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Grim Reaper's Release

Summary:
When the gruesome murder of a pastor is mysteriously caught on tape, what will happen to the vampire race? Suddenly, the world knows about vampires. The Cullens need to get out of Forks. And fast. But what will happen when the Volturi wants to interfere? Or the Southern Armies? And, more importantly, who are these strange vampire twins? Photobucket


Notes:
...I've been away for a seriously long time, haven't I? O.O

Well, I'm back with a new story and I still haven't decided if I should continue my other stories. A lot's been happening in my life and I'm sure my feelings on all of my other stories have changed drastically. Anyway, this is just an idea that's been floating around my head for probably a year now but I've never really developed it into more than just a smidge of an idea.

Just a few warnings before I continue: This story is seriously...morbid. It's not really a good story at all. There's violence, world domination, chaos, and the world kind of goes insane...but it has a happy ending! Promise!

Also, the chapters are gonna be really long on this. Like, seriously long. It's not that I want to get this done in less chapters or whatever, it's just that in each chapter, a few different character's point of view's on different things need to be included to add other factors of the story. I mean, if I had each new point of view a chapter, we'd probably be up to 50 chapters by the time I get to the middle.

That being said, I guess a few things you should know is that I don't know when I'll be getting new chapters up. I hope, with winter break here, I'll have this story done by the middle of February, maybe? I was planning on having this only 7 chapters at the maximum, but the farther I get into this story, the longer it seems. And, I hope, I'll be getting each chapter up each week. I've already written chapter 2 and 3 but I'm gonna post them weekly.

Next, I seriously need to thank my best mate Kira with this story. She gave me a HUGE idea for it and has been such an amazing supporter of all my stories from the start!

*breathes in relief* Alright, I think that's all for now. Now that I've gotten it all out, go read. I'm sure the story is much more interesting than my babbling. *snort*


34. Blind Faith

Rating 3.7/5   Word Count 11783   Review this Chapter

Renee's Point of View

I never liked Forks.

I never made it a secret I disliked Forks, either.

And once I found out just what the secrets of Forks were, I think I disliked it a wee bit more.

Why couldn't their citizens gossip about who was sleeping with who? Or who had left who? Or even who was drinking themselves into oblivion at the local pub? Why couldn't they just leave my Bella alone?

I never would have guessed my own mature, responsible, smart daughter was the center of attention around here. Weren't marriages right after high school supposed to be popular in such a small town? Or had even Forks advanced in their ways?

Either way, I still didn't like it.

"You mean to tell me," Phil said with wide eyes as we sat in Charlie's office, "that Bella has married into a coven of vampires?"

I groped my purse tighter at his words. Out of all the things to worry about, how was Bella's new family the biggest thing on his mind? I mean, yes even that part worried me endlessly but, for crying out loud, Phil, she had a baby! I was too busy thinking about my new status as a grandmother to be concerned with familial matters.

My mind was busy wondering when I would see the girl, what her name was, and what she was like. I couldn't be bothered by tiny details like the Cullens' diet or their...species.

Charlie sighed and rubbed his temples. I felt bad for him, having to break the news to us. When we had arrived this morning in Forks after seeing Bella - and her whole family of in laws - face on the news, I had wanted answers.

Who else to go to then Charlie, her father? Bella had lived with him for all this time. Rationally, he should have known.

Well, he didn't. He knew some, like the fact that teenage boys were turning into wolves on the Native American reservation, but when it came to the Cullens - and our daughter - his information was lacking.

"Phil, shush," I said as sweetly as I could as I leaned forward. I turned to Charlie, whose eyes were downcast. "What are you trying to say here, Charlie? That our daughter, our eighteen year old daughter, is a vampire?"

I couldn't believe that. I mean, yes, the Cullens were different but they were lovely people. And, alright, the living situation was a bit odd. I couldn't imagine being in my early twenties, married, and deciding to adopt all of those children with one spouse in med school but the choice had been Carlisle and Esme's, not mine. However, as strange as they may be, they were always so polite, so charming and hospitable. Vampires weren't like that, were they?

Charlie's mouth flopped open like a fish but his words were cut off by a knock on his office door. Phil and I both turned in our seats, glowering at his closed door but Charlie jumped up.

"Just in time," he grunted as he opened the door. "Thanks for coming, Emily. Really, I was running out of things to tell them."

My brow puckered as a woman stepped into Charlie's tiny, shabby office. It was already a bit crowded enough with Phil and I inside so once she stepped in, thick locks of black hair shielding her face from view, we scooted our mismatching chairs to make room.

The woman gave Charlie a tight hug, something uncharacteristic for my stoic ex-husband, before pulling back where we both, Phil and I, that is, caught a glimpse of her face.

I tried not to stare. My eyes flicked over her scarred face quickly and then fell, ashamed, towards Charlie's messy desk. Phil, however, I wasn't so sure about. His eyes glanced from me to her, probably trying to decide what to think of her.

She would have been a beautiful woman, I decided, when she introduced herself as Emily Young with a timid smile. Charlie had momentarily stepped out as he gathered a chair for Emily, leaving the three of us alone. She shook our hands and spoke softly as she stood there awkwardly. Her face, still youthful, was creased and marred by claw marks that raced down the side of her face. I wanted to ask what had happened but squished down my curiosity.

Once Charlie was back inside, Emily sat down in a chair beside me and I had gotten over the initial shock of her mangled face. Charlie jumped back into the story with much more vigor than before.

"Emily lives down on the reservation," he explained, "She's engaged to Sam Uley, a respectable man around here. He was the Alpha of the Pack."

"Pack?" Phil and I questioned simultaneously. Charlie's mouth opened once again but Emily put her hand - a scarred hand, I noticed - up.

"I can take it from here," she offered kindly. Charlie sighed in relief and nodded gratefully. "The Pack is the shape shifter pack, down in La Push. It's made up of many of the local teenagers. Sam, the former Alpha, is my fiancée. It's a genetic quirk that floats down through the generations. I'm sure you don't want to hear about that, though. You're probably more concerned about Bella. What do you want to know?"

What did I want to know? My mouth formed soundless words for a moment as I became overwhelmed. There was too much to know, too much to ask about. I didn't even know where to begin so I just blurted out a nonsense, "vampire," and Emily clucked her tongue in sympathy.

"The Cullens are vampires," Emily murmured in a placid tone, "Carlisle, the father, is the oldest. They moved here many years ago, came across our ancestors, and created a treaty. They came back about four years ago, before Bella ever moved here. All of them were paired up except Edward, who, obviously, you see that he fell for Bella. To keep things short, they married and-" sweet Emily blushed here "-on their honeymoon, Bella conceived Edward's child, which they thought was impossible. The child was born weeks later and they named her Renesmee."

"Renesmee?" I gasped. What an...odd name.

Emily nodded with eyes wide and serious. She wasn't kidding. "It's your name and Esme's together. Her middle name is Carlie, Carlisle and Charlie."

I took in a strangled breath and bent over as I cradled my head. How had so much of my daughter's life been a secret? How much had she lied about? Was the whole scenario in Phoenix really just a trip and fall in the hotel? What exactly had happened when Bella had raced off to ‘help Edward' just months ago?

