Disclaimer: Everything belongs to the great Stephenie Meyer. I own nothing but the laptop I wrote the story on.
If you haven't read The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner, you'll still be able to follow this, but it will probably make more sense if you have read it.
June 16, 2006
The passing humans paid no attention to the blonde vampire standing under the tall evergreen. After all, why would they? He dressed normally, albeit a little suspiciously – with the long trench coat and wide brimmed hat casting a shadow over his pale face – but as it was the middle of Vancouver, he could easily have been waiting for the customer in some sort of shady deal. Dark mirrored sunglasses hid his crimson eyes from unsuspecting picnickers. Anyone who did take a second glance, perhaps wondering why he dressed for rain on the first sunny day they'd had all month, found themselves quickly averting their eyes, unable to look past the repulsive aura he exuded.
Little did the humans know, this vampire was indeed meeting another – another vampire or two, that is. Secretly, he hoped she'd come alone, but he knew she wanted to bring her friend. He just couldn't imagine what was taking so long. He'd been standing, as promised, at Riley Park for about nine hours now, and still no sign of either of them. The irony didn't escape him; Riley had brought them together when they met, and Riley was where they'd start their new life together. They could forget about the war, about the odd yellow eyes and their pet human, and just experience this new world they'd been trained to ignore.
Hours passed, and still no sign of the girl. He was sure she'd get away from the fighting. In fact he was pretty sure she wouldn't have even entered the fray, so maybe he'd been wrong about her. Maybe she ran off with that boy. She wasn't like that, though, was she? He sighed and checked the watch he'd stolen before coming to wait. Eleven forty. He'd been standing here for over twenty-two hours. It was dark enough now that even without extra clothing, it would be safe for a vampire to walk around inconspicuously, so that couldn't be what was keeping them. He fully believed she would show up. She had to. He kept waiting...
...but she never came. It was after three thirty in the morning when he finally gave up. Two hours longer than he had to, but now he knew she'd lied. Never really wanted to come. Her and her little boyfriend could do whatever they pleased. What did it matter, anyways? Friendship wasn't really a priority, especially given his talent. It would be too much work to control his gift all the time either way.
Bitter and hurt, the vampire known only as "Freaky Fred" took off into the darkness of the early morning, eager to leave the past and the pain behind him.
April 28, 2015
Alice Cullen felt sick. Not like she had when Bella was pregnant, that was more like a headache. No, at the moment, Alice just felt off. Almost queasy, or as queasy as a century old vampire could be.
She was sure it had something the vision she'd just pulled out of, but she couldn't figure out how the two were connected. She'd seen they had a visitor, but before she could make out much else, the nausea had made itself known and Alice returned to the present. Her husband Jasper immediately felt her discomfort and rushed to her side, cuddling her and stroking her hair. As they collapsed onto the white sofa, Jasper sent her calming waves and spoke gently to her.
"Alice, darling, what's the matter?"
Her husband's soothing presence enabled Alice to settle back to normal, and she described what she'd seen - the strange blonde vampire finding his way to the isolated Cullen mansion still buried in the forest outside Forks, and the wave of revulsion that followed.
Neither vampire knew what to make of the occurrence, and as they sat together, wondering, Alice's favourite sister entered the house, giggling uncharacteristically as Edward kissed her neck and pushed her against the wall. As he was about to carry her, bridal style up to his old bedroom, he stopped, catching Jasper's eye. Edward listened to Jasper's mental account, while Bella followed her beloved's gaze and gasped. Breaking free of Edward's grasp, she rushed over to her sister in law and studied Jasper with demanding eyes.
"Alice had a vision with somewhat odd side effects," Jasper replied.
"Side effects?" Bella asked, her voice raising incredulously.
Alice reached over to hug Bella. "I'm okay, hun. I'm just a little...repulsed, I guess."
Edward's head snapped over to meet Alice's eyes. "Blonde and repulsive?"
"What are you thinking, love?" Bella wondered, and Edward had to chuckle at the reversal of roles. He turned back to Alice and looked at her cautiously.
"Do you think you could maybe revisit that one more time?"
Jasper glared at his brother, but Alice nodded quickly. She gulped and closed her eyes.
