Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Family ( Chapter 54 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its first three sequels and the first half of Midnight Sun, all of which are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. No party other than the submitting author may alter this work in any way other than font size and other reasonable accommodations to formatting.

I will now give the entire Internet my take on 50 Shades of Grey!

I haven't read it and therefore should not be critiquing it. The end.

What I did read a few years back was The Submissive trilogy and I can tell you that it's good. Tarasueme's withdrawn it from the fanficosphere because she's had it published as well. I bought The Dominant in book form and found the setting to be a little bland. The original was in Chicago, of which I know little, but the published version is set in a what is only nominally New York. Most of the rest of the story is the same, though. What I really missed were the author's notes, in which TSM talked about the research she did and the books she read. I don't know if 50 Shades is either as good or as bad as they say, but if you want something hot that also has messed-up characters who have friends, jobs and lives outside their underpants and deal with their messed-up-ness in at first messed-up and then non-messed up ways, this might be the series for you.


" I found I could only be glad for the gradual distancing that had begun two years ago. She was too fragile for my world," –Bella, Breaking Dawn


It was almost painful to have information about the spy and not tell Aro.

Vampires changed locations constantly but hardly any of us changed our names. It wasn't clear what this "Riley" had against the Volturi, but it wasn't hard to figure out. Aro had probably ordered a friend of his executed, perhaps a mate. No one ever gave up after a loss like that. If that was his grievance, he'd have been able to subvert Rolfe just by sympathizing with him. Or he might have just been an upstart who wanted power and knew he had to get my master out of the way to get it.

Whatever his reasons, he had a great deal to answer for. He was a threat to our entire way of life. He'd gotten friends of mine killed. It was hard to accept that hunting him down like a dog was no longer my duty. All my instincts were screaming at me to report the information.

Of course, they were probably my less instincts and more conditioned responses implanted in my psyche by nearly twenty years of conditioning and Chelsea's own personal brand of quality assurance.

I would tell them, eventually. Bella and I talked about writing a letter. There were still a few places around here that carried old-fashioned paper mail. We talked about contacting Marjane electronically. But Aro was Aro. If he knew I knew something, he would want the direct feed. He would finally have an excuse to send a team after us without looking like a tyrant—or to kill us if we refused to return quietly.

It wasn't simply a matter of changing my handwriting. Aro knew me as well as I'd known myself. He'd figure out the message had come from me. We had to wait until it was safe, until we had a powerful coven to protect us. It was more important than ever that we figure out where Carlisle and the others had gone. The phones had gone dark at the Denali house—or, I hoped, they'd just replaced the numbers. Landlines had still been in style in the first years of the twenty-first century. Now they were about as common as dumbwaiters and servants' quarters. First wearable coms and then explants—nonsurgical biocompatibles—had replaced flip-phones and iPhones. Marjane had never managed to make explants that worked with vampire skin, but she'd been working on it. I'd wasted almost an hour wondering if she was still working on the project before getting my head together. The upshot for Bella and me was that everyone in my former family had changed the locks while we'd been away.

Carlisle wouldn't have moved the family to anywhere they'd been before, nor to any place he'd discussed with me. He wouldn't want Aro to have known too much about moving plans. There was too much risk of a team showing up and making demands. The basic plan was to visit the Ozarks, Rochester, Ithaca, everywhere we'd stayed, to see if a message or clue had been left behind, but I had a strange feeling that sooner or later, the Cullens would find us. I couldn't explain it; it was just a feeling that Carlisle would know where we'd be. I'd expected Bella to roll her eyes when I told her, but she nodded her head and said I was probably right.

However we managed to find them, it would probably be easier now that the Atlantic was no longer in the way. I could still smell the ocean, far off. This place reminded me of Taiwan but only a little.

The café table was made of metal, the sort that scraped against the concrete and never quite sat level. The office was in a nominally nice part of town that happened to be near a not-so-nice part of town. Women took their children on the bus. It would have made more sense to build the center near where these families lived, but perhaps it had been vandalized. Some things I couldn't learn from a stolen satellite connection.

