A/N: Comments, as always, are encouraged and appreciated.
I fought the urge to defend Seth from these people. "He is not breathing."
Life was nothing. No sound. No taste. No sight. No touch. No smell. It was like existing in a complete void. I was still and quiet, nothing to do, but wait. So I waited for something to happen, or someone.
Adrastrus's name blew across of my mind with the intensity and heat of a nuclear bomb and I gladly let the heat fill me up. It brought me back to real life and my eyes popped wide open.
Cold, hard hands caressed my forehead and I instantly recognized to whom those hands belonged. "Are you alright?" I croaked wincing a bit. I had a splitting headache.
Addi regarded me thoughtfully. He caressed my cheek and grabbed my hands into his free one. "I am unhurt. As for you, I feared the Apportioners decided against you. I thought you were unbreakable. Clearly not so much." He managed a smile.
I tried to be brave, but as soon as I sat up, the world spun and I felt myself falling. Addi caught me, of course, and lowered me back to the pavement. He rested my head on his thigh and brushed the hair from my face.
"You need a haircut," Addi said. "If you would like…"
A man's deep voice rattled across the driveway. He was saying my name. He said it again. And again. I knew that voice. Addi gritted his teeth and cautiously, intently, lowered my head onto the pavement. There was little difference between his rock exterior and the ground, but at least his skin was cool and soothing. Where did Addi go?
I rose up again under my own power and was pleased that I didn't succumb to vertigo again. I watched as Addi approached the deep-voiced man and stop him dead in his tracks with a push against the man's shoulder.
"Watch it, man!" the deep-voiced man growled hoarsely.
Addi didn't remove his hand. "No. You watch it. I should say 'man,' but only a man fights his battles from the front, not the back. An attack from behind is the way of lesser men."
"Whatever, dude. Let me by. I have to see if my beta is okay, alright?"
Like Adrastus's name only moments before, Jacob's name triggered a second nuclear explosion within me. Only this one wasn't a loving and comforting heat. No. This heat was pure rage. It sliced across my being and my wolf sprang forward. I was on Jake before he could mumble another word.
"NO!" Jake eventually commanded with the full force of his heritage. He dropped into his wolf form too. His commands would be more powerful then. It was probably good too or I would've quite literally ripped his throat out.
Fuck you, Jake Black! I screamed inside our shared consciousness. You stay the fuck away from him!
Where the hell were you? Jake's tone was as equally angered as my own. I get a call in the middle of the night that you and that mother fuckin' bloodsucker disappeared.
Bloodsucker? That comment took me back, far back. I let Jake relive a time when he held such disdain for a vampire. When he didn't think for himself. When he didn't realize that it was our choices that defined us, not our heritage. I also relived my night with Addi. I feared I was giving up a confidence Addi and I shared now, something special. But in reality, there wasn't a thing I could do from keeping it from Jake. When we were both phased, this was normal, and had been for a century.
I felt Addi approach from behind. He was trying to find me inside my wolf. I'm here, I thought wistfully.
"Why don't you both phase and make up?" I heard Emmett yammer from the garage. "I'm not going to be the one who tells Rose you fucked her car up." Jake, Addi, and I glanced in the direction of the destroyed vehicle. Rose put a lot of pride in her brand new BMW X2-3000. It levitated for Christ's sake!
Edward came to my side with a pair of slacks and a brown hoodie in hand. Addi grabbed the clothes and I followed him into the woods.
"You are quite endearing when stress falls upon you," Addi commented with a grin.
Sliding the oversized hoodie over my face, I was happy when Addi came back into view. I held out my hand for him and he eagerly took it. "Come on." I nodded in the direction of the house. "Let's go see what kind of trouble we're in."
I had to empathize with my family after they explained their ordeal. I showed up at the house to see Addi. I disappeared. Addi disappeared. After Addi repeatedly stated he had held no ill will towards the family or me, Edward vouched for him. Edward could read his mind after all.
"That doesn't change the fact that you're Volturi, and that's a problem!" Jake yelled from an armchair. I feared he would phase right there and destroy Esme's impeccable refurbishing job on the collectible. Maybe that's why she seated him there in the first place. Motherly guilt had a way of mitigating anger.
"I go where I am ordered and for as long as I ordered to be there. If you wish me to leave, I will go. Until then, Aro's orders were quite clear."
Esme walked back into the living room. "I called Carlisle and let him know you both had returned."
"Where was he?" I asked. "The hospital?"
"No," Jake sneered. "He was looking for you. He was at your Aunt's."
"You have an Aunt?" Addi asked, surprise coloring his voice.