If Bella weren't so confused and worried, she would have been highly amused by the sight of the three vampires hands reaching up to cover three separate mouths in synchronization. It must have been some long forgotten human instinct, but the gesture made it look like her siblings were holding back vomit.
Bella left Alice's side just as Edward was blinking back to reality. She took him in her arms and rubbed his shoulders, relaxing him.
After a few minutes, a silence fell over the room as everyone considered the possibilities. It was only broken by Edward's quiet murmur of "Freaky Fred".
Three vampires gawked at him curiously. Bella spoke first.
"Who is...freaky Fred...?" she asked slowly, voicing the question on all of their minds.
Edward's eyes bore into his wife's. "Do you remember Bree?"
Alice and Jasper's eyes flashed in recognition of the name, but nothing else. Bree had been dead for almost nine years, and the couple only knew twenty or so minutes of her existence. They couldn't see what the poor newborn had to do with this other vampire, but would play along. Bella, meanwhile, knew the name was familiar but couldn't pinpoint exactly where from. Alice could see Bella wasn't remembering, so she pushed her baby sister in the right direction.
"Remember the battle with Victoria's newborns? And the... the newborn that wanted to surrender?"
Bella's eyes narrowed in concentration. "Vaguely," she admitted. It wasn't exactly her most revisited human memory.
"The day of that battle, Bree had other plans. She was thinking about it before Jane, well you know. Apparently she and another newborn, Diego, were intending to leave the battlefield without getting into the fighting, and meet this Fred character somewhere in Vancouver. Bree was sure Diego had been killed by Riley before the battle, but she wondered what Fred would do alone, because he definitely escaped. I remember her referring to this power of his, he could make it so that it'd make you sick to be around him, or think about him at all. Rather unnerving, if I understood correctly."
Edward finished his explanation and Bella's eyes were wide. "What does that have to do with us?"
Alice cut in. "Weren't they supposed to be following your scent? What if he caught a trail you've left while hunting or something? If this is Fred -" she looked to Edward and he indicated that it was "– then he probably recognized the scent and is coming to check it out."
Edward and Jasper nodded in agreement, and the room fell silent again.
"So then... what do we do about it?" All heads turned to Bella as she voiced her concern, but none had a solution.
The whole family gathered around the ancient oval table in the dining room later that afternoon. Edward and Alice had explained the situation and all that was left to decide was how to react.
"I'm telling you, Edward, I should just go meet him! It only makes sense" Bella was arguing with her husband.
Naturally he was being overprotective and refusing to let her go alone. "You are not meeting some strange vampire by yourself. Especially when Alice can't focus on him long enough to see what his intentions are!"
Alice glanced apologetically at her baby sister. Bella smiled back at her reassuringly, and then looked at Edward. "Look, he obviously wants to find me, we know that much. And you can't get near him without being sick, so how else do you propose we deal with this?"
Edward was about to reply bitingly when Emmett opened his mouth. "She's right, you know. It's obviously a mental thing, because we can't really get sick. So you have to realize Bella's the only one who can put up with this guy for any length of time"
Bella beamed. "Exactly!" She grinned at her brother, and the two of them high-fived.
In a trademarked move, Edward pinched the bridge of his nose. Looking up again, he said "I'm going with you. I can deal with the nausea, because I'm not letting you risk your life so that we don't have to get sick. End of story"
Bella pursed her lips, furious. She didn't want him to be uncomfortable trying to protect her, and she wasn't so weak as to require anyone's protection anyways. "You need to remember, I'm not some fragile little human anymore, love. I can take care of myself." She gazed imploringly at her "siblings" and "parents" for help.
Jasper looked at his youngest brother. "Edward, listen to her. I know I'm not one to talk" - Alice snorted her agreement - "but I think you've got to hold off on the protectiveness. Bella can really be helpful in this situation. It only has to be for a little while, long enough to see if he can and will turn it off - "
"And I can convince him to come back to the house and we all figure this out together!" Bella finished, as her face split into a wide grin. "It's foolproof!"
Edward gritted his teeth. "It's not even close to foolproof, love. What if he can't control it? Or won't?"
Bella had to admit he had a point. Sighing, she made him a deal. "Well then you can have it your way. If it doesn't turn off, you can come "protect me" while we tell him what he wants to know. But you have to let me try first, okay? I need for you to trust me, dear..."
