Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Message ( Chapter 55 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
<i>Twilight</i> and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from <i>Twilight</i>, its first three sequels and the first half of <i>Midnight Sun</i>, 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.


"No one dressed by me ever looks like an idiot." –Alice, <i>Breaking Dawn</i>


I rubbed my hands against my arms as I looked around. I hadn't realized this place was on a hilltop. It had snowed that morning but the sky was dripping now. Cold didn't bother me the way it used to, but wet clothes flopping around? Annoying. And I'd look conspicuous if icicles formed on my collarbones. "Won't Aro know you'd come here?" I asked.

"Yes," said Edward, crouching down by the flagstone, as he worked his fingers between cut rock and dirt. He managed to flip it over, feet sinking down into the layer of soft, wet earth. Deeper down, the ground was probably still frozen.

"Anything?" I asked.

He shook his head. "No messages carved into rocks, no notes in plastic... I'd hoped for a com or at least a contact number," he said.

That was the plan. Edward was on fire to get somewhere safe so he could tell Demetri about this Riley person without Aro using it as an excuse to drag us back. As much as I hated Volterra, I'd given up twenty years of my life to the place so that the world wouldn't be overrun with vampires who weren't afraid of the law. I didn't want some nomad in a snit to undo my work. Plus Caroly and Renata were still there, for all that Renata probably didn't know I was gone. If tossing them a two-sentence note helped them keep it all together, that was fine with me so long as we got out of re-up range first.

Problem was we couldn't just look up the Cullens in the phone book. They might not even be in North America any more. There was a chance that we'd run into a nomad who'd passed through the Cullens' new territory or even one of Carlisle's or Jasper's old friends, but our best bet was to make it to Denali, where some Cullen allies had a permanent home.

Even if we'd had the money for commercial tickets, planes and trains were out of the question. Back in the day, Aro had been worried about backscatter X-ray on vampire skin (you think we got sparkly in daylight?), but now even local airports had biometrics that made a James Bond movie look like an episode of the Flintstones. That stuck any vampire who couldn't charter a cargo flight to overland travel. With all the trucking and shipping in the U.S., we'd be able to hitchhike part of the way, but it was slow going, and the longer we stayed out in the open, the bigger the chance Aro would come up with a way to bring us back.

Our best bet was to haul ass to Denali, do not pass go, do not collect 200 CCs of A-negative. But Edward had thought of checking former Cullen residences along the way for any messages that might have been left for us to find.

I watched him flip the flagstone over and scrape mud off the underside with his nails, searching for a note or chiseled words. I looked away.

"Edward, why do you think they'd leave us a message under the flagstone?"

"It's the best place to do it," he said without looking up. "The plants in Esme's garden, even many of the trees will have died back and been replaced in this time frame, and the foundation of the house is too big."

I rubbed my arms again. "I mean why do you think they'd leave us a message at all."

He looked up at me with a half-smile, "It's obvious, Bella. Leaving someone a message in a place with a shared history is just a logical thing to do. How else would they tell us where they were?"

It was logical. It was a perfectly sensible thing for an ordinary family to do before cell phones.

"Edward, did you and Carlisle and everyone ever discuss what you'd do if you got separated?" I asked.

Edward's hands stopped moving. "A long time ago," he said. "We'd just gotten Emmett, and we were worried he was..."

"...going to chase a bear all the way to Canada?"

"Something like that. We came up with contingency plans but they were mostly just for moving days. This post office in this town. That mountain in that state. We had a new one every few years, every time we had to move."

"What was the last one?" I asked, that prickly feeling working its way up my arms.

"I don't remember."

"How about the one from the sixties?"

He shook his head, still checking the stone.

"Was that when you started using Denali as a base?" I suggested.

He nodded. "That must be it."

Leaving a note in a Zip-Loc was a logical, practical thing for an ordinary family with a missing member to do. For the Cullens, it made no sense at all. Alice should have known where we would be. The longer this part lasted, the more worried I got.

He squinted in the light, looking back at the house. "We're lucky anything above the foundation's still standing."

I'd never been to Missouri before. In fact, before Alice and I had taken off for Italy, I'd never been further east than Albuquerque. Join the Volturi, everyone. Travel the world, meet interesting vampires and kill them.