And why hadn't she told me? I would have listened. I wouldn't have pushed her away, or even the Cullens. Sure, being a vampire was a bit frowned upon, I suppose, but, for Pete's sakes, I was her mother. Didn't I deserve to know which mythological creature my daughter was marrying?

"Jacob and her are together," Emily added quietly, as if an after thought and my head snapped up.

"Excuse me?" I asked. Jacob and her? Who was her? It couldn't be the baby. That was just plain impossible. Or was it? My head began spinning; who knew what was impossible and what was possible now? It seemed the line between fiction and fact had been blurred.

Emily glanced at Charlie warily and bit her lip. "Jacob, see, he's the Alpha of the Pack now. There's this thing called Imprinting. It's when a shape shifter sees their soul mate. They just automatically know and-"

"Jacob Imprinted on my granddaughter?" I shrieked. What kind of place was this? What kind of place had vampires, shape shifters, and pedophiles all in one?

Emily's eyes turned desperate and she gulped. "Yes, he did, but, Renee, don't worry! He's like a babysitter to her! Quil, someone in the Pack, he Imprinted on my two year old niece, Claire. Really, it's completely normal."

I felt incredibly lightheaded at her words. Two years old? How was that even possible?

Suddenly, Charlie's phone rang. The shrill ring cut through the air and I looked over to the phone on the right of his desk. He shot us all apologetic looks as he strained over the desk and reached for the phone.

"Chief Swan, here. What can I do for you?...Is that so? Really?...And he told you this? Well, my God-...No, no, I can be there in twenty minutes. Just tell them to calm down....Alright, sounds good to me....Yup, see you there." He placed the phone back on its hook and looked up.

"Let me guess." Phil's tone was dry as he spoke, hinting towards anger and disbelief. "You have to go."

Charlie stood from his desk and sighed. "I'm sorry to spring this on you all but, yeah, seems to be a problem down by the reservation."

Emily looked up with large, worried eyes. "What is it? Is everyone alright?"

I glanced between the scarred woman and my ex-husband as I clutched Phil's hand tightly. Charlie reached up and raked his fingers through his curly hair. "Not exactly, Emily. There's some bad stuff going on down there."

She stood up quickly, swinging her purse over her shoulder in the process. "I'm coming with you. Is it about the boys?"

By boys, I figured she meant the Pack. Charlie's face fell a bit and Emily's hand tightened on the strap of her purse until her knuckles were white. "Charlie, what's going on?" She asked, her voice cracking like ice. The sharpness to it didn't match the kind image I had of Emily Young.

Charlie sighed. "Seems like Colin and Brady were running around in the woods by the cliffs. A few curious teens from Forks found them and - Look, why don't we just get down there? I'll explain in the car." He moved towards the door and held it open for an open mouthed Emily and then started to follow her through before pausing, turning around, and looking at Phil and I like he just realized we were still there.

"What are you two going to do?" He had that professional officer tone and I felt myself deflate as I huffed.

"Stay here," I told him, glancing towards Phil for verification. Phil gave one stiff nod as he twiddled his thumbs in his lap. "Wait for some sort of news."

Charlie nodded thoughtfully. "If you want, you can go back to my house. Watch the TV, there's bound to be some development. I'll get back as quickly as I can. I just need to finish this up in La Push and make my rounds-"

"Rounds?" I asked, quirking a brow. Out of all the years I knew Charlie, I had never heard him refer to making rounds. There was never anything exciting enough going on in Forks that deserved rounds to be made.

He shrugged. "People are getting rowdy, and with good reason. It's not every day you learn a trusted physician at the local hospital is a vampire, along with his family."

I sank back into the cushiony chair and frowned. "Are things bad?" I asked.

Charlie jostled his gun holster and I gulped. "Not yet but soon, they might be. Who knows? I've had to go over to their house eight times now, stopping kids from egging the place or breaking in."

A slight gasp left my lips. "Has there been any damage?" It didn't matter if you were ‘dead' or not, no one deserved to have their home broken into and trashed. I felt awful for whenever the Cullens returned to find their beautiful mansion tainted by the dirty hands of the locals.

"A few of their cars have been scratched and the windshields broken from bats and stones. Now that Jasper's out, though, D.C. has agents swarming all over the grounds, waiting to see if he comes back. They've broken into the house, past the heavy duty security system, and looted through it to find any clues about the Cullens. I like to drive by anyway to warn them when they become too nosy." He shook his head, eyes heavily lidded, as he spoke.

"That's terrible," I summed up in a horrified tone and Charlie frowned.

"That's what you get when you're thought of as freaks," he replied and my lips turned down. But were the Cullens freaks? Were they monsters? Or were they just simply misunderstood?

"Do you think they're freaks? Abominations?" I asked Charlie, my tone soft. He knew them the best, I suppose. If he thought they were...well, what did that say? My heart flinched at the idea of my daughter falling into that category.

Charlie froze in the doorway, his hand resting on the knob. "Their species may be hostile," he said after a moment or two, "but I really don't think the Cullens themselves are."

I nodded slowly, allowing his words to sink in.

"How long you going to be in town?" Charlie spoke up again as he watched me from the doorway. I cleared my throat slightly and looked up at him and then back to Phil, who was watching me with concerned eyes.

"As long as it takes for them to get home," I told him, eyes locked with Phil's.

Charlie then humphed - in a classic Charlie way - and walked out of his office.

*

As soon as Phil and I got to Charlie's house, using the spare key under the doormat to get in, Phil found his way into the small living room where he switched on the TV. I, however, stood near the door for a moment or two.

What was there to do? I couldn't just sit here and wait. The very idea seemed unbearable to me. I predicted Charlie would be back in a few hours and once he arrived, what would happen? Would we just sit around and hope for news? I didn't think I could be that patient.

I wandered into the familiar kitchen and pulled out a few rusty pots and pans. I hoped cooking an eccentric meal could somehow calm me down.

"I wonder where Jasper is." My head snapped up at the sudden sound of Phil's voice and I frowned. My opinion of the tall, quiet blonde member of the Cullen family was a bit sketchy.

I had tried numerous times during the wedding to make conversation with Edward's detached older brother. Emmett was easy to get along with; he could talk on any subject with a wide smile and glittering eyes. But Jasper was difficult. His monosyllable responses didn't give away much of his personality. He was hard to read and even harder to talk to.

Eventually, sometime during the reception, I had given up on speaking to the only seemingly shy Cullen family member. I got the impression he was tired of listening to me and most likely annoyed by my overbearing presence.

"There aren't any new details on his whereabouts?" I questioned as I sautéed vegetables in a pan. I didn't think I would ever forget seeing Bella's brother-in-law's picture on the 11 o'clock news as the anchormen spoke about him like he was a felon.

There was just something dangerous about his eyes. Something foreboding and cold locked on his face.

Nothing but silence came from the other room and the hissing sizzling of my cooking blocked any other noise out. Eventually, Phil stepped into the kitchen and sniffed.

"Smells good," he said with a grin. "Should we wait for Charlie or not?"

I glanced towards the clock over the stove. 5:19. I sighed and dished the meal onto two plastic plates I had found stashed in the cabinets. "Let's just go ahead and eat. I don't know when he'll be back..."

