Rekindled Ashes

Chapter 1 - Survival

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight sadly, otherwise I would have a nice log cabin in the woods where I would be a complete recluse and write until my heart was content. Instead, I have a full time job! So that being said the characters all belong to Stephenie Meyer, but the story came from my twisted little mind. First attempt at third person. Rated M.

'cause if there's one thing that I mustn't face
This is happening
This is happening
Johnny Belinda by Active Child

Bella looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her wide, brown doe eyes and long, dark hair made her somewhat standout against the crowd she was with. She'd never really thought much about it until they all started commenting on it more often. They'd been trying to convince her for months to add the standard hot pink streak that made them divergent from the rest of the population. Unfortunately, it was easier said than done. She'd always seen herself as an individual, and committing to something like that would only cement the fact that she was accepting her fate and becoming a part of this division.

Her eyes were framed with heavy black eyeliner that she'd found in an old store that was no longer open, and had long ago been looted by the last of the people fleeing for safety. Thankfully, for her at least, these days didn't call for people to wear much make-up. So it left Bella and the other girls with plenty to choose from when the inclination arose.

The sound of the dirt bike whining in the distance snapped her head to the long blown-out window that was letting in the cold mountain air. She stepped closer to the gaping hole, her feet crunching on the glass as she strained her ears a little more to listen. There was only one crew that still had the gas to come at them like that, and the carnage wouldn't be good if they were caught with their pants down.

Grabbing the axe leaned against the shattered porcelain sink; she threw it over her shoulder and started for the door quickly, sliding on small shards of drywall and glass as she moved. She burst through the door into the darkened hall of the abandoned school they'd made their home, and sprinted toward the cafeteria. Her heavy Doc Marten's slapped against the worn linoleum and echoed out into the empty halls. She knew the others would be lounging in there; it was the largest room in the place, other than the flooded gym. Being all girls, they were easy targets and that was exactly the reason Harrison and his goons were going to try yet again.

"Ladies, we have incoming," she shouted as she passed through the space. She knew she didn't have to repeat herself, and the sound of movement behind her confirmed what she already knew. Each of the girls had a place to be when the red alert went up and she trusted each of them to do the jobs that had been given to them.

The school they were inhabiting was prime real estate in the area, and also amongst the conflicting groups that were fighting for survival in a world of ruination. They still had running water here, thanks to the water tower, and they could cover all points of interest from any part of the perimeter. Harrison had been trying to get his hands on the place since they'd moved in. But he'd constantly underestimated them all and what they were capable of.

It was a rough world they'd been left in. The virus had killed so many, leaving only the people that were immune to pick up the pieces.

The rubble came from the army's last-ditch attempt to eradicate the disease, but it had been useless. The onslaught of the bombing had pushed the people underground into the bigger cities where the illness spread like wildfire. Crambonin was an airborne pathogen and there had been no hiding from it. Even the immune had suffered. They carried the disease just like everyone else; their immune systems just weren't affected.

Crambonin moved like a wildfire through the body. It disabled the body's natural ability to fight off infection, leaving people powerless against all diseases. The flu had killed people mercilessly in the first wave.

Those of the population that were able to live through that stage seemed certain to be killed when the bubonic plague began to spread. No medications worked against it, the moment it had entered the body it had taken over. Thousands flocked to hospitals, only to die and be piled in the corridors under and above their neighbors, teachers, and friends. Class, race, religion and rank meant nothing to it. The world was put into only two classes: alive and dead.

When Bella had lost her mother and father to the bubonic plague, she realized she was one of the lucky ones. Sadly, her optimism hadn't lasted long. It couldn't. How could she consider living luck, when everyone she knew and loved had been eradicated. Every day since had been a struggle. It was one fight after another to stay alive.

"How many?" Summer asked as she caught up, her golden hair tied at the nape of her neck. The hot pink strands were in pride of place as they wrapped around the side of her head. She was dressed much the same as Bella: heavy boots, durable jeans and a thin band shirt covered by a leather jacket. She'd been smart enough to pick up a Teflon vest from the PD when they'd raided it after they first met.

"I only heard one bike, but you know Harrison. He never sends just one."

