A/N Thanks to all my wonderful reviewers; obviously been busy with RL and the obligatory cold and flu season wearing me down. Hope you keep reading; I will keep writing. I love you all. Here is a new chap for you. Poetry quotes in italics belong to e.e. cummings and everything else belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
I was restless. After witnessing the Tulpa that I had created, actually seeing a manifestation formed by my ability, I was becoming a little afraid of myself. Night was now falling around the house, and everything was quiet and still. Carlisle and Rosalie would be staying for a few days; there was still much to discuss, but at the moment, hearing any more details about my supposed destiny might cause me to put my fist through a wall. And this poor house had been through enough trauma.
It occurred to me that I no longer needed to sleep. This would take some getting used to. All in all, I felt very natural in my vampire body; I didn't really miss the idea of eating human food, and it was nice to not be so clumsy anymore. But it seemed strange to not have the need to rest my body and my mind, to refresh myself through dreaming. I supposed that I would just have to find some other way to spend all of those extra hours.
As it was, at that moment I stood staring down at the bed in the room where I had died, the bed where I had awoken after being reborn into my new life. Jasper stood in the doorway, watching me as I examined the blankets, the pillows. ''Well, you've had quite a day, haven't you?'' he drawled, raising an eyebrow. ''I am beyond confused,'' I admitted.
''Yes, but you look fantastic,'' he offered playfully, walking over and wrapping his arms around me. I leaned back into his embrace, relishing the close contact. The past few days had been…beyond hectic. And Jasper and I hadn't exactly had the time to be together. It was easy to forget, in the midst of all the drama and madness, that this had all started with him and me. Our being together was not second to anything, any prophecy or destiny. Turning our heads, our lips met.
I was no longer human or breakable. Jasper did not have to worry about being too rough; I craved every ounce of contact that he could give me. We kissed almost frantically, desperate to escape into each other, to have some reprieve from this wild world in which we had suddenly found ourselves. I twined my fingers through his hair, pulling on the long strands, trying to drag him even closer to me. He moved his hands to my waist, and then went to work removing my shirt, pulling it over my head.
I responded in kind, fumbling with the buttons on his clothes; I couldn't seem to undress him quickly enough. We tumbled together onto the bed. There was no ounce of fear or hesitation in my mind, I only felt desire and anticipation. I had waited a long time for this.
''Can I finish that poem for you, Miz Swan?'' Jasper whispered into my ear, then flicked it with the end of his tongue. I nodded feverishly. ''You might as well.''
''Good, because I find that the ending is rather appropriate,'' he chuckled. ''It goes ,
'we are for each other; then
Laugh, leaning back in my arms
For life's not a paragraph
And death I think is no parenthesis''
''What do you think, darlin'?'' he asked, running his fingers over my now naked torso, making my body tremble under his touch.
In answer, I laughed, and leaned back.
And so, I experienced my first sleepless vampire night; this was all I would know from now on. And as long as Jasper was beside me, I didn't think that I would mind those extra hours. I'd had another first, as well, and it had been…well, spectacular, actually, which from what I'd heard wasn't typical. Perhaps it was because I was now a vampire, and the ordinary pain that most women experienced while losing their virginity didn't affect me. Or maybe it was because I'd been with Jasper, and he somehow knew exactly where to touch me and how to do it.
We lay together for a few hours, in each other's arms, just enjoying the feel of the closeness of our bodies. When early morning began to creep across the sky, Jasper went hunting. He asked me if I wanted to join him, but I felt like I wanted just a few minutes to get my thoughts in order. I stood by the window, with my fingertips pressed against the glass, creating a smudge. I knew for sure now that Jasper was the person I was supposed to be with. We fit together so well, both emotionally and physically. But at the same time, I had no hard feelings towards Edward, he would always mean something to me, but the fire that had once burned inside of my heart, making me feel that I would die if I was apart from him, that fire had burned itself out, and now only an empty, cold circle of ashes remained. He did not deserve to be hurt, but he would need to understand that I had made my own choices. And if he couldn't respect those choices, then….well then maybe he hadn't really loved me the way that I'd thought he did. Perhaps it really was only my humanity that attracted him. Without it, I was as damned and soulless as he believed himself to be. Jasper, I knew, loved me because I was Bella. Human or not, I was still me, and at least he understood that. I sighed and drew my long, pale, now elegant fingers away from the window. The smudge, however, remained.
