Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Stephenie Meyer created this little world I like to play in.
I apologize for the delay in posting. Real Life took precedence. I thought to wait until Sunday, since I'd mentioned that as a posting schedule, but my beta told me to go ahead. You can thank him – smile.
When your time comes to die,
Be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
So that when their time comes,
They weep and pray for a little more time,
To live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song,
And die like a hero going home.
Bella pulled away in our SUV, going to meet Charlie for their day together, but not before I blew her a kiss. I could hear Emmett behind me on the front steps already formulating a snarky remark about how I was a pansy for doing so. Yet, seeing the glow in Bella's face as she looked back to me in the rear view mirror, I just didn't care. Our night, as with all the nights and times we made love, had been earth shattering. It was as if time only refined and intensified how closely we were bonded physically, emotionally, and spiritually. She was my salvation and always had been.
So as Jasper chuckled at my mood, I turned to Emmett and raised my eyebrow. "Give me your best shot."
"Dude…I don't even have to try." He pantomimed me, effeminately kissing his fingertips and waving them like an accomplished beauty contestant. That Emmett cocked his hip to the side in a very provocative manner was too much, considering the burly body being contorted into such a pose. He'd intentionally crooked his little finger on his right hand effectively telling me his thoughts on my status.
"Whooped…" he was effectively saying.
As Jasper burst out laughing, I shrugged. I deemed Emmett's attempt to get a rise out of me pointless. Bella did have me twisted around her little finger, so why argue? I sniffed at him dismissively, to which Emmett growled a little.
Sensing the impending destruction, Esme stuck her head out the front door. "Not here. Go out into the back yard if you insist on acting like kids." Without any further direction, she closed the door on us as if to say there would be no argument. We all heard Carlisle chuckle from inside at her actions.
Henry grinned as the light of confrontation in his dad's eyes dimmed to frustration. Em was spoiling for a good fight, but his son and I had other things to do, and the boss had spoken.
"So, Edward. Where do we go?" Henry asked, knowing that I would need the quiet to focus on our experiment.
"We'll leave," Carlisle spoke as he stepped out on to the front porch from inside.
Images of a good hunt, followed by dessert ala' Esme upon his return, flashed through his mind triggering a small smirk on my part. The fact that the rest of the family would still stay relatively close enough to the house in case something went wrong and Henry and I needed any of them permeated his and Emmett's thoughts. We heard various others start leaving; Aden for his morning prayers in a private clearing, and Fred, returning to Seattle for his mate.
Emmett might tease me unmercifully, but he was still my overprotective, big brother.
It was a compromise we'd fashioned in the past few years of Henry, Bella, and I working on suppressing specific parts of Aro's memories. Henry and Bella still insisted that they both be present, along with Jasper in the near background, for serious work, but the family, for the most part, refused to go far afield from the house. But today wasn't about that. I didn't need my mate to shield my mind and my nephew to provide the visual of blocking off memories to hide them, or the family hanging around like I was a ticking time bomb. We were simply going to try building a trigger.
So with one more longing look down the road by which my wife had disappeared, I followed Henry into the house as the others prepared to vacate it.
"I'm imagining the last time that Jacob slipped with his thoughts about Nessie," I informed Henry and saw the humor slide across his face. Carlisle chuckled very lightly as he sat in the couch across from Henry and myself. I'd heard his curiosity about the process and invited him to stay. Esme had provided only a slight mock pout before she gave him a look that promised untold delights later and then ran into the woods.
"An innocuous one, right?" Henry teased, not so subtly reminding me that he'd directed me to pick something minor to start with.
I shrugged. "If this works, can you imagine a better thing for me to attempt?"
He actually chuckled at my sour expression. "Okay, I'll give you that." Sitting down in front of me, to where our knees almost touched, he quirked his head. "Can you hear any of the others?"
"No, just the occasional person passing on the highway." That was acceptable…their thoughts, for the most part, were mundane.
"Okay…so let try with you just building the wall as usual. Start with the first row," he said in the persuasive voice he reserved for this task.
