Disclaimer: This is Stephanie M. world I just like to play in it.
"One…Two…Three…Four…Five…Six…Seven … Eight …Nine…Ten." I breathed a sigh of relief. I had won. I had to win because the alternative was too painful to imagine. I couldn't have their deaths on my hands too.
"Well done big guy." I said as I leaned down and kissed his cheek. "No hard feelings. I just did what I had to do. I swear I'll give you a chance to get your rep. back after being beaten by a mere human. How about we have a rematch later," I winked at him "if I'm still around that is." I quickly got off of him turning to face my judge, jury, and executioner. Now comes the hard part.
I opened my eyes slowly to the soft light of early dawn. It looks like it going to be another cool and dreary day, like they all are here in Forks. The weather usually mirrors my moods, dreary and sad with a chance of pain. Happiness just isn't in the forecast for me.
What have I had to be happy about anyway in the last six years since Edward left me alone in the forest, since they all abandoned me, leaving me alone and unprotected? Just like Laurent said I was nothing more than a pet. So I have nothing to be happy about because I've lost it all. Charlie, Renee, Phil and Jacob are all dead because I was left behind weak and human with no way to protect them. Hell, I couldn't even protect myself from that evil redheaded bitch that wanted to tear me apart, who did tear me apart in the end.
I guess the physical sacrifice and pain was worth it in the long run though. I got two awesome new powers for one uterus; lots of new scars and a matching bite mark on my other wrist courtesy of Victoria. Yep, aren't I lucky? But without my physical shield and my prophetic dreams I wouldn't be able to save them and I'm the only one who can. So today I finally have something to be happy about, to celebrate. After five long years of dreaming the same dream off and on, reliving the same scenario over and over again, I beat him. The final piece to the puzzle fell into place, I won and not a moment too soon.
The dream has been coming every night for the last month taking on a life of its own. It's become so totally sensory that I can see, hear, smell, feel and taste everything around me. The way the light reflects in my opponent's eyes as they narrow and glint with their focus, the sound of the whispers of surprise that are so low they are almost inaudible to my human ears, the disgusting scent of rust and salt that permeates the room I'm in, clinging to it for the rest of eternity, and the texture of the well worn stone floor, cool and smooth under my bare feet and the flavor of fear, some for me and some of me. It's so intense that it seems like it's really happening. This is my omen; I know what this means and it won't be long before they come for me.
I've got to practice, to make the right series of moves second nature in the real world. I can't leave anything to chance; it's too important. I need to call Seth soon, but not yet. It's still too early in the morning, even for a werewolf who patrols at all hours of the day or night, to be up and coherent. Looking at the clock, I confirm my observation; sure enough it is 6:30am. I may be a hermit, but I still have some decency left, even if the pack doesn't believe it.
Getting my butt out of bed, I start getting dressed in my black yoga pants and gray tee-shirt, hurrying to get my waist length hair braided before Di can starts yelling at me. A drill sergeant has nothing on her, I assure you. 'It's time to do your Thai Chi, your meditation, your stretches, and run your ten miles,' she says every morning.
Who the hell does she think I am? Zena warrior princess? I think I much prefer Athena in human form. It's more fitting for me, you know? The virgin Goddess of War. The only time I get to wrestle with a guy is when he's in the form of a giant wolf. I hope that if I ever get the chance to call a man an animal it won't be because he has fur. Ew, gross! And the only exercise I ever get on my back is my set of stomach crunches and they aren't much of a turn on. Yeah, I know it's buffed me up, filling me out in all the right places, but shit, there's no one to appreciate the view anyway.
What a pain in the ass! It's the same thing every morning without fail no matter how bad the weather is. It makes no difference to her because I have to be prepared. I feel like the fucking postal service sometimes.
I guess I really shouldn't complain. Di's been there for me when no one else was. She's been there from when I woke up in the hospital, through the pack abandoning me and for my loved ones' memorial services. She recommended Thai Chi for my balance and coordination problems, and then meditation to help with the emotional and physical pain that I was in. Everything that she suggested worked. I can walk across a flat surface and not fall on my face now. Hell, I've even become coordinated enough to play the guitar. So I guess I should thank her for that, but she's just such a slave driver.
She nagged me until I took martial arts classes and started running, too. Di said that these would teach me the moves and build the endurance I was going to need. So far she's never steered me wrong, so I'm inclined to listen to her. I guess it's because she's my friend, my best and only friend. I really don't know what I'd do without her, but I do know that I'd be totally alone.
When I woke up from the coma two weeks after the attack, I had a new voice in my head. I'd been hearing Edward's voice off and on for a year anytime I was in danger, so I was used to that, but this was different; this voice was female, definitely not mine, and bossy as hell. That was my introduction to Di, my vampire alter ego and companion. Yep, Isabella Marie Swan is officially crazy and nobody knows or cares.