I stuck my hands into my hoodie pocket. "Long story."
"Not one we're talking about now. We're talking about you!" Jake pointed his finger in between Addi's eyes. I became defensive. "Don't tell me you don't have an smidgen of an idea of what your Masters' have intended for us."
Addi opened his mouth as if to speak, but held tightlipped when Carlisle and the rest of his entourage came through the front door. Carlisle appeared at my side and embraced me. "I am happy to see you are okay, son."
"Thanks, Carlisle. Nothing happened. We're all good. Right?" I grimaced at Jake. He didn't say a word, but instead stalked out of the room. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife.
Carlisle chewed his lower lip for a hot second and braced himself on the back of the couch. Turning to Adrastus, he said, "Look, Adrastus. I appreciate the fact that you and Seth are together now, I really do. But the fact remains that you are a member of the Guard and undoubtedly Aro has told you his side of the story of what happened."
"The incident with the alleged immortal child," Addi cut in.
"Ness." Jake had reentered the room and there was some semblance of calm in his demeanor. Jasper was on his coattails and I wondered if Jake had asked Jasper for a cold shower of sorts.
Returning to Addi, he seemed shocked by this revelation. "You didn't know?" I asked.
He shook his head. "I was informed of what I had missed, but not that it involved Ness."
Jake approached Addi and gritted his teeth. He was struggling with something.
Edward, who was sitting silently at his piano, piped up. "I think it is worth a try." Without another word Jake walked out the door and phased. I thought about following him, but thought better of it when Edward suggested that he and Carlisle take a look at my head. I felt around my scalp and found dried blood caked in my hair.
I followed the two medical doctors into Carlisle's study. Addi followed me in, but Edward advised that Addi stay out because Carlisle was going to take a blood sample. Medical technology had advanced by leaps and bounds and a scan or two can detect most maladies, but blood was still the ultimate source of information.
"No," I said. "He'll be fine." Edward cocked his head to the side questioning the basis for my conclusion.
"I will be fine, Edward." Addi clasped my hand. "If you do not trust me, then trust Seth."
"We already dealt with that hiccup," I informed. Minutes later, Edward finished all his diagnostics and announced that my wolf gene inhibited any brain swelling or adverse effects of my flight across the pavement. "When's Jake supposed to get back?" I asked. "I assume he's coming back."
"Any time," Carlisle answered. "But go clean up. We'll all reconvene later."
I walked to Addi's room without asking Addi if it would be okay. I didn't have to. His was mine and mine was his, and I sort of reveled in that sudden realization. I smiled.
"What?" Addi asked.
"I want to shower. I stink," I replied refusing to become an emotional teenaged girl.
I closed the door on the bathroom and noted that Addi had slipped around and was inside with me. Vampires were fucking fast. I peeled the hoodie from my body and found myself looking in the mirror for any cuts or bruises. There were none of course. Not even scars. There would never be actually. I was covered with dirt and dried blood though. I needed to shower. Would we be showering together? Suddenly, the coolness of Addi's body leapt onto my own and a chill ran up my spine and down to my gut. I became hyperaware that Addi was standing close behind me. He rested his chin on my shoulder, his dark eyes scanning over my torso. I grinned. "Like what you see?"
Addi leaned into the crook of my neck and inhaled sharply. His lips were connected win my skin and the coolness trailed south quickly. It stoked a freezing fire down there and I moaned. It didn't help matters one bit when Addi whispered, "I do not think you stink at all. In fact," he drew his tongue up and behind my ear. I shivered. "You do not taste bad at all either."
I drew my hand behind me and found Addi's hip. I crushed him against me and his literally, rock hard erection slid up the small of my back. He tensed. "I do not think I can bear to be away from you for even a second," he whispered, drawing heavy breaths. He drew his hand up and caressed my cheek and then my lips. His scent, like his coolness, leapt onto me and I wished to swim in it. I inhaled sharply so that I could commit his masculinity to my brain. It wasn't hard. I mean, it was hard. I grunted when Addi slid his other hand across the stomach, scratching lightly across my abdominals with his nails. He knew he could still be rough with me. After what happened in the driveway today, I sure as hell did not want Addi to treat me like a china doll. He ground his hard cock into my back again and slid a hand over my aching member. With a gentle squeeze of his hand, I could take no more. I spun around and took Addi right there and then. His mewls of satisfaction told me two things: that he didn't mind one bit and I couldn't bear to be away from him for one second ever. Such complicated matters because like Carlisle pointed out, Addi was Volturi in the end.
About an hour later there was a slamming at the bathroom door followed by Emmett's obnoxious voice. "Seriously, I've heard dudes do it. I have. But you too are annoying as fuck! Get out here. Ness is here!" Addi merely raised an eyebrow, a common reaction that I was happy to say I noticed now when he gets caught doing something that could tarnish his ancient Greek pride.
He refused to cave though. "I was not aware we were that loud." He was indignant and it made me snicker.
"Yeah, you were, Addi." Apparently, Emmett felt it was his place to comment. Addi was mortified; his pride had caved.
"I won't tell," I simply stated. "Beside, I like it when you're loud." Addi exhaled sharply and pounced on me causing us to roll across the bathroom floor and smack into the tiled wall on the far side. His kisses were welcome, but it wasn't the time so against my prurient interests I placed a finger on Addi's lips and pushed them away from my own. "We gotta go."
Addi rolled his eyes, but didn't disagree. After getting dressed, Alice apparently had left some fresh clothes on the bed, we waltzed down the stairs to greet my entire family. I tugged on the white, long sleeved v-neck Alice had given me. It had to be a size too small than usual. And for Alice to make that kind of fashion mistake, given her fashion sense and crystal clear memory, was surprising.
"Stop that," Addi said as he swatted my hand away from the cuff of my shirt. "You will stretch it out with all your fidgeting." He smoothed out the ruffles in the shirt giving particular attention to ensuring there were no creases near my biceps. His eyes bulged when I bulged my biceps. Did Addi have a thing for these? I laughed inwardly. I would've hoped he would have been more interested in my…
"Finally!" a voice shrieked. I looked up. Rose was in the room and while her ordinary scowl was legendary, the look she was giving Addi and I—well, if looks could kill, we would be incinerated alive and encased in concrete.
"Sorry, about your car," I apologized meekly. She said nothing so I sat on a love seat opposite Jake, Ness, and Rene. Addi sat next to me. "Hello, Rene. It's been a few days. Want to give your old uncle a hug?"
Jake raised his arm to block Rene from moving. "No." He didn't yell nor was there malice behind it. Something else. A calm sense of protection.
"I would never let Rene get hurt," I said choosing my words carefully. I wanted to say that Addi would never let Rene get hurt either, but that nagging reminder of his Volturi background wouldn't seem to go away.
Jake gritted his teeth and spoke to Addi. "I will trust you after Ness shows him our side of the story. My father always told me to trust a person easily and fully until that person gives you reason not to. While I have plenty of reasons not to trust you, the fact that Seth imprinted on you has to count for something.
"So I have to ask, are you willing to let Ness show you our side of the story? If your answer is yes, I will do my best to treat you with the respect an imprint deserves."
I cocked my head towards Addi. Jake's proposal seemed reasonable. After all that had happened in the last two days—a shit ton in my book—this seemed easy.
Addi nodded and glanced toward Ness who was nestled into Jake's side. "I am aware of your ability, Renesmee Black. I consent."
It's one thing to know of Ness's ability, another to experience it. Ness's forehead creased and she leaned forward. "Call me Ness," she directed with a cautious smirk. Visions flew into my mind as if I were seeing them through my own eyes. Smells flushed through my nose too, and I swear I could touch the vision with my hands and toes. The sounds were crystal clear. Addi squeezed my hand with a jolt. He was experiencing the projection too. Did I mention Ness could project thoughts into multiple people without physical contact? Ness was just amazing like that.
Just so we are all on the same page… Ness thought with an official tone. It was clear she had prepared for hours in order to pass along all this information. It was almost like she knew Jake would ask her to do this, or perhaps she thought it of herself. She gave a chronological playback of the events leading up to and including that fateful day in the meadow. She added conversations she had had with our family over the years afterwards about that day too, as if she were providing commentary about the Super Bowl.
I would've laughed if the circumstances were different.
Comparing Ness's interpretation of the events to my own, I remembered things slightly different. That was to be expected I suppose, she was looking at the whole event from the eyes of a child after all—advanced as she was.
There was Irina's fatal mistake—that Ness was an immortal child, a crime that if true would have meant the end of all us, and rightfully so, I agreed with that law as much. I shuddered inwardly.
There was Aro's almost insatiable interest in the talent of others. Was it stronger than his thirst for blood? More worrisome was his willingness to destroy anyone or anything that got in his way on his quest for talent and power. His willingness to find excuses to separate covens or destroy a vampire's mate was most disturbing. I never pretended to understand the binding force that vampires call mating, but having recently imprinted, I had to believe that it is some similar force in degree, dimension, and depth.