The economy out here had never been great, but it hadn't boomed and busted like most of the rest of the States. There had been a five-state push to get Internet access into the more rural parts of the area in the early 2020s—over a decade after South Korea had wired the whole country—and now anywhere that couldn't get wifi had access to cheap satellite connections.

The Internet hadn't been a miracle cure, but it had taken the edge off. Back in Forks, I'd overheard my dad talking to one of his deputies after dragging a high school boy out of the patrol car. I'd never found out why he'd been arrested but I guessed it was marijuana. He said, "Some kids would get into trouble no matter what, and some will stay out of it no matter what, but most of them will stay out of trouble if they have something else to do." Being a bored-to-death twelve-year-old at the time, I'd been able to sympathize. Teen pregnancy rates were lower than they had been. Teenage crime was lower than it had been, but with limited opportunities for both income and entertainment, this was still a problematic part of the country.

"Edward, I'm not sure about this plan," I said. It was all backwards.

Edward held up his hands. "Aro doesn't know which ocean we crossed, where we landed or when we'd arrive, and it's been over seventy years since I was last here," he said. "We shouldn't linger but we're not in immediate danger."

"Carlisle probably wouldn't have risked leaving you a message. He knows Aro could send someone to get it," I said. "We're lucky there was no one from the guard here waiting for us." He gave me a sour look, but he had to know I was right. Aro had been using Edward's brains for a teething ring for two decades. Any Cullen secrets that Edward knew, Aro knew. "I read this book once in which a girl was following clues and walking around in the desert and it turned out that the clues didn't lead her <i>to</i> the hideout; they just had the visitor walking back in forth where the people inside could see her and decide whether to let her in."

"Wonderful," Edward said, gingerly easing the flagstone back into place, "but that's dependent on someone watching for visitors." He exhaled. "Carlisle has no logical reason to know that we've ...left."

I held my breath, feeling the texture of the snow under my feet. It had melted and refrozen. In some places it was stiff enough to walk on top, but step wrong and you'd punch a hole right through.

"Do you think he knows anyway?" I asked as lightly as I could.

"Of course," he answered, still working on the flagstone. He finished, and then rubbed a grubby hand across the bridge of his nose as if he had a headache.

"You're probably right," I said simply. He smiled as if the pain had gone away.

It was clear to <i>me</i> what we should do: Either haul ass for Denali or make ourselves easier for the Cullens to find. Years ago, when I'd been recovering from my James-induced broken leg, Alice had told me that her gift kicked in when someone made a decision or took their first action toward a goal. She'd also said that distance mattered. The further away something was geographically, the more important or the more connected to her it had to be. Her fifty-year not-twin deciding to escape from Volterra was about as important and connected as it got, but we <i>had</i> been on the other side of the planet. Problem was, ever since we'd left Jacksonville, we'd pretty much been drifting. Edward had picked this plan because it made sense, not because he was taking control of his life. It was psychic camouflage.

I looked around at the foundation. Edward said this place had been built in the traditional Ozark style, but I had to take his word for it. Though Aro had taken a liking to the Hudson River School back in the early 1800s. Marcus's interest in human architecture didn't include much Americana. Part of one outer wall was left, and there was a thick-trunked cedar tree growing up through what I guessed had been the porch, with another pushing apart two of the ruined slates that had made up a nearby walkway. Seventy years could do a lot to a place.

I didn't like to think about it, but there was another reason why we weren't two weeks into our reunion festivities. Edward told me that Alice had made it out of Volterra, Carlisle had confirmed it when he'd come to the city to check on us that first year, and Rosalie had mentioned her when we'd run into her and Emmett in Paris, but none of that meant that Alice was okay <i>now</i>, and if <i>she</i> wasn't okay, then they <i>all</i> weren't okay.

The library teams only looked for vampires who were breaking the law. One tiny psychic could be torn apart, one tiny coven could disappear from the earth, and we wouldn't even have found out about it. Whenever I thought about Alice's enemies other than Aro, I got a funny feeling, like there was something I should have figured out but hadn't.

Alice was fine. She had to be.