I grimaced at such a mundane, weak start, but he was the man in charge, so I followed through. I began, slightly cringing as my perfect memory brought the "innocuous memory" up, with the lust Jacob had felt when he saw Nessie in a particularly form fitting pair of jeans, and the thoughts and plans he had as he placed his large paw on her hip. Within a few seconds the memory was gone. I didn't know that, however, until Henry told me to remember and it all came rushing back.
I pinched my nose in frustration and realized that Henry was laughing at me, because my other hand was tugging at my hair. Underneath his humor, however, Henry's mind was infused with relief to see me acting so "Edward." I knew that when I inadvertently replicated one or another of Aro's mannerisms that it spiked everyone's fear. That they attempted to hide the dismay from me was both a useless effort and a driving reason why I wanted to develop a level of control over these damned memories. My family shouldn't have to worry about me in this manner.
For a moment, I even contemplated mimicking Aro just to freak Henry out…but thought better of it. This was Henry, and he still was all tangled up about the fact that he was biologically related to the man I still considered the most powerful and diabolical leader I'd ever encountered. Deep inside, the man in front of me still felt very responsible for what had occurred to our family over the past few years…his guilt tied up with the mixed emotions of hatred and disgust toward his sire.
Before I could even stop the words, they flew out of my mouth. "Henry, do you ever hate me?"
Vibrant blue eyes flew to mine and he froze. "Hate you!?" he snarled out as he stood up abruptly from his leather seat. "Why do you ask such a stupid question, Edward?" He was furious at himself, wondering if he'd ever done anything to make me feel that way.
I backtracked and tried to explain, only glancing to Carlisle for a moment before speaking. "I meant, do you ever feel anger or disgust with me, because of your father? Contrary to your and the others best attempts, you really haven't developed the skills to hide it from me. I know how I look at times."
He grimaced as he sat back down, a little more calmly, and what I saw in his thoughts gave me a level a peace. He chose to verbalize the words, rather than just leave them unspoken. It was his way of emphasizing his position. "Edward, I've never felt anything other than love and respect for you. There is fear at times, I will admit because it would be foolish to attempt to hide it. But anger at you? NO, never."
He shrugged at my inquisitive gaze. "I feel rage toward Aro and what he did. Granted, I know that he may have not intentionally meant to dump all of his memories on you, but I also wouldn't be surprised to find that he did so. In fact, if he knew what he was doing and that it would haunt you, I wouldn't put it past him. It wouldn't have been just about a way to torture you, but also making sure that he lived on in some form or fashion. He was just that narcissistic." He leaned back in the chair, stretching as if to release the tension that had taken over as he spoke. "Does that make sense?"
I nodded, having contemplated these very thoughts many times over the time since Aro had been destroyed.
"Edward…you didn't ask for this thing. In fact, I should ask the same question of you." Henry raised an eyebrow at me. "Have you ever hated me? Have you looked up my face, knowing who sired me, and felt the need to destroy me?"
I gasped, and the response tore from my throat. "NO!"
He nodded in a serious manner, before love transformed his features. "Exactly. So let's both forget the insecurities that haunt us at times and focus on what we can control."
The realization that Henry sometimes contemplated whether or not the family would hold him accountable for his lineage upset me and Carlisle, who'd remained quiet through our exchange, and I reached out to grab Henry's forearm in comfort. It was an oddly paternal mannerism, and it disturbed us both for a moment. Not because the sentiment was wrong - Henry knew I cared for him as family - but because it reminded us both of how much Aro had really wanted to develop a relationship with his progeny in his own sick and demented way.
Patting my arm in return, Henry shook his head as I released him. I saw Carlisle visibly take a deep breath, focusing to calm after our outbursts.
"Okay, so let's try figuring out how to allow you to do this thing – this internal switch - on your own. But first, I have a term that must be discussed."
Visions of a clandestine meeting between Henry and Carlisle in the study upstairs flashed through his mind. I growled slightly as I saw the two exchange furtive glances.
"Sorry, Uncle Edward, but he insisted." The young man waved his hand slightly at Carlisle, who nodded in agreement. "And we really needed to be open to speaking our minds without you hearing it first. But the terms are binding. I'll only agree to do this if you swear to only use the switch-off in the direst of circumstances. Poppa insists that we be with you as you continue sorting through Aro's memories. We don't want you going off on your own and experimenting."
He was adamant about this. The two of them had come to an accord; they would only agree to this new process if I agreed to this one stipulation. "Only to be used in the direst of circumstances?" I repeated the demand, looking to Carlisle as well.
Henry nodded his head in a sincere and resolute manner.
That was an easy answer. "Of course. Contrary to what those in this family believe of me, I'm not a masochist."
Snarky comments, somewhat reminiscent of his father's tainted mind, sang through his thoughts. Interspersed with these insouciant remarks were others such as "Aunt Bella might contradict that" rouse to the surface of his mind, but he refrained from voicing these aloud. We both chuckled, though, because he knew I'd heard them.
Carlisle didn't even try to mask his rolling eyes.
"Promise." Henry's word was a demand.
I held my hand over my heart. "Promise."
Hours later, I walked away from the arduous process with a basic understanding of how to immediately hide innocuous things from my mind. It'd actually been a productive experience, one that Carlisle had interrupted several times at the start with his curiosity; he wanted to see how Henry coached me in masking parts of my mind. As he'd watched, I'd focused past his serene thoughts. After a few successful attempts, I'd suggested to him that he was channeling an aura of Zen calm in Bella's place, to which he'd laughed. But honestly, he'd been my comfort for so long before her, that having him around me was as good as it could get, if she wasn't. He teased me about using him as we walked into the woods, and it was then I sensed his thirst, though his eyes were as gold as ever.
"Why didn't you go feed with the others?" I asked.
"I wanted to be near you, in case you needed me," he shrugged nonchalantly.
Shaking my head at his selflessness, I smirked. "The others went south?" I asked. At his nod of acknowledgement, I shrugged my shoulders towards the dense woods in front of me. "Then why don't we go that way?" It was in the general vicinity of the reservation where I would need to pick up the twins and the young Victoria to go join Bella and Charlie at the river.
"Hunting together?" he asked in a hopeful voice, making me realize just how long it had been.
Smirking, I shrugged. "Well…other than my wife, I can't think of anyone else I'd rather do that with."
"Just like old times," he grinned and visions of us dressed in various eras of clothing filled his mind. There were memories of us before even Esme had joined our family - me with brilliant red eyes and a surly look.
I chuckled at his memory. "Carlisle, are you missing my tantrums?" I asked with the just right amount of affront.
Throwing his head back, he laughed like a little boy, slapping his thighs. "Dear God, save me from such drama." He then smacked me on the back, causing my skin to sting. "No…I'll just take a good run and a bit of dinner…" He said it with such a proper British accent that I had to laugh back. "C'mon son, let's go." And with that, he flew across the land, leaving me to chase, at least for a short spell, his laughter.
"Nonno. Tell Victoria about the day Nonna beat Emmett arm wrestling," Stefanie asked, her green eyes gleaming in humor. I'd picked the triplets and Victoria up from the reservation, along with the portly Fang, and together we'd gone into the forest on the way to the Sol Duc River.
William had already had me elaborate about of one of our more memorable Halloween pranks on the wolves. Victoria's eyes had rounded with surprise, just before she began giggling hysterically. The vision of Seth dressed as Little Bo Beep had been too much.
"But why was Stefanie dressed like a wolf?" she'd asked, and I'd had to skirt around the issue.
At least with Stefanie's request, I didn't have to do my best to avoid subjects like mating, imprinting, and immortal love and lust. The irony wasn't lost on me, considering the child I was talking to would, in my opinion, be the focus of it all in just a few years.
In a few sentences, I explained to Victoria the arm-wrestling challenge, omitting the reason behind Emmett daring my wife to the match. Victoria expressed amazement that such a tiny person could easily defeat my hulk of a brother, her eyes widening when I informed her that as a newborn, Bella's own blood had made her extremely strong for her first year of her new life. I could see her pondering this new bit of information before storing it away for later.
