Wednesday, May 31, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Even in Death Chapter 16

Chapter 16 – We Fear Nothing
We fear nothing
We fear nothing
Now that we've come so far
Do you still remember our dreams
The need to have it all?
Don't give up
I feel we are almost there

Life long
Road blocks
High walls
Teardrops
Nothing stands in our way
“Nothing Stands in Our Way” by Lacuna Coil
EDWARD
The buzzing in my head grew louder the longer the stress in the house increased. I sat on the edge of the ottoman by the fireplace, my fingers gripping my hair as thoughts assaulted me.
Jasper was no better off than I was with so many of us now taking seats around the living room. Fear and anger and frustration pulsed through him, coming from various sources. Alice’s visions kept changing; some didn’t even finish before it took a different path. The presence of the wolves were not helping her whatsoever.
Emmett’s mind took a volatile position. He was willing to stand up for the sake of his family, his mate, and his honor. To have taken care of a threat and now face possible punishment for it did not sit well with him.
The Denali women shared the same fear. They despised Aro. They hated him for some past altercation concerning an immortal they loved like a mother. I could only catch glimpses of a beautiful woman and a small child with red eyes. Kate and Irina wanted to go home immediately. Tanya wanted to set the Volturi on fire and then go home.

Esme finally approached me carefully. Her instincts to care for the people under her roof were pulling at her too hard to ignore. She bent down and hugged me gently. “Edward?” she called softly, and I winced when I had to look up at her to distinguish whether she was speaking or thinking. “You okay?”
I nodded tersely, intrigued that she’d spoken her question, flinching when Rosalie’s thoughts were extremely loud. She was pissed off at everyone – Carlisle for causing this entire situation, Victoria for being a “crazy bitch,” at the Volturi for simply being nosey, and Bella for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
My gaze locked on to her from across the room, a growl growing deep within my chest. My lip curled in anger. The only thing that stopped me from launching myself at her was the underlying panic. This had been her fear from the very beginning. It was why the first time she and I had met, she’d been terrified of the Volturi finding out that a human had been let in on their utmost secret – the existence of vampires. That latter concern was moot with my change, but her fear was still palpable.
Jacob’s uneasiness centered around so many red-eyed vampires in his vicinity. Red eyes meant human blood, and human blood could not be spilled on his watch. He had come to terms with the immortals in the room, because we all drank from animals. The diet was disgusting to him, but he held up his end of the treaty because of that diet. To bring in human killers was making him nervous, which caused his ability to shift to become hard to maintain.
Lastly, the oldest of us – Eleazar and Carlisle – were discussing things in rushed and quiet whispers, one telling the other to go home, the other wanting to stand firm. Eleazar showed no fear concerning the impending visit of Aro and his brothers. Carlisle didn’t exactly feel fear, but there was the unknown when it came to Aro. He wasn’t always sure where he stood with them. When he’d lived with them in Volterra, he’d been considered an oddity with his choice of diets. Respect was given to Carlisle out of propriety, not because it was earned.
The touch that mattered most wrapped around me from the side.
“Let me help you,” she pleaded in a whisper at my ear. She pressed kisses to my hair as if she could push the noise away with each one.
I finally conceded with a quick nod. Instantly, silence fell over me, and I practically sagged in relief, especially when her shield brought with it the only mind I truly wanted to hear.
Better? she asked through her mind.
Nodding, I met her gaze. “Yeah, definitely. Thanks, sweetheart.”
Edward, I know you want to acclimate, but you can’t do it all at once. There was a sweet chastisement in there, as well as concern and love and all things just Bella.
Smirking her way, I nodded. “I know,” I said through a sigh. “I need to see Alice, though.”
“Okay,” she told me, glancing across to the raven-haired girl, who looked like I’d felt just a moment ago. “Alice, brace yourself.”
Bella’s shield incorporated Alice and Jasper, and the three of us took deep breaths and let them out. The removal of Jasper’s talent from the rest of the room allowed everyone in it to relax. His ability to feel and manipulate emotions had a downside to it, which was that he had no alternative but to push everything he was feeling back out into the room. It magnified and multiplied before it hit everyone.
Alice, however, gasped and locked gazes with me. “That’s helpful. Look.”
Bella chuckled at her but stayed quiet by my side as I watched Alice’s visions. They started out simple and inane – someone switching seats, Esme taking Carlisle’s hand, Emmett getting up to pace. All three things then took place almost in that order. Without so many influences – not to mention Jacob and Leah – pushing in on Alice, her futures became easier to see, more fluid.
Even better was the fact that the four people under that shield were the four people Aro would want most. Alice sat very still, her eyes slipping closed, but her communication to me was nonstop and silent.
If Eleazar’s family leaves, nothing changes. Aro is still coming. If he stays, then it’ll look like we’re ganging up…or…or… She stopped, tilting her head a little. The sheer size of this coven will cause the Volturi to be uneasy, so adding Eleazar’s family will look like we’re building our own army.
“So, he should go,” I surmised aloud, focusing only on her, but I did notice that the entire room had become quiet and still as they watched us with fascinated curiosity.
Maybe. Her answer was for me only, because she was trying to see all the things all at once. If the four of us leave with them… No, can’t do that. Look.
Leaving Carlisle, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmett behind to face the Volturi didn’t go well. It wasn’t believable that four immortals removed an entire newborn army. And it didn’t matter if we left them behind, because Aro could see through Carlisle’s thoughts that there were more of us, that we’d left them behind. Splitting us up only made us look like we were running and hiding from them. Bringing the wolves into light in front of the Volturi caused panic and fighting.
“Alice, how are you seeing these with Jake involved?” I asked her, knowing that the presence of the wolves muddled her sight.
Watch.
She made decisions not involving the pack, only her family. If things went blurry or blank, she simply looked way ahead into the future to verify something went okay, which made me wonder just how much Bella’s shield helped her. And with that train of thought, I wondered if Bella’s shield could somehow block Aro’s ability, stop him from seeing all thoughts, talents, and secrets that needed to stay quiet.
Alice’s golden eyes opened to meet my gaze. “Oh! You think?”
“I don’t know, Alice. I’m just wondering.” I gestured around the room. “I can’t hear anyone but the three of you outside her shield. I’m curious if it would work against Aro the same way.”
“If he can’t see our abilities, then he can’t covet them,” Jasper verified, looking between the two of us. “Is that what you’re thinking?”
“Aro’s mind-reading requires him to touch the person. Bella’s shield may not allow him to come near the person he’s wanting to touch.” Eleazar’s voice was calm, but he was curious, too.
Bella shifted a little next to me, her brow furrowed. “I don’t know if I can allow touch but shut out his gift at the same time.” Her gaze locked on to mine. Jesus, can’t we just tell him ‘no thank you?’ A simple, thanks for the offer of murder and mayhem, but we’re happy with deer and bear and boring Pacific Northwest America? How does that shit play out?
I snorted into a soft laugh, rubbing my face in frustration.
Alice caught her decision, her own smile spreading across her face. “The problem is… We don’t know why he’s coming. Or rather, why he’s bringing so many.”
Carlisle stepped forward, looking between us all. “Victoria’s activities in this area would’ve thrown up a red flag to them. They watch for specific patterns to keep immortals from revealing themselves or outing us to the humans. He’d already sent scouts to feel out the Seattle situation, so if they reported back the size of my family, he could be coming to seek me out specifically for how large this coven has grown.”
“Or one of them reported a human in your midst,” Eleazar stated, gesturing my way. “Which, if that’s the case, then they’ll see he’s immortal, and they’ll have no leg to stand on. Again, we’ve broken no rules. In fact, we took care of a large newborn army for them.”
“You take that stand on it, and he’ll consider it insulting,” Carlisle pointed out.
Jacob’s patience finally evaporated. “Why the hell are we tiptoeing around these assholes? Are you that scared of them? Seriously? What’s the outcome you’re hoping to achieve?” He posed these questions while glancing around at all of us.
“We just want them to leave us to live the way we wish, Jacob,” Carlisle answered. “I don’t want to fight them, and I’m not sure it would work out in our favor if we did.”
“Pfft,” he scoffed. “I can make sure that it does work out in our favor. Fuck, I’ll call the whole pack over.”
Grinning at Bella, who had started to laugh a little, I glanced back to Jake. “You want to fight the oldest immortals on the planet?”
“No, I just want to protect my tribe, my friends, my pack.” He paced a little, looking to Leah. “If you’ve done nothing wrong, then there’s not fucking thing wrong with standing proud in front of them and daring them to say something.”
My eyebrows shot up at that, but I looked to Alice. We were still encased in Bella’s shield, so her visions were only influenced by the four of us, and it seemed Jake had driven home a point – we’d broken no laws and we’d removed a threat. To have done that with very little public trouble was something to be proud of.
Alice saw them arrive, and we met them in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. She searched this future without the wolf pack involved. The outcome kept shifting. Words were exchanged, but she saw small glimpses of moving, traveling, and Alaska.
She sighed deeply, looking to me and then Carlisle. “Unless one of them makes a spur-of-the-moment decision, then I see them come and go without much fuss.”
The room went still, but we all looked to him for the next step. “Okay, we’ll wait. Eleazar, it’s up to you whether you stay or not. You’re most welcome here for as long as you’d like.”
Alice shook her head. “No offense to anyone, but I think it’s in everyone’s best interest if you guys went home to Denali.”
Tanya’s expression was disappointment, and she stood up. “Alice, you’re sure?”
Alice nodded, but it was me who answered the question. “She sees it going two ways. If you stay, we look like we’re standing against them. If it’s just us, then the only question is why Carlisle’s family is so big. Two families seem like an aggressive stand.”
Carlisle nodded in understanding. “Okay, I can see where appearances could be misconstrued as something they aren’t.” He offered his hand to Eleazar. “But I do thank you for coming to help us.”
The Denali family started to say their good-byes, and I pressed a kiss to the side of Bella’s head, whispering, “Sweetheart, you can lift your shield.”
She smiled sweetly, her mind meeting mine. Okay, ready? When I nodded, she pressed a kiss to my lips. Once they’re gone, Edward, we need a shower. She raised an eyebrow my way.
Grinning salaciously, I nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I’m aware.” However, my smile fell quickly as I realized we were back from the cave and things needed to be addressed. “And I need to call Charlie.”
That sobered the room, but she lifted her shield from Alice, Jasper, and me. I flinched but thanked her, standing up to shake Eleazar’s hand and say good-bye, along with Carmen, Irina, and Kate. Tanya, the boldest and most outgoing of the Denali clan, smirked as she walked to me. Her thoughts were curious as to how two humans could’ve been so well matched that they were immortal mates at the same time. She briefly wondered how often that had happened over time.
“Carlisle says it’s rare,” I answered her thoughts without thinking, grimacing. “Sorry. I’m getting used to it.” I tapped my temple and shrugged one shoulder.
She chuckled. “No apologies necessary. Perhaps I should keep my mind…cleaner when I’m around you.”
“Perhaps,” I said through a light laugh. “Although, I’m sure given time, it won’t be the worst I see.”
She smiled, and her thoughts hit me softly. Bella’s a lucky girl to find you not once but twice, Edward. That’s really…special. And that was my jealousy outside, by the way.
She shot me a wink, shook my hand, and went to hug my wife, where she told her the same thing in a whisper. Bella smiled, nodding and thanking her kindly.
Once the Denali family had left, Carlisle faced us all as Bella linked her fingers with mine. “Okay, so we need to prepare to move.” He nodded sadly. “Eleazar offered us space in Alaska. We’ll get ready as we wait for Alice to let us know when the Volturi are close.” He looked to me. “I’m sure Bella explained to you that we told Charlie you were very ill. So, keep that in mind when you call him. Now might be the time to plant the seed that you’re considering moving out of state. A transfer, if you will. Whatever you come up with, we’ll back you up.”
I nodded, glancing down at Bella for a moment. “Okay.”
~o~EID~o~
My sensitive skin still felt the water from the shower and Bella’s touches as I sat down on the edge of the bed after carefully pulling on a pair of jeans. I was finding it a bit easier to get used to everyday tasks if I slowed down. The ability to remember precise actions, feelings, and details were the key.
Steve gave a humming meow as he jumped from the chair to the bed. He sat down beside me, his sharp, yellow-green eyes trained on me as his orange-striped tail wrapped completely around him. I could hear his purr louder than when I’d been human. It rattled in his chest along with his rapid heartbeat and breathing.
“Hey, buddy,” I whispered, offering my hand to him. And I couldn’t help but smile when he immediately stood up to bump it with his head. His purr increased and his back arched when I gently ran my hand flat over him and down his back. Finally, he stepped onto my lap, placing his front paws on my chest so he could bump my chin. “I missed you, too,” I said softly through a laugh, glancing up when Bella’s own chuckle met my ears.
“He watched your change, Edward,” she explained, scratching the top of his head. “He draped himself across your chest and dared any of us to touch you. I think he thought he was losing you.” She wrinkled her nose.
He was still standing on my chest when I looked his way again. “Hey, Steve…I’m still me. Promise. Bella’s still Bella. Promise that, too.”
His cold nose and bristly whiskers pushed his purr over my skin and along my cheek as he rubbed on me over and over. It made me smile, but even though he was my beloved cat, my buddy, the little guy we’d raised from a kitten, I could smell his blood, hear it flowing through his veins. It rushed throughout his body, and my throat burned a bit, but I found it was manageable. My blurry memory of Jasper telling him he was barely a snack made me smirk, but he’d been right. Remembering the scent of the human, on the other hand, was sharp. As much as that had been tempting, I’m glad everyone had stopped me.
With one last muffled, “Hmmm,” against my cheek, Steve walked off my lap toward the head of the bed, curling up on Bella’s pillow. Apparently, I’d passed some sort of Steve inspection, and he’d decided to keep us.
I reached for my wife, pulling her between my legs and letting my forehead fall gently to her chest. Her hands raked through my damp hair, and her mind was silent to me for the moment, though it hadn’t been in the shower. I was really beginning to appreciate being able to hear her mind when we made love. Before, I could see and feel how my touch was pushing her closer and closer to the edge, but now I could hear her mind, feed off what drove her crazy, what felt so good. Her love and want were so amazing to see in her mind. It was easily my favorite thing so far of becoming like her.
The Denalis had left us, and most of the Cullens had gone hunting. Jake and Leah had run home in wolf form to meet with the rest of the pack over the impending arrival of the Volturi. The exact day and time wasn’t something Alice could see, but she did know that the snow was still on the ground.
We weren’t alone, though. Carlisle and Esme were just downstairs; I could hear their minds, their worry over the possible outcome of the meeting with Aro.
Carlisle didn’t want trouble. It was that simple. He’d apparently left Italy over a century ago with the desire to live the way he’d wanted without the taking of human life. The Volturi had never understood that, but they’d let him go without much fuss. His hope was that they’d allow him his family and way of life again.
Esme wanted to keep her family – and that included Bella and me – just the way it was. She worried for all of us, both new and old.
I inhaled deeply the scent of Bella, lifting my face from her torso to kiss her lips softly. “I can’t procrastinate calling Charlie any longer.”
Bella nodded, stepping away from me and sitting down in the chair in the corner of the room.
Careful of my strength, I picked up my phone from the nightstand. I hadn’t even bothered with it when I’d been sick and had given it no thought whatsoever since I’d woken up from my change. I lightly touched the screen, shaking my head at several missed calls, both from Roxy and Charlie. There were texts and social-media alerts, not to mention the little annoying icon for voice mail.
Glancing up at Bella, I sighed. “Damn, I’d completely forgotten about Roxy.”
My wife nodded, once again grimacing a little. “Yeah, it’s easy to…” She gazed out the window for a moment and then back to me. She tapped her temple. “It’s like being a hyperactive kid.”
Grinning, I nodded in understanding. “I’m willing to guess – just by watching everyone else – that it settles down in time.”
“Yeah, baby. It does. It’s better after hunting, too – which we need to do soon, I think. It’s better to go every day.”
I nodded at her subtle suggestion, but in this case, she was speaking from experience, and I trusted her completely.
Gazing back down at my phone, I slowly acclimated on how to touch the screen, navigate menus and apps, until I finally landed on Charlie’s worried and endless texts. They ranged from concern to anger, and the pleas to call him were plenty. He even mentioned his inability to reach Jake, and he wondered how we could all be that busy, or in my case, that sick.
Locking gazes with my Bella, I hit Send and put the phone to my ear. This conversation could go several ways. He could be angry or hurt, which sometimes culminated into one mood with Charlie. Or he could demand to set eyes on me, which was a terrible idea and couldn’t happen. As much as I knew it would put his mind at ease, I wasn’t willing to chance my thirst with him, not to mention my physical changes. The Volturi were too close, and even though I had a plan forming in my mind to leave Charlie with something, anything, I couldn’t let him put the pieces together until after our Italian visitors had come and gone.
“Edward?” I heard over the phone. “Son? How you feelin’?”
“Hey, Charlie. I’m sorry I was kinda out of it, but I’m better,” I answered him.
“You back at work?”
“No, sir. I’m still at Carlisle’s. I won’t be returning to the hospital.”
He went quiet for a moment. “Kiddo, how sick are you?” he finally asked softly.
Smiling at his concern, I looked to Bella, who seemed to be fighting the need to cry. Her eyes blinked rapidly, and she turned to face out the window. Steve seemed to understand, and he got up, stretched, and made his way over to her.
“I’m… I’m okay, Charlie. I just… I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to transfer out of state. There’s a small hospital in Fairbanks, Alaska, that needs doctors. Carlisle and I are both taking positions up there.”
“Alaska?!” he balked, and I knew him well enough that he was rubbing his face and his mustache. “You just… I thought… Aw, hell, kid, are you sure?”
Swallowing nervously, I winced at the burn of venom, but I let my gaze land on Bella, because what I was about to say was partly true and a touch of what-might-have-been.
“I think I need a new start, Charlie. I need a place where memories don’t surround me every damn day. They’re in my house, my car. They’re all over the place, and I need a fresh start somewhere new.”
He sighed deeply over the line. “Damn, Edward, I understand that. You’re still young, with a life to lead and a long career ahead of you. You may even move on from Bella one day.”
“I’ll never love anyone like I love Bella,” I stated firmly, meeting Bella’s loving, warm gaze. “Moving on will never happen. She will always be my other half, Charlie. Without her, it would stay…missing.”
“But Alaska? That’s so far away. I can’t exactly invite you over for football, now, can I?”
Chuckling, I shook my head. “No, sir.”
“Well, hells bells,” he said through a groan. “Can I see you before you go? When are you moving?”
“Actually, I’ll be leaving before the year is out. I’ll be sending for my things later. In fact, I’ll be up there by Christmas.”
“What about your house?”
“I’ll keep the house, just in case, but it’ll be closed up.”
Charlie went quiet again. “Make me a promise, son.”
“Sure thing.”
“Promise me if you need something, you’ll call me. I’m… Even if it’s just to talk sports. I just… I feel responsible for you, kiddo, and I know you’re grown and on your own, but…”
“You, too,” I answered him immediately, smirking at my wife for the teasing I was about to do. “In fact, I’ve heard a rumor that you’re seeing someone.”
“Damn that Jake,” he hissed, but he broke into a chuckle when I laughed at him. “Yeah, it just sort of happened. And it didn’t seem right to…not with all you’ve been through, Edward. And hell, I barely know what I’m doing, but Sue’s great.”
“Good for you,” I sang, still chuckling at his embarrassed blustering, but I decided to plant a small, insignificant seed. “Now you can be let in on all those Quileute legends Jake likes to smash in our ‘pale faces.’”
Charlie laughed heartily. “They are interesting, that’s for sure.”
“Oh, they are that. It makes me wonder how many are true,” I hedged, shooting my gasping wife a wink. “Bella loved Jake’s scary old stories.”
He laughed softly over the line again. “Speaking of… Have you heard from him?”
“Yeah, I saw him. He and Leah were here yesterday. They were in Seattle for the day,” I lied smoothly. “He should be home now.”
“Fair enough, son. Take care of yourself, and let me know when you’ve settled in up there.”
“I will. And…thank you, Charlie. For everything.” I said those last words earnestly, because they were the complete and utter truth.
“Yeah, well, you’re like my own kid, Edward, so… Yeah,” he mumbled and then said his good-bye.
I set the phone down on the bed beside me, glancing up when Bella came to me. She stood between my legs again, wrapping me in a fierce hug. At the same time, she wrapped me in her shield so her thoughts were all I could hear.
Thank you for that, she thought softly. You think he’ll figure it out.
“I don’t know, sweetheart,” I mumbled against the skin of her neck. “I hope he doesn’t right away. At least until the Volturi have left.”
She nodded, pulling back to look me in the eyes. Is it wrong that I hope he figures it out eventually?
Grinning, I kissed her lips. “No.”
You think Jake will tell him?
Chuckling, I nodded. “I think Jake has one or two ideas up his…paw.”
Bella cracked up, her head falling back. But we turned when there was a knock at the door, and we both said to come in.
Carlisle was standing there, wearing an amused smile at our laughter, but I could only hear Bella’s thoughts of curiosity.
“You did well with Charlie. That was the perfect cover,” he praised, nodding a little. “And I’m glad you called him. He was worried for you, Edward.”
Nodding, I wrapped an arm around Bella. “He’s been a rock for me, Carlisle. I’m not sure…”
He nodded, holding up a hand to stop me. “It’s all understandable.”
Bella leaned against me, asking, “So what now?”
Carlisle’s hands pushed into his pockets. “We get ready to move. No matter what Aro says, we’ll still make plans to live our lives.”
“Okay,” she said firmly, turning to me. “We need to hunt again, Edward.”
Smiling, I stood up from the bed. “Yes, ma’am. Lead on, beautiful.”

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