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Burned

Summary:
Burned Banner This is a one-shot about the day Alec and Jane were changed. What made them become so bitter? This is my version of what happened to them to make them who they are as vampires. It's a story about how one mistake changed everything for these twins.


Notes:
Burned Banner


1. Chapter 1

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6647   Review this Chapter

Jane’s POV

The boy sitting across from me met my gaze evenly as I sat down in the plush chair in his quarters. His eyes reflected the emotion I felt on this day; it was the anniversary of the day that we’d been transformed into what we are now. My twin, my other half, was the only person able to fully understand how I have become so bitter, as he was there, right by my side, and not by choice. Perhaps the only other soul that knew me as well as myself would be the man who had created this fate for us, the man who had essentially salvaged whatever was left of our existence.

Aro had found us a long time ago. He’d watched from afar, and had hoped that we would have the chance to mature a bit more before he would act to bring us into his world. It was hard to resent him for planning to take us, as he was essentially the one that saved us. It was true, he’d become as much of a father figure as one could be in this existence, and I longed for his attention and constant approval, just as a daughter would. Perhaps it was a flaw from having been changed so young; it really didn’t matter. What did matter, was that Aro had requested that Alec and I meet with him this afternoon - he’d said he had gifts for us to celebrate the anniversary of the day we’d fully met our true potential.

"Alec, what do you think Aro will have for us today?" I asked, eager with anticipation.

"I’m not sure, Jane, but if it’s something from Aro, it will most likely be wonderful," my brother replied, smiling lightly at me.

I missed the lighthearted smiles from Alec; they were far less frequent than when we were human. As Alec’s attention shifted back to his work, my thoughts wandered. I began to remember a simpler time, a time of innocense. The anniversary usually acted as a reminder of what we had gone through, and this year was no different. Wanting to remember the happy, carefree boy that my brother used to be, I leaned back into the chair, and closed my eyes, fighting to recall the memories of a previous life, knowing that with happiness, there would be terror.

----------------(FLASHBACK to Jane and Alec’s childhood)---------------------

"You can’t catch me, you can’t catch me!" I giggled, skipping down the cobbled stone alley, Alec’s footsteps echoing closely behind me.

"I can, and I will, Janie," he called out, chasing after me. He hated that I was faster than him, and I usually took pity and slowed enough so that he could catch me. This time was no different. He wasn’t only my twin, he was my best friend, and I hated to see anything upset him.

"Told you so!" he gasped, as he poked his finger into my shoulder blade, laughing.

I giggled back, and reached over to grasp his hand in mine, as we slowed to a walk. We continued down the alley, hand in hand, our arms swinging. We were on our way home from one of the local merchants, where we’d spent every last cent of our savings. Alec and I loved games, and we’d been scrounging every penny we could for ages, just in hopes of buying a simple set of cards, and today we’d finally had enough. Not only did we love games, but we loved tricks as well - tricks that fooled the mind, that deceived the senses.

It was these tricks that we had to be careful of. The time that we were living in had become strange, and people were wary of anything out of the ordinary, almost paranoid. The talk of witchcraft had woven it’s way into hushed conversations, causing everyday townspeople to become fearful of their own shadows. Our tricks were no sort of witchcraft, they were just simple tricks, but in such a time of doubt and accusations, it was imperative to be careful, as we always were. Just two days ago, we’d watched from a distance as a family was dragged from their home, the villagers chanting the entire way. We’d run home, scared of what was going to happen to them - we’d heard enough to know it would be horrible, and they’d never be seen again.

"Janie, wait," Alec’s voice interrupted my thoughts. He had stopped, and tugged on my hand to do the same. I turned my attention to see what had made him pause.

Alec raised his free hand, and pointed to a tiny shadow in the corner of the alley. It was hard to tell what it was, but when a sad whimper broke the silence, it became clear that it was a tiny little puppy, which appeared to be starving and helpless.

"Oh!" I started, my eyes wide, troubled at the realization. Alec and I loved puppies, and our mother kept promising that as soon as she saved up enough, she’d try to get one for us, but ever since our father had passed away, we knew it was an impossibility. She struggled daily to provide enough food for the three of us, so we certainly didn’t expect her to buy us a puppy.