Phil nodded and filled two glasses with water. I leaned back against the counter and let my eyes fall on the small kitchen table, the same one I had bought nineteen years ago. It didn't feel right, being in this house without Charlie. I almost felt like I was intruding, even though he had invited us back here.

As Phil searched for silverware, I wrapped up a plate of food for Charlie and put it aside. The least I could do was save some for him, for whenever he finished working.

Sometime during eating, Phil took a sip of water and put his fork down. "Where do you think he is?" His face was strangely concerned as his eyes studied my face.

I chewed thoughtfully. "Who?"

"Jasper," Phil replied, without missing a beat.

The aloof face of Jasper Hale popped up in my mind and I bit down a bit too forcefully. "Why does it matter?" Personally, I couldn't think of one single reason why Jasper would leave so suddenly and abandon his family.

Phil's shoulders lifted and then dropped. "I just don't want him coming back here, that's all."

My hand slackened and the fork, so tightly grasped, slipped from my grip and clattered on the plate full of picked at food. "What do you mean?" I asked in a low voice. "This is his home, isn't it? Why don't you want him coming back here?"

Now that I thought about it, it would make sense for Jasper to come back here. He had lived here for four years. He had a home here. It was familiar to him.

If I had broken out of a government-run facility, the first place I would have gone was back to my house, even if it was a predictable move. A part of me hoped Jasper didn't return here, for his sake instead of ours. Without a doubt, I knew he'd be carted back to D.C.

Phil's eyes widened as if I was missing the obvious. He took another bite and took his time chewing. "Renee," he said slowly, "he's a vampire. Vampires drink blood. I'm guessing, human blood. I don't know; I just don't like the idea of a vampire running around Forks."

I grumbled. "Well, they've been running around Forks for years. And, really, human blood? You really think the Cullens drink from humans? Phil, honey," I laughed nervously, "Carlisle's a doctor. A surgeon. I don't think he..."

But I couldn't finish my sentence. The image of Carlisle Cullen, serene and ever polite, hunching over a patient and slurping up his blood was enough to silence me. But this was Carlisle, the logical side of me fought back. For heaven's sake, Carlisle wouldn't do that.

Phil's lips turned down into a scowl. "There's always the blood bank," he said simply.

"That's enough," I remarked as I stood, picking my plate up with me. "Enough talk like that. The Cullens are good people. They don't....they wouldn't...they just don't, alright?"

I walked over towards the counter and washed the rest of my food down the sink as I angrily turned the water on. I couldn't think of them like that. Not yet. If I believed Phil, if I believed the idea that they were monsters, that classification would include my daughter. I just couldn't handle that sort of thing, not without solid evidence.

Behind me, Phil sighed and stood up, too. "I never said they were bad people, Renee," he murmured as he came up behind me and dumped his plate in the sink.

"Oh?" I questioned incredulously as I turned and glared at him. "Implying they smuggle bags of blood from the hospital is kind of hinting towards being a ‘bad person'."

His eyes dropped to the bubbly sink and he bit the inside of his cheek. A disgusted noise echoed from the back of my throat and I turned to walk away.

"Come on, Renee. I didn't mean it like that. It's just the thought of him coming here," he paused to shudder, "it kind of scares me. Alright?"

"Why would it, though?" I snapped. "If he's not some savage animal, why would it scare you? We know him, Phil. We've spoken to him, spoken to all of them! My God, I even went shopping with Alice and Esme! They're not...murderers. They're...they're..."

"People?" Phil offered with an open mouth.

I nodded stiffly. "Yes, people."

"You can't be serious!" His eyes were wide as he dropped his glass in the sink, full of boiling hot water. "Renee, think about this. They're vampires! Dead! They're not people, for crying out loud. They're inhuman."

I froze in the doorway of the kitchen.

No, what he was saying couldn't be true. I refused to think like that, to think of my own son-in-law slaughtering the locals or sweet little Alice crushing bones under her fingertips. It just wasn't possible.

"You're wrong," I whispered.

"Wrong?" Phil exclaimed. "We saw it on the news! They're vampires! Plain and simple!"

"Then what about the ‘shape shifters?" I shrieked in a shrill voice. "What about them? Are they beasts, too? They're just boys, Phil! Just innocent teenage boys. But do they go under the category of ‘monster' in your book? Just because they change into a wolf when they're angry?" Even spoken aloud, I knew my words sounded silly. Anyone would think the same thing as Phil; that they're monsters. I just...

I just couldn't.

Before Phil could conjure up any sort of reply, there was a knock at the door. I lowered my eyes and darted from the kitchen, leaving the dirty dishes to Phil in my haste to get out of the room.

If it was Charlie, he obviously wouldn't be knocking at his own door. It had to be someone else.

I swung open the door only to find, to my surprise and theirs, a middle aged woman. I gaped in slight awe and confusion and stood, frozen in surprise, for a moment or two.

She was pretty, but hard looking. She looked almost frozen there, standing with a plate of what I thought was food - fish, maybe? - and beady brown eyes. Her lips were screwed shut tightly into a fierce scowl and her black hair was cut short.

"Can I...can I help you?" I asked blankly. Without a doubt, I had never seen her before. I would have recognized that cold glare anywhere.

She blinked her eyes as if coming to life and spoke. "Who are you?" She asked in a sharp tone.

I flinched away from her and glanced towards Phil, standing a few feet behind me as he dried his hands with a towel that had certainly seen better days. "Renee?" I answered.

Her eyes widened. "Oh."

"And you?" Phil grunted. Her eyes slowly drifted from my face to his.

"Sue Clearwater. I brought this over for Charlie." Her hands, clutching the food, lifted noticeably. "Can I come in?"

My mouth went dry and I moved out of the way to let her in silently. "Is Charlie expecting you?" Phil asked as she entered the house and unbuttoned a raincoat. I noticed the wet droplets on it, hinting that it were raining outside, not that the current weather was unexpected. It was always pouring cats and dogs in Forks.

Sue looked up at him as she folded her coat over her arm. "Yes, I usually drop in for dinner. Especially now that everything's...happened."

Wait, I thought, Clearwater. The name sounded strangely familiar.

"Oh my God," I said in a shocked tone. Both Phil and Sue's heads swiveled over to look at me. "You're Sue! You were married to Harry Clearwater, weren't you?"

Immediately, Sue's eyes darkened and I realized just what I had said. My eyes fell to the ground as I cursed my big, fat mouth. "I'm sorry," I quickly apologized, "that was wrong of me. The name...it just rang a bell."

Sue's eyes flicked over my face and she frowned. "Quite alright. I'm used to it-"

Her voice broke off into a strangled gasp and I looked up at her. "Are you alright?" I asked.

Her eyes were staring at something over my shoulder, resembling saucers, and I turned to see what she was looking at with such interest.

The TV, left on by Phil, sat alone in the homely family room. It was playing a clip on the local news station from Port Angeles, a story about vampires - to no one's surprise. However, it was the video itself that made me gasp.

There, on the screen, was the President of the United States, speaking to a large crowd of...of vampires.

And he was apologizing to the freed Cullen family, including my daughter and, I gulped, my granddaughter.