"You'd think he'd learn." Summer laughed jovially. For a girl that looked like a cheerleader, she lived for the violence of this life.

Summer sprinted ahead and threw herself at the rope ladder that was attached to the sky- lite in the northernmost corridor of the school. She was followed closely by Bella, who hooked her axe under her arm as she ascended quickly.

The moment the two of them emerged from the building, the wind swirled and eddied gently around their solid forms. Bella closed her eyes briefly and accepted the feel of the breeze as it caressed her cheeks, and curled into the thick strands of her chestnut hair. There was a time she'd been terrified of the wind because it brought disease and death.

Everyone had locked themselves in their homes with the medical masks that were being handed out, but it had been useless. The germs and infections seemed to be carried through cities with the windstorms. Once she'd seen the devastation that surrounded her family home after a storm, she'd hidden in the attic for weeks. It had taken her almost a month, and the rest of the canned food in their family home, to build up the courage to leave. Now, for her, the wind was a pleasure. It was absolving when nothing else in this life of hers was.

A barking order from Summer signified the split second of rumination was over, and Bella sprinted toward the edge of the building. Skidding to a stop on the gravel, her arms flailed as she fought to catch her balance. In all honesty, she'd never been more thankful for the extra weight of the axe behind her. It was the only thing that had stopped her continuing over the small wall at the edge.

The two of them watched vigilantly as the bike weaved through abandoned cars toward where they were standing guard. It was kicking up residual dust in its choppy tread, creating a cloud of orange brown that hung in the last rays of the sun behind it. Neither of them could see anyone else. There was no movement among the cars other than the occasional flapping of worn fabrics as it caught the generous wind.

The man on the bike was seemingly alone, which neither comforted, nor placated the girls. They'd both been through this too many times to believe they were alone. There was a chance the advancing man was a stranger who didn't know the rules, but even Bella, who much preferred to be optimistic, knew the odds were not in their favor.

"What the hell?" Summer grumbled, hopping up and pacing the thin ledge. "Where the hell is everyone?"

Bella dropped the business end of the axe to the ground and leaned on it as she watched the bike continue its pattern, weaving through the cars. She had to admit, there was something not quite right about the situation. No one traveled alone through this part of the country. When the pathogen had first broken out, this had been the epicenter. This is where everyone had traveled for hope. It was the very reason so many of them had ended up there; they'd followed false hope and found one another.

Bella had met Summer on her travels. Their first meeting had involved pulling a gun on one another as they'd both found a small store that still seemed to have most of its food intact. They'd become fast friends and, for a while, Bella felt happy to let someone lead her. She'd been fighting her way through cities, hoping to find civilization. She had been tired and hungry, and having someone else do all the thinking had seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, she hadn't counted on being co-founder of a posse she didn't want to be created to begin with.

Spending so much time with Summer, Bella had come to find that her traveling companion had never been very patient, and she loathed surprises. The pacing was a sign that her mouth would be rolled out as the welcome wagon to the mystery guest they seemed to be receiving.

It wasn't an ideal situation considering this was the first person, other than Harrison and his idiots, they'd seen since the evacuation had scared off the leftover population in the city. But Bella never had intervened with the decisions being made. She wasn't wearing the hot pink hair so she wasn't part of the process, which suited her just fine. Of course that didn't mean she was benched for the fighting; she had found her stride with that long ago. Bella could shoot a gun like a sniper and was just as proficient with hand to hand combat, she'd picked it up along the way and it was one of the only things that had kept her alive while she was on her own.

"Bella," Summer asked in a tone Bella was more than aware meant trouble. "Go get the sniper rifle."

"What? Why?" she asked, blinking at the sun as she looked up at Summer.

"Because I told you to. We don't know who this is or what they're capable of. If we're sending out one of the girls, I want them covered, ass and elbow."

Bella leaned her axe against the lip of the roof and sprinted toward the little storage shed without any further questioning. She knew better than to piss Summer off when the terrain was unknown. It was better to oblige than argue with her. The tiny brick building was what they used to store the firearms and she used the key she had. There were only two keys, and she and Summer had been the ones to posses them. Bella was well aware that this was a sore subject for Summer because of Bella's lack of commitment to the group.

Pulling out the case with the only sniper rifle they possessed, Bella made her way back to where Summer was pacing the ledge like an agitated panther. Her long legs stomped out a path before she turned and headed in the other direction, her eyes on the dust cloud that was closing in on them.

Dropping to her knees, Bella opened the case with a sense of excitement. This rifle was her pride and joy. She'd found it while she was traveling alone through the wilderness. She'd happened on an army outpost, and it was immediately obvious to her where they kept their weapons. Having searched each of the bodies, she'd finally obtained a key and cleaned them out of guns and ammunition before hauling it onto her back in a huge duffel bag that slowed her down. She had only fired the thing three times, but each time she'd hit her mark at over a thousand yards with ease. This moving target would be easy if it got much closer.

She pieced the parts together before filling it with live ammunition. Popping the legs that descended from the barrel, she propped it on the lip and tucked it into her shoulder as she adjusted the sight. She didn't recognize the rider. His blond hair was pushed back from the speed, and his fair skin seemed to glow in the fading afternoon light. He was handsome, there was no denying that, but she steeled herself against him and watched his approach with trepidation.

Jasper knew the POS he was riding wasn't going to last much longer, but it had been fun while it lasted. He much preferred the speed of his own legs, but arriving in a blur of vision would only scare the last centralized grouping of humans that had barricaded themselves into the city. They'd learned that lesson the hard way. His family had spread out across the small town, each hoping to appeal to one of the groups so they could help them survive. Of course, Alice had decided he would be the best to go before the group of women. She'd said he would appeal to their feminine nature and would make it easier to open their minds with his ability to soothe them.

As much as he respected Alice, Jasper thought it was a crock of shit, but kept it to himself because he wasn't in the mood to get into a pissing match with her mate, Garrett. They only had a couple of hours before the sun was down completely, and then it would be too late. Alice knew he still struggled with human blood, and the fact that she'd sent him into a colony full of females, seemed like a game of Russian Roulette to him.

The world was a mess, and they were taking chances with the last of human lives just to prove a point. With the human population dwindling from the disease, it was slim pickings for the vampires that thirsted for human blood. A colony of humans like this was going to draw them in, and that was unacceptable. There was already far too much bad blood between vampires, without turning on one another to battle for the last human colonies. The Cullen family could not be the only ambassadors of peace between the two species. Yet here they were, in another city, stepping in to stop another massacre and warn away the dregs of vampire society.

As he looked up at the roof of the school, he actually found himself impressed with the emotions that filtered down to him from the two girls atop the building. The blonde was beautiful and reminded him of his sister, Rosalie. She had confidence as she wore a path into the thin brick lip of the school's roof. She was nervous and agitated; he could only deduce that she had been expecting someone else.

As impressed as he was with her calm and her emotions, he couldn't help but feel the gravitational pull to the beautiful brunette behind her. He could barely see the top of her head from his place on the bike, but the barrel of the sniper rifle was unmistakable. Her emotions were completely calm as she watched him draw nearer, the slight peak in excitement was the only indication something different was occurring at all. There were occasional twinges of attraction, but he ignored that in favor of the immovable tranquility she seemed to have with that gun in her hand.

He focused on that and let it draw him in, only reacting twenty feet from the fence that surrounded the school compound they'd commandeered. They were smart about their acquisition; they knew their blind spots and their best cover and they knew how to protect every side of the perimeter. He found himself impressed at how well they worked with one another, even this close with the assault of emotions, not one of the girls, or women, were irrational with fear.

He slid to a stop and placed his foot on the ground as his eyes scanned the wall he was facing. There were armed women in each window, two more in the hallway that had the huge double glass doors that had been long boarded up. The two on the roof, and three more hidden well enough that he couldn't see them, even with his keen eyes.

"What do you want?" The blonde asked, directing the unpleasant end of a handgun in his direction. There was no patience in her tone, just acidic hatred for anything with a dick apparently.

"To talk. You're in trouble."

"And I suppose you can help," she asked sardonically, with a bubbling laugh worthy of a cheerleader. He could feel the impatience rolling from the brunette and knew he would have better luck with her, but the blonde was giving off more authority than anyone in the building. She was his only hope of gaining some kind of entry without force.

"Darlin'," he said, turning on his southern charm. It had always worked with the ladies in the past. Of course, that was before the world had practically ended and the population went to skeleton crew. "You got a shit storm headed your way and you got two choices: you live or you die."

"And you being here will keep us alive? Honey, we have an armory up here. You better believe we're prepared for anything Harrison throws at us. We appreciate the heads up though."

Jasper bit back the retort that filled his mouth like venom. His momma had told him to be respectful, whether that counted for sarcastic, bratty girls that were going to end up dead or not was beyond him, but he needed them to listen.

"You wanna live, you have to band together with everybody else in the city and let us help you. My family and I know how to handle these people, but if you don't let the others in here with you, you're all going to be lambs to the slaughter. Invite me in and I will help you get the place ready for what's coming. You try and fight me, I invite myself in and tie your ass up. I would love to be more polite and accomodatin', but we ain't got time. What'll it be?"

"Fuck you, asshole," the blonde said, aiming her gun at Jasper's head.

Jasper waited for the gun to go off, but when he looked up, he could see the blonde and the brunette, face to face as they glared at one another. They hadn't spoken, that much he was certain of, he knew he would have heard it. Instead, they were toe to toe in a good old-fashioned showdown.

"What are you doing?"

"Stopping you from making a mistake. You need to ask more questions. You have no idea what's coming."

Jasper watched as they argued between themselves. He was mesmerized by the brunette and the passion and conviction rolling from her in waves. Since she'd stood up, he'd been tracing her features and committing them to memory. She was beautiful, almost painfully so, as she stood with her hand on her hips, whispering angrily. Her browns eyes were lined with thick black pencil that hid just how wide they were. Her full, rose colored lips were in a full pout as she listened to the dressing down her friend was giving her. Jasper was, for lack of a better term, enraptured.

"What's your name?" her singsong voice said, as her eyes landed on his. For a moment he tried to recall the question and the answer and, as the blonde lost patience, his brain finally clicked into action.

"Jasper, ma'am. And yours?"

"Bella," she said, pointing to herself. "This tenacious, loud mouth is Summer. How are you going to help us, Jasper? You have no guns. You make it sound like there's a horde coming."

He watched her closely, the subtle brushing of the wind as it danced through her long hair, and the way her pink tongue darted across her lip to moisten the skin there. Everything about her was alluring to him.

"There is a horde coming, and I don't need guns." He was confident in his response for only one reason, he knew he was going to have to show them. It was the only way she was going to listen. He knew they weren't going to be receptive at first; they wouldn't understand. They would just see what was in front of them and make assumptions. If they were going to understand what was coming, they would need to understand how they could protect them.

"Why?" She asked, her confidence still rolling off her as she held her posture.

Jasper barely bent his knees before springing toward her. He landed neatly, facing her with his lazy smile on show. He could feel the shock running through her system, but he wasn't certain she was going to black out until her heart raced out of control and the adrenaline went wild. This close to her he could smell the soft lavender from her skin as gravity took her legs from her. He wrapped his arms around her weightless body and scooped her into his arms holding her close. Her bouquet was intoxicating to him and he could feel the venom pool in his mouth as her head lolled to the side and her perfect blue veins were laid bare for him to take.

Leaning forward, he ran his tongue over his sharp teeth, almost tasting the nectar of her on the soft breeze. It was then he heard a gun cocking by his ear and the girly voice of her friend uttering a command to back away. It brought him into reality with a snap.

He'd never been more thankful for a reality check in his life.

Authors Note: Thank you for reading. Like I said at the beginning, this is my first attempt at third person. I've never really put much thought into it before but I definitely give a huge hats off to people who write in it all the time. Its not easy at all. Especially trying to infuse genuine emotion into it. I would love to know how you thought I did, and what you think so far, but as always its cool if you just wanna read ;)

Thank you to Sabi'sSookie and Hev99 for being the amazing pre-readers that they are. You helped me through this with your encouragement and enthusiasm. I really don't know how to thank you for all of your help and love, other than telling you both that I love you epically. Thanks to Hev99 for the beta job. You make my words look pretty :) LOVE YOU GUYS!