"Alec, maybe we should take it. That way, momma wouldn’t have to buy one for us. It can’t belong to anyone - look how bad off it is," I said, my voice trembling. I hated to see anything suffer, especially something so innocent. Surely, we could save it.

"Yeah, I know. Maybe if we take it home, we can feed it some scraps and it’ll get better," Alec murmured, lost in thought as he gazed at the poor creature before us.

Carefully, in an attempt not to frighten it, Alec dropped my other hand and moved forward slowly. He was only a couple of feet away from the puppy when a voice cracked through the silence, causing us both to jump.

"Hey! Get away from him! That’s my dog, you can’t have him," the voice called out. It was coming from a doorway on the back of one of the adjacent buildings. Apparently, someone had noticed us. A moment later, as the door opened fully, we discovered who.

Jonathan Smith, a boy who attended classes with us, stepped into the alley. He wasn’t known for his friendly demeanor - quite the opposite. Alec and I tended to steer clear of him, as he was always so intimidating. As he stomped forward, the tiny puppy fought to curl itself further into the corner, seeking cover that was not there, for reasons which I did not want to imagine. If Jonathan treated animals anything like he treated his classmates, than the puppy was trying to hide for a reason. My hand reached out, searching for Alec’s again. When I found the contact I was seeking, I clutched my tiny fingers around his as tightly as I could. Alec squeezed back, as if in silent reassurance; I knew he wouldn’t let anything happen to me.

"What are you two doing? I told you to get away from him. Don’t make me force you to," Jonathan spat out, staring at us angrily.

I wanted nothing more than to save that puppy. If left with this boy, surely it would die, and soon. How could anyone treat something so horribly? How could anyone not have a sense of humanity? It was incomprehensible. As if in complete agreement, Alec’s voice responded.

"What do you want for it?" he asked so quietly it was barely audible.

"What? What did you dare say to me?" Jonathan replied scathingly.

Alec glanced at me, and seemed to find the nerve to reply again. "I said, what do you want for it?" We were both scared to death, but for some reason, neither of us were willing to let this puppy remain here, it’s fate residing in this horrible excuse for a human being.

Jonathan paused, studying both of us. It wasn’t often that offers were made for things in this time period, aside from the typical bartering for necessities. "How much do you have?" he asked, obviously thinking we had money to work with.

Alec paused, thinking. We had no money - we’d just spent every cent we did have on our deck of cards. The cards wouldn’t be worth anything to Jonathan, so what would? We had little to nothing else on us. All that Alec carried with him was his lucky rabbit’s foot, which would be viewed as nothing more than a superstitious child’s toy. All that I carried was a cheap shell comb, which would obviously have no use for a boy, since it’s value was pointless - it had a ton of chips in it, and wouldn’t be worth anything. I had to think fast.

As Alec opened his mouth to speak, I jumped in first. We had only one option, and although a dangerous one, it was all that we had.

"How about a trick?" I asked, willing my voice not to crack in fright. Alec’s gaze spun around to meet mine. He was shocked that I’d take such a chance.

"What kind of trick? What do you mean?" Jonathan asked warily.

"We could show you a trick, with cards - we could even teach it to you, so you could show your friends," I added as an afterthought. There was never much to do around here, which is partly why Alec and I had taken such a liking to the card games and tricks, so something that might make Jonathan feel superior to his friends might just work. It suited his arrogant personality.

"What, like...magic?" Jonathan whispered the last word, his eyes darting all around him to be sure no one aside from us had heard him.

The sound of Alec’s sharp intake of breath reminded me to handle this very carefully. I almost changed my mind completely, and thought about telling him I’d just been kidding, when I heard the puppy whimper again, and Jonathan muttering harshly for it to shut up. I had to go through with this.

"No, of course not like that," I answered, rolling my eyes indifferently. "It’s just a simple card trick, but you’re friends will think you’re really smart," I added, fully aware that Jonathan was not one to be known for his intelligence, and the suggestion would appeal to him. Alec and I were lucky; school was easy for us, and we were some of the best in the class.

Jonathan shoved his hands in his pockets, thinking over the situation. When the dog cried out again, it seemed to help him make up his mind. "Ok. I don’t know why you want that stupid dog anyway, he’s just going to die. Go over there, in the shadows," he said, glancing around once more to ensure we were alone before following behind us.