Edward would probably be able to tell me something simple that could clear it all up. Maybe Alice's powers didn't work on anything in Florida or something.

Edward finished replacing the stone and leaned back on his heels.

He was always volunteering information about how the world worked. Even stuff I'd known since my first year as a vampire. I didn't mind. I liked the way he told it. I wished he could tell me about this, go into detail about how Alice's gift worked and how the fact that Jasper hadn't shown up with directions and a first-class ride didn't necessarily mean anything was wrong.

Edward was looking around. Finally, he said, "We were here for a while after Emmett was turned."

Reminiscing voice. I felt the muscles between my shoulder blades tense up. He was remembering. This could go either way.

"Rose found Emmett when we were living in the Appalachians," he said. "We had to move. We couldn't keep a newborn so close to where he'd lived. Carlisle was convinced it would be too tempting for Emmett to talk to his family and..."

And hurting them was the last thing anyone would have wanted.

"...and then there was the way Rose had handled her own unfinished business," he finished.

I smiled even though I wasn't feeling it. "So this is where it happened," I commented.

He sat back, tilting his head up at me. "Where what happened?"

I smiled. "Sister golden hair."

Edward's face was blank for a moment. "Oh," he said. "Yes, this is where Emmett and Rose had their wedding." He got to his feet, scuffing at the unmelted snow on his trousers. "It was a bit more romantic before they blasted out half the mountain to build the highway."

These were safe memories. As far as I knew, Alice had never been here. She and Jasper hadn't joined the Cullens until the fifties. Edward still didn't talk about her. He'd list all the members of the family but her. He referred to his brothers plural and sister singular, meaning Rosalie.

It didn't look the way I'd imagined. The ground was covered in slush instead of grass. The trees were taller but different—I'd been picturing Italian trees from the Riserva where Edward had told me the story—and the space between the house and the woods was narrower and not as flat. But it had been a long time. These might not even be the same trees. Erosion could have shifted the land. Or maybe, back then, I'd still been thinking in human terms. A vampire could dance on a bannister and think nothing of it (I'd had to discipline Letitia for doing just that on two separate occasions). The highway was new, and so were the mining operations a few hills east. Back then, they'd had miles of safe hunting ground. Back then, this had been the middle of nowhere. And it had been spring.

"Where'd they put the piano?" I asked.

Edward managed something like a grin, checked his bearings against the flagstone, and pointed. "Over there."

"And you sat the whole time?"

"Someone had to play the music," he hid another smile, "and the bride was busy."

"You didn't dance?" I asked, stepping toward him.

"I had no partner," he answered in kind.

"Pity," I said, giving him a long look up and down.

Edward shot me another look, but a smile was fighting its way out. "Minx," he said.

"Do you have to call me names?"

"I'm sorry," he said, slinging one arm over my shoulder. "I should be more careful about what comes out of my mouth."

I poked him hard in the chest. "I can think of better things for you to do with your mouth."

"<i>Bella,</i>" he snapped.

"Or me. I'm flexible. As you well remember."

"I—" I did love the look on his face, amazement bleeding through the blankness whenever I said anything that shocked his delicate sensibilities. Call it my guilty pleasure. Upside of living with someone so uptight.

"Oh no, did I offend the roomful of nuns that trudged up the hill with us?" I asked, making a big show of looking around. "Or was I corrupting the troop of third-graders who were having a picnic when we arrived?" I put my fingers around the unzipped edges of his jacket. "We're up here <i>by ourselves</i>," I emphasized. "There is no one to interrupt, interfere or break the lock on the supply closet because they think they need the spray cleanser more than <i>I</i> need to—"

"Bella, half the mountain is covered in mud."

"So we'll have sex on the other half!"

I was worried enough to take it slow with Edward's memory, but I was more than eager for him to get his strength back in other departments. With everything that had happened, I could get it if Edward just wasn't feeling it, but that didn't mean I couldn't hoist a few signal flags and let him know he'd get a very loud "welcome aboard."

That was one part of Volterra that suited Edward's personality: sex was something you did as discreetly as possible, as quietly as possible. But today, the way I saw it, if we were far enough away from other people to hunt elk, then we were far enough away from other people for me not to worry about the noise level. After twenty years of furtive coupling in whatever part of the compound wasn't full of the accounting humans, I wanted to try <i>noise</i>.

