Eyes on Fire
One and a half years. That’s how long it’s been since Edward Cullen had banished himself and his family from Bella Swan’s life, from Forks, from the one place they truly felt at home. A lot can change in that small amount of time, and it becomes painfully apparent to the Cullen’s when they come face to face with the girl they left behind, only she’s not the same girl anymore. In an effort to protect herself from the pain of her past, she has become more confident, self assured and fierce. She’s a fighter now and their fate, along with many others now rests in her hands. Will she save them or punish them for past grievances?
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
3. Chapter 2: Strange
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Chapter Two: Strange
I couldn’t believe I was in this city, let alone the fact that I was waiting for my family to show up so we could attend a ball. A ball, mind you, that we didn’t have a choice whether or not we attended because it was being hosted by the ruling vampire coven known as the Volturi.
The only time I had planned to enter this city again, after the last time I was here with Carlisle decades ago, was to ask the brothers to kill me – to help me end my miserable existence. Well, it wasn’t always miserable…
NO! Stop it. Don’t think about that. It’s over and there’s no going back.
I shook my own thoughts out of my head and was confronted with a number of new ones. I chuckled darkly as I heard the thoughts of the guards on the outer perimeter walls, watching me as I passed under the entry gate.
Here’s another one…
What on earth are the brothers thinking having so many darn vampires in the city at once?
Hmmm…this one smells different. Better show Aro.
I heard the last guard's retreating footsteps as I moved quietly across the smooth stone roads towards the fountain in the Palazzo Dei Priori courtyard, where I would meet my family.
A few minutes later I sat on the edge of the fountain and dropped my head into my hands. Almost immediately, thoughts of Bella consumed my mind as they often did, and for just a moment I let myself follow the train of thought I had stopped only minutes ago.
God! Bella. I missed her so much. She was the only thing in this world that could make me happy and I had just left her, telling her the most horrendous lies to have left my mouth in over a hundred years. I had seen Alice’s vision of the pain I had caused her when I left, but still I didn’t go back. I knew Bella would recover and find someone else. Human memories faded with time, unlike my godforsaken photographic memories that would continue to haunt me for all eternity.
Whenever my thoughts of Bella reached a certain point, the hole – that had been carved into my chest the minute I turned away from her beautiful broken face – would rip open and leave me numb to the world.
Though the pain had become less frequent whenever I thought of her, the pressure and ferociousness of it would increase with every turn.
Even now as I sat in a city full of human-blood drinking vampires, vulnerable and alone, I could feel it ripping open slowly as I pondered over the reason for my existence.
I recalled the first time I had taken her to the meadow. I remembered how her hair blew wildly around her face, sending her delicious scent over to where I stood hidden in the trees. I thought of her smile and her doe-like brown eyes looking into mine, into my very soul - if I even had one - with nothing but love and happiness radiating from them.
I couldn’t stop my thoughts from progressing as my mind wandered to all the times I held her while she slept; the first time I kissed her, the first time I held her tiny hand in mine for everyone to see that she was mine and I was hers.
What I wouldn’t give to do all those things again. To go back to Forks on my cowardly belly and beg—
“Block your thoughts, Aro’s orders.”
My head snapped up as I heard the whispered order. Almost immediately the guards thoughts were occupied with Shakespeare, Stephan King, Mozart and Emily Bronte as they successfully blocked me from their minds.
What in the world was going on?
“Edward!” I jumped to my feet and whirled around. Ready to attack should it be needed. Only to find my mother, Esme, approaching me with the rest of the family following silently behind her. I sighed in relief as she folded me into her motherly embrace and held me close.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again, young man,” she growled in my ear, her mind playing over the pain and worry I had caused her over the past year and a half. She pulled back and cupped my face in her hands, a small, worried smile playing on her lips as she looked me over.
“Sorry, Mom,” I mumbled, before turning to Carlisle as he clapped me on the back.
Good to see you son. His thoughts sang in my head. He had always preferred to have silent conversations with me. Nice to see he was keeping up the tradition. Though I do wish it were under different circumstances than these.
I chuckled a little at that. “I’m sorry, Carlisle, I wish it were too but I haven’t felt up to coming home yet.” He nodded, his thoughts understanding and reassuring. “Something’s not right here, Carlisle. One of the guards went to tell Aro that I had entered the city, and came back with orders for all of them to block their thoughts. I’m not getting anything except for the renaissance masters and their works, from both the castle and the guards here on the walls.”
He nodded solemnly as he turned my words over and over in his head, before he stepped away and pulled Esme close to his side.
I heard Emmett’s thoughts before I saw him, but didn’t have time to dodge his giant arms before they closed around my torso and lifted me off of my feet.
“Em…put me down you big oaf,” I cried, but that only made him laugh harder.
“Eddie long time, no see,” he boomed as he gave me a final squeeze and put me down on my own two feet again. His eyes quickly scanned my body up and down once. You look like shit bro.
“Gee… thanks for the observation Em,” I said dryly.
I was well aware that my eyes were as black as coal and the deep purple bruises under my eyes were the most prominent they had ever been. None of which would have helped my appearance in comparison to my golden eyed, designer clothed family. My clothes weren’t designer or couture but at least they weren’t tattered and ruined like the ones I had been wearing a few days ago, and I had a shower the night before at a hotel in Florence on my way to Volterra. I hadn’t hunted in a couple of months but I was sure someone here would make sure I did so my eyes were their usual gold before the ball, so I hadn’t worried too much or gone out of my way in that respect.
The sound of Rosalie’s hand hitting the back of Emmett’s head brought me back to the present and had me sniggering in the same second. I looked at my brother as he started rubbing his head, whining.
“OWWWW… shit, Rose, what was that for?”
“You know exactly what that was for, Emmett.” Rose snapped back, her thoughts revealing that she knew exactly what Emmett thought and that she was of the same opinion.
She turned her attention to me then and wrapped her arms around my neck, whispering a quick hello before she continued in silence. I’ll never admit it out loud and if you say anything I’ll deny it but…I’ve missed you, Edward. The family isn’t the same without you. To my surprise she tried to hide the ‘and Bella’ part of her speech out but it managed to slipped through. Hardly believing she thought it herself, Rose quickly released me and dragged Emmett away, ignoring his insistent whining all the while.
Realizing that I only had two people left to greet before we headed inside, I quickly became nervous.
The last time I had seen Alice she was screaming and begging me to go back. And when I hadn’t had a visual reaction or changed my decision she pinned me, face down to the hood of my Volvo and bitten me. Just the thought of that night made both the hole in my chest and the bite rip open and tingle.
My relationship with her husband, Jasper, hadn’t been on the best terms the last time I’d seen him either. After I had left Bella’s house the night of her birthday, I had gone home and attacked him. I blamed him for ruining everything, for putting her at risk from everyone and for causing her physical pain. I had even gone as far as to blame him for the reason I decided we were leaving.
He had taken the blame, and the attack I had forced on him in stride and didn’t deny anything. He truly believed that he was the reason for the end of my world and for our family falling apart.
It wasn’t his fault of course. I knew that now, and the guilt I felt for putting him through that and attacking him consumed me as I met his butterscotch eyes.
It’s all right, Edward. I know what you’re feeling guilty about, but us leaving was as much my fault as it was yours. If I hadn’t lost myself and attacked her, we would still be happy and together. Stop blaming yourself for causing my own guilt; it would have been there anyway, even if you hadn’t pointed everything out. He smiled grimly at me and sent me a wave of calm and love, effectively relaxing me.
Grateful, I smiled back at him, but he ignored me and turned to look at his wife. Reluctantly I followed his gaze and absentmindedly started to rub my neck. I was shocked and thoroughly confused when my eyes finally fell upon my favorite sister; she was smiling at me.
I tried to read her thoughts in an attempt to understand why she was happy to see me after everything I had done but her thoughts were locked behind a steel door. I poked and prodded at the barrier she set up but I couldn’t grasp anything real, just a vague feeling of happiness. I frowned as she jumped into my arms, wrapping her own around my neck, and fingering the crescent shaped scar that she had left me with.
“I’m sorry about your neck, but I did it with good reason.” She pulled away, leaving me slightly stunned and frustrated. “But everything will be fine. This trip is going to change everything, you’ll see.” I poked again at her thoughts but nothing came through. “Questions later, Edward, Aro is waiting for us.”
Indeed, Aro was waiting for us. Once we entered the foyer, the witch twins, Jane and Alec, were waiting impatiently for us. They greeted Carlisle warmly, well…as warmly as Jane could get, and informed us that we were to follow them straight to the brothers in the throne room.
We followed them silently into the elevator and down a number of corridors. I became more nervous and agitated as the minutes passed because I still couldn’t pick up on any of the Volturi’s thoughts. The rest of the building’s occupants were either out of range or had their minds carefully guarded.
Jasper, too, started to become nervous the closer we got to the brothers and the centre of the castle, despite Alice’s reassuring hand squeezes and smiles.
Something feels weird, Edward, Jasper thought looking at me from the corner of his eye. I nodded in acknowledgement, so he continued with his analysis. The emotions coming from Jane and Alec are quiet disturbing, though I’m guessing by their reputation that’s quite normal for them. I smiled; he was, of course, correct.
Jane and Alec were known as the witch twins for a reason, and their combined powers and satanic attitudes made them quite formidable.
The emotions emanating from the room ahead is what’s worrying me the most. Eagerness, annoyance, boredom, anticipation, and anger are only the beginning. The list is endless…I can’t pin point anything.
I nodded again. I knew exactly what he meant, as I read everything through his eyes but I had a far better idea about which emotions were coming from which vampire. Why they were feeling such an array, I had no idea because they, too, were blocking me.
An image of Bella flew into my mind’s eye. It wasn’t unusual for this to happen but this was Bella like I had never seen her before. I quickly looked around at my family, my eyes zeroing in on Alice but she was still blocking me, and the other members of my family were not thinking of topics even remotely close to Bella. I tried to force myself into Jane and Alec’s heads but they were reciting the exact same song, holding hands as they glided down the hall toward the huge oak doors.
I reached for the minds behind the doors, but they were still closed off, all identically blank and cold. I could have sworn the flash of Bella - pale and furious - had come from one of the three brothers. I concentrated on the brother who was least likely to keep me out but Marcus's mind was sealed as tightly as Caius and Aro's. I frowned, as Jane and Alec suddenly dropped their hands and pushed both giant doors open.
As soon as they were open enough for Aro to see Carlisle and Esme, who stood at the forefront of our group, he jumped to his feet and beamed at us, excitement clearly building within him.
“Carlisle, my old friend! It’s good to see you again after all these years,” he exclaimed as he stepped forward to shake Carlisle’s hand. Of course, Carlisle knew what would happen when they touched. He was reluctant to do so but he had no choice - to deny Aro his hand would be a great insult and mean we were hiding something. Although Aro and his brothers keeping their minds closed meant they were also hiding something.
Once their hands met Aro, closed his eyes and bowed his head in concentration, whilst he sorted through Carlisle's vast collection of memories.
My family and I waited patiently, silently watching Aro’s facial features for any minute changes. He never did; his faced stayed in a complete mask of concentration, never faltering and never revealing his true emotions and opinions.
Caius, who was still seated in his high backed throne, caught my eye; I turned my attention to him and nodded in acknowledgement, only to frown when he smiled coyly at me. I couldn’t know for sure since Caius was still keeping his thoughts a secret from me but he seemed amused. And Jasper quickly backed up my assessment a moment later as he informed me that there was a lot of anticipation building in the ancient.
I glanced at Marcus; I didn’t expect much of a response from him, though, since he had been almost completely unresponsive since the death of his mate centuries before. A death I knew to have been the work of his most trusted and beloved brother, Aro. So it surprised me to see that his eyes were alight and aware of everything as he made eye contact with me. Instantly it felt like I was being studied from head to toe and inside out. I also knew that he was reading my bonds with everyone in the room from the movements of his eyes, always flickering from me to another member of my family without making eye contact with them.
I shifted uncomfortably under the intense gazes of both Caius and Marcus. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to notice.
Dude, what’s up with them? Emmett’s thoughts boomed over the wonderings of everyone else. Caius looks like he’s about to break out into a fit of giggles. And the other one, Marcus, is lookin’ like he’d like nothing better then to burn you himself.
I turned my head enough to make it look like I was observing Aro and Carlisle and raised an eyebrow, telling Emmett that I had no idea what was going on.
They’re still blockin’ you aren’t they?
I pursed my lips to indicate that they were. He understood and casually threw his arm around Rosalie’s shoulders, bringing her close. Feeling the tense set of Emmett’s shoulders, Rose allowed him to tuck her under his arm and gave me a concerned glance. She stared for a second, taking in my concerned expression before she wrapped an arm around Emmett’s waist and returned to watching the ancients with a new edge in her eye.
“Interesting.” Aro breathed, releasing Carlisle’s hand and straightening up. “Very interesting.”
Aro frowned as he looked over each and every one of us carefully, taking in our obvious strengths and weaknesses. His eyes lingered a second longer on me... he slipped.
...Never really understood the extent to which sh-
The thought abruptly cut off as he caught himself, his eyes flashing back to mine, and his mind becoming a fortress once again.
It wasn’t a whole sentence, not even a part of a sentence that really made any sense but it was enough for my interest, curiosity and wariness pique.
“If I may be so bold Aro?” I asked, ignoring the warning thoughts Carlisle was sending me. Aro looked at me curiously and nodded his consent. “What is it that you never understood the extent of? And what has that got to do with Carlisle’s memories?”
My family was now screaming at me to shut up, and Jasper was trying his hardest to keep everyone calm. Quite a feat since he had barely been able to change the mood of any single person, from the force of the somber and depressing one I had placed on my family.
“Nothing, dear Edward,” Aro said as he smiled kindly at me, but he couldn’t suppress the worry in his eyes quick enough. “Just that a few more pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together.”
Silently he reached for Esme’s hand and kissed her cheek, as he took stock of her memories. He only took a fraction of the time he had with Carlisle, and I wondered if he was looking at a certain time frame.
When his eyes opened and he stepped away from Esme he smiled, this time at me. “Yet it appears that there are still pieces I am missing.” He held out his hand between us, inviting me rather than demanding. I didn’t take it.
What would Aro be so interested in that he would need my thoughts in additional to Carlisle and Esme’s? They’d know what was going on in the family lately. No one has told me or thought about anything that they had been doing in past months that would interest Aro. I hadn’t talked to my family since the night I left Bella. Alice—
We broke the rules. We told a human what we were and didn’t dispose or change her after she became aware of the fact. We broke one of the most important rules the Volturi enforced and Aro wanted to know everything about it. But that still didn’t address the puzzle that he was talking about.
I frowned, my thoughts confusing me more than they were helping me.
“I have already seen the human girl and your relationship with her.” I grimaced as he spat the words at me, venom laced within every syllable as the last traces of red left his eyes, leaving them completely black. “There is no point in trying to hide it now.”
Rosalie hissed out loud as she began raving at me in her head.
Great! Bella’s going to get me killed, get Emmett killed. God dammit! She’s going to get us all killed Edward, and this is entirely your fault. I told you to kill her from the very start and now we’re going to be the ones dead, while she’s still walking around. What did you ever see in that human anyway?
Now it was my turn to hiss at her. How dare she insult Bella like that? I guess the fondness my sister previously held for Bella was now non-existent.
On the other hand though, she was right. I did bring this down on my family, so much so that I might as well have lit the match that would be burning us soon enough myself.
“Edward.” I turned back to look at Carlisle but he was looking at Aro, who was still holding his hand out to me. I took Carlisle’s warning and gave Aro my hand. He latched on quickly but still kept his thoughts blocked as he went through mine, which was quite a feat. When Aro was finished he let go without a word and turned to Jasper.
Over the next hour Aro found some way to touch each of us as we exchanged small talk, his brothers looking on silently the whole time.
Aro adored Alice. I didn’t need the ability to read his mind to see that he wanted her as part of the guard; it was written all over his face and in his eyes every time she spoke.
He said that Rosalie and Jasper had very interesting minds, both logical and strategic, whilst being passionate and understanding at the same time.
He called Esme enchanting and told Carlisle that he was lucky to have a mate such as her.
Aro was very curious about Emmett’s strength and expressed an interest in testing it, to which Emmett was more than enthusiastic to volunteer for.
Not once over that hour did he or his brothers mention anything about punishment for letting Bella in on our secret. Toward the end of the hour, Carlisle and I started to become more panicked and agitated. I was anxious to know whether they planned to do anything or not. Carlisle suggested that maybe they were being lenient on us because they were old friends, but if that were so they would be sending a guard out to kill Bella instead, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. I left her to protect her, not to sacrifice her life for mine. The silent conversation between my father and myself was interrupted however, when Demetri slipped through the doors.
“Excuse me masters, but we have a situation up stairs involving the Denali coven,” Demetri whispered urgently, wasting no time in grabbing Aro’s hand.
“Tanya’s family?” Carlisle asked. Both of us rather surprised that the Denali’s were here. They had done a good job of staying out of the Volturi’s way in the years passed since their mother, Sasha, had been killed for creating and harboring an immortal child. A child Tanya and her sisters, Kate and Irina, had no knowledge of until they saw it burning in their mothers’ arms.
Aro took a moment to read Demetri’s thoughts before answering.
“Yes. It seems that Tanya has engaged a member of the Elite guard, who happens to be just shy of six months old. Felix and Demetri are hesitant to interfere any further then they already have. She’s in a complete rage and isn’t hearing a word they say to her.” Aro smiled affectionately and turned to his brother, who had been unresponsive at best for the past half hour and said, “Marcus? Would you see to it that no harm comes to her, or indeed she does no harm to Tanya?”
“Of course. Come, Demetri,” Marcus said, once again looking alert and animated as he glided down from his chair and toward the doors, Demetri quickly falling in step behind him.
I took a deep breath trying to calm my nerves without Jasper’s help, and pushed the useless and worried thoughts of my family away.
Something strange tickled my nose as I took a deep breath. I couldn’t identify it because it was so weak but it seemed familiar somehow. Marcus was less than a foot away from me now and seemed to be the source of the strangely comforting scent. As he came closer I took another deep, but discreet, breath in an effort to identify it.
All at once the smell seemed to be overpowering and extremely familiar. Freesia, strawberries, honey…home.
I hissed at the realization and spun to face Marcus who had stopped like everyone else and was looking at me curiously. Demetri quickly stepped in front of his master, whilst Alec and Jane closed in on the left and right.
“Edward, don’t be ridiculous,” Rosalie hissed, pulling me back a step. “I know what you’re thinking but it’s not her scent. It’s too sweet to be, it’s a vampires scent. Now calm down you idiot.”
I glared at her, but took the advice and welcomed the calm Jasper was spreading over us.
“Who are you talking about, Rose?”
“No one, Esme,” I answered for Rosalie, there was no need to tell Esme; even the smallest mention of Bella would be too painful for her. I would however, inform Carlisle later when we hunted. “I made a mistake.”
I looked back at Marcus; he didn’t seem fazed by my outburst and had even managed to keep his thoughts closed the entire time.
“Are you quite done now boy?” he asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow at me. He didn’t see a need in waiting for an answer since he turned on his heel and glided toward the door; Demetri fell in step with him again.
“Jazz.” I heard Alice hiss and turned just in time to catch her throwing a pointed look toward Marcus’s retreating figure. Jasper followed her gaze and started to recite the confederate generals to keep me out of his head.
“Excuse me, Marcus, may I go with you?” I tried to break through Jasper and Alice’s mind blocks but still couldn’t find any faults to get through; this whole situation was starting to get on my nerves. “I have extensive experience with newborns and know Tanya personally. I’m confident I can calm them down, one way or another.”
Marcus only pondered Jasper’s offer for a moment before he nodded and ran out the open door, Demetri and Jasper following immediately after him.
I heard little of the rest of the conversation as I mulled over everything in my mind and tried to keep track of Jasper’s thoughts. But he slowly became fainter and fainter as he went deeper into the castle. I tried to find Tanya or anyone from the Denali coven but to no avail. They must be out of range.
The next thing I knew, we were being shown to our family’s guest quarters in the south wing by the witch twins. I tried again to find Tanya or Jasper as we moved around the different floors and corridors but came up with nothing.
In fact the only other minds in the vicinity were Volturi guards; the guests were located in a completely different wing.
“Carlisle, something is going on.”