We were walking slowly through the woods so that Fang and Victoria could maneuver on their own steam. Being spoiled and lazy as the years continued to add to his girth, the dog wasn't averse to sucking up to William or Stefanie to carry him, but for now he was acting youthful and feral…pouncing on imaginary creatures along the path we walked. It was a beautiful day; one meant to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. So that is exactly what we were doing on our way to meet Bella and Charlie.
We were using one of the well-run wolf trails, and I could smell the individual scents of the packs. Each smell was unique and representative of its particular wolf owner, but Sam's was the strongest. He didn't phase as often, family life taking precedence, but he'd been here within the last day. The wolves had been running increased patrols with us in residence. It was felt that our presence might attract our enemy, though I felt it might be wasted as the ancient woman had figured a way to evade even the wolves when she entered our house. I growled silently at that memory before focusing on the present. It wasn't the only thing our presence could bring; I'd been wondering just how much longer it would be before we met Gabriel the wolf. He'd turned twelve on his last birthday, and several of the original pack members hadn't been much older when Aro had brought his horde down on us the first time in the snowy clearing on New Years Eve.
Scents: vampires, and wolves…it was all so combined together to make a unique blend of supernatural. I laughed as I saw Fang, not so discreetly mark his territory, as if adding to it all.
I would have to talk with Sam, to see if he'd noticed signs of the impending transformation – growth spurts, warmer body temperature, and a greater appetite - with Gabriel. He'd long ago told us that our presence, and the likely results, were welcome, but it didn't bear to forget to speak with him about it.
"Is Mr. Emmett always such a teaser?" Victoria asked, totally unaware of my thoughts.
"You have no idea…" William grumbled.
"Tell her about Emmett hiding in the snow man and scaring Daddy," Ellie encouraged. The story of Emmett erupting out of the snow to pounce on Carlisle was one of her favorites.
I saw the glee on Victoria's face; she was anxious to hear another funny story about us. She was still working through her surprise at our existence, but like Bella, Victoria exhibited very little fear; she had accepted her new reality very easily. "Please, Mr. Edward," she begged.
Mr. Edward? I grinned at her words; the title made me sound like such old man.
"Well, Em…" The words stuck in my throat as I heard distant minds approaching rapidly. "RUN!" I stabbed a hand in the direction of the reservation as I ordered my grandchildren, Victoria, and Ellie.
One look at their faces told me they had no clue.
"William," I almost sobbed, picking up the bewildered Victoria and placing her in his arms. "Run now…she's here, just a few hundred yards in the woods. The ancient one!" I tried to reach for Fang as well, to give him to Stefanie, but the time was up.
Our tiny, self-appointed guardian growled as bravely as his little body could as the first line of her vampires came between the trees ahead. I heard the hiss from my grandson and shouted fiercely "NO!" when I saw him place Victoria in Stefanie's arms instead, squaring off to face them with me. I felt his resolve rising to face the onslaught with me.
"William, GO!" I yelled again, unable to dedicate any more attention to convincing them as I needed to meet the forces head on. I could delay them, I thought…long enough for the kids to get away.
"Stef, run with her," he strangled out, and I saw him kiss his sister's forehead and then Ellie's before swiftly skimming his hand down Victoria's jawline.
"But…" Stefanie sobbed, contemplating several options of fighting with us. But she stopped when she saw the determination and pleading in her brother's face. He was placing his trust in her to get Victoria to safety. It was a weighty responsibility.
"Sis…now!" William pointed almost angrily to the trail back home. "I'll help Nonno. Get Nonna, she's closest. We can handle this until the others can get here." He swiftly turned to the other triplet, his bravado hiding his emotions below. "Ellie, go first…you're faster. Get to Nonna and the others as quickly as you can." Ellie was as torn, but William was right; she was faster.
I could sense Ellie's long-held, fine thread of thirst for vengeance against the ancient woman come to the fore in her mind; this warred in her mind against the need to take young Victoria to safety immediately. The protective side won out and she nodded sharply, her face a fierce mask, at both William and myself.