"I do trust you!" Edward replied earnestly, his eyes wide. "It's - "
But exactly what "it" was, the Cullens would never know – at that moment, Edward was interrupted by the front door slamming open and two new immortals flying into the under-used dining room. His daughter was held in the arms of her fiancé, looking much paler than her usually rosy complexion. Edward was quick to rise and stand before Jacob, the already heightened tension in the room only adding to the terror he felt at seeing Renesmee so helpless.
"What happened, mutt?" he hissed, stealing Renesmee out of Jacob's grasp.
His arms freed, Jacob threw them wildly into the air. "I dunno, we were just out walking, and all of a sudden she went really green and almost collapsed! I caught her and brought her back here, honestly! What's the matter with her, Carlisle?" He stared at the wise doctor deliriously.
As Carlisle opened his mouth, Bella looked up from where she had been stroking her daughter's hair. "Does that mean Fred is already here?" she interrupted her father-in-law's response, panic filling her ochre eyes.
Edward leapt to his feet. "I'll go check!"
Bella reached for him, frantic. She knew he was trying to sacrifice himself, in a way, so she couldn't get hurt. And she would have none of it.
"Let me go. I'll just go – go check, talk to him!" she stuttered.
Edward could tell she was nervous. "But wait, what will you say? What are you going to do? You're not going out there without at least being prepared!"
Everyone in the room agreed, and quickly threw in their suggestions.
"Get him to turn it off."
"Don't let your guard down."
"You can take him!"
"Try not to scare him, it'll turn into a fight."
"Don't force him into anything."
"Whoa, whoa whoa! One at a time!" Bella cried, putting her hands on either side of her head.
"Okay, I'm gonna just go find him and see if he'll turn it off, then bring him back to the house."
"Turn what off?" Jacob asked, cocking his head.
"Fred has the power to make people sick, vampires included." Esme told him gently.
Jacob blanched. "He did this to Ness? And you want to invite him into your house?"
"You're not alone in that, Jacob" Edward growled, looking pointedly at his wife.
Rosalie, who had been rather quiet through the whole debate, coughed quietly and spoke up over the arguing. "Am I really the only one who's had the thought that Bella could just shield Edward?"
A dumbstruck silence fell over the room. Everyone glanced at each other, all thinking the same thing – Why the hell didn't that occur to me?
Rosalie chuckled and peered around at her family. "I mean, I expect that from Jacob - " the aforementioned werewolf let out a low growl " – but Edward? Jasper? Really?"
Alice recovered first. "Well, now that we've all been shown up by Rose, let's make a plan. To be honest, I think Bella should go alone - "
"Alice..." Edward groaned.
"Let me finish, Edward" Alice pouted. "I was going to say that Bella should go alone at first so that we don't scare him off. I'd guess he'll run if we intimidate him too much. Edward, if you really must go, give Bella a few minutes to talk to him, ease him up. She can let you know when it's okay, and you can watch from a distance"
"That sounds reasonable," Carlisle added gently.
Edward glowered at his father, but couldn't find a reasonable objection, and his shoulders slumped in defeat. Bella took his hand and played with his fingers.
"It's going to be fine, dear. Relax." She looked up and talked to the whole family, much more confidence in her voice this time. "I'll keep Edward shielded and let him into my head, that way he doesn't have to get too close – in fact he can stay back enough that he can talk you guys through what's happening. Then I'll either bring Fred back, or call Edward to get closer. Sound good?"
Jasper clapped her on the back. "I love it, sis. Very strategic."
"Oh! Bella!" Alice exclaimed suddenly. "Shield me now!"
Bella cocked an eyebrow, and Edward grinned. "Brilliant," he congratulated his sister, and then faced his wife "Shield her, love. Maybe she'll be able to see him now if you're keeping the sickness at bay"
All around the table, vampires whooped in appreciation of the idea. Bella dropped her shield onto Alice's mind, and the latter sighed happily. "Much better!" Alice breathed. She closed her eyes and opened them after a few seconds. "Edward, he will run if you go with her initially, as a matter of fact he'll be close to running even with just Bella alone. Bella, tread carefully. Approach slowly, and make a little bit of noise so he can hear you before he sees you. It looks like the scent will be just enough to peak his curiosity and get him to stay."
