Chapter 24:


Beth ignored Demetri calling after her, as her legs carried her downstairs. Wait, was he following her? Stopping to listen, the murmurings behind closed doors answered, shutting Beth out in every direction. Well. Beth knew when she wasn't wanted, but it didn't stop the hurt from biting her.

The message was quite clear. Beth had no place here. Now Anna had her little heart-to-heart chat with Aro, discussing her potential future as his mate.

Why do they call it mated? Beth grimaced, remembering the noises coming from Caius and his wife's bedroom. Maybe she did need that fresh air after all. She took the same route as before, hating the stillness.

Outside, the world was very much alive with birds and distant human voices. The early morning sun winked behind the eastern wall, and Beth stepped into its path to watch the light show on her skin. It felt great to get away from an atmosphere charged with sexual tension.

Jumping in and out of the shadows, Beth made no sound against the cobbles in the garden; she avoided looking at the pond. "It's a good thing this place is so pretty – oh!"

There was Anna's scarf. It was just lying there, crumpled on the very edge of the pond, forgotten in all the excitement. Swiping it up, Beth checked to see if the scarf was damaged or wet, but the flowers sparkled up at her as if to reassure her that it was unharmed.

"How can such a small thing hold such significance?"

Beth made a mental list:

It was a sign of D.T's (pretty fucked up) feelings for Anna… and so it was the key to his well-deserved downfall.

Aro kept it, as a sweet (creepy) token to remember Anna by.

And now it was abandoned? Beth couldn't allow that. If something – or someone – was going to be left today, it isn't going to be this silly scarf. Sniffing, Beth tied it securely around her arm and took a stroll across the bridge.

It had once been red before the sun had had its way. Beth heaved a therapeutic sigh that got lost in the warm breeze as it tickled the ends of her hair.

The sound of footsteps made her jerk to attention. For one pathetic moment, Beth thought it was Anna, but the steps were too measured, too heavy.

Beth sighed. I doubt she's ever going to come back. Which, consequently, made her feel very guilty.

His hunched shadow came first, hunched and grey. In this bright, tranquil environment, Marcus looked dark and out of place; there was a ghost of a smile like he was actually glad to see her.

"Hello, Marcus," Beth called with a wave. "Long time, no see."

He asked, "Would you care for some company?"

"Alright." She shrugged, acting nonchalant. Without Anna, Marcus was her best bet for a civilised conversation. For some reason, he almost treated her as an equal, not as someone inferior, which puzzled Beth; she was inferior to him, very much so, but that didn't seem to bother Marcus in the slightest.

When the bridge creaked under Marcus' considerable weight, Beth sucked in a breath. "Careful. That water isn't exactly clean. Believe me."

"Like so many of us, I see you have found this place to be the ideal environment for much-needed rumination," Marcus murmured.

Beth blinked. "Come again?"

Marcus did not meet her eyes, choosing to stare out across the pond instead. "You appeared lost in your thoughts, my dear," he elaborated gently.

"Oh, right! Sorry. Yes, I was a bit" – Beth cleared her throat – "lost in my thoughts, I mean."

"Do you wish to discuss them?"

Beth's mouth gave a twist. "Well…I don't like to keep things bottled up. But I don't want to drag you down with my misery." Because you look like you've had your share. She missed that part out.

"Your concern is most touching, Beth, but unnecessary," Marcus said faintly, and she surprised herself by rolling her eyes. It was a natural action.

He probably doesn't care anyway. Beth dangled her arms over the fence. "You sound like Anna," she muttered.

"In what way?"

"Saying my concern is 'unnecessary.'" Beth fluttered her hands into exaggerated air quotes. "Even though you're," – oh, shit, she was overstepping herself – "Um, never mind."

"Even though I am…what, my dear?" Marcus' eyes were two weights on Beth's bowed head.

Now I've done it. "Don't worry about it," Beth said uncomfortably.

"Even though I am wretched and miserable?"

Beth stared. "What?" Her bemusement was too much to keep quiet. "Marcus, what happened to make you this way?"

"The passing of many, many years," Marcus whispered. "Yet, the sadness of loss never relents."

"You… lost someone?"

"Yes. My wife."

Beth's heart clenched. Oh. "Your mate."

"Yes," Marcus said as Beth nodded.

"Your soul-mate." Her hand covered her mouth, thinking of Anna and Aro. When she spoke again, Beth's voice was tiny. "Oh, Marcus. That must have been devastating."

She wanted to hug him because it was all she could do, but this was Marcus; even then, it wouldn't be enough. Instead, Beth leaned in closer, full of a helpless sadness that made her ache. Maybe Marcus's grief was contagious.

"W- What was your wife's name?"

It was the first time Beth had seen Marcus smile. It was a dreamy smile as he took a step back to a place where he no longer suffered. "Her name was Didyme. She was the most beautiful woman ever to grace this earth."

Beth's throat when tight, and she could only whisper. "I bet she was. Oh, Anna!" The relief that came over her felt like a tidal wave, pulling her forward. "Um, sorry, Marcus."

"Go to her. I shall be alright," Marcus murmured, looking a little troubled. She is still young. Her future is still bright.

Still, it was good to see Beth hug her sister, babbling her surprise. "You came back! Are you okay? Oh, my God! I'm so sorry!"

"What for?" Anna laughed good-naturedly, but Marcus saw the muted pain in her eyes. The bond that branched out from her heart flared.

Beth's eyes were round with confusion. "Well, you're here! I thought you were staying."

Anna shook her head. "Not yet. I need…time." She glanced at Marcus. "It is I who is sorry."

Marcus replied, "My brother is patient, my dear. He will wait."

Anna swallowed. "I know."

"But, the bond!" Beth cried. "You'll be miserable!"

"It will not be for long," Anna vowed. "If that is alright with you, Beth?"

Beth rolled her eyes. "You know it doesn't matter what I think." She hugged Anna tightly. "I will stay with you, whatever you decide to do."

Anna sobbed. "Thank you, Beth." She sniffed. "What's that smell? You smell of…"

"A white chocolate cookie, yeah." Beth grinned. "The bubble baths here are fabulous."

Anna laughed softly. "Come on. Demetri is waiting for us."

Beth's heart sank. "With my dress, I hope. Oh, hang on." She looked back to Marcus, who hadn't moved. "We have to go. Sorry."

Anna was intrigued. My goodness. What have I missed here?

Marcus smiled. "Go. Demetri is not as patient as my brother."

"We shall see you again soon," Anna said.

"Try not to keep my brother waiting," Marcus murmured, and her smile faded.

"I won't. I promised."

As they hurried away, Beth said. "Is this a good idea? Marcus told me your bond with Aro was the strongest bond he had ever seen. So, you don't have to leave if it will be better for you."

"No. Somehow I do not think it will." Anna straightened up, almost proudly. "I am to become Aro's Queen, Beth. That is a responsibility I have to prepare for."

"You mean without his, um, presence distracting you?" Beth said, failing not to smirk.

"Mm. I am going to miss Aro," Anna whispered.

This shouldn't have surprised Beth, but it did. She's changed so much. "And he will undoubtedly miss you too. So, it's probably a good thing I found this!" Beth pulled out Anna's scarf with a small flourish. "I found this in the garden. I thought you might like it back."

Anna exhaled a small laugh. "I must stop leaving this around." Her hands came almost protectively over it. "Thank you, Beth."

"I suppose you'll…leave it with Aro, won't you?" Beth asked.

Anna smiled. "Yes. I believe I will."

Inside the castle, Demetri bid them good morning without a flicker of emotion – that is, until Beth drifted passed. He smelt the familiar, sweet waft of the Volturi bubble bath emanating off her. His handsome gaze seemed to sharpen to a point where she wanted to cringe away from it.

Go on, then, she thought. Make a fuss. Just stop glaring at me.

"I see you have been making yourself at home," he said silkily. "Just in time for you to leave. Master Aro is waiting."

Beth scoffed but said nothing.

They made their way to the Hall in silence, thinking about how much had changed in so little time. The Volturi were once an emotionless, ominous cult of authority who had so mercilessly killed their coven.

Who knew the Volturi were so...human? Marcus, with his broken heart, Caius with his wife (Beth tried not to linger on that too much), and Aro, falling quite wonderfully helplessly in love with her sister. It boggled the mind.

Anna wondered if how much the Guard knew; someone was dead, there was no question there, but they couldn't possibly know who could they?

Her questions vanished as they arrived at the back entrance. Aro waited, a sad smile breaking on his face, as her heart seized in her chest.

As they embraced, Beth averted her gaze. Will it always be like this? The future Queen of Volterra was only metres from her, but it might as well have been an entire world away.

"You have something for me?" Aro was asking. His fingers teased at the loose knot that kept her scarf around her forearm.

Anna's eyes shone. "As I recall, you are quite familiar with it." He brought the scarf to his nose, breathing in her fresh scent. "Consider it a vow. One of many to come." The sweet sincerity in her voice made Aro smile.

"The day beckons, Master," Demetri said, abruptly. "The sun is rising."

Anna swallowed. "Time is not on our side," she sighed.

"But soon it will be," Aro glanced up at Beth. "Take care of each other, please."

Translation: take care of my mate. Beth nodded, rolling her eyes a little.

Demetri glared at Anna, growling, "You are making a terrible mistake, leaving Master Aro like this."

"Hey!" Beth cried, shocked, and angry, but Anna got there before anyone.

"You should have care before lecturing me on what you believe I should and should not do." She smiled. There was no malice behind it, which made it all the more impressive. "After all, you do not want Aro to think you doubt me, do you?"

Demetri looked quite taken aback. "No, I do not." He cleared his throat. "Forgive me for saying so."

"You see, Demetri?" Aro gushed. "Already, she carries the fire needed to be a Queen!"

Anna smiled again, and it was beautiful, serene. "Just know I won't keep you waiting."

"Yeah," Beth nodded her head. In spite of her vow, she knew she would be ribbing him mercilessly about this later. "See you soon. Real soon."

They walked out of the Volturi's headquarters, hand in hand.

"Till we meet again, Anna," Aro called. He could almost see it, that gently coy smile she kept just for him as they disappeared beneath Beth's glamour.

The end...for now.

So, that's the first part of "The Immortal Coil Saga". What did you think? Please review!

Up next: "Finding Her Feet" - I have changed the title of the second part, so look out for the updates soon!