We couldn't…handle this…I realized as I read the thoughts of the next line coming behind the first. The ancient woman stepped out front as the first line slowed down in front of us. I would've needed my brothers and father here to defeat the battle worn vampires in front of me. Not a single female…and not a one looked less than seasoned. We were badly outnumbered.
As Ellie and Stefanie turned to flee, I couldn't help but take a quick look at their precious faces. Tears ran down her cheeks as Stefanie cuddled a shocked Victoria to her chest. Ellie's whiskey brown eyes held fear and grief. "I love you," I mouthed to them.
I noted with a great deal of relief that the Ancient One had no interest in the children. In fact, she was watching our goodbyes with her face full of undisguised loathing and disgust. As the woman glided to a stop in front of the warriors before me, I realize that she wanted them to make it. She desired for my family to know that I'd been taken. For my sanity, I had to believe that they were going to make it.
But then the unimaginable happened. As I stepped forward to retrieve Fang to hand to Ellie, the little dog lunged toward the first line, and one of the older vampires took offense, blurring forward. Before I could process the shock, the man kicked Fang backwards.
"NO!" our screams combined and echoed around us at seeing our beloved pet's body sail through the air back towards us. He was already gone…the damage to his heart instantaneous. Our hero…
"GO!" I screamed at Ellie and Stefanie as rage so powerful took over at the unnecessary cruelty. I didn't even remember moving toward the man. The girls disappeared swiftly into the woods as we crashed into each other. The fight was a blur of which I remembered little other than the thrill of his existence ending under my fingers.
The ancient woman grinned in malevolent glee; I was now within striking distance of them. I had to calm the rage within me at Fang's death, because to react again as I had would be the ultimate error and a disgrace to his sacrifice. Funneling the pure hatred I felt for her into planning, I began to formulate how to take out as many as possible before I met my end. But an otherworldly sound stopped all movement on either side.
I turned to look behind me. Dear God…not now.
"WILLIAM" I hissed, gaining his furious gaze. "Leave now, I'm ordering you."
"No." His answer was precise and clipped. His body shimmered…contorting slightly. But instead of the fear most Quileute youth felt at the unexpected "illness," William embraced it with full awareness…waiting for his legacy to be fulfilled. Rage at our position and Fang's death fueled what we'd always known would occur, just not the when.
"William!" Stefanie's voice called out…their twin telepathy telling her something was wrong. Her mind was struggling to process the changes she felt in William.
As I saw the ancient woman shift in front of us and I countered her move, a part of my mind kept track of Ellie's and Stefanie's progress. Half way there…if we could just keep her distracted a little longer. Bella and Charlie were fishing on the southern edge of the reservation. The wolves would be near them.
"I'm fine, Stef. Keep going…" he sent back, grimacing as his bones seemed to stretch.
"Nonno?" she was asking of me.
"STEF! Just keep going!" He twisted at the pain that lanced through his body and limbs.
I heard the hisses of uneasiness from across the short distance as his body blurred, expanding larger and darkening. The smell of the group burned his nose, particularly Luison…the werewolf. The vampires were stupid to bring him…the foreign werewolf couldn't change without the moon's tide to aid him. He was a liability, until she slipped and I saw his true purpose. He was what had masked their scent. But it was the Incan being that I had sighted in Mexico, to her other side that caught my attention. She allowed her thoughts to slip just a little too much, and I knew who and what he was. He was the one bringing on my/Aro's dark and twisted memories. The ancient Mayans had legends about him. They called him a Wayob; his gift…to influence dreams or thoughts. I heard his plans as he began to calculate a meltdown for me.
The danger had just increased exponentially.
Forcing back into control the almost numbing fury that was causing me to also tremble, I attempted one last time to get my grandson to leave. "William, I need you to listen to me," I murmured in a harsh whisper. "Please…follow the girls." I pulled out the big guns. "Victoria will need you."
