Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns all.
Rated M for several reasons.
Chapter 18: Capulet's Orchard
I didn't ride like the wind, I unconsciously lost speed as my every instinct was to turn around and go after Paul. But before I could actually do that Edward and Emmett appeared on either side of me.
"Don't worry about Paul," Alice urges me as Edward motions for me to speed up, "Carlisle and Jasper are with him already, he's going to be fine. Everyone is going to be fine as long as you keep riding as fast as you can. I promise you, I can see it."
I growl in frustration but comply, I trust Alice.
The R1 responds immediately with Edward keeping pace and Emmett falling back a bit.
"You can slow down a little," Alice chuckles in my helmet, "Emmett's going to sulk if you and Edward beat him home."
"Okay, you can slow down now if you want. Sam and his pack have gone and Jasper is helping Paul get his motorcycle running."
"Oh thank god," I groan, slowing down a little, "are they all okay?"
"Right as rain," she says with a laugh, "Paul is wearing Carlisle's trousers. Its hilarious, I wish you could see!"
I check my speed. Wow, this thing, and me with it, is really flying! Immediately I ease right off the throttle and my speed falls back to what Charlie would have called 'reckless and illegal'.
Somewhat more relaxed I eventually pull into the Cullen's' driveway, with Edward and Emmett still flanking me.
Emmett speeds ahead to the house but Edward is still beside me as I stop at the bottom of the steps. Esme and Alice are waiting there but before I can move toward them Edward commands my attention.
"Are you okay?" He asks, leaning down to look into my eyes now the visor is up.
"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you, Edward, for coming to my aid."
"You are welcome. Alice saw . . . . we were worried. Emmett and I came as soon as we could."
"I appreciate that Edward, I just wish it wasn't necessary."
He laughs and I raise my eyebrow at him.
"I am not sure you and I have the same view of necessary," he says, moving closer, "I find myself overly concerned with your welfare."
"That's, um. I, um . . . ." Jesus Christ, you're good looking. You have absolutely no right to be this good looking while I have other things to think about. Or at any other time, frankly.
"Bella!" Alice calls, "come inside and we'll get you warmed up!"
Edward and I stare at each other a few moments longer and then I duck away to answer her call.
"Sorry," she whispers as she ushers me inside, "but I saw that if that encounter went on any longer you were going to get super defensive and then offensive."
"Alice, what are you . . . ."
"Paul's almost here," Esme announces, "get Bella comfortable while we get him sorted out. Jake and Leah will be here soon."
"Here," Alice says, shoving a super soft blue lounge suit at me. "Go up to your room and get changed while I make you a hot drink, we can all catch up in a minute."
In my 'room' I head straight out the balcony in desperate need of some long deep breaths of pine scented air. What a day. What a fucking day.
Downstairs the main room is full of people. All the Cullens, Leah, Jake, Paul, and now little old me. Emmett hands me a steaming mug of coffee and I coil myself in the last couch space next to Leah, who absently pats my thigh like I'm a dog or something.
"Okay," Carlisle says, "we're all here, who wants to start?"
"Paul," I demand, "are you okay?"
"Apart from Dr Fang's itchy wool pants? I'm fine, no worries."
"Then why do you look so freaked out?"
"Ah . . . ."
"I can probably answer that," Jake interjects, "Paul has imprinted."
"On Phoebe?" I ask and Paul nods, his cheeks flaming as little dimples appear that I didn't know he had. "Okay, um, mazel tov?"
He smiles and nods, but still looks freaked out.
"I'll explain later," Leah whispers with another pat to my thigh.
"What happened?" Edward asks, presumably for my benefit because everyone else here already knows. As usual.
"Paul sensed Sam's pack behind them which is the vision I got ten minutes earlier. They were after Bella but wouldn't have minded taking Paul down with her. They hadn't planned anything, it looked like they just came across her scent while they were hunting."
"Then they're closer to Forks than we imagined," Jasper observes.
"Yes," Alice confirms, "even so they weren't expecting vampires to show up that fast. So, either they don't know we're still working together, or they just don't know about my gift."
"They probably know we're working together now," Emmett observes wryly.
"So, what do we do?" Edward asks, directing the question at Jasper.
Jasper pulls a face and rolls his eyes at Edward, like he's just been insulted, and Alice pats his arm in sympathy.
I must have looked confused because Jasper explains.
"I am considered the 'military mind' of the family," he says in his slow southern drawl, "so they often ask me how to approach a situation like this. However, they never, ever, like my first answer. And quite often not the second or third, and it gets real old real fast."
Alice pats him again and he captures her tiny hand and smiles at her.
"Option 1, and therefore the most effective option, is to hunt Sam and his pack down and kill them all."
"No!" Several people, including me, object immediately.
"Option 2, if for Bella to leave Forks. Far away from Forks, as it is extremely unlikely that they will feel strongly enough about her demise to follow her."
"No," several other people object this time, but not me.
"Option 3, is for us to carry on as we are now, guarding Bella as a group while we wait for events to overtake us that will more than likely result in Sam and his pack all being killed, and possibly some of us with them."
"Sugar coating not your thing?" Jake asks with a sour smile.
"Not really," Jasper admits.
Everyone starts talking at once, but I can't follow what's being said because I'm a mere human, there's some finger pointing, and everyone seems to be getting angry. With a sigh I wander off to the kitchen in search of sustenance.
However, I don't really know where to start in a vampire kitchen so I'm kind of relieved when Esme appears next to me.
"I know the wolves get hungry so I've ordered a giant stack of pizza," she says, "should be here in about ten minutes. Wine?"
"Oh, yes, please."
"Are you okay?" She asks.
"Yeah, just wondering whether to move to the east coast or head down to Florida to live with Renee."
I nod and sip my perfectly chilled wine.
"There are always more options than the ones Jasper can see," she points out.
"But you leaving is still the best one," a clipped voice observes behind me.
"Rose . . . ." Esme objects.
"No, Esme, it's fine. She's right."
Rose glides across to the kitchen island and hops up to sit on it, regarding me with pursed lips and narrowed eyes.
Esme is unlikely to let her eat me, so I risk raising my eyebrow at her, which causes her to smile slightly.
"I know you think I don't like you," Rose observes, "but that isn't strictly true. I have no strong opinions about you as a person, and no interest. But I was always concerned about the risk you present to our family, and I know that Alice explained the Volturi to you a long time ago. Having dirty smelly dogs after you simply increases the risks to my family and adds another front of danger. Esme is looking daggers at me and doubtless most of my brothers and sisters will side with her, but you are not stupid Bella, and neither are you unconcerned about other people, so we both know that your leaving is absolutely the right option. For everyone."
"Bella leaving does not solve the problem of the conflict between the wolf packs," Esme points out, "and neither does it wipe out our taking a side in it."
"I accept that we seem to have pets now," Rose admits, "although we could just leave too and let the dogs sort it out for themselves."
"They're not dogs, Rose," I snap, "show some class."
She hops off the counter, and circles me slowly, looking down her long nose at me.
"Rose!" Esme warns her.
"It's alright," Rose drawls as she prepares to leave the room, "I think Bella and I know where we stand."
Rose stalks out and I swig my wine while Esme wrings her hands and wrinkles her perfect brow.
"She's right about me leaving," I point out.
"I know," Esme sighs, "but I . . . . we . . . . most of us will miss you."
"I'll miss most of you too."
Our hug is interrupted by the pizzas arriving.
After us food eaters had eaten, I insisted on riding home, which turned out to be complicated as fuck.
Even imprinted wolves know better than to stalk women, so Jake and Paul phased and headed out into the night to talk through Paul's next steps and maybe hunt an elk or two, in lieu of him heading back to Spokane and scaring the shit out his beloved.
Leah headed home to collect Harry from Sue.
The Cullens conferred among themselves and Edward announced that he would be coming home with me to keep an eye on things while Alice and Jasper hunted nearby. I couldn't do anything about it, so I was okay with it.
When I'm done with my ablutions, I wrap up warm, start a fire, and take a bottle of red out onto my balcony.
Immediately I feel calmer and better able to think. And guilty that right now this balcony is the only reason I can come up with for staying in Forks. If only I could take it with me.
The fire warms my exposed cheeks, and the wine works its magic on my insides.
Eventually I get too warm and shed my blanket so I can get up and look out over the railing and into the trees.
"I could use someone sensible to talk to right now," I sigh into the dark.
"I am here if you need me," a familiar voice whispers from the darkness of the yard below.
"You're hanging out under my balcony?"
"I would adventure for such merchandise."
A laugh escapes me.
"O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?"
"A lady who knows her literature," Edward laughs as he leaps up beside me.
"I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet when I was at school," I admit.
"Do you still like it?" He seems curious.
"Not really, it all seems a bit stupid. Communication is key."
He nods and we lapse into a comfortable silence.
"Are you going to leave Forks?" He asks eventually.
"It seems like the most sensible thing to do."
"It is," he admits after a few moments.
"What will happen when I do? To the rest of you?"
"Alice cannot see what Sam and his pack will do. We will stand with our pack, obviously. If it comes down to it there is little damage Sam can do, we are greater in numbers and skill based on all previous encounters."
"And there is nothing I can do to stop that?"
"No. Even if you offer yourself up to Sam as a sacrifice that is not going to resolve the issue of the split pack. And, you should remember, that the split pack is Sam's fault, not yours."
"So, I can't fix this, and Jasper's option one actually has merit?"
"But it doesn't feel right, does it?"
"So, what is the least ruinous option?"
"Least ruinous to who?"
"Will the packs still fight if there are no vampires and no outsider who knows about either?"
"Could we ask? Broker a peace deal?"
Jesus, don't look at me like that Edward . . . .