or else we'll find her tomorrow night and she'll be sorry."
The young girl took Mirabel from my arms gently, an immediate smile claiming her face, and took her to the bed in the corner of the humble room.
"And what makes you think she won't run with her the moment we turn to stone?"
"I wish her luck trying to get through the wall of us at the door. And we are on the third floor. She won't try the window. There is a bathroom adjoined and she brought enough food for the both of them for the day."
"Seems risky to me."
"Give me a better idea, darling, and I'll be the first to agree."
With a sigh, I nodded at him and we each took a strategic position, creating a barrier by the door.
Edward then muttered a few words to the girl in Italian. She nodded enthusiastically and disappeared into the adjoining bathroom with Mirabel, and closed the door.
The first peep of sunlight made it through the curtains and a well of dread overflowed in my heart. All at the same time we transformed, trying as best as we could to smother our howls. It was hard but we did it.
We didn't know if we would survive the day, if we could trust the young girl in the bathroom with Mirabel, or if our purpose was strong enough to convince the halo army to fight with us. But we knew we would do everything in our power to protect that child, my child, our child. We would fight for her right to live like her father fought for mine.
We would fight for her...in darkness or in light.
A/N: Yes there will be a threequel, but I have to tell you that it will take a while to get that story out. I am going to write it from start to finish before I start posting and that will take a few months. I promise to make it worth the wait though. Thanks again! Much love!