Life is Good, Immortality is Better
Chapter Two: Life is Good, Immortality is Better
I couldn't even feel us moving, but suddenly we were inside a stone building. He moved at a slower speed, but still faster than a human, which allowed me to at least get a glimpse of where we were going. We went through several empty corridors and up a flight of stairs before stopping in front of a set of double doors. Demetri squatted down so I could climb off his back.
He put his finger over his lips to indicate I should stay quiet, and I nodded to show I understood. Then he opened the door and led me into the room. I saw the three brothers sitting on their thrones. Their eyes turned to me and followed my progress into the room. I was able to recognize which was which from the painting Edward had shown me.
"What have we here, Demetri?" Aro asked with interest. Demetri stopped in front of them and bowed deeply. He used his hands to let me know I should stay put until told otherwise.
"I believe you need to see this, Master, to get the full effect," Demetri declared. He took a few steps forward and offered his hand to Aro. Aro took it eagerly and closed his eyes as he absorbed Demetri's memories. His eyes popped open in shock.
"She asked for us by NAME?" Hmm. Aro must have some kind of mind reading gift, but only through touch. I wonder if it'll work on me, since Edward's didn't.
"WHAT?" Caius demanded. Even Marcus raised his eyebrows at this piece of information, though he did not otherwise react.
Aro turned and examined me. "Come here, girl," he commanded. I walked right to him. He stared at me curiously. "Are you not afraid?"
I shook my head.
"Why not?" Caius exclaimed angrily. "Are you stupid?"
I laughed. "No, I just have no sense of self-preservation. Look, either you'll kill me or change me. If you're going to kill me, I'd be dead within two weeks anyway, so what difference does it make? At least this way my life would have been given to help provide life for another. If you change me, then I won't die. So it'll hurt for a few days. I'm no stranger to pain. For me, it's a win/win situation."
Caius was taken aback at my assessment. "What do you mean?" he asked calmly, his curiosity engaged. Even Marcus didn't look quite so bored.
"Please, allow me?" Aro requested, holding out his hand for mine.
"It might not work," I warned him as I placed my hand in his. He was obviously skeptical of my warning, but his somewhat condescending mood rapidly changed to surprise, frustration, and then excitement.
"How did you know, child? What are you doing to keep me from reading your mind?" he demanded. There were gasps all around.
"I don't know," I admitted. "It's not something I do on purpose, but I met another mindreader and he wasn't able to use his gift on me."
"I cannot sense her either, Master," Demetri added.
The brothers were all intrigued now. Caius was clearly disturbed.
"How is she blocking you? She's only human!" he exclaimed.
"I know!" Aro agreed excitedly. "If she is this powerful as a human, just imagine how powerful she will be as one of us!"
Marcus nodded, looking at me intently now. "She must be a shield."
Aro nodded, rubbing his hands together in glee. "Jane, dear, would you mind?"
A young teenager stepped forward. "Of course, Master."
She concentrated on me, narrowing her eyes. I stared back, waiting for something to happen. After a few moments, her expression changed to frustration and disappointment. "I'm sorry, Master," she whimpered.
He chuckled, "Don't fret, dear one, she confounds us all. Excellent! You will make a wonderful addition to our guard, my dear Bella. First, though, we'd very much like to hear your story about what led you here to us."
I tilted my head. "The long version or the short version?"
He chuckled again. "Felix, please get the young lady a comfortable chair."
"Yes, Master," he replied with a bow before zipping out of the room, returning seconds later with a plush armchair. He set it down in front of the brothers and backed away respectfully. Aro gestured for me to have a seat, which I did. Once I was settled comfortably, he answered my question, "How about the medium version, and we'll ask questions as we go if we want more details?"
I nodded and began, "Well, I moved to Forks, Washington in America to live with my father last January. There were five vampires who attended school with me at the time. The first day, I sat next to Edward Cullen in one of my classes and noticed his odd reaction to me. I had already noticed that they were all extremely pale, with dark shadows under their eyes, and inhuman beauty. I had observed that they didn't eat anything at lunchtime and seemed to be able to hear things softly spoken from across a crowded room. I also thought their names were rather old fashioned and noticed a similarity in their appearance to one another, despite the fact that they were all 'adopted'.
In class, Edward glared at me murderously, with solid black eyes. His fists were clenched and he didn't seem to be breathing. He gripped onto the desk hard enough to leave finger marks in the wood, which he erased by rubbing them out. He disappeared for the rest of the week. I later found out that my blood called to him like no other he had ever encountered, and it took every ounce of his self-control not to massacre the entire classroom of students just so he would have time to savor my blood.
When he returned to school the next week, I noticed his eyes were now a golden color instead of black, and he seemed to know things about me despite me not having told him anything. The next day, he saved me from being killed by a van. I saw everything he did, which included moving at superhuman speed and using superhuman strength. I also noticed how cold and hard his body was. He pretended I was delusional, but when I insisted, he promised to tell me the truth, so I lied and covered for him so nobody would know his secret. He then refused to tell me anything about himself anyway and ignored me for a month.
A few other small incidents happened, like how he skipped out on the blood typing experiment in Biology, but I found out the real truth from someone else. The local Indian tribe has legends about the 'Cold Ones'. I went there with some friends, and an old family friend from the tribe told me some of the legends as scary stories, though he didn't believe they were real. As soon as I heard the legends, I put it together with the knowledge I had already gleaned about the Cullens, and I knew they were vampires. Rather than be horrified, I was actually excited to find the supernatural was real. Rather than running in fear from the Cullens, I wanted to get closer.
A few days later, Edward saved me from being gang-raped by four evil men in a nearby small city. It was then that I figured out he was also a mind reader and confronted him with my knowledge that he was a vampire. Since I already knew the main secret, he confirmed the details and separated fact from fiction for me. We then started spending time together, learning about each other. He couldn't read my mind, which was fascinating to him.
That weekend, after we confessed our feelings for one another, I went to his house to meet his family. A storm came rolling in and they wanted to play baseball, so we all went up into the mountains to a flat clearing. During the game, three nomads appeared, having heard the noise of them playing. They caught my scent and the leader, James, decided he wanted to eat me. He was a tracker and apparently made a game of it whenever he found a human being protected by vampires. Long story short, he managed to call me and had gotten hold of some old home movies, which he used to convince me he was holding my mother hostage. I escaped from the Cullens and went to meet James on my own, as he had promised he would let my mother go free if I would come take her place. I was relieved to find that he had tricked me and didn't have my mother after all. I was disturbed to realize he intended to torture me before killing me and was filming the whole process.
Finally, the bloodlust overcame him and he bit me, just as the Cullens came bursting in to save me. They killed James, and then Edward sucked all the venom out so I wouldn't transform. I was very disappointed and wished he had simply let me change, but figured he might want to do it himself, so I let it go. I should have realized then that they were all lying to me. I begged often to be changed and was always refused." They all stared at the bite mark on my wrist in amazement.
"Everything was fine over the summer. Our relationship progressed. He repeatedly promised he loved me, as did the rest of the family, but everything changed after my birthday. I didn't even want to celebrated it, but Alice insisted. I accidentally sliced open my finger, which made everybody thirsty. Jasper tensed and Edward overreacted as usual. He pushed me into a table full of glass plates, which broke and sliced up my arm." I paused and showed them my stitches. "Poor Jasper snapped and attacked. Edward defended me, and the others dragged Jasper outside. It wasn't his fault though. He's an empath and was overcome by the bloodlust of six other vampires on top of his own. Carlisle was the only one who could stay in the room with me, so he cleaned the wound and stitched it back together.
A few days later, Edward broke up with me, saying I wasn't good enough for him and he didn't want me anymore. That he did love me in a way, but that he had just been pretending to be human when he was with me. He thought I would simply forget all about them. He's such an idiot. What hurt the most is that all of them left without even saying goodbye. Alice was supposed to be my best friend and sister. Emmett was my big brother. Esme was the mother I always wanted. Carlisle was a second father. Even if Edward didn't want to be my mate, why did all the rest of them abandon and betray me like that? Was I really nothing more than Edward's little human pet, like James implied? Were they all lying to me the whole time?"
I sighed and looked down at the floor, trying to keep my tears out of my voice. I allowed my anger at the injustice of the situation to rise instead. "Well, they may have erased their presence in my life, but they couldn't erase my memories. During my time with them, I paid close attention to everything they said, creating contingency plans that didn't rely on them to gain my future, just in case. I have advanced stage rapid growing cancer. It's back for the third time. Three strikes and I'm out. The doctors gave me two weeks three days ago. Frankly, I don't want to die. I don't have any problem becoming a vampire. I don't view it as being damned to eternity as a soulless monster. I see it as a way to cheat death. I see it as a miracle, an answered prayer. I would love to become a vampire, which is why I am here. I heard the stories of Carlisle's time with you and sought you out in hopes you would allow me to join you. I wasn't sure what I would be able to offer in return for immortality, but it sounds like I must be gifted, so hopefully we can now help each other."
I looked at them expectantly. I didn't have to wait long for their reactions.
"The Cullens up and left you behind with knowledge of our kind and a grudge to bear against them?" Caius demanded. It was pretty much a rhetorical question, but I nodded anyway.
"They refused to change you, even though you asked for it? They even prevented a change that was already in progress?" Aro asked incredulously. I nodded again.
"Did Edward claim you were his mate?" Marcus inquired thoughtfully.
"Yes," I admitted bitterly. "He claimed I was his soulmate, and he would love me forever. He told me that vampires mate for eternity, and there would never be anyone else for him. He also promised never to leave me. He was a good liar."
Marcus nodded sadly. "Did he claim you? Physically?"
I looked at him in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Did he ever bite you or mark you in some way? Particularly during intimacy?" he clarified.
I blushed and shook my head. "We only kissed. We never . . . I've never . . . you know . . . I'm still a . . . um," I confessed nervously, my face tomato red.
"You're still an innocent?" Aro clarified gently. "A maiden?"
I nodded, not meeting anyone's eyes. I heard a few masculine murmurs flash around the room.
"You weren't his soulmate, child," Marcus informed me quietly. "It would have been impossible for him to taste you without taking you, no matter how much self-control he had. Tasting your lips would have been enough, much less tasting your blood. I'm afraid he was simply intrigued by your silent mind, your pleasant aroma, and your willingness to befriend him even knowing his secret."
I groaned and nodded. "I was afraid of that. I could always sense it was merely temporary. I never could understand what he saw in me in the first place."
Caius growled. "Don't you dare listen to that bizarre pitiful excuse for a vampire! He was the one who wasn't good enough for you, not the other way around. In fact, you are worthy to be a Volturi, and the Cullens were fools to let you go, in addition to being lawbreakers. Don't worry, they will be dealt with accordingly."
I sighed. "Please don't go after them on my account. They did hurt me, but I still don't want to see them get hurt. I'm not the vengeful type."
Caius huffed and muttered, "Oh, but I am."
Aro quickly jumped into the fray. "Yes, child, you are welcome here. We will gladly change you and invite you to join us. I never fully understood just how much the Cullens loathed their existence." Aro shook his head sadly.
"We can fix that," Caius muttered again. "If they don't appreciate their existence, we can simply eradicate it for them."
"Hmmm," Aro replied, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. "It appears there are side effects to feeding from animals after all. I always suspected there might be. Such perversion of one's natural diet was bound to cause problems over time."
"Yes, it makes one an imbecile," Caius growled. "No surprise there."
"As well as depressed and ungrateful," Marcus added. "Not to mention deceitful, dismissive, and self-centered."
"Frankly, I expected more of Carlisle," Aro remarked. The other two nodded disparagingly. Aro frowned. "I tried to tell him a lion could not survive feeding on plants alone. A predator's body isn't designed to function without meat. He was certain he could do it though, and he seemed harmless, so I allowed his experiment, believing he would come to see the error of his ways given time. He is more stubborn than I expected."
"Wasn't he always the one so adamantly opposed to those that chose to 'play with their food'?" Caius sneered. The others nodded in agreement. "So what does he call what he and his family have just done? What a hypocrite! What they have done is far worse, in my opinion, than some of the things he so outwardly condemned. No offense, my dear. You are obviously meant for something greater than simply being someone's meal, though the Cullens didn't have the decency to accept your love and loyalty when it was freely given. Pathetic."
I shrugged. Honestly, I agreed with his assessment, so I couldn't complain.
"Bella, child, may I have the honor of changing you?" Marcus asked politely. "I would be delighted to adopt you as my own daughter, if you'd be willing. You'd be an actual member of the Volturi family then, rather than just one of the guard. If you think you could accept me as your new father?"
I smiled widely at him. "I'd love that, Marcus!"
He smiled in return, causing gasps all around. I looked around the room in confusion. He chuckled. "Don't mind them child. It is simply the first time I have smiled in over 2500 years, since the death of my mate. You have given me a reason to appreciate my existence again, and for that I shall be eternally grateful. For all the pain and emptiness I have felt all these years, I would never be stupid enough to throw away someone offering their love to me so freely. I feel sorry for the Cullens, that they couldn't recognize and appreciate the true treasure they were offered and let it slip through their fingers. However, their loss is our gain, and I shall be forever thankful they didn't know what they were missing."
I ran over and gave him a big hug. He froze for a second and then hugged me back, pulling me into his lap. Aro and Caius both laughed good-naturedly.
"I guess this makes you my new niece," Aro decided.
"Mine too," Caius agreed. "If you can make Marcus happy, then you are quite powerful indeed!"
The rest of the room burst out laughing then, including Marcus himself.
"Are you ready, my dear?" Marcus asked after everyone quieted down. "I don't mean to rush you, but if the time line of the cancer's progression is as close as your doctors indicated, then I don't want to take any chances of being too late to begin the transformation."
I grinned. "I was born ready, Father. Well, I've been ready for months anyway. I've already said my goodbyes to my family. Charlie is waiting for the call announcing my death, expecting it any day now, so I just ask that someone call and inform him I was found, that I passed away in my sleep with a smile upon my face. Just in case, could you have someone hack into the airline's computer files and claim that I went to Paris or London or somewhere other than here? He is the Chief of Police, so it would just be safer not to lead him to your doorstep. I'd hate for him to try to come here and visit the body or something, so best to send him on a wild goose chase with a false paper trail."
"No problem, Bella," Aro assured her. "We've got plenty of practice with that type of thing. We'll take care of it."
"I figured," I smirked. "I assumed you'd have a finger in every type of pie imaginable."
All three brothers grinned knowingly.
"Well, then, my dear, if you have no further concerns or requests, I shall move you to my chambers and we can begin. I would have Alec take away your senses so you wouldn't have to feel the pain, but unfortunately your shield prevents his ability to help. However, I shall remain with you while you're burning, for whatever that is worth."
"Thank you, Marcus, Father, I appreciate it."
He carried me off to his room, placed me carefully on the bed, and began gently biting me, pushing his venom into my body. I welcomed the blackness as the burning began.