There was Caius's obvious search around the law he and his brothers alleged to enforce. The existence of my kind was utterly intolerable in Caius's eyes. Edward had informed me later that Caius was almost destroyed by a Child of the Moon, a true werewolf. I knew why Ness added this—me. When… or if… Caius found out that one of his guardsmen had mated with or been imprinted by, whatever one chose to call it, a shape shifting wolf, what would he do? And more importantly, what would Addi do?
There was Marcus whose complete indifference to the whole matter was disturbing in and of itself. Immortality could be a curse. He had lost his love, his eternal mate, and there were whispers in the supernatural world about who had killed Didyme. Some say it was the Children of the Moon, others the Romanian Coven—a few say Aro. Regardless, Ness's gambit included Marcus to impinge upon Addi what was at stake. Me. If I was lost to Addi, would he not long for death too? The thought of Addi not in this world was a nightmarish avenue I chose to detour around for now.
There was the family—my family—from Ness's perspective of course. Jake, her father, mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles—me included—and friends. She gave brief tidbits of their powers and their importance to her without explanation. In such an absence, I wondered if she meant to say that, "Yes, they are powerful, but they are important to me for not because of those powers, but because of who they are." Yeah, Ness was telling Addi that a person's worth wasn't defined by one's power.
And then there was Rene, a relatively recent addition to our family. Ness pushed more feeling than thought into her projection. She would give up anything including this family or Jake to secure Rene's wellbeing. The reason was simple enough. Rene was her daughter and it was Ness's responsibility to ensure that Rene would be safe.
Ness spoke aloud, her voice colored with an equal amount of emotion and force as to her projection. "I can't say that Aro doesn't understand the power of family, Addi. And I wouldn't because that would assume he was incapable of that revelation. But I do know in the least, that if he does know the power of family, then he chooses to ignore it. But know this, Addi. You can be a part of this family too, if you would like, but there will come a time sooner or later when Aro will force you to choose and given that you know our side and his, I hope you choose the right side."
Ness rose to her feet. "And if you choose wrong or threaten my family and especially my daughter, I will personally ensure that you and the Volturi face a war that will rival the bloodiest battle you have ever witnessed in your long history. And that… is a threat."
Ness's face was grim and serious. She blinked once, then twice, and then smiled. She sighed. "I can't be an angry person. It's just not me. The threat stands, but so does our story. You choose, Addi." Ness turned to Rene. "Go give your Uncle a hug, bug."
Rene's bright smile rivaled the sun. She leapt into my arms. "How are you, Sethy?!" she asked giggling.
My eyes met Addi's, but I hugged Rene tightly. "I'm good, Rene. I'm good."
Addi thanked Ness for her candor. His honor valued a frontal assault on all battlefields, even a mental one. He and I stayed at the house for a couple more hours. I played with Rene, tossing her thirty feet in the air and catching her when she came down while Addi and Esme were engrossed in a lame conversation about how the ancient Athenians managed to supply all the marble for the Parthenon. I couldn't tell if Addi was annoyed that the Athenians built the colossal structure and not his Spartans or saddened by the structure's demise. An earthquake had hit Europe twenty years ago that stretched to the Middle East. Millions died.
"Are you ready to go?" Addi asked from across the room. When Addi said "you" that way, I knew unequivocally that it was directed at me. "You need rest." He was at my side, a tincture of concern in his eyes. He caught Rene as she landed and tickled her stomach. She giggled like only a happy toddler could giggle.
"I'll take her." Jake appeared from the kitchen having snarfed down an entire lasagna only moments before. Jake visible tensed when he noticed Addi's proximity to Rene, but he did an admirable job at not reacting to it even if Addi did notice Jake's discomfort. Jake had promised to trust Addi, but that didn't mean it was going to be absolute on the first day. I couldn't blame him. Not rationally at least. Handing Rene off to her dad, they headed for the kitchen.
Rene stretched her head over her dad's shoulder and yelled, "Bye, Addi!"
She didn't say bye to me and I wanted to be annoyed at that, but on second thought, that was childish. She was probably still mad at me for stealing her doll. Children could hold a grudge for a long time, and she was quarter vampire so who knew how long her grudge would last! I was appreciative of the fact Rene didn't shy away from Addi. It wasn't like the rest of the family welcomed him with open arms. I tried to hide my bitterness when Addi asked what was bothering me.
"Am I that obvious?"
He smirked. "A particular crease forms in your forehead when stress eats at you." After I rubbed my forehead for this alleged crease, he added, "Do not worry, Rakastettu. It is endearing."
"Uh, wha?" I asked.
"Term of endearment, Love," he replied with a kiss to my forehead. "It is Finnish. I spent some time there recently."