He growled at me, and the sound was enough to raise the hair on the back of my neck. I'd never heard anything like what came out of the young man behind me. His thoughts raced …fear…anger…hatred…loyalty. He knew that Stefanie was flying toward safety with Victoria in her arms...and that they were far enough away now that it would be difficult for any of the beings in front of us to catch them.
"Hello, Edward…" the exotic woman murmured with malevolent greed and William shook at the sound of her voice "…come with me, and I'll allow the boy to live."
"Shut up!" William raged at her.
It was so unlike his nature that it even disturbed me, but then I felt the instability in him…the labile nature of a newly changing wolf. Well…in addition to overwhelming hate he felt toward her for what she'd done to our family and to Fang. I wanted to groan with the grief that washed over me, looking over to the little dog's still body. Deep, deep grief threatened to overwhelm even the anger, and I had to wrap my arm around my chest, liked I seen Bella do in Jacob's memories, just to hold myself together. A thousand memories of our tiny defender washed over me.
Hatred infused the woman's face at William's harsh words and she flicked her fingertips toward two of the men. She wanted them to "teach the pup a lesson."
Hadn't she learned enough by watching me at the battle with Maria? They never made it past me. As if I would allow them to touch him as long as I had l life within me. As I tossed the pieces on the ground, the sound of the most vicious growl rent the air, and I then smelt the worst scent I had ever had the displeasure of sensing just to my side. Apparently William's "King of Stinkdom" scent had intensified sharply with his first phase. When a drop of blood fell to my shoulder, rolling down my shirt, even I turned to view William.
Gone was the sweet boy I'd raised.
In his place stood a killing machine.
Midnight black, his fur was longer, denser. He was massive in size; larger than any of the Quileute wolves. With paws the size of Emmett's beefy hands, William stood with his shoulders equal to mine. The muscles across his shoulders were massive, corded into relief with aggression; his sheer size was staggering. It would be difficult for any of the individuals in front of us to wrap their arms around him. But what scared the vampires in front of us wasn't the fact he'd phased…for they'd been around werewolves before…or his size. It was what distinguished him from any werewolf or wolf known.
For instead of his gentle brown eyes looking out at the world, vampiric blood red eyes glared at the crowd in front of him as blood dripped in bright red droplets from between his razor sharp teeth. The smell of his venom permeated the air, and I could only believe that it must be mixed with the blood oozing from him. It was enough to even make the hair on my arms raise. For it told the individuals in front of us that their venom wouldn't incapacitate him…for the poison raced through him as well.
He huffed, moving closer to me, splattering my shirt and clothes with the red liquid oozing from his lips just before he moved into a defense posture, planting his feet broadly and rolling his shoulders in preparation. When he bumped into me in camaraderie, I felt the nature of his body. This wolf wouldn't be crushed, because he was as solid as any vampire. Then he growled fiercely, a deep, rolling sound issuing from deep within his chest.
He wasn't just a killing machine, he was the ultimate killing machine.
The men stirred nervously, several in sudden fear of the dark beast facing them, some looking to the woman as if in question, several even ran, turning and disappearing into the woods.
"You would dare forsake me!" she shrieked, and for those that remained, the fear of her won over the fear of us. I saw in that moment the cruelties they'd witnessed from her.
Hearing their thoughts and knowing our time was up, I looked over to him. I would ensure, in whatever way I could, that he made it out of here to get back to the family.
He grunted a deep, throaty sound before turning to meet my gaze. I saw him, the essence of the boy I loved, even in the eerie color of his eyes.
"I love you…all of you."
He whined, and it was an odd sound to hear coming out of such a ferocious body.
As they began to move, I took what might be my last opportunity to pass along the message that I most needed to be heard.
"Tell your Nonna that I love her and always will."
With those words, I charged to my death, knowing that God wouldn't forsake me. For I prayed, in that moment, that I would take enough of them out that William would be able to get away. For I saw her plans then…their orders.
Capture me and leave a witness.
My thanks to Paul who redlined this and made it so much better. He takes my fluff and makes it a masterpiece.
This chapter is dedicated to my Roger…my own little hero. How was I to know over a year ago when I outlined this story that my own little hero would be dying at the same time that I wrote about Fang's death.