Happy holidays, everyone!
So, this chapter is a little short- my updates should be a bit longer after this one. If you’re interested in reading it on another platform, the first two chapters have been uploaded to STARS, AO3, and FFN.
For those of you bursting with goodwill, 4padfoot set up a donation link on my WP. I have severe medical problems that prevent me from holding a job. I’m currently pursuing Disability, but it’s taking a lot longer than I hoped. If you’re willing to donate, please do. Every penny helps. You can find the link at the top of the grey bar on the bottom of the page.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight Saga, TVD, or the Originals. They belong to Stephanie Meyer and the CW, respectively. I’m just a writer who thinks Bella and Kol are downright magical together.
Bella wasn’t a stranger to death. In truth, she’d been outrunning it ever since the Cullens had introduced themselves into her life. Between Edward’s bloodlust, the van that nearly crushed her, and the nomads that kept targeting her, Bella was keenly aware of her own mortality. She’d been fighting so hard for so long just for the chance to keep breathing that she didn’t expect how easy it would be to finally let go.
Living was hard. Dying… dying was easy.
The quickness of her end astonished her. One moment Victoria was sinking her teeth into her neck and the next she was staring at her own body. It’d happened so fast that it honestly took her a second to comprehend it. She’d known the instant Victoria appeared that death had finally caught up to her, but she still found it difficult to accept.
And then the loss sank in. Her knees buckled as a cry of pure grief wrenched itself from her throat. It wasn’t fair. She’d spent so long trying to outrun death that she’d never had the opportunity to really live. Was this truly how it ended? After so much struggle and sacrifice, she died alone in the parking lot of some crappy inn in Virginia? A pawn in some petty vampire’s revenge against a boy who cared so little for her that he left her stranded in the woods?
Bella had always secretly believed in fate and destiny, but she couldn’t sense fate’s hand in this. Naively, she’d always believed that there was something more waiting for her, something extraordinary. In what world was it fair that she died at nineteen while people like Edward got to live for centuries? Immortality was wasted on him. If Bella had eternal life at her fingertips, she’d savor every moment of it. She certainly wouldn’t spend it bemoaning her lost humanity.
Devastated, she’d only just begun to accept that this was it, that her spirit had really left her body, when she looked up and locked eyes with Kol Mikaelson.
Self-consciously wiping at the endless flood of tears spilling down her cheeks, Bella watched him warily as he casually strolled towards her. She’d never been a fan of crying in front of others. It made her feel weak, vulnerable. After the traumatizing way her one and only relationship ended, followed by her eviction from Forks by the pack she’d embraced as family, Bella was certain she’d felt enough vulnerability to last a lifetime. No need for it to follow her into the afterlife too.
Suddenly, she felt cheated. Wasn’t death supposed to make her feel at peace?
As if he could hear her thoughts, Kol made a sympathetic noise and chided, “You’ve just been murdered, darling. Rather violently, in fact.” He came to a stop in front of her and extended his hand, offering to help her to her feet, “I think you’re entitled to a few tears.”
Struggling to come to terms with this new shift in her reality, Bella stared at his proffered hand. She felt so lost and empty inside. It was as if her death had somehow cut all the ties binding her to her loved ones and cast her very soul adrift. The man in front of her was throwing her a much needed lifeline, if she was willing to take it.
What made Bella hesitate was how different she could sense he was. He moved like a predator, all sensuous muscle, grace, and fluidity. If her disastrous foray into the supernatural world had taught her anything, it was how to identify dangerous creatures like him. He wasn’t human, she knew that as surely as she knew her last name.
He was also clearly not an angel. There was nothing about him or the devilish look on his face that she found reassuring. He wasn’t surrounded by a peaceful white light and Bella, who had never really given much thought to the afterlife, was beginning to wonder just what she was in for. It was rather disconcerting to realize her soul wasn’t quite welcome on Heaven’s doorstep.
The pendulum inevitably swung the other way and she tensed slightly at the possibility of being in Hell before slowly dismissing the notion. Other than yearning to become a vampire, Bella didn’t have a list of deep, dark sins. She simply hadn’t done anything bad enough to earn her a one way ticket to the fiery pit. Brow creasing in thought, she wondered if that meant she’d landed somewhere in between, a purgatory of sorts.
Behind Kol, Victoria was coming down from her blood haze and let out a shriek of rage once she realized what Bella had done. Deciding she wanted to be nowhere near the volatile redhead, she finally slipped her hand into his and allowed him to haul her to her feet.
It didn’t escape Bella’s notice that his skin felt cooler than hers. While he wasn’t as cold as the vampires she knew, he lacked the warmth of a human. She idly marveled over the fact that she could still feel the difference. Miraculously, she felt like her heart was still beating, like she still needed to breathe, and yet nothing felt the same as it did before she died. Her senses worked, but everything felt duller, muted somehow. Perhaps she only had a heartbeat at all because it was something she was used to and her mind had mimicked the sensation.
Kol briefly glanced at their hands in wonder as she collected herself, savoring the sensation that accompanied the touch of another. Part of him had expected his hand to go right through her, like it would if she were still alive. The ability to touch someone was something that he dearly missed. The fact that he could feel the weight of her hand in his was a small miracle to Kol. He’d begun to think it was an experience he’d never have again.
With the exception of the other ghosts in town during the whole veil fiasco, Bella was the first soul he’d encountered on the Other Side. He wasn’t sure how the rules applied to her, especially since her appearance alone meant she’d just destroyed everything he thought he knew.
Uneasy with the scrutiny, Bella tugged her hand free and Kol reluctantly allowed it. A bit amused by her skittish reaction, he gave her an overdramatic, courtly bow, “Kol Mikaelson, at your serv-“
“What are you?” she asked point blank, bringing him up short. Slowly straightening up, Kol eyed her speculatively. He’d never been caught out so quickly before, not by a human at least.
Then again, Bella wasn’t human, was she? Her presence here meant she was every bit as supernatural as he was, a curious thing since she didn’t use any inhuman abilities to defend herself against the Cold One that attacked her.
“Dead,” he said with an impish grin, hoping to distract her until he could figure out why she was here, “just like you, darling.” Stretching his arms out, he stated, “Welcome to the Other Side.”
“The Other Side?”
Kol nodded and lowered his arms, studying her expression carefully as he explained, “It’s where Supernaturals go when we die.”
Bella stumbled in surprise and Kol steadied her by gripping her arm. Bewildered, she met his gaze, looking at him with so much confusion on her face that he realized she didn’t understand why she’d ended up here anymore than he did.
Obviously, she wasn’t a Cold One. Given that she didn’t smell like a vampire, shifter, or werewolf either, there was really only one possibility left, but it was an idea that Kol found equally puzzling. If Bella possessed magic, why wouldn’t she use it? Better yet, why couldn’t he sense it?
Kol had always been highly attuned to magic, an unfortunate side effect of losing his own. While all vampires could sense it to a degree, it usually felt so tangible to him that he could nearly taste it on his tongue. He supposed it was possible that being dead nullified his ability to detect it, but he’d felt the Bennett witch’s magic just a few days ago, mere hours after she died. After giving it a moment of genuine thought, he realized that he might’ve only sensed Bonnie’s because the partial lowering of the veil had made them both corporeal.
Victoria passed them in a blur, bringing their conversation to a grinding halt. They both paused, reflexively glancing over at Bella’s lifeless body. Slowly releasing her arm, Kol raised an eyebrow and wondered, “Will she not cover her tracks?”
“No,” Bella sighed and turned away, unable to look at her bloody and broken shell of a body a moment longer, “she wants my friends to know that she killed me. She’s provoking them to come after her. Now that she’s avenged her mate, she wants someone to reunite them.”
Bella had mixed feelings about it herself. Part of her hated the idea of Victoria using her death against her loved ones like that. The rest of her was strangely relieved. In her suicidal quest, Victoria had unknowingly granted Bella a kindness. The authorities would find her body eventually and give her parents the closure they deserved. Charlie, the steadfast cop that he was, wouldn’t waste the rest of his life futilely searching for her.
She’d always heard that it was better to grieve than to wonder.
“Your friends?” Kol repeated, voice lilting in curiosity. “Why were you alone if you have friends capable of ending her?”
Bella winced, regretting the slip. Neither the Cullens nor the Pack were really her friends anymore. Both groups had abandoned her the second things got messy. The Cullens had left her not long after her disaster of a birthday party and the Pack had forced her out of Forks less than a year later. The second the wolves realized Victoria was assembling an army to attack La Push, Sam retracted their offer of protection. Hell, they’d practically packed her bags for her in their haste to send her on her way.
Even Jacob, her best friend, had turned his back on her. When it came down to it, protecting Bella put the lives of his father and new imprint at risk. The bond he shared with Angela Weber, a bond that had initially relieved Bella when it was first formed, meant Angela’s life was more important to him than hers. Though he didn’t want Bella to die, he needed her to leave to protect the people he loved most.
At the time, she’d understood. Bella didn’t want to put her friends and family in mortal danger anymore than they did. Now that she was dead, however, she could feel her opinion changing so rapidly it hurt. The Pack had sacrificed her, let Victoria drain her, and that knowledge stung brutally.
It was funny, really. Bella’s heart had stopped beating, but it was the Pack that felt dead to her now.
“It’s a long story,” she said evasively, speaking the words out of habit. It was practically ingrained in her to shy away from any vampire or wolf related topic at this point. Sadly, it was also bitterly ironic; she’d quite literally taken their secrets to her grave, Quileute and Cullen alike.
A part of her died all over again when she realized just how worthless her loyalty was. Her broken body laid not forty feet away from her and she’d yet to see any sign of the Cullens. While the Pack had no way of knowing Victoria had finally caught up to her, the Cullens did. The fact that they hadn’t used that knowledge to save her life pained her. Even though Bella had often told herself over the last year not to expect help from the coven that abandoned her, some foolish, naive part of her had still clung to the hope that Alice would see her death and come to save her from it. Leaving Bella to die was confirmation that she meant as little to Alice as she did to Edward.
Feeling more lost than ever, she decided that taking their secrets to her grave was where her misplaced loyalty would end. The Pack and the Cullens would have to accept that it was enough, because she had no intentions of keeping their secrets a moment longer.
Turning to Kol, she opened her mouth to explain, only to close it with an audible snap. While she was no longer bound by her loyalty to the Pack and Cullens, that didn’t mean she should confide in the first Supernatural to cross her path. She didn’t know who or what Kol was. He was a complete and utter stranger to her and Bella… well, Bella was running low on trust.
Noticing her reticence, Kol flashed her a charming smile, a dazzling array of pearly whites. He held her gaze as he promised, “Unluckily for you, we have nothing but time.”
Bella stiffened, the casually uttered comment causing fear to grip her heart. For the first time since she met the Cullens, the thought of eternity scared her.