***


Leah's Point of View

If the Pack was a dense forest, hiding numerous secrets under its forest floor and within the complex tangles of roots and vines, and I was the lost camper walking through and trying to find my way along, Brody was like the stream of fresh water that carried me home. He was refreshing and new. He didn't have a secret he'd die to protect or extreme emotional baggage.

In a sense, I suppose he was ordinary. He was insanely intelligent when it came to Physics and that took some real patience to understand but there wasn't really anything too special about him. He had graduated, moved into a small apartment in Connecticut, and did work for the government.

There were no shocking mysterious embedded in his past, no crazy exes, no strange family members, and definitely no supernatural genes. He was utterly average with a twist of brains and good looks.

But he was everything I needed.

Wait, I thought, let's not get ahead of myself. In a way, I hardly knew the man. He knew I was a shape shifter and that I was ‘friends' with the Cullens (yeah right). I knew he let the little hybrid freak loose and that he was, somehow, on our side. Our side being the vampires and shape shifters, of course.

But other than that, my knowledge was a bit limited. I couldn't tell him about the Imprinting just yet and for obvious reasons. It'd be frightfully easy to scare the man off with just two simple words. Soul. Mate.

So I kept it a secret, which was a hard thing to do. Every time I opened my mouth in his presence, I fought the urge to blurt it all out, which was something Jacob found undeniably hilarious. I flipped him off several times behind my back when he coughed the word ‘lovers' whenever Brody was near.

Even though I couldn't bring myself to tell him, I did allow myself to stay close to him. I could barely find the strength within myself to put any amount of distance between us - a fact that made my stomach grow with nausea. Since when did Leah Clearwater need a man to get by? I was used to being on my own, dependant and hateful. But now I felt myself inadvertently moving towards him and striking up random conversations.

I couldn't be sure whether he minded or not, personally. He was the one to approach me when I was with Seth, hadn't he? So, in my book, that had to mean something. He wouldn't have picked me out of a whole crowd of three hundred vampires with pure intentions.

After we had teleported back to the South, I had mentally nominated and elected myself to be his sort of tour guide. The independent twenty year old part of me said this was nonsense and I was being a loathsome lovesick schoolgirl. The gushy feminine side of me, however, strongly encouraged me to follow him everywhere like a puppy - which actually fit my genetics more accurately.

So now I took him around everywhere. I volunteered to show him around on Elizabeth's property in the South and to help him get his bearings in the presence of vampires.

We were in the upstairs of the house when he spoke for the first time in approximately 2 minutes and 16 seconds. I know; I'm pathetic.

"And this never creeps you out?" he asked quietly as I opened a closed door. I peeked my head inside, hoping I wasn't interrupting any gross vampire...stuff, but breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered only a small empty bed and desk.

God, sometimes this place was worse than a frat house.

"Does what creep me out?" I kept walking down the long hallway and he easily kept my pace. Another good thing about Brody that I liked was that he was tall. A good feature to have, I figured, when the shape shifter who just happens to love you is about six foot two.

He reached up and pushed his hand through his long brown hair. "Well, the, uh," he lowered his voice, "vampires."

I laughed out loud at his nervous, shifty glance and whispered voice. "You don't have to do that," I snorted. "Whisper, I mean. They can hear you. It doesn't really matter, though. They don't mind, I don't think. And yes, it does creep me out. All the time, actually."

His jaw snapped shut and he frowned. "Can they really hear me, you think?"

A small smile covered my face as I looked into a second closed room. "Of course. I can hear miles away, you know, just in human form. Believe me, they can hear you."

His frown did nothing but deepen. "And they don't mind?"

I shook my head. "Nah, I don't think so. They're kind of an apathetic sort of group of people. They rarely care about what others think of them. But, anyway, you know, I used to hate the Cullens." I paused momentarily. "Maybe I still do," I muttered.

He looked into the room at the end of the hall with me and stepped inside. It was an office with numerous stocked bookshelves and a large desk. He turned to face me with raised brows. "Why hate them?"

I kicked a few books around that littered the dusty floor and followed him inside. "It's - it's hard to explain," I mumbled. Getting into the whole ‘let's-kill-all-vampires' behavior that our species had was not on the top of my priority list. I couldn't exactly control my hatred for leeches. It was automatic. It was embedded in my mind - the idea of hating them all.

Brody laughed a deep, throaty chuckle and I smiled despite the topic of discussion. He was just too contagious.

"I have a feeling we have quite a bit of time to explain," he said.

My responding sigh was involuntary. "Alright," I said softly, "you asked for it." He smiled widely, kindly, as I gathered my thoughts. How to explain? How to make someone understand such an ancient evil, an ancient hate? "How old are you?" I asked suddenly.

Truthfully, it was a question I had wanted to ask for a while. This just gave me a reason to.

His eyes widened in brief shock and then he recomposed himself. "I thought it was rude to ask people their ages," he joked lightly.

I rolled my eyes as I flicked a loose sheet of blank paper, placed on the shiny surface of the polished desk. "That's only women," I said in a syrupy tone.

He snorted quietly. "Fine, 27."

I turned my head so he couldn't see my eyes widen. Christ. I wouldn't have thought he was that old. Not that 26 was prehistoric or anything. It was just a bit out of my...age range. If I had been two years younger, damn. Talk about illegal.

"You're not saying anything," Brody said nervously. I turned back towards him with a smile plastered on my face. He quirked a brow and smiled back anxiously.

"Oh, no, it's just that...well, honestly? You don't look it. But that's coming from a naïve 20 year old." I chuckled and cursed the panicky, hysterical edge to it. I ignored the way his jaw dropped a bit.

"Wait, 20?" Ah hell. I scowled and looked away from his shocked expression as my throat tightened. Claire's only two. Claire's only two. It was my mantra as I reminded myself Imprinting on someone with an age gap could work out.

I coughed slightly as I trailed my fingertips over the desktop. It was glossy and smooth under my touch. "So, vampires and shape shifters, right?"

My eyes glanced up to gauge his emotions. He just stared at me blankly before nodding stiffly. "Right," he said uncertainly.

I smiled timorously as I leaned against the front of the desk. "Has there been anything in your life that you couldn't handle? Something you couldn't control? It was just automatic and completely instinctive? Maybe something in college or...later?"

He thought for a short moment as his face settled into a contemplative expression. He stood, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he crossed his arms. "Not really? I don't think so, anyway. My parents moved us from Pennsylvania to Connecticut when I was eleven. I didn't want to go but something tells me that's not quite what you're talking about."

I shook my head. "No, no. That's perfect. It's kind of like that, you see? I had no control over phasing. The Cullens moved in and bang. Genetics kicked in. It was a response to their very presence; a stimulus and a reaction."

He nodded slowly. "I can understand that, I think."

"It shouldn't be too hard to comprehend," I added as I thought about it. "It's like doing something without any say in it. But changing into a giant wolf when I'm pissed isn't the only side effect. There's a lot more to it."

He arched a brow. "Oh? Like what?"

‘Like Imprinting' was my initial thought. I pursed my lips to crush down the desire to say that.

"There are many things," I began, "but, what you seem to be curious about is the whole mutual hate between my species and theirs. It's kind of wired into our minds to despise each other. You should have seen how things were a year ago. Compared to then, the current tension is like rainbows and sunshine. Now that was rough. But Jacob Imprinting on Renesmee...kind of...cleared that...up..."

Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I froze as my hand stilled on the desk. I just had to open my fat mouth and mention Imprinting, didn't I? Just had to bring up Jacob and his little mutant girlfriend into this. I almost reached up and smacked my face.

But instead of the expected ‘What's Imprinting?' question from Brody, he just smiled. "Yeah, I know about that."

My breath swooshed out of my lungs and I began choking on air. "Excuse me?" I asked. "You know about it?" What the hell? How did this guy know so damn much?

He shrugged and just smiled. "I'm a scientist, right? I was Dr. Mitchell's assistant. Everything he knows, I know. All the information we collected went straight to him and then to me for further examination. I know quite a bit about your species, actually," he said with a bright smile as he walked closer, "The whole Imprinting thing I found fascinating. What's the purpose for it, again?"

I gulped as he came closer. I hastily wiped my clammy hands on the back of my thighs and frowned. "Er...well...it's for like...breeding purposes." Oh God, I thought. How attractive. ‘Breeding' purposes.

Really, Leah, could your word choice be any lamer?

Thankfully, his face split into a humorous grin. "What do you mean exactly?"

What do I mean exactly? I felt like sarcastically asking him how the hell he needed more of a damn explanation. Instead, I slammed my lips together. Don't get snippy, I told myself. He's just being...what was he being? I swallowed in nervousness; he wasn't being flirtatious, was he?

I sighed and ran my fingers through my short hair. "Um, well, it's like...it depends on who would make the best wolf...yeah. That's it. Who can breed and produce the stronger shape shifter."

My cheeks pooled with heat as I blushed and looked away. Jesus, could this be more awkward? I haven't even told the guy he's my Imprint and we're getting into technicalities of the whole fiasco.

He nodded as if he was actually thinking about it. "Makes sense," he said and I gave him a weird look. Yeah, makes sense in The Wolf Man. In real life, it often seemed like a bunch of bologna.

"Have you Imprinted?" he asked completely, disturbingly serious. The air in my throat clogged and I coughed again. What was with this guy and uncomfortable questions? And, damn it, how was I supposed to answer this doozy? Should I just be all confident and chic and say ‘Yes, you'? Or should it be sweet and more sincere?

I rubbed my temples and grimaced. "Uh...didn't you want to know about the whole vampire/shape shifter relationship thing?"

His lips turned downwards in either disappointment or frustration. I couldn't tell which. "Yeah. No, you're right. I did."

I nodded as I took in a deep breath. Avoided that one. God must have been looking out for little Leah Clearwater today.

"As I was saying, Jacob being the Alpha and Imprinting on the little hybrid miracle thing kind of-"

"Thing?" Brody asked incredulously with wide eyes. "You mean Renesmee?" I immediately turned defensive at his repulsed tone of voice.

"Yes, thing. She's...she's...ugh! She's a freak of nature," I told him as I ground my teeth. I instantly hated...no, hate was too weak of a word. Despised, loathed, or wanted to kill was more accurate. I wanted to murder little Renesmee then. She had worked her damn irresistible charm on my Imprint and now he probably thought of her as some goddess like the whole damn Cullen family did.

Like Jacob did.

See, this was why I stayed with my Pack. While, yeah, we disagreed on some things, we all agreed on one thing, whether or not Jacob loved that thing in mind. We all hated Renesmee Carlie Cullen.

I couldn't wait for the day we finally decided to form a sort of Anti-Nessie fan club. It would, without a doubt, be one of the greatest days in my life.

Suddenly, Brody's eyes turned very soft. Whether it was because of - gag - Renesmee or because of something clearly displayed on my face, I couldn't be sure.

"You know," he argued back quietly, "She's just a little girl."

I grumbled a bunch of incoherent curse words. I probably sounded like a dangerously pissed off sailor. "It doesn't matter. See, this was what I was trying to show you. I hate them. The whole Pack hates them. They're disgusting creatures," I spat, "They're annoying and whiny and, goddamn it, they stink."

Without warning, he burst into laughter. "They stink?" he managed to ask as he chortled.

I crossed my arms and clenched my jaw. "Yes, it's a shape shifter thing. You wouldn't understand." I sniffed snootily and looked away, chin up.

This whole place reeked of vampire, now that I thought of it. It was a gut wrenching stench. It made me want to jump out the window, phase half way down, and attack any leech nearby. Of course I wouldn't do that but...that didn't stop me from fantasizing about my vampire slaughtering daydreams.

I suddenly realized just how close he was. He had taken a few steps closer, so close his scent was just pouring off of him, and I felt my throat constrict. Everything about him called to me - something I knew was like that just because of the Imprinting. It was like a one sided magnetic attraction. There was an unshakable pull on my side of things but on his? I highly doubted there was anything going on there.

"Make me understand," he said roughly and I looked up in surprise. My eyes connected with his and I felt everything just fly out of me; all the insecurities and worrying, all the nervousness and anxiety. Hell, even the hatred for the Loch Ness Monster seemed to evaporate.

"I Imprinted on you," I blurted out and then squeezed my eyes shut.

Oh my God. I did not just say that.

Goddamn it, Leah, I screamed at myself. You just couldn't keep it inside any longer, could you? You just had to tell him! And from the piercing silence that followed, it was obvious he was shocked to no end. My God, what the hell have I done? I should have just let it come naturally, smoothly, and not clumsily cry it out. Who the hell was I? Bella Swan?

The silence was utterly deafening. I could feel his warm breath wash down on my face and hear his heart beating. He was temptingly close. I almost wanted to reach out and touch him, even though that would probably be quite awkward given the last words that had escaped from my lips.

I risked opening one eye to peek at his expression. His eyes were wide, most likely not even a foot from my own and staring at me intently. I stared back unabashedly into his inviting hazel eyes and frowned. They were speckled with flecks of green and gold, circling around the irises in dizzying patterns. I gulped a breath of fresh air and tensed.

"You...you Imprinted on me?" His tone was doubtful and caused me to scowl. I looked down towards the red, spotless carpet and bit my lip.

"Uh...yeah? Look, I can't help it. It's just kind of like...automatic. I know this probably sounds like I use that excuse for everything but, God, it's just kind of the way things are. I can't handle the fact that I phase or the fact that I hate vampires or even the fact that I-" gulp "-Imprinted on you." I knew I was rambling in a probably very unattractive shrill voice but I couldn't control it.

He was silent even longer and I felt - oh God no - I felt the familiar sting of tears welling up. I bit down on the inside of my cheek and clenched my teeth. No, hell no. I wasn't going to cry here in front of him. Leah Clearwater did many, many things but crying in front of a boy was just not one of them.

"When did you find out?" he eventually asked in a raw tone. I felt my bottom lip tremble.

Stop it, I ordered. Either toughen up or look like a blubbering, sobbing idiot. I was sure the non-crying version of me was much more appealing than me weeping about the possible rejection that could be in my very near future.

