Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Eager ( Chapter 16 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer.
This chapter contains sections that were written at different times. I've had the ending of this chapter reader for several months now, though I wasn't sure where I'd use it. Part of the scene with Felix and Gianna was written last year.
EDIT: This chapter has undergone major changes as of July 2010.
No party other than the submitting author may alter the text of this work in any way.

"It's not that you were ...more eager for immortality itself than just me?" -Edward, Eclipse

I didn't go straight back to the feasting hall. I couldn't. I pressed both shoulder blades back against the wall and rammed the back of my head against the cinder blocks as hard as I could.

Get a hold of yourself, Edward Cullen.

It was getting to me. Volterra was getting to me. Aro, Caius, Felix, Jane, Demetri, even Bella in her way, they were all grinding me down, driving me into a corner. I felt like I needed to breathe but couldn't.

More murders. More lives snuffed away. This wasn't like looking the other way when Jasper's old friends came to visit. This wasn't like stepping aside to let Heidi herd her catch into the feasting hall. I would have to do it myself. I would have to do it with my own hands and my own venom.

I racked my brain trying to think of what Carlisle would say. He'd forgive me, I knew, not only for acting in my own defense and Bella's, but he'd forgive me my slow-wittedness. He'd forgive me for not being able to figure out a way out of it.

I wished Emmett were there so we could sneak out of Esme's earshot and fight until this feeling was gone from me. I wished I had Rosalie to snipe at me. I wished I had Jasper and Alice to help me work out how I was feeling. I wished I were back in Forks, getting ready to slip into Bella's room where she could drown it all away. I wished I were home.

Well I wasn't home. This was Volterra. I'd learn my way in time. Once I was better acquainted with the ways of the coven, I'd find some outlet, some way of displacing my frustration. Until then, I would just have to make do, keep myself under control any way I could.

I shouldn't have felt grateful to Aro for letting me come up here. I shouldn't have felt it was a kindness that he didn't make me beg to be clean. And I'd felt so dirty. I still felt dirty. Worse, I knew I would get dirtier before it was all done. If it ever was done.

The image returned to me, crystal and perfect like the bright broken glass around us.

I just couldn't... I just couldn't...

She'd walked toward me, the edge of her towel caught in one smooth, white hand with the clear water dripping down and my mind had gone completely, blissfully blank. No fear. No guilt. Nothing. I'd shaken it off without realizing what it was, gotten in and out of the shower and dressed without looking at her. Through the sound of the water, I'd been able to hear the cloth against her skin, her small movements. At first I hadn't recognized what I was really imagining. At first, I thought I was only wondering if she was all right. Then, once I'd made myself as decent as I could, I'd raised my eyes to find her worrying at her hair.

I'd only meant to hand her the comb. I'd stolen it, just lifted it from Adrienne's pocket as I walked out the door. Aro would chastise me for it later, I was sure, but it could all be written off as harmless. And then the sight of her wrapping her hands around it... The old Bella had never just let me give her gifts.

I should have stepped away, retreated to a reasonable distance, but I hadn't wanted to. I was close enough to have felt the heat from her body if there had been any. I'd told myself that it was all right. It was perfectly fine for me to want to stay near my newborn.

But for a second, I forgot to manage myself. For a second, I'd forgotten that we were alone up here. No other vampires, no noise, no distractions.

And no thoughts. No scheming, screaming, terror, aggression, no plotting against anyone, innocent or not. She was a blank to me, and I loved her for it.

Can I be like you? I thought wildly behind my eyes squeezed shut. No words. Tell me I can be like you, dear creature. Intellectually, I knew it was only that I couldn't hear her, but I didn't want to think about that. I didn't want to think about anything—not the crimes I'd committed or the ones I was going to commit.

And she was a creature—literally my creature. I'd created her, with my venom and in my mind, so she was like part of me, wasn't she? Had I created the original Bella as well? Had I only dreamed her up? Because if I'd only imagined her, then I couldn't really have destroyed her.

I was going mad. I was becoming what they all thought I was.

The ice that had settled across my mind over these past few days was leaving me. The shock of the experience was wearing off, so I was melting, sliding back to normal. And once that happened, there would be nothing between me and Volterra. I feared it. I feared it like I feared the fire.

I could hear her fingers slipping through her hair, slowly clearing away the tangles like I could not clear my troubled mind.