No one had anything else to say, so Bella said, "Well, let's do this." She and Edward stood up and walked into the front hall, still holding hands.
He drew her into a hug and inhaled her scent deeply. "Be careful, my love," he whispered sadly.
Bella kissed him softly. "I'll be fine, Edward." She stretched out her mental barrier to include him, and lifted up the inner layer that allowed him to get into his favourite mind to read. I love you
"I love you." He replied in a strangled voice, and dropped her hand as she stretched on her tip-toes to peck him on the nose, and went to the door.
Bella stepped outside into the light rain. Lifting her face to the wind, she searched for a scent – anything that didn't belong, wasn't a familiar aroma. She quickly found the difference – a mix of peppermint and pineapple that was drifting in from the south. Bella darted into the forest and followed the scent almost to the highway, where it started to mingle with the smells of cars and humans. She knew she was getting close, so she slowed down so as not to startle the other vampire, and cautiously advanced.
Fred was suddenly hit with an extra strong wave of an old familiar scent. The pet human! But the freesias were mixed in with the sweet smell of venom – the yellow eyes had turned her after all.
He whirled around and stopped dead. A noise came from his left, and he gazed into the woods, where he could make out a shape in the inky blackness. He sniffed the air around him, and sure enough, the girl was coming towards the clearing he was standing in. Uncomfortable with how close she seemed to be getting, he sent out a wave of nausea, but the girl kept coming at the same speed. Why wasn't she affected?
Fred intensified the wave, so much so that several miles away, eight unshielded immortals retched. But the sweet-smelling girl was close enough now to make out her features, and still she walked forwards without hesitation. She was a particularly beautiful immortal, with long chestnut hair falling in gentle waves down her back. Her heart-shaped face was a vampire shade of pale in the darkness, and long lashes framed pretty - golden eyes? But she couldn't be that old, she was turned some time after Fred was, and his eyes weren't yellow, were they? He supposed it's been a while since he'd seen his reflection, but ten years as a vampire didn't seem that long, relative to some vampires he knew of.
Lovely as she was, Fred started to back away. His gift was failing him, something he'd never experienced before, so he was starting to panic. But right as he moved to leave, a soft voice called out.
"Wait!" Bella said. "I don't mean any harm" She caught Fred's eye as she moved out of the shadows, holding her hands in the air as a show of peace. She kept walking until there was about five feet between her and the stranger, then stopped. She dropped one hand, and extended the other for him to shake. "My name's Bella. Bella Cullen."
He looked oddly at her hand and did nothing, so she let it fall awkwardly to her side. A few seconds passed, and then Fred opened his mouth. "Fred. Just… Fred." His voice was deep and comforting,even if he was visibly nervous.
Bella smiled warmly at him, to try and make him more comfortable – he was clearly on edge. He seemed like he wanted to speak, but couldn't quite think of how to phrase it, so she just watched him, letting him get his bearings.
Finally, he blurted out, "Why are you okay? I – I mean, why aren't you - "
"Sick?" Bella finished quietly. Fred nodded, then bit his lip, looking like he wished he hadn't said anything. "I know about your gift, and I have one too. I'm impervious to attacks on the mind, such as your talent."
Fred seemed to relax at this, knowing his gift hadn't been malfunctioning. The pair stayed silent for another few moments, but Bella knew her husband would be jumping at the bit to follow her out.
"Listen," she began, hesitantly, "I know my family wants to meet you, and my husband is especially anxious to come 'protect me'" She made sure to use a joking tone so that Fred didn't feel threatened and bolt. "Do you mind if I bring him out here?"
Fred blinked. "Okay," he agreed slowly.
Edward, love, would you like to join me? He couldn't respond in kind, as Bella was not a mind reader, but Bella knew he'd be on his way immediately. She was actually surprised he hadn't come already, and consequently wondered how many of his siblings were required to restrain him.
A few seconds later, Bella heard him speeding through the brush. "He'll be here in a minute," she warned Fred.
Fred furrowed his eyebrows. "How did you..." he trailed off.
Bella knew why he was confused. To an outsider, she didn't appear to have done anything at all, so the sudden approach of Edward seemed completely random and unfounded.
"He can read minds," Bella admitted. "even mine, should I choose to let him"
"So you ended up marrying the mind-reader. Huh. Bet you're glad they wanted to keep a pet, aren't you?"
She snorted derisively. "Pet? Is that what you think I was to them? My family holds humans in a bit higher respect than to consider them pets"
"Sure," Fred shot back, "until they're in the mood for a snack."
Bella laughed. "Right. You have no idea..." She glanced into the forest north of them, and Edward emerged slowly from the trees, stopping when he reached his wife's side. He intertwined his fingers with hers and kissed her hard.
"You're alright," he sighed.
"Told you I would be," Bella chuckled lightly, and turned to the other vampire. "Fred, this is my husband Edward. Edward, Fred."
Edward extended his hand cautiously, and Fred accepted it equally carefully this time.
"I should let you know, I will try to give you privacy where it would be prudent, but my family's safety comes first, and I will need to check for any threatening thoughts on your part, is that alright?" Edward asked, tapping his head.
Fred swallowed quickly. "I suppose I don't have much of a choice, do I?"
Edward grinned. "Care to come back to our house for a bit? Meet the rest of the family? They'd really like to meet you..."
"You have a house?" Fred wondered aloud.
"And so much more," Edward added. The three of them took off, Bella in the lead. Within seconds, they were back on the Cullen property, and slowed down. Fred's jaw dropped as he took in the huge mansion.
Edward smirked. "You think that's nice, wait till you see the cars."
Bella rolled her eyes as she approached the front door. "We're back," she called unnecessarily, stepping delicately over the threshold.
Edward stopped Fred just before he entered. "Just warning you, there's ten of us here today, not including yourself, and I know my brothers will be intimidating. As well, two of our number have quite distinct scents, and they will be upstairs," Edward raised his voice pointedly for his daughter and son-in-law's benefit, "It will smell a bit like human, but you will ignore it, understand?"
Fred nodded, and the two of them entered the house. The other seven vampires were standing in pairs around the large room, and Bella was waiting closest to the door. Fred's eyes flashed at Renesmee's scent, but he did nothing upon noticing Edward's look and remembering the warning from seconds before.
"I smell the human, kind of, but what is that stench?" He wrinkled his nose.
A barely audible growl came from upstairs, but Fred didn't hear it over Rosalie's snicker and Edward's voice, saying, "In due time. Fred, these are my siblings Jasper, Alice, Emmett and Rosalie," each raised a hand as Edward pointed to them, "this is our mother Esme, and our father and coven leader, Carlisle."
Carlisle said, "Welcome to our home, Fred. Why don't you come into the living room, I'm sure you have many questions."
Everyone filed into the living room, and Fred stood awkwardly near the door, watching the others find spots to sit with their partners. As the question formed in his head, Edward answered it for him.
"We sit out of habit - it would look funny to the humans if we never sat."
"What do you mean, look funny to the humans?" Fred tried to picture how sitting fit into hunting, and why any normal human would be concerned regardless.
Edward shook his head at the image Fred had conjured - a vampire setting a place at a table and sitting down delicately before tearing savagely into the throat of his prey. "We like to think of ourselves as civilized, sure, but that's a little much. We're civilised in that we don't drink human blood."
"You- But then- How-"
"We hunt strictly animals," Bella injected helpfully. "That's the only reason I was able to last so long, why they kept me around instead of trying to drink my blood."
Both Jasper and Edward fidgeted uncomfortably at this, and it didn't escape Fred's notice. He wondered what Bella wasn't sharing, but decided not to press the point, instead noted, "So the eyes..."
"...are gold because of that, yes." Edward finished, having recovered from Bella's statement. "Makes it a lot easier to blend in at school, too." he added casually. "Imagine if we went to school with bright red eyes, the poor humans would lose it"
But Fred had stopped listening at "school". Was there no end to the oddities about this strange coven?
"Family, Fred. We're a lot closer than a coven. And we've barely scratched the surface here" Edward smirked.
"Way to keep the tension up, Eddie," Emmett teased. Edward grinned and winked at his brother.
Esme sighed exasperatedly at her sons' behaviour, and turned to the dumbstruck Fred. "Sorry about them, dear. How about you lead the discussion now, we'll try to answer anything you'd like to know"
Fred considered this. He had what seemed like an endless supply of questions for this ... family... and he didn't know where to begin. He decided to start with the question that had been plaguing him for eight years, ten months, eleven days, fifteen hours, and thirty four minutes.
"About nine years ago, there was a band of newborns that were created to destroy you. I was supposed to be part of them, and I'm just curious - do you know what happened to them? Obviously they didn't succeed, but..." Fred trailed off, seeing the uncomfortable looks on most everyone's face.
"You want to know about Bree." Edward commented - it wasn't a question.
Fred opened his mouth to ask how Edward knew that, then remembered his talent. When no one said anything more for a few moments, Fred bit his lip. "Was she..."
"I'm sorry, Fred." Carlisle met Fred's gaze.
Fred dropped his head into his hands. Nothing more needed to be said.
Several moments passed in silence. Finally Fred looked up. "Which one -"
"No one in this room was responsible for Bree's death, son," Carlisle asserted. "I'll assume you've heard of the Volturi by now?" Fred was still overcome, so Carlisle continued in a softer voice. "They showed up at the last minute. Believe me, we tried to save her. She had surrendered, and we offered to take her in, teach her our ways. But as it was, the Volturi representatives had other ideas - they were the ones who ultimately...ended her."
Carlisle trailed off, leaving Fred to his grief. The latter was relieved as much as he was distraught - he didn't have to live with her rejection anymore, because it never was rejection.
He'd honestly seen a connection between them. Sure, she was into that Diego kid, but Fred was sure that was just a phase. In those last few days before the battle, he and Bree had fallen into a comfortable rhythm that just seemed to work. It was something that could have lasted forever, and he was confident the relationship would have progressed in other ways as well.
It struck Fred now that Edward would be listening to this musing, and it probably sounded more than a little pushy to anyone to hadn't had nine years to reflect. He cut off the train of thought immediately and looked at the mindreader. Edward acknowledged Fred, but said nothing.
Fred still had more questions, although their importance faded in light of the news about Bree. He asked about the real reason the newborn army was after the Cullens; he asked about the rumours regarding an epic standoff with the Volturi; he asked what school and "vegetarianism" were like; he asked about the various talents interspersed throughout the family. The vampires sat well into the evening, with each Cullen throwing in their piece whenever they could.
The only sticky spot happened when Fred inquired about the two upstairs. The Cullens exchanged uncertain looks at this, no one sure how much to reveal. It was Bella who finally, after reasoning that Renesmee wasn't exactly a secret anymore, called her daughter down, adding that it was up to Jacob if he would reveal himself and join them. Being that the shapeshifter pack was already somewhat famous for their involvement in the Volturi incident, Jacob did indeed join the group in the living room. The exposure of the two hybrids brought on a whole new string of questions from Fred, and it was another several hours before the conversation reached a lull.
Around eleven thirty, Fred went on his way, but not before being encouraged by all that he was welcome back anytime, and told not to be a stranger - to drop by anytime he was in the area, their door was always open to friends. Fred left with a warm feeling in his chest, it was the first time in nine years that he'd had any sort of interaction aside from passing other nomads. He felt it would not be a bad idea to find himself a mate - now that he was no longer dwelling on Bree, he had a whole eternity to find happiness for himself.
Edward relegated this decision to his family once Fred was out of earshot, and they all cheered. Most went off to entertain themselves like any other night, Renesmee and Jacob went to bed. Only Edward and Bella remained standing on the front porch.
"I told you it would all be fine," Bella chided her husband, the teasing evident in her voice.
Edward smiled, and kissed the top of her head. "I guess I should trust you more often, then."
Bella laughed, and then became serious. "I hope he's okay. He seems like a nice person, and it's so awful for him to have to have waited so long to find out about Bree. I couldn't imagine waiting nine years for any sort of closure."
"In a few centuries, love, I'm sure nine years will seem like nothing to us, and him too."
"I suppose. All the same... Oh well. Do you think we'll see him again?"
"I have no doubt," Edward replied. "Fred really enjoyed us, once he got comfortable, and the concept of friendship thrilled him after all this time. In fact, I sincerely think the next time we see him, he'll bring with him a partner. He's been alone for too long."
"Says the century old virgin," Bella snickered.
"Ha! Bella, my love, are you calling me a prude?"
"Why don't you prove me wrong, Edward?"
And with that, the two vampires were off, all thoughts of the lonely nomad gone from their heads.