"Just a few hours ago," I said and instantly regretted my hoarse voice. He sucked in a large breath of air and I shuddered. Well, this wasn't exactly how I expected things to go.

But, I positively thought, at least the rest of the Pack wasn't here. I could only imagine what their reaction would be. It'd probably consist of them falling over laughing and wheezing out, "Leah and Brody sittin' in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" And, knowing them, they'd be so considerate as to add in, "Then come puppies in the baby carriage!" as the last verse.

I wanted to look up at him through thick eyelashes and plead all throatily for him to say something. That was what they did in romance movies, wasn't it? It'd be all passionate and intense and pivotal. But I couldn't do that. I couldn't be all smooth and starry-eyed. That wasn't who I was and, personally, I didn't have the guts to do so. For once in my life, I was nervous because of a boy.

Insane, I know. Boys simply did not make Leah Clearwater nervous. Leah Clearwater made boys nervous.

"I'm sorry," I hurriedly said as I stepped around him. "I shouldn't have said anything."

I moved towards the door quickly, intent on beating it out of there. Seth could deal with him somehow. That sounded even more pathetic: dumping my male issues on my little brother.But at least Seth could use his increasing size to scare Brody off until I figured out what to do.

I reached the doorway and paused. Everything in me pulled me back; it was almost impossible to put one foot in front of the other. Damn you, Imprinting, I thought angrily as I gulped back a sob. Damn you for messing with my mind and my heart.

"Wait, Leah," he called out as he rushed forward. I clamped my eyes shut and bit my lip. I almost couldn't move. The pain from being away from him was almost unbearable. "Don't...don't leave. You just...you just took me by surprise."

My jaw tightened at his annoyingly chipper words. Well, no shit, Sherlock. Anyone would be majorly surprised by the news.

"Did you want to...talk about it?" His tone was hesitant and uneasy. I opened my eyes and sighed heavily. Yeah, talk about it. Sounds wonderful.

I turned to face him and pursed my lips. He looked genuinely concerned - something that took me off guard. I opened my mouth and then closed it. What was there to say? What was there to talk about? I had to put up with an endless attraction to him, had to handle this inconvenient hold he had over me. He was like a Loadstone rock and I, a bunch of iron nails.

I had no choice.

"What's to talk about?" I grumbled. His lips twitched in response as he watched me with narrowed eyes.

"You're just going to pretend like it never happened, aren't you?" he asked disbelievingly. I grunted and looked away, allowing my eyes to look at anything but him. They fell on the darkened sky outside, through the window. There were a bunch of lit fires outside, resembling tiny flames of candles in a sea of blackness. I instantly wondered why I couldn't have just stayed out there instead of inside, all alone with him.

"Why not?" I mumbled disappointedly.

His breath escaped him like a high pitched whistle. "Why not? Because...because...isn't it something that you can't control? You have to do something about it, right? Otherwise, it..."

"It hurts," I completed for him and blinked away my tears.

And it did hurt. Already. It was like there was some invisible force tearing my heart apart every time I took a step in the opposite direction from him. I wanted - no, I craved, to learn everything about him. I ached to hear his voice and to touch his face. It was this sickening desire to stand next to him, a desire that I could barely go against.

He stepped closer and I gulped. Since when did I get all poetic when faced with love? I almost sounded like Emily gushing about wedding details when she didn't think I was listening.

"How much does it hurt?" His voice was raw with real aching and my eyes fluttered up to meet his. They were darker than I had seen before, now leaning towards a rich brown instead of the colorful, emotional hazel.

My hands compressed into tight fists. "It's excruciating," I whispered through clasped teeth.

He took a step back and my heart cried out in agony. "No," he said softly, "I'm sorry." He reached up and placed his hand in front of his open mouth as if he was still grasping onto the truth of the moment. "I mean, my God, you're only 20. You shouldn't...you shouldn't have to deal with all of this."

My eyes drifted downwards towards the floor once again. I suddenly felt very foolish. I should have known the whole 20 thing would backfire in my face. It was probably too weird for him, too awkward and strange. I hadn't even bothered to go out for college and he was...

...well, he was kind of a genius. He had started college earlier than most students, meaning he graduated quicker and then even fit in several degrees afterwards.

Obviously, thinking of yourself being with a menopausal 20 year old girl who kind of isn't the brightest candle on the block when you're that smart must be a bit unappealing.

He deserved to be with someone more equal, I thought. Someone freakishly smart, like himself.

But then, on the other hand, Jacob wasn't exactly a brainiac either and look at his Imprint. She could probably be accepted to Harvard, for crying out loud.

A humorless laugh bubbled from my lips. "There're a lot of things in life I shouldn't have to deal with that I have. No one should have the life of a shape shifter, it," I paused to search for the right word, "sucks."

To be 19 and going up against a whole army of bloodthirsty newborn vamps wasn't exactly ideal. Having your high school sweetheart ditch you for your cousin was pretty awful, too, and don't even get me started on the fact that my brother and I basically murdered our father. My whole life was a bunch of ugly ups and downs, all mostly because of the Cullens.

Huh, I thought, I wonder if that's why I despise them so much more than necessary. They were all practically the reasons for my sucky life.

He looked up at me, his eyes almost glowing. "So what do we do?"

I should have known he'd leave it to me to figure it out. I sighed and wrapped my arms around myself. Well, there were several options. A, we could ignore it and go our separate ways which I figured would end badly on my part. B, we could just see how things rolled which I also had a poor feeling about. Knowing the Pack, their teasing and stories of my less than cheerful attitude would scare him off. Or, C, we could start over.

Alright, not too bad. At least we had options.

"How about we start over?" I suggested and his brow furrowed.

"What do you mean?" I walked closer to him and outstretched my hand. He looked down at it pointedly with a bewildered look on his face.

"I mean, I am Leah Clearwater and I Imprinted on you roughly seven hours ago. You?"

I know, it probably sounded much more suave in my head. Said aloud, it probably came across silly and childish. Yet, to my heart's content, he grinned a bit and took my hand in his. It was more of a ‘holding hands' gesture than a ‘shaking hands' gesture but I was so not complaining at this point.

"I'm Brody Averton and I can't wait to learn more about you." He winked, almost so quickly I couldn't see, and my face turned bright red.

"Let's start with 20 Questions, shall we?" The fact that he didn't let go of my hand immediately stuck to me and I smiled despite the semi-serious mood of the room.

His eyes turned light and teasing as he returned the smile. "When's your birthday?"

I snorted. Looks like I was in for a long round of good old 20 Questions.

***

Chester's Point of View

When I had the thought to use my power to follow Maria and Jasper secretly, I nearly went along with it.

I came so chillingly close to slipping into the night behind them, invisible, to listen to their conversation. I almost did, to tell the truth. Actually, I have a feeling I was so indecisive about the whole thing that I was probably a flickering image to everyone else as I battled between losing all visibility and maintaining an appearance.

But, in the end, I didn't. There was something written on Jasper's face, something so clearly disinterested in Maria, that made me stop.

As the two walked away, a large gap of space in between their figures, I realized it was probably a good thing I hadn't tagged along. I wanted to trust Maria, I really did. I wanted to be 100% sure I could rely on her to tell me the truth. And if I had followed behind like a ghost, that would have displayed obvious skepticism on my part.

And even if I didn't completely trust Maria just yet, I trusted Jasper, which probably sounded ridiculous.

For the longest time, I just waited for her to come back, which wore down my patience quickly. The gnawing dread inside of me was, at the same time, eager to hear her verdict and beyond frightened as to what news she would behold when she returned.

I travelled around the campsite slowly, stopping every now and then to answer soldier's questions. Though Maria was the leader of the army, I did have a bit of a ranking among the troops. In a way, I suppose, I was the one they would often go to. Up until recently, Maria was thought of as intimidating to nearly everyone and so they usually spoke to me when they had questions.

Tonight was oddly quiet, though. The Cullens were on the porch, speaking in hushed tones to one another, and everyone else was spread out. The Alpha of the shape shifter Pack, Jacob, had abandoned his vampire babysitters and was now rejoined with his other pups momentarily on the edge of the lawn.

I sneaked around back to watch over the soldiers back there, only to find the backyard a bit empty. Familiar soldiers wandered here and there or spoke over in a dark corner but, for the most part, there wasn't really anyone around. I sighed and placed my hands on my hips as my eyes scanned the dim yard.

"Chester," someone panted behind me. I turned around on the back porch to find a highly valuable general, Tristan, approaching.

I frowned at his dirty appearance - ripped clothing and tousled hair. Tristan was a bit overdramatic, hence the unnecessary panting, and so I thought nothing of his unruly look.

"What is it?" I asked him as he paused beside me. I noticed several vampires turn and stare at their huffing friend.

He ran a hand through his black hair and shook his head. "The Romanians. No one noticed they were missing until now and..."

I perked up. I actually had noticed they were absent, as had Maria, but there had been no course of action to search for them. I had nearly forgotten about the shadowy, abnormal figures of Stefan and Vladimir.

"Did someone find them?" I questioned him calmly.

He gulped down a breath of crisp night air and shook his head. "No, they returned out front. They're kind of...you have to see for yourself."

My brow furrowed as he turned around and began jogging back. He paused a few feet away and turned, waving me to follow him. "Chester," he hissed, "Come on."

I blinked in dazed surprise before leaping off of the porch and catching up with Tristan. "Why are you getting me for this?" I lowered my voice as I spoke, cautious of the vampires around us. "I'm hardly important and-"

"You're the only leader we have," Tristan replied. "Maria's gone, we can't find her anywhere. Do you know where she is?"

I grunted as we hit the throngs of vampires out front. "She's speaking to an old friend," I told him in a slightly sour tone.

His lips turned downwards. "Either way, no one's quite sure what to do. Adam and Eve are inside, they're not coming out. But someone needs to stop them; they're completely losing it."

My head turned to the side in curiosity as I listened. Interesting. I had thought the Romanians had already lost it centuries ago.

Tristan pushed his way through the crowd and after being out front for just ten seconds, I knew something was wrong. Everyone was utterly silent except for distant malicious laughter, something I cursed myself for not picking up on before. They were all turned inwards, watching an unknown spectacle in the center of the lawn. Even the Cullens, standing on the porch with wide eyes and even wider mouths, were watching with completely rapt faces.

I sniffed the air hesitantly as we wove between the bodies. It smelled strongly of gas and burnt ashes. I coughed as I breathed smoke into my lungs and clenched my jaw in response to the stinging scent.

The other vampires seemed to clear a path for me as we walked, watching me with dark eyes. I immediately wondered why Adam and Eve couldn't handle whatever the Romanians were doing. Or even the Volturi. They were the past rulers. Why couldn't they step in?

Eventually, there was a break in the crowd and I pushed through, leaving a cautious Tristan behind. I stepped into a large circle in the direct center of the lawn and froze.

The distant laughter really turned out to be the insane cackling of the Romanian brothers. Stefan and Vladimir wildly danced around a growing fire, pouring gasoline out of two large containers. The amber liquid dripped over the grass, covering it in a burnished looking substance that reflected the flames brightly.

On the opposite side of their little show stood the Volturi, silent and guarded as they watched. Aro's burgundy eyes seemed to drink up every little detail about Stefan and Vladimir's presentation.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are!" Vladimir sang as he dumped the remains of one jug onto a patch of grass. I flinched away from the sound of his voice.

Stefan's screeching laugh came close to making my eardrums bleed. "Oh Adam! Eve! We're waiting for you to grace us with your lovely presence!" He skipped merrily around the fire as he drizzled gasoline dangerously close to the licking sparks.

My eyes narrowed shrewdly on the puddles of liquid. If that fire came into contact with the gasoline, the whole place would go up in flames without a second's warning. One minute we'd all be standing here, the next we'd be burnt to a fine crisp.

And the house, I thought. The house would be torn to shreds by their thoughtless inferno.

The two continued crying out provoking statements as they hooted and hollered. My eyes skipped back to the Volturi, wondering why the hell they weren't doing something.

They could easily jump in. Damn it, menacing Jane wasn't even a foot from Stefan at times and often, Caius was within a hair's breadth of Vladimir. Why weren't they doing something? Was it so damn hard to get in the way of the maniacal brothers?

"You don't have much longer, twins! A few more moments and this place will go up in flames! What does this remind you of, dear brother?" Vladimir crowed viciously as a droplet of venom oozed from the corner of his mouth.

"Egypt!" Stefan crowed. "Remember their screams, brother? Remember their children brutally fighting each other until death?" He erupted into a fit of frenzied laughter as Vladimir called out another taunting remark.

That was it.

The twins. That was why the Volturi weren't stopping them. Of course, it all made sense. For some reason, Stefan and Vladimir held an unmovable grudge against the twins. Even though the Romanians and the Volturi were enemies, they did have one common opponent: Adam and Eve. You'd have to be an utter fool not to notice how most of the Volturi loathed the twins for stealing their power away. The Volturi were probably rooting for the Romanians to win, to somehow kill the invincible siblings.

But if they weren't going to stop the Romanians, someone had to. And by the way Stefan dangled a large piece of wood near the fire, hoping the contagious flames would spread so he could light fire to the gasoline, I knew someone had to stop them soon.

I growled, slightly ticked that Adam and Eve couldn't just fix this themselves, as I worked on my power. If no one was going to stop them, if no one had the courage to end their reckless actions, I would do it. I felt the invisibility sneak up on me and then the familiar tingling sensation as it multiplied and stretched over my body. My arms and legs seemed to break down until they weren't even there at all and then, before I knew it, my abdomen and chest seemed to vanish, too. I ground my shuddering teeth closed as I took my final breath as a visible man.

Once I was sure I was undetectable, I lurched forward, knocking Stefan off his feet. The block of wood escaped his grasp as he began writhing underneath me.

Fortunately for me, I had done this a thousand times before. Killing, whether it was human or vampire, was an easy task for me. I snapped my jaw over his throat quickly, cleanly, and tore the flesh. He howled under me, clawing at nothing but empty air, as I bit and pulled.

I yanked his head off from his neck and, with a free hand, tossed the skull into the flames. Within minutes I was chucking pieces of his ancient body into the bonfire, allowing his ashes to fall to the bottom of the woodpile.

All around me it was still. I couldn't quite distinguish shapes and people; I just saw Vladimir watching me watching him with horrified eyes seven feet away. It was a haze around me as my mind seemed to center on nothing but my prey.

His hand dropped the empty container and it plopped into a puddle with a slight splash.

"What the hell was that?" He asked hoarsely as his eyes flickered in frantic movements. I crouched down on the grass, waiting for him to still completely, and then pounced.

He went down easily, easier than even Stefan. His shrieking head went first, then his squirming body, and then I was tossing body parts into the fire. Halfway through the process, I let my guard slip and became visible.

I couldn't shake the surge of power I felt as I threw the last shred of Vladimir into the roaring fire. But I also couldn't shake the sense of disgust. Just days ago I was speaking to those two men and now I was their murderer.

I shook my head; I shouldn't wallow in any sort of misery. How often had I slaughtered newborns I knew? Newborns I was friends with? I couldn't allow these two to get to me now.

My feet moved on their own accord as I took a step back from the glowing flames. There was nothing but a shocked silence behind me as the others most likely tried to make sense of what had just happened. After all, it wasn't every day you saw an invisible man kill two men.

"Tristan," I called roughly and felt a slight breeze as he ran up. "Douse the fires. There are too many of them to risk coming into contact with the gasoline. Get the hose or something and put them out."

He nodded stiffly before turning and darting through the crowd. I turned mechanically and, half way, locked eyes with Aro of the Volturi. He glowered at me, upper lip raised in a hostile snarl, and I paused.

"Something to say, Aro?" I hissed at him over the sparks. "Were you rooting for the enemy here?" I gestured towards the ashes, fluttering in the wind beside the fire. "Hoping our leaders would be killed tonight so you could take over once again?"

His eyes glittered like ominous rubies and then he blinked once, lazily. "Of course not," he lied smoothly. "I'm just mourning two old friends."

With a snarl I turned away from him. Yes, of course, like the Romanians and him were good old pals.

I was still growling when I turned my back on the old Volturi member. "Anyone who gets ideas from these two's stupid, careless behavior, I'm warning you now, you won't live long enough to do anything. This, tonight, was an example of what we won't be having any tolerance for in years to come. The violence towards one another will stop now. And anyone who has a problem against the twins or one another, you're welcome to get out now while you still can. Any questions?" I looked around at the enclosing crowd, my top lip curled.

They all stared back, frozen in fear. No one spoke up and when Tristan had returned, buckets of water on each arm with a whole gang of soldiers behind him with more pails, I left them to do their work. I separated myself from the enclosure and moved towards the crowd.

I found it harder to move within the crowd than it had been before. This time, everyone was suffocating me, closing in on me with awed faces and quiet thanks on their lips. I squared my shoulders and kept pressing against their barriers.

Up on the porch was the Cullen family, still Jasperless, and still stunned. Emmett's eyes studied me appraisingly, almost like he was greatly impressed. However, Carlisle watched me with almost fuming eyes.

I turned away from the freed family and placed my hand on the doorknob. Adam and Eve were inside, I knew that, and they knew I knew that. I wasn't just going to let these past five minutes slide. I had just killed two men because they were too caught up doing whatever they do to interfere.

I wanted to know, more than anything, why the hell they hadn't done anything.

As I turned the cold knob to the front door, I felt someone's shallow breath on my neck. I turned, expecting maybe Tristan but found Carlisle's golden eyes staring sadly back.

"Why did you kill them?" he asked, his voice appalled.

I grimaced and glanced over his shoulder towards the thinning crowd. Vampires were quickly moving out as Tristan and his fellow vampires threw buckets of fresh water over the past celebratory bonfires. "Something had to be done," I said in a hollowed tone as I glanced back to his wide eyes. "Someone had to stop them; this whole place would have been blown right off the map if they hadn't."

"You didn't need to kill them, though," he said fervently. Behind him, I saw Edward close in on me as if some sort of backup. I lifted my lips and gave a warning growl in his direction, telling him to back the hell off.

"And what do you propose I should have done? They had lost it completely, Carlisle," I snapped as my growl came to a close. "They've been insane for years. If vampires have a mental disease, they would have been diagnosed before you were even born. We can't risk vampires like this now. This is a new foundation, a new world to build a civilization in. We don't need vampires like that."

He was shaking his head before I was even done. "They could have been helped. They could have been stopped-"

"Alice!"

Carlisle turned around quickly, distracted, and my eyes fell on the lawn past him. On the edge of the lawn, Jasper was running. He fought through the crowd eagerly and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Alice dash down the steps and, in seconds, they were in each other's arms and whispering to one another.

My jaw tightened as I watched the reunited lovers. I looked over the lawn for any trace of Maria, waiting for her to turn up somewhere or to see her captivating face in the dispersing crowd of vampires.

The worry had already settled in by the time I heard her voice. It was such a relief to me, such a relief to my heart, to hear her saccharine voice.

"You didn't think I wouldn't return, would you?" She snickered from the other side of the wraparound porch and I turned with all thoughts of Carlisle's argument pushed aside.

She was sitting on the railing on the far end, feet dangling and skirt flowing from the gentle draft. To anyone else, it was probably a haunting image - her sitting there like a porcelain doll in an old fashioned dress. Her dark hair was pinned up though loose strands curled around her cherubic face, framing her hungry red eyes perfectly. And even though everything about her screamed macabre with the blood stains on her sleeves and her venomous bite, I found her nothing short of exquisite.

I left Carlisle behind, standing there watching his two ‘children' below, and walked towards her with a rising lump in my throat.

If Jasper was hugging Alice closely, asking her worriedly what had happened, that must have meant they were still together. And if they were together, unharmed by Maria, did that mean we were, too?

"What happened?" She wondered as I approached. Her face was etched with anxiety and her dark red eyes were brewing with so many unclassified feelings.

I sighed and looked out towards the few fires still lit. "Stefan and Vladimir they...they completely lost it. They were threatening to blow up the whole place."

She remained utterly calm. "And you killed them?"

My head dropped in slight regret. "Should I have done otherwise?"

I waited for a moment for her reply but it never came. Instead, I felt her hesitant hands reach up and tenderly stroke my cheek. "Oh, Chester," she muttered, "No. You did the right thing. They deserved to die many, many years ago. I'm proud that you handled the situation so well."

My eyes glanced up to her face to see if she was lying. She wasn't. There was nothing but slight pride and adoration in her eyes, most likely mirroring my own.

"And Jasper?" It needed to be asked. I couldn't contain the question within me longer.

She suddenly smiled brightly, her pearly teeth reflecting the moonlight. "Is a good friend of mine. Absolutely nothing more."

I don't know whether it was the cheerful, relaxed way she said it or the undeniable love I saw for me in her eyes but something made me believe her, made me trust her. Possibly it was the way her voice rang with such unquestionable clarity that made me place such conviction in her.

Either way, there was no doubt she was telling the complete truth.

I looked over my shoulder towards the figure of Jasper Whitlock, cradling tiny Alice Cullen to him tightly.

A breath of relief left my lips. I was finally, finally, free of all the trouble, all the drama, all the heartache that followed that man around everywhere he went.