Leaving the bedroom, I wandered into the living room and found Carlisle there. He seemed to be deep in thought, almost troubled about something. ''Hey,'' I said softly. Carlisle looked up, and smiled slightly. ''Hello Bella,'' he answered, then added, ''would you mind if we spoke for a few minutes?''
I shook my head. ''Not at all.'' I sat down in a plush armchair, and stared at him expectantly.
''Bella,'' Carlisle began, fixing me with his kindly golden eyes, ''yesterday, right when I arrived, you were wondering if perhaps not all of the Volturi knew about the prophecy. This was an interesting thought. And the truth of the matter is, I can't really say with any certainty. You were told that the prophecy has been missing, correct?''
I nodded. ''Well,'' continued Carlisle, ''what if I was to tell you that it has been found?''
I raised my eyebrows. This was interesting. ''Where?'' I asked. ''And found by whom?'' And when can I actually see it? I silently added.
Carlisle sighed, looking as if he would rather not have to think about all of this, and answered, ''Do you remember the Civil War diary that Jasper asked Alice to steal?''
''Sure,'' I replied, recalling the conversation that the two had on the night we left Forks. ''It was at the library. Someone had sent it to the historian there. ''
Nodding, Carlisle continued, ''Yes, and naturally Jasper wanted it because it mentioned not only vampire attacks but also sightings of him after he had been turned. But what he didn't know was that the missing documents containing the prophecy were also hidden inside that diary.''
My eyes widened. I couldn't believe it. My prophecy had been literally right in front of us. ''Where is it now?'' I demanded. Strangely, when I spoke, my whole body seemed to vibrate, and it felt like there were waves of energy radiating outward from my skin. The discarded bottle of Scotch that Alistair had left on the table actually shook slightly. I blinked, thinking that it must have been my new vampire eyes playing a trick with the light.
''Alice had it,'' Carlisle replied slowly, regarding me curiously, then eyeing the bottle on the table. Had he seen that too? To my relief, he didn't mention it, and went on, ''but she left. Several days ago. And she didn't tell anyone where she was going. I'm certain that she has her reasons, but I don't think that this was a wise idea. She was safer with us. It may only be a matter of time before the Volturi see that she has the prophecy. And I hate to think what might happen then.''
''Do you think that they'd hurt her?'' I whispered. God, I hated the thought that my best friend could be in danger because of a few stupid pieces of paper.
Carlisle shrugged. ''I don't think that Aro would. He's always had a real fondness for Alice, and for you too, Bella. At one point, he wanted Edward to join him as well, but after he saw you, I think that suddenly you became his top priority.''
''See, this is the part I don't understand, Carlisle,'' I said, rising to my feet and beginning to pace the room. Great, I was turning into Alistair. I'd be raiding liquor cabinets in no time. ''If Aro knew about the prophecy, I can't see why he wanted me to become a vampire so much. Unless, like Alistair said before, he wanted to somehow sway me over to his side.''
''I don't think it's that, Bella,'' Carlisle explained calmly, ''If anything, the real villains at work here are probably some of the last people we would expect. Everyone seems to have their own agenda, their own stake in this matter. I assume that Kate told you about the Literati?''
''The artist collectors, or whatever?''
Carlisle smiled at my description. ''I suppose that's what they were, in a sense. At one point in history, I was also somewhat a part of that group. I wanted to preserve the best of humanity, save it, make it stronger and immortal. It took me a very long time to realize that I wasn't a monster, just a different part of nature, a new, altered version of the same person I had always been. It seemed like a noble goal, turning these talented people. But of course, you know what happened after that. Aro was also very influential in the Literati. I don't think that he's ever really grown out of his love for special humans. You, especially, rekindled that desire in him. So, I have the strong feeling that whatever else Aro might be capable of, he would not have ordered your assassination. Others, though….''
Carlisle trailed off. We heard the sound of high heeled shoes clicking against the floor, announcing Rosalie's arrival. She materialized in the doorway, looking fantastic in form fitting black pants and a long wrap-around sweater. Her expression, however, was, like always, rather cold. ''Carlisle, don't you think that Bella should be getting to work now? She needs to train, remember?''
''Train for what?'' Garrett asked, entering the room, Kate at his side.
