In The Wasteland : The Vampire Apocalypse

By: drasticpsychobarbie
Hey guys so I know it’s been a while but here’s another story. I read it, it gets kinda confusing at some parts but in the end it wraps up really well. I DID NOT WRITE THIS STORY! It was written by

drasticpsychobarbie on fanfic. Hope you like it. All 26

chapters. P.S: Rated M I am not responsible for this scarring young minds. Also anything I type in color will be me tds329 the black is all part of the story disclaimer, author notes (in bold) etc. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters. They are all for Stephanie Meyer and I don't get paid to write anything. Warning: Some scenes in this fic may not be suitable for all readers. Be warned, there may be language, sex, drugs, abuse, rape, violence, etc. I haven't decided yet so proceed at your own risk. Reader discretion is advised. A/N: This is the story of the Vampire Apocalypse. I will try to avoid OOC to the best of my ability. Also, I will try to avoid using anything that did not exist before the Vamp Apocalypse because many elements of human society are no long in existence, including R&D labs for the most part. Please enjoy. Furthermore, each chapter will hopefully have a suggested theme song, though most of them will never exist within this fic. Third person POV because it just makes more sense to me. Prologue: The Beginning of the End Theme song: "Bodies" by Drowning Pool ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Humans had been planning for the end of the world for thousands of years. Yet somehow, when it finally came, there was no contingency plan that could have prepared them for the coming massacre. No region of the world would remain unchanged and no human would survive unscathed. No one would ever know just when or how it started, but there would be many theories. Some would claim the end came out of Calcutta or some similarly overcrowded place where vampire newborns had no place to hide and needed to merely turn around to find a meal.

Others believe it may have been the immortal children again, that someone broke the rules by creating them and then allowed them to run amok. And when they attacked crowds full of people in broad daylight there were always some survivors beginning to change by the time word of the chaos spread. There are some who saw it as the next phase in human evolution, that vampires were naturally destined to rule the masses of short-lived human chattel. Regardless of where it came from or who was at fault, the havoc spread quickly throughout the most populated parts of Asia and Europe, then to Africa and the Americas. There was no place to hide, no safety from the merciless Angels of Death who swept into villages, towns, and cities bringing death and destruction in their wake. Neither day nor night offered safety from the mass killings. And each feeding-frenzy had the unintended effect of creating new murderous demons to spread the plague of deadly chaos. It took surprisingly little time for governments and infrastructures to collapse under the threat of immanent death. Martial law became the rule, until even the armies of the world fell to the vampires. People abandoned their homes and possessions in search of sanctuary. Millions reaffirmed their faith in a higher power, only to be killed inside the walls of their churches and temples. In desperation, many committed murder/suicides to save themselves and loved ones from a fate worse than death. Countless innocents died in their homes and on route to a safety they would never find. Humanity was all but lost. Carlisle Cullen had fully expected the Volturi to step in and eliminate the problem before it was too late. Unfortunately they had been no match for the hordes of newborns and older vampires who breached the walls of Volterra and killed every living thing inside. There were no longer any rules to live and die by, only madness. After the initial slaughter many of the older vampires took it upon themselves to settle the newborns and immortal children down, before the supply of human blood completely dried up. No longer was the world overflowing with humanity. Still, the humans far outnumbered the vampires. A collection of new societies popped up almost overnight. Humans were herded into the devastated cities and towns to be protected by vampires who would become their agents of death in the future. As civilization broke down the more experienced vampires began to rule over their human herds with fear. New regimes of terror were quickly established in any place that retained human life. The Americas were among the last places to settle down. Carlisle managed to keep his family out of the initial fighting amongst the newborns and nomads, as did leaders of other vegetarian covens. It was not their fight and their interference would have been futile anyway. After the murderous mobs moved inland from the coasts the Cullens returned to their former residence in Forks so they could survey the damage and help in some way. Being at the coast, Forks had already been ravished by the vampires who first swam to America's shores only days ago. Carlisle found the tiny town of Forks nearly devoid of human life; bodies lay bloating in the rain-soaked streets. He instructed his wife and children to gather survivors, destroy anyone found turning, and burn everything. It was the hardest thing most of them had ever been forced to do. Esme and Rosalie took it especially hard. Had it been only adults, dead and turning, they might have been okay. But they found children dead in their beds, drained of blood or screaming in burning agony. They wished like hell they could shed tears for the small lives damned by the wayward members of their own species.

Alice, too, was feeling the crushing sadness and anger. She had never before had to drag rotting human corpses into the streets and pile them on top of each other, as if they were merely garbage to be burned. Her brother, Emmett, never cracked a joke during the whole clean up effort. Even Jasper and Edward seemed to feel the enormous weight of tragedy on their shoulders. There were, miraculously, survivors of the horrific scene. Most were huddled together in basements and attics. They were hungry, tired, and terrified. But they were alive and not changing. For that, the Cullens were very grateful. After the bodies were piled high in on the main street and the survivors assembled, the fires were lit and a long moment of silence was offered to honor the dead. Carlisle would deliver the living to the only safe place he knew of, the Quileute Reservation. Thousands of people across the country would also discover the safety of Indian Reservations in the coming days. The Quileute Indians, it turned out, were not the only tribe with a built-in defense against the deadly attacks of immortals. Petty differences that had seemed so important only days before were now of no consequence whatsoever to human beings. Lines of race, religion, and ethnicity disappeared overnight amid flames of hell on earth. Like most of the other tribes scattered across the face of what had been the Land of the Free, the Quileutes were opening their doors to what was left of humanity. While the flames purged the stink of decay and remnants of the changing, Carlisle noticed that Esme was no longer suffering the soul-crushing sadness he'd seen on her earlier. She was holding a small bundle in her arms while Rosalie and Alice looked on in adoration. He walked to her and found a tiny infant wrapped in blankets in his wife's arms. She looked at him with pure joy in her golden eyes. "Her name is Bella," Esme said, smiling. Carlisle felt suddenly more anxious to get the survivors to safety. "Maybe you should give her to one of the humans to hold, Esme." Her smile faded slightly. "No, Carlisle. We are not turning over this child." Horror bubbled up inside Carlisle, but he could not bring himself to argue with his wife, not when this small life had brightened her day so. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A/\N: Okay, so I'm ending the chapter here because the coffee shop will close soon and I want to get this posted before that. Anyway, next time find out how the other Cullens feel about Esme's desire to keep the baby. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Chapter 1: The Killing Fields Theme song: "The Good Left Undone" by Rise Against Late September/Early October ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Carlisle stood facing the leader of the Quileute tribe, Billy Black. Neither stepped over the invisible line that marked the separation of their hunting grounds as about two dozen human survivors uttered uneasy thanks to their unlikely saviors and crossed the boundary into their new home. Only Carlisle's sons had agreed to accompany him to the edge of the Reservation

for the exchange. Billy Black scanned the faces of the survivors as they warily stepped onto his land. After all the humans were safely over the boundary Billy Black frowned deeply. "Is there anything else we can do?" Carlisle asked, keeping quiet about the existence of one more survivor. Billy Black shook his head sadly. "No. I had good friends in the town. I'd held out hope…" He stood taller and looked Carlisle in the eyes. "We will need to expand our territory, for our survival. The Reservation isn't currently large enough to accommodate the new members and we'll need more land for hunting and growing food." Carlisle nodded respectfully. "Of course, we'll be moving on very soon." Polite words were exchanged between the two men before the vampires returned to their home and the werewolves to theirs. Despite the animosity that existed between the two groups, the Quileutes could not ignore the heroic actions of their enemies on such a sad occasion. Back at the Cullen manor, Edward and Jasper stood as far from the human infant as they could without leaving the large family room. Esme sat holding the baby while Emmett, Alice, and Rosalie surrounded her, admiring the tiny child. Carlisle prepared for the fight he knew was coming. "I think I saw her in a vision," Alice said. "She's so cute. Let me hold her again." Esme had only allowed the child to leave her arms when her children wished to share in the experience. But always a warm blanket and electric heating pad separated the vampires from the delicate baby. Edward narrowed his eyes at Alice and the others. "That thing is not staying with us," he spat. Edward found the child terrifying because she was so very enticing to him. He throat burned with each lungful of her scent, so he stopped breathing. Even then, his eyes and mouth threatened to overflow with venom. The happy thoughts of his family members only added to his discomfort with the situation. "Edward, it's a girl," Alice cooed. "And she has name, you know." Jasper shot Alice an angry look. "He's right, Alice. That thing cannot stay with us. We're dangerous to it and it's dangerous to us." Emmett scowled at his brothers. "She's only a tiny little baby. What could she possibly do to any of us?" he asked in a voice too soft to come from such a large man. "That child threatens everything we've all worked so hard to achieve!" Jasper snapped. "Do you really think any of us can live in a house with a human and not be horribly tempted to have a taste? Especially when the human is so…appetizing." At that Rosalie spun around to face Jasper and Edward, her eyes burning. "Don't you even suggest it, Jasper! The first time either one of you so much as looks at this child funny I will personally destroy you!" The look in her eyes told them she was deadly serious. Emmett made a face to assure them he was in total agreement with his wife. "Uh oh," Alice teased. "You'd better watch yourselves. Especially you, Jazz. You both know as well as I do that this little girl isn't going anywhere."

Edward and Jasper knew she was right. Still, they looked to Carlisle, who had remained quiet until now, for the final decision. Carlisle gave his sons sympathetic looks, but disagreed entirely with them. "What would you have me do, rip the child from your mother's arms?" he asked sadly. He knew Esme wanted this baby and he found he could not deny her this small bit of happiness, no matter the consequences. The child was passed to Emmett, who began making ridiculous faces at her immediately to try and make her laugh. Esme walked to Carlisle. "Thank you, my love." She put her arms around him. "We can keep her safe, probably safer than anyone else. It'll be okay, you'll see. And when she's old enough we can change her, then she'll be safe forever." Edward and Jasper were clearly outnumbered. With one word from Carlisle the issue was settled. Esme led her husband over to meet their new child. He looked down into her deep brown eyes and his expression softened immediately. This was the one thing he'd truly regretted losing along with his humanity. He took the baby girl into his arms and introduced himself as her father. They only knew her name because "Bella" was embroidered on several garments and blankets Esme and Rosalie took from the child's room where they found her. So she would be known as Bella Cullen. The Cullens waited for things to quiet down before moving south and east to find better hunting grounds. It took only weeks for the older vampires to subdue the young ones when the death toll threatened the survival of all the vampires in any region. Systems of transportation and communication broke down as Americans scattered and died across the land. The recent trends in vampire activity quickly traveled to the New World from the old. Previously nomadic individuals and covens established their own territories, effectively locking in any human inhabitants. Many areas around the world were sent back in time with the reemergence of feudal systems into the human consciousness. Dams and levees were destroyed to restore fertility to the soil and societies reverted to agrarian lifestyles, even in the most industrialized nations. Large plots of land were used for crop growing and herds of loose domesticated animals were rounded up. Humans were reduced to diets of grains and animal fats. People began to willingly turn over human sacrifices to their new masters in exchange for being allowed to live another day. A new world order was being established, with vampires at the top of the food chain. To the vegetarian vampires, returning to a diet of human blood was never less enticing. Those who had learned to value human life were overwhelmed by the savage feeding of the newborns and immortal children. The smell of decaying and burning human flesh was forever etched in the memories of the Cullens and others like them. All over the globe forests and beasts immediately began to reclaim the land once humans were no longer the dominant species on the planet. In a matter of months the human population was reduced by billions. Those that weren't killed or changed in the feeding frenzies died in the mass hysteria that ensued. Mercy killings were common, even among the very healthy. After the initial chaos the Cullen family moved into the Deep South. Other vampires were drawn to the cities where humans could more easily be contained, so the Cullens were the only vampires for hundreds of miles around. State borders were no longer recognized, only boundaries between the various territories. Indian Reservations retained their status as sovereignties, and most expanded beyond their previous borders. The populations of shapeshifting protectors exploded during the first waves of vampire attacks and they effectively kept the killers from destroying the lives within their communities. Countless indigenous societies around the globe found that they also had vampire fighters in their midst. Even so, millions of humans were still in limbo, roaming the forests, deserts, and grasslands in search of food and shelter. Anyone not under the protection of native peoples or vampire rulers was in constant danger from vampires who enjoyed hunting humans too much to settle down in one place. Not all vampires liked the idea of humans being brought to them. It took away the thrill of the hunt.

The animal life in the south was diverse enough to satisfy the Cullen clan. They never had to go far from home to hunt. Deer, gator, snakes, bears, and bobcats became more plentiful as time went on. Horses, cows, and other livestock now ran loose through the countryside. Life in the oceans flourished once more and species on the brink of extinction began to come back with a vengeance. On the way to their new home the Cullens met several vampires willing to convert to their diet. The Cullens kept their smallest member well hidden from everyone they encountered. Bella survived on formula, but thrived on the endless attention from her adopted family. She was never put down to rest, but slept in the arms of her parents or siblings. Carlisle was consistently pleased with her growth and development, though Edward and Jasper continued to avoid the child like the plague. "It's so much easier to raise a human child when you never have to sleep," Esme told her grown children. There simply were not enough hours in the day for everyone to fully enjoy Bella. She was read to, sung to, and played with from the moment she opened her eyes in the morning until she passed out from exhaustion at night. Emmett would toss her high into the air and catch her gently as she fell back toward the earth. This activity elicited squeals of delight because Bella knew no fear yet. Alice brushed Bella's hair for hours, even before she had very much of it. Rosalie wanted to teach Bella the words to all the most beautiful songs she knew. Esme enjoyed the feeling of Bella's throat contracting as she was fed by bottle every few hours. Carlisle would spend his time with Bella feeling the warmth and softness of her baby skin against his cold hands and face. He especially loved when she nuzzled her little head into his neck. Edward and Jasper kept their distance, though Edward found himself getting lost in Bella's big brown eyes at times and Jasper secretly swooned each time he watched Alice cuddle with the child. The southern climate, they discovered, was far more conducive to Bella's health than the northeast had been. As long as the biting and stinging insects were kept at bay, Bella breathed easily and never cringed away from the cold touches of her family. On cold days they had only to bundle her up more to keep her comfortable. She was handled delicately and watched very closely because even the tiniest injury could threaten her life. Even when some hospitals reopened, medical care was not what it had been. Beyond that, the scent of Bella's blood might break the will of Edward or Jasper and lead to the fragile child's death. The others got so used to her scent that they barely noticed the tingle in their throats anymore. "I doubt I'll ever be able to turn you, Sweet Bella," Carlisle cooed at his baby daughter as she nodded off to sleep in his arms. "You're far too perfect just like this. I'll only do it if I must." He gently pressed his cold lips to Bella's warm forehead as her eyes drifted closed. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A/N: Forgive the long, drawn out descriptions of human life post-vampocalypse. They are totally 100% necessary. Life is very different in the new vampire-run world that Bella will grow up in. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters. They are all for Stephanie Meyer and I don't get paid to write anything. Warning: Some scenes in this fic may not be suitable for all readers. Be warned, there may be language, sex, drugs, abuse, rape, violence, etc. I haven't decided yet so proceed at your own risk. Reader discretion is advised.

A/N: This is the story of the Vampire Apocalypse. I will try to avoid OOC to the best of my ability. Also, I will try to avoid using anything that did not exist before the Vamp Apocalypse because many elements of human society are no long in existence, including R&D labs for the most part. Please enjoy. Furthermore, each chapter will hopefully have a suggested theme song, though most of them will never exist within this fic. Chapter 2: The Cult of Cullen Theme song: "New Wave" by Against Me As the new Regimes of Terror took hold across the globe new faiths also emerged. Vampires were seen as glistening Angels of Death every time they stepped into the sunlight to strike fear into their human subjects. Over time they became known as the Angry Gods. Even as people continued to practice their old faiths in secret, new cults formed, each devoted to the ruling coven in the territory. Most covens had at least three members who took turns patrolling their borders. Escape from the territories was impossible and revolution was futile. Human beings had no hope of freedom under the watchful eyes that never closed. Elaborate rituals were conducted in attempt to please the immortal tyrants. In some places the sacrifices were dragged kicking and screaming toward their deaths. Their lives were forfeited for the good of their communities, as they were told. The ruling coven in what was once New York City spent much of their time high above their city. Every so often, whenever they felt the urge, James, Laurent, and Victoria would swoop down from their tower to feed on any humans who caught their attention. The people never knew when their Angry Gods might descend to feed, and so fear became a routine part of life. There were vampires who routinely had the prettiest humans dragged into their lairs to feed their more human hungers. These very breakable victims rarely survived the vampire pleasure games; though the unluckiest females survived for a few extra weeks, only die in horrific agony when their half-breed children ripped them apart from the inside. Hybrids were raised in luxury by their vampire fathers while their human mothers lay rotting beneath their feet. Before Bella learned to walk the Cullens found it necessary to establish their own territory to prevent unwanted visitors from dropping in without warning. The Cullen Crest was posted around an area that included many thousands of square miles of coast, swamp, and rich black soil. Against their wishes, the Cullens became the objects of worship for the nearly two hundred thousand humans who lived within their borders. A sense of normalcy set in quickly and the fresh water supply remained uninterrupted, though hot water from the tap and electricity were rare commodities for the humans within the Land of Cullen. Money no longer served any purpose. Especially talented humans became greatly valued for their entertainment value and carried powerful seals of protection from their masters. They were traded like capital across boundary lines. One such woman was delivered to the Cullen house shortly after their territory was established. The woman was named Myra. She was only slightly taller than Alice and had bright red hair flowing down her back. Nervously, she played on Edward's piano as if it would surely safe her life. The Cullens were very impressed with their pianist and assured her she would not fall victim to their thirst just as no other human would. She was the first person allowed to know about Bella's existence. The smallest Cullen was now learning to say simple words like mama, and dada. Myra was the first human to hold Bella since the Cullens found her. The child delighted in the warmth of Myra's skin.

From that day forward Myra wore the Cullen Crest as her personal badge of safety. She was welcomed into the Cullen house often so Bella would know another human besides herself. The whole family enjoyed hearing Myra's voice and watching her fingers fly over the ivory keys. Even Edward and Jasper enjoyed the music, though they only ever listened from two floors above. Carlisle became known as the Healer for his ability to treat the sick and injured among the humans. Though the population never fully trusted any of the Cullens, an uneasy peace existed between the people and their exalted immortals. As much as Carlisle might have wanted his family to simply blend in, he recognized the necessity of the fear and respect with which the humans received them. When Bella began to speak, she had five eager loved ones ready to offer her new words to try. She quickly became confused. So Rosalie became RosaREE. Emmett was Emmy and Alice was Ahwice. So they learned to back off and let Bella speak at her own pace. When she learned to crawl each of her loving guardians began to mimic her movements on the floor. As she took her first steps, five pairs of hands anxiously waited to catch her, lest she should stumble and fall. Bella knew little of physical pain as she grew. But as Bella began to understand her surroundings she also became aware that two members of her family seemed to ignore her existence. Until Bella learned to speak Edward had assumed she had no thoughts whatsoever. But when she could form sentences it became clear that Bella was somehow immune to Edward's strange talents. He tried to distance himself even more from the human child. But his absence in her life did not go unnoticed by the innocent girl. She reasoned that whatever Edward and Jasper felt for her must be the opposite of love, which she got in abundance from the others. Only Jasper could sense the hurt Bella felt each time she failed to gain her brothers' acceptance with her childish play. One day Bella sat on Alice's lap as the bubbly vampire brushed through her little sister's dark curls. "Why don't they like me?" Bella asked pointing toward Edward and Jasper through large open window that allowed light to pour into the room. Alice put the brush down and raised Bella to her eye level. "They're just silly boys, Bella. But I love you very much!" Alice said with a wide grin. It was the only thing she could offer at the moment. Later when she was alone with Jasper in their spacious bedroom she tried to explain the hurt look on Bella's face. "She's only a child, Jazz. Why can't you love her like I do?" "You don't understand, Alice," he told her. "It's not that I can't love her. I would die before I'd ever hurt you. There's no way to be sure I won't kill that child if I get too close. How could I ever face you if I did that?" he asked sadly. Alice closed her eyes tightly and concentrated. "I don't see that happening, Jazz. I believe you've already made the decision not to harm her and I just can't see you doing it." Jasper closed the distance between himself and Alice, pulling her into a tight embrace. Their tongues danced together between their open lips and he lifted her off the floor and onto their bed. The rest of the Cullens stayed far away from Jasper and Alice's room for the next few hours. In the morning Jasper stepped up to Bella, who was calmly wrapped in Alice's arms. Alice smiled encouragingly at her husband as he offered his hand to the tiny child. Bella wrapped her chubby little fingers around Jasper's index finger and he could feel the blood flowing through her hand. The feeling made his throat burn more fiercely than it had ever before. He gently pried the warm fingers from his skin before retreating into the bayou behind their house in search of reptile blood to quench his maddening thirst.

Over the next few years Carlisle sent Edward and Jasper on extended trips outside of Cullen territory. They were charged with the responsibility of forming friendly ties with other vampires in surrounding settlements. Trade routes were established over the continent and humans were allowed to move between territories to exchange goods and services. The most valuable assets were humans who possessed talents which the vampires found useful or entertaining. Many were turned to preserve or heighten their natural abilities. The leader of the ruling coven in what had been California exchanged a talented bassist for instructions on turning humans after several attempts had failed. Jasper was very happy with the trade because he had someone to play guitar with. Over time, the Cullens were able to exchange letters with the Denali clan in Alaska. Edward was sent to deliver Myra to them after they agreed to turn her and guide her through the tumultuous first years. Carlisle hoped she might one day return to his family in the South. He refused to turn anyone else and dreaded having to turn Bella one day, though he knew it was best. Esme suggested he do it right after she reached puberty so she would not be in extra danger every month. Bella sat on Esme's lap as they drifted gently back and forth in the swing on the veranda. She watched Rosalie dance across the sun-soaked front lawn. Bella loved to watch her sisters as their skin glittered in the sunlight that filtered through the mossy trees around their home. Emmett was inside adjusting the set-top antenna until he could see the picture on the television clearly. "Fucking no cable!" he screamed. Esme covered Bella's ears and whispered, "Watch your language, Em." He walked out the front door and smiled apologetically. "Sorry," he said. "It just annoys me that we can't get any decent reception down here." "What's the point, Em?" Rosalie teased, walking up the front steps. "It's not like there's anything on anyway." She was right, and Emmett knew it. The only programs broadcast now were reruns of old sitcoms and soap operas. Most of the older vampires hadn't felt television was worth saving. Only two networks were up in the years following the first attacks. "We should start a football team or something," Emmett suggested, "so we'd have something to do." Carlisle had already opened a health clinic and eagerly busied himself with his passion for medicine. "Do it, Emmett," Esme encouraged. "You can reopen the high school down the road if you like." Emmett chuckled at her suggestion. "Like anyone would send their kids to school with me!" Okay, this was a bit longer than I anticipated, but I want to establish the Cullens' lifestyle. They're not tyrannical rulers like most of the other vampire kings, but they can't go back to blending in either. I don't plan to introduce many OC's because I don't think people really care for them. But I did want to stress the human side of life in the post-vampocalypse world. Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters. They are all for Stephanie Meyer and I don't get paid to write anything.

Warning: Some scenes in this fic may not be suitable for all readers. Be warned, there may be language, sex, drugs, abuse, rape, violence, etc. I haven't decided yet so proceed at your own risk. Reader discretion is advised. A/N: This is the story of the Vampire Apocalypse. I will try to avoid OOC to the best of my ability. Also, I will try to avoid using anything that did not exist before the Vamp Apocalypse because many elements of human society are no long in existence, including R&D labs for the most part. Please enjoy. Furthermore, each chapter will hopefully have a suggested theme song, though most of them will never exist within this fic. Chapter 3: Democracy is Dead Theme song: "Hypnotize" by System of a Down Bella looked up from her fried chicken and mashed potatoes. "How come I'm the only one who eats stuff?" she asked, her big brown eyes shining with curiosity. Carlisle and Esme shifted nervously. "Oh, we eat," Esme said. "We just don't eat…quite the same way you do." She had known that one day Bella would notice that she wasn't quite like the rest of her family. Esme exchanged a worried glance with Carlisle. They'd have to have a long talk with their five year old very soon. "Eat your dinner, Baby," Carlisle said. They thoroughly enjoyed watching Bella eat, though they found her human food very unappealing. It was a delight to experience each subtle change that occurred in the life of a human child. Bella continued eating her dinner, but glanced up often trying to imagine how else a person could eat besides with their mouths. Now that Bella was too large to sleep comfortably in the arms of her loved ones she was put to rest each day on only the softest surfaces in the Cullen house. Always someone sat or lay beside her and watched her sleep, reveling in each tiny movement and noise. Esme no longer tried to force a normal human routine on her child so Bella simply slept when she felt tired and ate when she was hungry. The child spent her waking hours running around the yard and trying to stay awake during her studies. Lessons were given each day by her siblings, who could not agree on what things were most important for a small girl to learn. Rosalie taught Bella to sing and play piano. The first song Bella could sing all the way through was "Amazing Grace". Alice tried teaching Bella to design clothes and sew, but Esme was afraid her fragile child might sew through her finger one day. So Alice had to make due teaching Bella to draw and paint. Emmett appointed himself gym teacher and gathered the whole family on the front lawn for touch football or just played a very gentle game of catch with his little sister. Jasper avoided getting close to Bella after the first time he touched her, but he watched with amusement whenever anyone else interacted with her. Bella regarded Jasper as a background character in her life because he was always standing at least ten feet away. During her language lessons Bella tried very hard to please Edward with her progress. "Ginkou, gakkou, kyookai, biyoin-" "No, Bella!" Edward said. "The word is byouin."

Bella looked up, "That's what I said, biyoin." "No, it's not," Edward corrected. "You said biyoin which means hairdresser, not hospital. You can't take a dying man to the hairdresser, Bella." He suddenly realized he'd been using too harsh a tone, but it was too late. The deep brown eyes were on him, already filling with tears. The corners of her mouth were beginning to turn down. Edward felt trapped, pulled in the dark abyss that waited behind those eyes he was so careful to avoid. "Dimmit, Edward?" Rosalie yelled. She swept Bella up into her arms. "You're no good with kids! Thank God you'll never father any." Edward got angry. "Whatever, Rosalie!" he spat back. "You teach her Japanese then. I'm through!" He disappeared out the open window. It was Esme's idea for Edward to involve himself in Bella's life anyway. No one could understand how uneasy Edward felt about that child. Each time he was unlucky enough to be caught in her gaze he felt himself drowning in a sea of chocolate brown. And it scared Edward Cullen shitless. Because he was already in the woods Edward decided to find himself some lunch. As he drained his prey he suddenly realized how stupid he was for expecting Bella to know the difference between a hospital and a hairdresser. She'd never seen either of those things and he wondered if humans still worried about their hair. He doubted it. One of the settlements Edward visited was run by a small group of females from South America. Their territory was in the Midwestern portion of what was once called America. Humans under their command were expected to constantly churn out babies to replace the sacrifices. Any woman who failed or refused to reproduce was quickly eliminated. Maybe they just tried not to get attached to their offspring, knowing what would become of them. Sometimes Edward wished his mother had not gotten so attached to the infant she found in Forks. He was sure his family's situation would turn out badly. Carlisle returned home from his clinic looking very worried. Some communication lines had been restored over the previous year and news could travel, if only very slowly, between continents. "An epidemic has broken out in central Asia," he said with a deep sigh. "I doubt it'll spread here since the humans can't travel outside their territories much, but still…" "Daddy, what's an epideemick?" Bella asked from behind her big wooden dollhouse. Her eyes found Carlisle through the tiny glass windows. Carlisle cleared his throat before attempting an explanation. "Well, Baby, it's when people… well, normal people get sick. Only when an epidemic happens it means that a lot of people get sick all at once. You remember when you had an earache not long ago?" Bella peered around the walls of the dollhouse and nodded, holding her ear. "Well imagine if lots of other people got the same earache and they were all feeling bad at one time." "Will we get sick then, Daddy?" the child asked as she walked to her father. "No, Baby," he assured her. But more than two centuries of experience told him it was entirely possible that a contagious disease, even in an isolated territory, could threaten the entire planet. He decided to take extra precautions for the time being. Quarantine could easily be enforced in the Cullen settlement. No one in, no one out.

There were no other settlements near the Cullens'. Nearly one hundred miles of no-man's-land lay between the borders of different settlements. Without motorcars humans could not easily travel from one settlement to the next quickly. Anyone who was sick would likely die on the way. The drifters would be the biggest threat. As much as Carlisle hated to even consider it, he'd have the drifters taken out if they threatened his home. Okay, so that's it for now. I wanted to establish some of the relationships a bit more before bringing on the heavier drama, which is so definitely coming. The Cullens can't keep Bella safe from her own humanity or from the truth about vampires. Like any child she is very curious about her world. Also, in case anyone was wondering about where exactly the Cullens live now, their territory covers the southernmost parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and most of Florida. They chose this area for the diversity in wildlife. So they get large mammals, reptiles, fish, and huge birds. You ever seen a whooping crane? Those things are freakin' ginormous! Thanks so much to those of you who left me encouraging reviews! If you have some issue that you'd like to see addressed in the post-vampocalypse world feel free to suggest it. Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. SM owns them and is so very awesome for creating Twilight. Warning: This story, and especially this chapter, contains very disturbing and horrible imagery. Beware! Reader discretion is very much advised. A/N: I very much appreciate all the reviews and encouragement. So to show my thanks I'm writing this update in the time I have before my Gender in Popular Culture class. Guess what we'll be watching in a couple weeks! YES, WE WILL SO TOTALLY BE WATCHING TWILIGHT! Chapter 4: The Void and the Upside-down World Theme Song: "Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed Southern Africa, nearly midnight The human population prepares the night's sacrifices. Women sing a song of mourning for the children as they prepare them for the feast. The elders say a pray for mercy. Twenty teenage girls weep silently, paralyzed for the moment by a crippling fear. The silence grows louder as midnight approaches. Romania, two hours past midnight Vladimir and Stephan unveil the latest map of their territory, which now includes all of the old Hungarian and Habsburg Empires. They plan to vie for Western Europe, but that will mean defeating the Irish Coven. Theirs is the not largest of the Vampire armies. A move on India and Northern Africa would mean war with Alistair's new coven. They have no hope against Xing at this point. But the Ancients seek desire more power than their current kingdom provides. East Asia, early morning

Peasants rise before the sun. Work in the fields begins in the light of the moon. The Vampire Xing is presented with twelve young men for breakfast. They walk stoically toward their deaths. Fear is not allowed in the palace of Emperor Xing. Ten miles away his Vampire army is fed only the most useless of humanity. Japan, morning A remote village in Hokkaido is ravished by one of the last of the Immortal Children. She will be discovered soon and ordered destroyed by the Sesshiko-sama. Women are already at work in the rice patties farther south. Australia, morning A group of drifters settles down for the morning meal. They have only a few stalks of sugarcane and half a pot of black coffee. In a day's time they can reach beyond the Void. Sand stings their eyes and scorches their throats. If they make it out of the Void they have a slim chance of surviving a few more years. Here in the Void they will be dead in days. Alaska, afternoon Kate takes Myra on the hunt. The Denalis are pleased with the progress of their newest sister. Western North America, late afternoon The Burbank Vampires engage in Pleasure Games. The Vampire Jonah rapes a young woman until her pelvis shatters. She is tossed onto the pile of "used" bodies. She will die in a few hours from internal bleeding. Several floors below another woman's abdomen is ripped to shreds by a new life. Her death is nearly instant. The Deep South, late afternoon The streets of a city still known as New Orleans are alive with festivities. It is Halloween. For the next twelve hours the world will be upside down. Humans will roam the streets dressed as demons and monsters while members of the Cullen family don their finest clothes and waltz to the sounds of Tchaikovsky across a glossy white hard wood floor. New England, early evening The flame-haired Victoria watches her mate take out a family of eight. Her laughter echoes off the intact glass windows of buildings that once held America's financial secrets. The crowded street erupts in screams of terror. The jungles of South America, evening The Amazonian Vampires track the newborn that landed on their shores only hours ago. The newborn is looking for prey in a village just beyond the thick jungle. Before the Coven finds the newborn she will feed on a half dozen victims. Zafrina will pursue the young one into the void if she must. Bella ran laughing through the big rooms of the Cullen house. Her giggles echoed of the wooden floorboards. Emmett had given her a toy metal airplane and she raised it high above her head and made it fly around the ground floor. The child was so involved in her play that she did not see Edward in time and ran right into his legs.

Edward looked down in surprise and was immediately drawn in by those perfect brown eyes again. The stare literally brought him to his knees. With two steady hands he reached forward and closed his long white fingers around the child's small upper arms. Bella apologized for her rudeness, thinking she might be in trouble. But Edward had no intention of scolding the girl. Instead he tried in vain to bread free of her irresistible gaze. Slowly, very slowly, Edward's head was pulled forward by a force beyond his control. Each passing second brought his lips closer to the child's warm neck. Eventually he was so close to Bella's skin that he was able to break eye contact. His lips parted slightly and venom flowed rapidly into his mouth. Edward heard Alice's thoughts and knew she was only inches away now. No, Edward! Please, no! Still, he could not stop his head from moving forward, ever closer to the sweet smell of innocent blood. Bella gasped and began to cry. "You're hurting me, Edward," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. A hot tear fell on Edward's cheek. Suddenly Alice was between Edward and the child and Jasper's arms were wrapped tightly around Edward's shoulders. Instead of warm flesh Edward's teeth bit into Alice's cold skin. She let out a soft cry of pain before scooping Bella up. In a flash of white cotton she was out of the room and Jasper had Edward pinned to the floor. "Oh God, I'm so sorry." But the damage was done. Edward felt the crushing reality sink in. He'd let the temptation win. Even worse, he'd hurt someone he cared very deeply for. Alice would recover quickly, but Edward had given Bella her first lesson in fear. Would anyone forgive him? Had he ruined the control he'd worked so hard to achieve for nearly a century? "Let me go!" Edward barked. He had to get out of that house and far away from the child who threatened to undo him. A/N: I'll continue this little scene in the next chapter because I have class in fifteen minutes. So next time you'll find out if the Cullens can forgive Edward and if he'll be willing to come back. Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters. They are all for Stephanie Meyer and I don't get paid to write anything. Warning: Some scenes in this fic may not be suitable for all readers. Be warned, there may be language, sex, drugs, abuse, rape, violence, etc. I haven't decided yet so proceed at your own risk. Reader discretion is advised. A/N: This is the story of the Vampire Apocalypse. I will try to avoid OOC to the best of my ability. Also, I will try to avoid using anything that did not exist before the Vamp Apocalypse because many elements of human society are no long in existence, including R&D labs for the most part. Please enjoy. Furthermore, each chapter will hopefully have a suggested theme song, though most of them will never exist within this fic. Thanks for the reviews, guys! You please me so much that I'm going to go ahead and let you know what happens to Edward! Chapter Five: The Favorite

Theme song: "Accidents Can Happen" by Sixx AM (if you haven't heard this you really should take a listen) Edward sat in the loft of an old barn near the borders. He could see the large wooden sign with the Cullen Crest painted on it. He was only a few yards from the Void. The faded red barn overlooked a small pond. Hours ago Edward heard strange honking sounds coming from the pond and he'd gone to investigate. A mating pair of swans had made their home around the pond, but the female had been mauled by a hungry stray dog. Its body lay ripped open and rotting. Edward remembered reading somewhere that swans mate for life, so he grabbed the male by its long thin neck and drained it completely. It shouldn't have to live without its mate. Jasper found his brother sitting very still, just staring down at the pond. "You been hunting?" he asked Edward. "Yes," Edward replied without emotion. "Horses and one swan." He never took his eyes off the pond. "Why are you here? Did you come to kick my ass? I might just let you." Jasper rolled his eyes. "Don't be such a drama queen. I came to drag your ass home." Edward laughed. "Seriously? Did Carlisle send you?" he asked. "Yeah, Carlisle sent me. And Esme and Alice and Emmett. Come on, let's go. Anyway, Alice doesn't need me to kick your ass for her." Finally Edward's eyes met Jaspers. "How mad are they?" he asked. "I know they don't expect me to just walk back in and act like nothing happened." "No," Jasper replied, rolling his eyes again. "They expect you to apologize to Alice and Bella and try harder next time. We all make mistakes, Edward. You're not the first Cullen to screw up. Shit, even Esme's had a couple slip-ups." "Yeah," Edward agreed. "But they fucking adore that child! You really think they'll just forget that I almost killed her?" At that Jasper laughed. "Edward, do you really think they love her more than they love you? We're a family, or at least that's the idea. Everyone's important. And that girl has no idea how close she came to dying. She thinks you were just mad at her for running in the house." A smile crossed Edward's lips. "So they'll just forgive me if I'm sorry, huh?" He thought about it for a minute. "Is Alice okay?" he asked. "She's fine," Jasper assured him. "But I wouldn't be surprised if she demanded some kind of huge favor or elaborate gift in exchange for her forgiveness." He smiled deviously at Edward. "Come on, let's go home." A few minutes of comfortable silence passed between the brothers before Jasper spoke again. "I think we might've been wrong seven years ago. Maybe keeping the child wasn't as big a mistake as we thought it was." "How so?" asked Edward. "Well, she makes everyone happy," Jasper offered. "Even you, Jazz?"

Jasper considered the question for a moment. "Yes. I mean, she makes Alice happy. So in a sense she also makes me happy. And taking care of her makes everyone feel like we're a real family. Yes, the girl…Bella makes me happy." When Edward and Jasper finally walked in the back door the Cullens were busy with quiet nighttime activities in the sitting room. Esme was halfway through crocheting a blanket from fluffy white yarn. Carlisle was making careful notes in a leather-bound journal. Emmett and Rosalie were reading from the same book with their heads close together on the plush loveseat. Edward noticed that Rosalie glared at him for a minute when he walked in, but then went back to reading her book. In the darkest corner of the room Alice was lounging on a sofa with a pillow in her lap. Bella was sound asleep on the pillow, curled up next to Alice with a thick quilt between them. Alice's fingers combed gently through Bella's dark hair. Esme jumped up and gave Edward a tight hug. "Don't you ever run off like that again!" she said. But Edward could see that she was more relieved than angry. Carlisle and Emmett gave Edward friendly smiles from their seats. Only Rosalie refused to let on that she felt better now that Edward was home. Very quietly Edward approached the sofa where Alice sat with the sleeping child. He knelt in front of Alice's legs and whispered, "Alice, I-" but she silenced him by placing her index finger against his lips. "Edward, don't say it. I know. I've already heard you say it." She lifted a finger and tapped it against her temple. Her smile settled Edward's fears. Or maybe it was Jasper with his weird talents. Alice tilted her head toward Bella's sleeping form. "She'll forgive you too. Do you know how much she wants your approval, Edward? I think she might be a little smitten." Alice winked at her brother. Bella stirred, but did not wake. For once Edward was able to look at her without being sucked in by her eyes and he thought that she far prettier than he'd realized before. She looked very fragile and innocent with her eyes closed and a peaceful expression on her face. Edward envied her the ability to sleep, to shut out the world for a few hours every day. Hours passed before Edward realized that he was still kneeling on the floor watching Bella sleep. A/N: Okay, more drama will appear in the next chapter. I just thought this was sweet when it played out in my head last night. For those of you who are as horrified by eighties fashion as I am, don't worry. The Cullen's are not stuck with the styles of that era. Alice is very fashion forward and in some ways the post-vampocalypse world is looking backward for their clothing options. There aren't any cute little cell phones or I-pods, but they do have hip huggers and boot flare-leg pants. I can't give that up. Keep the reviews coming! And if you have any suggestions let me know. A/N: This is the story of the Vampire Apocalypse. I will try to avoid OOC to the best of my ability. Also, I will try to avoid using anything that did not exist before the Vamp Apocalypse because many elements of human society are no long in existence, including R&D labs for the most part. Please enjoy.

Furthermore, each chapter will hopefully have a suggested theme song, though most of them will never exist within this fic. Chapter Six: Silver Dollar Them song: "Bloodletting" by Concrete Blond In the damp, moldy basement of The Bat Room a tall woman named Artemisia shuffled and reshuffled a deck of Tarot cards. She was one of the oldest Vampires in the Deep South, along with the two other members of her coven, Jean-Michel and Miss Annalie. No matter how many times Artemisia shuffled and laid out the cards it always spelled doom. Dim gray light from a small window set near the ceiling illuminated the small space as it filled with aromatic smoke. Artemisia had skin like natural honey with hair only one shade darker, which she kept wrapped in a colorful scarf. Miss Annalie, however, had pale porcelain skin and golden blond hair in tight, glossy ringlets to her shoulders. Jean-Michel was taller than the females and nicely chiseled. His long hair was the color of cinnamon, his skin a pallid grayish white. All three had the same shiny red eyes. Jean-Michel took a drag from a hand-rolled cigarette and continued to stare at the ceiling. "No change, huhn?" he asked. Artemisia abandoned the cards on her table and threw a bagful of carved stones to the dirt floor. "No change," she replied flatly. "How long?" asked Miss Annalie, finally looking away from her childlike face reflected in a silver hand mirror. Artemisia returned to her chair at the table and shuffled again. This time she paid closer attention to the cards. This was her specialty, reading the signs. "Less than five years," she answered. "We'll need to make contact, warn them." At that Miss Annalie grew excited. "I'll go!" she said enthusiastically. With one last look in the mirror, Annalie lithely made her way to street level and off toward the edge of town. She knew just where to find Carlisle Cullen. Bella and Alice busied themselves building a giant sand castle while their mother focused on her reading a few yards away. Esme lay on a towel on the sand, pouring over short stories by Kate Chopin. Rosalie walked out into the water only far enough to allow the warm water to wet her legs. The day was grey and overcast, so they'd come to the beach. Only in this weather was it safe to allow Bella a few hours outdoors because she was prone to sunburn. As she dug out more sand from the deep pit that was forming, Bella found a small silver disc. "Look at this!" she called out to Alice as she ran back toward the tower of sand. "Oh, Bella, you found a treasure!" Alice said clapping her hands together. She took the disc from Bella and examined it. "I don't think I've ever seen this sort of coin before. Maybe Rosalie knows what it is." Rosalie, hearing her name mentioned, walked gracefully over to her sisters. Her cold skin was mostly exposed by her dark blue bikini and the few humans at the beach stared openly,

mouths agape. Esme and Alice received similar attention each time they rose from the sand. Bella was only starting to develop into a woman. Even so, no one would dare so much as think dirty thoughts about the child of the Vampires. "Let me see," Rosalie said, holding out a pale hand. "Oh, it's an old silver dollar!" she told Bella. "You should keep it; old money is rare nowadays." She was right. Since the takeovers most paper money had been burned and coinage melted down to make symbols of the new regimes. The silver dollar was a rare find, indeed. Even coins in private collections had been pilfered during the first massacres. As Bella carried the coin over to her mother for safekeeping, Alice became suddenly aware of an imminent threat to human life. Only a second after she had snatched Bella from the sand it rose out of the ocean, quite suddenly, and grabbed the nearest warm body. From her position between Alice, Rosalie, and Esme, Bella watched with horror as the blond Vampire, James, sucked every bit of life from the young woman in his grasp. Her body fell limply to the sand as the rest of the humans fled in a panic, screaming. He walked menacingly closer to the Cullen women. "Well, you must be the legendary Cullens," he said with a snarl. "Hope you don't mind me hunting here. I'm on a very long trip, you see." "Actually, we do mind," Esme snapped back. "We don't allow the hunting of humans within our borders." Her face was cold and her eyes fierce. "What do we have here?" James asked, bending his body to see around Esme's hips. Bella began to shiver in response to the bare Vampire skin against her mostly exposed body. "These are my daughters," Esme replied, still glaring. "All of them." "Really?" James asked, amused. "The little one looks more like an hors d'oeuvre to me." His laughter frightened Bella even more. She wrapped her arms tightly around her mother's waist. Esme said a silent prayer that James wouldn't be stupid enough to go after Bella when she was protected by three adults. They all knew who he was, and his clan was widely known as one of the cruelest in North America. A growl rose up from deep inside Esme as she stared down the killer before her. Alice and Rosalie held their positions. There was no way any of them would allow James to get within arms length of Bella. Carlisle returned home from the clinic to find his sons enjoying a game of Monopoly. "Only the immortal have that kind of patience," he said as he observed their slow progress. Esme and the girls were not yet home; otherwise he would have been greeted properly by now. Only during Bella's absence did they speak aloud about their true nature. "Hunting was good today," Emmett announced, sounding extremely bored with the game. He usually preferred more physical activities. "How was your day?" Jasper asked, sensing Carlisle's anxiety. Carlisle sat down and asked for their full attention. "Today a young girl came in to the clinic," he started. "Well, she's actually a very old Vampire, but was turned at a young age. She's from New Orleans. There's at least one Coven in our territory we didn't know about. She called it the Creole Coven."

Only Edward didn't need to hear this out loud. Carlisle watched his sons tense up. "Anyway," Carlisle continued, "she and her Coven want to meet with us and form an alliance of some sort. She said they have very important information about the future of our world. I agreed to a meeting tonight. We'll need to at least hear them out." "How the hell did we miss a whole coven?" Jasper asked. "Shit! And what information could they have that Alice can't give us?" "They have a seer also. But her talents work differently from Alice's," Carlisle replied. "The seer, Artemisia, is their leader. The girl's name was Miss Annalie." "Miss?" Emmett smirked. "I swear, that's how she introduced herself," Carlisle said with a shrug. Edward looked up suddenly. "The girls are home," he said. "And something's happened." All four men were outside in less than a second. Rosalie emerged from their car with Bella in her arms. Carlisle noticed that the child's eyes displayed the thousand yard stare he'd seen on survivors of the massacres. Esme had the same look in her eyes as Alice led her by the hand. "What happened?" Jasper asked. He could already feel the panic rising in Bella, threatening to break through the numbness she'd felt for the entire trip home. Esme and the girls were all feeling very upset. It was Edward who finally spoke once the Cullens were inside. "They were attacked at the beach," he explained, picking the memory from Rosalie's head because she was the calmest. "It was James. He killed a woman and went after Bella. She saw everything!" Edward couldn't read Bella's thoughts, but the impact of this information was not lost on him. Emmett stood and clenched his fists. "I'll kill him! I'll tear him apart!" he spat. "You're too late, Em," Edward explained. Horror flashed across Emmett's face as he looked to Rosalie. Bella was still in her arms and still staring into space. Carlisle knelt before Esme, who was seated on a cushioned chair with her head in her hands. "What happened, Darling?" he asked. Esme looked up to him, then down at her hands, as if they were covered in gore. "I just…I had to…" "We took him out! Mom and I! We took him out!" Rosalie almost shouted. She was shaking and Emmett wrapped his arms around her and Bella. "It's okay. It's over," he whispered. "No it's not, not for her," Jasper said, pointing to Bella. "It's not over for her. She's gonna freak out in a minute." "Bella, you're safe now," Emmett tried to reassure her. But it was too late. Jasper fell to the floor clutching his head and moaning. "Get out, all of you! Get the fuck out of here!" he yelled. "Don't you understand? She's afraid of us!"

Realization spread across their faces as the screaming started. A/N: Okay, I know I said no more OC's, but you can't live near NOLA and not expect to find some Vamp craziness. Besides, I don't want to ruin the supporting Vamps since I don't really understand them enough to have them play big roles. Anyway, I visited Laura Plantation yesterday and I think I'd like to pretend the Cullens live there cause it's feakin' awesome and there's a bayou very nearby. Or maybe Felicite. Anyway, St. James is really interesting in its mix of old crumbling buildings, new modern homes, and antebellum houses. It's really gorgeous. Next time I'll tell you who brings Bella down from her panic attack. It might surprise you. Or you might be able to guess. Whatever. You can leave me your guess in your review. REVIEW! And I'll tell you if you're right. A/N: This is the story of the Vampire Apocalypse. I will try to avoid OOC to the best of my ability. Also, I will try to avoid using anything that did not exist before the Vamp Apocalypse because many elements of human society are no long in existence, including R&D labs for the most part. Please enjoy. Furthermore, each chapter will hopefully have a suggested theme song, though most of them will never exist within this fic. Third person POV because it just makes more sense to me. xXx Chapter Seven: Don't Lie to Me Theme song: "Here is Gone" by the Goo Goo Dolls Carlisle managed to drag everyone from the house except Esme. Jasper had insisted they all leave and go far away until he could calm Bella down. Having so many emotions to deal with at once was too much for him, and everyone could see Jasper was in pain from Bella's panic. But Esme had refused to leave her child and Jasper said she could stay as long as she calmed herself down. He probably didn't completely trust himself to be alone with a human child. The five Cullens raced down to St. Bernard for their meeting with the secret Coven. When they arrived there were a dozen other Vampires waiting for them. Artemisia introduced herself and her Coven, as did the other leaders. The exchange was very polite. "We have less than five years before the armies come across the oceans," Artemisia said, getting down to business after the initial pleasantries. "By that time there will be only two major factions left, and they'll both be vying for control of this side of the globe. The only way we'll stand a chance is if we form a united front." Carlisle had been told by Miss Annalie earlier of the nature of Artemisia's powers. Her visions worked differently than Alice's. Where Alice saw the futures of specific people, Artemisia saw the bigger picture. She couldn't tell which two sides would be victorious in the wars that were already waging overseas, but she could predict that the two sides would come into conflict over the Americas.

"Why are going to come here?" Emmett asked. A large ebony-skinned male stepped forward to answer him. "We've heard rumors that the humans are dying out over in Asia and Europe," he said. "War, famine, disease, the conditions are deplorable in many places." "I was wondering," Carlisle said, "how did you manage to keep your Covens secret?" Artemisia smiled. "You came here to build a home and a new life for your family while most Covens were seeking power and control. You weren't the first to try and lay claim to this area. We allowed you to seize it because we knew you wouldn't try to interfere. You would've found us if you'd looked, but we've all been around since this area was controlled by France. We've learned to maintain low profiles." Most of the Vampires from the secret Covens were vegitarians, and those that weren't had learned to feed on humans without killing. "You'd be surprised at how many people are willing to bleed themselves for you when they believe you're some kinda god," Jean-Michel explained, taking a long drag on his cigarette. Alice arched her eyebrows at him. "I've never met a Vampire who smoked before." Jean-Michel flashed her a brilliant smile. "I had the habit long before I was turned," he said. "Focus, people!" Rosalie said and slapped her hand on the table in front of her. "What are we supposed to do about all this?" she asked Artemisia. Bella's screams were still echoing in Rosalie's head and she was eager to get back home and see if things had calmed down. "First, I suggest you take out the other two from James' Coven if you want to keep that human child alive," Artemisia said. The Cullens, except for Edward, were stunned. "Of course we knew about her," she continued. "We, like you, don't wish to interfere in the business of others. If it weren't for the coming danger we wouldn't have bothered you." "I'll go tonight!" Emmett said. "No one is going to threaten my family. You in, Edward?" Edward nodded. "Me too," Jean-Michel offered. "I'll help you, in honor of our knew friendship. And I know the New England Coven doesn't have any kind of army. They're too selfish to share their food with newborns." Miss Annalie jumped up. "Then I'm going too," she said. "It'll be fun." At the conclusion of the meeting Emmett left with Edward and the two volunteers from the Creole Coven. They were also joined by a vegetarian female from St. Bernard who was eager for an adventure. xXx Bella screamed and sobbed hysterically for over an hour before she was too exhausted to continue. She'd curled up into ball under the coffee table and refused to move, though she shivered from the cool night air. Esme had busied herself by hunting in the woods nearby. After that she returned home to find Jasper sitting cross-legged a few feet from where Bella was curled up. Neither could approach

the child without upsetting her again so Esme built a fire in the hearth and lit some oil lamps. Her subsequent pacing and fidgeting began to irritate Jasper as he tried to keep Bella calm. "Esme, please!" Jasper barked. He hated to be harsh toward her, but she wasn't helping. "I'm sorry. I'll go," she said sadly. But a hoarse whisper stopped her in her tracks. "Not too far, Mama. Okay?" Esme was overcome with relief to hear Bella speak at last. She went to the yard to give them some breathing room. Jasper tilted his head to look at Bella. "Are you ready to come out?" he asked quietly. Bella shook her head. "Okay," Jasper said. "We can talk right here." He lay on his side and rested his head on his outstretched arm so he was face to face with Bella. But he stayed a few feet away to avoid startling her. "No one's gonna hurt you, Bella." "Do you kill people, Jasper?" she asked in a shaky voice. Jasper decided it would be best to stop keeping her in the dark. She was old enough to handle the truth. "I have in the past. I've killed lots of people, humans and Vampires. But I haven't killed anyone in a long time." "What about the others?" she pressed. "Carlisle… I mean, your daddy, he's never killed any humans, I don't think. Everyone else has slipped up though. We try hard to only feed on animals, and it's worked pretty well for the past few decades. No one's slipped in a while." Jasper watched Bella think it over before her eyes grew wide with realization. "Edward tried to kill my once, didn't he. That time when you had to go bring him back. Alice got hurt." "Yeah," he admitted. "He's had a hard time, but he felt really bad about it. Alice doesn't see it happening again." Bella shook, but remained in her place. "I know Edward and you don't like me. Is that why? Because you both want to…eat me?" Jasper felt a new emotion from Bella, and it made him feel very sad. "Hey, I like you. Why would you think we don't like you? I don't want you to feel like that… unloved." "You guys don't really talk to me or hang out or anything. And you didn't play with me when I was little. Edward's always cross with me." Jasper could see Bella's eyelids getting heavy. "Don't pay any attention to Edward," he joked. "But hey, we're talking right now, aren't we?" Jasper smiled at Bella. "Tell you what, when you feel better I'll take you to do something fun. It'll be just you and me and Alice, okay?" He was relieved to see Bella smile finally. "You promise?" she asked. "I swear on my honor as a southern gentleman." He answered. A devilish grin crossed his lips. "Maybe you should smile at Edward more," he suggested. "I think he likes to see you smile, even if he won't admit it." That would be payback for the time Edward bit Alice.

Bella's smile fell and she looked directly into Jasper's eyes. "I'm afraid, Jasper. I don't want to die like that lady on the beach." "We'll protect you, Bella, I swear," he said. "You know, everyone loves you. I know I don't ever say it or show it, but I care about you a lot. You're family and I won't let anything bad happen to you." "You won't bite me, will you?" Jasper thought for a moment. Alice said she didn't see that happening, and that made him feel more confident over the years. He'd helped Alice save Bella from Edward too. But there was a new reason for him to abstain. Feeling Bella's terror earlier had been very painful because of the intensity of her fear and trauma. He was sure he'd never forget that feeling and he never wanted to experience it again. That would be enough to stop him from seeing Bella as food. "I'll never hurt you. I promise." Jasper slid his free arm across the rug until it was only inches from Bella's hand. She didn't flinch or draw back. Instead she let her fingers walk her hand forward until her skin touched Jasper's. He breathed a sigh of relief and gently pulled the Bella from under the coffee table and into his arms. "Good girl," he said, hugging her softly. "I want my mama," Bella said wearily. Esme had her arms around Bella in a flash. "I'm so sorry, Baby." She almost cried. "I'll protect you." Bella raised her head to look into her mother's eyes. "I love you, Mama," she said. After Bella was cleaned up and dressed for sleep she crawled to the center of Esme's huge bed. She slept in Esme's arms, and holding Jasper's hand. For the first time Jasper pretended to sleep beside Bella like the others had been doing for years, listening to her breathe and her heart beat. It was like music to him. xXx Hope that was mushy enough for ya'll. Anyway, don't worry, Edward will eventually get with the program, but right now he feels like a total perv because Bella's only about twelve. REVIEW! Chapter Title: Full of Life Theme song: "Bliss" by Tori Amos The idea came to Jasper while he was hunting with his brothers. They were deep in the swamp when Jasper looked up from his kill and noticed the warm rays of sunlight filtering through the tree limbs and Spanish moss to cast little pools of light on the calm surface of the water. It was beautiful and delicate, just like Bella. And it was something she'd never seen before. Alice was already making plans when Jasper returned home to tell her about it. The weather would have to be perfect, a little cool, and sunny.

So when the perfect day finally presented itself Alice and Jasper woke Bella very early to watch the sun rise and they set out immediately afterward. The air was cool and humid, a perfect spring day. The rising sun beckoned the animals from their hiding places. Large alligators crawled up out of the water to bask. Some were huge, almost twenty feet long. Other reptiles woke up as the warmth trickled down through the cypress trees. Alice stood up in the boat and plucked a five foot brown and black snake from just below the water's surface. She held it away from Bella as it tried desperately to slither out of her could hands. "That's so cool," Bella said wide-eyed. "What kind of snake is that?" "Just a water snake," Jasper said as Alice lowered it back into the water. "Look, Bella, a white gator!" he said, pointing toward a rare lizard emerging from the water's edge. "Those are pretty rare. We must be having good luck today." The white gator took its place on the muddy bank with his dark greenish brown friends. Large turtles crowded onto a dead tree limb jutting out of the calm water. "Can I have one of those as a pet?" Bella asked hopefully. "I don't think so," Alice said. "You know how our parents are about germs." Birds began to descend from the sky and settle into the flora that surrounded them. Large white herons bent their necks to feed on small fish near the surface of the water. Bass and gar fish occasionally graced the glassy surface, making small waves fan out toward the shore. Alice pointed out a pure white bird on a nearby tree branch. "That's a snowy egret," she said. "They nest in places like this." The sun began sending its golden rays down toward the water so that Bella and Alice saw it glitter through the air and onto the still water. "It looks like those pictures of God from story books," Bella said. Mud-colored snakes crept onto shore between the menacing gators. Jasper parked the boat at the other side of the swamp and they walked onshore, the mud squishing under their shoes. Alice lifted Bella onto Jasper's back, then closed her eyes and sniffed the air. On land they saw a fluffy swamp rabbit, a black bear, and dozens of gray squirrels. Alice searched out and lifted several more snakes into the air for Bella to examine from a safe distance. Most were black, brown, or green, but some were patterned with stripes or diamonds and brilliantly colored. "Do you eat those?" Bella asked each time some new species was pointed out. Jasper and Alice would laugh and comment on the flavor of each animal they had tried. "Emmett likes those black bears," Alice told her. "And Mama and Daddy like the white tail deer. Edward likes bobcats. Everyone's got their own special likes and dislikes. But gator's pretty good." She winked at Bella. They climbed up into the trees to watch a group of deer graze on wild grasses. Hundreds of birds flitted and chirped around them. Bella got to peek into nests of eggs and newborn squirrels when the parents were scared away by the presence of Vampires near their homes. The air was filled with the sounds of life going on all around them in an otherwise deafening silence. Life had flourished after humanity suffered its terrible losses. When they got back home another surprise was waiting for Bella, a meal of fried gator and venison along with vegetables from Esme's garden. It meant a lot for them to be able to share something they enjoyed with Bella. It was also nice to get away from the arguing that had consumed the once peaceful Cullen home. That night Bella got to sleep between Alice and Jasper in their big canopy oak bed for the first time ever.

A/N: okay so this was just a short chapter because I wanted to have Jasper keep his promise to take Bella someplace special. I'm still working on the plans for how the Cullens will deal with the coming war and with the decisions about whether they should turn Bella. Naturally, everyone will have their own opinions on the matter, and Bella will have to weight the input she gets from each member of her family. BTW, that's part of what's making all the Cullens argue. Reviews would be nice! Chapter 9: Companion Cavalry Theme song: "Standing Outside the Fire" by Garth Brooks (because I say so) It had been nearly three years since Carlisle and his family learned of the coming onslaught. Things moved forward rapidly. Xing's army decimated the Romanians, but a plague swept through the continent, taking out countless human lives. Worse, the virus mutated and began infecting Newborns who were yet unable to distinguish between healthy and contaminated blood. Chaos ensued. Carlisle had Jasper and Alice help the other Covens come up with a defensive strategy. So far, the best they'd come up with was an alliance with the shape shifting tribes on a grand scale. More Covens were recruited to join in protecting the humans and Vampires from the assaults that would come. Masses of people were ordered to relocate into areas that could be protected more easily. Territory lines were being redrawn and new alliances formed. Vampires who preyed on humans could scarcely afford to lose their food supply. Some Covens added to their numbers by turning especially talented humans. Jasper had explained that it was the level of training, and not the number of soldiers that would ultimately make a difference. Jasper turned his bassist, Brett, in an attempt to find a way to ease Bella's pain during the transition. Brett had managed to survive as long as he did because he was a drug addict, and therefore, not very appetizing. He shot up a lethal dose of heroin before his transformation. This method looked promising. Though Brett still felt the burning, he couldn't make himself care about it. Of course, Carlisle was not thrilled with the idea of injecting his daughter with heroin. But he would ultimately leave it up to Jasper and Alice, since they had agreed to deal with the task when it came time. Carlisle could not bring himself to even consider doing it. Brett was welcomed into the Creole Coven and quickly found that he and Miss Annalie shared some serious chemistry. This, Carlisle knew, would make the real difference. The familial relations that existed between the Southern Covens made victory more likely. Artemisia and Jean-Michel, it turned out, were mates and they actually shared a human father. Miss Annalie was Jean-Michel's full sister as well. Now that their Coven contained two couples they would be much more formidable. xXx Bella felt the hot water relax all her muscles as she sat in the cast iron tub and Rosalie poured water over her head to rinse out the fragrant lather. This was Bella's favorite time of day. It felt good to have someone else wash and rinse her hair, just like when she was little. This was one of the few ways in which she still allowed people to treat her like a child. Rosalie volunteered for this most often, but Esme, Carlisle, and Alice took their turns. "I don't think it's fair that I have to stay home while you guys go to a party on Valentine's Day," Bella told her sister. "I want to go too."

Rosalie sighed. "Bella, you know it's too dangerous," she replied. "That party is going to be crawling with Vampires who don't rely on animal blood." "Aren't humans going to be there too?" Bella asked. "Yes," Rosalie said, "But those people aren't our concern. You are and you're not going. That's final." Bella looked sadly over her shoulder at Rosalie. "Emmett and I will stay with you if you want," Rosalie offered. "That way it won't be just you and Edward." It wasn't that they didn't trust Edward; he'd made great progress in his self-control over the years since he nearly attacked Bella. He was even able to get close to the youngest Cullen on occasions without feeling tempted. But when Bella began smiling at Edward, as Jasper had told her to, it seemed to make him more uncomfortable. Bella got a wicked grin on her face. "Oh, no. I wouldn't want you to miss out," she said. "I'm sure I'll have a good time with Edward. Maybe he'll even be willing to dance with me." Rosalie laughed at her little sister. "Oh, Bella," she said. "I know you have a huge crush on him, but believe me, you could do way better than Edward." Bella turned her head to glare. "Okay," Rosalie grumbled, "But you can't push him, do you hear me? And you can't get anywhere near his teeth. It's very important. I don't think Edward would try to hurt you, but we don't have the best control over our emotions. So you have to be careful." Most of the Cullens thought Bella's crush on Edward was cute and some even encouraged it, despite the danger. They knew Bella didn't have much time left to be a normal teenage girl and they dreaded forcing her to miss out on anything. They also knew Bella had never met a human boy before, so they were willing to allow her the inappropriate thoughts about her adopted brother. But Bella was always very glad to know that Edward could not hear what went on in her head. "You know what else?" Rosalie whispered. "You can raid Alice's closet after we leave and wear one of her pretty dresses." "I heard that!" Alice shouted from down the hall. xXx A/N: okay, short chapter. But the next one may be very smutty, so be forewarned! WARNING!: THIS CHAPTER IS SMUTTY. IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH TEENAGES HAVING SEX WITH EACH OTHER THEN DO NOT READ IT! THIS IS RATED M FOR A REASON! xXx Chapter Ten: Bella is a Bad Girl Theme songs: "Human" by the Killers, "The Red Strokes" by Garth Brooks, "Possession" by Sarah McLaughlin Bella waited until her family left for the Valentine's Day Ball before she went into Alice's closet and found the red silk dress she wanted. She knew Alice was okay with her borrowing it, so she slipped it on and pulled her hair up off her shoulders. After an hour of preparation Bella's dark hair fell in glossy ringlets down the center of her back and she was made up to look much older than her age. Alice's shoes were too small for Bella, so she just walked downstairs barefoot to where Edward was waiting.

She found him sitting on the balcony with a song coming from the turntable near the door. It was an old Blues song and Bella thought it sounded rather sexy. Edward was also barefoot and dressed in black slacks and a dark blue shirt. The sun was setting over the trees in the distance, casting a pinkish purple haze over the southern landscape. Bella sat next to Edward on the balcony swing. He waited several minutes before he looked at her. She was tense and anxious over what she was planning. "You look very pretty," he said, quickly glancing back to the sunset. Bella smiled, but was discouraged by the fact that he was missing it. She slid closer to him. "Thank you," she said in the oldest voice she could manage. Her stomach was full of butterflies and she shivered slightly in the cool air. A jacket would have been appropriate, but she wanted to show off some skin. "What are you thinking about?" she asked. "Nothing, really," he replied. "Have you made your decision?" Carlisle had asked Bella to decide if she wanted to become immortal or risk dying an early death. Bella knew it wasn't really up to her because the Cullens were completely unwilling to lose her. Still, she had listened to everyone's opinion on the matter, excluding Edward. Even though she already knew the outcome, at least the arguing had stopped for a time. "Well, I know how everyone feels about it, I guess," Bella said. "I don't know how you feel, though. Does it matter to you, Edward?" "Of course it matters," he said, sounding offended at the question. "But I don't want to influence your decision. It's your life and you should do what you feel is right." He looked into her eyes cautiously. "You know how this will end already, don't you?" Bella nodded. "Then why does my opinion matter?" he asked. "Because I…" Bella swallowed hard. She was clearly losing her nerve. Shaking, she reached over and put her hand on Edward's. Their eyes met again and she moved in and put her lips on his. Edward froze, so Bella kept going. Her heart beat fiercely and her lungs fought for air before she pulled away to find Edward staring at her with wide eyes. "Why did you do that?" he whispered. She just smiled at him and he couldn't help but smile back. Their lips met again, but this time is was Edward who started it. He carefully placed his hands on her hips and fought the urge to clutch at the dress. Alice wouldn't be happy if he ripped her silk dress, especially if Bella was wearing it at the time. Edward finally stopped when he realized how aroused he was getting. Bella tilted her head and said, "Will you do something for me?" This time Edward lathered Bella's hair and rinsed it with water from the silver cup in the bathroom. He sat in the chair usually occupied by Rosalie and gently rubbed his cold, soapy hands over Bella's hot skin and watched her head lean back as happy little noises came from her mouth. He wondered how Carlisle could stand to do this, it was killing him. Edward became lost in thought and allowed his hands to wander. He heard Bella suck in air when they moved over her breasts and stomach. He wondered if he should stop right then, but the feeling of her soft, hot skin kept him going. He'd seen this happen enough times living with his family to know what he was doing, but he had to be extremely gentle. He found the hottest parts of Bella and marveled at the silkiness and heat of her. As Bella began to react more physically to the movements of his fingers, Edward's bare chest and arms became soaked with hot bath water.

"Oh, God!" Bella almost screamed. She turned her upper body to wrap her arms around Edward, who was now kneeling against the tub. She could feel his cold fingers moving gently between her legs and she tried to move her body to make the feelings more intense. Her hands tugged at Edward's hair as she moaned into his neck. She nearly screamed again when the cold fingers went inside her. "Tell me if I'm hurting you," Edward whispered, but Bella just kept moaning. It got louder and louder until her grip on him got impossibly tighter and she screamed his name. Edward felt every second of her ecstasy against his fingers before he pulled his arms out of the water and sat back on the chair. But Bella went with him because her arms were still tightly wrapped around his neck. She ended up in straddling his lap and she knew what she was feeling against her thighs. Like Edward, Bella had seen her share of intimate moments between her parents and siblings, though she'd actually walked in on them numerous times. She pressed her lips against his hard and used the distraction to undo his pants. She was on him before he could protest. Edward nearly lost all control at that moment and he knew he needed to get it back before he ripped her in half. He wrapped his arms firmly but gently around Bella's body and held her in place. "Don't move," he whispered desperately. "Please, just don't move." And he fought with everything he had to calm himself so he wouldn't kill her. Slowly the tension in Edward's body faded away and he allowed himself to enjoy the heat wrapped around him. It was the most intense heat he'd ever experienced, aside from the burning of his change. But his was a good heat. No, it was incredible. It might destroy him, he thought, but at least he'd die in extreme pleasure. He needed something to hold onto, but he knew he'd end up shattering Bella's bones if he held onto her. He grabbed the nearest soft object, a towel, and fisted his hands into it. The feel and smell and sight of Bella made Edward feel like he might explode. She was shaking badly from the chill she was getting from being wet and naked and right up against Edward's icy skin. But she was smiling too. The vibrations sent jolts of pleasure up Edward's spine, causing tremors through his body. Bella liked the sensations it gave her. "Mmmm, that feels really good," she moaned. "I love you, Edward." Those words made Edward tremble again and his eyes rolled back into his head. "I love you too," he said. It sounded almost like he was crying and for once, he wished he could. Hearing Bella's voice calmed him enough to continue and he slowly moved Bella so that they both moaned, their faces touching. The heat and friction threatened to break Edward into pieces as his surroundings blurred. There were no other Cullens, no house, no swamp and no trees. There was only the chair and the iron tub and the hard wood floors and the crown molding and glossy white walls that caused every moan and grunt and pant to echo in his ears. He wondered how long he could take the feelings before he went insane. It felt so good it almost hurt. Eventually Edward lost his composure and sobbed tearlessly against Bella's wet hair. She took over, moving her own body against Edward's until he screamed and she heard the towel ripping. Edward quickly extracted himself from Bella before he could react to her again. He gently put her back into the water and slid out of his wet pants. "Are you okay?" he asked, looking down into her eyes. Bella nodded and leaned against the rim of the tub, her eyes taking in his whole body while her face broke out into a huge smile. He smiled back. "You should dry off," he said. "Then why'd you put me back in the water?" Bella asked, amused. Edward shrugged.

"You were freezing," he said, still smiling. "I'm going to get some dry clothes. I'll be right back." He lit a fire in the hearth in Bella's room before he went to get dressed. While he built the fire he listened to Bella get out of the water and dry off. A few times she peeked around the door frame to watch him. When he returned to Bella's room, Edward found her dressed in warm pajamas and sitting with her back to the fire so her hair would dry. He sat before her and they smiled at each other for a while. "I feel like I don't know anything about you," she said. "I've been here your whole life," he replied. But he realized they had seldom spoken more than a few words do each other in all the time she'd been with his family. "What do you want to know?" he asked. "Everything," she told him. So he told her the story of his life in Chicago with his parents and the plague that took them away. He told her how Carlisle had saved him and become his father. He told her how he'd struggled with what he'd become and the lifestyle he'd left behind for a time. He told her about what it was like to be a killer, and to turn away from that again. He told the story of how the Cullen family was formed, right up to finding Bella. When he felt Bella knew his entire history he told her how much things had changed over his lifetime. She learned about world wars, fascism, communism, and depression. He told her about the Civil Rights movement and Women's Lib. She heard the stories of the Holocaust and Japanese internment. He told her about cold wars and famine. And Bella fell asleep to the sound of Edward's voice telling her he had never really loved anyone before her. Edward laid Bella in her bed, which she rarely slept in, and got in beside her so he could listen to the musical beating of her heart and the rhythmic sound of her breathing. More than ever before, he felt very human. xXx Okay, you people do not know how hard it is for me to write sex scenes. It's really embarrassing, especially since I'm no innocent myself. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this, but don't expect the serenity to last very long. There's a war going on, after all. And how do you think the other Cullens will react. We shall see… Anyway, thank you guys so much for the reviews. They make me wish I had more time for writing fun stuff and less obligations. I just finished a rhetorical analysis of NCIS before wrote this. Leave me some more reviews please! Chapter warning: this chapter contains drug use, violence, discussions about violence and rape, and some other disturbing themes. Also, Rosalie is about to get potty—mouthed. I'M VERY SERIOUS ABOUT THE DRUG USE, PEOPLE! IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY DRUG USE THEN DON'T READ THIS. OR AT LEAST DON'T READ THE SECOND PART! XXX Chapter Eleven: Carlisle on Being a Father Theme song: "If I could be Like That" by Three Doors Down Lying beside Bella, Edward discovered a whole symphony of sounds coming from inside her body. There was the thump thump thump of her heart and the whooooosh…whoooosh of her

breathing. The blood moving through her veins and arteries made a slight gurgling sound with only momentary pauses between each rush of blood. There were other noises, trickling noises, quiet popping noises, even alien-sounding noises. Edward had never before really listened to someone just being alive. He was so entranced by these sounds that he hardly noticed when he and Bella were no longer alone in the house, or in the room. That is, he barely noticed until he was violently ripped from the bed and hurled across the room. Bella's antique dresser shattered beneath him as he slammed into it. Bella, who had been wrapped up in Edward's arms, was also sent flying out of bed. But she hit the floor only a few feet from her bed. Suddenly Edward felt his mind being assaulted with horrible scenes and accusations. Carlisle was furious and had jumped to conclusions. And he was out for blood. Before Edward had time to clear his head enough to react he felt Carlisle's hands at his throat. The teeth that had given Edward his immortality were poised to take it back now. As soon as Edward became aware that others were rushing toward the room he was certain he was about to die a horribly violent death. But quite suddenly there was a body between his flesh and Carlisle's teeth. Alice let out a piercing scream when Carlisle bit down hard into the skin of her back. Before Edward could move Alice out of harm's way there were suddenly four pairs of hands pulling Carlisle away from them. As Carlisle was shoved backward Alice fell into Edward's arms. "Oh, Alice, I'm so sorry!" Edward cried, holding his sister close. He watched helplessly as the others forced Carlisle down to the floor, Jasper using more force than was entirely necessary. When Emmett and Rosalie had Carlisle firmly secured to the floor Jasper rushed over to pick up Alice. Surprisingly, Edward found that only his father was angry with him. The others, all in various states of undress, were there to help. Esme was calming Bella, who was uninjured but terrified only feet from where Carlisle was being held down. "Let me go!" Carlisle growled. "Don't you smell it? Can't you see what he did?" Esme pulled Bella close and inhaled deeply. She could smell the strong scent of Edward and milder scents of soap, sex, and burning hardwood. There was no blood. She took Bella's face in her hands. "Are you hurt, even a little?" she asked. Bella shook her head. "No, I'm fine," she sobbed. "But I don't understand what's going on. What happened?" Slowly Edward sat up to look in her eyes. It was almost dawn and the light coming from the windows was gray and dull, but he could still see her big brown eyes across the room. "Bella, he thinks I…hurt you," Edward explained in a pained voice. "He thinks I…" he could not bring himself to say aloud what Carlisle was assuming. Bella's eyes widened in horror and her hands clenched into fists at her sides. "It's not true!" she screamed. "That's…that's disgusting! How could you ever think that?" She was becoming hysterical and Esme pulled her close. "It's okay, Bella," she whispered. "Everything's okay. We all just need to calm down." "No, it's not okay, Mama!" Bella said. "Daddy's wrong. Edward would never hurt me. It's my fault. Everything was my idea. Blame me!" Esme put a finger to her daughter's lips. Emmett, who was wearing only underwear, felt horribly uncomfortable with the tension in the room. "Well, that's what we get for leaving two horny teenagers home alone all night!" he said jokingly. It worked to break some of the static that was building up.

"Some of us need to calm the hell down!" Rosalie said, tugging Carlisle up from the floor. Edward was very surprised that she was so calm. She was very angry, but it was directed at Carlisle and not Edward. Still, Edward tried to block out the thoughts of the others. His night with Bella had looked so beautiful only moments before. Now it was being tarnished and slurred. "Come on, Em." Rosalie said. "Let's take Carlisle downstairs until he's ready to talk about stuff like the calm and rational man he's supposed to be." As they left the room Bella broke away and ran over to Edward's side. He stood, lifted her over the wood splinters on the floor and carried her back to her bed. "I'm so sorry, Bella," he said softly. "I never meant for this to happen." Tears came to Bella's eyes again. "No, you didn't do anything wrong, Edward. I love you." Esme, hearing those words, felt suddenly dizzy. Could it be that her first and last children had actually fallen in love after fifteen years of being family? "Edward, you should change clothes," Esme suggested, noticing his ripped shirt. "And I'd like some time alone with Bella, if you don't mind." Edward nodded and gently kissed Bella on the cheek before slowly exiting her room. Jasper and Alice walked over. "I'm so sorry you got hurt, Alice," Bella said. But Alice was feeling much better at that point and wasn't angry with her. "It's okay," Alice said. "I was just trying to protect my brother. That's what sisters are for, you know." Alice pulled Bella into her chest and Jasper wrapped his arms around both of them before they went downstairs to join in the conversation that was already in progress. Esme took a deep breath before turning to face Bella. "Angel, tell me what happened," she said. Bella's eyes got wide again, this time from embarrassment. "It's kind of…private," Bella responded. "But…okay, I sort of came on to him." "You had sex with Edward," Esme clarified. "Why?" Bella thought for a moment. "Cause I wanted to? I mean, I've been in love with Edward since I was little. But recently I just had this crazy urge to…you know…touch him. And it just happened. We…had…sex in the bathroom. But I wanted it probably more than he did. And I didn't get hurt at all. It was…" Bella's mouth curled up into a sly grin. "It was great!" she sighed. "Well, it was great until Daddy ruined everything. How dare he just assume-?" Esme stopped her. "Okay, I understand. But first, sex and love are not the same thing, Bella." "I know," Bella said rolling her eyes. "And you could have been seriously hurt or killed," Esme went on. "I know, but I'm fine!" Bella protested. "And he's your father. His reaction was perfectly natural, if drastic. You know, Bella, you're the first child we've gotten to see grow up. All your brothers and sisters were fully grown when we took them in. Not one of them has really changed much over the years. But we've all watched you grow from a tiny little baby. And, while it's perfectly normal for you to be…horny, as Emmett put it, it was also really irresponsible of you and Edward to just do something like that without considering the consequences first. Did you even talk about it?"

"Um no," Bella admitted, biting her lower lip. "We really didn't talk until afterwards. Okay, so I'm really sorry about all this. But Edward doesn't deserve to be punished for it. Punish me!" "No one is getting punished," Esme assured her. "What's done is done. Now we just have to find a way to work this out between us. Listen, I'm glad you had…a good time. But I want you to be more careful from now on. At least until you're less fragile." "Then turn me now!" Bella said. "I've made my decision and I want to be with Edward forever! I love him! That's how I want to live the rest of my life. I'm sure. Absolutely sure." Looking into Bella's eyes, Esme knew her daughter was very serious about her request. She wondered if Edward felt the same way about Bella. "I do," he said, answering her silent question from the doorway. "I love Bella." xXx Carlisle sat angrily glaring at Emmett and Rosalie. "How can you two be so calm about this?" he spat. "Edward could've killed her!" Rosalie turned toward her father. "Well he didn't, did he? She's perfectly fine. But I wouldn't blame her if she never speaks to you again. You just ruined what was probably the best night of her life." "The best night of her life?" Carlisle yelled back. "How can you possibly think she enjoyed that?" Emmett took a few steps forward, putting himself between his wife and Carlisle. Rage flashed in Rosalie's eyes. "Haven't you noticed the way she looks at him?" she asked. "This has been coming for years, Carlisle! Her life is almost over anyway. Why not let her spend her last human days doing what she wants? If that means having dangerous consensual sex with Edward then so be it!" "How do you even know it was consensual, Rosalie?" he asked. That made her even angrier. "She made her choice!" Rosalie shouted. "It was a choice I never got to make." She turned away and walked toward a window to watch the sun creep up into the morning sky. Alice and Jasper walked in, hand in hand. Jasper was doing his best to calm everyone, but the anger was so intense that he felt limited. Plus, he had his own anger over the situation to deal with. Rosalie turned back and walked over to embrace Alice. "Are you okay?" Rosalie whispered to her sister. Alice nodded. "I'll be fine. It just burns a bit. Well, a lot." A growl climbed up Rosalie's throat as she turned back to Carlisle. "Apologize to her!" she screamed, pointing a finger at Alice. "Now!" "Alice, I'm so sorry," Carlisle said. "But you knew about this, didn't you? You must have seen it coming. Why didn't you do anything to stop it?" "Oh, I knew Bella would try to seduce Edward one day, but I didn't know when she'd make her move until just recently," Alice calmly explained. "I didn't feel it was my place to say anything. And I didn't actually know what Edward would do until it happened last night. But I never saw her getting hurt, Carlisle. Edward always planned to be very gentle and controlled around her, ever since that day he almost attacked her. He would never forgive himself if she got hurt because of him. Don't blame me for this. Rosalie's right. Bella chose this for herself and I see them together."