I tucked my hair into the back of my shirt, as I headed out to the backyard, getting ready for my morning workout. I figured I could call Seth around 9:30 to make our sparring date; I would be good and warmed up by then. It's strange being forced to practice my fighting with a werewolf. Seth's only strong enough in wolf form to make it worth it for me to go up against him. If I'm going to be ready in time, then the stronger my partner, the better off I'll be. It's not like I have a spare vampire in my back pocket to try the new combination out on. Beggars can't be choosers, can they?
It's no wonder I'm insane living in the world that I do. Vampires to the left of me, werewolves to the right of me, and danger all around that follows me no matter where I go! Maybe Edward was right, I don't belong in his world. The supernatural world is just too powerful a place for me to be. I'm too weak, too fragile, both mentally and physically, so it's finally driven me over the edge. I'm just not good enough, too worthless to…
"Oh don't even go there again Isabella! I'm not spending the next few hours trying to pull you out of that black hole of pain that you're digging yourself into with that train of thought. Start with your stretches today so you can let go of all that negativity. You don't have time for this. We don't have time for this, so get over it and get a move on."
"Sorry Di. I guess I just got lost in my head again. How long do you think we have until they come?"I asked as I start my stretches.
"Maybe five days at the most, so you don't have much time left. You have to use it to the fullest of your ability or we're going to fail," she replied.
"Failure isn't an option and you know it! There are lives at stake here. Do you still think that Aro will be sending Felix and Demetri?" I inquired as I bent over to lay my palms on the ground.
"Aro is a predictable creature for the most part. You are an insignificant human to his way of thinking, so those two would be his logical choices. Think about it Bella; in the dream you seem to already have a connection to Felix. You have enough of a rapport to kid with him, so you must have met him before. He can be a flirt, but he seemed to honestly like you. Use that to your advantage, because you're going to need all the leverage you can get," she responded, "Make sure you don't slack off today. You need to be in top form so you have the best chance of beating Seth."
"Sure, Sure," I said as my panic started to rise. I definitely needed to work hard, because in five days or less I was going to have to be ready to face the Volturi. I may have dreamed about it, known about it, planned for it and trained for it for years, but now that it was staring me in the face I was scared to death. Oh shit! My life is crazy! Going to Volterra would not be my vacation of choice, but when had anyone ever asked me what my choices would be? It was time to get it in gear, because it was going to be a long and trying day.
'Who the hell is calling at this time of the morning?' I thought as I was jarred out of my sleep. I'd run patrol until 3:00am, so I hadn't gotten much sack time.
Checking the caller ID, I saw that it was Bella. It figures; that woman never seemed to sleep anymore. I grabbed the phone and opened it.
"Hey Bells, how are you doing?"I asked trying to wipe the sleep out of my eyes.
"Not bad for a person with an expiration date. How are you Seth? I'm not bothering you, am I?"
"No, I needed to get up soon anyway," I said throwing the covers back and getting out of the bed, "Are you in need a sparring partner again?"
"Yep, you think you can fit me into that busy schedule of yours for the next few days? I got a new combo I need to master as quickly as possible. "
"Sure, I'll meet you in the clearing in about an hour, okay?"I said as I started the coffee before heading for the shower, "Let me get some breakfast and I'll head that direction."
"Okay, see you there, and, Seth, thanks for all your help with this. I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you for your kindness, but I'll start by bringing lunch."
"Think nothing of it Bells. I'll see you there."
"See you soon."
'I loved Bella. She was beautiful, funny, intelligent, and selfless to a fault, but she sure could be one strange chick', I thought as I closed my phone. The losses of Edward, the Cullens, her parents, and Jacob were just too much for any one person to handle, I guessed. Maybe the extreme trauma scrambled her brain or maybe it was facing the redhead alone. All I knew was that with that weird shield of hers, she was a freak show if I'd ever seen one.
"Let's try it again, Seth. I have to get this right and I only have a few days to perfect it," I said stopping for a minute to wipe the sweat from my face.
We'd been at it for two hours straight and I wasn't any closer to mastering the sequence than I was when we started. We'd tried it again without success and I'd wound up on the ground on my ass. I couldn't seem to get my flip with a twist, and my kick to sync up with my shield. If it didn't all match up perfectly it wouldn't work. Practicing with my shield was extremely difficult and draining for my human body, too. It took a lot more energy when my shield was activated than it did without it; about twice as much actually. I was getting tired and discouraged so maybe it was time for a break.
"You ready for lunch, wolf boy? I brought chicken salad sandwiches because I knew they're your favorite. There's plenty of water in there, too, if you want it, "I said as I opened up the backpack and started pulling the food and drinks out.
"What? You can't keep up, Swan? Is my wolf wearing you out already?" he joked as he caught a bottle of water I chucked at him, "Hell, you used to run with vampires, Bella. Are you slowing down in your old age?" he said, being a smartass.
"Put a lid on it, Seth, and put your sandwich where your mouth is," I said, throwing a sandwich at his head. He caught it easily and proceeded to do just exactly what I suggested, effectively shutting him up for the time being.
We sat on the ground eating in a companionable silence. There was a gentle breeze blowing through my hair and it really felt good after all the sweating I had done so far. The singing of the birds lulled me into a peaceful state of mind. I truly needed this right now. I needed to come at this problem from a centered equilibrium and I hadn't been doing that. Fear is the mind killer. I knew I was having a Dune moment, but I truly believed it. Fear was screwing me up. I had to let go of the fear, and start feeling at peace with my shield. That's where I was making my mistake.
"It about time. You figured that one out, did you?"Di said jolting me out of my quiet contemplation.
"I've asked you to not to talk to me around anyone unless it an emergency. Seth already thinks I'm a basket case with all this training I'm doing. All I need to do is start talking to myself out loud and he'll probably have me committed. I don't think you'd care for the accommodations in a padded hotel."
"Fine! I'll keep quiet, but I was just punctuating your point," she said sounding a little bit irritated.
"Well, punctuate when we're alone, please," I shot back.
"That's fine, Bella," I could visualize her folding her metaphorical arms across her chest.
I swear she could be so irritating sometimes, always having to have the last word! Sometimes I really wished I could ignore her, but the few times that I had ignored her weren't worth the trouble I got in, so I guess I had better keep listening, at least until this is over.
I finished my lunch and glanced over at Seth. He seemed to be fidgeting quite a bit for some reason.
"Seth, is something wrong?"I asked him. He may not have been my best friend, but I was still concerned if he was upset about something.
"Bella, can I ask you a personal question?" he asked, glancing at me sheepishly, which I thought was kind of an odd look on the face of a wolf.
"Sure, you can ask me anything and I'll answer you, if I can," I responded reluctantly.
"What's up with all this training you've been doing? You know I don't mind helping you out, but is there a purpose to all of this?"he asked, curiosity radiating off of him.
"I'm sorry, Seth, but I can't answer that one right now. I promise that I will do the big reveal before I leave town in a few days," I said regretfully.
"You're leaving town, Bella? Where are you going? Are you going on a trip, like a vacation or something?" I could tell by his tone that I had shocked him.
Looking at the ground, I tried to figure out how much of the truth to tell him. I decided to tell him most of it. Seth reminded me so much of Jacob sometimes, and I told Jake everything, so it was hard not to do the same with Seth. I looked up, staring straight into his eyes.
"No, I'm moving to Europe, permanently. There's nothing here for me any more, Seth. I need to get away from the memories. You understand, don't you? I just need a fresh start," I said, trying to control the barely masked pain in my voice.
"I guess, but Forks is your home, Bella. You'll come back and visit me won't you?"he begged looking at me with pain in his eyes.
"No, I'm sorry; once I leave I won't be coming back. I don't think you'll forget me anytime soon though because I'm leaving you Charlie's house," I said with a smirk on my face.
"What? I can't take your house, Bella! That's too much."
The shocked look on his face was priceless. I so wished I'd had a camera. This was how I wanted to remember Seth forever.
"It's already done, big guy, and I don't have time to change it now. The key is under the eaves by the front door and the paper work is in a metal box in the desk in Charlie's room. The key to the box is taped under the bottom drawer on the left hand side. You can keep the house or sell it. It is up to you, but I want you to have it. You're the closest thing I've had to a friend since everything in my world fell apart. I can't think of anyone more deserving than you. You've stuck by me even when no one else would give me the time of day. I know the pack gives you a hard time about me, but still you're there when I need you. So, just say thank you and let's get back to work. Okay?"
"Okay, let's do it and thank you, Bells, for everything. I'm going to miss you."
"Me too, wolf man, me too."
As I got up to try it again, I made a decision. I would do whatever I had to to keep Aro from finding out about the wolves. The pack deserved happiness and peace in their lives as much as the next guy and more than most. Vampires were the bane of their existence, so I would do whatever I could to keep their enemies out of the area and off their land. They may not have counted me as a friend anymore, but I still considered them my allies. I still owed the pack big time for saving my life. The least I could do would be to protect theirs. I hoped it was true that Aro wouldn't be able to read me, because if he was able, we'd all be screwed.
'Get your head back in the game, Isabella" yelled Di.
"Yes Ma'am! Aye aye Ma'am!" I snarked back, snapping a metaphorical salute. I still had a lot of work to do and very little time to do it in.
AN: Reviews are love and love is a verb.