I showed him a simple card trick, one that wouldn’t be too difficult to explain to him. The basis was that you would show the person a particular card, and then lay it face down, next to a few other cards. The person is told to pick the card they believe is the one they’d been shown. It would have been switched though, so they’d be wrong, and when all the cards were turned, none of them would be the right one either. Instead, the card would appear in the middle of the pile which had been set aside, seemingly untouched. It was one of our simplest.

"Pretty good, right? Want us to show you how it’s done now?" I asked, gathering the cards all back together, eager to get it over with so we could tend to the puppy.

When Jonathan didn’t respond, I looked up. He was staring back down at the top of the old barrel on which we had performed the trick, his brow furrowed together.

"So, do you want to see how it works?" I repeated, as I glanced over at Alec, who was tugging lightly at the hem of the back of my shirt.

After another few moments of silence, Jonathan snapped out of his speechless state. Very slowly, and barely audible, one word escaped his lips. "Witchcraft," he uttered.

Alec was tugging more urgently on my shirt hem, as if willing me to understand the entire situation that was unfolding before us. He didn’t need to worry, as soon as that one word was spoken into the silence, my worst fears were becoming clearer and clearer, as I shook my head adamantly in response.

"No - no, it’s not - it’s just a simple card trick, I can show you how it’s done, and you’ll know it’s not bad!" I pleaded, my tone laced with desperation, as I recognized the emotion upon Jonathan’s face - certainty. He was sure we were witches, and there would be no convincing him otherwise.

Slowly, but steadily, Jonathan raised his eyes from the top of the barrel to mine. For the slightest second, his gaze flickered over to Alec’s, then settled back on mine. "Witchcraft," he repeated. He began backing away, keeping his eyes fixed on us the entire time. When he got close enough to his building, he turned, and barreled through the door, his voice rising to a level that was frightening. "WITCHCRAFT!!" he screamed, the worn door slamming shut behind him.

It took less than a second for us to begin moving. Alec was scooping up the cards, his hands shaking uncontrollably, making his task that much more difficult. He shoved the cards into various pockets, as the tears began rolling down my face.

"Janie - come on, move! We’ve got to get out of here!" Alec yelled, frantically collecting the rest of the cards. Evidence left behind would only make things worse, although I was fairly certain it was too late anyway. Once the rumor started, it was hard to stop.

My hands tried to brush away the tears from my face so that I could see. I was trembling, but I knew we had to move - now. With the last of the cards crammed away wherever Alec could fit them, he grabbed my hand and started to run. I stumbled for a few steps before roughly yanking my hand away.

"Jane, what are you doing? We have to go!" Alec pleaded.

Without answering, I turned, and ran into the dark corner. The little puppy didn’t cower or flinch as I approached, and I carefully picked it up and tucked it into my arms, then ran back to my brother. Alec reached out and placed his hand on the small of my back, urging me forward. We ran as fast as we could, until finally we saw the familiar little shack we called home, with the smoke sifting from the chimney in welcome.

When we reached the door, we ran inside, and Alec quickly shut the door behind us, latching it securely. My mother was at the stove, stirring something in a pot, looking tired and weary as usual. We were the only things that kept her going; her mood would always brighten around us, as it did now - she turned, assuming we were just racing again, and smiled in greeting. Her expression fell the second she fully took in our appearance; we were both drenched in sweat, shaking, and tears were still rolling down my face, as I clutched the puppy desperately in my arms. Alec was already running toward the room we shared, not stopping to explain anything.

My mother rushed to my side, and knelt in front of my small frame. "What is it, baby? What is it? What can I do to make it better?" she asked, tears springing up in her own eyes. She was never able to stand seeing me or Alec upset. Her gaze dropped briefly to the tiny creature in my arms.

"Momma, I need you to take care of it, ok? I need you to help it survive - I love it, please help? I love you, momma, I know you can do it," I pleaded, passing the puppy to her, knowing my time was limited. If Alec and I had any chance, we had to get moving soon - very soon. We didn’t have the means to help the puppy, let alone ourselves, but we had no other choice. It only made sense to leave the dog with my mother, as I knew she’d be more successful in mending it. My mother, on the other hand, mistook my plea. She didn’t understand I was trying to say goodbye. It was how I meant it to be though; if she knew, she’d never let us go. She’d protect us with everything she had, and I couldn’t let that happen.