Rosalie rolled her eyes. ''To focus and expand her abilities, obviously. If she needs to create an army, she needs to be prepared. We don't need any more mishaps.'' Her expression darkened even further at the memory of what had transpired the day before.
''Hey now,'' Garrett put up his hands, jumping in before either Carlisle or I could respond, ''I think that maybe you should give Bella some time. There's no rush, is there? And what is she going to do, make an army and then just send them marching all the way to Volterra? Be reasonable, you can't start a war without a little bit of planning.''
''I'm not starting a war at all!'' I exclaimed, putting my hands on my hips. ''And I'm not going to make an entire army of thought monsters until I'm absolutely sure I need one. And I'm certainly not going to attack the Volturi without some sort of reason; that would be idiotic, not to mention suicidal! But Rosalie was right about one thing, much as I hate to admit it. I do need to get this ability under control, learn more about it.''
The ringing of a cell phone suddenly cut through the silence that had descended over the room after I'd made my declarations. Rosalie frowned and answered it with a curt ''what?'' Her frown deepened. ''I thought that you promised this wouldn't happen…well, he needs to be stopped. I don't care how, find some excuse! Listen, you mangy piece of crap, I could snap you right in half…oh, all right. Fine. '' Her face turned furious. ''Oh, go lick yourself!'' Rosalie slid the phone closed and tossed her hair over her shoulder. Noticing all of our rather perplexed and slightly amused expressions, she explained ''That was the mutt, Jacob. Apparently, Bella, Edward is back. And he knows that you were shot. But he doesn't know that you've been turned. And once he finds out, it will only be a matter of time before his creepy new friends know, if they don't know already. And then they'll be after all of us, if they're not already on their way.''
''What creepy new friends?'' This was Alistair, who had been standing so quietly in the alcove that none of us had even realized that he was there.
''Exactly what I would like to know,'' I growled, then eyed Rosalie fiercely, that strange tremble of energy beginning to rise again. I tried to force it to recede, adding, more calmly, ''You were with Edward up until a few days ago, and you need to tell me what's going on. Why are you even here?''
''I'm here to help, against my better judgment!'' snapped Rosalie, with another toss of her lovely blonde head. ''Look, all I know is, about a month or so ago, someone started sending Edward these weird letters, filling his head with garbage about how you were about to be used as a pawn in a terrible game, how you were going to be turned and then become some kind of abomination, a Volturi puppet or whatever. You know how Edward is; he hates what we are, he thinks we're damned, and apparently so do these other vampires. Or at least that's what they wanted him to believe.
''Hey,'' Rose continued, ''I swear I didn't know all about this prophecy, or whatever. And in the beginning, the letters were pretty convincing. I even began to believe some of the crap they were spewing. You all know how I feel about this life, and I think that was why Edward felt he could confide in me. They wanted to arrange some kind of meeting, but then Alice coughed up her fake vision of immortal children, and he, Emmett and I left. Edward started to figure that something was up after a few days, and he started to grow suspicious and paranoid. He contacted his pen-pal buddies, and they decided to have their pow-wow after all. That's when Carlisle and Alice tracked me down and explained everything, or at least most of it. I was supposed to stay and see what exactly these…people were up to, then report back. It killed me, but I wasn't supposed to tell Emmett, either, in case Edward started poking around in our heads. But Edward had gotten so paranoid that he kept trying and trying to read my mind. I was having a real hard time shielding him, and he was starting to wonder why I was blocking all the time. I guess that his new friends used this to their advantage, and brain-washed him against me, convincing him that I was all a part of this conspiracy to turn Bella into a Volturi Stepford Wife, or whatever it was.''
Rosalie folded her arms across her chest. ''They got their hooks in to him pretty deep, so I ran. I left Emmett a note telling him that I would explain everything later, but that he needed to keep a close eye on Edward and these other vampires. Look, Bella, I've never really been fond of you, but you didn't deserve what they were going to do to you. And you do have some valuable gifts. If Carlisle and everyone else seems to think that protecting you is the best course of action…well, I trust them and I will help. Besides,'' she shuddered a little bit, ''you didn't have to be clairvoyant to see that there was something really off about that group. They were like a cult, so totally manipulative and controlling. I actually think that they finally managed to convince Edward that killing you while you were still human was the best thing to do. ''
''How could Edward think that?'' I whispered. There was a huge lump in my throat, now. I'd known how he felt about my desire to be turned, but I couldn't believe that he would actually condone my murder just to ensure that I never became a vampire.
Rosalie shook her head. ''He's as much a victim of these idiots as anyone else. They used his inherent self-hatred and his love for you as a human to sway him. That, and they made it sound like you would just become this horrific monster. It's like,'' Rose racked her brain to find the best example, ''you know how in those zombie movies, one of the good guys usually gets bit and then their friend has to shoot them because it's better than letting them change completely? Edward became so convinced that you were going to become some kind of demonic uber-vampire, that you wouldn't be you anymore, that he actually agreed with them. I'm not sure what their agenda is, but it definitely involves not letting you live, Bella. In any shape or form.''
Kate spoke up, then ''These vampires that got into contact with Edward, did you notice anything specific about them, Rosalie?''
Rose shuddered again, remembering. ''Well, there were only three of them that I saw. They were very somber-looking, and they all dressed alike, always in black. They each had some kind of tattoo, or brand, on the underside of their wrists. I could never see them clearly enough to know what they were of, though. ''
Kate locked eyes with Garrett and Alistair, who said ''that definitely sounds like the Memento Mori…they always seem to travel in threes, from what I've heard. And the tattoo is a symbolic commitment to their ideological goals, every member has it. But it doesn't feel right, there's more going on here than just killing Bella in order to stop her from being turned.''
''What makes you say that?'' I asked softly, still thinking of how easily Edward would cast me aside just because of what I was.
''Because,'' Kate slowly explained to me, ''the Memento Mori don't kill other vampires. They kill humans, to save their souls before they can be turned. If they've already been changed, well, that's that, one more eternally damned monster managed to sneak in. They would normally have no continued interest in Bella if they knew she was a vampire ''
''That and, I've never heard of them focusing so much attention and planning on one single person,'' Carlisle added. ''This is part of something bigger. Someone else is pulling the strings, using the Memento Mori and having them not only attempt to kill Bella, but also to convince Edward that she needed to die. They're a quiet group, and they typically don't go around recruiting. Unless of course, they've been instructed to.''
''But who exactly would be doing the instructing? That's still the damn question, ain't it?"
My spirit brightened at the sound of Jasper's voice as he walked into the room. He came to stand beside me, right where he belonged. I slid my hand through his and squeezed it, realizing how incomplete I had felt even during the short time that he was gone. He squeezed back, and I knew that he felt the same.
''It has to be the Volturi,'' Kate stated emphatically. ''They're using the Memento Mori to do their dirty work, to get rid of Bella before she can overthrow them.''
''Kate, that still doesn't fit,'' Carlisle told her gently.
''Bloody well right, it doesn't fit,'' sputtered Alistair. ''Do you seriously think that the Volturi need anyone to do their so-called dirty work for them, let alone a rogue faction of radical vampires whose actions they have openly condemned? Once the Volturi have unanimously agreed on something, nothing stands in their way. If they really were so damned afraid of Bella, she'd be a pile of ashes by now. They wouldn't count on some ridiculous cult of self-hating assassins to do the job.''
A strange thought suddenly itched at my mind. ''Alistair, wait, what was that you said, about once the Volturi have unanimously agreed on something?''
Alistair sighed mightily. ''Yes, Miss Isabella, it's one of their rules or whatever rot they jotted down after the Third Council. The Volturi are a group, a unit. Unless they all agree to an action, especially one that carefully orchestrated, it isn't carried out. It was the way they all decided to keep the balance of power.''
I remembered something that Carlisle had said to me earlier. ''Yesterday,right when I arrived, you were wondering if perhaps not all of the Volturi knew about the prophecy.This was an interesting thought.And the truth of the matter is,I can't really say with any certainty.''
''What if the Volturi are behind it, but not all of them?'' I blurted, drawing everyone's eyes. ''It could be one or two of them, but working very quietly, hiding behind the Memento Mori. We knew that the prophecy was missing, and where did it go missing from? From the Volterra Archives, the same place where they keep this magical database of vampires and marked humans. Someone in the Volturi has gone to very great lengths to keep this prophecy hidden from everyone else, and to use it to their own advantage.''
Awww, evil cliffhanger again, I know. Please read and review!