Bella had her long hair tied up under a sun hat, even though it was well into evening. I assured her that her face had changed enough that she stood no risk of being recognized. If anything, I should have been hiding my face. I kept listening to the thoughts around me, careful for any hint of vampire. Just because we were being safe didn't mean that no one could report us to Aro. He would have us killed this time or...

...or, I admitted to myself, or Bella was right and they would kill her and have Chelsea enslave me fully. That did seem the most likely scenario.

There were no vampires near. Bella's face was as covered as it could be without wearing a veil. We should have considered that, really. After twenty years of seeing educated, liberated Muslim women who wore the hijab because it suited their own sense of modesty and identity, it was no longer unheard of to see a woman wearing a partial-face veil in public, especially not in Florida, where the intense sunlight gave the fashion choice a practical advantage.

I closed my eyes and listened to the thoughts within the building.

I wouldn't have recognized her, but from the tension in her hand, I could see that Bella did. She was dressed in inexpensive but fashionable office wear, a big, clunky necklace bouncing against her untucked tag of her fluffy yellow blouse as she walked.

I took in the sagging skin, thinned, dyed hair and the constellation of wrinkles around her eyes. Bella had had a horror of aging when she'd been human. I could only guess at what she was feeling now, seeing Renee old but hearty, unmistakably marked by every year that had passed. I noticed that her bracelet matched her necklace, something that the old Renee never would have bothered about. Either someone else had picked out her clothes, or some experience or settling of nature had rendered neatness less strange to her. It was the sort of change that a vampire could not undergo without life-altering pressure. Humans could change a little at a time.

She'd retired from teaching a few years earlier and now volunteered with a city organization that fostered literacy in poorer children. There had been a few newspaper features about the center a few years back, which was why her name had turned up in a satellite search. Educational policy had shifted in recent years, focusing more on equal access to preschool services and early enrichment. It seemed to be doing some good, but the fact that every generation thought that the young people were being miseducated may have clouded things.

She slipped a pair of sunglasses over her eyes as she walked, fingers working the dial controls on the right support piece, built oversized for older fingers. I supposed she was checking a weather or traffic report, but she broke into a smile as she murmured some pleasantry to the voice on the other end. Her thoughts filled with a man with a tanned face, thick arms and no inconsiderable gut. He could have been Phil, but there was no telling what twenty years, six hurricanes and an impending world war could do to the marital status of a thoroughly ordinary woman.

She paid no mind to the young couple at the café, pointedly not touching their drinks or pastry. We weren't the only customers, after all. She walked past, her sensible office shoes making smart noises against the sidewalk.

Renee probably grieved for the daughter she'd lost. She did not show it today. The advantage of a flighty nature was that she could accept pain and move on or at least feel other things at the same time. It was the single most profound advantage that they had over us. I might learn to live with the fact that I'd backed out of my mission and left my best friend and surrogate child behind, but the regret would never leave me. I'd have to break myself to forget someone I cared about that much.

Bella's hand was steady as a rock in mine, squeezing so tightly that it was nearly painful. She twisted her neck and then her body, silently moving so that she could watch her mother go. Her chair didn't make a single scraping sound against the sidwalk. Finally, Renee stopped walking back and forth among the parking spaces, got into a small blue car, and pulled away.

"Are you all right?" I asked.

She nodded her head rapidly.

"Are you..." I didn't know what to ask, or even if I should ask anything. Had she experienced closure? Of course not. Did it make her happy to see her mother well? Of course it did. Could she now walk away and live happily ever after with her grossly imperfect husband without regret? Who was I kidding?

"I think I understand," she whispered, not moving an inch. She'd gone too still. Someone might notice that I was sitting at a table with a statue. I didn't want a picture of today's "performance art" to make the paper where the library team would see it.

"What do you understand?"

"The sacrifices you made to be what you are," she said. "If I hadn't changed, I'd have maybe another twenty or thirty years." They'd all be different years, but yes, it was possible. "I kept wishing..."

"That she'd turn and see us? That she'd know you?"

Bella shook her head. "I know how she thinks. Or how she used to think. This would scare her. This whole thing, the way the world really works, it would make her afraid to live her life." She smiled. "I'd hoped she'd see us and smile, like I reminded her of someone. I'd hoped she'd come and talk to us like we were strangers." She'd hoped to hear her mother's voice again, even in some banal pleasantry. If it had been a few years earlier, we could have called her number and listened to the message on her answering machine, made a recording for later, but the caller ID and privacy settings had gotten too sophisticated. No one recorded their own message any more.

I got to my feet, still holding her hand as if we were going to dance. "We'd best not linger," I murmured. She nodded in agreement. I left the money on the table for the server to take. We stepped into the nearest alley, and Bella put her head against my shoulder and sobbed. She hadn't wept this way—though technically she was not weeping now—since Adal's death. Not even her separation from Caroly had done as much. There was another regret that would never leave me.

Jacksonville had seen better days. It had once been the largest city in the United States by area, though its population had never gotten close to two million, even counting its greater metropolitan area. Only forty feet above sea level with sandy soil, the place had been hit hard by Hurricanes Rapture and Kensington. By then, at least, the Schoen Administration's Smart Rebuild initiative, based on the successes and failures of the post-Sandy New York and New Jersey programs—had caught on. Buildings that collapsed or were washed away due to storm surge and flooding were either reinforced or converted to flood-safe facilities. Much of the area's pavement had been converted to porous driving material to allow rainwater to flow into the ground rather than over it. Ruined homes and businesses were rebuilt on higher ground. Two hurricanes had caused the city to shift position like an octopus searching for food with all eight arms. "You can go home, but you can't go home here" had been the city's unofficial motto for ten years straight.

The damage had been less severe, but as in New Orleans before it, some people were too stubborn to relocate. Others came looking for the opportunities that sprung up like mushrooms in a city flush with what little funding state, federal and charitable repair efforts could provide. They still had their naval bases. They still had their port, which was still one of the most heavily frequented on the east coast.

It was into this port that Bella and I had slipped, light as shadows. It had been my first time on American soil since I'd boarded a plane at JFK, headed for Brazil. Things had changed. That was the U.S. That was the world. Things would always change and we would never be able to hold on to the moments that made us feel comfortable. I felt another pang of regret at the way Bella had been turned. She'd been pulled out of her own element all at once. Most vampires at least got to experience that slowly, still feel part of the human world until their contemporaries grew old.

The cargo ship that had brought us from Ireland had been a massive thing from the previous century. It was amazing how something so simple could change so much. Before the latter half of the twentieth century, ships would spend days in port being unloaded by longshoremen and other dockworkers as each item or large box was individually removed from the hold and re-packed on board a train or truck, often more than once. After the invention of cargo containers, the process had been streamlined. Not only were the camper-sized, uniform boxes easier to pack into a ship, but they could be lifted on large cranes and placed directly onto a frame to be hauled to its destination by a train or sixteen-wheeler. The fact that looking inside the containers either during or after the voyage was not a necessary part of the process changed the landscape of large-item smuggling and human trafficking, but the effects on the legitimate economy had been even more dramatic. Containers reduced the time that a ship spent idle but also dramatically cut costs, considering that the job could be done with fewer, more skilled, employees. (The longshoremen's union had undergone a transformation as well.) It had been one of the silent rocket boosters behind globalization. It was suddenly cheaper to buy clothes and manufactured goods from China than to buy the ones made in Chicago or Detroit.

Many of the containers had been retrofitted or redesigned to work on the new trains. And the management system kept in nearly constant contact with the corporate headquarters in Arklow ...via satellite.

It might have been hard for a human to hide in the small spaces beneath the hull. It might have been hard for ordinary vampires to avoid the crew. Once every day or so we managed to steal one of the senior staff's communications devices, access the web and return it unnoticed. Mostly I checked the weather reports for our destination. Sunny days would make this harder. I had vague memories about setting off in my car, confident that the weather would stay cloudy. I wondered why I'd ever felt so safe about something so hard to predict. Thinking about it gave me a headache.

It was a harder matter to get cash. In Volterra no one had any qualms about stealing from humans, especially if they were already dead. The prey herded into the feasting hall were looted as part of corpse disposal. Anything that couldn't be traced, like cash, was removed. Everything else was destroyed. Carlisle had disdained theft, saying that God and compound interest would provide our coven with whatever we might need, and it had been true, but considering the brutality of the way we got our food, I'd never been able to make myself feel too bad about it if it really was an emergency.

Like the ships that had fended off pirates in the Taiwan strait so many years ago, this one kept a supply of ready money in a safe on the upper deck. It was an older model, with no biometrics required (fingerprint scanners had fallen out of favor as photographs had become clear enough to make a copy from a picture that showed the target's hand). It had been a small matter for me to lift the combination from the minds of the senior staff. One the second to last night before we reached port, I kept watch while Bella took what we needed.

We'd developed three different backup scenarios in case of interruption but I'd felt naked without an earpiece.

It was the first real plan that we'd executed together. It hadn't been easy to do. Or to keep our voices down.

The bottom line was that I knew more about this sort of thing than she did. I'd been on more missions and spent more time as a free vampire. But she had two decades in the Volturi guard under her belt, most of them as newborn master. She wasn't used to taking orders from someone who wasn't her master. I wasn't used to giving them. I'd been Demetri's partner but always the junior partner. Maybe if she'd been free when she was a newborn she wouldn't have minded taking my lead, but that was silly. If we'd been free, I'd never have turned her at all.

But it worked. We climbed off the boat into Jacksonville with enough money for less conspicuous clothes and whatever public transportation into the city center.

The city center was further from the port than it had been twenty years earlier. The clouds over our heads were thick and the air was hazy, but we still waited until an hour before dusk to start the next part of the plan. If this was going to work, we had to look unobtrusive. We'd spent days on board a ship with no access to irons or detergent, never mind that I'd still been dressed for northern Europe.

We'd stopped at one store at a time, if we were tourists, replacing a pair of shoes here, a shirt there.

"Light colors," I said quietly as we pretended to stroll into another shop.

"And the shoes go on my feet, right?" she snarked, but there was a smile behind it.

A sporting goods store had caught my eye, and I steered us back there now. Sturdy clothes in waterproof fabrics, shoes that wouldn't fall off our feet... Now that we weren't staying in the city, we wouldn't stand out so much. There should be enough hikers on their way to Osceola National Park.

Standardized clothing sizes were not among the country's advances. My sister Rosalie had been a size eight in some stores and a size two in others. She always had to try on the clothes before she bought them, or else tailor them herself. She used to make clothes with... And they'd go shopping together... She even picked out mine.

I rubbed the front of my head.

"Edward?" asked Bella, stepping out of the changing room.

"I'm all right," I said.

She put one hand on the side of my head, lifting my right until my fingers were pressed against her temple. Her mind was quiet, so quiet. I'd always loved her for it.

"Do you remember something?" she asked.

"What are you talking about?"

"Nothing." I looked at the outfit she was wearing. The hiking shirt was too big for her, hanging off her arms the way a sweater would, but the pants fit almost like jeans. Her hair was back in a ponytail.

"What?" she asked me.

"You look like..." I felt myself smile but still felt so heavy, "like you're about to get into a red pickup truck and scold me for being overprotective."

Bella looked away for a minute. "You were very overprotective," she answered. "I always wanted to be able to do for you some of what you did for me." She exhaled. "I had no idea how much it cost you, not then." She looked over her shoulder, to where Renee had to be driving home through murderous Florida traffic. "How do most people do it?" she said. "I never asked." Renata. Caroly. Rolfe.

"Most of us don't remember much about our human lives," I said. "I remember my mother and father, but they're like shadows. It's like watching something that happened to someone else." And there was guilt in that, but guilt wasn't pain. "I try to honor them by being the man they wanted me to be, by using what they taught me, even if I don't remember learning it."

Bella didn't move, and I tightened my arms around her. "Rosalie remembers her parents. She remembers almost everything." Perhaps once we found them...

It was the strangest feeling. I had a sense that if we stayed accessible, the Cullens would somehow manage to find us. I watched each new night fall with the expectation that I would turn a corner and see Carlisle or Emmett or—

A pain flared in my head, like an egg cracking open from the inside, but it subsided before I could break.

I breathed out, calming as Bella calmed.

The funny buzzing pinprick flared up at the back of my mind again.

Something was looking for us. We would be found soon; I was sure of it.


I wrote most of this chapter in 2013. Unlike the previous one, it required a little updating.

drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu