"I told you, it only works for young vampires. Even if you found a "donor", even if Grandpa cleared the ethics..."
"You could resurrect her as she was early on, then turn her, then send her the rest of it," Tanya said to Elspeth.
"And Laurent?" Elspeth said. "I don't have him backed up. I can't bring him back for her," Elspeth warned.
"Send her the rest of it, up to before she met him, then," Tanya said. "She'll forget a few months of her life, that's all. She'll still be herself. Elspeth, I want my sister back!" Tanya leaned forward over the desk a little too far and the wolves standing beside the princess tensed. The vampire composed herself and stepped back.
Elspeth chewed her lip, and said, "If you clear it with Grandpa Carlisle or with Mama, and you find a donor who is really, truly willing according to Dad or Addy with his power... and no putting advertisements in our paperwork, that seems like it would send a bad message... then.. okay. I think."
"Right," said Tanya, turning on her heel. "I'll see you when I've done that, then."
"I will not have you preying on the mentally ill," Carlisle said. "Presuming it is in fact my call, I have to say no. I'm sorry, Tanya."
"The mentally ill?" inquired Tanya.
Carlisle put his computer to sleep and turned to give her his full attention. "Anyone who agreed to the procedure would be, by definition, suicidal," he said. "They need help, not a convenient death."
"Not necessarily," Tanya inserted swiftly. "Could be someone already terminally ill who doesn't personally want to be a vampire but doesn't mind handing her body over to someone who would. Could be someone who's depressed but for non-chemical reasons that aren't likely to change. Could be someone who wants something I can give her - money for a charity, expensive medical treatment for her kid, something like that - and will trade her body for it. Could be someone who thinks her immortal soul will go straight to Heaven if she moves out to let my sister in." She leaned a little on the phrase "immortal soul". That was one way to get Carlisle's attention, at least.
Carlisle considered this. "No preying on the mentally ill," he repeated. "And don't make some poor woman choose between giving up her body and getting care for a loved one - that's just cruel, not to mention coercive."
"Otherwise?" asked Tanya.
"I will ask Edward to check," Carlisle said warningly. "And there could be defeating factors I haven't thought of. I will veto you if necessary, and I don't expect Bella to overrule me on this."
"Understood, dear cousin," she replied.
"I don't think I understand what you're asking," the patient said. "I've heard of donating your body to science, but..."
"It's a little like that," Tanya said. "It's even experimental, in a way. Similar things have been done, but nothing exactly like this. My sister was centuries old when she died and the others were much younger."
"Centuries?" the human asked in wonder.
"So what would happen is my cousin, with the power I mentioned, would overwrite you with the first few years of my sister's life," Tanya pressed on. "Then she'd turn into a vampire again so she could hold all of her memories, or most of them rather..."
"And this would cure me?" asked the woman in the bed, waving weakly at the signs of cachexia.
"Turning would cure your body," said Tanya.
"Mm," sighed the patient. "I don't suppose they'd just let me turn into a vampire, would they?"
"So one person didn't want to help," Kate said, her head in Garrett's lap while Tanya paced. "It could take dozens. Hundreds. Don't be discouraged. I'm sure I can find more people who look enough like her."
"This would be easier if Carlisle weren't looking over our shoulders," growled Tanya. "I could have lied. Could have said there was no way she'd be allowed to turn as herself."
"Or they could have actually rejected her, and then she'd probably have agreed," Kate said. "Here's an idea, ask a lot of people really fast, they'll have to reject a few then."
"Have you met Carlisle? He'd reject me out of principle if Edward said I'd done anything of the kind."
"Well," said Kate, sitting up and pulling her computer onto her knees while Garrett put an arm around her shoulders, "let's look at some more patient records, shall we?"
"This isn't working," Kate said after twelve months of unremitting failures. "The Golden Coven loves turning the terminally ill. It's basically a shoo-in once we do the work of finding them and telling them about, what's the technical term? "Things"? I don't think we're going to find anyone in the magical intersection of "too squicked about vampires to want to be one themselves" and "willing to turn into someone else and then a vampire". What's our next best bet?"
"Nobody we'd find in large concentrations in easily searchable places," said Tanya. "At this point I'm half-tempted to stand in Times Square and accost random blonde women."
"Elspeth isn't going anywhere," Kate pointed out. "We could try that."
"Every day we fail is another day without our sister. Another day she has to miss."
There was a silence, and then Kate said, "...Mother was backed up, too."
Tanya restrained a shriek of frustration. That should have been a good reminder, good news, that there was hope even for Mother, but it sounded only like a sentence to more fruitless, heartrending labor. More faces to look at who might resurrect her family, only to refuse, again and again.
"I'll keep looking through hospital records," Kate said. "For both of them. That'll be my job, and Garrett will help. You try people-watching, or... whatever else. We have forever, Tanya. We'll find hosts for them both, I know we will."
Tanya nodded, more out of politeness than agreement.
"Why're you chained to a tree?" Tanya asked. She knew the answer, but it couldn't hurt to let the lady rant.
Rant she did: a solid fifteen minutes of diatribe against a corporation that wanted to bulldoze the forest of which her tree was a part.
"Are you worried they'll just go ahead and knock down your tree?" Tanya asked, keeping her voice light, but only with difficulty.
"They can't," said the environmentalist defiantly. "They'd kill me if they did and the law protects people where it doesn't protect innocent trees and animals."
"Well, they could, they'd just need to have a fall guy do it," Tanya said. "But they'd probably get a lot of negative press anyway, and might have to stop there... If you could only save the forest by letting them bulldoze you, would you?"
"W-well," said the tree-lady uncomfortably, "they're not actually going to bulldoze me. They're trying to bargain with my fiancé now, he's in my same organization..."
Fiancé. That didn't bode well. Tanya wrapped up the conversation without mentioning word one about vampires or her sister.
"Carlisle, when you said "the mentally ill"..." Tanya began wheedlingly into her phone.
"I meant it," Carlisle said.
"But I mean did you mean just depressed people, or does it apply to people with... with permanent amnesia, or incurable dementia, or something like that?" she asked.
There was a long pause, and then Carlisle said, "If you can find someone with one of those conditions who can meaningfully agree, then... indeed that's not what I meant. I will have Edward check, though, Tanya, we can't just help ourselves to any -"
"Consenting mentally ill folks who aren't clinically depressed are fine, got it, thanks."
"My children don't visit me anymore," said the woman in the wheelchair. Her hands twisted at the ends of her arms erratically and Tanya couldn't tell if the lopsided expression on her face represented her emotional state or not. She didn't make eye contact.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Tanya lied.
"Ungrateful little bastards," snapped the other suddenly. "No, no, I don't mean - no. They just don't want to visit their own mother - no. I don't mean that."
"You remind me of my mother," Tanya said in soothing tones. The odd expression and movements aside, the patient could have been the same woman, less a dose of venom.
"Did she have Huntington's too?" asked the twitching human, awkwardly pawing some of her hair out of her face.
"No. She didn't," Tanya murmured. "But she looked a lot like you. I wonder if I could... if I could ask you a huge favor..."
"I don't know if this is even going to work," Elspeth said.
"You look stupid!" shouted the host at the princess, face twisting into a rictus of some unnamable feeling. "What are you, playing dress-up, you're a grown goddamn woman, what the hell are you doing wearing a crown like that's any kind of normal -"
"I don't know if turning would even cure the illness, regardless of whether the memories take in the first place," Elspeth said, ignoring the woman in the wheelchair.
"Of course it'll cure the illness, it cures everything, it's magic, your grandpa cleared her to have consented, go on," said Tanya, gesturing impatiently. Kate laid a restraining hand on her sister's shoulder.
"I don't know if a brain with this kind of accumulated damage can hold implanted memories," Elspeth said. "I have literally no idea what will happen if I try it. It would be irresponsible."
"Don't tell me you're competing with Carlisle for the title of most sanctimonious -" began Tanya furiously, but Kate charged up her hand a touch and zapped Tanya. It was barely enough to hurt, but it stopped her midsentence. "Please," she said, starting over. "If Carlisle approved it, I'm sure it's fine, don't you think?"
"I don't," said Elspeth, shaking her head slowly. "Grandpa doesn't know as much about how my powers work as I do. I think he's right that your, um, friend here is capable of agreeing to donate herself. I don't think he knows better than me about whether it's a viable donation."
"Elspeth," cried Tanya, "just try, she said you could try..."
Elspeth shook her head implacably. "I'm sorry."
"You can't start a website asking for a donor, that's completely not allowed," said Kate incredulously, peering over Tanya's shoulder at the rapidly accumulating code. "Besides, what will it say, "sell me your body"? That's extra not allowed."
"Elspeth won't let me put ads in her pamphlets. I have to do something. The Internet is full of random people of every description. I'm sure someone would be up for it, I just need to find her. Them, if we're lucky." She fed a photo of Irina and a drawing of Sasha into the scanner.
"But how are you going to get away with it? Either people visit the site, and the Golden Coven cracks down and you get hidden for some number of years, or nobody does and it doesn't work."
"Look," snapped Tanya, "talk to me when you care more about putting our family back together than you do about leading a peacefully uninterrupted life of constant fornication with Garrett, all right?"
Kate stepped back, hurt all over her face, and fled the house before Tanya could take it back.
Tanya wished she could get drunk. She couldn't get drunk, so she got laid.
It was easy, mechanical after millenia of practice, and even simpler in an era where no one would try to stone her to death if she outright propositioned someone in the wrong person's hearing. She was lovelier than the stars, she was pretty as a picture, she was hotter than the sun (or so they thought until they touched her) - compliments tumbled into her ears, weightless and repetitive and of no interest.
She allowed herself a few days' respite, and then she went back to work.
She decided to try jumpers. Most of them were probably chemical in etiology, but some of them could be life-circumstance types - addiction, financial ruin, death in the family (ha) - anything that might get past Carlisle's moral compass and Elspeth's practical concerns. She paced along the Golden Gate Bridge under an umbrella, pretending to wait for someone.
After six months, she'd wrestled down a dozen people from the edge of pitching themselves into the Bay, and was reasonably sure that all of them would get a veto from her cousin, who was becoming less and less dear to her by the week. Even if any of them had looked like her sister or her mother, which none of them did.
Kate came looking for her - having left Garrett at home - after would-be suicide number twelve proved unsuitable. "Come back to Denali," she said without preamble, speaking softly. "There are too many hospitals for me and Garrett to keep track of, even if Eleazar and Carmen help. We might miss someone. Come home."
Tanya followed her away from the bridge, huddled under her umbrella.
"How much money did you say again?"
Tanya repeated the figure. It wasn't her entire savings. It wasn't even half. She could be talked up, and only started low so her family wouldn't be brought back to a life of want. But it was enough to turn the average human's head.
"That's a lot of money," commented the girl, scratching at her bare scalp. "What's the catch?"
Tanya explained the catch, as it were, and the girl listened. "This is the part where you ask if you can just turn into a vampire yourself," Tanya added dully.
"I don't know," said the girl. "What's the catch of that?"
Tanya listed every drawback she could think of: the thirst and the yet-appalling taste of permitted drinks. The newborn instability. The fear and loathing of nearby animals. The disqualification from most sporting events. The inability to go out unrestricted in daylight. The loss of sleep and dreams. The likelihood of spontaneous mating, and how it had gotten her sister killed in the first place.
"Yeah, that doesn't sound so grand," the girl said. "I don't think I want that. But your sister will?"
Tanya lifted her head, nodded once.
The girl yawned hugely. "It's a lot of money. Dad could keep the store..."
"Are you ready?" Elspeth asked, wearing an expression of awful trepidation but pressing her hand to the girl's forehead.
"I think so," came the reply. "I wrote up all my letters to everyone... and if you wait any longer I might die and then Tanya has to find someone else..." She yawned again, fluttering her eyelids.
"You remember killing how many millions of people? This one's willing, that's got to be something," Tanya whispered under her breath.
"I didn't actually do it any of those millions of times," Elspeth muttered back. She regarded the tired, dying woman a moment longer and said, "I'm getting Addy."
"Well, do it quick, then," Tanya said, and the princess slipped out of the room and came back with the copying-witch, who had no qualms whatever about taking Elspeth's power and touching the cancer patient's cheek and... replacing her.
Elspeth looked away, but when Addy had gone, she took a deep breath and turned back to the wheelchair. She held up a mirror.
"A thousand years?" asked Irina, peering at her sisters sleepily. "That's... that's such a long time. Why don't I remember it?"
"The princess could only give you a few years to get you into a new body," Tanya said. "She'll send you the rest once you're turned again. That'll be tomorrow. We need to hurry, because your body is sick."
"Oh," said Irina. "All right. I'm tired. That's strange."
"Go ahead and sleep," said Kate.
Irina drifted off, and Tanya filled glass vials with venom.
"I don't feel quite like myself," complained Irina. "Everything's there except the months you told her to skip, now, but it's like I'm not fluent in the language of my own brain."
"Elspeth said that would go away over time, or at least it did for John and Didyme when she refreshed their memories," Tanya promised.
"I can't believe Mother is dead," Irina said. "It doesn't seem quite real, even though I remember that too."
"We'll get her back," Tanya said. "Eventually."
The first thing Sasha wanted to know was: "Did you girls stay together?"
"Yes, Mother," they chorused.
It was close enough to true, anyway.