And through it all, her scent reached me, her sweet, painless, undeniably pleasant scent. I'd breathed in, quiet as I could, and I stopped trying to figure out what was going on inside me.

But then she'd said my name, touched my face with her hands. I'd snapped back. I could still see it clearly, her face, wide open in the pale light, eyes like two pools of molten rock.

They didn't frighten me any more, or at least, they didn't frighten me right then, but I allowed myself to see their true meaning.

A newborn. innocent.

I'd believed her, in her cell, when she'd told me she hadn't wanted to kill the human. I still believed it, but right then I could see it. She wasn't like them.

And she wasn't like me. She wasn't like what I was going to do.

Stop me, I'd thought into all that silence. Stop me. I couldn't say it out loud. I couldn't put any of my heaviness into her.

I cracked my head against the stone again, forcing myself back to the present. There was so much wrong with this situation that I didn't even know where to begin. I tried to shake it off, but it wouldn't go. It clung to my skin like a leech.

Edward? Aro's call was sharper this time, and clearer. He was learning to think in ways that were easiest for me to hear, like a radio tuning in on the listener.

I took a deep breath of stale air. Whatever had happened upstairs, it was over. It would happen again, I was somehow sure, but for now it was over.

And I had work to do.

Aro and Caius told me what they wanted me to do next and I didn't say a word against any of it. I didn't even drag my feet. He would have known, one way or another.

I did wish they'd sent someone else to keep an eye on me though, Demetri or Richard, perhaps. Felix was being ...difficult.

The side of my face hit the wall with an unpleasant crack, but I managed not to make any sound more embarrassing than that. Felix was easily as strong as Emmett, and the building had been made quite solidly.

I'd caught a a mental image of my body pinned against the inner wall—much like it was at this moment—and felt a rush of air behind me. I'd known all morning that he was going to pull something like this, but I'd have thought he'd have picked a time with more witnesses.

Anthropologically speaking, this was his way of putting me in my place, showing me where I fit into the grand sceme of things in this clan. Funny how some things were only fascinating from a distance.

I wasn't sure why I wasn't fighting back. Perhaps it was strategic. Perhaps I didn't want him to know I could defeat him. Perhaps I didn't want myself to know that I couldn't. In any case, I'd been through high school too many times to believe that ignoring Felix would discourage him to the point of finding other entertainments.

Why isn't he scared? Felix wondered. I'd fought him like a wildcat not a week earlier. He'd noticed that I was getting more jumpy, more like I'd been that day he'd brought me to Bella in her cell. He still wasn't too clear on what had made me go limp after that.

I was only pretending. The sight of the damned ox still made my hand tingle.

Felix's thoughts tended toward images, and right now I could see him playing this same scenario out in his memories. I thought I recognized Randall, but most of them were nameless, random things, even to Felix. Hadn't lasted long.

I brushed a few rock flakes off my clothes, trying to to feel smug at his frustration.

Felix snorted and turned on his heel. A second later, we were walking toward our next meeting as if nothing had happened.

He was thinking hard, reimagining our fight in Bella's cell, particularly the part where he'd snapped my shoulder joint between his hands and forced me to the floor, wondering what it would take to make me so responsive. Bella's presence seemed the obvious answer, but she was locked away until further notice, and he wanted to make me jump now.

But as we saw to our appointed task, and as the hours wore on, I realized Caius had had a reason for sending him, a reason other than my continued discomfort. I quickly found that, for such a brutish behavior toward me, Felix was remarkably restrained in front of the help. He even smiled. I could have sworn that I'd witnessed one of the humans think of Felix as "the friendly one." Of course, that probably had something to do with the fact that Felix had spent several decades learning to tone himself down just so that the humans wouldn't start leaking various bodily fluids whenever he walked into the room.

It was strange to think that Felix of all people was here to put my victims at ease. Volterra was a complicated place.

It was still early in the day, so we had hours to talk to them all. Receptionists, frontmen, lawyers... Anyone who had to interact with the public and who would be expected to be available during the day had to be human. From what I could tell, none of them knew the whole story—the whole story would make all but the most depraved of them pick up and leave. Most of them knew that their masters fit certain aspects of vampire legend, but from what I saw in their thoughts when Felix and I showed up to interrupt their work, they didn't know about our invulnerability or the quickness of our thoughts. One man, someone on the janitorial staff, even seemed to believe that we'd die in sunlight.

It made sense. The less they knew, the less they could report if they ever snapped and started blabbing. And humans did not need to know the truth to serve us, did they?

Humans who served poorly became food. Humans who served well were too valuable to remove from their positions ...or at least they had been until Aro and Caius got curious.

We were partway through our task. Aro had given me a list of questions to ask, which he hoped would stimulate my victims to think of the information that he truly wanted, information about their mindsets, fears and hopes. He could have just told me to ask them, but he was still too intrigued by how I'd tricked Bella's location out of Gianna and Demetri the day I'd arrived. By ordering me to use the technique on others, he was collecting information on me as well.

No matter. I would do as I was told. That would keep both of us safe.

I wondered what she was doing. I couldn't help it. Renata would have returned within minutes of my departure. I pictured her wearing the clothes Renata had brought her. They must have seemed so alien on her skin, nothing like what the human Bella would have either picked out for herself or worn at Alice's request. Bella had preferred to dress like a boy except when my sister made her dress like a girl. Renata had given her women's clothes.

I realized that I'd missed the second half of Felix's instructions.

"I said it's over here," he snarled, as if the words itself were the insult.

I looked straight ahead, refusing to rise to him. I'd been through too many high schools and deflected the attentions of too many bullies to worry about Felix now. He would get more creative once he realized that, but for now, I had a window.

My feet echoed on the lobby floor. Gianna looked up and watched us enter, glazing on her calm, professional smile.

It wasn't only that she would be the first woman I'd talked to. It was that she wasn't a person at all. Most of the Volturi servants had a certain coldness or selfishness to their thoughts. One of them had even told me flat-out that he wanted to know what it felt like to kill other humans for food. They might have been chosen for their excellence in accounting or property law or estate management, but the Volturi servants were the dregs of humanity.

And this one... I set my teeth. Time to just get through it.

Gianna watched me with calm pale green eyes. She was proud of them and of her northern Italian looks, I could see. I noticed that she tended to think more about her appearance when Felix was present. I'd watched her make a mental note to check her makeup, to make sure that her reserved elegance was polished to a steady shine, once she'd recognized his footsteps in the hall.

I tried to imagine her red-eyed and raving. The dissonance could have shattered glass.

"Good day, Gianna," I said as politely as I could stomach. "The masters wish for me to speak with you."

Her mind was quick; I had to hand her that. She immediately thought of several possible reasons why I could be doing something so odd. I was the first new addition to the coven that she'd personally seen. Perhaps having new vampires talk to the human servants was some kind of orientation. Perhaps this was another internal reorganization and I had been brought in specifically, like a consultant. Perhaps I was screening the employees to see if the herd needed to be thinned again.

From there, her thoughts moved to her secret list of all the failures and infractions that she'd caught other humans in since the last audit. Enrique? He left that error in the tax forms last year. No, Gabriella. She's been talking about work to that little boyfriend of hers. Yes, she had two good candidates, coworkers who'd be easy to sabotage, to throw under the bus to make herself look less expendable.

I felt my lip twitch. It seemed that there was a whole underside to the tiny subculture of vampire-serving humans that none of the vampires had bothered to find out about. Gianna had to be at least half the schemer Caius was. God but I hated this woman.

Of course, one of the conclusions she came to was the right one.

Could it be my time coming? she thought with a leashed, cautious eagerness. I took it in. I took it all in because it was what Aro wanted me to do.

Gianna had noticed my pale gray cloak, missing nothing. If she'd heard that I was one of her masters now, then she knew I was a low-ranking one. She looked to Felix, who smiled encouragingly. He even managed to look sincere.

Gianna's blood type and family history were already on file, but I asked anyway. She had one aging mother and a brother who'd died in a car accident years earlier. It wasn't on Aro's list of questions, but I was curious. Learning more about Gianna was as hypnotic as watching ants tear a cattarpillar apart.

"It's so good of you to look after your mother like that," I said flatly.

"Thank you," she answered with professional blandness.

I watched her thoughts.

...nothing. I blinked, feeling something almost like surprise stirring in me. Nothing? I checked again. She was wondering why I was staring. That was all.

"It must be a big responsibility," I prompted again.

Again, nothing.

Well, Aro wasn't going to be happy. I'd gone through every human in the compound, and none of them shared my lost Bella's attitudes about becoming a vampire or anything else. I knew why my Bella had wanted to become a vampire. I was thawed enough that the memory could stab me. She'd thought it was the only way she could be with me. She'd thought that time would separate us, that I would no longer love her once she grew old.

But then...

I didn't like these thoughts. They sounded like Aro's voice in my head, politely doubting that anything was real or good.

It was possible that my Bella had been more eager for immortality itself than for just me.

That was the answer that I saw in those green eyes. That was the motive that was buried behind Gianna's surface thoughts. Time treated women cruelly, Gianna believed. To her mind, youth was the only kind of beauty that was worth anything, but by the time a girl had enough money or accomplishments to truly enjoy life—to feel safe—her youth had usually drained away.

Gianna didn't love some man. She didn't love anything. But she did have one thing in common with Bella: her fear of aging.

"It's not like that," I whispered.

"I'm sorry, sir?" she answered.

"It doesn't feel like that, being one of us," I said. I didn't even know why I was talking. This creature not deserve any help or advice. "Time would become a whirlwind around you, sweeping away everything you know. It's like running full-tilt on a treadmill just to keep up. We never rest."

Gianna stared back at me, her flat eyes a little wider, a little deeper. Suddenly I could feel Felix glaring at me. The fuck is he doing? Slowly, I realized my faux pas. It was the same reason why Gianna's composure was slipping.

No one had told her that there was anything bad about being a vampire before.

They'd told her about feeding, but that was only bad for the fodder. For the vampire, it usually felt pretty great. They'd told her about hiding during the day, but they'd also told her that it wasn't because they could burn to death. They'd told her about living forever. They'd told her about power.

No one had ever talked about how tiring it all was, about long boring hours pretending to be a high school student just so that my family could stay in place for twelve years instead of eight, of being disrespected and treated like a dumb kid by men half my age and a quarter my IQ. They hadn't told her about suffocating black years waiting for something without knowing what it might be, and then having it ripped away to face an eternity without. They hadn't told her anything about that.

"There's more that you need to know," I said quietly. Why was I still talking? I tried to imagine Carlisle in my place. He'd want to help Gianna, I was sure. He wouldn't even think about her shriveled little husk of a soul.

Maybe that was it. Maybe it was that Gianna, as a human, still technically had a soul, however tarnished. Maybe if someone told her more about her masters, she'd ...what? Repent her ways? Gain admittance through the pearly gates? Because the Volturi certainly weren't going to let her leave and live a different life just because she'd grown a conscience.

A quiet growl built in Felix's throat, not loud enough for Gianna to hear.

Felix's thoughts were wordless but clear: I was to knock it off, and now. I shrugged. It seemed to satisfy him, and he turned his attention back to Gianna.

I felt my eyes narrow at my diligent "partner." His thoughts were taking an interesting turn. He had no particular feeling for Gianna. He knew that she liked him and he liked that she liked him but there was no more to it. It was as if she were a pretty pedigreed cat that let him stroke its neck. Gianna's thoughts were far more guarded. In the nearly eight years that she'd held her position, she'd seen seductresses come and go. She might return a smile when it was given, but anything more had stayed firmly in the realm of her own private imaginings. She reasoned that there would be centuries for romance after she was turned, so she put all her energy toward that goal. Her strategy was professionalism.

Felix was another matter. For all that he'd spent half the day dragging me—sometimes literally—around the compound, Felix hadn't given much thought to Aro and Caius's plan. Demetri had figured out what they were thinking and was quietly composing his opinions, but Felix just hadn't bothered to to piece together what the nuts and bolts of his daily actions might have to do with making more calm newborns.

...Until now. Now, Felix was visualizing what Gianna would look like with marble-pale skin, eyes brilliant crimson and a newborn immortal's... stamina. His image was a lot less discordant than mine had been.

Not bad, he mused. Maybe a little skinny around the hips...

Halfway across the world and I was back in high school. I shook my head in disgust.

Felix narrowed his eyes at me.

New guy is messing around in my mind again, he thought with displeasure.

"Believe me, I'd rather not," I informed him.

"Stop that or I'll stop it for you," he told me with a hint of a growl.

That was right, I realized bitterly. None of my new covenmates knew me. Jasper, Emmett, Alice and Rosalie were all used to the fact that their thoughts were not private around me. Felix would have to become used to it. The question was what kind of trouble he would start before he did. Felix already knew my biggest weakness, but there were plenty of other things he could use against me if he were of a mind to figure them out.

"You were shouting," I said coldly.

"I don't care if I'm singing the goddamned Pirates of Penzance," sneered Felix. "Stay out of my head."

Should I tell him that it wasn't something I could control? Aro knew all the details of my gift, but how much would he bother to share with his "dear ones"?

All of it, I decided, if he thought I was purposefully keeping secrets.

"It isn't up to me," I said simply. "I can hear your mind whether I want to or not."

In the corner of my mind, I heard Gianna's thoughts shift in understanding. She deliberately refrained from asking what we were talking about.

"You can't blot them out at all?" Felix asked slyly. In his imagination, I saw myself twitching on the floor as Felix blasted countless decibels of The Mikado into my unwilling brain.

All right, what was with all the Gilbert and Sullivan?

Gianna had been perfectly silent throughout our whole exchange, even though it would have made no sense to her at first. The perfect servant. I wondered what role she would serve in the coven if Aro decided that I should turn her. Caius had Bella if he needed more readers, and Gianna certainly wasn't a warrior.

"Thank you for speaking with us, Gianna," I said, and it was only a little difficult. My mother had raised me too well for me to let my manners slip around a lady, even if Gianna did not deserve the title.

"What, already?" asked Felix. He was only surprised that it hadn't taken so long, but Gianna's thoughts grasped around it like a vine around a branch. Was he reluctant to leave so soon, she wondered.

"I've got what the master needs," I answered.

Of all the Volterran servants, Gianna was the only one who even came close to being like Bella, and she only did so in one respect. If Aro and Caius did not order me to turn her, what then? They were both too interested to abandon the project here. I wondered sinkingly if this meant I'd be sent out into the city to identify and kidnap some other human victim. The thought was like bile in my mouth.

And I knew I wouldn't draw the line there. I knew that I would do it.

I turned away, back toward the audience chamber. Aro was still there, and if he wasn't, I could use the extra minutes to figure this out. With my thoughts absorbed on the grim task ahead of me, I almost missed the warning.

As suddenly as I could, I ducked down and to the side, shoes squealing against the stone floor as I slid into a crouch, shielding my head as I waited for Felix's shadow to pass over the place where my body had been.


I turned back toward the lobby, a warning prickle in my shoulder blades that had nothing to do with any imminent threat of bodily harm.

Little rabbit can jump, Felix thought with a grin, standing exactly where he had been when I'd first turned my back on him.


Damn damn damn... He'd figured it out. He hadn't really meant to attack me, I realized. He'd only thought about it, and it had looked real. Like triggering Alice's gift of clairvoyance, once Felix resolved to do something, it looked real.

Master's new pet... he sneered.

I was in for it now.

Felix lunged again, for real this time. I ducked. I was still faster than he was, getting clear easily.

Oh, not too good to dodge me now...

He was enjoying it. Damn.

He was pretty quick for his size, I thought. Our fight in the cell hadn't given him much chance to use that. But he also knew this place better than I did. He'd had this fight before, in this stretch of hallway, with a dozen other new members of the guard. He'd used the same moves.

....which meant he didn't have to think about them.

When it came to this kind of fighting, I noted as a marble-hard fist hit the wall six inches from my face, Felix worked from his gut. Trying to read that was like trying to watch a fish swimming well below the water. I could only see ripples.

I managed to dodge before he could get his arms around me, but I broke in the wrong direction and he snagged the back of my cloak.


One massive hand got me under the chin, the other behind my head. My arms and legs could flail all they wanted, Felix thought. I wouldn't get loose, not without a goddamned miracle.

Okay, you got me, I thought. Now what?

Felix's mind flickered quickly through several possibilities. I barely had time to register what he was about to do before the air was rushing past my face like an open wind.

I tried to brace myself, to land on my feet, or at least on my lower half, but somehow I got twisted around. I raised my head off the marbled floor in confusion before I realized that Felix had been thinking about throwing me in another direction, toward the stairs, and I'd ended up back with my face against the pillar.

I got to my feet quickly, assessing the situation.

There was no way I could win. This wasn't like the fight in Bella's cell. Felix didn't want anything except to toss me around a little, and although I could sense that the noise was starting to attract some attention from other vampires, he wasn't doing any of this for show. The sensible thing to do would have been to give up, go limp, not give Felix any more satisfaction than he would get from pounding an unresponsive corpse.

...I dropped into a crouch, eyes narrowing. Our report to Aro and Caius would just have to wait.
drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu