"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away"
It takes Jack far too long to remember who he is, to remember that there's more in the world than blood and killing Bella. In fact, he's a little shocked to see how much time has passed since his Change. Time, it appears, is relative to vampires as well because it feels like Jack was only burning up a few days ago, where in reality it's over three months before he comes back to himself.
He still craves blood every second (and millisecond) of the day, but the bloodlust and his homicidal urges have faded enough to allow him to think of things he'd quite frankly rather not think of. It pisses him off a little that he's been so weak and hasn't had the ability to fight off what's happening to him.
It's only now that he has a true appreciation for what's happening and the people around him. Jasper told him that, after a Change, their human memories don't usually survive, but Jack has all of his memories. All of them. He remembers the full life of Colonel Jack O'Neill, including being cloned by an alien race called the Asgard. A part of the Asgard cloning process is copying all the memories from the person being cloned and then inserting them in the clone, so they could just continue on with life without missing a beat.
Jack thinks this is why he can remember everything. He remembers every single second in frightening
detail. It's also why he thinks Edward can't read his mind (thank Christ!) and Alice can't see his future. He's built differently on a fundamental level that Changing didn't fix.
On one hand he's relieved – immensely relieved – because the secrets he inherited from the real O'Neill are safe from Edward and Alice's abilities. On the other hand, however, he feels no relief, only pain, because he knows exactly what he's missing in his life, that he has to live with these memories forever.
And because he knows exactly who and what he is.
O'Neill's whole life, especially the last ten years, has been about protecting people. Since joining the SGC, O'Neill made it his life mission to destroy the Goa'uld because he was against everything they were and what they stood for. They were monsters, a threat to the people of Earth, and now Jack is one himself... and he's not sure what he should do with that information. ~*~*~
Jack releases himself from his self-imposed isolation on the ninety-ninth day after his Change. He's gained more control over his thirst and his temper and, on a hunt with Carlisle, said that he wanted to have a 'briefing' with the entire family.
It takes four days for Carlisle to convince Edward that it is safe for him to let Bella and Jack to be in the same room together. On the day of the 'briefing' Bella finds herself spending more time in front of the mirror than usual. She wants to make a good impression.
It's awkward when they finally get downstairs. The whole family is there as well as Jack, but it's silent. There's not even any teasing from Emmett. Bella hates that things are so awkward now and she doesn't know how to make it better.
"Good morning," Bella greets everyone, but the greeting is really meant for Jack.
He glances up at her, his eyes, she notes, aren't as red as before. She expects him to hold her gaze for a little while longer and then go back to pretending she isn’t there, but to her surprise he acknowledges her with a nod. "Morning."
A shocked quiet replaces the awkward one as everyone watches the two of them carefully. Eventually, though, Carlisle breaks the silence. "Jack, you wanted to talk to us?" It's the first time she's seen Carlisle this awkward.
He nods. "Yeah. I figured my tantrum has gone on long enough."
"Tantrum?" Bella repeats, surprised at his, well, maturity. He's a fifteen year old who is now a vampire. While this fate is one that Bella chose, it's not one she would have chosen at Jack's age. In fact, Jack's age is a constant source of guilt for her. They're all relatively young, Edward, up until now, being the youngest at the physical age of seventeen, but at least he can pass for older with a little effort. Jack will never be able to pass for an adult. He'll never be able to live amongst humans without some sort of adult with him. The only girls that will be interested in him will be ones around the same age as he is or younger... Just the thought of what he has to live with now makes her sick.
"Yeah, tantrum," Jack repeats, pulling her from her thoughts. "You know, ignoring everyone, not leaving my room, playing music really loud, raging at the vampire world in general... You know, acting like the proverbial angsty teenage vampire."
Emmett snorts at his words which earns him a smack from Esme. "We understand how difficult this is for you, Jack."
Bella's not sure what reply she expected to Esme's sympathy, but she didn't expect Jack to actually laugh.
"Actually, I'm pretty sure you don't
," he says, his voice tinged with bitterness.
"What do you mean?" Jasper asks.
Jack ignores the question and continues. "I figured that I could either spend the next century sulking in my room, or I can get to know my new 'family'."
The words sound reasonable enough, but the inflection behind them makes her uneasy. "Jack..." Bella begins and looks to Alice. Her eyes glaze over for a moment and she frowns. Like everyone in the family, she wished Alice's power worked on Jack. "I'm sorry."
It's only two words, but she can't think of anything beyond that to express how sorry she is.
Jack looks pained at the words but nods. He doesn't say that he forgives her or that he accepts her apology. Her heart sinks. She didn't really expect his forgiveness. She's not sure she would be all that forgiving in his position either.
"Jack..." Carlisle breaks the once again awkward silence. "Do you have any questions you would like to ask us?"
It's only now that they're all together that Bella realises just how hard this has been on the family. Bella's slip and Jack's Change has put them all on edge. Jack's death has put them all at risk of exposure, just like any slip would, but what makes this worse for all of them is the fact that Jack hasn't been all that forthcoming with information about his past life, and the fact that there hasn't been a single mention in the paper about Jack's disappearance.
They're still maintaining their close watch on all forms of media for any mention of Jack. Alice and Edward are trying to use their gifts as well as they can to see or hear anything, but they've still had no success. There has been no parents on the television crying, begging their son to come home. No missing person posters being put up on all the telegraph poles in the town closest to where Jack disappeared. As far as any of them can determine, there hasn't even been a report made to the police.
Carlisle has tried to talk to Jack about it more than a few times, as has Jasper, but Jack hasn't answered any of their questions. Apparently he doesn't even seem to be all that surprised that no one has misses him. Bella hopes they get some answers, but not as much as she hopes she gets forgiveness.
"Well, you've given me the basics about the family, who was created first and all that. I also know some of you have powers and, with the exception of Jasper and Bella's, they don't work on me," he tells them. "I guess what I would like to know is more about vampires in general."
Bella lets out a relieved sigh. She thought for sure Jack would ask –
"But I think that can wait. What I really want to know is how this happened to me."
– about what happened to him.
Everyone freezes, including Bella.
"It was an accident," Edward says.
Jack looks at Edward. "I didn't think it was intentional. Carlisle already told me Bella was just coming out of her newborn year when it happened." He leans back in his chair and studies both her and Edward. "You know, it's kind of interesting that everyone has been so open with how they were all Changed. I've heard pretty much everyone's story... except Bella's. No one will tell me how she was Changed, or why."
Edward grips her hand and Bella knows exactly what he's thinking. They've all avoided this topic before now because, quite simply, they didn't know how Jack would react to the knowledge that she chose this life.
It's time, Bella decides, to face her consequences so, without any fanfare, she tells him her story.~*~*~She's kidding, right?~*~*~
Jack stares at her his face unreadable. It's out in the open now and she feels more than a little relief that she doesn't have to hide this anymore.
"So let me get this straight," Jack begins. "You chose this life."
"Because of Edward. You fell in love with him and you couldn't live without him, so you decided to become a vampire."
There's no animosity in his words. He's genuinely trying to understand.
"Bella..." Edward begins, ready to interrupt.
But Edward interrupting is the last thing she wants so she holds up his hands to silence him. "Edward, no."
"But the Volturi..."
"Volturi?" Jack repeats.
"They are the most powerful vampire coven in existence. I guess you could call them the leaders of our kind," Carlisle explains. "If a vampire steps out of line or if they break our one rule, they are the vampires who deal with them."
"So there are a lot more of us out there?" he asks, frowning. "Enough of us that we actually have rules to live by?"
"Only one. We are not to allow humans to know of our existence. If a human becomes aware of our kind they are to be killed or Changed. The vampire who broke the rule can also be sentenced to death. When they became aware that Bella knew of our existence, they ordered she be Changed."
"Well that explains why I didn't know vampires existed before my Change."
Bella sighs in frustration, they're getting off track. "But that's not why I did this. Yes the Volturi would have killed me if I didn't become a vampire, but the ultimatum they gave me only helped me plead my case to Edward and to the family, it didn't help me decide it."
"So this is what you wanted," Jack asks once again for clarification. "You wanted this, even though you knew something like this could happen?"
The room comes alive at Jack's question. Jasper and Rose both grab onto Jack's arms and Emmett is now standing behind him with his hands on his shoulders, holding him down.
Bella swallows nervously because none of them have missed the way Jack is gripping the table. "There was nothing I wanted in this world more than Edward." But it's not exactly the same now. Everything is different. Her love for Edward had been so pure, so right, but now it and everything else feels tainted. Now she's not so certain of anything. "So yes, I knowing chose this life knowing the consequences."
Jack face is still a blank mask. "Wow. I mean, seriously, wow
She hates this, so much. "I'm sorry."
"Are you? Really?" he asks. "I mean, I get it. You loved Edward and the only way for you to be with him was to become like him. You thought your love for him was worth dying for?"
"And you also thought it was worth killing for?"
"It's not like that," Edward growls. He pushes the chair back, as though he's about to launch himself across the table at Jack, but Carlisle and Esme move to his side, holding him down.
"I think perhaps we should continue this conversation another time," Carlisle says.
All eyes go to Bella. "We need to discuss this now. We need... I
need to own this. Jack is right. I made this choice and I knew there was a chance that this would happen, but I believed being with Edward was the most important thing. I didn't want this to happen. Jack, I want you know understand that. I didn't want this to happen, but it did and no amount of apologies will ever change that. I will regret what happened to you for the rest of my existence.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider the possibility that I would kill someone. I did. I just... Well, I truly believed it wouldn't happen to me. I thought I would be like Carlisle and Rose. Obviously I'm not." She looks to Rose and Edward. "You both warned me what this life was like and I chose to go ahead anyway, consequences be damned."
She's not sure what Jack's reaction is going to be, but she doesn't expect him to put his face in his hands, though the growl of frustration is expected. "I need to hunt."
They're all confused by Jack's words, including Bella.
"Jasper, Rosalie, can you take me hunting? I need to kill something." ~*~*~It's like some sick joke someone is playing on him, but so far no one's told him the punch line (personally, he thinks he's the punch line). Jasper and Rose don't hunt with him. Instead they just watch him silently, as though they're waiting for him to explode.
"She wasn't lying, was she?" Jack asks after killing three elk and uprooting four trees. "I'm really here because she wanted to be with her boyfriend?"
"It's a bit more complicated than that," Jasper says.
"Complicated," Jack repeats, not believing him for a second. "What the hell was Edward doing dating her anyway? Wasn't he born in the early 1900's? She was a kid for crying out loud!"
"Edward has been alone for a long time..."
"Bullshit," he snaps. "He was a hundred and change and she was what, seventeen when they met? He's been around long enough to know what teenage kids are like! You don't let an eighteen year old make a decision to become a monster!" As soon as he says the words he wishes he could take them back because he sure as hell doesn't sound like a fifteen year old kid. Fortunately, neither Rose or Jasper notice. Well, not that he can tell.
"Some of us tried to talk her out of it," Rose tells him.
"Regardless of whether or not we could talk her out of it, the fact of the matter is that she really didn't have a choice. The Volturi would have killed her had they found she was still human and there is nothing we could have done about it," Jasper tells him. "The Volturi and their Guard consist of vampires with powers not unlike mine. Some have abilities that far surpass anyone in our family possess. There is a vampire, Demetri, who can track any person anywhere in the world. There is another who can cause pain with her mind and her brother can paralyse our senses to stop us from feeling or even moving. Some of those powers don't work on Bella because of her mental shield, but there are other ways the Volturi could have gotten to her."
Suddenly Jack's anger disappears and is replaced something akin to fear. "Tell me more about this Volturi."~*~*~
Alice starts seeing flashes of a vision about a month after Jack's family meeting. They're fleeting, nothing she can fix on, and everything she does see passes by in a blur. Bella watches silently as Alice growls and paces the room in frustration. It's just the two of them, Jack is out hunting with Jasper, Emmett, Rose and Edward while Carlisle and Esme are out for a night alone.
"It's all a blur," she rants. "I can't see his decision or the result."
"You think he's made a decision about something?" Something that affects them?
Alice shrugs. "It could be someone deciding to look for Jack, but I can't be sure."~*~*~It takes him a little over a month to accumulate the information he wishes he didn't have. He gets why humans don't know vampires exist and, truthfully, everything he's learned scares the shit out of him.
He's learned that vampires have been around for thousandsof years. He's learned that Alice, Edward and Jasper aren't the only vampires to have super duper special powers, and that there are vampires with more impressive powers than them – most of them, interestingly enough, were in the Volturi Guard. He's learned that vampires can make armies, and that they're nearly unstoppable. He's learned that his 'family' likes to pretend they’re human and actually decide to test their control – and fate – in schools full of kids.
Most importantly, he's learned that the Cullens are the exception to the rule and that most of them feed off humans. ~*~*~
The visions start coming more frequently now, daily. They're still a blur, no one knows what they mean, but Bella fears them none-the-less.
She's not sure she wants to know what they mean. ~*~*~Jack has a theory on vampires. He doesn't believe they're supernatural creatures at all, not like Carlisle and the rest of the family do. Jack's had a lot of time to think about vampires, and what they really are, and he's come to the conclusion that they're not demons or the undead or any crap like that. Nope, Jack thinks they're the result of an alien race who fed off blood when they came to Earth thousands of years ago. He doesn't know what they were like when they first got here, but Jack and the Cullens are the end result.
He could be wrong. More than likely he probably is, but Jack finds this easier to deal with if he has some sort of alien disease in him and is not the living dead. He's not sure how the Volturi fit into his theory but then, to be honest, he's not sure what to think about the Volturi full stop.
He's in over his head and he needs help.