Suddenly, Alec came darting out from the back of the house, a bag tossed over his shoulder. He stopped in front of our mother.

"Mother, I love you. Janie and I are going back out to play, ok? Don’t worry, we’ll be back soon," he said reassuringly, as he leaned in and placed a kiss on momma’s cheek.

My mother hugged him in response, ruffling his hair a bit. "You two go play, and Alec, please cheer you dear sister up - I’ll have this little treasure yapping around in no time, be sure of that," she smiled, gazing down happily at the puppy which was now in her arms.

Before I could say another thing, Alec took my hand in his and pulled sharply, unlatching the door, and dragging me out with him. When we were safely out of hearing distance, he turned to me, his gaze intense.

"Jane, I want you to run through the back field, and don’t stop until you get to that old, abandoned barn. I’ll be right behind you, but I need to get some things first," Alec ordered. I knew by his tone not to bother arguing with him.

It wasn’t very far; once I reached the barn, I circled around back, and climbed the ladder that led up to the attic. Still shaking, I curled up into a corner on a pile of hay and waited for Alec.

Minutes later, I heard footsteps retracing my path up the ladder, and even though I was expecting Alec, I couldn’t help but freeze in fear. It wasn’t until I saw the familiar locks of his brown hair as he reached the top that I started to breathe again. He hurried over to me, and started sifting through the bag he’d brought. After a moment, he handed me an apple and a small tin of water.

"It was all I could get without being noticed," he explained apologetically, as we were both starving.

"Alec, what are we going to do?" I asked, more fearful of our situation than our food supply.

"I don’t know...the only thing we can do for now is hide here, until we can think of something else. At least from here we can see the house, so we’ll know when mother leaves to go to town, and maybe we can sneak back up for more supplies," he said uncertainly. "We’ll also be able to see if we need to start running further - if they start searching the fields for us."

"She’ll be so worried," I whispered. I felt horrible making our mother worry about us, but I knew there was no other way - she’d be persecuted if found with us. It was better if we just disappeared, and she could claim innocense, honestly not knowing where we were. At least this way she had a chance, where as if we stayed at the house, she was guilty by association.

We faded into silence, chewing our apples nervously, and watching the house in the distance for any sign of trouble. With these types of situations, it usually didn’t take long for the panic to spread from house to house, the rumors turning to facts, the townspeople ready to hunt the wicked.

Just as predicted, after only an hour, the first group could be seen approaching the house from town. There were about ten people in all. As they reached the door on the side, I gripped Alec’s hand tightly in mine. A moment later, our mother opened the door.

There was a lot of confusion, as people were yelling accusations at our mother. She was becoming angry, appalled at the things they were saying about us. They must have become threatening, because she stepped outside, and waved them into the house, giving them access to search it.

Alec and I waited in continued silence for them to reappear. Eventually, the crowd dispersed back out into the street. They were talking among themselves, and said something to our mother, but we couldn’t tell what it was - we were too far away to hear. As they walked away from our house, Alec and I sighed in relief. At least for now, nothing terrible had happened. After they were gone, our mother appeared outside the house, and began calling for us. Her distressed voice caused my heart to constrict in pain, but we couldn’t go to her - not if we wanted to save her from this.

In an effort to calm ourselves, we exchanged our favorite memories over the next few hours. Memories of when our father was still alive, before the sudden illness had killed him, memories of holidays, and memories of when our mother was the happiest resurfaced, as we laid on our backs, hand in hand, in the hay. Alec was much like a security blanket for me, and I always felt safe when he was near. It had been that way for as long as I could remember. When our father had passed, it was Alec who had gotten me through the grief; without him, I very well could have lost myself in bitterness.

The sound of voices in the distance broke us from our reverie. As we peered over the edge of the attic floor, we saw the townspeople were returning, and this time there were at least twice as many. It was late afternoon now, and they had brought torches, to fight off the impending darkness that would fall soon. They pounded on the door to our house, and once again, our helpless mother answered. Someone from the crowd grabbed her, and roughly threw her away from the door, sending her crashing into the ground. Without hesitation, they stormed the house.

Our mother was lying in the grass, crying hysterically. It was killing me; she had no idea what was happening, where we were, why the entire town was doing this... As we continued to watch, the tears started falling from my eyes, and one glance over at Alec merely reflected the pain I felt. He was struggling to remain still, wanting nothing more than to comfort our mother.

Moments later, the people reappeared, and began moving through the yard, and into the field. Alec tightened his grip on my hand and pulled, signaling to me that we had to move - fast. Within moments, we were both down the ladder, and stumbling through the field, tripping on stones, and trying to remain upright as we ran for our lives. Alec led us to the far right of the barn, towards a series large boulders. Once behind the largest one, we collapsed to the ground, our breaths ragged, sweat mingling with the tears. Alec was motioning for me to keep quiet, as he watched carefully to make sure we weren’t noticed.

The villagers swept the fields, calling back and forth to one another, but with no luck. Some of them made their way to the barn, and after searching it but finding nothing, they lit it aflame with their torches, probably in an effort to eliminate it as an option for shelter for us. As it burned, the people gathered together in the field, apparently discussing something. After a few minutes, they began to make their way back to the house, and back to our mother, who still lay sobbing on the ground.

One of the larger men reached down, and pulled our mother up in his menacing grip; I recognized him to be Eli Smith, Jonathan’s father. He dragged her out into the field a bit, then raised his torch in the air, as his voice bellowed in the silence. "You demon children come out now, we know you’re hiding somewhere with your magic! Come out now, and we will let her go. If you don’t, you’ll watch her burn, and her death will be on your hands!"

My eyes wide with terror, I turned to Alec, shaking uncontrollable. "They wouldn’t, would they? Alec, I can’t let her die! Not momma, this isn’t her fault!" I whispered as lowly as I could, the panic taking over.

"Shhh...Jane, don’t - they won’t, they don’t have any reason to kill her. Just stay quiet - they’re just bluffing. Shhh..." he tried to soothe me, but his expression gave away the utter sense of helplessness and fear he felt. His hands were shaking, and he looked like he was going to be sick.

A couple minutes passed before Jonathan’s father called out again. "I’m not going to give you another chance - come out now, or your mother will burn!"

I looked back at Alec, shaking my head. I wouldn’t let this happen - not if I could stop it. We had been trying to keep her safe, and it was all going horribly wrong. Alec caught my gaze, and knew what I was thinking. Before he could say a word, our mother’s scream echoed in the air, causing both of our heads to spin back to see what was happening.

Eli Smith had lowered the torch, and was lighting the bottom of our mother’s dress. I couldn’t take anymore. As I leapt to my feet, Alec’s hand tried to grasp my arm to stop me, but he was too late - I had always been faster than him, after all.

I ran as fast as I could toward the man, my desperate pleas flying from my throat. "NO! No, stop! I’m here, I’m here, take me! Leave her alone! MOMMA! MOMMA!!!!!

Our mother turned her head abruptly at the sound of my voice, and she began screaming back at me. "NO - Jane, no - leave me, run! Get away from here, Jane! Alec, get her away from here!"

The other townspeople were running towards me, and I could hear Alec’s ragged breath behind me, trying to catch me. Our mother’s body was being swallowed by flames, as they began to spread up her dress, engulfing the majority of her figure. I was closing the distance, but so were the townspeople - they would reach me before I could reach our mother.

Our mother’s strangled voice cracked as she fought to say her last words. "Not for me, Janie, not for me. Please...I love you both..." There was nothing more, as the flames took the rest of her, and her burning body crumpled to the ground.

I collapsed, shock and horror overcoming me. My cries ripped from my throat, and I could feel Alec’s hands tugging on my arms, trying to pull me from the ground. It was useless; I couldn’t move. Not a minute later, I felt hands encircling me, lifting me from the ground, victorious cries ringing in the air. My head spun, and I lost consciousness.

---------------

It was so hot, and every limb of my tiny body hurt. My eyes were swollen shut, and as my mind began to recall what I’d witnessed, I began to tremble in fear, and my breath came in gasps. "Alec?" I whispered, still too scared to open my eyes.

"I’m here, Jane," Alec’s voice responded, cracked and broken. The sound made my eyes fly open, searching for my brother.

He was next to me; we were up on some kind of platform, our arms hanging above us, tied in ropes connected to some sort of wooden structure. Alec was beaten and bruised, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. By the way I felt, I imagine I didn’t look much better. His expression was all the confirmation I needed. This was the end, and there was nothing we could do about it.

The townspeople were milling about, restlessly rushing the platform we were on. They were pushing, fighting to get to the front, and relentless chants filled the air. "Witch, witch, witch!" was called out over and over again.

It was daylight now, which made me wonder how long we’d been restrained up here - it had been at least over night, which made me wonder why they were waiting. Why hadn’t they just gotten it over with? As my brow furrowed, Alec seemed to know what I was thinking.

"They wanted to wait until daylight, so the entire village would witness it," he said quietly, his gaze lowered to the ground.

"Alec - why didn’t they save momma? They said they would let her go if we came out, and I did - why didn’t they stop the fire?" I asked, fresh tears coursing down my cheeks.

Alec’s expression changed to one of bitterness. "They were saying something about her being just as involved, because she told you to run away. They thought she knew the whole time, and had been hiding us," he spat, his voice still cracking.

The horror of his words sunk in slowly. They had never intended to let her go. They were going to burn her no matter what - if we hid, they’d do it. If we came out, they’d find a way to twist it, and kill her anyway. Our mother had been one of the most selfless people I knew, and the entire village knew that as well, yet it didn’t stop them from mindlessly murdering her.

My spirit began to darken with the bitterness that I’d fought off once before, but this time it was so much stronger. What kind of world was this? It felt like their was a black veil slowly seeping through my mind, covering the goodness within me, exposing the hatred. As I met Alec’s gaze, he recognized my expression, and instead of looking sad to see the reappearance of the bitterness, he almost snarled in agreement.

The people suddenly fell quiet, as someone began pushing their way through the crowd. It was Eli Smith, and he was holding a torch high above his head, smiling vindictively at the crowd, as his sunken eyes turned their attention in our direction. "Gather ‘round, good townsfolk, for we are about to rid the demons from these children, and set their spirits free!" he called out, stopping as he was even with the bottom of the platform. In response, the crowd reacted wildly, their chants much louder than before.

As Jonathan’s father lowered the torch to my feet, my body screamed in protest, panic causing my heart to beat frantically. I tried to squirm free; I begged, I cried, all to no avail. The fire met the hem of my skirt, and the flames began to climb, just as they had on our mother. My vision blurred, but I was still able to see as the man moved over to Alec, lowering the torch once again. Our cries filled the air, only encouraging the crowds ranting. The louder we screamed, the happier they were.

The flames were melting my flesh, searing the pain into my mind. Everything else faded away, and all that existed was pain, as the fire greedily consumed me. Alec was staring at me, his expression unfathomable; I’ve never seen such despair - despite the pain he was in, he looked as if he were only worried about me.

My eyes rolled, and with my last conscious thought, I looked out at the crowd that had condemned us, that had so eagerly persecuted the innocent, and wished they could feel the horrid pain as we did. Just as I was about to give in and slip away, I noticed movement further down the road, and my blurred vision fought to focus. As my head tilted to the side, and the taste of blood filled my mouth, I watched the figure approach. It was covered from head to toe, in a dark, billowing cloak, and it was moving stealthily, with purpose. My mind wondered at the strange sight, but the pain overcame me, and I had to let go, my last thought being that I hoped Alec found peace quickly.

------------------------------------(End of flashback)----------------------------------

As I shifted in the chair in Alec’s quarters, I recalled what I could remember happening after that.

I’d woken up three days later, confused, disorientated, with my throat burning in protest. Alec had awoken at exactly the same time, most likely due to our twin connection, and it had been chaos, as we’d both been practically uncontrollable.

We’d been surrounded by cloaked figures, all hovering over us, working to restrain us, until a voice broke the confusion.

"Welcome, my children. My name is Aro. It’s such a privilege to have you with us, please do try to calm yourselves, even if only momentarily," the voice had sung, instantly distracting us and commanding out attention.

Aro had swept forward, revealing himself, explaining what had happened, and what we now were, and why we’d been in such tremendous pain for the last few days. As soon as I saw his face, I’d recognized him. He had approached us once when Alec and I had been out playing, and had asked if he could shake our hands. He’d been so charismatic, that of course we’d agreed, and he’d told us that he thought we would all be great friends some day. Alec and I had thought it was just his way of talking to children, and dismissed it as silly, but as he explained how his gift worked, it became clear that he’d been searching for possible potential in us.

He’d continued to explain that he’d wanted us to mature before returning for us, but that the villagers actions had forced his hand. My memory of the dark, cloaked figure had been him, coming to save us. He’d slaugtered the entire village within minutes. Well, almost the entire village - he’d kept one surprise for our awakening. He had kept Jonathan and his father for our first meal.

Upon realizing our gifts, Alec and I couldn’t help but feel that it was justice. My gift, to make people feel as if they were burning alive, had been one of my last wishes. I’d never thought I’d become so angry, so bitter, but upon my awakening, I found myself full of hatred for almost everyone - except Alec and Aro. I did develop respect for Marcus and Caius, and I learned to tolerate the rest of the guard, but that was probably only due to our living arrangements. Things can change someone, sometimes to the point where they’re almost unrecognizable. Aside from my new family in Volterra, I viewed everyone else as an enemy, and I was happy to be armed. To me, people that seemed trusting, and friendly one day, could easily be burning your mother or your family the next day. I would never allow myself to be that trusting again.

Alec’s gift, to erase other people’s senses, was a reflection of his love for me. He was like my antidote, oddly enough, even though I personally didn’t need it anymore. When we were dying, burning to death up on that platform, his expression had revealed that he wanted to take my pain away, to help me. His wish had also been fulfilled, as he could anesthetize someone from whatever pain they were experiencing, truly making them unaware. Regardless of how the Volturi chose to utilize him, we couldn’t deny the cause behind the gift he’d received. He always had been selfless.

The sound of Alec’s chair gliding smoothly across the floor caught my attention, and brought me out of my reverie. I sat up, eager.

"Is it time, Alec? Is Aro ready to see us?" I asked.

"Yes, Jane, he’s ready." Alec held out his hand, and I grasped it readily, as we left his quarters and made our way down the stone hallway, our hands swinging between us. When we reached the large turret room, we opened the wide doors together, and proceeded inside, where Aro was awaiting our arrival on the far side of the room in his usual throne-like chair.

"Come forward, dear ones," Aro called to us. Alec and complied, and glided swiftly across the impeccably polished floor.

"Now, as you both know, today marks a very special day for our family - the day we were fortunate enough to acquire the two of you," Aro sang in his feathery voice. His watchful eyes lingered on me for a split second longer than Alec, then he continued. "I have something special for you both this year. Yes, usually we mark such an occasion with a special treat at meal time, or perhaps something new for each of your quarters, but this year I’m feeling...sentimental, so I think it may just be the perfect time to reveal some things I’ve had for sometime," Aro smiled serenely at both of us, as he reached into the pockets of his robe.

"Alec, come closer, child." Alec stepped forward, so he was directly in front of Aro. Aro held out his hand, and instinctively, Alec mirrored the movement. A tiny, shimmering object dropped from Aro’s grasp, and my brother stood perfectly still, studying it, as recognition flashed in his eyes.

"Is this...is this our father’s wedding band?" Alec asked, his voice suddenly more child-like than I’d ever heard it - at least since we were changed, anyway.

"Yes, child, it is. Jane? Please come forward," Aro said, turning his attention to me. Alec stepped to the side, still wondering at the ring in his hands.

I obeyed, and eagerly took my place in front of Aro. He again reached into his pocket, and then held his hand out, just as he had with Alec. My tiny hand trembled in anticipation, as I reached out to retrieve my gift.

Aro slowly dropped a delicate necklace into my hand; it had a tiny charm in the shape of a heart, and was extremely familiar to me. As I gazed down at the object in my palm, a flurry of emotions ripped through my body. My eyes wide, I glanced up at Aro for confirmation of what I already knew I was holding.

"Yes, dear one - that is your mother’s necklace. I retrieved it from her body after I had saved both of you - the ring was on the chain as well, and I was able to determine it had been your father’s by the inscription," he said softly, his voice just above a whisper. "I cleaned them the best I could, but there was some damage that couldn’t be repaired."

He knew how much this meant to us. Our mother had worn our father’s wedding ring, along with the charm he had given her, on a necklace at all times, so of course she’d had it on when she was burned alive.

Alec and I stood in silence, side by side, staring at our gifts. We both whispered our appreciation and utmost thanks to our new father for being so thoughtful, but neither of us could take our eyes off of the silver objects, both of which were slightly charred from the fire that had taken our mother’s life. We’d never been so grateful for such gifts, but even beautiful things have the traces of being burned.