My mother couldn't give a verdict on Harry and Sue Clearwater's resurrection immediately. "We don't know what the families of the three men are going to do," she said gently, as though it were me she was threatening to disappoint and not Cody. "I'm not sure whether resurrecting Sue without Harry would be a terribly cruel thing to do or not, given that she'd show up in a human body without a mate bond like Didyme, but it's not an experiment I'm prepared to authorize," she continued. "However, if - if - one of the men is available, I don't have my heart set on any other females who meet the criteria the way Sue does..." Addy raised her hand, rather than interrupting, and my mother glanced in her direction. "Addy?" she inquired.
"May I suggest," said Addy, "that you wait on deciding what to do with donated bodies until Didyme is turned and you learn whether or not she's going to... regain... her witchcraft?"
My mother was silent for a moment, and then asked quietly, "Do you have anyone in mind?"
"Well, Aro wasn't in the habit of letting powerful witches who crossed his path die..." said Addy languidly, "but..."
"Aro himself," my dad muttered, his face close to my mom's ear. "Didyme and Aro both gained powers only after they turned. If she has the same one after she's had her eggs out and changed again, then her brother..." I hadn't been aware that Didyme was having eggs extracted. I supposed Marcus wouldn't like her to take the risk of bearing a half-vampire herself and wanted her turned as soon as possible anyway. They might or might not want children, and could use the extra time to decide.
"We just went to a great deal of trouble to kill Aro," my mother pointed out testily.
"To kill Aro at age twenty-three centuries and change," Addy corrected. "If he can be brought back, he can only be brought back at age human-years-plus-one-point-four-seconds, because that's the amount of time he had alive before he first touched someone and got a dose of life history, putting way too much in his head to stay put in a human."
"Still too dangerous," my father murmured. My mother was quiet, waiting for Addy to complete her argument.
"Siobhan said that vampire personalities are fixed..." I recalled. "He wouldn't remember everything else, at least not until he touched someone who'd been blasted, but he'd still be the same person."
"Of course," said Addy, shrugging with an innocent smile. "So you would be bringing back a sociopath with an annoying propensity for calling people by endearments, because that is Aro's personality. But Elspeth, Edward, look at his early development. You know it as well as I do."
Caius had turned Aro, while Athenodora looked on, on what amounted to a whim. They were looking for witches, and, having found no human ones, had taken to turning people nearly at random to see if they developed powers. Some they'd been disappointed by and sent to live on their own, some they'd been disappointed by and killed. They'd found Marcus first and "kept" him when he turned up talented, and then Aro.
Aro as a human, in the misty memories he'd retained from his own perspective and the sharply recorded ones of his covenmates' observations, had been acquisitive and sociopathic and self-interested and had used his uncommon (if nonmagical) insight about people to become too familiar with them and manipulate them as called for.
He had not been particularly interested in politics.
He'd adopted Caius's project of taking over the world for himself, pursuing it with a certain singlemindedness that, in conjunction with the nature of his power, had ultimately led to his taking the central role in the coven. Caius hadn't intended to create his own leader, but didn't have Aro's drive, and let it happen over the first half-century of Aro's vampire life without much fuss.
One point four seconds after he'd turned, before he'd first grabbed and eaten the humans that Caius and Athenodora and Marcus had left for him, Aro had not been unusually inclined to take over the world.
My father was whispering a breakdown of this information into my mother's ear. She was frowning. "Be all that as it may," she said when he'd finished, "I can't think of any clever way to ensure that he never touches someone who was in the blast and catches up, as it were. Especially you, Addy."
"It was just a thought," said Addy, and she turned around, poked Razi in the shoulder, and waited for Nathan to send her on her next errand abroad. Nathan pointed her to a set of coordinates somewhere in the Philippines and she was off.
My mother leaned to the left, crooked her wrist around my neck, and drew me in close. "When I'm not shielding you, can you remember anything Aro read from Allirea?" she asked in an undertone.
I blinked. "No, I never think to, even when it would be relevant. Um, where is she, anyway? Wasn't she guarding you?"
"She agreed to stick around long enough that you could tell everyone honestly that there was an inexplicable reason no one ought to attack me, and now she's visiting her family. She'll join up with us in a couple of weeks. In your opinion," she said, "if you blasted Allirea, and then Aro read her while she was faded before reading anyone else in his reincarnation, how would that affect his ability to remember the other contents of the read?"
I blinked rapidly, thinking. "He automatically filtered out redundancies, so he wouldn't copy those same things again if he touched someone else who had them. And if he got them from Allirea, then he might ignore them the way he'd ignore her own memories no matter where they came from. But Allirea unfades sometimes - like, I'm sure she's not just lurking about her kids' houses and watching them, right? She'd unfade to say hi. I often don't think about her even when she's unfaded when she's not around because I don't usually have a reason to. But for a reincarnated Aro, to suddenly be able to access all of those memories would be noticeable, I think." Standing a ways back, Jake and Iris were looking politely confused about what I was talking about.
"Occasionally, she does, yes," my mother acknowledged. "And short of me accompanying her to shield her relatives every time she wants to visit them, there's no obvious way around that." She pulled her lower lip between her teeth, thoughtful. "I may think of something else before we need to make a decision. I'm not sold on the idea to the point where if we wind up with only one male patient to spare I'd refuse to bring back the Clearwaters, at any rate. Especially since we'd be so likely to have to kill Aro again even if everything worked as well as could possibly be hoped. And that would not be the happiest ending I could think of to the story of the blast victims."
"So if one of the guys' families says we can reincarnate someone with their relative, I can try to bring back Cody's parents?" I asked.
My mother thought, still worrying her lip between her teeth, and then nodded once.
On impulse, I spun towards her and gave her a hug.
I wouldn't have noticed the hesitation if I hadn't thought to look for it, but after a stunned pause, her arms closed around me and she squeezed me back. It didn't occur to me to be uneasy about it until we'd been standing like that for more than a couple of seconds, at which point I decided that being uneasy about it would be silly.
"Elspeth," she said suddenly, sounding enthralled, like she'd just opened her eyes to see some stunning scenery. "Say something."
"...Something?" I said.
"State something," she revised, a touch of strain in her voice for some reason.
"I will be six in October," I tried, not sure what she was getting at.
She hugged me tighter. "I did it," she murmured in my ear.
"What did you do?" I asked.
"I let you in."
"Through your shield?" I asked, and she released me from the hug to put her hands on my shoulders, look me in the eye, and nod. She was grinning.
"Just for a couple of seconds," she said, "and now I've lost it - it takes concentration, even more than shielding another person, but I did it..." She let me go, and leaned back to tuck her head under my father's chin. She scrunched her eyes shut in focus, obviously clenching her teeth, and after a moment, my father's face lit up in indescribable wonder. Almost too fast for me to follow, he seized her, dipped her low to the floor, and gave her a kiss that prompted some very discomfiting memories to stir up in my head. I looked at the ceiling, until my mother breathlessly laughed, "I can't concentrate enough to relax the shield if you're going to do that, Edward..."
"I love you," he enthused, purring at her, and she straightened up and entwined her fingers behind his neck, replying in kind.
"Addy is going to go out of her mind when she finds out," I predicted.
"Addy," my mom said smugly, "is going to have to work very, very hard to make me trust her enough that it becomes even theoretically possible for me to let her through my inner shield to have that oh-so-disturbing "taste" she wants."
I laughed, and my mom pulled me in for another hug and my dad's arm went around my shoulders too, and for a few moments I was purely content.
Benito's six-year-old son was surprisingly easy to explain things to. He came in with his grandfather (Benito's dad) and aunt (Benito's sister). Benito's ex-wife was remarried to a fellow from France and had not brought her child with her when she moved abroad.
The little boy's name was Nino, and he overwhelmed his shocked grandpa and skeptical aunt with unreasonable enthusiasm about vampires and werewolves and the fact that I was "a real live magical princess for real". He didn't seem to understand that his father had been supplanted. I told him, but the concept was over his head and my power didn't fill the gap. Instead, Nino seemed to react to John like he was an act his father was putting on, who used a translator out of a desire to stay in character. Nino cheerfully demanded stories about John's "adventures" from "forever ago" when he was a vampire.
John was not immune to the charms of small children, or he wouldn't have kept a close enough eye on his daughter Anne to know that she was sick, let alone turned her. He related moderately-fictionalized versions of his life a millenium previous, which wound up taking up most of the meeting with the family.
Addy discreetly extracted practical information from the relatives. The grandfather was retired, but able enough for sixty-seven, and could look after Nino indefinitely given financial support. (If Nino's mother didn't take the opportunity to change her mind about wanting to bring the child to France, which possibility the sister openly derided as less likely than the existence of vampires.) John himself was still inclined to be turned into a vampire "again", in spite of the new laws surrounding the consumption of humans as food products. Even if he adjusted immediately to the challenge of being around human-type people he wasn't allowed to eat, he didn't yet have the comprehension of the modern world to get along with and attempt to bring up "his" son in it.
"But you can still write me," Nino said when it was explained that John was probably going to travel the world with the "magical princess" and my "friends" in order to "learn to be a vampire again".
"Yes, I can do that," John said. "In Italian, even, once I'm turned and can easily learn the language, er, again."
"Yes," said Nino with a conspiratorial wink, "you have to learn it again so the magic princess can do magic princess stuff instead of saying what you say!"
I wondered how old Nino would be before it hit him that this wasn't a grand game his dad was playing, but for the time being I was just grateful that he wasn't devastated. The grandfather had been looking after Nino while his father was in the hospital anyway. It would require a little legal maneuvering that we could delegate to Santiago for Benito's disappearance to be officially explained and custody officially transferred, was all.
The subsequent day, the family of the brothers called in with their decision. The married brother's wife remained adamant that she wanted him turned into somebody, and wanted her pick of somebodies - somehow I didn't think Harry Clearwater would suit her, let alone Aro - and the other brother was up to us, as he couldn't be restored in his original form. He might be the new Harry. Addy made an appointment for the wife to come in before the last family's appointment to pick her somebody off the limited menu.
She wound up deciding, on Addy's advice, to help herself to a Sicilian vampire who'd been executed in 1986 as part of a newborn army (built foolishly close to Volterra, although there was no good place to hide such a project) that the Volturi had put down. Aro had checked everyone there for interesting witchcraft as a matter of routine, using his own power for the process since having been deprived of Eleazar but before the acquisition of Addy. The Sicilian in question had never been enthusiastic about being a vampire, never had a mate, was not a witch, and was innocuous enough of disposition that Addy suspected he'd suit his new vessel's wife adequately. He spoke Italian natively and would only be arriving twenty-five years out of his time, a far easier jump than John's or Didyme's.
Santiago had gone into town previously to stock up on various forms of makeup, on the contingency that we'd need it for exactly this purpose. It took a lot of the stuff, caked on in thick layers, to make the woman's husband resemble his intended self, but eventually we managed a passable job (allowing for the changes that turning had wrought) and fetched a mirror. Addy and I blasted him with a second dose of the Sicilian fellow together, each at touch range in case that did anything to juice up the magic, and she held the reflective surface in front of his face.
"AAAAAAAH!" was his first reaction. This was reasonable enough, since the last thing he remembered was Aro laying his hand across his forehead and then clucking to himself and saying "no", by which he'd meant "kill him". But as we pulled our hands away from his face, he blinked, sat up dizzily, and looked around. He felt at his throat, ran his tongue over his teeth, looked at his arm. "I'm... what..." He stared at Addy, then at me, then at the woman who was, legally, his wife.
He answered to his name, took some calming down from what he recalled as a near-death experience, was rather thrown by but pleased with his change of species, and was bemusedly accepting of the fact that he was now invited to live the life of the human he inhabited. We gave the couple the necessary contact information to get in touch with the Golden Coven if that were necessary, summarized the relevant rules about discretion, and sent them home. As they walked out via the office building, I heard the wife chattering about the pros and cons of the man going by the human's original name or the Sicilian vampire's.
The last family consisted entirely of one grown son, who listened gravely to my explanation of what had happened to his father, and told me politely but firmly that he didn't think any further magical fooling around was likely to be helpful and he'd prefer to just take his father home and take care of him there. He seemed to be operating under the theory that the condition might lift on its own at least to the extent that his father would be able to walk around and do simple tasks, which I thought was unlikely, but couldn't definitively rule out. Addy wrote him a large check out of the Empire checkbook (connected to the old Volturi accounts, appropriated in the coup) as reparations and to help cover the cost of looking after the man, gave him our contact info in case he changed his mind, and sent him on his way. The patient could technically walk, but it wasn't wise to oblige him to do so for long distances, so Addy took the wheelchair that one of Heidi's parcels had left in her handicapped-accessible bus and donated it to the cause.
"That's that, then," she said, after we'd seen them off.
"Except for Harry and Sue," I said, not sure whether I was referring to the stored memories or the bodies that we'd try to fill with them.
"Right," agreed Addy. "Do their kids want to be there or should we just do it now?"
"I should ask," I said.
"All right, you can find me up in the throne room between various instances of teleporting all over creation if you need me again," she said, smiling, and she left.
I went with Jake and Beatrice to the village, and found Leah, Seth, and Cody all together - packing. We were scheduled to head for Washington the next morning, early, so I decided I'd need to pack too after finishing work for the day. "There's one man and the one woman free," I said. "And the resurrection worked on another guy."
"And...?" said Cody and Seth, simultaneously, but Cody was hopeful and Seth didn't follow the significance of what I was saying.
"And my mom said that yes, we could bring back your parents."
Cody beamed and hugged me, but Leah and Seth didn't look thrilled. "Awkward," said Leah after a silence.
"Chelsea's hands are still alive enough that Addy can copy the power, if you want that... fixed," I said.
Leah looked like she was considering it, but Seth shook his head and she imitated him after a pause. "It'd still be awkward," she said. "They've been dead for nearly six years by this point. There is no non-awkward way to handle the situation."
"Do you want to be there when I...?" I made a vague gesture, addressing the question to all three Clearwaters.
"I do," said Cody. "...They won't recognize me, will they?"
"Not right away," I said. "I mean, I'm sure they'll see the resemblance when you tell them who they are."
"Will there be anything to see?" asked Seth curiously.
"Me putting enough makeup on them that they look adequately like your parents," I said, "and holding up a mirror with one hand and sending with the other. I might or might not need Addy to send with me. We did it together with the other guy."
"That sounds so unceremonious," observed Seth. "I was thinking, candles everywhere, choosing a date for the ritual based on the moon or something, ominous Latin chanting..."
"I can chant in Latin while I put the makeup on, if you want," I said, feeling that it would probably be a good idea to have all three Clearwater offspring in the room. Seth and Leah looked the same as they had when their parents died, and would be recognized immediately; it seemed likely to comfort Harry and Sue even in the face of subsequent awkwardness.
"Can you?" asked Seth interestedly. I nodded, and he shrugged. "Okay, I'll be there."
"Leah?" I asked.
"Sure, why not, I guess if I don't come along they'll wake up and figure I must be dead," she said, shrugging, "and then of course shout at me for making them worry."
"I'm pretty sure we're old enough that we don't need to stay put for parental shouting anymore," Seth remarked as I led four wolves and a half-vampire up to the compound.
"Yeah, I guess," said Leah. "I hope they move around with the Golden Coven instead of settling in La Push with us, La Push is supposed to be wolves and humans, it was always supposed to be wolves and humans, the wolves are for the express purpose of keeping vampires away..."
"They might not even want to be vampires again," Seth pointed out. "That was only to save both their lives, first time around."
I took up the makeup kit, complete with bits of putty to smooth and sculpt over their faces, and began work on she-who-would-be-Sue first. I muttered in Latin, attempting to keep a chantlike rhythm, even though I was only talking about the process as I inexpertly added to and painted the face. I had memories from people who'd done various forms of art and makeup, but it didn't translate automatically to body memory or procedural expertise, just vague competence. Seth observed that I didn't sound very ominous, so I deepened my voice as far as it would go, which wasn't far; this caused all three of them to crack up, although Cody laughed distractedly.
I finished a passable Sue face, slowed down by the patient's insistence on delirious murmuring, and decided to make up Harry before resurrecting either so I could do the pair of them in rapid sequence. (I'd have tried simultaneity, but I wasn't sure if I could do even one resurrection completely alone.) He was faster - there was more resemblance to start with - and eventually they both looked like they might be able to see their intended selves in the mirror.
"What do you think?" I asked the assembled children.
"I think it should be close enough," said Cody, twisting his hands together. The wolves offered no opinions. I wondered if Seth and Leah could even remember their parents' faces, with flawed recall and no reason to cling tightly to the images.
"Do you care who I wake first?" I asked.
Cody frowned in thought, looking between them. "Start with Dad?" he said uncertainly.
I nodded and laid my hand against "Harry's" heavily decorated face. "He might scream at first," I warned. "The other guy did."
Cody dipped his head in acknowledgement, his eyes fixed on the man I was about to turn into his father. There were three months and change of vampire memories and the usual fragments of human residue to send, and at the moment when the transfer was finished, I held the mirror in place.
Harry sat bolt upright, and would have smashed his face into the mirror if I hadn't pulled it out of the way. "Sue," he gasped, and then he looked at Seth and Leah, boggled at them, failed to choke their names out, and then flopped back onto the bed. "Oh, god. Are you dead? Am I dead? I'm dead," he mumbled. He turned his head to look at his children, although his eyes passed over Cody with no recognition and he didn't acknowledge my presence, or my guards, or the patient in the other bed, at all. "I tried," he said to Leah and Seth, who looked uncomfortable and didn't respond. "We tried - they were too strong -"
"Dad," choked Cody.
Harry sat up again, slowly, looking at Cody with puzzled scrutiny. "Cody?" he breathed.
Cody nodded, evidently unable to speak further.
"I completely lost track of time but - but how - you were a baby -" Harry exclaimed. Harry and Sue had both been read after they'd been disassembled, which did have an extremely disorienting effect, although not so bad that Harry could have failed to notice a whole year passing, let alone five and a half.
"You were dead," I said in a low voice.
Harry's head swiveled around to point in my direction. "Who are you - Jake, is that you? ...and Bea? Bea Hobson?" he said, glancing at the wolves standing behind me and using a nickname that Beatrice hadn't gone by since she was sixteen.
"I'm Elspeth Cullen," I said, and the wolves behind me nodded, acknowledging their names.
"What year is this?" asked Harry.
"2011," I said.
"You've been brought back from the dead via a memory backup Aro took, in the body of an Italian dude," said Seth helpfully.
"Elspeth's going to bring back Mom too, in an Italian lady," added Leah, pointing.
"An Italian dude," repeated Harry blankly, picking unconsciously at the putty I'd used to create the illusion of a stronger jaw than his host had.
I moved over to where the last blast victim was lying, and quietly repeated the process for Sue, who woke up much less violently. She stared into the mirror, frowned, looked at me, and said, "Where am I?"
"Volterra, Italy," I replied.
She processed this information, then shot her hand forward and attempted to sock me in the face; Jake intervened and caught her wrist, protecting her hand more than my nose. "What is wrong with you?" he snapped at her.
"Jacob?" she said, puzzled, and tried to pull her hand out of his grip. He let her go, after a moment, and she pushed herself into a sitting position.
"I did just tell her she's in Volterra, and the last thing she remembers is being taken prisoner by the Volturi," I pointed out. "She doesn't know who I am and probably didn't notice right away she's not a vampire any more. If I'd been, say, Noemi, and worked for the bad guys, it would have been reasonable..."
"I'm not a vam- what?" Sue said. She looked at her hands and flexed them, then took a deep breath, whether to smell the air or confirm that she really did need air I wasn't sure. "How is this possible?"
"I'm told we're Italian now," said Harry, sounding vaguely manic.
"Italian? Who are you?" she asked, frowning at Harry, who had done enough damage to his fictional features to be unrecognizeable as Harry Clearwater.
"I'm Harry," he said, looking at a fragment of putty in his palm. "I think. They tell me you're Sue."
"Of course I'm Sue -" She turned her head enough to take in the faces of her three children, on the opposite side of her bed from me and my bodyguards. "Leah? Seth? And..."
"Cody," whispered Cody, his eyes shining with tears that hadn't yet escaped to trail down his face. "I'm Cody, Mom."
Sue stared at him. "Someone had better explain all this to me from the beginning," she said.
I smiled very faintly, and began the story as requested.< Previous Next >