"Seriously, Carlisle," Emmett said, "We all saw this coming, except for you, I guess. It was pretty obvious and we even encouraged it a bit. Maybe a little too much." "It's true," Jasper said. "Even I'm guilty of encouraging Bella's little crush. It was, you know, cute. And they make each other happy so I don't really see any harm in it. You have to accept that Bella isn't a little girl anymore. And she's about as old and grown up as she'll ever get. We have to turn her really soon or risk losing her." "It was wrong, Jasper!" Carlisle said angrily. "It was wrong of him to touch her! None of you understand what it means to be a father. You can't know how angry I am right now!" Rosalie saw red. "Bullshit!" she screamed. "You're a fucking hypocrite!" "Watch your tone, Rosalie!" Carlisle warned, standing to face her. Even Alice barely saw what was coming next. The air vibrated with a loud crack as Rosalie's open palm collided with Carlisle's face. Esme, Edward, and Bella froze where they were in the doorway to the living room and everyone stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed at Rosalie. She was so angry that her body shook. "Don't you fucking act like I can't understand," Rosalie said through gritted teeth. "I understand better than anyone here. You made Edward what he is. You damned him because you were too fucking selfish to live in hell alone. And when he didn't fulfill all your needs you damned Esme too. I wanted to die and you were too arrogant to just let me because you measure your self-worth by how many lives you can save. Four times you've saved people by taking away every bit of humanity from them. I'll take credit for Emmett's life, but you can't deny that you were selfish to change the rest of us." Her voice was shaky, but calm. Emmett wanted badly to hold her and take away all her anger and pain. But in that moment he knew she needed to just let it out. "Now, you know what it's like to be lonely for centuries," she continued. "So you should be able to understand how hard it's been for Edward to be alone for the last hundred years. But at least you never had to watch everyone around you experience love and passion while you had no one. You didn't have to hear other couples making love through the walls when you didn't have anyone to hold. You should be very thankful that there was someone to make this hell a bit more bearable for Edward. If I hadn't been fortunate enough to find Emmett I'd still hate you for turning me." "Rosalie, I…" Carlisle didn't really know what to say. "No, I'm not done yet," she said. "Edward didn't force Bella to do anything. If he had I'd have killed him myself. But you need to understand that she made a choice here. She's not some sexless little innocent thing you can keep safe forever. She's a living, breathing young woman with needs and desires. You just have to accept that she's growing up. I remember what it was like to be her age. I had all sorts of crazy urges that I couldn't pursue for one reason or another. Society forced limitations on all of us. Even now, when that society no longer exists, those taboos and mores still affect me. So I know your life in Europe centuries ago is still with you. It's a difficult thing to let go of. But we have to accept that the rules are all different now. And Bella has very little time left. As much as I want her to stay human, I can't even think about letting her die. "You know, it's amazing that she even survived this long with us. In some ways she was doomed from the moment we took her in. Or maybe even from the moment of her conception. And, all those people we saved, did it really mean anything? How many of the humans do you think really are glad to be alive right now. They live in hell too, because of our kind. We didn't really save anyone. We just gave them a little extra time to suffer." Rosalie realized she was

rambling. She shook her head to clear it because she wanted desperately to say what she was feeling. "When you found me I'd been violated. And, while I'm sure you were angry for me, you didn't do anything about it. I had to go after Royce and his men on my own. And it felt good because I deserved my revenge. But it would have meant a lot if you'd taken them out instead. They were monsters. But it's funny how you were so eager to rip Edward's head off because you just assumed he'd stolen you're little girl's innocence. You didn't even go after the man that hurt your wife. Do you see how big a hypocrite you're being?" Those words cut Carlisle right to the bone. All kinds of thoughts and emotions swirled around in his head as he sank back to the chair and dropped his head into his hands. No one else dared to speak. Silence filled the old house for several minutes. "Listen, Carlisle, Dad," Rosalie said, her voice calmer and softer now. "I'm very sorry if I hurt you just now. I love you and I've gotten over most of my anger over my life. But we need to fix what happened this morning. We can't change the past, so let's just accept it and move on." She turned and walked toward Bella and Edward. "Edward, my bother, I'm really happy for you. And, Bella, I'm very grateful that you got to make a choice that I had ripped away from me. Don't worry about whether everyone else agrees with what you decided because that's not important. What matters is that you're okay and happy." Overcome with emotion, Edward pulled Rosalie into a tight hug. "Thank you, Rose," Edward said. "I don't even know what to say." A smirk came to Rosalie's face. "Good, because no one likes the sound of your voice," she joked. Rosalie felt lighter and more relaxed than she ever had before. She hugged Bella and sat down with Emmett, feeling drained. Carlisle didn't feel angry with Edward anymore. Rosalie had stripped him of every rational reason behind the anger and it was now turned inward. He slowly lifted his head to look at Esme, then at all his children. "I'm very sorry," he whispered. "I don't know what to do now. Tell me how to fix this." Esme took a seat next to her husband. It hurt her to see the man she loved in pain. "Just apologize, Carlisle," she said. "I'm sure everyone will forgive you. We're a family and we'll work it out." "No!" Bella said. She was suddenly very aware of what was going on around her and it made her furious. "Why should I just forgive you?" she asked. "You took something really amazing and turned it into something sick and twisted. You ruined everything." Edward, who was standing behind her, put his hands on Bella's shoulders. He leaned forward and said, "Bella, he's still your father and he loves you. Please don't stay angry because of me." A horrible thought occurred to Carlisle and he rose from his seat and walked toward Edward and Bella. "I'm still your father too, Edward," he said. "And I love you, son. I'm very sorry, to both of you." Edward let out a deep sigh against Bella's hair. Her anger melted and her eyes filled with fresh tears as Edward wrapped his arms around her shoulders and hugged her close. "I'm sorry too, Daddy," she sobbed. The sun peaked out from the horizon and the few fluffy clouds in the sky to shine its rays brightly through the wide windows. The sudden light made seven of the Cullen's sparkle and Bella had to squint until her eyes adjusted to the light that danced on their skin. It made her smile as Carlisle pulled her and Edward into an affectionate embrace.

xXx The decision was made to change Bella that very day. The land was void of humans for miles around since the evacuations began and Bella felt she would only become more anxious and afraid the longer they waited. Rosalie and Emmett hugged and kissed Bella before taking off. They would only go far enough away to avoid hearing her scream. Alice assured everyone Bella would make it through the change okay and that Jasper's plan for using a combination of narcotics was the best option to spare Bella as much pain and trauma as possible. Carlisle insisted he could simply not bring himself to change Bella. It was decided that Esme would do it. She was Bella's mother, after all. They laid her in her own bed with the sun streaming through the windows. Edward lay beside her and held her hand. Esme and Carlisle said soothing words to their youngest daughter while Jasper and Alice prepared Bella's drug cocktail. It was a combination of various opiates, depressants, and hallucinogens. Finally Jasper packed the waxy and gritty substances into a small glass pipe and held a lighter to the bowl. He breathed in deeply and held the smoke in his lungs to cool. He tapped Edward to get his attention. "Oh. Bella, Jasper wants you to take deep breaths of the smoke," Edward told her. She nodded and Jasper leaned into Bella's face, slowly blowing the fragrant smoke between their lips, which were nearly touching. "Try to keep the smoke in your lungs as long as possible," Edward said. When Bella finally exhaled she coughed a bit and her eyes became bloodshot and narrow. Jasper repeated the process several more times. They all watched as Bella's pupils got huge and a far away look came over her face. She giggled and gasped and Edward wished more than ever that he could read Bella's thoughts. "It's working," Jasper stated. "We'll need to repeat this every few hours for the whole three days. It might not work as well toward the end, but it's something. You should do it now, Esme." Esme took a deep breath before leaning into Bella. "I'm sorry about this, my angel," she whispered. "I love you so much." They all flinched as Esme's teeth sunk into Bella's throat. Carlisle calmly and sadly instructed Esme on where to place her teeth, how deep to bite, and how long to hold on. When it was done they could only wait. After the initial shock of the bites, Bella watched in amazement as the five Vampires standing over her glistened in the sunlight. Her body burned and she watched the flames rise around her. They were dancing and singing. Some of the flames were girl flames and some were boy flames. As they paired off for their dances, each stopped to wave and smile at Bella. She laughed and screamed at the same time. Sometimes Bella heard nothing but silence and sometimes she heard voices, familiar voices. The voices spoke to her and sometimes sang. At times music came from someplace she couldn't see. The flames changed colors and got scarier, then funnier. They were her constant companions, though sometimes they seemed less hot or even very cold. Bella was often aware of movement around her and she would look up to find faces staring down at her, looking worried and sad. She found the faces very comical at times, and at other times they were very disturbing. She laughed and cried, depending on the mood of the flames. There were hours where the flames were bright pink and purple. They grew butterfly wings and danced in midair around Bella's head. Other times they turned red and shouted obscenities at Bella. Sometimes she shouted back. Sometimes she floated and sometimes she flew. Bella's parents and siblings rarely left her side, only moving on occasion to hunt or escape the hysterical laughing and crying and screaming for a while. Rosalie and Emmett returned because they couldn't bear to not know if everything was going okay. On the second evening

Rosalie, Alice, and Edward hovered over Bella and listened for several hours as Bella screamed profane words into the empty space above her head. They all felt the tension break for a while as they laughed aloud at the strange scene unfolding before them. The rest of the family was called in to witness it. On the third day Bella watched the flames grow huge as their burning intensified. They pointed fingers at her and accused her of being a very bad little girl. "Fuck you all!" she screeched. Gradually the flames ran away screaming until only one fat fireball sat right on her chest. He laughed at her and Bella bared her teeth. He finally burned himself out and Bella felt herself being pulled back into reality. She remained very still as the sun rose and flooded her room with warm golden light. Seven pairs of golden eyes were on her as she emerged into her new consciousness. A/N: Okay, so now Bella's a vamp. I am still planning the war out in my head, but I expect some reviews, people! Did you expect Rosalie to jump to Edward's defense like that. I didn't. Anyway, hope ya'll enjoyed this little chapter. And I hope my proof-reading got most of the mistakes. Warning: this is another smutty chapter! xXx Chapter Title: Immortal Lolita Theme song: "Selling the Drama" by Bush For the first time Bella looked at the Vampires standing around her bed with Vampire eyes. They were all perfectly familiar, and yet entirely different from her memories. Everything was different. Colors were brighter and Bella was stunned by the sight of her room illuminated with sunlight that poured in from the naked windows. At first she lay perfectly still, only moving her eyes to take in the magnificent scene. But her eyes eventually rested on the beautiful and smiling face of her mother. "Mama?" Bella asked to be certain because the familiar heartshaped face looked so much more radiant than she could remember. The pale skin glimmered and the light caramel hair seemed more colorful than possible. Bella felt her breath catch in her throat before realizing that she needn't breathe at all. Esme smiled brightly. "Yes, my darling," she answered. "How do you feel?" Bella had to consider the question for a moment. "Strange, different," she said. "And thirsty? Where is Jasper?" she asked, looking around. Her eyes settled on the tall blond standing near Alice. "Jasper?" she asked. The scars that covered his face were startling. How had she never noticed them before? He nodded at her and Bella smiled and relaxed. "Jasper," she said, "Am I still high?" The tense atmosphere in the room was suddenly broken as Jasper's face broke into a huge smile and laughter erupted from his throat. The laughter spread around the circle of Cullens until they were all in hysterics. Their anxiety was released into the warm air of the room and evaporated into the golden rays of sunlight. "What's so funny?" Bella asked, only slightly amused by the laughter of her family. Esme tried to control herself. "Oh, Bella, it's just that we didn't expect those to be your first words," she explained through her giddiness. Bella smiled in relief and lifted herself off the plush surface of the bed to embrace her mother. For a brief moment Esme hugged Bella like she always had, gently. But as the realization came to her she tightened her grip on the child

who had always been so fragile. It felt good to hold Bella tightly for the first time. The unfamiliar warmth was startling to Bella because she had only ever known cold touches. It felt amazing and she nearly lost herself in the sensation as Carlisle wrapped his arms around his wife and youngest child. "Careful how tight you squeeze, Bella," he said softly. "You're very strong now, stronger than you know." Bella moved a hand to touch her father's face. It was so beautiful she turned her head to better stare at him. But others were waiting to take Bella into their arms so she reluctantly let go of her parents but gladly accepted the affections of Edward. She hugged herself tightly to him, being careful like she'd been told, and planted hard kisses on his lips. She was passed around to each sibling's arms so they could welcome her back from her strange journey. Jasper was the last to greet Bella and he seemed nervous about the interaction. "My scars must be a bit of a shock," he said shyly. But Bella reached out and touched his scarred face tenderly. "You look as handsome as ever, Jasper," she assured him before wrapping her arms around his neck. After Bella had hugged and kissed everyone she turned back to her parents. "I'm starving!" she said. "Will you show me how to eat now?" "Of course," Esme said. Taking Bella's hand she led her down to the ground floor while the family followed. "Who wants to come?" she asked cheerfully. "Edward, you really need to hunt," she observed, noticing the blackness of his eyes. "Anyone else?" The others had hunted recently, if only to escape the chaos of Bella's change and declined to go along. So Esme took Edward and Bella into the swamp. Edward offered to demonstrate the hunt to Bella first. He gently instructed her on how to follow the scents and sounds of prey, and then gracefully took down a white-tailed deer while Bella looked on with fascination. She decided to watch Esme as well, before trying it for herself. After witnessing Esme and Edward drink their fill, Bella was ready to try it on her own. She closed her eyes and breathed in the cool damp air of the swamp, listening closely for the slightest movements, feeling for vibrations. Stunned by her amazing sensitivity to the stimuli around her, Bella got lost for a moment in the rich environment. But she soon snapped out of it and darted quickly toward a small mammal. Bella didn't just hunt; she used the opportunity to explore her new speed, strength, and grace. She ascended trees with ease, something which she'd never done without help. Instead of tackling large mammals as her companions had done, Bella feasted on small prey, as if to sample every possible flavor of animal blood available. She chased down squirrels, plucked birds from the air as they attempted to fly from tree branches, and caught snakes that tried desperately to escape her cold hands. She relished the sound and sensation of her sharp teeth tearing into various kinds of flesh. Her clothes grew dirty with blood and soil and murky water as she lost herself totally in her task. Esme and Edward exchanged startled glances each time Bella found some new small mammal or reptile to taste. She dined as if she were at a buffet, trying a bit of everything. The trees, rocks, and water gave up their secrets to the new Vampire. Eventually Bella felt full and decided she was ready to turn back home. But a new scent stopped her. She sought out and caught a small brown rabbit and held it up to her face to study it. It was so soft that Bella put it to her skin to feel its fur and she spent several minutes petting the terrified bunny with her hands before letting it go. Esme was shocked at how gentle Bella could be at that moment. Bella returned home badly in need of washing and Rosalie sat down to remove the leaves and dirt from her hair in the iron tub. A small hand mirror lay near the tub and Bella picked it up to glance at her reflection. She was surprised by what she saw, the pale skin and red eyes. The sensations of fingers in her wet hair, and Rosalie's fingernails softly scraping her scalp had never felt so good, so pleasurable to Bella. Even the water offered new dimensions of feeling

to Bella's sensitive skin. She watched Rosalie's angelic reflection in the mirror as she let her eyes narrow and fully enjoyed the feel of the warm fingers on her body. "Were you always this beautiful?" Bella asked her sister. Rosalie smiled and looked into Bella's eyes through the mirror. "I was always beautiful," she replied. "But we Vampires are more beautiful than any humans. It's part of our arsenal. We are designed to bewitch our prey, well, our human prey. That's part of what makes us so dangerous." "Am I dangerous now?" Bella asked. "Am I very pretty?" Rosalie smiled into the mirror. "You've always been perfect and beautiful, Bella," she said. "But I'm very biased because I think of you as my baby as much as Esme and Carlisle do. And your eyes will eventually look like ours if you stick to the diet. And yes, you are extremely dangerous. Even to me and the others. But everything will even out after a while." Hearing those words made Bella feel nervous. Still, she was happy to be like her family at last. She had only really ever known Vampires. While Rosalie rinsed her hair and washed her back, Bella scooped up handfuls of bath water and threw it into the air to watch the drops take on facets against the air as they rained back down to the tub. The drops of water looked like diamonds to Bella's keen eyes. Earlier, during the hunt, Bella had felt very excited and nearly out of control. But clean and dressed, she felt completely peaceful in Rosalie's arms, calmed by a warmth and softness that was totally new. Bella spent over an hour with her head pressed to Rosalie's soft chest while her hands caressed silky skin and hair. Every sensation was more intense than anything Bella had ever felt. Out of habit she closed her eyes and expected sleep to come, but it did not. The thought of never sleeping again made Bella reanimated with the promise of new experiences. If it felt this good to simply put her skin to Rosalie's, to feel the smoothness of Rosalie's lips on her own and to smell Rosalie's platinum hair, what other pleasures were waiting to be discovered? The whole world was new and exciting and waiting for her to look upon its beauty. One fuzzy memory returned to Bella. She could almost feel the chill of cold skin on hers and electric currents moving up her spine. Edward! "Rosalie, where is Edward?" Bella asked, suddenly upright and anxious. "He's close by," Rosalie answered. "You only need to call him and he'll come to you." Bella looked away for a moment, out of embarrassment for her present desire, and Rosalie understood. She got up to leave the room, but turned back to issue a warning. "Don't forget how strong you are, Bella," she said. "Be gentle." A wicked smile spread across her face and she turned back again to add, "But not too gentle." She encountered Edward on the way out; he was already going to Bella, but he glared at her quickly as she walked past. Fear rose in Edward's chest when he first saw the look in Bella's crimson eyes. She was almost frenzied with her needs. "Close the door," she whispered, trying unsuccessfully to remain calm. He obeyed and began to walk slowly toward Bella where she waited on her bed. But he only got a few feet from the bed before Bella flew at him, knocking Edward to the floor. He heard his clothes ripping and fought to slow Bella down, knowing full well that she could injure him in her haste. His efforts were in vain. Despite the fear of being ripped to pieces, Edward was quickly aroused and inside Bella's warm place again. This time he let go of his careful control and allowed himself to be taken, to grasp her thighs and give in to what his body demanded. Bella was in complete control of Edward, but not of herself and as she smashed down onto Edward he began to worry she might break him in half.

"Careful," he whimpered. But the growl that came from Bella's throat was a warning. He would take his fucking or else. Edward didn't want to know what the or else might be. Bella lowered her head to scrape her teeth roughly along the tender skin of Edward's neck and face, nearly breaking the skin with every pass. She kissed his mouth so furiously that Edward was grateful he had no need of oxygen, because he would certainly have suffocated. Terrified that he might finish before Bella, Edward clenched his jaw and closed his eyes against the onslaught of extreme ecstasy and slight pain that moved up his body each time Bella pushed herself down on him. His head was temporarily clear of all the minds that normally invaded. There was nothing but the carpeted floor below and his perfect raging lover above him. Edward was too lost in Bella to care much if he might survive the experience. There was a knock at the door and Emmett's voice boomed through. "Is everything okay in there?" he called. Edward saw suddenly into his brother's thoughts and realized how frightening the sounds coming from Bella's room must be to his family. It sounded as if someone were being tortured and killed to those downstairs. Bella growled at the door. "I'm busy!" she spat at Emmett. "Go away now!" She did not wait to hear his footsteps retreating before she resumed her assault on Edward. Her mind was consumed by the sensations of Edward against her skin and inside her and between her teeth. Edward, realizing his precarious situation, attempted to relax enough to get through this rushed and violent session in hopes of more, gentler sex later, when Bella was calmer. He also hoped he might hear her say she loved him again. From his position on the floor Edward could hear Esme and Carlisle express concern for his safety. He heard Emmett say, "I think she's trying to fuck him to death." And he heard Jasper laugh along with Emmett and the sound of Esme slapping both of them. Six Vampires sat downstairs feeling increasing discomforted by the noises they were hearing and Edward heard their thoughts as they each decided to go for a long walk. Bella seemed oblivious or unconcerned about the others. Finally her body shook with violent tremors and her head fell loudly onto Edward's heaving chest. He allowed his release, arching his back off the floor and screaming. Outside the world was growing dark, and the darkness spread in through the windows and over Edward and then there was nothing. xXx Edward woke to find himself bathed in sunlight, lying naked and partially covered in Bella's big bed. Looking around, he found Bella curled up in Esme's lap in a chair nearby. "Edward, you're awake!" Esme said, relief flooding her face. Bella's head snapped up and she ran over to him. "I'm so sorry, Edward!" she cried. "I was afraid I killed you." Edward sat up and took Bella in his arms, comforting her. "What happened?" he asked, wondering how he'd ended up in the bed and why he couldn't remember. Esme repressed a smirk. "You blacked out," she told him. "Blacked out?" "Yes," Esme said. "And perhaps Bella has learned a lesson in restraint." Bella lowered her head guiltily. "I'm so sorry, really," Bella said. Intense regret showed in her red eyes. But Edward smiled and dismissed her apology. Of all the ways a Vampire could potentially be killed, death by sex was perhaps the most pleasant. He could see that Bella was thirsty and he wondered how long he'd been out.

"Nearly a week," Esme informed him. "Go hunt, both of you. The rest of us have plans to make." So Edward and Bella went into the swamp alone this time. Again Bella engaged in a feeding frenzy with the smaller animal life in the vicinity. Edward fed and simply kept out of her way, but thoroughly enjoyed watching the chaos Bella stirred up in her uncontrolled excitement. Unlike her previous hunting trip, Bella managed to stay relatively clean and avoided jumping headlong into the muddy water after prey. They returned home to find everyone chatting busily. "What's going on?" Edward asked, mostly for Bella's sake. "We're planning Bella's party," Alice said. She grabbed a tape measure and forced Bella to stand still to be fitted. "Why am I having a party, Alice?" Bella asked. "Is my birthday coming up?" "No, silly," Alice said in her twinkling voice. "We're planning a coming out party for you. It's like a debutant ball." "Why?" Alice finished measuring Bella's legs and stood to face her. "You have to be formally introduced to Vampire society," she explained. Everyone laughed because there was really no Vampire society. It was merely an excuse for Alice to plan an elaborate ball like the one they'd attended on Valentine's Day, the one Bella and Edward missed. "It'll be really fun," Alice said beaming. "And you'll get to meet the other covens and we can dance and it'll last several days and it'll be really fun!" Bella was reminded of Alice's enthusiasm for all things fancy and it was refreshing after the tension that had rested over their home for the last couple of weeks. "Can't I just meet people one at a time?" Bella asked, already aware that Alice would get her way. "Oh, Bella," Alice sighed. "You can't just pop in and announce your presence without making a grand entrance. This is the South, after all. You have to meet people in style!" This argument was pointless and Bella knew. Plus, the idea of meeting others like herself was exciting to Bella. "Now, let me think," Alice said. "Esme will be in green, and blue is Rosalie's color. Of course, I'll be wearing red. What color will you wear, Bella?" "White is traditional," Jasper noted. "But she might look like a teenage bride. What about yellow?" "Yes, yellow will go perfect with her hair!" Alice said excitedly. "You're a genius, Jasper!" Edward rolled his eyes. "Alice, why are you planning a dance party when we need to be preparing for war?" he asked impatiently. Rosalie crumpled a piece of paper and hurled it at Edward's head. "Don't rain on Alice's parade, Edward," she warned. "We have plenty of time to get ready for the invasion. Right now we need to relax and have some fun, especially after you ruined our Valentine's Day sex." "Rosalie, don't be so crass," Esme said. "But she's right, Edward. We won't just be fighting for our lives; we'll be fighting to save civilization, our way of life. Those hordes coming after us will wipe out everything we care about. So we'll do what it takes to make sure we all know exactly what's at stake here. If that means letting Alice throw ridiculously lavish parties then so be it. Besides, your father and his mad scientists in Mississippi are working on some sort of

secret weapons and Jasper is working with other Vampires with military experience. We're doing everything we can. And we'll all keep training. Stop worrying." Edward couldn't argue with that. "Fine," Edward said, defeated. When night fell the Cullens dimmed their lights out of habit and the old mansion grew quiet. The family spent the evening hours together in a sitting room on the main floor chatting about the recent events and discussing Bella's transformation. "I was afraid I'd been more…violent," Bella said. "But I don't feel violent or angry. I don't feel dangerous." Emmett laughed. "What about what you did to Edward?" he said. Bella lowered her eyes, feeling embarrassed. "Nonsense, Emmett!" Edward snapped. "From what I hear you and Rosalie are never gentle. And you've broken several pieces of furniture and put holes in the walls." Rosalie shot Edward a dirty look. "What? Am I lying?" "No!" Emmett said boastfully. "But Bella almost fucked you right into oblivion." "Stop it, you two," Carlisle warned. "We don't need to discuss our sex lives. I think there's little enough privacy in this house already." He then turned to Bella. "I think most of the violence newborns display could be due to the fear and shock of the change. They don't understand what's happened or what they've become. When I changed I felt devastated because I was a monster. It terrified me. But I don't think you ever thought of us as monsters until that day at the beach. Maybe that made a difference." "No, I never…" Bella stumbled over her words. "I never thought you were monsters, Daddy. Maybe you're right, though. Before, I was afraid because I knew it would hurt. But I was never afraid to be one of you. I always felt different from everyone else and, I don't know. Maybe it was always meant to be this way. It feels right." "It makes sense, what you said, Carlisle," Jasper said. "Myra wasn't too bad, but she'd never really shown any violent tendencies as a human. And Brett, well, he was pretty angry before his change, but he was well prepared. Of course, he already had addictions as a human, so I didn't expect him to even try the vegetarian thing." Jasper sat forward. "Bella, what was it like?" he asked. "While you were changing you screamed and laughed and cussed out loud. Do you think I helped at all?" Bella's eyes got wide as she recalled the ordeal to recount it for her family. "Well, I remember feeling like I was on fire and there were flames all around me. But everything was weird, sort of unreal. I don't remember that much of it." "How bad did it hurt, Bella?" Carlisle asked, dreading the answer. "I don't know," she answered. "It was so strange I wasn't really worried about the pain sometimes. I saw really strange things. I can't say I'd do it again, but I won't lose any sleep over it." They all laughed. "You know," Bella said, "I always wondered what you guys did when I was sleeping. This is pretty cool, just sitting around talking." "Oh, there are all kinds of things to do with your free time," Alice said smiling. "I think Bella's already found her new favorite hobby," Emmett said, smirking at Edward. In turn, Edward made a rude gesture.

"Do you guys always fight like this?" Bella asked. "They do," Alice said. "You know, when you hang around the same people long enough they tend to get on your nerves. That's why we go on our little trips sometimes, to just get away. But we all love each other," she assured Bella. "Even Edward and Rosalie love each other. They just show it in funny ways." Alice and Jasper excused themselves when the conversation was wearing down and Emmett and Rosalie followed soon after. Edward realized that he had, in fact, ruined Valentine's night for everyone so he subtly let Esme and Carlisle know he and Bella would be fine alone. Bella sat closer to Edward on the sofa. "I understand if you don't want to…you know," she said. Edward looked in her eyes. "No, don't be ridiculous," he said. "I still want you. We can just try to be more careful." "Okay," Bella said with a smile. She didn't need much convincing. A/N: okay, so I apologize for the short chapter. I've been obscenely busy with school work. I was going to put another sex scene here where Bella tried to control herself a bit more. Maybe it will be next chapter, if you guys want more smut. Anyway, I've got some surprises in store. Esme wasn't kidding about a secret weapon against the Vampire invasion. Oh, and I want to do a chapter on Bella's coming out ball where she meets the other Vamps. So anyway, reviews are lovely. Thanks to everyone who has read and given me encouragement. It means so much. Warning: this is another smutty chapter! ..xxxXxxx.. Chapter 13: Vampire Games Theme song: "Love's Recovery" by Indigo Girls Edward put a record on the turntable. "Watch Rosalie's feet," he said to Bella. Emmett took his wife's pale hand in his, the other he placed gently at her waist. Bella watched how they moved, paying careful attention to the movements of her sister's feet. As a human, Bella had been nearly incapable of even the simplest of dances. But as a Vampire she was graceful and agile. Her feet would actually listen to her brain and her mind could handle several tasks at once. Bella tried to act like her sisters, to move like a lady and speak in a more formal, adult manner. They showed her how to curtsy, how to walk without shuffling her feet, and how to accept compliments from gentlemen. They were proud of her progress, but tried to assure her that she needn't change for their benefit. But Bella longed to fit in, and to make a good first impression on the members of the Alliance. Excitement grew each day as the day of the ball came closer. "Emmett, I'm warning you…" Edward muttered, disgusted by his brother's thoughts. Emmett took a half-step closer to the woman in his arms. Their gold eyes locked in a passionate stare. The dance was getting a tad naughty for Edward's taste. "Now, Emmett," Esme said, running a brush gently through Bella's long dark hair. "We mustn't encourage Bella to get too frisky in front of others. You know how that might turn out." Emmett chuckled, but kept up his dirty fantasies.

"Don't worry, Mother, dear," he teased. "If Bella kills Edward in bed, at least he'll go out smiling." A low growl traveled up Edward's throat. "Just go play outside with Alice!" Edward scolded. He roughly shoved Emmett aside and took his position before Rosalie. "I'll just do it myself," he muttered. "Ew," Rosalie said, making a face. "This is very similar to a nightmare I once had." Edward's eyes narrowed at her and she smirked. "You don't have nightmares, Rosalie," he said through clenched teeth. "Well, if I did they would certainly involve dancing with you," she spat back. "Really, Bella. I will never understand how you can be intimate with this jackass!" Esme rolled her eyes at them from the couch where she sat. Bella was seated before her on the floor, enjoying the feeling of having her hair brushed. "You two are pathetic!" she said, shaking her head in annoyance. "Just get out, all of you! I'll teach Bella to dance myself." With that Esme pulled her daughter up off the floor in a graceful motion and helped Bella position her hands and feet. "Watch me," she said. "Do what I do, but backwards." Bella giggled and moved her feet. "Is this right?" she asked. "Perfect," Esme said. "You'll be great at the ball. Everyone will love you." "Carlisle and Jasper will be home very soon," Alice said cheerfully, coming through an open window in the sitting room. And so they were. Carlisle dropped a rough cloth sack onto the floor and embraced Esme while Jasper said a silent hello to his wife. The sack made a loud clattering noise against the floor boards. "What's this?" Alice asked, as if she did not already know. "Chainmail?" Emmett questioned, taking an item from Alice's outstretched hand. He laughed boisterously. "Are we going to a Renaissance Fair?" "No," Carlisle said. "It's armor. I'd like you to test it out." "You think chainmail is going to stop the Vampire armies?" Edward questioned with a smirk. "No, but it might slow them down a bit," Carlisle corrected. "This material was being developed for marine biologists who swam with sharks. If it can protect a human against shark bites it might give us some protection against the bites of Newborns. I felt it was worth a try, anyway." "Come on, Em," Jasper said, placing one of the chainmail pieces over his head. It covered his neck, shoulders, and head, leaving his face exposed. "Not around my furniture!" Esme warned. They all walked outside to watch the demonstration. Jasper and Emmett, both wearing the metal headpieces, stood a few yards apart on the back lawn. They crouched low, preparing to spar. "Don't hold back," Carlisle called out. "I want to know if these things work." He looked over at Alice, and was relieved that she appeared completely calm about the mock battle that was about to take place. When he gave the signal, his sons launched themselves at each other. Emmett had the upper hand when it came to brute strength, but Jasper was an excellent

strategist. The chainmail could be bent and broken by Vampire teeth, but Carlisle hoped it would serve to buy his family time to gain an edge over the inexperienced Newborns in the future. Carlisle was pleased when the fight was over. The chainmail headpieces lay torn on the ground, but the battle had been slowed considerably. It would indeed offer a modicum of protection against the burning venom of the Vampire hordes. "Well done," he said proudly, patting his boys on their backs in appreciation. "Is this your secret weapon, Daddy?" Bella asked. She was doing well in her training, though it pained even Jasper to teacher her how to kill. "No, this is just something that will help us gain a slight advantage," he said. "We need all the help we can get to face this, angel. It will be very difficult. But the world will be in our hands. We cannot afford to fail." Esme took his hand as they walked slowly back to the house. "I think it's a brilliant idea," she cooed. "A brilliant idea from a brilliant man." A wave of lust washed over the Cullens. "This time it's Esme's fault," Jasper stated, holding his palms out. His special gift often created distractions. Each Cullen was already drifting slowly closer to his or her mate. "What the hell," he said, taking Alice into his arms. It rarely mattered who caused the distraction, only that everyone could now act on the feelings and no one had to sit alone and listen to the sounds of lovemaking coming from other rooms. Edward carried Bella up the stairs in his arms and gently laid her on the bed, which they now considered theirs, rather than hers. "Try to stay calm," he told her softly. It would be difficult, he knew. No one could remain calm for very long when Jasper was aroused. Bella nodded and breathed deeply. "I'm calm," she said. Edward lowered himself over her body. "I love you so much," she whispered. "I love you too," he said back. His lips came down on hers, softly at first, but harder as Edward found it difficult to resist the psychic influence of his brother. He carefully pulled Bella's dress off, exposing her pale and perfect flesh to the evening air that drifted in through the open windows. She gasped, feeling his lips move down her chest, and lightly over each sensitive nipple. "Calm," he gently reminded her, his tongue peeking out between his lips to dance over her skin. "Easy for you to say," she said, her breath catching. "No, it's very difficult," he assured her. As proof Edward pressed thrust his hips against Bella's thigh. "You see?" he teased. "Then what are you waiting for?" she asked breathlessly. "For you," he said. "I'm being a gentleman." "Fuck that!" she breathed. "I want you now!" Edward complied, pulling off her delicate lace panties and pressing himself against her, inside her. "Say my name," she whispered into his ear. "Bella," he whispered back, his breath caressing her cheek. "Bella, Bella, Bella!" Edward shuddered against her. "Bella, I love you."

"Let go," she told him. "Let go for me, my Edward." He began to crumble at the sound of her voice. His breathing became erratic and loud. "Tell me how it feels," she begged. "I… I…," he panted. "I cannot describe…" "Try." "Iku! Iku!"* he said. Bella giggled at the private joke, wrapping her legs tightly around Edward's waist. "Kinasai!" Bella ordered. "Hayaku! Hayaku!"* Edward felt himself explode at her command, crying out his pleasure to the approaching night. …xxxXxxx… Billy Black and his son, Jacob Black, travelled down to the Deep South territory with several members of their pack to speak with the Cullens. Their alliance with the Vampires was uneasy, but essential. The werewolves and others like them had no hope of quelling another invasion alone. Once their lands had been relatively small and compact, easy to protect. Now their numbers were greater and the land more spread out. Though Billy Black hated to admit it, they needed the help of their monstrous enemies. The pack set up camp a few miles from the Cullens' home. Their safety was ensured by the fact that they stunk to the Vampires. The first meeting was only between Carlisle and Billy Black, the two leaders. The exchange was cordial and productive. It was decided that the two groups should be introduced, to encourage friendly feelings among the younger ones. Carlisle gathered his family in the sitting room. "Now I know this is strange for all of you, but it is very important to the Alliance," he said. Billy Black was likely having a similar conversation with his brood. "Let's all remain calm and polite. I want you on your best behavior." "Yes sir!" they answered with mock enthusiasm. The Cullens and the Quileutes again acted as if an invisible line prevented them from standing very close together. Carefully and patiently they studied each other, straining against smells they all found somewhat offensive. The leaders introduced their clans. Billy Black's sharp eyes looked over Carlisle's wife and children, finally coming to rest on the youngest Cullen. He leaned heavily on his cane. "Bella?" he asked. Bella nodded. "Pleased to meet you," she said softly, bending slightly at the knees. "She wasn't with you before," Billy Black observed to Carlisle. "No," he admitted. "She's the newest member of our family." He felt suddenly nervous, as if his darkest secret were being uncovered. "When did she join you?" Billy Black inquired. "Where did you find her?" "Why does it matter?" Edward asked, reading the man's suspicions.

"I may have known her parents," Billy Black said. "You found her in Forks, didn't you?" It was more an accusation than a question. Bella's eyes got big and she looked to her parents. "We should discuss this privately," Esme suggested. She knew a fight would be devastating to everyone involved, even if it were only in words. Billy Black and his only son were led to a small structure, an old kitchen separated from the main house, with a table and chairs. The Blacks sat across from the Cullen parents. Bella and Edward stood in a corner, hand in hand. "She resembles Renee Swan, the wife of my dear friend Charlie. Their child was Isabella Swan, Bella for short," Billy Black told them. "Why did you not turn her over with the others? How could you pervert her in this manner?" Bella stepped forward. "No, I'm Bella Cullen," she said defiantly. "I've always been Bella Cullen. These are my parents…" Edward put a hand out to calm her. She squirmed in the hateful stare of Jacob. His eyes made her feel profoundly uncomfortable and she shrank into Edward's side. "I don't want him saying those things, Edward," she whispered. "Bella was alone when I found her," Esme explained. "It didn't seem to matter who her parents had been because they were dead. There weren't even any bodies in the house with her. She had no one." "She should have been with her own kind," Billy Black said sternly. "We love her very much," Carlisle said. He greatly resented the implication that he had wronged Bella by raising her. "As you can see she's been kept healthy and happy. We only turned her to ensure her survival. We would never allow harm to come to her." "Her parents were killed because of your kind," Billy Black said. "And look what you've made her into. She's a devil, like you." Esme's hand came down hard on the table top, snapping it in two. "Stop this!" she yelled. "Bella is my child. I took care of her. How dare you call us devils. It was my family who cleaned up Forks. We destroyed our own kind to save the humans. We destroyed innocent children who were turning. I saved this child while you were hiding on your reservation! You let your dear friends die while you protected your own people and your own land." "Those monsters had to be destroyed," Billy Black said as if it were to absolute truth. "Don't think you aren't just as evil, regardless of your diet." "The Newborns weren't evil," Esme said. "They only knew pain and fear and thirst. You have no idea what it's like. They couldn't help what they were. And you don't know what it's like to drag the corpses of dead children out into the streets to burn them. There was nothing but death and destruction those days. But Bella was life and she needed me." "And that makes it right?" Billy Black asked. "What makes you think you know what's right and wrong?" Esme asked. "I won't listen to this anymore. What's done is done and I regret nothing I've done." And with that she walked out and back toward her home. Carlisle hesitated, but followed silently. Bella also turned to go. "Stay, child, and I will tell you about your real family," Billy Black said. Bella felt suddenly torn between two sets of truths. But her decision was already made. "I've heard the story of my family many times already," she said, standing up very straight. "I appreciate your concern, but you really don't know me or my family. You haven't witnessed

our lifestyle. All you have to offer me is loss. I'll take the other option." She clasped Edward's hand and walked out with her head held high. Bella was not ashamed in the least by who or what she was. ...xxxXxxx… A/N: okay so the cat's out of the bag. Will the wolves and vamps patch up these differences or will they drive a wedge into the Alliance? *iku is a word Japanese boys call out when they are gettin' it on. Edward basically said he was coming and she said hurry up! Chapter 14: Among the Flowers Theme song: "Lily" by the Smashing Pumpkins Soft rays of white moonlight danced across the faces of the young lovers as they gently swayed back and forth in the garden swing. "Penny for your thoughts," Edward said softly. Bella looked over at his face, confused. "Penny?" she asked. Edward sighed. "It's just something people used to say," he explained. No one ever said such things anymore. "I just wondered what you were thinking about." A kind smile tugged at Bella's lips and her head titled back against the metal frame of the swing. "I see. Well, I'm worried, I suppose," she said. "I can't even begin to imagine what's coming our way." "We'll prepare you," Edward assured her. "They'll swim across the oceans and their arrival will be staggered because they won't swim at the same speed. And they'll be very thirsty. No Newborn would even dream of feeding on ocean life. And since nearly all the humans have been moved away from the coastline they won't get a chance to feed before the fight, if we're lucky." "It isn't just that, Edward," Bella said. Her gaze drifted up to the starlit sky. "I've never met any others like us, except for that day at the beach. Are they all like that?" "Cruel and sadistic?" he asked. "No. We wouldn't dream of interfering if we could help it. But they're coming after us. They'll destroy us if they get the chance. So we can't allow them to have that chance. It's not the easiest decision we've ever had to make, but we believe it's the right one." "I don't like to think of you getting hurt, Edward," she said, worry flooding her face. "I wish there was another way." "As do I," Edward said. He pulled Bella over the small distance between them to feel their bodies pressed together. Only the pale blue cotton of Bella's dress stood between their skin. Bella enjoyed seeing her lover without a shirt and she put her cheek against his bare chest. "Something else is bothering you." he observed. "The wolves?" "Yes," Bella said with a frustrated sigh. "I feel like I messed up what Daddy worked so hard to build."

"They'll stand with us still," Edward said. "They have no choice. Besides, we all want the same thing. Well, we all want to ensure our survival and face the coming threat as a united front. It's one of the advantages we have." "What are the others?" "We know they're coming," he answered. "And we're all standing together. Newborns can't really do that. And we have experience and training. Most importantly, we have access to especially gifted people like Alice and Artemisia. They most likely don't have any gifted individuals among them. And we have Carlisle's crazy schemes." Edward chuckled thinking about his father's enthusiasm for the scientific endeavors that might help sway the outcome of the war in their favor. "What's he planning now?" Bella asked. "I'm not really sure. The gears in his head started turning like crazy when I said something… what was it? Bad blood?" "Right, you were talking about the wolves. You said there's always been bad blood between them and our kind." "Yes," Edward recalled. "Now, what exactly is bothering you about it? Don't blame yourself for the new rift between us and the Quileutes. That's not your fault at all. They already hated us." Bella sat up straight and looked Edward in the eyes. "Do you think Mr. Black was right? I know you didn't want to have me stay at first, when I was a baby." "Don't even think that. I was mistaken then." "Do you think I should care more?" Bella asked. "Am I dishonoring the memory of my biological parents by not wanting to hear about them? You remember your parents. What do you think?" "I think…" He took a moment to really go over what he would say. "I remember them and it makes me sad that they had to die so young. Esme and Carlisle understand that I miss them. But my parents would be dead now anyway, whether I was here talking to you or rotting under the ground with them. No one would be offended if you wanted to know who they were." "But that's just it, Edward. I don't care. And even if I did listen to Mr. Black I'd never really know if he was right about who I was before. I can't imagine that it would do anything but make me sad, you know?" Edward leaned over to place a gentle kiss on Bella's lips. "I don't want you to be sad," he told her. Her eyes still had the red glow, but Edward never seemed to notice it. And if he did, he didn't care. As far as he was concerned his Bella was the most amazingly beautiful creature in existence. His fingers combed through her loose dark hair, tugging slightly on the curls around her arms. "They do hate us, don't they?" she asked dryly. "They think we're demons." "It doesn't matter," Edward said calmly. "They don't even know us."

"But why does it have to be that way?" "Humans have always found stupid things to hate each other over," Edward mused. "If all the people in an area look very similar then they'll worry about tiny differences like eye color. Or it's religion or how much money people have. I swear, Bella, society's rules are so very arbitrary." "What do you mean?" she asked, loving the sound of his voice. Edward sighed over her face. "People don't just sit down and discuss what is proper and what is taboo. It just seems to happen, but you would think they held conferences about it. When the Creole Coven was formed a girl your age might be married with a child or two already. And the St. Bernard Coven is made of former African slaves. Now humans serve as slaves to Vampires all over the world, at least where they still exist. And there are so many rules about who should be together and who shouldn't, even today. It's all so very pointless." "Why do you see that but others don't?" Bella asked. "Because I've had time to think about it, I suppose," he answered. "You will too. I plan on you living for a very long time, my angel." Bella smiled at him. "I love you," she said. "I love you too." …xxxXXxxx… "I like these," Bella said, leaning to sniff a bright orange rose. She was haunting the flower gardens with her mother and sisters beneath the warm spring sun and the blooms were enchanting. The air smelled too good for words, Bella thought. "Well, we need lots of pretty flowers for the ball," Alice said. "I can't wait! This is going to be so much fun." "I'm excited too," Bella said. "I can't wait to meet everyone." "Well, there certainly are a lot of people to meet," Rosalie added. "Prepare to have your ears talked off. Especially by the hybrids. They never shut up." Esme turned toward her oldest daughter. "Now, Rosalie, be nice. They're just very curious and friendly." "Who are the hybrids?" Bella asked. The other women realized there was still so much to tell her. "They hybrids are children of Vampire fathers and human mothers," Esme explained, taking Bella's arm and leading her along a wall of irises. "They're from the West, though there may be others. Each of their mothers died when they were born. They were raised by their father, but he was a very cruel Vampire. And when they grew up they found out how they came to be and…well, they took him out." Bella gasped. "They killed their own father?" she asked, shocked.

"Sometimes we must make very hard decisions," Esme told her. "They simply did what they thought was best for everyone. And now they're our allies." "Don't worry, Bella," Alice chimed in, skipping along the grass. Her skin glimmered in the sun's glow. "The hybrids are really nice. I like them a lot." "You like everybody," Rosalie snorted. Alice poked out her tongue and playfully shoved Rosalie. But the four Cullen women stopped suddenly when Alice gasped. "Someone's coming," she said. "It's one of the wolves." They recognized the scent almost immediately as the son of the wolves' leader. Jacob Black stepped slowly from the shadows where a group of trees stood. "I'd like a minute with Bella," he said without feeling. Esme instinctively pushed Bella behind her, but Alice touched her shoulder to stop her. "He doesn't mean any harm," she told her mother. "He just wants to talk about something that isn't any of his business." "It's fine," Bella assured them. "Don't worry. I can take care of myself now." After giving Bella meaningful looks of concern they all left her with the wolf boy among the flowers. But they stayed very close. "So what is it?" Bella asked plucking a sprig of jasmine from a nearby bush. She held it near her face to avoid smelling his strong animal smell. It would be rude to make a face at him, she knew. "My father wanted me to come and talk to you about your…family," Jacob Black said. "You see, if there was a way to change what's been done we would take you back with us. But we can't now. There isn't really any hope for you." Bella took offense. She carefully hooked the jasmine into one of the soft braids in her hair and moved until she was upwind of Jacob Black. "That's funny," she said, bringing her hands to her hips and smoothing her white cotton dress. "I feel very hopeful," she said with a sneer. "Anyway, what makes you think I'd ever go and live with you? Alice was right. You are meddling in my business." "You should've been with your own kind," Jacob Black said. "It wasn't right for them to keep you. We just want you to understand what they took from you." A loud huff came up Bella's throat as she rolled her red eyes at the boy. "I had already lost everything when they found me, wolf," she said. "And who do you think you are to judge us. From what I've heard and read an Indian reservation probably isn't the best place to grow up. Don't you have your own problems?" "Yeah, we have lots of problems," Jacob Black admitted. "But you wouldn't have been exposed to the sort of dangers you were here." "I also hear you wolves are pretty dangerous to be around sometimes," Bella said with a pointed look. "I hear you're especially unpredictable when you get angry. And sometimes your women pay for it." Bella watched as Jacob Black seemed to take in her words as if he'd been struck in the face. She'd learned quite a bit about the culture from which the boy in front of her came and she

was pretty sure things only got worse when the survivors moved onto the Quileute land. Most of the survivors, she'd learned, made it through the initial massacres near the coasts only because they were thoroughly unappetizing to the Newborns. They were drug users and drunks. The information about the women came from one of the Cullens' most faithful servants who'd visited the women's camp which was much further from the Cullens' land than the wolves' camp. Though Bella was never anywhere near the servant woman she heard about what the woman had seen at the camp, the scarred flesh and nervous stares. Things must be very stressful on the reservations. Jacob Black stared straight at Bella, anger burning in his dark eyes. "You think you know everything, don't you?" he said through gritted teeth. Guilt flooded Bella as she realized she was being very cruel. "No, I don't. But I do know that you don't have all the answers either. And no matter how much I'm sure you adore your father, he doesn't know everything. None of us is fit to decide what's ultimately best for everyone." "He just wants to help you," Jacob Black said of his father. "I can appreciate that," Bella responded. "But you need to understand that the Cullens are my family and I love them. I have as much faith in my father's words as you have in yours and my mother is my whole world. You can't even imagine what it was like to grow up here in this house with these people…I always assumed it was perfectly normal. So no matter what you say I'm not going to believe my family isn't the best out there." "Okay." Jacob Black said. He couldn't really argue with her logic. "But I don't get why you don't want to know about your real family." "Because the Cullens are my real family," Bella said, exasperated. "Why would I want to know about people that I'll never meet?" "Maybe for the same reason I know about my ancestors," Jacob Black offered. Bella plucked another sprig of jasmine and sighed, thinking about how best to explain herself. "Well, they were your ancestors. They're supposed to be dead. But my parents were probably a fairly young couple. And they had a brand new baby. Their deaths were tragic. I don't want that on my head. I don't want the tragedy." "I guess I just don't understand," Jacob Black said. "No, you don't," Bella responded. "And you probably never will. But it isn't your decision to make." The boy's shoulders slouched. "We would've been friends, you know," he said. "Maybe more." Bella grimaced at that thought. "I'm very happy with Edward," she told him. "But like you said, it's all you've ever known." "Even if the massacre had never happened, I doubt I would've ever chosen you. I'm sorry. It would never have made any sense. Maybe we would've been friends, but nothing more. And I'd appreciate it if you didn't say such things to me anymore. I'm very committed to my Edward." Jacob Black sighed and shrugged. "If you say so," he said without conviction.

"Well, I do," Bella replied. "If you'd like to talk again that would be fine. But I will not discuss any of this again. I really don't see why we can't all be civil with each other. We are allies, after all. If we are to fight along side each other we should form some kind of friendship, don't you think?" "I guess," Jacob Black agreed. "Well then," Bella said cheerfully, feeling very smug about the outcome of the conversation. A smile came to her face when she realized Edward was nearby and probably had listened to the entire exchange. "I'll see you later, Jacob Black. Maybe you'll come to the ball?" "I doubt it," he said. "Okay, well goodbye." "Bye." Bella turned and walked quickly toward her man, smiling at the first glimpse of his bronze hair glowing in the sun. "I'm very proud of you," he said. "You handled that in a very mature manner." "Thank you," Bella replied. She sighed as Edward wrapped his arms around her waist and bent to kiss her. "Really, him and me? I can't imagine where he'd get an idea like that! That's just ridiculous. Talk about falling right off the social ladder." Edward laughed hard at that image, remembering their discussion on class struggles in the US before the massacres. "You can be very cruel, you know?" "I know, but I'm kidding, of course. He's just not my type." "You don't have a type," Edward teased. "You've been in love with me since you were a little girl and you know it. I'm the only type you know." "That's very true," she agreed. "I always thought you were so handsome, even if you did act like a jerk." Edward held a hand over his heart, pretending to be hurt. "I forgive you," Bella said. "But it's going to cost you." "And what is it that I'm to do for you?" Bella flashed her brilliant white smile and winked. Edward didn't need to read her mind to know exactly what she wanted. A/N: yeah, that's exactly how I feel about the whole stupid triangle! review even if you disagree. A/N: okay, sorry about how long this took to get up. I've been busy getting a new job and such. Hopefully I will have some more chapters up soon. …oooOooo… Chapter Fifteen: The Monsters' Ball Theme song: "Tonight Tonight" by Smashing Pumpkins

The quiet town of Vacherie was once home to around 5,000 humans. But this night it contained less than two hundred individuals, mostly Vampires. There were, however, several hundred humans just beyond the forests to provide food for the temporary undead inhabitants. Bella Cullen was aware of this fact, but tried to put it out of her mind as she looked expectantly toward the faux marble exterior of the grand white mansion before her. The night was cool and damp and the air was thick with the mingling scents of thousands of blooms. From the moment she stepped through the front door Bella was fascinated by the abundant diversity of the party guests. They seemed to be all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some had skin much like her own, pale and luminous in the light of a thousand candles. Others had dark, almost ebon skin and there seemed to be every shade in between as well. The polished white floors of the old house reflected the amazing colors of the ball gowns and suits worn by the revelers. The whole spectrum was spread out before Bella's eager eyes and she looked about with wonder and awe. Gradually the buzz of many conversations died down until all eyes were on the guest of honor. Then Bella heard something she'd never expected. Hearts beat in the room. Bella's eyes widened in horror as she looked to her parents for an explanation. "Breathe, Bella," Carlisle said softly and with absolute confidence. The other Cullens seemed almost equally shocked by the sounds. Slowly Bella took a breath, and then another as she listened very carefully to the sounds coming from her surroundings. There were about a dozen rapid, fluttering hearts, and twice that of louder, thumping beats. Further away there were even louder heartbeats. While the sounds caused the incredible thirst to flare in Bella's throat, the scent made her banish the thought of feeding from her mind. "Brilliant," Edward said, fully realizing the situation as he read it on his father's mind. "But how?" "We found a way to change their blood chemistry just so," Carlisle explained. "The effects aren't permanent, and we don't quite know if there are any long term effects to the humans, but it could be an effective tool in our fight." Edward patted Carlisle's shoulder in a gesture of respect and admiration. "Why do they sound different?" Bella asked, feeling much calmer now. Carlisle put a hand on Bella's shoulder and leaned to whisper in her ear. "The fast, shallow heartbeats are from the Hybrids. The louder, slower ones are from the humans and the loudest are the wolves. But the wolves are out back. Some of them might come in later." Slowly conversations began to resume. At first Bella could overhear some of the exchanges, but the quiet hum eventually filled the large room again as everyone seemed to be talking at once. Groups began to make their way over to meet Bella. They were fascinated by her, she found. For many the Cullen family was an anomaly in itself, first because it was an unusually large Coven, and second because of their diet of animal blood. But Bella Cullen was an especially unique Vampire because she was such a calm Newborn and also because she'd survived for fifteen years in a household full of the world's deadliest creatures. Bella was first introduced to the St. Bernard Coven and realized they were like her family, golden-eyed, vegetarians.

Most of the others had bright red eyes like Bella, though hers were fading. The Hybrids had blue, green, brown, and gray eyes. Bella also noticed the skin of the hybrids had slight undertones of pink and yellow and their bodies radiated heat that reminded Bella of the warm sunlight that filtered into her room each morning. Rosalie had been right about their talkativeness. They seemed to have a million questions for Bella, some of which she did not know the answers to. After several minutes Edward interrupted the questioning to introduce Bella to the Creoles and the Denalis. Bella had known the age difference between her and Edward was initially a problem for her father, but one Vampire couple made Bella's situation seem very trivial. Jasper's friend, Brett, stood over six feet with wild black hair past his shoulders. Though Bella had never met Brett, she knew him to be nearly 40 years old before his change. His mate, Miss Annalie, appeared to be even younger than Bella. The difference in height reminded Bella of Alice and Jasper. Bella liked Annalie immediately and would have spoken with her all night if not for the dozens of other guests waiting to be formally introduced. The Denali Coven was another group with golden eyes and one among them seemed remotely familiar to Bella. She had brilliant red hair and plumb lips. "I'm Myra," she said to Bella. "I used to play with you when you were just a baby." "Oh, I think I remember," Bella said. "You played piano, right?" Myra smiled and nodded. When the introductions were finally finished and Bella's head nearly spun from all the new information she'd received Carlisle stood on the platform before the fireplace to get everyone's attention. "First, I'd like to thank all of you for joining our family for these festivities. Your friendship means a lot to my family. Second, I want to welcome everyone into the Alliance and assure you that we are doing everything we can to assure our victory in the coming war. And while the circumstances that led to this gathering are not exactly ideal, I hope we all have a good time over the next few weeks. With that said, start the music." The human orchestra began playing and Vampires began splitting off into couples for the first dance. Bella looked up at Edward, but he just smiled. "Your father wants the first dance," he said. Bella turned to find her father waiting patiently with a warm smile. She took his arm and he led her into the crowd of dancers. They had not danced together in years, not since Bella was a small child and she would step on Carlisle's feet as he moved them around the music room to the melody of whatever record he'd chosen for the evening. As a Vampire, Bella could move gracefully about in her bright yellow ball gown without tripping over her own feet or needing to be held up. She felt especially proud of the skill with which she moved as her father led. "Why are the others just watching us?" Bella asked. She looked over at her family as they stood still watching Bella and Carlisle dance. She'd expected them to begin dancing too, since they'd all been so excited about the ball. They all looked stunning. Esme was in dark green silk, Rosalie in blue velvet, and Alice in red satin and chiffon. The Cullen men wore identical black suits. Esme had attempted to make Edward's messy bronze hair lie down and behave, but to no avail. Carlisle looked in the same direction as Bella and laughed softly. "You're our baby," he said with adoration in his voice. "We've always enjoyed watching everything you do, especially when it's something new, like dancing on your own two feet." Again Bella looked to her family. She noticed that Esme and Rosalie were tucked under Emmett's arms while Edward stood only inches away, smiling placidly. Jasper and Alice stood

alone and Bella saw something in their faces she couldn't recognize. Whatever Jasper and Alice felt, it was far from the adoration and pride everyone else displayed. "Dad, what's wrong with them?" she asked, nodding her head toward the couple. Carlisle glanced and looked back to Bella. "I don't know," he admitted. "Maybe Alice had a vision. I'll ask Edward." When the song ended Bella found Emmett waiting for the next dance and Edward seemed perfectly content to wait for his own turn. Carlisle stood next to Edward and seemed to be having a nearly silent conversation with his oldest son. Bella put her worries out of her mind for the time because Emmett was easily her most fun sibling. He liked to dip and twirl and lift Bella clean off her feet. It was hard for anyone to be in a bad mood with Emmett around. When this dance ended Bella expected to find Edward waiting. Once again she had to wait. Edward took Bella's hand and walked with her over to where Jasper and Alice stood. "I think Jasper might like to dance with you now," he said. Jasper's eyes widened as if that thought hadn't ever crossed his mind. "Or maybe you could go for a walk under the stars," Edward suggested. Jasper nodded nervously and extended his arm to Bella. As he led Bella away she heard Edward ask Alice to dance. Jasper led Bella out to the huge veranda with its white columns that wrapped around the house. In the distance the wolves danced around a large bonfire in human form. Bella watched the flames shoot toward the sky while she waited for Jasper to say something. But he simply stood silently, brooding. Finally Bella began to recognize the emotions Jasper sent out. "You regret something," Bella observed. "You feel guilty. Why?" She looked into Jasper's face as he appeared to find his words. "I regret that you and I aren't as close as you and Emmett," he said sadly. "And you feel more connected to Rosalie than to Alice." "Why do you think that?" Bella asked. She'd never considered such a thing before. "It's my fault," Jasper said. "I was never a part of your life, not before the day James attacked you. Edward and I, we were always in the background. And I took Alice away at times too. She wishes she'd been there as much as Esme and Rosalie were." Bella felt as if her heart might leap out of her chest. She silently went over Jasper's words, thinking carefully about her feelings toward each member of her family. It was true that Jasper had been mostly a figure in the background of Bella's life for the first twelve years. At times she'd wondered if he and Edward cared for her at all. Carlisle and Esme were her parents because they'd taken on those roles. But Rosalie and Emmett were equally her parents, having spent nearly every bit of time with Bella while she was awake. The four of them had only left Bella when they hunted or had their "alone time". Carlisle spent more time away when he began working in his clinic, saving human lives. Still, he'd been a warm and loving father. Bella found she had no memories of being left alone for any significant amount of time, even when she slept. Someone was always there. Then there was Edward. Bella realized that if she'd ever thought of Edward as family she wouldn't have fallen in love with him. For as long as she could remember Bella had thought Edward was incredibly handsome and her childhood crush had never faded, even when she realized he'd nearly killed her. Even when she felt like he hated her for existing. Now she

couldn't help but be glad she'd never seen Edward as a brother because she wouldn't have him now as her lover. Finally, after more thought on the subject, Bella took Jasper's hand in her own. "Jasper, I love each of you differently," she said. "It's not that we aren't as close or that I don't love you as much as I love anyone else. It may be true that you avoided me like the plague for twelve years, but I don't take it personally. You were there for me when it counted, when I really needed you to be. That's what counts." "But is that enough?" Jasper asked. "Yes, it is," Bella replied. "Since you helped me come down from my fear that night you've more than made up for your initial absence." "And Alice?" "Alice is a great sister. She saved my life and probably Edward's. You know, Rosalie and Mom are my mothers. But they always wanted to be mothers. Alice doesn't have that same desire. It's probably because she doesn't remember her own mom. So she and I have a different relationship than I have with Mom and Rosalie. It doesn't mean I feel like she wasn't there enough. I love Alice and I love you. Please don't have regrets, Jasper. I don't." "I…I love you too, Bella," Jasper said, letting go of the sadness he'd felt only moments before. He opened his arms to Bella and she stepped into them and hugged her brother. "Now come on," Bella said cheerfully. "Maybe I can finally dance with Edward." Back inside Alice seemed completely cheered up and she hugged Bella before dragging Jasper onto the dance floor. Edward led Bella there too and she leaned her head against his chest as they moved slowly and gracefully around the polished floor. "I'm more proud of you everyday," Edward said, a smile in his voice. "So you were listening," Bella teased. She'd assumed Alice's sudden good mood was the result of Edward repeating every word of the conversation with Jasper during their dance. This talent of Edward's often came in handy. "Guilty," he said. "Thank you." .oOo. Bella watched intently as one of the Hybrids rose to address the audience. A small wooden platform had been erected to allow the speakers to see all the faces in the audience. The Vampires and hybrids sat on chairs, sofas, benches and some on the floor to allow everyone to see what was going on. The wolves sat apart in their own corner of the room. The first speaker, Katura, cleared her throat to get the attention of the audience and then began. "From the information we've been able to gather from our proximity to Asia, we've gained some valuable information on the virus that affects Vampires. First, it cannot be passed from one Vampire to another at this time. It is contracted by feeding on the blood of infected

humans. Second, Vampires cannot distinguish between humans who are infected and those who aren't. It is highly unlikely that any infected humans will travel over here, but we don't yet know how this is transmitted between humans. We theorize that some humans may be naturally immune to the related virus that kills humans, and when these humans contract the virus it mutates. The mutant strand only appears to affect Vampires, not humans. However, we have no reason to believe that it wouldn't also affect hybrids. Therefore my siblings and I have decided to…try a diet of animal blood. "Once a Vampire contracts this disease certain detrimental symptoms emerge. Soon after infection the Vampire will experience a severe loss of speed and strength, making it difficult to hunt and secure prey. Now, let's just admit that humans are the weakest and slowest, basically the most defenseless of prey. So feeding isn't impossible. But, after several weeks the infected Vampire will find that his or her skin is not longer impenetrable. So an infected Vampire can be wounded or even killed by humans at some point. "Beyond the symptoms I've already listed, venom production stops and the Vampire becomes very sensitive to the sun. This sensitivity can lead to burns from exposure to direct sunlight. It is possible that infected Vampires will make their way over here, so this threat should be taken seriously. That's all I have. Thank you." At the completion of the first speech the room erupted in voices. Most Vampires in America had only heard rumors of the virus. Hearing about the reality of it was frightening. It made Vampires vulnerable in a way that no one in the room had ever been. This virus appeared to undo many of the effects of Vampirism without actually restoring humanity. It was a nightmare for the dozens of undead in the audience. Next Jasper stood on the platform and pulled a large map of North America into view. "Okay, here's how this war is going to play out," he said, pulling a marker out of his pocket. "All Covens will be stationed at the coast closest to their territory. You'll be with your Covens, and we'll spread out along the shorelines. Unfortunately we don't have a way to force the armies to come to shore in strategic locations, so we have to be diligent. We cannot give them the opportunity to regroup or feed once they come out of the water. Our best bet is to pick them off one by one as they emerge. "One idea proposed is to use humans as bait. We could have a small group of them contained near each Coven's piece of coast. That might draw the Newborns toward the waiting Allies so fewer would sneak by our defenses. Obviously some of us," he said, looking to the wolves, "will have a problem with that. But unless someone has a better idea it's the best strategy we have right now." Jasper began to explain where each Coven would be positioned by drawing symbols onto the map. When he was finished he turned back to the crowd. "Now I'll explain the role of the shape shifters in this," he continued. "Some tribes have territory near or at the coast. So they'll be guarding those areas. But if Newborns get past our coastal defenses they'll head right to the humans who are now clustered into several thousand settlements. The innermost settlements will have to remain unguarded, but those closer to the oceans will be defended by the tribes. This is our second line of defense. "Let's be reasonable about this. Some of us will get hurt and maybe killed. And I'm sure we'll lose many humans. But we have certain advantages that the Newborns don't. First is the fact that we're being attacked by Newborns who will mostly be less than a year old. The leaders over there are paranoid and selfish. They can't risk having competition for leadership so they constantly kill and replace their soldiers. And the armies will likely lack any real skill or training when it comes to combat. We, on the other hand, have had years to work on our fighting

skills. We'll be counting on this training so it's extremely important that we keep up the work we've been doing." When Jasper asked for questions and comments several hands went up. Jasper pointed to one raised hand and the first question was asked. "How long is this war going to take? Obviously it could be months," a Vampire named Peter asked. "Good point," Jasper said. "We don't actually know right now. But it could be some time before things settle down again. Alice and Artemisia will keep looking so we'll keep everyone apprised of what we know. Next." "What about feeding?" A female asked. "If this takes a long time we'll have to feed at some point." Jasper nodded and answered, "That's another way keeping humans near the Covens could come in handy. My family and the other Vegetarians will be keeping livestock near us to avoid having to leave our posts to hunt for long periods of time. It seems like the rest of you could use a similar method." At that Billy Black banged his cane on the floor and made an angry sound. Jasper turned to the wolves and put his hands up to indicate he was not threatening them. "Listen, I understand your objection to this," he said calmly. "But we have to be reasonable. The fact is that humans are our natural source of sustenance. Some of us have learned to live an alternative lifestyle, but it isn't easy. Right now we have to learn to respect each other's differences and work together. Life is tragic and there isn't really anything we can do about that. But I can assure you no one will invade your territories to find food. Later, when it's all over we can work on new treaties so we don't have to be around each other. Right now let's just put all that aside. Okay?" A collective nod was seen from the wolves after a pointed look from Billy Black. In the audience Alice nudged Bella and, after getting her attention, cocked her head toward Jasper and made a gesture to indicate she was swooning over her husband in his capacity as a leader. Bella giggled and Esme turned to glare harshly at both of them before lifting a finger to her lips. The girls straightened up immediately but smiled at each other again after Esme's back was turned. Jasper noticed the exchange and gave Alice a wink before acknowledging the next raised hand. "How do we know the foreign armies don't have their own psychics?" a young blond Vampire asked. "We don't know that," Jasper admitted. "But I can tell you that when leaders are as powerhungry as these are they tend not to keep individuals around who pose a threat. We don't have any way of knowing, so we just have to do our best with the information we have." "You didn't indicate that the leaders are coming," an older Vampire said. "Do you think they'll just refresh their armies if we win and launch more attacks?" "That's possible," Jasper answered. "Some of the Nomads have offered to go overseas and take out the leaders. Somehow Japan has remained largely untouched by the tyrants, so they may do it themselves. All we can do is protect our own land." "What about the ones who get past us? What if they come up from South America?"

"We'll have to hunt them down," Jasper said. "And the South Americans are staging their own defenses so we have to rely on them on that end. One Mexican Coven has offered to patrol the border at Panama." "What happens after it's all over? How do we know war won't break out between us and the wolves?" "Um…" "How do we know we can even trust them?" "Maybe Carlisle should deal with this," Jasper said, feeling flustered. He was a strategist, not a diplomat. Carlisle took the stage and attempted to address the latest concerns. "We'll have to make new treaties, as Jasper said," he began. "Obviously those of us who don't feed on humans won't have that conflict with the tribes. But we still have differences with them." Carlisle couldn't help look at Bella and Esme when he said this. "The point is that we learn to peacefully coexist. While the new treaties will be discussed later, I can tell you they will have to allow for the sovereignty of the tribes and Covens and none of us will be allowed within their territories. Maybe we can work out some trade relations between the tribes and humans in our territories. The main thing is that we don't try to interfere in the lives of each other. "As to our need to trust them, I can assure you that they feel the same way about us. The Quileutes are going to visit other tribes between now and the time we all must get ready for the war. They'll be taking information and supplies to other tribal areas so that those groups can defend themselves. Right now we must think of each other as allies, not enemies." Carlisle went on to describe some of the scientific innovations that would help give their side an advantage over the Newborn armies. He felt fortunate that they still had a year to prepare for war because the situation was incredibly complicated and difficult. The concerns raised by the audience members were quite valid. The tribes did not consider the Vampires real people, for the most part. Even when Vampires like the Cullens helped stop the initial slaughters, there was still much distrust and even hatred between the groups. Problems like these would not go away overnight, or even over the course of the war. And if the fighting was over quickly, the members of the Alliance would still spend years getting things calmed down again. It would be like the massacres, only more cooperation would be needed to settle the continent this time. After the discussions were over the fifth day of celebration was coming to an end. The humans and wolves returned to their camps to sleep while the Vampires and Hybrids took time to feed if they needed. Many new friends accompanied the Cullens and the St. Bernard Coven to hunt animals in the swamp. For most, the appeal of living in large family units was enough to encourage them to try the strange diet of animal blood. Interactions between the Vegetarian Vampires were different from those who fed on humans. The Vegetarians seemed calmer, more cooperative, and closer than members of other Covens. When the hunting was done the Vampires returned to the mansion to commence festivities. Late at night the Vampires liked to show off their musical skills to others. Jasper and Brett found someone to play drums and they entertained the crowd with rock music, especially from the Beatles. Others sang or played violin, flute, and a whole host of other instruments. Edward and Myra played piano and Rosalie sang. Over the dark hours of the nights many plays and poetry readings took place. The atmosphere was significantly lighter when only the Vampires and Hybrids remained. Eventually the Hybrids had to sleep, but they usually waited until early morning so they wouldn't miss anything. The mornings were when the Vampires enjoyed

almost complete privacy and since they never slept they found other ways to entertain themselves. During the mornings the Cullens returned to their own mansion to spend time with each other and make love to their mates in the light of the rising sun. They could watch each other sparkle as they enjoyed the physical aspect of their relationships. This was Bella's favorite time of day. "I wonder what the others are doing right now," she told Edward as they lay side by side in their bed. Edward laughed. "If you mean the visitors, most of them do the same thing we do," he said. "It's interesting how many new couples have formed this past week." Bella sat up and looked down at Edward with a surprise. "Did you know that Myra and Irina are lovers?" she exclaimed. Edward nodded. "I didn't even know that two females could be mates!" Bella said. "That's really interesting. What else don't I know?" Edward chuckled and lifted a hand to Bella's cheek. "You make me laugh, Bella Cullen," he said softly. "And you have many things to learn. That's part of what makes the world so great. There are always new things to discover. And we have an eternity to learn together." .oOo. A/N: yay, a new chapter finished. Let me tell you, working a movie theatre is hard on the body. I've been sleeping more lately which is why it took so long to get this chapter done. Hopefully I'll get used to the extra physical exertion soon and update more often. But the next chapter will be the events right before the war begins. Things should be getting tense and I'm not sure how many chapters the war will take up. hope you enjoyed this chapter. I know it's a bit fluffy, but I wanted to address some things about the Cullen's relationships. Oh, and I hope Jasper's answers to questions made sense. I felt like all the vamps would have these concerns so I thought they'd talk them out. Review! Chapter 16 The air was warm in general, but cool breezes were blowing in from the ocean every now and then. Over the last week the weather had gone from sunny and calm to gray and windy. With each hour the wind picked up speed and more angry clouds rolled in. Somewhere out in the gulf a storm was growing stronger. Bella fought hard to remain calm and composed. Very nearby was a group of humans, bait for the coming hordes. They were literally chained down inside a brick structure with bars on the windows, waiting for death. These were criminals and had been turned over by their own people for this purpose. Though they were meant to draw in the hungry Newborns, the immediate threat came from the Vampires who were supposed to be their saviors. Having spent so little time in the presence of humans in the past months, most of the Cullens were feeling the burn of their incredible thirsts. Their mouths were nearly overflowing with venom now and they had to constantly remind themselves that they were not monsters. They needed to know for certain that they were somehow different from the mindless demons coming across the ocean. If not, how could they possibly justify defending what they'd built over the almost two decades since the first massacre. Plans for this war had been made and carried out over nearly five years. Jasper had trained scores of Vampires and hundreds of human shape-shifters to fight Newborns. Weapons seized

during the Restoration of Society in the years after the massacres were stockpiled along the shorelines for use because Alice believed they would be affective against the afflicted. Carlisle had gathered supplies and trained over one hundred humans in the skills they would need to treat the sick and wounded during and after the war. He'd also ensured the survival of as many humans with medical training as possible over the years. During the last two years hundreds of thousands of humans had migrated inland, away from the coasts, to give themselves the best chance of survival in the coming assault. Even if the Alliance failed and perished, being far from the shores would mean extra time for the humans. At this point, however, many were huddled in their dwellings, or in old bomb shelters and caves. They tried to pretend they weren't just waiting for their own demise. Somehow, they hoped, faith might be the one thing that set them apart from the humans overseas, the ones who'd been wiped out. There was no guarantee that any of the preparations the Cullens and their Allies had made would be affective against an army of crazed Newborns. These faceless masses would emerge from the sea half-starved and angry. Their mission was simply to kill off their competition. The Newborns were merely pawns for the older Vampire leaders who'd created them. Eventually they would turn on each other and maybe be disposed of before long. No one really knew what sort of plans the leaders had for the future. But whatever it was probably meant the end of human civilization. Even if the Vampire leaders weren't stupid enough to wipe out the humans, life as they knew it was over. The wisest and oldest of the Vampires, the individuals who'd had the most time to observe human behavior, predicted that if the Newborn army won humanity would likely lose all hope for a better future. They'd find a way to ensure their end. Wherever hopelessness failed to destroy the human spirit disease and starvation would pick up the slack. Over the last few weeks visions of the future had become blurrier and more sporadic to the Vampires with gifts for premonition. This uncertainty made everyone nervous and if Vampires could have high blood pressure and stomach ulcers they would all be in need of medical care. Special attention had been paid to Bella's training. Because she was the youngest of the Cullens and still technically a Newborn, she was the strongest and fastest of them. She was also the least experienced at battle. Jasper had spent extra time with her and the other Vampires who were turned after the massacres to make up for their lack of previous fighting knowhow. A Vampire from former Canada had gone to the trouble of turning criminals so they'd have chances to fight realistic battles without needing to hold back. While Carlisle and the other Cullens had been horrified by this practice they also realized the necessity of it. Times were desperate. 5 months ago… One day Jasper and Esme led Bella into a clearing in the woods where several Allies were restraining a Newborn. He'd been turned for one purpose, to serve as Bella's first kill. Bella was sickened by the thought of taking a life. Jasper had taught her to use her small size to her advantage and her training had gone incredibly well despite her youth and complete lack of experience. Still, all her practice came from mock battles with other Vampires. She'd never killed and had only encountered death at the beach years ago. As she stood preparing to begin this lesson she knew if she could still vomit she would. Esme and Jasper helped Bella get her chainmail on. "I don't think I can do this," she said.

"You can and you will," Esme told her, though she felt ill too. If Bella couldn't finish off a Newborn during the real war then she'd likely be killed herself. And even though the Cullens would look out for each other, everyone needed to be ready to do whatever it took to stay alive. But if Bella could hold her own the others would be less distracted. Bella took deep breaths to steady herself, an old habit that she hadn't broken yet. There was no time to think once the Newborn was released. Terrified, Bella relied on her training and practice to help her respond to the threat as the Newborn came right for her. He hadn't been allowed to feed yet and attacked with desperate ferocity. Bella sprang into action, using all the techniques she'd perfected under Jasper's instruction. The older Vampires formed a perimeter around Bella and the Newborn. They were ready to step in should they find Bella in danger of losing the fight. Esme had to look away before her maternal instincts kicked in and drove her to protect her young. Bella, however, did not need help. But she hesitated when she had the Newborn's head in her grasp. One twist was all it would take. She was on his back and ready to deliver the final blow. A sickening crack echoed off the trees as Bella looked into Jasper's eyes and snapped the Newborn's head off. It was over so quickly that Bella felt like it had been a terrible dream. The body was being further ripped apart and thrown into a fire by the others as she walked off, dazed, having proved herself. Esme followed to offer what comfort she could. Like her daughter, Esme had never wanted to be driven to this kind of violence. Bella collapsed against a tree and closed her eyes, trying to shut out the visions of what she'd just done. Esme cried and was shocked when she felt something cold and wet on her face. Lifting her hand to her cheek she wiped it off and was horrified to find a tiny drop of blood on her pale index finger. …oOo… It rained the night before the first Newborns were expected to come ashore. The air grew colder and the sky darkened early so the Cullens retreated into a large tent set up a few miles from the beach. They had fed well and were ready to simply rest and remind themselves of what it was they were fighting for when night fell. There was no need for a fire to keep them warm, but Carlisle lit a lantern because the light was comforting. He looked around at his wife and children whose features were softly lit by the flame. "I love you all," he said. "Whatever happens, we're in this together." They all moved to sit in a circle around the lantern. Each sat next to his or her mate. Bella was between Edward and Esme and their hands were joined. "Maybe…we should pray," Rosalie suggested with her head lowered. Vampires were generally regarded as godless creatures, not of nature, evil. Even the Vampires themselves wondered if they even had souls. It was widely believed that they were simply damned because of their nature. But in a time of crisis it often helps to believe that one is not alone in the universe. So the Cullens joined hands around their circle and bowed their heads. Carlisle led them in a prayer he'd known for centuries. …oOo…

When it was time to get ready the Cullen women tied their hair up so that it was out of the way. They all put on special clothing that would be resistant to tearing, but would allow them free movement. Each of them had special chainmail shirts and helmets to protect their bodies, which they helped each other put on. After they were ready the Cullens stood side by side on the beach. Up on the land above the dunes they had a good view of turbulent water from which their foes would emerge. Horses were penned nearby to provide sustenance should they need it. The prisoners, in their brick cells, were the only humans for hundreds of miles. The Cullens all watched the ocean rush toward the sand, waiting for the first of the Newborns to emerge. The sick cracking sound still echoed in Bella's brain. She wanted desperately to make a difference in this battle and protect her family from the danger that was, at this very moment, swimming toward them. Esme worried about her family and didn't believe she would be able to go on living if even one of them was killed. She'd lost one child and could not imagine surviving the death of another. Alice looked as hard as she could into the future, which at the moment was foggy and fragmented. What could have happened in the last few weeks to change the premonitions so much? Emmett hoped his strength would be enough to let him do most of the work. He'd gladly take on every last one of the invaders to ensure the survival of his beloved wife. Jasper wondered if he'd thought of everything and if this was really the best spot for them to wait for the invasion. Would they really come through the Gulf of Mexico with the storm brewing out there? Carlisle tried to imagine how life might go back to normal after all this was over, if they all survived. If anyone did not survive then winning might not mean very much to him. Edward took Bella's hand one last time before the fight. He looked at her for a long moment and wished he could go back in time and treasure every moment of her short life the way he did now. The storm clouds painted the sky a dark and menacing gray. Thunder clapped loudly and echoed in the Vampires' ears each time the sky lit up briefly with lightening strikes. The waves were dark-colored and violent. Wind blew sand into the air and reshaped the dunes. Alice pointed to a spot in the distance where water rushed up to the packed sand. "They're coming," she whispered. Just as promised, the first of the Newborns dragged himself out of the ocean and head wildly in the direction of the Cullens. His shrieks filled the air as he caught sight of his enemies. He was easily dispatched by Emmett and tossed into one of the huge bonfires waiting for the bodies of the fallen. At first the Newborns emerged in a trickle. But soon they were coming from various directions. The Cullens had to back up closer to the prison to keep the Newborns from feeding on the people inside it. The Cullen males did most of the fighting followed by Rosalie and Alice. Esme and Bella focused on finishing off the injured and getting the bodies into the fires. Suddenly Esme screamed as a Newborn caught her off-guard and Bella found herself ripping the assailant apart. Bella felt a rush of excitement and bloodlust overcame her. She gave in to

her Newborn rage and attacked one after another of the enemies that threatened everything and everyone she loved. Being well-fed and well-rested gave Bella an easy advantage over the Newborns who'd just swum across the ocean and hadn't fed for possibly weeks. One Newborn female tried to rip the bars off the window of the prison and Bella caught her, neatly ripping her in half. The fight consumed her and she lost herself in it. She found she was faster and stronger, for the time being, than the others in her family. The Cullens clearly had the upper hand in this fight because they knew how to fight against the inexperienced Newborns. The general tactic was to try and rip off the heads of the Newborns and get the bodies into the fires as quickly as possible to avoid any regeneration. The Newborns fought clumsily and were very distracted by their incredible thirst. The initial battle went on for three days, after which the Cullens decided to feed again to ensure their continued strength. Bella, though, found it impossible to resist the smell of human blood and snapped. It was only after she'd killed two of the prisoners that she felt bad about it. The circumstances made resisting the urge to kill harder for even Rosalie, who'd never tasted human blood. But she was better at it than Bella, more experienced. The other Cullens did what they could to comfort Bella, but continued to abstain themselves. During the lulls in the war, when no Newborns were coming, the Cullens worked to clean up the mess left over. Jasper and Emmett kept a lookout while Edward and Rosalie kindled the fires. Alice and Esme dragged the leftover bits of the defeated to be burned. Carlisle managed to talk Bella down from feeding on more humans. The near-constant fighting made them need to feed more frequently. Luckily, the Cullens had prepared for that and had plenty of livestock waiting close to their position on the battleground. After a day of quiet the storm grew worse and a new flood of Newborns came from the east. These were more desperate and berserker. Carlisle noticed, in the midst of the fight, that they seemed completely devoid of reason. They blindly ran toward their deaths even when it became clear that they had no chance against even a small army of experienced Vampires who worked as a team. Even when she felt like she was losing her mind, Bella found that she responded to the Newborn attacks just as she'd been taught. Her body remembered the strategies she'd learned. Over the days each of the Cullens had to replace the chainmail pieces several times. But overall they were doing the job they'd been invented to do. And while nearly one hundred Newborns had been destroyed, none of the Cullens had sustained bites or other serious injuries thanks to the ancient technology. Edward was disturbed by what he saw in the minds of the Newborns, but kept it to himself because he had no idea of what it meant. The images Edward got made him worry that this war was only the beginning of the devastation that could come to the continent. Violent wasn't the only thing that could bring the world to an end. After two weeks the Cullens no longer spoke to one another during their rest periods beyond what absolutely needed to be said. It wasn't that they didn't want to. Conversation just seemed like too civilized of an activity for people engaged in the sort of brutality that was going on. There was, however, a great deal of affection between them. They frequently spent time making small, loving gestures toward one another, especially the couples. Carlisle tended to wrap his arms around Esme for hours at a time. Edward and Bella exchanged quick kisses. Alice and Jasper worried little about privacy and discretion. They'd spend their down time holding hands and leaning close to each other. Emmett and Rosalie used the tent for privacy

when it was their turn to rest. But affection was also exchanged freely between all of them. There were even small kindnesses between Edward and Rosalie on occasion. The stress level would rise sharply when Alice warned of a new attack. But they were fortunate to have the warnings at all. Communication between the Cullens and other Covens would be impossible for a while longer. Once, when Alice predicted a break in the fighting that would last several days, Esme and Rosalie were sent to round up more horses and other supplies. They returned safely, to the relief of everyone, having not encountered even a single Newborn invader during their trip. So far, it appeared, the defense of the coasts was successful. The Newborns were coming directly for the Vampires who were waiting. Probably, Jasper thought, the Newborns had been told that taking out the Vampires first would mean instant access to human blood. Using the humans as bait was working wonderfully. Even when Newborns landed hundreds of miles away they were drawn to the smell of the chained humans. After a month of staggered battles Jasper noticed that something was wrong with the latest invaders. He was surprised when one particular Newborn recoiled in pain after her teeth clashed with the chainmail Jasper was wearing. She was also weaker than a typical Newborn. Thinking quickly, Jasper threw this Newborn away from him and rushed to find one of the firearms he'd stashed close by. Selecting a shotgun, Jasper raised it and fired. The shot was so loud that it temporarily stunned the other Vampires and they watched the bullet find its mark. The Newborn's head exploded. As the other Cullens followed Jasper's lead Alice could see the future getting clearer. This war would be over in days and the Cullens would all survive. …oOo… The Cullens knew the fight was over when bodies started to wash up on shore. The sand around them was littered with bits of brain and flesh and hair from the gunshots. But the fires continued to burn so that the bodies and pieces could be destroyed. Now the work would have to take them further from their camp because the dead Newborns were washing up all over. Jasper sent Edward to find some fuel and many of the bodies were set afire where they lay when the tides receded. For a week straight small fires burned all along the Gulf Coast. Carlisle took note that the bodies were beginning to decay and he surmised that these Newborns were diseased before they took off into the ocean. That explained why they were weaker and slower than the others. He would have liked to study what exactly caused their deaths and what impact the disease had on them, but Carlisle also recognized the need to keep any sort of illness from spreading so all the bodies were burned. "This was too easy," Jasper said as the Cullens took time in their tent to regroup and discuss their next move. Edward looked back on what he'd seen in the minds of the Newborns. "Apparently something big happened overseas," he said. "They weren't just thirsty because they'd been swimming. Humans were dying all around them and they couldn't feed on the blood of the sick and dead ones. They hadn't fed in over a month when they got here. That would explain why it seemed so easy." "Can you tell what the humans were dying of?" Carlisle asked.

"They were just sort of falling over dead," Edward answered. "Some of them had burns or rashes of some sort. And they were vomiting blood, but it smelled rancid to the Newborns. Some of them fed anyway. I think those where the ones who were worse off. And the land the Newborns remembered was a wasteland. Nothing seemed to be really healthy anymore, even the plants." "Maybe they set off nuclear weapons or some kind of biological agent that was stored in a laboratory got out," Esme suggested. "Those are certainly possibilities," Carlisle agreed. "But until we hear from some of the other groups I think we should avoid too much speculation. And we need to make sure we don't come into physical contact with any sick Vampires." The other Cullens nodded their heads in agreement. Nothing was really known yet and they couldn't shake the feeling that the danger wasn't over just yet. …oOo… Two months after the fight was over the first of the humans were returning to the Cullens' territory and settling back in. Many of them had been staying near Indian lands recently and were eager to get home. It was something the shape-shifters had trouble understanding. That any human would willingly go back into Vampire territory seemed ridiculous to the Indians. They'd even extended invitations to many of the visitors to stay permanently. But the Cullens were known to be kind, as were the other Vegetarian Covens. Even some of the Covens that fed on humans weren't such bad leaders, considering that they provided certain amounts of protection to the humans around them. Many humans could live with the fact of human sacrifices in exchange for protection and food. As people were trickling back into their territory the Cullens worked on helping ensure an adequate food supply for the humans who were coming. Fields had been planted in the spring and left to grow with the hope that nature would provide enough water and sunlight. Much of the sugarcane and cotton crops were successful. There would also be corn, wheat, and potatoes to harvest. In addition, there would be plenty of animals to butcher. Hunting could be accomplished through the use of what weapons the humans had been allowed to keep and whatever they could make. Many of the people returning were very sick and Carlisle began to notice rashes cropping up on their skin. That was the first sign of trouble. Within weeks of returning many of the older humans were dying and the younger ones were sick. Carlisle reopened his clinic but had little in the way of supplies. He had Bella and Esme prepare bandages at home and used some old herbal remedies to try and remove toxins from the bodies of his patients. One day while Carlisle was at his clinic and Bella was crushing herbs for medicinal tea she began to feel pain in her chest. No one else was in the house. Jasper and Emmett were out hunting while Edward helped Carlisle at the clinic. The other Cullen women were out in the yard hanging up laundry. In minutes Bella was wheezing and the pain in her chest became so intense that she was screaming. Esme, Rosalie, and Alice rushed in to help her just as she collapsed. "Rosalie, go get Carlisle and Edward!" Esme said frantically. Rosalie was out the door before Esme finished her sentence. Esme picked Bella up and carried her to a sofa. When she looked back and noticed that Alice hadn't followed she went back to find her daughter staring blankly ahead.

Alice was having a vision. Esme shook her. "What are you seeing?" she asked. "I don't know what's happening to Bella," Alice said, trying to recover. "But whatever it is, it's going to happen to all of us." A/N: okay, so cliffhanger. The Cullens are going to get sick. Will they survive? You'll have to review and wait till the next chapter to find out. Sorry if the war seems so short, but there's all sorts of horrible stuff going on overseas. Till next time… Disclaimer: I own nothing Warning: adult content. Story rated M. …oOo… Chapter 17 Carlisle was exhausted as he walked the floors of the make-shift hospital. Hundreds of humans occupied cots and mattresses, even blankets on the floor. He'd come at night to avoid having anyone notice that his skin didn't reflect the sunlight, and because the bright sun was harsh on his eyes. But this night was cold and he would've liked to feel the sun's warmth on his skin. His shoes clapped softly against the floor. Every so often he'd stop and make a diagnosis or give orders to one of the volunteers who attended the sick. They were mostly teenage girls and they were only there because they knew they'd get a meal everyday and they'd be safer at the hospital than out there. Food was already scarce and with winter bearing down on them every effort was being made to preserve what they could. The smokehouses were up and running. Vegetables were being pickled and canned. And jellies and cheeses were being prepared. In this area milk could be produced all through winter. Carlisle was glad of that because milk was one of the few things he and his family could consume now. Every part of Carlisle's body ached. The worst part was the sharp pain in his chest that had been there since his heart started beating again. It had been so long since he'd felt a pulse under his skin that the whole process had been terrifying. He wasn't surprised when it happened though. Bella went through it first. He could still hear the screaming of his wife and children, even himself. It was possibly even more painful than the initial transformation. But it wasn't only the Cullens. Every Vampire he'd been in contact with had gone through something similar and many were still very sick. Those were the lucky ones. Two members of the Creole Coven were dead. Whatever killed them had spread among the Vampire population so rapidly that no one had any real warning when it hit their Coven. Most of the nomads were dead too. The only link Carlisle could find between the dead was the diet of human blood. He and his Vegetarian friends got sick and seemed to come back to life. He wasn't sure he could call himself a Vampire anymore. But he wasn't human either. He had a beating heart, needed to breathe, and slept. He still needed blood, only in small amounts and he always had a massive nosebleed afterward. The nosebleeds happened so often that

he'd learned to anticipate them over the last few days, especially since he was able to walk around on his own again. One was coming on now so Carlisle hurried back to the office he used and locked himself in. No one could know about this illness. The Vampires would all be in danger. They were vulnerable now. Not nearly as vulnerable as humans, but they could be killed. Carlisle sat and leaned his head over a basin and breathed through his mouth while the blood dripped rapidly out of his nose and over his lips. He was worried about his family and, for once, would've liked to leave the humans to their own devices and just go home. He'd only come because his failure to show up for too long would lead to suspicion. And he needed information. So far the humans didn't seem to suspect anything. So many of them were sick and dying that they were largely unconcerned with anything but their own wellbeing. When the bleeding stopped Carlisle dumped the basin out into the sink and washed the blood down with water. Thank goodness the water was on again. A thermos of milk stood on his desk. Carlisle opened it and drank. It made him feel better for the moment. He was learning to recognize the sensations he'd forgotten over the last few centuries. Hunger, fatigue, soreness, it was all practically brand new. He was lucky, as were his friends, that Bella was a part of his family. She was the only one of them who was young enough to still remember what her sensations and cravings meant. It had been her idea to try milk. Carlisle and his kind didn't feel the thirst for blood anymore. Now it was a painful hunger in the pit of their stomachs. They'd tried all kinds of things before the milk. When the other Covens had come to Carlisle for help they were nearly starving. Solid food caused them to choke and they couldn't even get it down. Most liquids caused vomiting. There new diet consisted of animal products, mostly milk. Cheese, blood, and some teas were safe. But they were clearly lacking some nutrients. That would account for the general feelings of discomfort they all experienced. An old shoebox full of fabric pouches sat on the floor. Carlisle picked it up and began making notes about which humans needed which bags of herbs. The small bags were made so that they could be dunked into kettles or pots of boiling water to make medicinal teas. Carlisle knew he was probably the only person in the area at least who knew the recipes for the teas. He would've liked to share them, but this information was very valuable and he knew he'd need to have something to barter with in the future. And if he died he wanted his family to have something valuable, just in case. The Vampires were also the only people who could find many of the rare ingredients for the medicines he was forced to rely on. Even with the strange changes, they still had keen senses and could smell the difference between toxic plants and useful ones. He'd checked every pharmacy and medical institution years ago and whatever drugs hadn't been looted were no good anymore. There were very few medical instruments and no gasoline for generators. Carlisle's office was lit by lantern light. It made him nostalgic. Since the illness he'd been able to recall the last days of his human life with great clarity. He wondered if it was the same for everyone. If so that would explain why his wife barely recognized him anymore and called him Dr. Cullen. She was still very sick along with Edward and Rosalie. Emmett was just beginning to recover. Carlisle didn't know what might be wrong with Alice.

After passing out the herbs Carlisle left some general instructions and went outside to his horse. He was too tired to make the trip on foot. It would be safest to get home before the sun came up. Along the way he could smell the burning wood from the smokehouses. Most people were asleep right now. Hopefully Carlisle would be able to enjoy a few hours of rest too. As he neared his home he could faintly hear over a dozen heartbeats inside and just around the house. Some of the St. Bernard Vampires were helping care for he sick. Annalie was in there too, struggling to stay alive. Her heart was in danger of exploding. That was how the two from her Coven had died. Some of the Hybrids were there to help keep the sick Vampires safe from any humans who might discover their secret and take advantage of the sickness. As Carlisle passed the Hybrids on guard he gave tired acknowledgements and continued inside past the linens and garments hanging on clotheslines. Since the Cullens became ill they had a constant need to wash laundry because of the nosebleeds and the vomiting. He was grateful beyond words for all the help he and his family were getting. Most of the Vampires who'd come to him for help were better now and had gotten on their way. Luckily some stayed to help. And it was likely that more were on their way. Bella came in from the kitchen with a pewter cup of opaque pink liquid and handed it to him. It smelled appetizing and Carlisle drank everything in a few gulps. "Thank you," he said. His stomach stopped hurting almost immediately. "What was in that?" he asked. Bella smiled, proud of herself. "Milk mostly," she answered. "And some horse blood, salt, and the juice from crushed sugarcane. I got the recipe through trial and error. Everyone's been able to keep it down so far." "Good," Carlisle said. "How are they?" "Mom still doesn't remember me," Bella told him sadly. "Neither does Edward. He thinks I'm a nurse and keeps asking for his mother." Tears came to Bella's eyes. Whenever they cried now the tears were red tinged and left stains. If they cried long enough the tears were just blood. "It will be okay," Carlisle said. It made him incredibly sad too. Nothing had hurt as bad as watching his family suffer. But listening to Esme cry over her dead baby hurt too. He pulled Bella to his chest for a hug. "Maybe," Bella said. "But Edward's doing worse. He's bleeding from his ears and eyes. And there are these little red splotches on his eyeballs and the skin around his eyes. And on his neck too. He's still vomiting blood. And the coughing is still pretty bad." Carlisle sat on a chair and buried his face in his hands. "Those are some of the symptoms of Spanish Flu. That's what he was dying from when I turned him." "You think he's dying from that again?" "No, Bella. I've been thinking and I believe that his body may believe he had the Spanish Flu, but he doesn't actually have it. There's no way the disease could live in his body that long. I think he's reliving his last days as human and that's why he's so ill. That's what makes him different from you, you see. When I turned them they were all dying. You were healthy, so was Jasper. Those of us who were healthy when we turned are already better."

"But why is this even happening?" Bella asked. "What could cause us to go through these types of changes suddenly?" Carlisle closed his eyes for a minute while he thought about how to explain his theories. "Well, as Vampires we have certain…we regenerate. I think whatever happened was killing us, just like something's killing the humans. I don't think the illness led to our hearts beating again. Rather, I think that the changes were part of how our bodies responded to the threat, whatever it was." "What are the humans dying from?" Bella sat next to her father and turned all of her attention on his words. "I'm not entirely sure," Carlisle admitted. "And all I've come up with are theories, not answers. But the humans are mostly suffering from weakness, rashes. Some are loosing their hair. And a lot of them are vomiting blood. There are other symptoms, but the vomiting blood and the weakness are similar to what we experienced. Except that we survived on a diet of blood, so if we were going to vomit that would be what came up. It seems like it might be some sort of radiation poisoning or a toxin in the food or water. "And the Vampires who died from the illness all fed on humans. Humans have weaker immune systems than most animals, so feeding on animal blood might be what gave us an advantage. Honestly, though, I can't really prove any of this. But Annalie and Brett are still alive and I know they went hunting with Emmett and Jasper not long before they got sick. Their last meals might have been deer or something like that. So maybe that's why they're alive when the others from their Coven are dead." "But what about the bruises on Mom and Rosalie?" Bella asked. Carlisle swallowed hard. "I think their bodies are also sort of re-experiencing their last moments of humanity," he said. It made him feel sick. "When I was sickest I could remember certain things from my human life as if they were happening again. I could remember exactly what my father looked like and the sound of his voice. I even remember the smells in the streets of London. Over my time as a Vampire those memories had faded. That's usually what happens when someone is turned. But now my human memories from those last few days are much clearer. Do you remember what you were experiencing, in your head?" "Yes," Bella said. A slight blush came to her pale white cheeks. Instead of marble her skin resembled porcelain, but was soft and warm. "I kept replaying my first night with Edward," she said. Her face turned away from Carlisle as she recalled such a personal memory. "It was like it was happening again. I felt angry at you. I even remembered feeling the drugs that Jasper gave me take effect." "Well," Carlisle said thoughtfully, "if that is the case for all of us, if they are experiencing their last days as humans then the symptoms make sense. I think their bodies and minds are going through the same things they went through before they became Vampires. That would explain why some of Esme's bones have broken and why Rosalie is covered in scrapes and bruises. And why she won't let me near her." "Oh God," Bella whispered. "If Rosalie is trapped in that moment…" "Is she any better?" "No," Bella said. "We've got Mom tied down to a board and her arms and legs are splinted. We're trying not to move her at all. Her skin split open in a few places, but it's healing pretty fast. The broken bones are probably okay now, but we didn't want to take any chances. And

we made Emmett stay out of Rosalie's room because she kept screaming at him to get away. Everyone seems kind of depressed." "That's reasonable too," Carlisle said. It was taking everything he had not to run up the stairs to be at his wife's side. "What about Alice?" Bella bit her lip and looked away for a moment. "I don't even want to think about what she must be experiencing. Jasper's had to stop her from climbing out the window several times. He finally had to tie her down for a while. She keeps shivering, even under the covers and she's acting…I don't even know. She won't take her meals. Last time I went to try and feed her she accused me of trying to poison her. And she's terrified of taking a bath. There are some bruises, but I think it's where Jasper had to physically restrain her. He's being as gentle as possible, but we don't really have any choice. The way she's talking makes her sound like a child. And she keeps trying to get in Jasper's pants. She seems to think that if she performs sexual favors for him he'll help her escape from wherever she believes she's being kept." "Good Lord. Did she say anything else?" Carlisle asked. The only thing he knew of Alice's past was that she must have been turned after Esme and right before Edward because of the order in which they all got sick. If he could find out what she went through as a human he might be able to help her. "She's been asking for her mommy and daddy," Bella explained. "I think she's hallucinating because she keeps saying there are rats in the room when there aren't any. And she keeps saying 'I'm not mad. I'm not mad.' And there are scars." "Scars?" "Yeah," Bella said. "It's weird that Jasper's scars bled and then went away. But where the others are having their skin split open, it's leaving scars. But the scars from getting turned are all gone. Alice has scars all over her arms and legs." Carlisle leaned his head back on the chair and closed his eyes. He was so tired that his eyes didn't want to open back up. But he forced himself to rise from the chair and follow Bella upstairs to the bedroom he shared with his wife. This would be his last round for the night and then he'd sleep. Esme seemed to be sleeping at first, but she opened her eyes when Bella and Carlisle approached. There was a red mark down the right side of her face where her skin had split, but it was healing well. The splints keeping her immobile were bulky under the blanket that covered her. Her chest rose and fell as she took a deep and ragged breath. "Hi, Dr. Cullen," she said softly. "Hello, Esme," Carlisle said, though his throat wanted to close up seeing her that way. "Are you in pain?" "A little. I don't know how I survived. I wish I hadn't jumped. I'm so sorry." "It's alright," Carlisle said. He gently ran his fingertips over her face where there were no deep cuts. The Vampire attending Esme went to fix some tea to help lessen her pain. Esme smiled very slightly at Carlisle's touch. "I'll be back in a while," he whispered. He went to Edward next. The color was coming back into his eyes. They would be green again just as Bella's eyes had turned their old Brown and Carlisle's were blue.

Edward coughed. It sounded painful and wet and his lips were stained red. "Have you seen my mother?" he asked. "Her name is Elizabeth Masen. She came here at with me." Bella had to turn away to hide her tears. Carlisle leaned over and pulled the lit hurricane lamp closer to look at the petichia in Edward's eyes. There wasn't much for Carlisle to do besides giving Edward as many nutrients as possible and let him rest. He just ignored the question because Edward was probably delirious anyway. Telling him his mother was dead wouldn't help his recovery. Carlisle had to stand several feet away from Rosalie's bed and instruct Bella on how to examine her. After that he ordered her sedated because she was practically hysterical. Emmett was sleeping in the hallway outside the room. Annalie was in the same room and she was usually unconscious. As limited as Carlisle was in treating the humans, he was even more so with his family because what helped humans might kill the Vampires. Finally he followed Bella up to the attic where Alice was being kept. Her screaming had disturbed the others too much to allow her to stay on the same floor. Carlisle entered and found Alice wrapped in Jasper's arms, but not for comfort. He was holding her tiny body close to his on the bed. Alice had lost weight and looked impossibly thin. But her hair was growing out and that meant she was getting better. They all needed haircuts by now and the men had to shave again. Alice weakly struggled against Jasper until her eyes found Carlisle. "Daddy!" she screamed. Carlisle wasn't convinced for a second that she remembered him because she never called him that. She was just confused, he decided. "How do you feel, Alice?" he asked. "Daddy, please let me come home," she cried. "You are home, Alice," Carlisle replied. He was so tired now that his eyes drooped. "I'll be a good girl, I promise," she said. Bloody tears ran down her face as she said it. Jasper felt helpless because he couldn't reach her now to calm her down. Even worse, he had to hold her down to stop her from hurting herself and he was leaving bruises. "Alice, I need you to stop trying to climb out the windows, okay?" Carlisle said. Alice cried harder, staining her nightgown. "Please don't leave me here," she begged. "They're mean to me. I'll be normal, I swear. I won't be strange anymore. Please take me home, Daddy. I lied, that's it. I lied about the visions! I don't see anything! Please take me home!" Carlisle sighed. Jasper looked exhausted too and Carlisle wondered if he could use Alice's confusion to his advantage. "Listen, Alice," he said. "I'll take you home, but you have to do something for me." "I'll do anything," she answered quietly. As soon as she stopped struggling Jasper relaxed his grip and Alice fell to her knees off the edge of the bed and put her arms around Carlisle's waist. He was horrified when her hands tugged at the waistband of his trousers. He grabbed her wrists, trying not to break them. They seemed so flimsy. Jasper looked like he might throw up. "No, Alice," Carlisle said. He knelt down in front of her and she leaned her head on his chest. "I need you to eat your meals, okay? And lie down to sleep."

"Then I can go home?" "Yes, I'll take you home if you start eating and sleeping." "Okay," Alice said. Bella breathed a sigh of relief and went back downstairs to get some of her new concoction for Alice and Jasper. Carlisle picked Alice up and sat on the bed with her and comforted her. She was the only one he could really help right now. "This must be very hard for you," he told Jasper. "Yeah," Jasper said. "She's been trying to convince me to let her out of here and take her home. I'm trying not to think about why she thinks she needs to offer me sexual favors to get my help." "That's probably for the best," Carlisle said. He looked down at Alice and turned her face up to force her to meet his gaze. "Alice, I need you to listen to Jasper and do what he says." "You mean that man right there?" she asked, indicating Jasper. "Yes," Carlisle said. "I want you to do exactly what he says. If you do that and eat and sleep I'll take you home soon." When Bella returned she was able to feed Alice and get her to sleep. Jasper thanked them and they walked back downstairs. Everyone was tired by now and the security team was changing shifts. Bella took over watching Edward and made a bed for herself on a sofa in the bedroom. Carlisle put a pillow and quilt down on the floor by Esme's bed and laid down. Jasper sat in a soft chair by Alice's bed, propped up his feet, and fell asleep sitting up so he wouldn't get into too deep a sleep in case Alice woke up and tried to leave again. Emmett still slept outside the door to the room where Rosalie was being cared for. Today had been tough and tomorrow offered little promise of being any better. But they were all together under one roof and they weren't alone. That fact let them all sleep a little sounder. Warning: adult content! …oooOooo… Chapter 18: Cold The sun was beginning to skim the horizon as Bella set out with Myra, Tanya, and a group of human children to gather pecans and acorns from the ground. The children were apparently orphans who'd been dumped near the Cullen's land by some travelers who didn't want the extra mouths to feed. The little one's occupied the top floor of an old mansion about a mile down the river where the Denali Coven was staying. Since they'd come down from Alaska things had settled down some in the Cullen household. The St. Bernard Vampires had also moved to a nearby mansion built near the same time as the other plantations. The Denalis came to get help from Carlisle and because there was safety in numbers. Where a large number of Vampires might have had trouble finding sufficient food before, this last transformation had drastically changed things. Now the Cullens needed help doing all sorts of work around their property. Every day the Vampires had countless chores to perform. They needed to keep their homes clean, milk cows and otherwise tend to animals, wash laundry, and all sorts of other tasks.

Now that they got tired and needed to feed every few hours it was much easier to live in a large group. Some of them might have preferred to leave the orphans to die, but they weren't heartless. In addition to all the work that ensured their continued survival and relative comfort the Vampires now faced dangers from the outside. The humans who weren't dying from the mysterious illnesses were trying to form permanent settlements and establish some form of government. Years ago, in days when Covens were establishing their territories, weapons had been seized and destroyed or hidden to keep humans from waging war on the Covens and each other. While the Vampires had been bullet-proof, they feared that their food source would wipe itself out. Naturally not every firearm had been confiscated, but humans at this point were largely unarmed except for basic weapons like knives. And since Vampires never had to sleep in the past they had been able to decimate the humans' supplies of guns and ammunition. The Cullens had also done this. But Jasper, being a soldier, had the foresight to keep a supply of these firearms. Bella had one, a semi-automatic pistol, strapped to her torso. The cold metal rested in a leather holster against her ribs, perfectly positioned for her to reach for it quickly, if the need should arise. Her long blue coat kept it hidden. Sometimes wild dogs roamed the property looking for food. Once she'd even encountered a tiger that escaped from a zoo years before. She and her companions were sure to arm themselves whenever they left the house. The men preferred to carry rifles as well. When her boots crunched the fallen pecans on the ground Bella pointed them out to the children and they began to collect them into canvas sacks. This supply of protein and fat would be essential to the lives of these children during the winter. It was already chilly outside. Luckily the southern winter was mild. While the children picked the pecans off the ground Bella and her Vampire friends stood guard, listening to the stillness of the nearby forest. Their senses, speed, and strength had been severely compromised during their illnesses. They were still much faster and stronger than humans, but not nearly like they had been. And their senses had dulled by degrees. Smell was their strongest sense now. Bella could tell the difference between blood from different animals, even after it dried. The blood from Vampires smelled different from everything else, which told Carlisle that they were making their own blood now and not simply circulating the blood they consumed. Their hearing wasn't nearly what it used to be. But their ears seemed perfectly tuned-in to the beating of hearts. Bella could distinguish between the heartbeats of each of the children she watched over. She could hear the heartbeats of her family and friends also. She wondered if it was a defense mechanism. She knew these children were in the same position she'd once been in. And she might have opted to take some in herself if everyone in her family was already well. But Esme and Edward were still very weak and Alice was no better. Carlisle spent his days caring for sick humans and could probably carry a disease home and infect the children if they were close by. It was better this way, though Bella wondered if she might be able to take in a child one day like she'd been taken in. And Rosalie would probably also like to raise another child, especially now that it was safer for the Vampires to be around humans. But Bella didn't even know if her illness was fully gone. While she felt much stronger and healthier now, her features made her look like she was dying. Her skin was ghostly white with red around the eyes and cheeks like someone suffering from scarlet fever. And some blue veins peaked from below the skin of her

jaw and temple. Lately it seemed like the whole world might be dying. Some of the children even had the strange rashes. Her bones ached from all the work she'd had to do. Now they got up in the morning and worked hard nearly all day, breaking ever few hours to consume some broth, tea, or the special "soup" Bella had invented. By changing the type of blood used she could vary the taste dramatically. And she'd been experimenting with cooking techniques. Blood could be boiled into a pudding or mixed with dairy products, even made into candy when mixed with syrups. Certain things were essential to their survival: blood, sugars, salt, and dairy. They needed excessive amounts of fat. This posed a problem because they couldn't eat meat or nuts. Fiber and any complex carbohydrates were out too. They were constantly hungry. As the children filled their sacks they dumped the pecans into a wheel barrow and continued. Myra seemed to relax, and after a while so did Tanya and they began to help with the picking so it would go faster. At last they filled the wheel barrow and the children filled their sacks once more before everyone started to walk back to the house. Loud popping sounds echoed off the trees. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Bella drew her gun and began to run toward the shots. "Get them home!" she yelled over her shoulder. She ran as fast as she could until she reached the clotheslines where Rosalie had been hanging out the wet laundry. Rosalie had her gun raised and was shaking violently all over. Alice was nearby on the ground, covering her ears with her hands. The bag of clothespins was spilled at her feet. Jasper and Emmett were already there with their rifles aimed at the underbrush in the nearby woods. Slowly they crept forward, toward the palmettos. Seeing that there was no immediate danger, Bella holstered her weapon and quickly checked Alice over. She seemed unharmed, so Bella moved to Rosalie's side and coaxed her arms down. Rosalie's breath came out quickly and with wheezing sounds. But she began to calm when she too realized that she was safe. They both listened for the sounds of extra hearts beating. There was only one that was unfamiliar, and it was faint. Jasper rounded a palmetto and relaxed his posture. He easily threw two bodies out of the brush. One was dead and the other man severely wounded. Emmett bent down behind the palmetto and stood back up with two hunting knives in his hand. "They were armed," he said. His jaw was tense and Bella could tell this incident had shaken him. "They were hiding, watching us," Rosalie said, her breath calming. "I could hear them. But I knew they were going to attack when Alice froze." "Alice, did you know these men were coming?" Jasper asked, kneeling down to help her to her feet. "How would I know that?" she asked. Alice hung her head and played with the edges of her sleeves. "Alice, did you have a vision?" Jasper asked again. He moved between Alice and Bella because Bella tended to get impatient.

Alice shook her head. "I don't have visions! That's the devil trying to trick me!" "Okay," Jasper said. He didn't push Alice because she was fragile. Or at least Jasper saw her that way. Bella lost her temper with Alice often because she wasn't used to anyone being less mature than her, being the youngest. And even after Rosalie had almost fully recovered, and Esme and Edward were doing much better, Alice remained deeply disturbed. Carlisle believed Alice might have had a mental illness in her human life, which was now back and no matter how strong her immune system was it might not go away. Only time would tell. "So what do we do with him?" Bella asked, pointing to the man who was slowly bleeding to death on the ground. "Take Alice back to the house," Jasper said. "Emmett and I will take care of him." "You go," Rosalie told Bella. "I'm going to finish hanging the clothes." Rosalie had insisted on helping with the work when she was strong enough to walk on her own. She didn't intend to leave her job halfway done today. Bella took Alice by her shoulders and began to lead her away. She looked behind her to see Rosalie rest her head on Emmett's shoulder momentarily before she got back to the laundry. As they walked away Alice began to skip and hum rather cheerfully, which Bella found creepy. Alice seemed almost oblivious to what was going on around her most of the time. But she suddenly stopped and covered her ears, just before Bella heard a loud boom from a rifle behind them. Bella had assumed Jasper meant to kill the second man, but had been mostly unprepared for the reality of it. But she did not turn back. She led Alice into the old kitchen where the meals were prepared and the bath water heated. Keeping clean had become very important to everyone there because of the nosebleeds, which occurred daily, and the fact that their tears and sometimes sweat contained blood. The old kitchen was separate from the main house and contained a large hearth. It was easier to heat than any room in the house and therefore was better for bathing when it was cold out. Water could be pumped in and heated for use in cleaning the skin as well as the laundry and dishes. Bella pulled her hair down. Most of it had been cut off after it began to grow too fast and Bella had pulled it up to keep it out of her face. Rosalie and Esme had also chopped off much of their hair. Alice sat on the floor and played with a doll, dressing it in dresses that she'd sewed for Bella years ago and brushing the doll hair while Bella heated some water and poured it into a basin. Then Bella stood behind a screen and bathed her skin with a washcloth. The excess water ran down her legs and over the stone floor, out a small opening in the bottom of the wall where it met the slanted floor of the kitchen. Esme and Rosalie soon joined them and took their turns bathing. When it was Alice's turn she refused to undress. "Alice, you do this every time," Bella said, aggravated. "You know you have to wash up every single day." "You just want to see me naked," Alice accused. She wrapped her arms over her thin torso and backed up to the wall.

"You're being ridiculous, Alice. No one just wants to see you naked! Now undress or I'll have Mister Jasper come in and make you!" Alice's blue eyes got wide with fear. "He won't," she said with a shaky voice. "Mister Jasper is my friend. He brings me presents. He won't make me take off my clothes! He promised!" Bella started to say something else when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around to find Rosalie staring at her intensely. "Let me try," Rosalie said. She gently pushed Bella aside and talked soothingly to Alice until she complied. Bella sat on a chair beside Esme near the iron stove that helped to heat the room. "You've got to learn some patience," Esme said. "Or stop trying to take care of Alice all by yourself." "I know," Bella said, feeling defeated. "It's not so easy. I feel bad though, because Alice was always patient with me." "It'll be okay, Bella. I'm almost able to take care of myself all day. Soon we'll all be at a hundred percent. You'll see." "What if Alice never gets any better, Mom?" "Then we'll just keep taking good care of her. Jasper will stand by her. We'll still be a family." Bella sighed and got up. She had dinner to prepare. And she wasn't so sure that everything would be okay. Something had made all the Vampires horribly ill. It might be the same thing that killed the Newborns that came across the ocean. The humans were dying off too, at alarming rates. Every day Bella could smell the bodies burning from miles away. And one thought had been plaguing her since hearing Rosalie's gunshots. They must know! After the men washed up they all gathered in the living room by the fire to drink their soup and unwind for the day. It was nice to have so much help and company during their daytime meals. But it was also very relaxing when it was just the eight of them at night. Bella sat next to Edward, who was so weak that he could only lean back against the sofa. But he held Bella's hand. She was so relieved when he remembered her and began to recover from his horrible symptoms. His eyes were a beautiful green, though bloodshot, and Bella had gotten used to the sounds of life coming from him. She could finally imagine what it might have been like for her family when she was human. His mindreading abilities were still there. But he still couldn't read Bella's mind. The thoughts in Alice's head were so disorganized and sketchy that he opted to give her some privacy rather than suffer the headache that would ensue if he tried to figure out what she was thinking. When Alice had finished checking her soup for bugs—she did this at every meal-she drank it and began to play with the huge doll house that Rosalie and Emmett had built and furnished, and Esme had decorated when Bella was young. The doll house was her favorite thing to play with because it gave Alice control over something. She would make one little girl doll the boss of the house. And everyone found it slightly amusing to watch the tiny dramas unfold as Alice played. Carlisle especially paid close attention because it gave him small clues into Alice's past and her current problems. Alice tended to play with only four of the scores of wooden dolls they'd carved for Bella's childish play. She used a mother and father dolls and one extra girl besides the one that was in charge. After a long day of trying to help sick and injured people Carlisle kind of enjoyed finding little clues to the mystery that Alice had become. And she only

thought Carlisle was her father every few days so he paid attention when she said anything that resembled a coherent sentence. Anything he managed to get out of her might help. But tonight the discussion revolved around the two men who had been shot. Jasper and Emmett had disposed of the bodies after questioning the dying man. "He didn't really know anything unusual was going on," Jasper said. "He assumed we were just some humans that were hoarding food and supplies. And we don't think he meant to kill Rosalie and Alice." Bella breathed a sigh of relief and finally let herself relax. "Then why did you shoot him?" Carlisle asked. "Because of what he did plan to do with Rosalie and Alice," Jasper said coldly. "I'm no mind reader, but I could tell what his intentions were. There's apparently a shortage of women in some of the settlements." Rosalie shivered and took Emmett's hand. And she settled further under the blanket around her shoulders. "Well, you're in charge of keeping us safe, Jasper," Carlisle said. "So do what you think is best." Carlisle, being a doctor, disliked the thought of killing humans. And that was exactly why he put Jasper in charge of their security. If it came down to it though, Carlisle would take out as many humans as it took to protect his family. It was just easier to let Jasper make these decisions. "It might be easier to keep us safe if Alice would share her visions," Jasper said, throwing the last part of his comment toward Alice as she walked her dolls up and down the stairs of the dollhouse. She ignored Jasper so he got down on the floor beside her and took her hand gently. "Alice, I need you to tell me if you have vis-…I mean, if the devil tries to play tricks on you. Can you do that?" Alice looked over at Jasper and bit her lip. "Ummmm, I don't know," she said. "If I tell anyone then my mommy and daddy won't ever come and get me." "It's important, Alice." "But I want to go home, Mister Jasper. Can I take the dollhouse with me when I go?" Jasper sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. He didn't like manipulating Alice with lies or by playing along with her delusions. But he had little choice. "Okay," he said. "If you tell me every time the devil shows you something I'll make sure you get to take the dollhouse. Okay?" "Okay," Alice whispered. "But don't tell anyone." "I won't. I promise." Alice scooted closer to Jasper until their knees were touching. She trusted him because he was always kind to her. And because he brought her little gifts. And because her father had told her to. She leaned close to him and lowered her voice, quickly looking around before she said what she needed to say. "That brown-haired lady, something bad is gonna happen to her."

"What's going to happen?" Jasper asked, also in a quiet whisper. The others leaned in, but Jasper gave them dirty looks so they pretended not to be interested. "I don't know. I saw a thing coming from her naughty parts and there was blood and screaming. It was gross." "You saw someone having a baby?" "NO!" Alice said. Then she looked around and lowered her voice again. "God makes babies up in Heaven, Mister Jasper." Jasper's eyes widened a bit in surprise at the tone Alice used, as if Jasper had uttered some sacrilege. "Well how do babies get down here after they're made in Heaven," he asked, solely out of curiosity. "They come in the post, of course," Alice replied. Her tone told Jasper that he must be an absolute moron for not knowing that already. As if it was the only possible explanation. "God stamps the butts and sends them down with the postman." The others laughed out loud, having overheard most of the baby-making discussion. But Alice didn't notice because she'd started playing again. Jasper didn't like everyone laughing at Alice. She would be embarrassed if she were in her right mind. But she wasn't and Jasper couldn't be mad at them. It wasn't their fault and it really was funny. And everyone needed some humor to make it through the day. "Who was the brown-haired lady?" he asked again, gently poking Alice to get her attention back. "Was it Bella?" "No," Alice said. "The nice one. "Esme?" "I dunno. I don't want to think about it anymore." "It's important." "You can be the daddy." Alice held out a doll to Jasper and smiled sweetly. Sometimes Jasper could almost see his wife in that smile. But it was innocent and sad at the same time. And Alice was neither. Jasper sighed and took the doll. The others hadn't heard the entire conversation. Their ears weren't that fine-tuned anymore. He decided to keep what Alice had just said to himself. Esme wasn't the only Vampire around besides Bella who had brown hair. And she couldn't get pregnant anyway. Surely Carlisle and Esme weren't mating yet. Things were busy and Esme was still recovering. But there was finally privacy in the Cullen house for the first time ever. The only thing anyone could hear anywhere in the house was the sound of a beating heart. And maybe Jasper and Alice were the only celibate couple now. It was strange, though, to no longer see public displays of intimacy between Rosalie and Emmett. Since the illness they'd only held hands and touched chastely in front of their family and friends. Everyone went up to bed after a while, except Alice and Jasper. They stayed downstairs so Alice could keep playing when she insisted she wasn't tired. Emmett helped Edward up to his room and said goodnight. They were already in their flannels and robes. At night it was cold

and the Vampires were especially susceptible. Bella lit a fire in the fireplace and brushed her dark hair, which now only fell just past her shoulders. Edward was asleep almost as soon as he laid his head down, still wearing the robe. Bella climbed in beside him and took a few moments to look down at his pale face. He had the same redness around his eyes that they all did. Like he'd been crying for hours. If he were human. Bella put out her lamp light and laid her head on the pillow, staring at the ceiling through the gentle flicker of the wood fire as it danced light across the surfaces of the room. She recalled in great detail the night Edward became her Edward again. He'd opened his eyes and looked right in her face, his eyes gliding smoothly over her features with perfect recognition. "Bella," he'd said hoarsely. "Where have you been?" Her breath had caught in her lungs for a second. "I've been right here," she'd answered. "I haven't left you." Life now was harder than it had ever been. Between the firewood and the cows and the laundry and the hunger, there was barely time to breathe. There was barely time to feel tired or to cry from the frustration and the fatigue. It was cold and there was so much to do. She was always hungry, they all were. And things were only just beginning to settle back down. Bella was afraid. She was afraid that someone would get sick again. She was afraid that people would come to their home with weapons and overtake them. She was afraid that they might suddenly be unable to feed themselves and they'd starve to death. Before this time Bella had never felt so hungry or so cold or vulnerable. But Esme was right about them still being a family. They'd survived the hoards if crazed Newborns. Bella had come to terms with the weakness that caused her to kill two people and no one hated her for it like she thought they would. They were currently all safe and well, or getting better. And they still had some advantages over the humans which provided some measure of protection. Bella yawned and sighed wearily. She cuddled close to Edward for warmth and comfort. She closed her eyes and went to sleep. The fire downstairs began to fade. Alice slid a lamp across the floor to illuminate her dollhouse and continued to play for a bit. But she got cold and pulled her knees up to her chest. Jasper was dozing on a sofa with his head on his folded arm. "Mister Jasper?" Alice called softly. She looked around into the darkness and shivered. Slowly she got to her knees and crawled over the rug toward Jasper. She poked him in the shoulder. "Mister Jasper?" Jasper jumped awake. "You okay?" he asked, remembering where he was. "I'm cold and it's really dark." The sound of her voice was heartbreaking to Jasper. She was so utterly afraid most of the time. He got up and took his robe off to drape it around Alice's shoulders. "Come on," he said. "Let's get you to bed." He led Alice carefully up the stairs to the room they used to share. Now Jasper usually fell asleep in a chair by the bed so he could be close enough to protect Alice if the need arose. He lit a fire and tucked Alice under the quilts. It took a little while to get the fire going and Jasper shook in the night air while he waited for the room to warm up. When the fire was finally burning well he sat in his chair and covered up with the quilt he used every night. The air was humid and it chilled him to the bone. The quilt didn't help much. "You look cold," Alice said. Her blue eyes sparkled in the flickering light. "Are you cold?"

"Yeah," he said. "You can get under the covers with me." Jasper thought about it for a minute while his teeth chattered. There was no way he'd ever take advantage of Alice. She clearly wasn't in any condition to give consent. So Jasper swore to himself that if she tried anything like she had in the recent past he'd get back in his chair. But that hadn't happened in a while. And he was so cold. Plus, it would be nice to be close to Alice right now, even if it was only platonic. He got up from the chair and carefully slid under the covers until his body was right next to Alice. She was curled into a ball and faced away from him. Jasper could feel her body heat. They were still colder than humans, but they heated up after meals. Alice was very warm. "I forgot to brush my hair," Alice said. "That lady said I should brush my hair every night." "Which lady?" "One of them. The mean one." Jasper supposed he should feel privileged to have a name. She didn't remember everyone's name. "I'll brush your hair if you want," Jasper offered. Alice nodded and he reached over to the nightstand where he'd left the brush last time and brushed her hair. She was facing away from him and turned toward him so he could get the other side. "Mister Jasper, I think you're very handsome." "Thank you," Jasper said. "You're a very pretty girl." "Me? Really?" "Beautiful," he said. She giggled and tucked her hands under Jasper's torso where it met the bed. "Thank you for brushing my hair," she said. Her voice told him how exhausted she was. Jasper watched her eyes drift closed and listened for the quiet sounds of her sleeping. Chapter 19: The End of the World In all his time as a physician Carlisle had lost many patients. They were human, after all. And there was only so much he could do, short of turning every one of them into a Vampire. Death was a fact of life. This was different. People were dying on such a scale that he began to feel completely useless. There was no medicine now, no sterile equipment. Basically, there was no hope. There was no way to know what was making these people so violently ill. Several days ago all the orphans living with the Denali Coven had become ill and now over half were gone. The air was thick with smoke from the cremations. Carlisle spent so much time in his hospital now that Esme or Bella would bring meals and extra clothes, knowing some nights he simply wouldn't come home. Luckily the building he used for the hospital now was near the house so he could pop over for a bath or to sleep a few

hours if needed. Carlisle had no idea how much he was missed at home, though. He could be stubborn at times. The others tried not to bother him most of the time, though they would have loved to have some time with him. Weeks had passed since the last time he was home for dinner with his family. Nearby the other Cullens and their friends were hard at work doing all the things they had to do to survive day-to-day. There was livestock to tend, wood to chop, and cows to milk. The work never seemed to stop. It was cold, but getting warmer as the sun rose higher in the sky. Bella rubbed her hands together to create friction and went back to her milking. "Just think," she said to Rosalie, "there used to be machines to do this. Must've been nice." "I wouldn't know," Rosalie answered. "I never lived on a farm with actual animals before this. My father was a banker." Outside the barn Emmett swung and axe with amazing precision, splitting logs easily while Edward picked up the bits of firewood and loaded them into an old wheelbarrow. Jasper's job was to cart the wood from where it was being chopped beside the barn over to the storage area near the house. From there it could be brought into individual rooms where it would be used to keep the rooms warm at night, heat water for bathing and washing, and prepare food. In addition to preparing their own food, the Vampires made food for the patients at Carlisle's hospital. Five small puppies followed Jasper around as he made his trips from the side of the barn toward the house and back. He'd found them near the house and decided to raise them as guard dogs. There were always plenty of scraps around, left over from the slaughtering. In time the dogs would add security to their lives. For now they provided some companionship and amusement. Esme and Alice were in the old kitchen. In spite of the cold Esme insisted on cleanliness and was currently cleaning blankets and coats so they'd be sanitary. Pants and shirts needed washing too. Esme washed and rinsed everything, then rang out the garments and handed them to Alice in a basket bound for the clotheslines. Most days Esme or someone else had to go back over Alice's work and fix a few things. The girl was distracted and would rather play with dolls most of the time. Still, she could be a help. And the Cullens needed all the help they could get. The work was tedious and boring. Alice picked up the heavy basket of damp clothes with a loud huff and turned toward the door. "Thank you for your help," Esme said sweetly. "I don't like laundry," Alice whined in the doorway. "It's cold. Can't I go inside?" "Finish the laundry and then we'll have lunch," Esme said. Alice sighed deeply and walked out. She had to stand on her toes to drape the laundry over the clotheslines and fix the wooden pins. Jasper watched her from beside the barn and waved when he caught her eye before going back to his work. The cold air and the dampness on the laundry made Alice's fingers numb. She flexed and breathed on them to bring the feeling back. It didn't work. When lunch was ready Bella took some over to Carlisle. She'd put his food in small containers and placed them in a basket with a cloth napkin and clean socks and gloves.

"Maybe you could come home for dinner tonight," she said hopefully. "I'm pretty busy today," Carlisle said between large spoonfuls of soft cheese with thick sweet cream and freshly drawn blood. Bella could barely stand to be there with the smells of disease and death all around. It was bad enough that she had to smell the smoke from the pyres all day while she worked her fingers to the bone. "Right," she said. It was pointless to try and convince him to come home. He was barely acknowledging her presence so she left. Carlisle rushed through his lunch and went back to his futile efforts to save lives. While his family and the Denali Coven worked on cutting firewood and producing food, other Covens and the Hybrids dragged the dead out and burned the bodies, distributed food to the sick, and cleaned up. Bella went back to the house where everyone else was dining in the living room by the fire. "He barely even noticed I was there," she said. "I don't think Dad will be home tonight." That night they all made their beds downstairs as the temperature dropped just below freezing. Carlisle fell asleep in a chair by the fireplace in the hospital. He woke a few times to the sound of coughing. In the morning three more were dead. ... days later Alice played with the puppies while Esme prepared lunch. Jasper watched Alice while he cleaned guns. Bella and Rosalie knitted scarves and blankets. Emmett did the butchering and Edward fried some pork skin. It was one of the few solid foods they could eat and added a large amount of fat to their diet. Since this discovery, which was purely accidental, they'd felt better and had more energy. The Cullens ate lunch by themselves on this day since the Denalis and others were off on important errands. Some were collecting supplies from warehouses and abandoned homes and businesses in nearby towns. Others were scouting better locations to settle, since the levee might not hold up in the coming spring when the river flooded. Lunch was quiet and they avoided mentioning Carlisle. Esme hadn't seen her husband in days and couldn't stand the thought of going to his hospital with all the dying children around. She wished he'd stop caring so much. Of course, there was guilt over her wishes since she felt so bad about the deaths. She knew it was selfish, but she just wanted her family close by. She didn't even mind all the work. It was the most useful she felt since Bella was a baby. Some sweet potatoes were ready to harvest and they were needed at the hospital so Esme took her girls out to the garden while the boys went off to do other things. "I just wish he'd come home sometimes," Esme said. "I sound selfish, don't I?" "No," Bella replied. "I wish he'd come home too. It's not like there's that much he can do." "Do you think he's losing his mind?" Rosalie asked.

"Don't know," Bella said. "Can a Vampire lose his mind?" The three of them stopped suddenly and looked back at Alice, who was lagging behind and carrying a plastic baby doll that Jasper found brought back for her after he'd been on some errands. It was still in its package when he handed it to her. "Guess it's possible," Bella said in a low voice. They got down to their task, pulling up the sweet potatoes from the cold ground and depositing them into waiting baskets. There were only a few hours of daylight left and everything needed to be done quickly, before the temperature dropped again. "Uh oh," Alice said. Her voice didn't sound distressed, but the others turned to see her catching blood from her nose in her cupped palm. "Come on," Esme said. "We'll get you cleaned up." They stood and started to walk back to the old kitchen, but Alice suddenly whimpered and held her head. "What is it?" Esme asked, alarmed. She watched Alice's eyes roll back and she collapsed. Esme screamed for someone to get Carlisle and she picked up Alice and carried her toward the house. Jasper met them halfway and took Alice in his arms. When Carlisle got to the house Alice was in her bed, unconscious, and Esme was washing the blood off her face. "What happened?" Carlisle asked. "She started getting a nosebleed," Esme explained. "I thought it was just a normal one so I was taking her to the kitchen to wash up. Her head must've started hurting and she passed out. I don't know what happened. We were just pulling up sweet potatoes." Carlisle examined Alice quickly, looking in her eyes and taking a pulse. He sighed. "Just come and get me if she wakes up or if anything changes." "You're leaving?" Esme asked. She was almost furious with him. "What do you expect me to do?" he asked back. "I have work to do. You all have work to do. She doesn't need seven people in here watching her sleep." "I am not leaving her," Jasper said, glaring at Carlisle from beside Alice. He held her hand and brushed her hair from her face. Her hair had grown out and was very long now because she was afraid of having it cut off. The others were shocked at Carlisle's attitude. Edward looked up from the fire he was trying to build. He knew Carlisle's mind was racing with all sorts of worries and images of death. Jasper could feel the anger and frustration rising in Carlisle, so he didn't say anymore. He just turned back to Alice, determined to stay by her side until it was over, whatever it was. "Fine," Carlisle said with a huff. "But the rest of you have things to do. Don't waste time just standing around." Esme stood with her eyes wide. "Carlisle, this is our child. She's sick and you're just going to walk out on her?" It was all too much and Carlisle grabbed the closest thing to him, a ceramic pitcher, and hurled it across the room. It smashed against the wall several feet from Esme. Tears came to

her eyes and she backed away from where she stood and into Rosalie's arms. All eyes were on Carlisle as he turned and walked out. Ooh, drama. Til next time…please review. Chapter 20: A Northbound Train No one brought dinner. Carlisle knew he'd messed up. He should go home and apologize immediately. They'd forgive him. He was stressed out beyond belief. Alice falling ill again had been too much. The thought of losing her made him a little crazy for a moment. They would understand. But he wasn't sure he could go home now. It wasn't that his being at the hospital would make a difference. Nothing he did made any difference anymore. It was honestly nothing more than an old schoolf with tables and beds set up for people to sleep and die on. Every day bodies had to be carried out and burned. He was too ashamed to go back and face everyone that was really important to him. Carlisle didn't need Edward's gift to know what Esme had been thinking when he threw that pitcher. In that moment, and maybe for the first time ever, Carlisle had reminded her of her first husband. If he went home he'd have to deal with that. She'd probably cry and he'd feel even more guilty and ashamed. Rosalie would be angry, so would Edward. And he was sure he'd alienated Jasper with that outburst. What would Bella think? Carlisle felt like a misbehaved child hiding in the backyard to avoid a spanking. He was a grown man. He should go home and take responsibility for his actions. It was embarrassing to realize that he was so afraid to face his family over having thrown a temper tantrum. He waited until he was sure everyone would be asleep. As he walked home Carlisle felt exhausted and weak. It was very hard on them to skip meals. Avoiding sleep was nearly impossible. They could fall asleep almost anywhere. They'd become almost narcoleptic. Carlisle had a hard time keeping his eyes open on the short trip to the house. He didn't go in right away. After being at the hospital for several straight days he felt dirty. So he went to the outside kitchen to wash up. It was very cold and the fire was almost dead. But they must have expected him to come home tonight because otherwise they would have put the fire out. After a few minutes of effort the fire was going again. There was water in a large kettle waiting for him and some clean garments folded on a table. His dinner was also waiting so he ate while the water heated. It felt amazing to be clean and fed at his own house again. When he crept in he was shocked to find Emmett sitting alert by the fire with a loaded shotgun leaning against his chair. "What are you doing up?" Carlisle asked. Emmett yawned. "It's my watch," he said. Carlisle noticed that Rosalie was asleep on one of the couches. "Oh." "You fucked up, C," Emmett said. "Yes."

"Everyone's pretty pissed at you." "I figured as much," Carlisle said. He sighed deeply. "I'm sorry. I know it doesn't matter how bad I feel, but I feel terrible." "Then you should probably apologize to everyone else. We're a family. I'm sure you'll be forgiven. Rose will probably rip you a new asshole, but she'll forgive you. Eventually." Carlisle smiled, remembering Rosalie's lecture to him after he'd found Edward and Bella in bed together. "Yes," he said. "I suppose she will rip me 'a new asshole'." Emmett chuckled at hearing those words from Carlisle's mouth. "You deserve it." "Yes, I do," Carlisle admitted. "Has Alice woken?" "She was up a little while ago," Emmett said. He stood and stretched as he spoke. "She woke up a few hours ago, but she's acting really weird." "Do you mean she's acting weirder than normal?" Emmett smiled for a moment. "Yeah, that's what I mean. She's really confused. That's what Jasper said. And she told us all to leave her alone. Said she didn't want to see anyone. Jasper and Esme are still up there with her, though. They told her no matter how much she asked they weren't leaving her alone." Relief settled over Carlisle as he heard this news. Even if Alice was still crazy or whatever, it was so good to know she was okay. He'd go and check her over before going to sleep. "Okay, well I'll see you in the morning, Em," Carlisle said, getting up. "And thanks for the little talk." He patted Emmett's shoulder as he walked away. "Night, C." Carlisle climbed the stairs. The first room he passed was Bella's and he just poked his head in the door, which was slightly ajar, and looked for a moment at his children before moving on. When he got to the room Alice and Jasper shared he stopped to listen. No one seemed to be moving around so he slowly opened the door and walked in very quietly. The room was aglow with golden light from the fire. Esme was curled up and asleep in a chair near the fireplace. Carlisle knelt before her and watched her sleep for a few minutes. She seemed sad, even in her sleep. Was she dreaming about him? He hoped like hell she wasn't seeing him throw that pitcher behind her closed eyelids. A tiny voice whispered, "Go away." Carlisle turned toward the bed where Alice was sprawled on her back, only halfway covered. She had been bathed and dressed in her warm nightclothes. Her eyes were intent on the thin air above her face. Jasper was sound asleep on the bed, propped on pillows, with Alice's legs across his lap. He must have been holding her when he fell asleep, but she'd fallen, or rolled, out of his arms. "Alice," Carlisle said, rising and walking toward her. "Go away," she whispered again. It was a sad sound, like she was begging.

"What's wrong? Do you feel bad?" Tears came to her eyes as Carlisle leaned over her. He lightly touched her face and she flinched away. "I don't want you here," she said, defeated. She seemed to be accepting that he wasn't going to leave, and she wasn't happy about it. "Why? Tell me what's wrong." "I hate you. You're a liar and you're mean. I don't want to ever see you again." After the day he'd had, this made Carlisle want to cry. "I'm not leaving you," he said calmly. "You don't even care about me." "I love you," Carlisle said emphatically. "Alice, you're my child. I care so much. Please don't cry. Tell me why you're saying these things." Alice rolled over onto her side and tucked her legs into her chest. Little sobs shook her. "I'm so ashamed," she said. Her voice sounded tired. "What are you ashamed of?" "There's something wrong with me. Everyone's been treating me like I'm stupid. And I did shameful things. I can't face anyone. Jasper deserves so much better than me." Carlisle reached out to comfort her. Her face was hot against his hand as he gently stroked her cheek. "It's okay, Alice. No one thinks you're-," Carlisle nearly choked on his words. "You remember!" he said. "You remember who we are, don't you?" He raised his voice without thinking and Jasper stirred, reaching out for the warm body he was used to holding. His arms found her and he curled his long body around hers without waking. Carlisle waited a few minutes to make sure Jasper didn't wake up. He drew the covers up so that both Alice and Jasper were covered. "What do you remember?" he asked in a quiet voice when he was certain no one else would wake up. "I don't really know," Alice admitted. "Everything is so fuzzy. I feel like I don't know what's real and what isn't. I'm so confused." "Why do you think I'm a liar?" "You told me things that weren't true," Alice said sadly. "And you threw something at Esme." "I didn't know you saw that. I thought you were asleep." "Yeah, I saw it up here," Alice said, pointing to her temple with one little finger. "Oh," Carlisle sighed. "I'm so sorry. Are you mad? Do you really hate me?" "No. I still love you. I'm just so scared and confused right now. I feel like I'm too stupid to understand what's happening to me."

"You're not stupid," Carlisle said. "A lot of strange things have been happening to all of us lately. No one understands what's happening." "I'm crazy. My real parents sent me away. I remember that my father took me on a train ride up north. He said we were going to get me some new dresses. Really pretty dresses. He said we'd go up to a nice store up north and I'd get all sorts of nice things to wear. When we got there he didn't take me to a store at all. He brought me to this terrible place where people were screaming. It was dirty and cold. They cut my hair off and made me bathe in cold water. I got beatings every day." Alice raised her head and met Carlisle's gaze. "My father left me there that day. He didn't even say bye. He just turned his back on me and walked away. It was so horrible. I don't remember it that well, but I remember how afraid I was. There was so much pain and it was so dark. How can I face anyone when I know that and they all know I'm crazy?" Carlisle felt tears in his own eyes now. He leaned down a little so that his face was closer to hers. "You're not crazy. Your mind had to reprogram itself so you could survive. That's probably why you never remembered anything about your past until now. We all relived our pasts a bit. I don't know why it lasted so long for you, but I'm sorry we didn't understand." "You really don't think I'm crazy?" Alice asked. A little red wet spot was forming on her sheets from her tears. "You're perfectly sane," Carlisle told her. "It was because of your visions, wasn't it?" "Yes. I didn't know any better or I wouldn't have told anyone about it. I was just a little girl, maybe ten or so." Carlisle had to take some deep breaths so he wouldn't scream. After he calmed down he put his hand on her face again. "Alice, did someone take advantage of you while you were there?" "What do you mean?" "Did someone sexually abuse you?" It was hard to get the words out. Alice began sobbing again, but talked through her tears. "Not like Rosalie," she said. "Once a man made me undress and he…the other girls, most were older than me. Some of them…they did things so the guards would get them things or let them out. Sometimes they just wanted to see the stars for a little while. I saw it happen, but I don't think I ever did it. I only remember trying with you and Jasper. It was so disgusting. Sometimes they tied us up and put sacks on our heads. It was in a room with no windows or anything. It would be so dark and quiet. The guards might come in and touch us. Carlisle, I don't think I can face you and Jasper every day. I don't know if I can even face Esme without wanting to curl up and die. I don't deserve to have anyone so good to me as Jasper is." "That isn't true," Carlisle said. "Jasper loves you. We all love you and you deserve our love." "He could've let me do it," she said, sobbing again. "He's been so kind to me. Jasper never took advantage of me, even when I tried to…you know. Do you think I disgust him?" "No, Alice. He loves you so much. You know that. And if you don't believe it I'm sure Jasper will let you feel it. He's lucky, you know. I have to tell Esme in words how sorry I am for what I did. I would give anything to be able to let her feel my apology and my love. I wish I could make you feel it too." "You're forgiven," Alice said. "I forgive you even if no one else does. And they will, I know it."

"And will you stop beating yourself up? I know you know that we all adore you." "I'm not sure how to move past it, Carlisle. What am I supposed to do now?" Carlisle smiled. "You're supposed to love yourself as much as we love you," he said. "And you should tell Jasper everything you just told me when you're both awake in the morning. He'll understand and he'll love you even more because of it. And I'll always love you, no matter what happens. You're my daughter now and I won't abandon you." "Okay," Alice said. "I'll try. What are you going to do?" He sighed deeply and frowned. "I'm going to apologize and admit I was wrong. I'll take whatever is coming to me and do whatever I have to do in order to make it up to everyone. If they want to scream at me or stop talking to me then I'll just have to accept that." Alice's lids were drooping and Carlisle decided to stay until she fell asleep again. He held her hand and kissed her cheek every so often, quietly and calmly telling her stories while she nodded off. When she was finally out he carried Esme to their bedroom and put her in bed. He lit a fire and started to crawl in beside his wife, but he wasn't sure he deserved to be so comfortable. He put a pillow on the floor and laid down with a spare blanket. … Esme woke as the sun was just beginning to shine its light on the Mississippi River. The dawn was gray and chilly. She put her feet on the carpet by the bed and stood to walk, promptly tripping over something large on the floor. After crashing to the floor Esme felt around to see what had tripped her. Her eyes were still trying to adjust to the dim gray light and she wondered why she didn't remember getting in her bed the night before. She felt a body and realized who it was. At first she thought he might be dead. But he was breathing and apparently just asleep. "Carlisle," she said, shaking him. "What are you doing on the floor? Get up." He stirred and got up with Esme pulling him. But he was still pretty much asleep and Esme got him in the bed. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. Once she had him under the covers he was sound asleep again and Esme concluded he'd never really woken up at all. She washed up and dressed herself, preparing for the day ahead. First she decided to check on Alice, but her room was empty. A note told Esme that Alice was with Jasper and they would be gone for most of the day. Jasper had decided to go off on errands and he felt Alice needed the time away from everyone else so they could talk. It worried Esme a bit to have two of her children gone, but Jasper had taken at least two firearms and two horses so they'd be fine. She started on breakfast at the living room fireplace. On a cold day like this it was good to have something hot in the morning. The smell of boiling milk woke up the others, except for Carlisle. He must have gone to bed quite late and Esme couldn't imagine why he'd fallen asleep on the floor. Soon the Denalis arrived and they all had breakfast and started the day's work. Esme took some breakfast up to her room for Carlisle then helped with the milking and feeding and general tending of the animals. Then most of the milk processing began. The barn where the cheese was made was quite large, but warm once the fires had been going for a couple hours.

It was nearly lunchtime when Carlisle found them washing some of the new things the Denalis brought back from the errands. Extra clotheslines had been hung to accommodate the large amount of garments and blankets that needed to be hung out. All around the yard behind the kitchen were pants, flannels, socks, and so on hanging about to dry in the sun. Esme had no intention of embarrassing Carlisle in front of their friends so she led him and the other Cullens into the kitchen where they could have some privacy. Carlisle looked around at his family. They didn't seem as angry as he'd anticipated. They seemed tired and sad. He wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. The sooner he apologized the sooner he could begin his penance, whatever it might be. He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry," Carlisle said. "What I did was immature and…I would never hurt any of you. And I never meant to imply that I didn't care about Alice. I was terrified…look, I won't make any excuses for my actions. They were wrong. I just…I'm not sure how to make this better. If anyone wants to yell at me or avoid me for a while, if you'd like to hit me then I probably deserve it." "No one deserves to be hit," Esme said. Just the thought of it made her uncomfortable. Rosalie had slapped him once and it had upset her, though she'd never said anything. "Well…," Carlisle shifted uncomfortably. "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it." No one yelled. They just stared at him for a while and he shifted from one foot to the other. Carlisle began to worry that he'd done irreparable damage to his family and that they didn't need him anymore. He wasn't even sure how to get anyone to say anything. His face fell and he looked completely lost. Was this how they felt when he walked away from them yesterday? Defeated, he sat in the nearest chair and hung his head. "What do you want us to say?" Edward asked. Carlisle met his gaze for a second, then looked away again. Edward huffed. "We don't hate you, Carlisle," he said. "We're not going to punish you to make you feel better about losing your temper. We won't hurt you because you hurt us. It doesn't work that way. If you want to make it up then be here for us. Act like our dad. Be a husband to Esme. Help chop firewood. Wash the dishes. Eat your meals with us. Just…be here." "All you want is for me to stop leaving?" Carlisle asked. It seemed impossible that it should be that simple. But then Edward could read everyone's minds, except Bella's. He would know. "We don't want you to stop trying to help people," Esme said. "That's what you do. And you're good at it. But we need you too. I don't expect all of your time, but I'd like some of it." "I didn't know I was hurting you by staying away," Carlisle told her. "I've always put so much energy into my work. Maybe I've been obsessed lately. I just felt so useless. It seems like the humans might be dying out and I don't know why. I'm afraid that if they all die then we might be next. Maybe it's just time for this to happen, I don't know. And I realize I've had far more time than anyone deserves. I don't want to live for myself. I want all of you to have a future." Esme stepped up to her husband and put her palms against his chest. "Maybe we have a future and maybe we don't," she said. "Either way, all I care about is that we stay together. We're a family and I want us to stay that way. Can you understand that?" "I understand."

"Good," she said and settled into his embrace. Bella practically threw herself into Carlisle's arms when he stepped away from Esme. "I missed you, Daddy," she whispered. Surprisingly, Rosalie was next to embrace Carlisle and he got an equally unexpected hug from Edward. All five of them then insisted Carlisle go check on his dying patients after lunch. He'd just better be home for dinner. … Alice and Jasper returned just before dinner. They bathed alone in the kitchen and went in. Alice ran past everyone, stopping briefly on the stairs to greet her family without looking at any of them before continuing up to her room. The others looked at Jasper with concern and Esme started to get up. "Please don't," Jasper said. "She's okay, just not ready to face everyone yet. Would it be okay if we had dinner in our room again?" "Of course," Esme said, sitting back down. "Did she talk to you?" Carlisle asked. Jasper nodded. "Yes sir, she did. And she said she'd like you to tell everyone what she told you last night." "Right now?" "If you don't mind," Jasper said. "She'd like everyone to know what's going on, but she doesn't want to face them when they find out. I understand if you don't want to repeat it, though." "No, it's okay, Jasper," Carlisle said. "I'll do it. Tell her not to worry about anything." "Yeah, okay. And she told me what you did for her last night. I appreciate it. She'd like you to come up and say goodnight later, if you don't mind. Don't worry about what happened yesterday. You were there when she needed you and you could actually help. You don't need to apologize to me." Carlisle had been worried about this confrontation all day and he breathed a sigh of relief now that things were okay between him and everyone in his family. "Of course I'll be up later. I'll bring your dinner in a few minutes." "Thanks." Jasper disappeared upstairs and Carlisle brought up their dinner like he said he would. For the first time in a very long time he had dinner with his wife and four of his children. He decided to let everyone eat before he told Alice's story. When he began everyone sat and listened intently. "Alice must have begun having her visions as a child," he started. "You can imagine what a family at the beginning of the century would think if one of their children said she saw the future. Edward, try to imagine what your parents would have done. She was born about the same time as you. They lived in the Deep South. Alice was about ten years old when her

father tricked her into going quietly up north and he abandoned her in an asylum. You've all read Nellie Bly. That's what it was like for her, only much worse. She was horribly abused. Some of the things she went through may explain her recent behavior. She was forced to bathe in freezing water. Her hair was cut off. She was beaten. The food was bad, maybe had bugs in it. She doesn't remember everything clearly. I believe she's a bit confused right now. She's having a hard time distinguishing between what really happened and what she hallucinated during the time since we all got sick." "That's why she wouldn't take a bath without fussing," Bella said. "I feel so bad for being impatient with her." "That does explain a lot," Rosalie agreed sadly. "Carlisle, was she…was she raped?" "She doesn't think so," he answered. "But bad things happened to her. There was at least some sexual abuse. She witnessed things no child should ever see. I think it was better for her when she couldn't remember. And she remembers how we all reacted to her while she wasn't herself. You can imagine how you'd feel if it were you. She's ashamed. What she needs now is for us to be supportive. Don't push her. If she wants privacy right now then give it to her. She'll still want to help out around here, but I'd like you to give her things to do that she can do alone or let her stay near Jasper. Don't crowd her and don't bring any of this up. She may want to talk eventually, but give her some space." "Of course we will," Esme said. She looked around at everyone to let them know that she meant it. Giving Alice space wasn't going to be easy for them. Their natural response would be to try and make her feel better. Bella would want to apologize for her impatience. Even Esme was having trouble keeping herself from running up the stairs to comfort Alice. Edward, Rosalie, Bella, and Emmett all nodded in agreement. "Will she be okay, though?" Bella asked. "She may never be exactly the same as she was before all this," Carlisle said. "None of us are exactly like we were. Eventually I think she'll learn to deal with it. I'll encourage her to talk to you, Rosalie, and you, Esme. I think you can both help her learn to live with what she's been through." "Whenever she's ready I'll be here," Rosalie said. "Me too," Esme added. "Go on up and tell her we all love her." "Alright," Carlisle said, standing up. "I'll be to bed soon." He turned to Esme. "I'm going to try to convince her to see you tonight. If she does I don't want you to try and talk about anything. Maybe she'll feel better if her mom is there to hold her. She needs to feel like her family wants her. The first one gave her away. We'll let her know we love her more than that." "Dad," Bella said. "Tell her I'm sorry for yelling at her before. Tell her she's still my big sister. Okay?" "I will." .xXx. A/N: I've been wanting to write this conversation between Alice and someone for a while now. I thought about having her talk to Edward or to Bella. I'm not sure why I decided on Carlisle, but I thought it would be a nice way for him to redeem himself after his outburst. Hope you enjoyed it. In this story Alice did not receive shock

treatments because it wasn't invented until the late 1930's. Lobotomies were done, but I didn't want To go that route. Anyway, hope this was a good way to resolve her story. It was better for the storyline for the Cullens to not know what would happen to them for a while. I wanted to limit them and make them more human. Chapter 21: Maternal Instinct Esme waited anxiously to see if Alice would allow her in tonight. She felt nervous and guilty because she had also used small lies and empty promises to keep Alice in line over the past months. Had it been months? Time was measured in daily activities now. A week might pass and no one really noticed because they were so busy. During especially boring tasks time seemed to trickle by like molasses. There were always things to do. While she waited, Esme lit the fire, smoothed the bedding, and dusted the surfaces in her room. When all that was done she started knitting. Waiting was driving her crazy. If only she could be with Alice she could make it all better, kiss away the sadness. She could do the things mothers were supposed to do. She could at least try. The memories of her baby were stronger now than when she was still a normal Vampire. Sometimes she could hear him cry in her sleep. She knew Alice was crying now, could feel it in her gut. Finally the door creaked open. "Come on," Carlisle said. Esme was out of her chair immediately, flinging her unfinished knitting to the floor in haste. Her heart raced as she walked with Carlisle to Alice's room. Alice was in Jasper's lap and they were on the floor at the foot of the bed. The fire was blazing. Esme took a place on the floor as well. Alice refused to look her in the eye. Esme wanted badly to snatch up the tiny girl and hold her until there was no more pain, but she did not. "How do you feel, Alice?" Esme asked. Alice pulled her knees up to her chest and buried her face in her arms. "I don't know," she said softly. "I've been so worried," Esme said. Her arms ached to give comfort. "Alice," Jasper said very gently, pulling her long hair back. "Let Esme put her arms around you." Slowly Alice unfolded herself and scooted, inch by inch, until she was within reach. Esme was careful in her movements, slowly extending her arms around Alice's narrow shoulders, until she had the girl wrapped up and safe next to her heart. At first Alice was tense, but after a few minutes of Esme rubbing her hair she relaxed, molding her body against the familiar embrace. "That's better," Esme cooed. "You're okay now. Mommy's here."

Quiet sobs shook Alice. "I'm so scared," she cried. "There's nothing to be afraid of, darling. I won't let anything happen to you." "How will I live with myself? How will I look in the mirror every day? I'm scared that I'm crazy. No one will respect me anymore." "That's not true," Esme said. "I love you, Alice. I'm your mother. I'd never leave you. You're my pretty little girl. You're safe, darling." "I don't want people to treat me like I'm stupid." "No one thinks you're stupid, baby." It went on for some time. Alice let out all her insecurities and Esme reassured her that she was loved. It was difficult for Jasper to sit there and watch without interfering, but he could see how good it was for Alice to let all these feelings out and receive comfort. Even as he was being assaulted by Alice's pain and frustration, he could feel Esme's love. He did not want to manipulate Alice's feelings, but he did occasionally share the feeling of Esme's love with her for brief moments. Finally Alice was cried out. Her sobs quieted and her tears dried up. Carlisle dunked a soft washcloth into warm water and used it to wipe Alice's eyes and cheeks. Esme would need to change her nightgown. "Thank you, Esme," Alice said. "I still feel embarrassed, but I feel better now." "I'm glad I could help, Alice. I feel better too. Thank you for letting me comfort you." "Esme, do you think it didn't matter who my parents were? Maybe I would have ended up in that place no matter what." "No," Esme said. "If I'd had you as my daughter when I was human I wouldn't have done that to you." "Really? How do you know?" "Alice, I risked everything to protect my son back then. If Charles had caught up with me he probably would have killed me. There is no way I would ever send a child of mine away, especially to a place like that. It wouldn't have mattered to me if my son saw the future or grew a third eye. I loved him more than anything. And I love you more than anything." "Then my parents must not have loved me," Alice said sadly. "I don't know," Esme said. "But it doesn't matter. What matters if that you deserve love and now you have people who do love you. Please don't push us away because you're hurting. Bad things are happening, Alice. We have to be here for each other." There was a sudden shift in Alice's mood as her eyes went unfocused and her body stiffened. "Alice," Jasper said, touching her arm gently. "What are you seeing?" She shook her head slightly and blinked rapidly. "The same as before."

Jasper looked at Carlisle and then Esme. "She's been having them all day, about every twenty minutes or so. It stopped for a while when we got home." "What have you been seeing?" Carlisle asked. Alice covered her eyes with her hands for just a moment, thinking about how to describe it. "I see water all over the place, muddy water. It's in our house and all over our land." "The levee is going to break," Carlisle said. They had been worried about that possibility. "We'll have to move," Jasper said. "We'll have to find someplace out of the flood plane. And we have to do it soon, like before all the ice starts melting up north." Carlisle sighed. Weather in the Deep South could be very unpredictable, but the ice up north should be easier to predict. They had a few months. "I'll call a meeting with everyone tomorrow. We can start making plans right away. Alice, we're going to need your help with this. We've been blind without you, you know." "Okay," Alice said. "But I don't want to be around everyone just yet." "That's fine," Carlisle assured her. "You don't have to do anything you aren't comfortable with. I'll have to find a way to warn the humans." "Maybe not," Alice said. "In all my visions it's been just us and the little ones. I don't see any humans in the future." "Little ones?" Esme asked. "The babies." "What babies?" "Oh, well there's the baby you've got in there." Alice put her hand on Esme's abdomen. "And there's the one that Kate is going to have." They stared at her. "That isn't possible," Esme said. But she felt a brief flash of hope. Instantly her mind wandered back to her time with her infant son. "She told me this before," Jasper said, recalling their odd conversation about where babies come from. "She said something about a lady with brown hair having a baby. I thought she was talking about a human woman at the time and I ignored it because she wouldn't tell me anymore details." Carlisle pulled Esme up off the floor and pressed her back to Jasper and Alice's bed. He lowered his head so that his ear was against her stomach. Alice and Jasper were silent while this impromptu examination went on. Carlisle listened intently. There were sounds of normal bodily functions, at least normal for the Vampires in their present states. "Try listening on the other side," Alice suggested. Carlisle nudged Esme to turn over onto her stomach and he listened to her lower back. Sure enough, through the noises of blood flowing through veins and food digesting, there was an extra pulsing sound, possibly a tiny heartbeat. It was so tiny that it didn't register to the super-keen sense of hearing Carlisle possessed from farther away. They did not hear the

heartbeats of very tiny creatures like humming birds and tree frogs. For a moment Carlisle couldn't breathe. "It's there," he whispered, standing upright again. "I can hear his heart beating." "You mean you can hear her heart beating," Alice corrected. Esme was more pale than usual. "Is it going to be like the Hybrids?" she asked. "Am I going to lose another child?" "Oh no," Alice said. "She'll be fine and I saw you having her the normal way. The way they showed on the videos I had to watch in health class when we used to go to school." Esme felt weak suddenly. She did, however, notice that Alice's mood had improved dramatically. "Well, we'd better get to sleep," Carlisle said mechanically. He needed time to let this information sink in. It wasn't that he didn't trust Alice's visions. If it were anyone outside his family he would approach the situation with eager curiosity. But this was his wife. He hadn't been this nervous when Esme insisted on keeping Bella, maybe because he'd had confidence in his ability to keep the baby safe then. Now, he wasn't sure. His recent failure to save the sick humans didn't help him feel any better about the situation. Alice stood and hugged Esme. "Thank you," she said. "I love you, Esme. I'm glad you're my mother now." Esme smiled. "I love you too, Alice." After bidding their children a good night Carlisle and Esme went back to their room. Carlisle, normally full of ideas, felt dumbstruck. There was so much information to process, so many decisions to make. He sat on his bed ad stared into space for a few moments. "I'm worried," he said. Esme sat next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "We should talk." "Alice could be wrong," he said. "You could be in danger. I don't know what to do." "Carlisle, if Alice says I'll be fine then I'm not going to get stressed out over it. We don't have time to worry. I want to talk about what happened yesterday." Carlisle looked over at his wife. "You said you forgave me," he said, terror creeping into his mind. "No, I didn't say that. Don't look so scared; I will forgive you, but not until we talk about it." "Alright," Carlisle said. That seemed reasonable. "What can I do to make it up to you?" "Carlisle, I love you. But I swear, if you ever throw anything at me again or scream at me I will leave you." He opened his mouth, but could hardly get anything out. "I'm so sorry," he whispered finally.

"I forgive you. And after this moment I'll never bring it up again. I just want you to know that I won't put up with it again." "Of course not. You deserve better. It will never happen again, I promise." "Good," Esme said, patting Carlisle's knee. "Now let's get some sleep." "How can you sleep, Esme? We just found out that you're pregnant and the girls could be getting pregnant right now! We have to figure out what to do. Maybe I should tell them not to engage in intercourse for a while, until I know it's safe." Esme folded her arms across her chest. "No," she said. "We're not going to bother anyone tonight and I'm certainly not going to let you make everyone else worried. We'll keep the pregnancy to ourselves for now. Jasper and Alice won't say anything. Tomorrow you can call your meeting and decide what to do about the humans and the threat of flooding." "But Esme," Carlisle started. She put a hand up to stop him. "No arguments, Carlisle!" she said emphatically. "I'm exhausted and there's a lot of work to do tomorrow. Go to bed!" Carlisle didn't feel like arguing either; so he lay down with Esme. For a couple hours his mind raced with all the possible outcomes of these new scenarios. Eventually he fell asleep, but his dreams were troubled. … When everyone was gathered Carlisle looked over the room full of Vampires and Hybrids and realized that their number had been cut by more than 75 percent since their last gathering. There was his family, the St. Bernard Coven, the Denalis, the two remaining members of the Creole Coven, the Hybrids from California, and some others. These were the only survivors of both the onslaught of Newborns from overseas and the mysterious sickness. They were gathered inside the Cullen home, kept warm by a fire in the large fireplace and a wood burning cast iron stove. People were seated on sofas and chairs all over. Some were on the floor. Alice was in the next room, having refused to join everyone else, and could easily hear everything through the open door behind which she was seated. "Alright," Carlisle said, calling everyone to order. "We need to get started now. I'm not going to take too much time. So let me just get right to it. Alice has seen visions of the levee breaking. We'll need to pack up and leave within two or three months to avoid the floodwaters." There was a collective groan around the room. "I know this is frustrating," he continued. "But we should look at this as an opportunity to start over. The homes we all live in are very old and the newer homes are quickly becoming unlivable without climate control. We should stick together and form a new community in a safer place." Tanya stood up to ask a question. "Carlisle, humans have come onto our property three times now and I know they've been here at least once. How are we going to keep them away when we move?" "Alice also sees the humans dying out," Carlisle answered sadly.

"Can't you turn them?" one of the Sarah, a Hybrid, asked. "Don't think I haven't tried," Carlisle told her. "We still make venom, but it seems to only keep our teeth sharp and clean. I can't turn people anymore." "Nothing happened to us," a male Hybrid said. "We can do it." … It was risky; Carlisle knew that. There was no guarantee that any Newborns would be controllable, or that they wouldn't just die like the others had. At present, the Vampires were comparatively weak. He decided to try it on one human, a teenage girl. The normal changes took place over three days, after which the patient fell terribly ill for another week and woke up complaining of terrible hunger. Carlisle wouldn't have tried to change anyone at all, but the number of Vampires was quite low. Even if they could reproduce through mating, it seemed like they should try to add to their numbers. During this time the others continued their usual chores and began to prepare for the move. Rosalie, Emmett, and others with mechanical knowhow cannibalized bicycles, cars, and other such vehicles to build their transportation. They no longer had any fuel to power engines, so they had to round up more horses and consult old blueprints to build vehicles that could be pulled by horses. After the first success, Carlisle decided to try changing more people. He chose younger humans who he felt were more likely to survive the transformation. Half of them died, but he was not deterred. Bella was busy finding ways to preserve food that her family could eat. She spent hours pouring over books on cuisine from all over the world and experimenting with new techniques. She also helped care for the new Vampires who were still too weak to get around. One day she walked into the outside kitchen to find Alice washing clothes in a large tub of hot water. "Hey," Bella said, startled to see Alice. It had been weeks since Alice recovered fully, but she still had not fully reintegrated herself back into the family. "Hi, Bella," Alice said quietly. "How are you? I've missed you." Alice rang out a garment and placed it in her basket. "Oh, I'm okay. How have you been?" Bella shrugged. "Busy, I guess. I wish you'd eat dinner with us sometime." "Maybe I will tonight. I don't know." "Alice, I'm so sorry," Bella said. "I know you're still mad at me, but I miss you so much. Edward misses you too. Please don't keep avoiding us."

Alice turned to meet Bella's eyes. "I'm not angry with you," she said. "You don't understand, Bella. It's humiliating for me to know how exposed I was to all of you. I'm not avoiding you because I want to punish you. I just don't know how to live with what I know now." "Rosalie has to live with memories of being raped," Bella said. "She's much more stubborn than me," Alice replied. "And she's stronger." "You're strong, Alice." "I don't feel strong. And I've been talking to Rosalie and Esme, in private. It's not easy for them either. Did you know Rosalie and Emmett haven't had sex since all this happened?" "Really?" Bella asked. No one told her anything like that, though Carlisle had discreetly asked her to be "careful", whatever that meant. "Really. If she's having that much trouble then it's not so strange that I can't face everyone yet. But I have faith that I'll get better. Jasper is a big help. Don't worry, Bella, one day I'm sure I'll be able to be around everyone and feel okay." "Okay, Alice. But I hope one day you're as happy as you used to be too. I miss your laugh." Alice smiled, remembering times when she and Bella had laughed themselves almost into hysterics. "Me too." xxXxx A/N: this story has taken on a life of its own. I don't know what's going to happen next. See chapter 1 for warnings and disclaimer. Chapter 22: The Patriarch Life became impossibly busier and more tumultuous for the Cullens and their friends as they began making preparations for their journey to their new home. Besides the daily chores that kept them alive and comfortable, huge amounts of supplies had to be gathered and transported. Food needed to be preserved and people had to begin the process of migration. A suitable location was chosen based on its geography and Alice's visions. It was difficult to find a large area of land that wasn't already settled, but with Alice's help, one such location was found. The area was just east of their previous home and out of the flood plain. There was room to plant crops and allow the livestock to graze. The site also had access to fresh water and forests. Rosalie and Emmett joined about two dozen others to begin building structures to house the incoming residents. When everyone was safely out of the flood plain they could worry about private residences and specialized buildings. For now the focus was on providing shelter from the elements. At first the building party lived in tents with round-the-clock guards stationed around their area. Over the weeks they encountered very few humans, though every so often they came upon hastily dug graves and campsites full of corpses.

They built several large buildings. The largest, based on designs for Native American longhouses, would provide housing for everyone until private family homes could be constructed. Other buildings served as barns for livestock and storehouses for storing supplies and processing food. … Back at the Cullen mansion the others were also hard at work. They realized it would be impossible to build a new society without a great deal of planning. There had to be rules and order. Someone had to lead them, but no one wanted to live under a tyrant, as they had in the past with the Volturi and the murderous Covens. They started forming committees, each with a specific purpose. One focused on security, another on meeting the nutritional needs of everyone. Carlisle and Edward, being the only individuals with any medical training at this point, began planning for a medical facility in their new home. Several individuals spent large amounts of time pouring over books on government and human psychology. Others began planning how their new village would be set up and how the younger ones would be educated. It wasn't always easy to cooperate. The Cullens and their friends were exhausted and under tremendous stress. Edward sat with his list of supplies and other papers scattered about a table of antique oak. He'd gone through all of Carlisle's notes from the recent past, looking especially at the entries about himself and his family. As usual, Carlisle had kept impeccable records of everyone's symptoms and how he treated each. Mostly these treatments had been unsuccessful. However, with failure comes knowledge. Bella, having no specific skills or knowledge about any particular subject, helped everyone in her family by keeping their home clean and feeding them. As the youngest Cullen, she had less education and experience than everyone else. Now, however, she was no longer the youngest member of their society or the newest Vampire. While she went about her chores each day she also instructed the newest members on how to perform necessary daily tasks and cared for the ones who were still sick or weak. They would be among the last to go to their new home since the building crew could more easily perform their work without new Vampires running around. It was early evening and the candles had to be lit. Bella brought a lantern and sat it on the table so that Edward could read in the fading light. "Thank you," he said without looking up. Bella stole a kiss and hurried off to make dinner. During the winter Alice had accompanied Jasper many times to the new site. She had selected it herself, relying on her premonitions to find the most auspicious place to set up a new society. Her visions were invaluable to the Vampires, as they ensured the best possible outcome when any decision was to be made. Alice was keenly aware of her importance to everyone around her. She was more than happy to do anything in her power to help, but it was a huge responsibility and she often felt overwhelmed with the pressure on her.

With so many things to look out for, Alice became prone to headaches in the evenings. Recognizing the signs of one coming on, Bella poured some boiling water into a teacup for Alice with a special blend of wild herbs designed to relax her and ease the pain of the headaches. As Alice sipped her tea she began to feel warmer and more at ease. "I want you to do something for me, Bella," she said. "Okay, what is it?" Alice took a glance at Esme, relaxed on a couch with her hands on her expanding belly. "Convince Carlisle to take Esme to the new village soon. He needs to go with her." "Why?" Bella asked while tending to the meal she was preparing. "I can't explain, I just think it's better if she goes now. And I know it'll be easier for her if he's with her." "Did you see something?" "Not exactly," Alice explained. "I see a blank spot in the near future. I don't know what it means, and I see a future beyond that, so I don't think it's anything too serious. But with her being pregnant, better safe than sorry. Her baby is the next generation. She's our future and we have to protect her. Tomorrow I want Carlisle on the road with Esme and Kate and some of the new ones." Bella agreed to help her convince Carlisle to go. Over dinner they discussed this matter with everyone. "I know you want to stay here," Bella said. "But the truth is that you can't do much here that Edward can't do. You should go and be with Mom, just to be safe." "I'd feel better if you came too, Bella," Esme said. "As would I," Edward added. Bella bit her lower lip and thought about it. "I don't know. I don't like the thought of leaving you, Edward. Who will make your meals and remind you to eat?" "I will," Alice said. "I'll do your chores and mine until we have to leave." Edward looked over at her and shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous, Alice," he said. "Your current work is much too important and stressful for you to take on more work. And I know about your headaches. I'll do Bella's work and we'll just cut down on the cleaning a bit. There isn't much left here to clean anyway. And the floors don't need to be spotless." "It's settled then," Carlisle declared. "Tomorrow Esme, Bella, and I will take Kate and some others on to the new village. Jasper, you're in charge." This news was a shock to Jasper. He'd never expected Carlisle to choose him as second in command over Edward. Over the recent months Jasper's main focus was on the safety and security of everyone within his community. He had to look after his own family, their friends,

and the new Vampires created by the Hybrid males. He was used to taking charge; he just never expected to be put in such a position by Carlisle. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Edward has been with you longer." "No, Jasper, he's right," Edward said. "You've been around longer and you're more experienced with hostile situations. Our safety is the most important thing right now. Carlisle is making the right choice." "Then Alice should go too." "No chance," Alice told him. "I'm not leaving you blind. Besides, I can keep an eye on everyone from here. And if something comes up we can be to the new village in a few hours." "Alice is right, Jasper," Edward agreed. "She's needed here." Jasper sighed, defeated, and mulled over everything in his head. He looked to Alice, who gave a reassuring smile, and then to the others. They were equally encouraging. "Alright," he said finally. Turning to Alice, he continued, "You have to tell me everything you see. Do you understand? Don't keep anything from me, please." "Of course I'll tell you everything, Jazz. Don't worry, you can trust me." "It's not that," Jasper told her. "I trust you. But I also know you don't want anyone to worry." In truth, Jasper was still dealing with the stretch of time where Alice was not herself and refused to share her visions out of fear. He'd been unable to help her during that time. The emotional toll it took had not worn off. Alice was seated right next to Jasper, as usual, and she took his face in her small hands so he'd have to look her in the eyes. "Stop being so paranoid," she said. "I'm not going to keep anything from you. Edward will make sure of it, right, Edward?" "Of course." "See?" Alice asked. "Okay, then it's settled," Jasper said. He really wasn't happy about Alice staying if she thought something was up, but he did feel better having her near him. He felt that he could protect her better than anyone else. Bella, Carlisle and Esme spent a couple hours packing before bed. They wrapped their clothing into bundles, leaving only one outfit each for the journey in the morning. Personal items like jewelry, shoes, hair brushes, and so forth were stashed with the clothes. Some of their china dishes, silverware, and other items of sentimental value were packed into crates. Most of their belongings were already packed away. The drapes were closed and the fire stoked once more before Jasper lay down with Alice by the fireplace. Carlisle and Esme also slept in the living room. The Cullens had begun to sleep downstairs after the packing began. It conserved firewood and they felt safer.

Carlisle had begged his daughters to avoid getting pregnant until the women who were already pregnant gave birth. Even with Alice's visions, it made him feel better to avoid any further complications. Besides that, it would be harder on the pregnant women to make the move. With everyone sleeping in one room, there wasn't much privacy to make any babies. Edward, realizing this was his last night with Bella for a while, led her up to their room and lit a fire. It took some time for the fire to warm the room. During that time they huddled together under a blanket at the foot of their bed. The winter had overstayed its welcome, just as Alice predicted. "Do you remember our first night together?" Bella asked. "How could I forget? I was so afraid that I would accidentally kill you." Bella laughed. "I guess I wasn't so much worried about that," she said. "I didn't realize how afraid you were." "You were very…eager," Edward said, amusement in his voice. "I was young and hormonal," Bella joked. "Yes, and then our father tried to kill me afterward." "Oh yeah." "I'll be worried about you, Bella. Please be careful." He took Bella into his arms so that she was seated across his lap. His hand found its way under her nightgown and up toward her thigh. Bella wrapped her arms around Edward's neck and pulled his face closer so that their lips would meet. "You be careful too," she said when their kiss broke off. "And come home to me soon." Edward's eyes were fixed on her face as it reflected he warm glow of the fire. He hooked his fingers around her underwear and began to slide it down. "Women didn't wear things like this in my day," he said. "What did they wear under their dresses?" "Nothing, I believe." She laughed again. "I like my panties, Edward." Edward held up the panties, which he'd managed to slip down her legs and off her feet. "I rather like them too." His hand began making its way back up her legs and toward the heaven he'd discovered some time ago, in the adjoining bathroom. Memories of that night sent shivers down his middle and he felt himself grow stiff. As his hand reached her thigh again, Bella leaned her head back, arching her neck in an erotic manner, and began to moan.

She spread her legs apart for him. His fingers sent shockwaves of pleasure up her spine and she twisted her fingers into his hair. Their lips met again and Edward plunged his tongue into her warm mouth. The smell of their arousal filled the room and made the air seem heavy and warm. Edward let the blanket fall away from them and laid Bella on the soft bedding he'd put down on the floor and lay down with her, looping on of his legs around one of hers so he could grind himself against her hip. "When we're settled," Edward said, panting, "I'd like to officially marry you. We can have a ceremony with our family and fiends in attendance." Marriage, in truth, didn't have much meaning to most people anymore. When people spend all their time just trying to survive, ceremonies are largely unimportant. But among the things their committees had learned was the fact that ritual and tradition tied one generation to the next. Their new society would actually benefit from weddings and other such ceremonies because it would create a sense of community and help to create a culture that the new society would find valuable enough to protect and continue. Edward and Bella already wore bands to symbolize their commitment to each other. But the institution of marriage meant something to Edward. He had once looked forward to having a wife and family. Now, nearly a century after he'd given up that dream, it was once again possible. Bella's moans grew louder until she finally tensed, arched her back, and shook with her release. Edward withdrew his hand and closed his eyes, trying to will his erection away. His mate had other ideas. After flipping him over she managed to remove Edward's clothes with his assistance. She also removed her own nightgown and lay on top of him. "We mustn't get you pregnant," he said, knowing full well that Rosalie wasn't bothering to wait as Carlisle had asked. The promise of a child was enough for her to overcome her recent aversion to intercourse and start trying. Edward felt it probably wasn't a good idea to have more than two pregnant women in his family at one time. "Don't worry so much," Bella told him as she brought her body down on his prone form. Edward squeezed her thighs and fought to keep quiet as Bella began to move. As much as it was Edward's natural inclination to worry excessively, he allowed himself to give in and enjoy the act and the view. … In the morning Alice woke early to start breakfast. Usually it was Bella's job, but Alice was still trying overcoming her feelings of inadequacy and helplessness, so she often decided to take on extra work. She also prepared food for the others to take on their trip, and some treats for Emmett and Rosalie. The kitchen became warm quickly and the food smelled really good. Alice ate while she while she worked. After fixing individual meals for her family, Alice left the rest of the food for the others who would be up and hungry soon, and carried the food for her family to the house on a large tray. While they ate, Alice went into the room Emmett and Rosalie used to share and packed some items that they had left behind as well as clean bedding and clothes.

The carts were packed and horses readied. When everyone was packed, their things loaded up, and ready to go it was time to say goodbye. "There's lots of food," Alice said to her parents and sister. "So make sure you stop and eat. You've got to keep up your strength." "Of course we will," Esme told her. "Thank you, Alice." "I packed some stuff for Em and Rose," Alice added. "Make sure they get it?" "We will." "You'll be okay," Alice assured them. "I see you getting there just fine. So don't worry. And tell Rosalie I know what she's been up to and it's not funny." Carlisle and Esme laughed and then hugged Alice. "I want you home soon," Carlisle insisted. "Take care of our boys until then." "Don't worry. We'll all be together again soon. Now get going or you'll get rained on later." Esme hugged her again and kissed her cheek before turning to embrace her sons. Bella broke away from Edward long enough to give Alice a hug and then clasped Jasper's hand for a moment. "You keep my Edward safe, Jasper," Bella said. Jasper winked at her and kissed her forehead. "I will, little sister." After their goodbyes were said and everyone was seated on a seat in the cart or on a horse they set out. Jasper, Alice, and Edward watched their family ride away with feelings of longing and sudden homesickness. As Jasper watched them leave with some of the Denalis and new Vampires, he thought about how unusual the new ones were. They were unlike the Newborns he'd encountered and unlike any of the Cullens. These new Vampires were weak and clumsy as they adjusted to their new bodies. None were notably aggressive or animalistic. But then, the Vampires were no longer true Vampires either. It worried him, to say the least. Since he woke up in this new form he'd been worried about an attack from humans or even the tribes with whom they'd fought off the Newborn armies. Jasper's eyes widened in horror, as did Edward's. They looked at each other and then to Alice. "The wolves," they said together. Alice looked at them with confusion. "What?" "The wolves, Alice," Jasper explained. "You can't see them, remember? That has to be the blank spot you're seeing. They must be coming here."

"We need to be ready," Edward said, already going over the fighting strategies Jasper had taught him. "Hold on," Alice said, putting her hands up to emphasize her point. "We don't know that they're coming here to hurt us. They might be coming to find a better place to live. Maybe some members of their tribe are sick and they want our help. I don't see any of us not making it to the new village, so we just need to relax." Edward realized he hadn't given any thought to how people were faring in other areas. So much time and energy had been spent taking care of sick humans and guarding against those who were hostile to the Vampires. It would make sense that all humans on the continent, even those very far away, had become ill. Beyond that logic, there was the fact that whatever made everyone sick seemed to have come across the ocean with those Newborns. Edward believed that something had happened overseas; perhaps some sort of weapon had been set off to cause the Newborns to fall ill and die. That same phenomenon could have been what made the American Vampires fall ill, and only spared those who fed on animals. There was no overwhelming evidence that the animals on the continent had been affected by whatever created this mysterious illness. And the humans were most certainly affected by it. It made sense that only the Vampires who fed on human blood were dead. Whatever other Vampires had previously thought of Carlisle's strange diet, there was no denying that it had saved many lives. And if humans were really dying off completely then perhaps this new Vampirism was the answer. The Hybrid males had changed many humans over the recent months. That presented another problem. "I need the all the young ones to stay out of site if one of the tribes does show up," Jasper said. "Remember how the Quileutes reacted to Bella? They said we'd broken the treaty. They won't be happy about us having changed all these people if it's them again." "Right," Edward agreed. "But what if they are here to start a fight?" "Don't worry," Jasper answered. "I'll have my guards ready. But they were our allies most recently, and I think we should try a bit of diplomacy before we start drawing our guns." Jasper's usual job was to train and lead a group of Vampires to protect the community that had sprung up around the Cullens' home. There were over a hundred Vampires living around the mansion in different buildings that were already standing in the area. So far no one had successfully attacked them, though some had tried. Usually Alice saw it first, and it was settled quite quickly. Over the months, as the human population was depleted, the threat of attack had also diminished. This was important because the Vampires needed to travel safely to various areas so they could gather supplies. The building party in the new village got their supplies from abandoned lumberyards and hardware stores, as well as private residences that were no longer inhabited. At times they cannibalized existing buildings for parts. Jasper called a meeting and instructed the young Vampires to stay out of site if anyone should come by. He also let the guards know what to do in the event of a visit by the tribes. The older Vampires who were still there were to go about their usual business and keep the others

in line. Jasper then went to clean his guns. Edward went back to his research and planning. Alice got some bedding and food ready for when their visitors arrived. If Jasper was right about the wolves coming, she wanted to be able to show them some hospitality. From the attic window they looked together out over the river. Its level had risen steadily since the weather began to warm minutely. It wouldn't be long now before the levee was breeched and the land flooded. Despite the sadness the three Cullens felt over leaving what had been their home for almost two decades, they realized the positive impact the flooding would have on them. The river was long overdue for a course change. Plus, the levee kept the land from experiencing the annual floods that once kept the land extremely fertile. Much like the Nile, this river was meant to flood yearly, replacing vital nutrients in the soil. When the flooding resumed the Vampires would have fertile soil in which to plant sugarcane, cotton, and feed for the livestock that provided them with blood and milk. While they waited for the mystery visitors to arrive, Alice and Jasper packed their belongings. Even though they were all but useless now, Alice decided to pack some of her nice dresses to bring with her. Most contained enough fabric to make several more practical garments. She could take them apart and make new things, maybe something for Esme's daughter. She packed her jewelry and sewing implements, art supplies, and photographs. Jasper packed his books and journals. They had already sent many crates of their things on to the new village, to be stored until later. Back down in the living room, as she was eating lunch with Jasper and Edward, Alice glanced at the huge doll house in the corner. The site of it often made her feel humiliated and exposed. But there were happy memories surrounding it too. As a child, Bella had spent hundreds of hours playing with the little dolls that went with it. They had been carved by Emmett and Jasper and dressed by Alice. The house was built by Rosalie and Esme decorated it. Alice decided that it would be a shame to leave the doll house behind when it could provide so much fun and entertainment to the children who were to be born. She walked over and began to pack up the dolls and furniture. "I'd like to take this," she told Jasper and Edward. Not wanting to embarrass Alice with their questions, the men said nothing. Edward got up and dug out Bella's old toys from the attic and packed them too. Jasper went through the house to find other things they hadn't considered taking before. It was only stuff, but it was their stuff. So many things in their house brought back memories of the time before life became so difficult for them. Some things even reminded them of the time before they found Bella, when there was still such a thing as normal human society. There were old textbooks from the last school the Cullen children attended before the massacres started. Yearbooks full of old photos, embarrassing hairdos and all, were packed up. Edward found wooden blocks and toy cars. Messengers rode back and forth to the new village every day. Before nightfall a letter came from Carlisle that said they had arrived safely and were getting to work building so that things would be ready when the others arrived. He and Emmett would begin building a home for their large family. Members of the older Covens were also beginning work on their homes. Eventually everyone would have their own private home, either for families or individuals.

Jasper decided to send their belongings to the new village with some people the next morning, along with some additional livestock. He wanted to get some more of the younger Vampires out of site before the visitors arrived, so no one would jump to any conclusions and start an unnecessary fight. Carlisle had made the decision to have the Hybrid males change as many humans as possible, as long as enough resources existed to provide for them. After observing Bella grow a couple inches and fill out a bit more, he realized there was no longer such a thing as an immortal child. He gave the okay to change the sick human children. They didn't change everyone. Individuals were chosen for the change based on various criteria, including the personality of the patient. No one who appeared healthy was changed. And anyone accused of crimes like rape or murder was also rejected. Carlisle didn't want to play God, but he had a responsibility to ensure that each addition to his community was fit to be a part of it. Sometimes the Vampires chose to put humans out of their misery rather than keep them alive. Carlisle did not do this as it went against the Hippocratic Oath. Those decisions were left to others who were willing to make them. If the visitors were anything like the Quileutes, Jasper worried that they would be offended by the sight of young people who had been changed. So he sent the youngest away. He sent letters to the village every day, detailing his reasons for this. The responses he got made him feel better about those decisions. Things were going smoothly there. As the weather grew warmer the Vampires began planting crops and building more structures. Alice said the blank spot was getting closer. Only a few weeks had passed since Carlisle, Esme, and Bella left. Edward was lonely without his mate, but he was holding up. He spent his time helping Jasper and perfecting his plans with Alice. Suddenly Alice experienced a near blackout where her visions were concerned. She could see the people in the new village, but nothing in the immediate area. She knew it was time. They walked together to their front yard, though the previous visitors had arrived from the woods. The others were hiding nearby, waiting for Jasper's orders. If anything happened they could rush out and help. If things went peacefully they could resume their daily work. Only a few members of the old Covens were still active in the surrounding areas, and had vowed not to interfere unless it became necessary. As they sensed the visitors approaching, Jasper and Edward instinctively stepped in front of Alice. This annoyed her, but she understood. The tension was high among the three Cullens. As minutes passed they grew increasingly nervous. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a figure appeared on the road to the house. Several more figures became visible soon after. They were not recognizable to the Cullens. None of them had spent enough time with the tribes to remember individual scents. The second transformation had also affected their memories to an extent. As the figures got closer the Cullens could count them. There were maybe two dozen. More than half were men, but there were several women and a small handful of children. Each of them carried a sack of belongings. They looked small in stature and thin. Jasper had his shotgun slung over his shoulder, just in case. As the people came nearer he sensed that they were weary and frightened. He relaxed and looked to Edward for answers.

"They're Quileute," Edward informed him. "They came here for our help because they're dying. They're all that's left of their tribe. At least one of those women is white. They don't mean us any harm, though it's killing the leader to have to ask for our help." "The one in front is their leader?" Jasper asked. "Yes, and we've met him before. It's the boy, Jacob Black. He's the leader now, since his father's death. I think he's the only one left that was here before." Edward stopped translating the thoughts of the Quileutes when they got close enough to hear because it seemed rude. When the visitors got closer Jasper walked up to greet them. "Hello," he said politely. "Welcome. How can we help you?" The women and children were thin, but otherwise they seemed okay. Some humans seemed to have a natural immunity to the sickness, but it might be one out of every thousand. And there weren't many thousands left. The men were very thin and some had the lesions that they'd seen on sick humans. Jacob had lost a considerable amount of weight since last they'd seen him. He was emaciated and unnaturally pale, but still bold. Jasper could feel the anger and fear in him. He still hated the Vampires and probably blamed them for the current situation, but he had no choice but to seek out their help. As the leader, he had a responsibility to his people. Jasper could understand that. "We need to see your Vampire doctor," Jacob Black said. "I apologize, but he isn't here," Jasper explained. "Edward has been to medical school, though, and he can try to help you. We have food and you are all more than welcome to stay here as long as you need." Jacob Black narrowed his eyes at Edward, then shook off is irritation and said, "Okay, that's fine. Thank you." He seemed to have trouble getting the thank you out. The three Cullens led their guests to an outbuilding where beds were set up. "The sickest should stay in here," Edward instructed them. "The rest of you can stay in our house. We'll start getting some food ready for you if you'd like to settle in." Upon closer inspection the Cullens found that two of the women and one child were not Quileute. Besides the white woman, there was a black woman with a light complexion and a child of Spanish descent. Those three followed the Alice out of the outbuilding and toward the kitchen. Jasper also followed, leaving Edward to examine the sick Quileutes. When they got into the kitchen Alice fixed the women and child bowls of wild nuts and grains she had already prepared, and began to cook sweet potatoes and beef into a stew for later. They all looked like they needed a warm, hearty meal. "I'm Alice," she said. "This is Jasper and my brother's name is Edward." "I'm Jessica," the white woman said. The other woman introduced herself as Regina and the child was named Regan.

"Did you walk all the way from Washington?" Alice asked. "No," Regina answered. "We met up with them on the way here. People had talked about some Vampire doctor living down here. We didn't believe it at first, but when everyone was dead we decided to take our chances and try to find help." "Well, you've come to the right place," Alice told her. "Are they contagious?" Jessica asked. "We don't know," Jasper said. "Everyone seemed to get sick. That doesn't mean it's contagious. We don't know what's been killing people, but Carlisle, the Vampire doctor, thinks it might be radiation poisoning or something like that. Are you sick?" "We all got sick and recovered," Jessica admitted. "We met later when people were moving around trying to get away from whatever it was. Are you Vampires?" "Yes," Jasper said. "But we don't feed on people. None of us do anymore. You're safe here, but we'll be moving on soon. This area is going to flood soon. So if you want you're welcome to come with us. There will be some humans there too." Jessica and Regina agreed that it was a good option. The child didn't speak, only stared and ate her food. Alice took food to the Quileutes, who declined the offer to stay in the house. Edward had enough time to examine them physically and read their thoughts. He found nothing to make him feel they couldn't be trusted. Still, as natural enemies to the wolves, he was determined to be extra vigilant. Alice and Jasper helped Edward to mix medicinal teas and make bandages for the sick Quileutes when they were back in their home that afternoon. The women and child were resting comfortably in one of the empty bedrooms. "They still don't trust us," Edward said. "And they're very curious about what happened to us since they last saw us. But I don't think they'll try to slit our throats while we sleep. If they decide to stay they'll have to live apart from the village so they don't prevent Alice from seeing any danger." "Still, I think I'll have some of the night guards stay around tonight," Jasper said. Alice decided she'd go up to the attic and try to catch some visions without interference from the wolves. "They can't phase anymore," Edward informed them before Alice left. "At first it kept them from getting too sick. But they had trouble staying in that form for long because it kept them from being able to communicate with others. Eventually they got so sick that they can't do it anymore." Jasper took note of everything Edward said. There was plenty to do now, and having extra people around would make it that much harder. More mouths to feed meant more work. And until these guests were well and strong they wouldn't be much help. Edward said they should be quarantined, kept away from the other humans who still remained alive, since they could have a different strain of the illness. He followed Edward back to the building where the Quileutes were staying to make sure nothing happened and on the way he instructed everyone that it was okay to get back to work.

xXxXxXxX A/N: long chapter! Anyway, I don't use a beta so please excuse my mistakes. I try to catch everything. I'm an English tutor for crying out loud! Anyway, hope you enjoyed this. I've been meaning to put the wolves back in this story somehow, but I was waiting for the right time. It made sense to me that since they are partly animals they wouldn't be flat out dying. And not all of the humans would be deathly ill, because humans are also subject to mutations and so forth. Some of them would survive. In a previous chapter I might have implied that Alice could see the wolves' futures. It was when Jacob wanted to talk to Bella alone. She did not see the conversation happen, but she saw Bella tell her about it later. That's how she knew what was going on. Anyway, until next chapter… Chapter 23: The Arrival The Vampires had yet to name their new home, but already it was taking shape. Scores of simple buildings had been erected. There were barns and workshops and storehouses, and a small building for an infirmary. Other small buildings housed people, but many were still in tents. Every day, at least one or two new houses popped up, and sometimes more, depending on circumstances. The parts were pilfered from old lumber yards and hardware stores. Sometimes existing structures were cannibalized for wood or masonry. Slowly the Vampires and Hybrids built their new society from pieces of the old one. This new village spread out further with each passing day. And gradually the population grew until almost everyone from the old settlement around the plantation homes had made their way to safety. After months of preparation and constant activity, only a small handful of people remained to transport home. Among those were the three Cullens who had remained behind. They were due home any time now. So much work was carried out every day in the new village that, already, paths had been worn into the ground in the spaces between buildings. The trails of grassless earth reminded the inhabitants of little streets, and they went out of their way to follow these paths. Away from the little homes and work areas, the people had planted their crops. Now the sugarcane and feed grains were beginning to shoot up from the black soil. Livestock grazed over in the pastures where parks and schoolyards once overflowed with human life. Closer to the village, neat little rows of crops were breaking through the soil. The area tended to have an extra long growing season. As long as the last winter had seemed, the summer would seem longer as it came too early and overstayed its welcome. There were multiple water sources nearby, and the villagers had constructed a primitive irrigation system. In time it could be added to or remade in a more sophisticated manner. For now, it would ensure a harvest. Each morning the village came alive just before dawn. Fires were lit and breakfast prepared.

After the morning meal, the day's work began. The village was bustling by sunup. People moved supplies back and forth to sites for new construction. The air would become filled with banging and scraping sounds as buildings were framed and finished. Most of the buildings were simple wooden structures. Wall sections were designed to be removed or reattached to allow for different weather patterns. Stone and bricks from quarries were used to make chimneys and ovens. Eventually they had to begin taking apart brick homes for this purpose. The constant need for more supplies sent groups out of the village on a regular basis. Nothing especially dangerous had occurred during these trips. The Vampires felt safe enough to fall asleep at night, though they continued to post guards. Besides the construction, hundreds of other chores were carried out during the day. When the supply parties brought back building materials, they also brought anything else they could find that might be of use, including clothing and linens, cookware and other kitchen implements, mechanical parts, and so on. So there were always things to be washed, or even sterilized. Medical supplies and tonics were prepared for use by Carlisle and the others he trained to care for the sick and wounded. And with the work that needed to be done, there were often injuries. People also worked on preparing and preserving food. Animals were tended to and slaughtered for their meat and blood. In the village, little was wasted. The skins were processed for use in bedding and clothing, or for leather. Marrow was leached from the bones for nourishment by the Vampires. Any useful part was harvested. Animal waste was put onto fields as fertilizer. They composted, recycled glass, and some worked on new sources of energy for their mechanisms that would eventually make their chores easier. Workshops were used for carpentry and metalworking. Wild plants were gathered for food and medicines. People cared for and educated the few dozen children who had survived and Turned. And always, someone was teaching someone else some useful skill. A few people were responsible for preparing food for the workers when they took breaks. The work went on and on, until the sun was almost set. Then the people would gather for supper and enjoy each other's company for a while. At night, the villagers enjoyed music and stories. Conversations on any topic carried on for hours. Sometimes the children put on plays or puppet shows. And often, people read aloud from books. This was everyone's favorite time of day. Only Bella dreaded this time. When she was busy she could forget her worries for a while. But when she had time to sit and think, she missed Edward terribly and worried about his safety. The Cullens all missed their family members that had stayed behind and anxiously awaited their arrival in the village. After the evening entertainment, everyone went to bed exhausted and hopeful, except for the guards who watched over everyone for the night. Bella prayed every night for Edward to come to her safely and quickly. She was rather lonely in her new home. Most nights she slept near her parents, but other nights she slept in the

infirmary, offering any help that was needed to the unlucky patrons who wound up spending the night there. Often, she looked after the pregnant women. She and Carlisle were studying midwifery together. During his medical career, Carlisle had delivered many babies. But he'd never delivered a baby born to a Vampire. Nor had he delivered a baby in such primitive conditions, though some periods of medical history were quite barbaric, even during the 20th century. He and Bella spent hours reading about natural childbirth from books by firelight. And Carlisle instructed his daughter in all sorts of techniques that were second nature to him by now. … Bella was tired in the morning. She'd stayed up late reading by candlelight. Rosalie helped her wash the dishes from breakfast in a large tub of hot water. "I hope I'm pregnant," Rosalie said cheerfully. Her whole attitude had improve greatly since she found out this might be possible now. It was a hope she'd abandoned more than half a century before. Just the thought of it made her smile without even realizing it. Bella sighed. "You could've waited until the first two were born, Rosalie. We don't know if everything's going to be okay with them yet." "Alice said they'll be fine, Bella," Rosalie said impatiently. "I don't want to wait." "Yeah, well… Alice used to think babies came in the mail too. Besides, we haven't heard from her in a bit. I'm getting worried about them. And about Mom." "Have a little faith, Bella." They finished the washing and Rosalie walked off to work on something else. Bella grabbed the book she'd been reading during breakfast and walked toward one of the barns. She had so much work to do and she was so tired. Sometimes, Carlisle suggested she take a day off. Everyone did at some point, just not all at once. But Bella never dared because she needed the work to keep her mind off of her worries. Before she made it to her destination, Bella was approached by Rosalie, who'd been running and was panting heavily. "They're…here!" Rosalie said between labored breaths. Bella stared at her sister for a minute before it sank in. "They're here?" Bella repeated. "They're here!" She followed Rosalie toward the edge of the village, where a crowd had gathered to watch as the three Cullens approached on horseback, flanked by other latecomers and a horse-drawn buggy full of additional people. Bella fought her way to the front of the crowd and looked across the fields to find Edward among the riders. When she spotted his familiar silhouette against the horizon, she couldn't contain herself and took off running. In response, Edward sped up his horse, galloping toward his new home and the lover he hadn't seen in far too long. It seemed to take an agonizingly long time for the distance between them to shorten. Soon, Bella's muscles ached and her breathing was painfully heavy. She kept running, though, because she could bear it and because Edward's absence was more painful than any muscle cramps.

Finally, when they were closing in on each other, Edward dismounted his horse, without stopping it or slowing down. He landed impressively, considering his speed, and ran the rest of the way to Bella's arms. By then Bella was breathing too hard to speak. Edward just held her very tightly while she caught her breath. When they broke their embrace, both were still speechless. They walked toward home together, and at a much slower pace. Edward kept his arm around Bella's shoulders as they walked. Someone had caught his horse and was tending to the tired beast. The others caught up, finally, and Alice jumped down to greet Bella. Jasper got down and led their horses while they walked home together. The four remaining Cullens walked out to meet them, very slowly, because Esme could no longer move quickly due to her advancing pregnancy. This was the last group to arrive from the plantations by the river. When the Cullens got back to the village, they heard talk of a celebration after the evening meal. Everyone was happy and hopeful, now that their community was complete. The arrival of the wolves caused a bit of a stir. Some of the older Vampires were uncertain about their ability to trust the wolves, considering past encounters. Though the Quileutes and others like them had helped hold off the armies of Newborns less than a year before, there was still animosity between them. The Vampires who'd only been Turned recently didn't know anything about the hard feelings, but seemed to possess a natural distrust for the wolves. Jasper felt more uneasy than he had before because of the sudden increase in anxiety that came from entering the village with their guests. Any distrust the Vampires felt was also felt by the Quileutes, and they decided to camp away from the village. They were given supplies and went off toward another area nearby. For the rest of the day, Bella did absolutely no work, having finally agreed to take a day off. The new arrivals were fed and made comfortable. They rested, as all the villagers had done upon their arrival. Alice, Jasper, and Edward filled their family in on everything that had happened since their last correspondence. "I haven't seen much since they came," Alice said of the wolves. "Things have been a bit stressful since then, but we made the best of it." "There were three humans with them who aren't Quileute," Edward explained. "They'll probably ask to be Turned soon, so they won't get sick again. It seems like they had some sort of natural immunity or something. They survived." Carlisle, who was also taking the day off, listened with interest as they all sat around his home. "That'll have to wait a bit," he said. "We've still got a few here too who survived or never got sick. Some were found when parties went out to gather supplies. But with all the work we have to do, we've decided to only Turn one at a time since it takes so much effort to care for them and so long for them to recover." "I'm glad we have our little oracle back," Esme said, smiling at Alice and squeezing her hand. Her absence had been especially hard on the Cullens. They'd become so used to her foresight over the decades. And beyond that, they'd simply missed her terribly.

Alice smiled shyly, something that they were still getting used to. "It's good to finally be here," she said. "I've seen so much of this place that it already feels like home, just like when we first met you." "Home is wherever we can all be together," Esme said. "And speaking of that, we need to figure out your living arrangements now. I know we've always lived in one big house, for the most part. But we thought it was time you kids had your own homes, especially now that we'll have some new additions." She patted her belly thoughtfully. "Rosalie and Emmett already have a nice little house. And we'll have some prepared for you too." Jasper smiled at the thought. "I'd like to help with that," he said. The thought of building his own house made him feel proud and useful. He'd always fantasized about providing for Alice like a husband should. Before the world ended, he couldn't possibly dream of having a job and earning a living. The only way he'd been able to make money as a Vampire had been by stealing. Now he could do an honest day's work and give Alice a home. He was also very comfortable with the lifestyle they'd adopted since the illness changed them. Sure, they'd become weaker, but now Jasper had weaknesses to overcome that didn't involve the constant burning thirst for human blood. He felt confident in his new form. And beyond that, he'd been used to hard work and simple living in his human life. The hard work he'd been doing in the recent months made him feel human again. It was the same for Edward, though in his human life and the time since, he'd lived rather extravagantly. He still felt much like Jasper did now. He felt almost human again. He also looked forward to getting to work building his new life. And he looked forward to starting his own family with Bella in their new home. "I'd like that too, Jasper," he said. "Cool," Emmett beamed, slapping both his brothers on the shoulder. "We'll start tomorrow." … The evening entertainment was much more lively than usual that night. Normally, everyone was too tired to do anything but sit around and chat or listen to music. But the excitement of the day gave people the extra energy to get up and dance, which was normal on days when people arrived in the village. Amid the laughing and chatter, Rosalie and Emmett managed to sneak off to their house to be alone. This was also normal. The villagers had so much fun that it was difficult to wind down the celebration. But people needed to get up early in the morning, so it was necessary to put an end to the ruckus. While the crowd was still disbursing, Bella dragged Edward off to the tiny room she sometimes occupied in the infirmary, which was currently empty. And as their lips crushed together and their bodies collided, they became reacquainted with one another. They had weeks of catching up to do. Esme made up the extra bed in her home for Alice and Jasper. Usually, Bella slept there, but Esme knew that tonight Bella would not come home. And Alice and Jasper, having been together during all this time, needed significantly less privacy than Bella and Edward. Alice and Jasper were tired from the long day they'd had. They just wanted to relax in each other's arms and get a peaceful night's sleep under the same roof as their parents, whom they'd missed more than they expected to.

It was nearly pitch dark outside once the fires were doused. Only a few were kept going all night for the guards. But Esme left a candle burning for Alice, who didn't especially like the dark anymore. "Get some sleep," Jasper whispered, tightening his arms around Alice. She sighed happily and smiled to herself. "I'm just too excited right now," she whispered back. They lay silently in the dim candlelight, listening as the breathing of their parents got steady and deep, and to the rhythmic beating of their hearts. "I can help you relax," Jasper offered quietly. He never manipulated anyone's feelings anymore without permission, unless it was absolutely necessary. But when he felt Alice's silent nod, he projected the calmness he felt from Carlisle and Esme onto Alice until she was lulled to sleep. Then he concentrated on her peaceful slumber to slip easily into his own. Nights in the village were almost dead silent to human ears. To Vampires, the beating of hearts was now like calming music. Alice slept deeply nearly all night. But she woke hours before dawn, feeling Jasper's warm breath on her hair. She'd been dreaming a nice dream, with laughter and sunshine and cool breezes, when the peace of her sleep was interrupted by a brand new vision. Before, this particular event had been fuzzy and vague. Now, it was clear and sharp. She could see face of the child in Kate's arms. She smiled warmly into the dark room, and whispered to herself. "It's time." Xxx A/N: wooo, I finally wrote a new chapter here. It's been a while. So so so sorry. But inspiration finally hit me, and I finally know exactly how I'll end it. That will be soon, btw. I really love this fic, but it's coming to its natural end. Plus, I've got more ideas and I don't want to start anything else until at least one of the five Twi fics I've currently got going is done. Besides the one "horror" fic I'm doing, the other three will go on for quite a while. They cover years. But I promise this one will end well. I'm not going to turn it sour after all this. If you'd like to know the concepts for the two new ones I'm thinking of, they'll be on my profile. And if you have any inspirational thoughts of the "horror" story I have, go ahead and send them to me. I really don't mind. Thanks for reading and everything. I really appreciate all the reviews and encouragement. Chapter 24: Childbirth A knock on the wall woke Bella. She opened her eyes to find the room gray and still. Edward was still sleeping deeply behind her, and she thought, at first, that she'd dreamed the knock. But it happened again. She couldn't pretend to still be asleep. What if something was wrong?

So she grudgingly got out of bed and wrapped an extra blanket around herself. Even though the days could get quite warm, the mornings were still very cool. Bella went to the door and opened it just a crack. Looking out, she called quietly, "Who's there?" "Me, silly," a high, laughing voice said. It was Alice. "And how was I supposed to know?" Bella asked impatiently. She would rather have still been asleep, and didn't think it was funny that Alice was waking her just to joke around. "How could you think that?" Alice asked, offended. Sometimes, it was still strange to hear a response to something you hadn't even said yet. "Okay, what is it, Alice?" "Oh, nothing. Just that Kate's in labor. Thought you ought to know." "What?" Bella let Alice into the infirmary and waved toward the fireplace. "Get the fire going, would you? I've got to get dressed and prepare." In truth, there wasn't much preparing to do since they had no idea what to expect. Alice built a fire and had it going by the time Bella came, fully dressed, back into the main room. She began to make a fuss over the things on shelves and tables around the room. "Go and wake Dad," she ordered. Alice shrugged and went out. Bella waited impatiently for Alice to come back, but when she was tired of waiting she took off for her parents' home. Carlisle was already up and chatting calmly with Alice. "What are you doing?" Bella practically shrieked. "Kate's in labor!" Carlisle laughed at his daughter. "Calm down," he said. "It's going to take hours. And hours. Let's have some breakfast." While they waited for their breakfast, Carlisle explained that he'd already checked on Kate and was keeping Alice close by, in case anything changed. Garret was with her and things were going smoothly for the time being. Kate was only experiencing mild discomfort. Immediately after breakfast, Emmett and Jasper went to work. Alice wanted badly to join them, so Carlisle told her to go ahead, but to stay nearby and come to him immediately if she saw anything. Bella and Edward followed Carlisle to fetch Kate and bring her to the infirmary. Once there, Carlisle decided that Kate's labor was a great learning experience for his children. He demonstrated how to check Kate over and ensure the labor was going along as it should. He was right about how long it would take. As Kate's labor progressed slowly, Bella kept close watch over her. The day dragged on and the room warmed. Bella opened the door and windows to let fresh air in. Kate walked slowly around the room. "Why don't you take a walk," Carlisle suggested. "I'll be here."

Bella and Edward were eager to get out of the infirmary. While they were very excited about this delivery, they were also eager to spend time together, as they had just been reunited. They held hands and walked around, taking in everything around them. People were hard at work once again, on all sorts of chores. They walked over to where Jasper and Emmett were cutting boards. Some other men were assisting them and Alice walked back and forth, carrying supplies and water. "Wonder if the excitement of last night brought it on," Edward said, squinting his green eyes at the cloudy sky. "The labor?" Bella asked. "I suppose that's possible. But Alice sees everything going just fine. I guess we should trust her visions." "We should trust Alice," Edward agreed. Edward felt restless as he watched his brothers working. If Kate's labor was going to last as long as Alice predicted, he might as well do something useful. After checking with Bella, he went to work with Emmett and Jasper. Bella thought she might help too. She and Alice walked together toward a shed where building supplies were stored. They needed nails. Inside the shed, it was dark and musty. Bella felt suddenly tired. She wondered aloud if anyone would think she was lazy for taking a nap during the day. "I'm so glad we're finally here," Alice said. "It's been creepy, being in that big house with just Jasper and Edward." "You were afraid?" Bella wondered. "Oh, no. It's just been a long time since we weren't with the family. We were very lucky to find Carlisle all those years ago. I've always been grateful that I had the visions, because they led me to him." "What was it like to be on your own?" Bella asked. She thought about all the stories she'd been told while she was growing up, but couldn't remember Alice talking about what it was like to be on her own. Out of all of the Cullens, only three had lived the nomadic lifestyle, regularly feeding on humans and never staying in one place too long. "It was very lonely," Alice said sadly. "But then, I always had Jasper's face in my mind. So I was always longing for him." "But did you feel completely free?" "Yes and no," Alice admitted. "There were no rules, no expectations. And no one was around to judge me when I took a life to feed my thirst. But then, there was no one around at all. The visions were comforting, because I knew I wouldn't always be alone. Things were much better after I found Jasper." Bella wondered what it would be like to be alone with Edward for years and years. "Was it romantic?" she asked.

"It was." Alice got a far away look, a nostalgic smile forming on her lips. "But being with a family is better," she added, shaking herself out of the memory. "It was especially great when we found you." They left the shed and walked back toward the work site, still chatting about the past. Alice stopped in her tracks. Her face showed her confusion. "What is it?" Bella asked, fearing it might be a problem with Kate or their mother. "Everything just went blank," Alice explained. "There must be… Oh! One of those people must be around." "What people?" "The wolves," Alice said. She scanned her surroundings. "There. See? It's that Jacob Black. He's walking this way." "What does he want, Alice?" "I don't know." "I'll talk to him," Bella offered. "You can go back to what you were doing. I'll see you later." "Are you sure?" "Alice, there are people everywhere. I'll be fine." Alice walked away, casting nervous glances back at Bella and the approaching figure. The time she'd spent with the Quileutes around recently had been less than fun for her. Bella, on the other hand, wasn't nervous about speaking with Jacob Black. She was only irritated by the idea that it might not be a civil conversation. It was difficult to get past the natural antagonism that existed between Vampires and Wolves. But Bella was willing to make an effort. "I'm looking for the doctor," Jacob said, stopping near Bella. "He's busy in the infirmary right now," Bella told him. "But is there something I can help you with?" Jacob tensed and stared for a moment. "I need to speak with him." "If you need medicine or something, maybe I can give it to you," Bella offered. She was certainly capable of anything Carlisle could do at this point, unless someone needed surgery. And that would be a huge ordeal. "No, it's about the humans." "Which humans?" Bella asked. There were not many around these days. "All of them."

"Okay," Bella said cautiously. "What about them." "I need to speak with the doctor about the humans. Where is the infirmary?" Bella wasn't sure why, but she didn't want this man going anywhere near the infirmary at the moment. Kate was in a very delicate condition there. Anything could go wrong. The sight of her giving birth might cause some sort of conflict between the two groups. Or Jacob's presence might cause Kate to become upset and affect her labor. On top of all that, Alice needed to be able to see ahead, in case something went wrong. "You can't see him right now," Bella snapped. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to talk to me. I'll have my dad get with you later, if you tell me what this is about." Jacob rolled his eyes and huffed in frustration. Looking around, he realized they were being watched by others. "Fine," he said. "I came to tell him that he can't make them all like you." "What are you talking about?" "The humans," Jacob said, insistently. "We've heard some of them talking about becoming like you. Vampires. You can't do that." "Why?" Bella asked. She knew that many of the remaining humans had asked to be Turned. They had their reasons, she supposed. They would be healthier, stronger. They currently had very uncertain futures. "Because it isn't right," Jacob insisted. "There aren't many left as it is. If they all turn into your kind, the human race will die out completely. And it was your kind that caused all this in the first place. Your doctor can't do this. It's wrong. He should let them live like they are and try to bring back humanity." "It's what they want," Bella said. "It's up to them. I made that decision. And I don't regret it." "It was wrong of him to do that to you. He killed you." "He didn't do anything," Bella said angrily. "My mother did it. And if she hadn't, I'd be dead right now. I'm happy with my life the way it is. I wouldn't change anything." "This is about humanity. Do you really want all of humanity to disappear?" Bella glared at him. She was tired of the conversation. "Look, you're keeping Alice from seeing the future right now. And we have something important going on, so we need her to be able to look ahead. I'll bring it up to my dad, but for right now, can you just go home?" She was beginning to think that the two groups would never be able to peacefully coexist. Jacob walked off. He was clearly angry, but at least he was going away for now. Bella went back to where her siblings were working and told them about the encounter. Alice still saw the humans being Turned. They felt that Jacob Black made a good point. But there was no assurance that leaving them human would be safe. For the time, the discussion was put on hold.

… Dinner was served before Kate was told to push. By that time, she was exhausted. Bella positioned herself so that she could see everything. The sunlight had faded and lamps were lit. The baby would come into the world by firelight. People were gathered just outside the infirmary. Everyone was terribly curious to know what was going on. They were nervous and excited, but no one was celebrating just yet. Everyone hoped that the birth would go smoothly, that the child would be healthy and strong. This one event would be a sign of what the future might hold. Inside the infirmary, the air was thick and warm from the fire and lamps. It was a bit crowded as well, with Carlisle, Bella, Edward, and Garrett all gathered around Kate. She had finally begun to feel severe pain from the labor. Bella instructed her to breathe while Carlisle and Garrett helped her to stand and walk around. Edward felt uncomfortable being in the room, and he thought about how he might make an exit without seeming weak. The whole process was making him queasy. He'd rather go and sit with the rest of his family and wait for the birth like everyone else. "Maybe I should check on Esme," he offered, thinking that it might be a good excuse. "That's not a bad idea," Carlisle said. "I bet she's nervous right now. Go and tell her everything's okay so far." Edward walked out into the cool air. He was glad to get away from Kate. He couldn't exactly feel her pain, but he could hear all the things going through her head. It wasn't the most pleasant thing to witness. "Check in with Alice!" Bella yelled through the door after him. Edward turned and waved his acknowledgement. Esme was deliberately kept away from the infirmary when Kate went into hard labor. Carlisle was concerned that watching or even being nearby would scare Esme. He knew she'd been through childbirth before, but the experience was so far behind her that she was likely fuzzy on the details. Also, he didn't know quite what to expect from Kate's delivery. So he felt it best to keep her safely at home. Edward could still hear Kate crying out when he got near his home. He was looking forward to having a place of his own. But it was nice to have everyone so close by too. He found Esme sitting with Alice and Jasper around the fire. Rosalie and Emmett were outdoors with the others, waiting anxiously for the newest member of their community to begin breathing air. The others were excited to see Edward walk in, and they bombarded him with questions about how things were going. "Has the baby come?" Esme asked frantically. "Is Kate alright?" "No, it hasn't come yet. And Kate is fine right now. I just needed to get away." "I told her," Alice said, shaking her head. Edward sat down and relaxed. "I like using my knowledge from medical school to help people," he said. "But I think I might just excuse myself from all the births in the future."

"Aw," Esme said. "I'd like you to be there when I give birth." Wincing, Edward asked, "Really? You want me to see you pushing out a baby? Can't the girls just do that? I'll stay close by, I promise." "Oh, Edward. This will be your little sister. Don't you want to welcome her into the world?" "Yes, but not from between your legs." They all laughed at him. "I have to agree with Edward there," Jasper said. "That just doesn't seem right. You've been our mother for a while now. We don't need to look up your skirt." "I'd like to be there," Alice said. "Thank you," Esme replied. "I'm pretty sure Emmett will also pass on watching the birth. But I'll have my girls with me." They sat together for a while, exchanging stories and laughs. Things had seemed so heavy since the last war on the beaches; so much had happened. Now their lives could settle down. No more packing and moving and being apart. But they were interrupted by a gasp from Alice. "What?" "It just went blank again!" she cried. Edward and Jasper were up and out the door instantly, calling back to Esme and Alice to stay put. They ran in the direction of the infirmary. They found the crowd still gathered, staring intently at a small group of Quileute men. Edward took a moment to read their thoughts. "They're here to talk to Carlisle," he told Jasper. "I guess they weren't willing to wait." None of the Quileutes or the humans who came with them had seen the pregnant women. It had been kept from them because of the uncertainty that accompanied their arrival. "They're outnumbered," Jasper said quietly. "Let's not think about that right now," Edward countered. He wanted to resolve things peacefully. He approached the leader calmly, holding up his hands to show that he had no intention of fighting. "How can we help you?" he asked. "I've been trying to talk to your doctor all day," Jacob Black said sternly. "No one will tell me where he is." "He's taking care of something important right now," Edward tried to explain. "Tomorrow he'll be available. But right now, maybe I can help you." "This is important," Jacob said intently. He was clearly growing impatient.

Edward knew these Quileutes wanted Carlisle's word that no more of the humans would be Changed. But Carlisle had not made a decision on that topic yet, or even thought much about it. And Edward didn't feel that it was his place to make such a promise on Carlisle's behalf. Such things would likely be discussed among the oldest members of their community before a decision was made. And the desires of those humans in question would be taken into account. So, while Edward wanted to get rid of the Quileutes quickly, he wasn't going to make the promise just so they would go away. Trust was an important thing in the community. And it was a rare commodity between the Quileutes and the Vampires. Lying or making empty promises would only make things worse between the two groups. "We can have a big meeting tomorrow," Edward insisted, hoping the sounds of all the pounding hearts and erratic breathing would continue to drown out the sounds of Kate's labor. Emmett and Rosalie had moved to his side. If a fight broke out, there was no doubt that the Quileutes were far outnumbered. But it was best to avoid violence if possible. "What is a meeting going to accomplish?" Jacob asked. "I need assurance that no more humans will be made into bloodsuckers before then." "No one is getting Turned tonight," Edward insisted. "You can weigh in on the issue tomorrow. Right now, we're having some important things go on. So please, just go home. We'll set something up for tomorrow and discuss everything you want to discuss then. I promise you no one will be Turned before then." That was something he could promise. Jacob stared Edward down for a moment, then nodded cautiously. He was turning to go when a scream pierced the noise of the large crowd. All the Quileutes turned toward the source of the sound, the infirmary. Edward and the Vampires moved to block the path to the small building. Everyone stood very still. The Quileutes had assumed the scream was from a human who was experiencing the burn of Change. There was no more talking, only the pounding of hearts and the rush of air in and out of lungs. Then, quite suddenly, a tiny and remarkable sound broke through the tension. A tiny crying voice escaped the infirmary. All at once—before the Quileutes knew what to make of it—the crowd erupted in applause and cheering. People jumped up and down and hugged each other. The conflict was momentarily forgotten as everyone from the village congratulated each other. Because even those not directly involved with Kate saw this cry as a sign of hope. They would not have to die childless and without legacy. Tears were shed by some. Everyone was quite overwhelmed with emotion. The Quileutes became more annoyed as they failed to understand what was happening. They wondered if the Vampire doctor had just delivered a human child. Edward could sense that. And he saw in their minds that none of the human women who had traveled south with the tribe had delivered live infants. He felt for them because he was almost certain that they would die without offspring. No human women had delivered live babies down south in a very long time either.

Edward's feelings were interrupted when Rosalie suddenly embraced him. She had watery red tears streaming down her face. He congratulated her, now relieved to know childbirth wouldn't be a death sentence. He had already seen Alice's vision of Rosalie with a child of her own. The door to the infirmary swung open and Garrett appeared, holding his newborn son up for the crowd to see. Chapter 25: Tomorrow The sun rose over a ruined civilization. Wind blew through rotting structures and rusting vehicles. Weeds and trees were busy cracking concrete and mortar. Buildings even began to crumble. But in the southern part of the former United States of America, life went on. No one had slept the night before, except for Esme. She was far too tired to stay up and listen to Bella's description of the new infant or the excitement of watching Kate give birth. She was certainly too exhausted to get up and make her way across the community for a peek at the tiny baby. So Esme fell asleep on her own bed, while Alice stayed up writing notes to herself. They were alone in the house for much of the night. Bella and Rosalie and the other members of the Denali Coven attended to the needs of the new parents and child. Emmett spent the early morning celebrating with the others and bragging about his own good news. Edward, Jasper, and Carlisle walked to a neutral location for a talk with their neighbors. Better to get the conversation over with and then get some rest. "I understand your concern," Carlisle said. He was exhausted and wanted to get back to his family. This conversation was beginning to annoy him. Jacob Black leaned forward in his chair. The men had carried chairs over to an area between the community and the Quileutes' camp. It was supposed to be a civilized conversation between neighbors. So far, things had been civil, if tense. No one had raised his voice or made threats. But they had all been up all night. The glare of the morning sun was beginning to give them all headaches. "So, do you agree then?" Jacob asked. Carlisle sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. He had truly hoped to settle the matter quickly. But the subtle cues Edward was giving said that Jacob and his men would accept no compromise on the issue. On the one hand, Carlisle agreed with the Quileutes that it would be tragic to allow humanity to completely die out if it could be avoided. There were still a couple dozen or so humans left between the community and the camp. Those in the camp were against being changed. But many of those in the community had expressed a desire to become the new type of vampire. These humans seemed to have a natural immunity to whatever sickness had decimated the population over the last year. If humanity could be saved, it seemed a moral necessity to save it. On the other hand, there was no evidence so far that these humans would reproduce. If they were all sterile, then changing them might reverse that. And maybe the only way to save humanity was to change those who remained and redefine what it meant to be human. "I agree with you to an extent," Carlisle answered. "But I can't make a promise like that just yet. And I can't let you speak for every human living here. Some don't agree with you. I have

to take their needs and desires into consideration. I can't condemn them to a life of sterility when the population is so small now." "So wait a year," Jacob suggested harshly. It was more of a command, though he had no authority to command the Vampires to do anything. "Just give it some time. Let the humans try." It was beginning to get to Carlisle. Beside him, his sons were also showing signs of stress. He was ready to give up. "Maybe we should continue this later," Edward suggested, reading the frustration on everyone's mind. "No," Jacob insisted. "I want to know that the humans will be safe." "This isn't getting us anywhere," Edward said. "We're certainly not going to come into your space and turn your people. You can rest assured of that." Edward read a new thought on Jacob's mind. The Quileutes didn't plan on staying where they were. They wanted to be away from the Vampires in the near future, set up some place else and build their own society. This was why they needed to keep the humans from being turned. On their own, the Quileute group wasn't very large. Jacob became visibly angrier, saying, "It was your kind that caused all this in the first place. Now you want to do away with humanity completely. It isn't right." Calm settled over the scene, making Jacob angry once again. He knew it was Jasper trying to control his emotions. "Stop that!" "Sorry," Jasper apologized. "Just trying to help." "Listen," Carlisle said. "I think your idea of waiting is probably the right way to go. I don't know how long some of the humans are willing to wait. And I can understand their fear of succumbing to sickness, even though they've survived so far. But I'm willing to suggest to my group that we put a hold on things for a bit. At least until after the next birth. Anyone who doesn't want to be turned can stay the way they are. Believe me, I regret having to play God in this matter. I regret this whole situation." "We should give Alice some time to look at it too," Jasper added. "She's been worried about the babies for the last few months. Now that Kate's labor has gone okay, she can focus on more general stuff." "That's a good idea," Carlisle agreed. "We can agree to put off any turning and just see what happens. Maybe Alice will see something positive in the humans' future. We can base our future actions on what she sees on the horizon. Would that be okay with you?" Jacob took time to think it over. "I guess that'll have to do," he said. He was thinking about how they would have to stick around longer than they really wanted to. For now, his group had plenty of food and clean water, shelter, access to primitive medicine. The situation was tolerable. But he and his men truly wanted to get away from the Vampires, whose kin had caused the downfall of civilization. Despite their actions, Jacob did not see any reason to trust the Cullens with the future of his people.

The group dispersed. Jacob and his men went toward their camp and the Cullens went toward their houses. When Edward went to the infirmary to fetch Bella, Jasper followed Carlisle home. His home was almost right next to Carlisle's, and he could sense Alice's emotions in that direction. He also knew she wouldn't leave Esme's side until someone else was back to be with her. "I'm not willing to make a promise that I might have to break," Carlisle said as he and Jasper were walking home. "That's best," Jasper agreed. "We don't want to start off on bad terms again." "I'm willing to wait," Carlisle went on. "And I certainly won't force this life on anyone again. But if it's what some of the people want, how can I say no?" Jasper stopped at the door to Carlisle's home for a moment. "Just give it some time," he said. "And trust Alice to help you figure it out. Now that she's got herself together again, she just wants to help you do the right thing." "Yes," Carlisle said. "What would we do without her?" They entered to find Esme still asleep and Alice sitting up next to her. "Haven't you slept?" Jasper asked, noting the fatigue evident in her features. "Not until you do," Alice replied, standing shakily. "I can't relax if I don't know you're safe." Jasper shook his head and smiled. "I was perfectly safe, and you know it." "No, I didn't. I couldn't see you when you were with those people. It was scary." "Alright. Let's get some sleep now," Jasper said, taking her hand. Alice looked at Carlisle as if she had something to tell him. "What is it?" he asked. He hoped it wasn't any bad news. He was so tired that he just didn't have the strength to face any more problems. "It can wait," Alice assured him. "We'll talk about it later." Carlisle kissed Alice's forehead and looked toward his bed with longing. "Good, then. If you're sure…" "Absolutely. Go to bed." Alice and Jasper didn't feel insulted when Carlisle simply lay down without showing them out. They could manage by themselves. Alice grabbed her tablet on the way out. "So, what have you been seeing?" Jasper asked, trying to catch a glimpse of the writing. "There are other human survivors out there. Other Vampires too. I've been seeing them." "Oh?"

"So far, I'm not seeing much about their distant future. Just bits and pieces of their decisions. There aren't that many, and they're just focused on surviving right now. They're hunting and looking for places to sleep at night. If we could try to find them…" "Then maybe they could rebuild a human civilization like the Quileutes want. Maybe they can rebuild too, like we're doing." "Yeah," Alice said, swaying just a little from exhaustion. "Maybe that could happen." … Many members of the community were still up. It had been a while since they had been excited enough to stay awake all night, and many were remembering old times when they had been awake perpetually. But the excitement was fading. It was replaced with tremendous fatigue and hunger. Many people were filling themselves with breakfast and then making their way to bed. Bella, Rosalie, and Emmett were among them. Edward found them sitting around a fire with their breakfast plates. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until he smelled the food. Edward began to fill his stomach while explaining everything between gulps of warm milk and bites of food. "I guess I can see how it must seem unfair," Bella said. "We're the sort of evil creatures that they scare their kids with to get them to behave. And here we are, starting new lives and reproducing while the humans are dying out. And all that after Vampires killed off huge chunks of the population." "We didn't do those things," Rosalie said. "I've only killed seven humans. And they all had it coming. I've never killed a human for food." "Shut up," Bella said, rolling her eyes. Besides Carlisle, only Rosalie could make that claim. "No, she's right, Bella," Edward said. "You don't remember what happened back then. You had just been born. We tried to help stop the killing when we realized what was happening. Maybe we should've helped sooner. But you know who wasn't out there trying to stop it? The wolves. They were only worried about defending their own people. Not one of them tried to save the people in the town where you lived." "Good point," Emmett agreed. "And you could argue that humanity created the conditions that led up to that initial massacre." "How do you mean?" Bella asked. "If they had controlled their own population, then maybe the number of Vampires would have stayed small, like it had for millennia. We had rules in place. Every Vampire had to watch what he or she did. Anyone who stepped out of line and started building armies would be dealt with eventually. Anyone who put our secrets in jeopardy would be taken out." "Yes," Edward said. "And something Esme said long ago… Newborns wake up knowing little beyond thirst and pain. But each of us had something from our past lives, except for Alice. I'd lost my parents. Rosalie had been brutalized. Emmett was falling in love. Esme still grieved for her baby. Carlisle had an incredible amount of guilt. And Jasper… I won't try to guess. But we had something left over. Where the Vampire population got out of control, the people were probably starving. Take someone who has only ever known hunger and put him through hell

for three days, and have him wake up with an insatiable thirst. Then add in the strength and speed we had. That's a recipe for disaster. And this sort of human suffering wasn't a natural occurrence. People were starving to death because of overpopulation and greed and government corruption." "That's true," Rosalie added. "Conditions in Asia and Africa, where the outbreaks might have started, those conditions didn't always exist. But people in power helped keep the populations ignorant and starving. If it wasn't Vampires, it would have been disease or nuclear war." Something clicked in Edward's brain just then. "Of course," he said. "Some of those symptoms that killed the humans off might have been radiation poisoning. This latest tragedy might also have been of the humans' making. Maybe a weapon was set off somewhere, or there were multiple meltdowns. Maybe even biological weapons. We don't have any way of knowing." "So, you're trying to say it wasn't all our kind?" Bella asked. "You aren't saying they deserved it, are you?" "No," Edward insisted. "I'm just saying that monsters didn't destroy the world without a helping hand from humanity." They sat and thought about this as they finished their food. The community grew quiet as people settled in for their unusual morning sleep. Bella was the last to drift off. She was still thinking about what life must have been like when people lived and worked in the ruined cities and towns she'd seen. Her knowledge of a normal human society came only from books and stories. And humanity had been obsessed with its own destruction, as evidenced by fictional accounts of the end of the world. Even religions had their own predictions about how it would go. If they were to rebuild, would things eventually happen this way again? Would new monsters arrive to terrify the new Vampire society? Plenty of animosity existed between the groups living in vicinity of the community. That sort of bad blood had led to a lot of bloodshed before. And one could argue that such things as racism and classism had led to the conditions that allowed for the massacre. Bella decided that things between these groups would have to be better if their new societies were to peacefully coexist. She didn't want to think about another battle taking place in her lifetime. Especially if it were over who would be changed and who would not. She didn't know how to accomplish it, but Bella knew that she needed to somehow help the Vampires and Quileutes learn to get along and trust each other. Xxx A/N: thanks for reading, everyone. And the reviews and encouragement are very much appreciated. I wish I could draw or do photo manips. If I could, I'd give you all story art to go along with it. As it is, I can't do that stuff. I'm no artist. Summer has begun and it is so hot here. Hope everyone has a good summer. I will try to get more frequent updates in the future. I own nothing Chapter 26: Plans

One shed was designated the planning room. Old maps hung on the walls, and occasionally, someone would draw curving lines or shade in an area to update them. It was important to track where the water flowed now, though no one was entirely sure how accurate the maps were anymore. The river had flooded, levees had ruptured, and some waterways had probably dried up. When Alice first told them that there were survivors out there, the task of finding them seemed impossible. They could be anywhere. But then Jasper pointed out that humans required certain things to live, such as water and wood for fires. If they followed the river, they'd likely find people living along it. So plans were being made to send out search parties to find living humans and bring them back to safety. This would not happen soon, as there was so much preparation to do. Every effort had to be taken to ensure search parties were safe. They would need transportation and weapons, as well as food and water during their journey. But work was being done toward this already. The maps were to help them decide where to look. Survivors would have moved toward more comfortable temperatures and more plentiful food. They might be living in or near the old river cities, huddled in ruined structures for protection from the elements. Some might also live in the wilderness. Jasper was especially involved in the planning. It presented him with a challenge, which was nice in light of the routine nature of his daily life. It was also an opportunity to improve relations between the Vampire settlement and the human camp. Edward and Alice were helping. It was a nice change of pace. It wasn't that they didn't enjoy their usual work. The usual work was a necessity. The planning was an adventure. It was getting cooler and the days were getting shorter. The mission to find other human survivors might have to wait until the next spring. It was the furthest thing from Carlisle's mind. He was busy getting ready for the birth of his daughter. In the weeks that had passed since Kate's delivery, Carlisle had become fully aware of the reality of this approaching birth. At first, it had seemed like a foreign concept. Even when Esme began to show, the idea of a baby was so far away from the possibilities that he had lived with for hundreds of years. Having taken in teenage vampires and a human infant had not prepared him for this. He felt uncertain and afraid. What if he wasn't a good father? Would he know what to do? Would he be enough help to Esme, while still fulfilling his duties to the community? His first five children never really needed much from him, other than love and acceptance. He'd guided and supported them through their struggles with the bloodlust, their troubles in blending in with humans, and their sense of hopelessness and permanence that came with being Vampires. He'd felt guilty when Edward and Rosalie struggled with their immortality and what they viewed as eternal damnation. He'd been there when any of them slipped and killed a human. When there were conflicts and disagreements, he'd helped settle them. Bella had been easy to care for. None of them needed sleep back then. There were five of them to care intensively for one small child. If one couldn't make Bella happy in the moment, someone else could.

And certainly they would pull together as a family this time as well. The new baby would have two parents and six loving siblings. But the majority of the work in caring for this baby would fall to Esme. Carlisle would have to do his part to make a living off the land and still lend support to his wife when she needed to rest. The task would be daunting. He had asked for help, and it had been given. Rosalie built a cradle for the baby. Bella and Alice helped Esme prepare clothes and blankets. The house was cleaned and insulated and made ready. For her part, Esme was spending her time doing small jobs and resting. She walked around the village with her daughters every day. And she visited Kate often, getting a feel for what her child would be like. Kate's son was the first of his kind, a child born to two Vampires. But in most ways, he was just like a human newborn. He cried when he was hungry, tired, or uncomfortable. Kate fed him from her body, and found that she needed extra food and more blood than usual. Her body had begun to heal immediately after the birth. She was able to walk around and do most tasks with no discomfort now. And her body was now slowly going back to normal. The baby did not need very frequent diaper changes, but he did have nosebleeds. For this reason, Kate tried to keep him vertical during most of the day. And she had learned to anticipate them and prepare so that the blood could be cleaned up easily and he would not swallow it. Esme helped Kate take care of her baby sometimes, trying to get a bit of practice. Carlisle had also spent time with Kate's baby, trying to prepare himself for the responsibilities of fatherhood. He was also very curious about the baby. He began to keep notes immediately after Nathaniel's birth, hoping to learn as much as possible about him in order to help everyone prepare for their own children. Rosalie wasn't the only female to find out she was expecting recently. The community could look forward to a whole mess of children running around in a few years. Carlisle had so much on his mind lately that the mention of all the planning going on annoyed him. He found himself snapping at anyone who brought it up to him. Alice had instructed her own family to avoid the subject. A group called the "Committee of Elders" had been set up shortly after the birth of the community. The oldest Vampires, the ones who'd been Turned before the first massacre, were on this committee. It was felt that they were the most educated, most experienced, and most aware of the problems that the community faced. Therefore, they were the best people to create rules and policies for everyone to live by. And they were the people who everyone agreed to look to for guidance. The job of this committee was to make important decisions that affected the entire community. As one of the Elders, Carlisle was supposed to help make decisions about the search for human survivors. But he didn't particularly want to be bothered with it now. He wasn't the only one, either. Esme and Kate were understandably busy. Garrett was beyond overworked and exhausted. And many of the others were entirely distracted. But the community wanted decisions made soon. So did the Quileutes.

… Jacob Black had been making frequent trips into the community recently, trying to form his own plans. He needed to find out what the Vampires were doing and what help they were planning to give him. He definitely wanted to go out on this search mission himself. He arranged a meeting with the Committee of Elders for this reason. The Elders gathered in a courtyard for the meeting. There was a platform for anyone who needed to address the Elders and present information or requests. The Elders sat in a semicircle in chairs facing the platform. There were only a couple dozen of them now. The area was open enough that the entire village could hang around to listen to what was going on. Many of them took a bit of time from their chores to watch. Bella sat on a bench on the edge of the courtyard with some others, waiting to see what would happen. Jacob stood up first and addressed the Committee. "So, I just want to find out what's going on. I'd like to get going as soon as possible. I'm planning to take a few of my men along with me, but we might need some more help. And we'll definitely need some supplies." Tanya spoke up for the Elders. "Of course," she said. "Let's hear from Jasper." Jasper stood and made his way to the platform. Edward also walked up, carrying maps and notes. "We think it's best to travel along the rivers," Jasper said. "That's our best bet for finding people. We believe that people will be living where they have access to reasonably safe drinking water and food sources. We've highlighted some areas where we think people are likely to be." He pointed to the maps and explained the strategy he and Edward had come up with. "We've been making plans for the search parties," Edward added. "We'll have to plan for months' worth of traveling. Therefore, we think it's best to pack tools for hunting and finding food and try to live off the land during these treks. That won't be easy, but it's our best bet. No matter how many people go or how many horses we take, there's no way we can carry enough food to last the entire time. "Furthermore, we have to think about the safety of the people who go. Of course we'd like to think that anyone we encounter will welcome us with open arms. But given some of the things that happened before we came here, that's just not something we can count on. So we need to make sure our search parties are well armed." "Alice has some things to tell us," Jasper said. He helped her up onto the platform. "Hi," Alice said cheerfully. "I want you all to know that I see us finding people, but I can't see any specifics yet, such as where we'll find them or how it will go. It's very fuzzy. I think it's because we haven't made any concrete plans. If we can at least decide when to leave or who will go, I think it might help me to clear up some visions. "But, I can't see anything involving Jacob or the guys he wants to take, so I'm afraid that I won't be much help with the details." The Elders nodded and talked quietly among themselves. Everyone else stayed quiet. Alice, Jasper, and Edward took their seats in the semi-circle again. All members of their family, excluding Bella, were Elders. Having several Covens in the Committee made things

easier most of the time. They had learned to cooperate long ago, and were able to work out problems fairly easily. The called Jacob Black up to the platform again. "How many men were you planning to take, exactly?" Kate asked. "Myself and three others," he answered. "How many others do you think you'd like to take?" "I'm not sure," Jacob said. "Not too many. Maybe six to ten altogether. Enough to carry out the mission. Maybe someone with medical training and someone who's good with maps. And the one who can see the future." There was an audible gasp from the Elders, followed by complete silence. Faces turned to Alice. "Uh…I wouldn't go without Jasper," she said meekly. "But I couldn't leave the village blind either. I can't see your futures. And I'll have a new sister soon." She went quiet, feeling conflicted. "But you can see things that don't involve us," Jacob argued. "If we gave you space, you could see yourself or your kind meeting up with humans." Carlisle, who had so far been paying little attention, suddenly spoke up. "You're not going, Alice." Everyone then turned to stare at Carlisle. Thought it wasn't his place to make personal decisions for anyone else or for the community without consulting the other Elders, he was still known to be the head of his own family. The entire village knew the Cullens still looked to Carlisle for guidance. And most of them would also disagree with allowing Alice to leave the village on a dangerous mission. Her gift was too valuable. So everyone waited to see what she would say. Alice didn't know what to say. Jasper spoke up. "I agree," he said cautiously, not wanting to order Alice around. "I don't like the idea of you doing something so dangerous." He was saying this for Alice's benefit, not for the Committee's. "I don't really want to go," Alice said. "I think it should be a volunteer thing." "But we'll basically be wandering around aimlessly," Jacob argued. "If you don't come we won't know if we're heading in the right direction. Besides, haven't you put in a lot of work for this already?" "I appreciate your faith in my visions," Alice said. "And yes, I have put a lot of work into this. But I've also put a lot of work into getting to this place and settling here. I'm perfectly happy to stay here and forget about any humans who might be alive out in the wilderness. I'm willing to help you find people, but I'm not putting my life at risk for it." What Alice didn't say, and what none of the other Vampires said, was that they didn't need the humans. They could reproduce now, and they had an adequate gene pool. Helping find more humans was more of a favor to those who still lived around them.

"I think we should ask for volunteers," Tanya said. "All in favor?" The Elders voted quickly, approving Tanya's suggestion. "Great, then," Tanya continued. "Let's give everyone some time to think about it. We'll take names and Jacob can interview the volunteers. We'll leave the decisions to you," she said to Jacob. "Now, we need to decide when you'll be leaving so we can form a timeline on preparations." "The sooner, the better," Jacob said, disappointed. Jasper was going to suggest waiting until spring, or at least until the harvest. That way they'd have enough time to think things trough and take along a decent supply of food. But he figured he'd stay quiet. Alice was right; it should be Jacob's show. He was done trying to protect everyone. He wanted to get on with his life. There was some other business to attend to. The Elders settled matters and began to disperse. … Carlisle called a family meeting. The eight people who called themselves Cullens filed into the village's library. It was a large one-room store house, well insulated with mud and animal hair, where the books were housed on shelves in a very organized fashion. But the library was only partially finished. Hundreds of books were still in crates stacked against the back walls. Some new book cases had recently been moved in and still sat empty, waiting for someone to have time to fill them. Like many aspects of village life, the library was a work in progress. The search parties might, hopefully, come back with more literary treasures. Some spare tables and chairs had been set up in the library for anyone to use. But there was a lot of work this time of year. There was little time for reading during the day. The Cullens sat around the room. Esme was offered the most comfortable chair. The girls took the other chairs, and the boys sat on the tabletops. Carlisle stood. "I didn't mean to speak for you, Alice," he said. "I know you're all adults and you all have the right to make your own decisions. But I'm still your father and I still feel that it's my job to look out for your best interests. Therefore, I don't want any of you volunteering to go on this trip." "Why?" Bella asked. Everyone turned to look at her in confusion. "You want to go?" Edward asked, worried. "It's not that," Bella said, feeling equally confused. "It's just that…I've never really been anywhere. Not like that. I lived in one place for my whole life and only really saw a few other places. It might be fun." "It's dangerous," Carlisle said.

"It seems just as dangerous to stay here," Bella argued. "Anything could happen." "But we have Alice to watch out for us," Edward told her. "And some of the rest of us can use our abilities to protect us in case we have visitors. We're pretty safe here." It would have taken an awful lot of people to overthrow the village. Jasper had trained a security force that could be ready to fight off invaders at a moment's notice. Everyone knew how to defend themselves. Only the young and the pregnant women were especially vulnerable. The rest were strong and alert. Besides, anyone who wanted to invade would need large numbers and plenty of organization. After an apocalypse, people tended not to be well organized. "It would be an adventure," Bella said, remembering the day long ago when Jasper and Alice had taken her to the swamp. "None of you want that?" "I've had enough adventure for a lifetime," Emmett said. This surprised Bella because Emmett had always been especially prone to try new things. "I want to have a family and just be normal for once." "That's what I want for all of you," Carlisle said. "But I'm sure we can find you some adventure around here if you want, Bella." "I agree," Esme said. She'd been quiet the whole time, looking exhausted. "I want you all safe with me." "I don't want us to split up again," Carlisle said. "I want you all here. We spent decades having to move around every few years and hide who and what we really were. We went to work and school, but we couldn't make friends, couldn't have people over. It was so much hiding. We don't have to do that anymore. We can all have the lives we dreamed of." Emmett cracked up. "I dreamed of satellite TV and Jacuzzis," he joked. "But this is nice, too." "We're normal for once," Rosalie said, smiling. "I'm going to have a baby." There was a groan from Esme. "No big deal," she insisted, waving off their concern. "I need to know you'll all stay here with me. Promise." "I guess we'll have plenty of time for adventure," Bella sighed. "Sure we will," Alice said. "But at least we won't live forever." The color drained from their faces and they looked at Alice. "We aren't?" Rosalie said. She'd wanted that, but the reality was sharper than she'd expected. "We'll live a long time," Alice said, looking very calm. "But we'll all die one day. We'll leave behind children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We'll live on. I haven't seen us dying. Don't get me wrong. But I know." "That is the life I dreamed of," Rosalie said.

THE END!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks guys for reading this. Hope you liked it. Once again I did not write this story it was written by drasticpsychobarbie on fanfic.