And there he was with that straitlaced look on his face, like how dare the millennial seduce me with her wicked modern ways. No one who could use his hands like that should get to call me minx. Whatever the heck a minx was. It sounded like breakfast cereal but from the context I was pretty sure that wasn't it.

"That wouldn't be a good idea..." Edward was stammering.

I could see him cycling through the usual checklist. "Aro might call me." Nope. "We have a mission to complete." Not anymore. "We could get caught." Not likely. "Sulpicia might want you." Never again. Also, halle-goddamned-lujah. "What if one of the newborns needs something?" They'll get it themselves. Or they'll screw up and burn down the whole compound and Marcus will get to build a new one. Maybe with dust disposal in the tower this time.

I backed away just a little as I watched the gears click in his head. That's how he worked. I was a huge fan of "no means no," but after twenty years I knew Edward's MO. Suggest that he do something racy or risky or just <i>fun</i> for fun's sake, and he'd say "We can't" on reflex. But then take a step back and <i>give him a minute</i>. Just point out that no one can actually <i>see</i> the spot behind the roof access in Sulpicia's garden, then let him think the rest of it is his idea.

He was looking at me speculatively. Oh yeah, looked like the afternoon wasn't going to be a total loss for Bella.

"Well perhaps we..." he trailed off thoughtfully. "If we were..." He was looking around, appraising the area as if he hadn't seen it before. He gave a little tug on my arm. "Over here," he said, nodding toward what was left of the foundation. Eh, it was probably more comfortable than semi-frozen ground. The cedar didn't have many branches until a few feet up, and it blocked the view of the sky. After years of hunting for the illusion of privacy, I wasn't going to tell him to turn down a little scrap of the real deal.

Undressing in camping trousers was a new thing for me, but I could get used to it. I'd always liked practical clothes: jeans and a skirt if I was feeling it. Alice had liked dressing me up like a doll. I'd liked how into it she was, calculating everything like a work of art. I'd just liked Alice. The Volturi communal closet was stocked with whatever the Masters thought would help us blend in. (Thank God they usually delegated the job to people willing to pay attention to trends, sometimes even our humans. Adrienne might have been a first-class bitch but she did have taste.) Never mind that the goddamned cloaks made us look like Renfaire rejects no matter what was underneath. I'd spent the past years in versions of the same knee-length gray dress. I'd left the one I'd worn to Anwar in a trash can in Jacksonville after pointedly asking Edward if it wouldn't be better to burn it.

I let Edward kiss me as we backed up against what was left of the outer wall and shoved his jacket off of his arms. I got the hem of his shirt and he flipped it over his head.

Mud schmud. I had no idea what was had gone on in the textile industry in the past few years, but it was <i>crazy</i> easy to get dirt out of these clothes. That shirt was as white as the day he'd pulled it off the rack in the sporting goods store outside Jacksonville. Must have microfibers or something.

He laced his fingers between mine and we slid down together.

Twenty years in those gray dresses, thirty-six variations and updates of the same outfit that Renata had picked out for me on my first day, every one of them a way for the Masters to get on top of my skin and then under it. That was what I wanted to grind down into the mud, pull and tear and throw my weight against it with a heady yell until it burst its seams. That goddamned dress.

It was fast. We were used to fast. I'd have liked to go slower, but one habit at a time.

"Well," Edward exhaled. "That was..."

"If you say 'unproductive,' I'll find a way to make you digest your socks."

He laughed. "That..." he trailed off, looking up at the light through the branches, "...was actually a good idea."

I shrugged, probably getting green bits in my hair. "I <i>said</i>."

"You were right," he sighed lightly.

"I know," I answered. "About what?"

He flicked the side of my ear.

"Ow," I answered.

He grimaced, as if not pleased to admit it. "It clears my head."

"Bonus." I rolled toward him on my side. "I take it you've thought of something."

He nodded. "Aro will know I'd think to visit all the old Cullen houses but he won't know when."

"Yeah, got that part," I answered. And if we stayed away from anything with cameras or face-scanners (which ruled out planes, trains, buses, some highways and most towns with shops that had private security) we could keep dodging the library teams.

"Well," he continued. "I'd start at our disembarkation point and plot a course that brought us to each site as efficiently as possible," he let the tip of his finger rest against my elbow. "First Appalachia," he trailed partway up my forearm, "which we actually skipped, then here, but skip Rochester and New Hampshire because they're not on the way to Denali." Yeah, that was the plan. And it sounded like he thought there was something off about it. I held my breath.

"Well Aro knows I'd do that. He knows what maps I have in my head and what search patterns I like to use." He turned his head, meeting my eyes. "But he doesn't know you."


He sat halfway up, touching the side of my face. "You successfully hid multiple secrets from one of the smartest men on the planet for over two decades," he said. "Aro never could read you and Carlisle knows it. If the Cullens leave us any instructions, they won't be for me," he said. "They'll be for you."

I sat up. Dammit, why hadn't I thought of that? ...because <i>I</i> knew about Alice. I knew they didn't need to leave us messages at all.

"Where would <i>you</i> go next?" he asked.

I took the matter in. Edward was offering to follow without a fuss as I called the shots. I looked up at the sky through the cedar branches. Decisions. Alice. But I couldn't tell him, "I'd decide to go straight to Denali and forget all this message BS because it's the act of deciding that's the point." If I did, he'd know something was up. Too much too soon, maybe.

I needed Edward's head back together.

Maybe Alice was waiting on purpose. I watched Edward's chest rise as he breathed in, waiting for me to answer. I could see the scar he'd gotten from a nomad in Germany, the thin lines where Rolfe and I had put his arm back together. I still didn't know exactly what he'd done to himself to knock out his memories. What if seeing Alice before he was ready would fry Edward's brain or something? Everything I'd read about amnesiacs said that you weren't supposed to put pressure on them. Just take them somewhere familiar and let new memories trigger old ones. I looked up at what was left of the house. Maybe, on some level, he knew that.

We needed to get back to the Cullens but maybe we needed Edward's head back together first. And I only knew how to find one place where he and Alice had been together.

"Well, my love?" he said. "Where to?"

I managed half a smile. "You need to ask?"


My view is that the point of fanfic is to give us things that either can't or shouldn't happen in the original, but I personally like to copy the canon on sex scenes. <i>Twilight</i> makes it clear that the characters are doing and then fades to black, so I do too. That's not to say that no one ever should (heck, I recommended Tara Sue Me last chapter); I'm talking how I feel about things.

Anyone who checks the dates on my profile can tell I've been doing this for a pretty long time. When I was twenty, a scene between two teenagers didn't seem like a problem, especially if they were aged up a bit (example: female lead Kagome is fifteen when <i>Inuyasha</i> begins, and most of the American fans assumed the show was happening in real time; a sex scene set in season two or three would establish her age as seventeen or eighteen). Now stuff like that bothers me. Teenagers seem like kids. Bella and Edward are locked in as teenagers in some ways, but in others they're a middle-aged couple.

I guess I have to remember that the target audience of the canon content is likely to be at least a big part of the fanfic audience. So no, no sexually explicit <i>Gargoyles</i> 'fic, even though the characters in question were about my age. No sexually explicit Percy+Annabeth, even if it's set ten years after <i>Blood of Olympus</i>. ...I'll just recycle that hot-as-heck scene into a 'fic in another fandom! Heh heh heh!

Which brings up another issue. Back in G fandom, castlenet had a strict rating policy. Everyone knew underage readers would read whatever they wanted (I certainly did). The policy was in place to protect us and the site from the and-I-quote "lawyer parents from hell" who wanted to know why their five-year-old's search for Disney brought up the inestimable Christine Morgan's early work (killer grasp of character voice but yes a lot of non-platonic nudity). A recent event has had me wondering...

...<i>where are you, lawyer parents from hell?!</i> For there are bronies stalking little girls at the conventions and posting sexually explicit depictions of the rebooted My Little Ponies right where kids will see it! Go after them and cull the indiscreet from their number! Or were you always a myth meant to frighten young fanauthors? Or were you only ever a dream?

drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu