Chapter 9: Father
"Daddy," I said again, sure that he would react if he would only understand the word, if he would make the connection that he was my daddy and therefore I was his daughter and he should not look at me like that, like he didn't care, like I could be anybody -
He shrugged, and rolled his eyes, and looked at Adelaide. "I don't suppose you'll kill me now," he said to her, tonelessly.
"Perhaps," she said, like she was dangling a tantalizing treat in front of him. Then she fixed her attention on me. She had presence - more than she'd had before. She announced herself, her personality was leaking through the edges of her harmless housewife appearance with the ironic t-shirt. It might be my power, but it was my power with the weight of a much older person with more varied experiences behind it. There was more to her. Greed and sharp curiosity emanated from her, and a lazy annoyance directed at the departed witches, but most of all there was just depth, the sense that here stood a person who had many years of history and accumulated knowledge. Will I shine like that when I'm a hundred? A thousand? I wondered dizzily.
Adelaide smiled at me, not exactly threateningly, but there were edges to it: her indulgence would cover me for the time being and when it ended so would I. "Aren't you interesting," she purred.
Dimly, I recognized that if I was interesting, something had gone very badly wrong. I was not supposed to be interesting. Had that had something to do with the nonsense I'd been whispering to myself...? That didn't make sense. People who said nonsensical things were at least slightly interesting. "No ma'am," I said, cowed. There wasn't a point in trying to get away. Even with my harmless power, Adelaide was a vampire and could catch me in an instant.
"I think you are," Adelaide murmured, boring into me with intent eyes. "I was going to have a look at you after the witches were fed... I suppose you knew your father was here?"
This was the part where I was supposed to be picked up and carried away by... someone... and that wasn't happening, and why would Daddy want Adelaide to kill him? Why wouldn't he want to run out of the city at top speed and find Mama -?
Daddy's eyes flicked back to me with the first sign of interest they'd shown.
Adelaide noticed. "What is it, Edward?" she inquired. "I know Chelsea and I were very thorough. She doesn't matter to you."
There was one thing Chelsea couldn't break, though -
MAMA IS ALIVE, I screamed in my head as hard as I could. I could see Daddy's eyes widen, and Adelaide said, "Come here, Edward, don't annoy me or I'll decide not to kill you," and she held out her hand -
Daddy took three steps toward her, then whirled with blinding speed and caught me up with one arm around my waist and knocked the wind out of me and followed the other escaped witches out of the dungeon and he was so fast, faster than Mama, just like she said -
And he didn't care about me a bit.
He only wanted me to lead him to her.
But this was part of the plan, I supposed, that I be picked up and carried somewhere, and I was, so I let it happen.
Somehow, we didn't run into anyone on our way out of the compound. Probably Daddy listening for and avoiding thoughts, and with the other witches escaped too everyone would be in a panic and spread thin trying to contain them. Daddy nodded once when I thought of this.
We were not as lucky outside the compound - there were humans everywhere and it was full daylight. I guessed that he didn't care about secrecy anymore. The worst thing that could happen if humans saw a vampire streaking through Volterra would be that the Volturi would try to capture him again, to put back in the dungeon or just kill, and he didn't plan to let that happen with Mama alive. (He nodded again.)
With Mama probably alive.
"What?" he snapped. I winced. I had only a handful of memories of his voice, and it had sounded different then. But then, he'd loved me then.
Mama might have gotten away, in New York, but I didn't see... but surely someone would have thought of her within Daddy's range if she'd been seen, let alone caught...?
He pursed his lips, but seemed to accept that as evidence for her survival.
"She loves me," I tried. "I'm her daughter."
He glanced down a little, probably to look at my eyes that Mama says are like the ones she had before turning, but then paid attention to where he was going again with a small shake of his head. "You aren't her."
"Where are we going?" I asked after a moment. We were almost out of the city, and the shouts of confused humans were thinning. I wondered what they'd think of us.
"I'm trying to catch up with Alice," he said.
"Aunt Alice is alive too?" I exclaimed.
"Yes. She was in the room with me and I could read her, so Chelsea gave up on trying to cut off my affection for her, but I didn't have any way to communicate back. I was working on convincing Addy to relay messages to her for me when you sprung us. Alice might or might not help. She's still the best chance of finding Bella if you don't know where she is, although Alice will want to find Jasper first."
"He's in Nashville, with Peter and Charlotte," I said.
"I know." He blinked. "How do you know?"
We were out of the city and into the countryside. I put my hand on his cheek and showed him the time Mama told me about meeting Uncle Jasper. A look of intense sorrow and focus took over his features, like what he saw hurt him but pulling away from it would hurt more. "How do you know?" I asked.
"Alice saw him, of course." He frowned. "She ought to have seen Bella when that happened - and then I'd have known - but by then she was occasionally looking elsewhere, trying to practice the vision sharing she's learned to do on other subjects -"
"Vision sharing?" I asked, blinking.
"There isn't a lot to do in the dungeon," Daddy said dryly. "More so for Alice than me; I could have two-way conversations with Addy, if no one else, and I can listen to many voices where Alice sees only one thing at a time. She learned a new trick. But Jasper didn't hold up very well, and the visions weren't helping." He sounded... unimpressed by me. Like he thought that even with Chelsea's interference he could have properly cared for some other, better daughter if she'd shown up, who knew more and could have guessed about Alice without help. I searched his face, hoping he'd contradict the thought.
He rolled his eyes at me again and I shrank in towards myself. I didn't like this, I didn't like that Chelsea could just reach in and steal my father's love. Things weren't supposed to work that way. "Mama's not going to be happy with you for acting like this," I coaxed.
"Look," said Daddy impatiently, "it does matter to me that you're Bella's daughter and that she loves you, and I'm going to look after you for her until we find her again because that's what she would want, and Bella is stronger than I am and in the same position of course she would have continued to love you, but I am not immune to Chelsea. At the time what she did was even a mercy. One less person to agonize over. Alice can't see you anyway."
"Why did the Volturi try to kill Mama, instead of putting her in the dungeon too?" I asked.
"Addy couldn't copy her when she tried," Daddy said shortly. "They had no way to control her, and they didn't need my cooperation, not with the setup you saw." He shook his head a little, and his face shone with admiration. "But she was too strong, too committed to life. I should have known."
"It's just her shield," I said. "It's a power, like mine or yours, it just let her stay alive."
"Powers reflect the people who have them," he said implacably. "You, for instance, demand attention even while I am trying to catch Alice and slowed down by your weight."
"I'm going to show Mama everything," I snapped. "Every last thing. I can't make you love me but you don't have to be horrible to me! You're still my daddy!"
We were well into the countryside. "Alice!" hollered Daddy, and he scowled at me, probably because I'd make him invisible to her. I felt a hot tear creeping down my cheek. Why did I even do that stupid jailbreak? Why bother? When I'd... somehow... gotten past Saeed, why hadn't I just left the compound by myself and gone for help that hadn't had this done to them? I could have probably got to Ireland under my own power, even if none of my phone numbers worked, and then I could have tried to find Gianna and Maggie and Ilario and gotten new phone numbers if nothing else, and then I could have called Grandpa Carlisle and he would have bought me a plane ticket and I would have been wherever they were living in less than a day and nobody would have been the least bit horrible to me.
I felt a sudden fear for what Mama would be like, with Daddy back in her life.
Did she love me because I was her daughter?
Or because I was his?
Would she have any use for me with this jerk around being magically bonded to her?
Daddy didn't react to my thoughts this time, not even to roll his eyes. I looked ahead, and thought I saw a sparkling shape hurtling away from us, but we were gaining. "Alice!" I shouted, wondering if I'd be harder to ignore.
Either I was better at getting attention or we'd just gotten closer in the past second. Alice turned her head, but didn't stop running.
"They'll use wolves! I'm better at noticing those coming than you are!" bellowed Daddy. "I'll help you make it to Jasper if you'll help me find Bella after that!"
Alice still didn't stop, but she slowed down a little, and let us catch up. She looked confused when she got a closer look at me. "Elspeth?" she guessed, neutrally. She had almost no hair left. Otherwise she looked just like I remembered her, only without the smile. She wore a fiercely determined frown instead.
"Yes," I said, wondering if Alice would be any nicer to me than Daddy. I wasn't sure what attitude Chelsea left behind after severing a relationship. I might just be seeing how Daddy acted towards strangers, and maybe Alice was nicer to strangers than him. I couldn't remember Mama having much to say about how Daddy acted towards people he had no connection with - the closest would be Gianna and Ilario, and Mama had been there then and they'd been under the family's protection.
"Keep back a little," she told Daddy. "She'll get in my way. But we can work together." He fell behind a few paces, but was close enough to talk, if there was anything to talk about.
"Where are we going?" I asked for the second time.
"I was going to make for the west coast and swim for it, deep enough that I'd be impossible to chase with wolves," said Alice with a twist of annoyance in her voice. "I'm not sure what to do with you. Maybe I should go on my own after all."
"Perhaps I can help," said Allirea.
I noticed, for the first time, that she was running alongside us. She was faster than me - I couldn't have kept up with Daddy, even at the reduced speed I forced him down to.
"Hello, Allirea," said Daddy. "I've been aware of you - intermittently - but obviously haven't had the chance to introduce myself. My name is Edward Cullen."
"The mind-reader," said Allirea. "Then you know what I want, and what I can give you for it."
He nodded once. "Alice," he said, "Allirea's power is to fade from notice. It extends to anything that she's doing. If she carries us on an airplane in luggage, no one will pay attention to any of us as long as we're hidden from sight - she could conceal one of us most of the way in plain view, but not all three, especially not Elspeth. She's sincere about the offer if we help her with what she wants. She wants Demetri killed and can't do it herself, because her power doesn't work on him. We'll probably need to do that anyway, when he catches up with us - although I think the top recapture priorities will probably be Benjamin and Li-qing, maybe Dwi, not us."
"Fine," said Alice, and they veered right, heading north to what was presumably the nearest airport. She glanced over her shoulder at Allirea. "I remember you," she said with a little hiss.
"I did not go there willingly," Allirea said, calmly. "Demetri was ready to drag me back if I tried to run. I could no more escape than you could see me coming."
Alice glanced at Daddy, and he nodded, and she accepted the excuse. She at least trusted Daddy, even if she didn't particularly care about him anymore. He cared about her, though, probably second-most out of everybody after my mama.
I was much farther down the list.
We waited for Allirea outside a town while she went in to steal suitcases, and clothes for Daddy and Alice. She was back in a few moments. They got dressed, and Alice as the second-strongest and second-fastest carried the suitcases, and we continued to the airport.
I didn't try to chat any more during the run to the airport. No one else did either, after Alice had described to Allirea where we needed to fly. When we got there, we hid behind a van in the parking lot and everyone but Allirea got into a bag. Alice was small enough to fit into a backpack if she scrunched up, which she did; Allirea slung the bag over her arms. Daddy and I were each in wheeled suitcases. I remembered Mama telling me the story of when she'd traveled that way. Allirea left my suitcase unzipped enough that I could breathe easily, but I still thought Mama had probably been more comfortable this way than I had.
"Remember," Allirea said firmly, "you are stowing onto an airplane. You must not get out of your suitcases. You will get where you need to go." She repeated that a few more times.
Then I was trundling along the ground in my bag, probably being pulled towards my plane by a baggage handler or something, and I didn't remember getting the label that would send me to the right place, but maybe Daddy had taken care of that after I'd gotten in my suitcase and couldn't see what was going on...? I stayed put and was glad I wasn't claustrophobic.
I smelled the stale odor that airplanes have, and I waited and listened to people talking, and eventually I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I was still in the suitcase, still on the airplane. I had no idea what time it was, or how my sleep schedule was responding to all the excitement and changes in time zone. Someone had slipped a lot of little packets of peanuts into the bag with me while I slept, though, and I had just enough maneuvering room to open them and shake them into my mouth one bag at a time. They didn't taste very nice, but in sufficient quantity they were filling, and I was hungry.
The captain announced that we were approaching the Nashville International Airport, and it occurred to me to be scared of Uncle Jasper. Mama had described him as being absolutely out of his mind, and she'd noticed him being wildly moody - she wouldn't have caught it if he were also using his empathy erratically, since she was immune, but we could. I didn't really like the idea of being made to feel random things by a mad vampire. Maybe I could stay back, or maybe he'd get better instantly when Alice went to him.
And once we found Jasper it would be time to look for Mama, and I didn't know where she was.
There were two obvious places we could look for Mama:
One was with the family, whom she might have contacted on the assumption that Cody would reveal everything to the Volturi anyway. (I didn't think he'd already done it. If he had, somebody would have thought of Mama near enough Daddy that he'd hear, and if any thoughts would get his attention, it would be ones about Mama. Cody himself must not even be within a mile of the main compound, I decided. It would be too much of a coincidence for him to have thought of her not once, even with a lot on his mind as he probably had. They might keep him and the wolves out of the way so Adelaide could have a clear view of the place when she borrowed Alice's power.)
The other was the rendezvous point in San Francisco. She could be hoping that the pack would have gotten away, and me with them, or that Jacob would at least have sent me ahead on my own for safety. And then, if she'd not contacted the family, she would probably wait there for me, because the New York point was blown. I had not told Cody about the Golden Gate Park one. I didn't remember even telling him there was one besides the one in Central Park.
I decided that Mama was probably more likely to get hold of the family than to just wait in San Francisco. With their help she could have someone ready to meet me there - Aunt Rosalie, maybe - but could also get help against the possibility that I had been captured by the Volturi. Which I had, but she wouldn't have expected me to get out again. And she definitely wasn't expecting Daddy or Aunt Alice.
I wasn't sure where Grandma and Grandpa and Rosalie and Emmett were living, though, since they'd surely moved at least once since I'd last been with them. They called their residences "permanent" and often retained the houses for a long time, but tended not to live in them for more than four or five years even without a rapidly growing half-vampire child.
Mama wouldn't know where they were either. She would have tried all the old phone numbers, but unless one of them was the same as it had been before, she wouldn't get ahold of them. But even without that, she could have gone to Denali, which really is a permanent residence. I tried to estimate how long it would have taken her to get there on foot from New York, but eventually gave up; it would depend too heavily on how careful she thought she needed to be to lose the Volturi contingent. She might be there already, she might be on her way, she might be heading for California instead, I couldn't know.
I supposed I could just let Daddy be in charge of figuring out how to find Mama. Whether he liked it or not, he was my parent, and I'd spent the last while wishing for a parent to be in charge.
I wasn't sure I liked the idea anymore, though.
Even after we found Mama, having Daddy back could make her really different, and that scared me. Mama hadn't been Chelseaed - probably couldn't be Chelseaed - but with Daddy around, I wouldn't be her top priority anymore. With Daddy around, her life wouldn't revolve exclusively around making me safe and happy. With Daddy around, she would be Daddy's wife before being my Mama.
Then again, the only person whose indelible top priority was me was... Jacob, and I still wasn't very impressed with him.
Mama had almost certainly gotten away, and could have taken me with her if he hadn't trapped me because he didn't understand how vampires work.
Then I wouldn't have found Daddy and Alice, but I was having a hard time being very pleased that I had.
Maybe Mama would make everything better.
Or maybe it was time to grow up.
The plane came in for a bouncy landing. My suitcase was pulled out of the plane, and I waited for some sign that it was time to get out.
By the sounds around me, I guessed that I was in the Nashville airport parking lot at the time I remembered Allirea existed. "You can come out now," she said, and I nudged the zipper on my bag out of the way and unfolded with a very welcome stretch, shedding staticky peanut wrappers as I stood. The vampires' bags didn't start partly open, so even though they were faster, I was out first. I watched Alice pop out of her bag in a tremendous hurry, and she hauled Daddy out of his when he wasn't quick enough to suit her.
Allirea readily abandoned the suitcases, and Daddy picked me up like he would have picked up a sack of vegetables and followed his sister out of the parking lot. "Keep back with her," snapped Alice. "I have to see - my Jasper, my Jasper -"
Daddy fell behind obediently enough, and Alice shot forward.
Between the two of them, Alice and Daddy were able to avoid our being seen by any humans, although there was some leaping between rooftops involved. Alice ran like she was possessed. We lost sight of her occasionally, although she reined herself in before ever getting out of Daddy's mind-reading range.
Jasper was sheltering from the daylight in a warehouse that stank of human blood, presumably from the last hunt. Alice hurtled towards her mate, but stopped short. I wondered if he was so convinced she was dead that he might have attacked her for an imposter, had she continued and tried to give him a hug. As it was, he stared. "No," he said. "Not again - I was getting better - Charlotte, Peter, help -"
"Jasper," she whispered. "I'm alive."
"I felt you die," he said, twisting his hands in his mane of unkempt hair.
Daddy stepped forward, setting me on my feet. "Addy," he summarized. "Copies powers. You saw her when she was "wearing" Jane's, but she can copy anyone - except Bella -"
"You're dead too!" shouted Jasper, whirling on Daddy, but he only looked away from Alice for a moment before turning back to her and continuing to stare.
"She copied you," Daddy said. "She faked Alice's death for you with your own power."
"You're dead, both of you, dead -" He didn't even glance at me. "Alice - I kept seeing things, and then they stopped, but it's back again -"
Two vampires who I guessed were Charlotte and Peter jogged to his side and stared incredulously at Alice.
"Tell me," Jasper whispered. "Tell me you can't see her -"
"I can see her," said Peter quietly, frowning at Alice and knitting his dark eyebrows. For some reason, he was wearing a suit; trim and urbane, he looked like the diametric opposite of crazed Jasper. Charlotte, all in denim, was Alice's height, though her riot of frizzy yellow-rose curls stood in contrast to my aunt's patches of limp dark hair. She nodded at her mate's statement, wide-eyed.
Jasper glared at Peter. "You're probably a hallucination too," he accused. "That's happened before, you being a hallucination."
"Jasper," Alice murmured. "That's my fault, I'm sorry - I learned to share visions, but I didn't know how to help you understand them - I'm so sorry."
Jasper just stared at her, pained unbelief written all over his face.
I decided to be useful. "She's alive," I said firmly.
It is very hard not to believe me when I say true things. Jasper blinked, spared me a half-second's glance, and then took a step forward to cradle Alice's face in his hands. "Alice," he said.
She looked up at him, and smiled cheekily. "Jasper."