We are Family

My worst fears were realized when James challenged Edward. I was so proud of Carlisle, remaining firm and calm. We gave Edward, Emmett and Alice time to get Bella out of there before we left with Laurent. James and Victoria started forward as if to join us, then quickly darted away as we ran back to our house. Laurent seemed to be sincerely embarrassed and apologetic about his coven's behavior. After his shower, he listened to Carlisle's explanation of our dietary restrictions with polite interest. At least he decided to go to Denali, instead of siding with James and Victoria. A tracker! This was getting worse and worse.

After Laurent left, I moved to seal the house while Carlisle and Edward discussed the plan to ensure Bella's safety. Rosalie's spiteful response to Edward shocked me, but that was a topic for a later time. Now, I was racing up the stairs to my room to exchange clothes with Bella.

"What are we doing?" she asked breathlessly as I set her down. Poor child, all these rapid decisions going on too fast for her to follow.

"Trying to confuse the smell. It won't work for long, but it might help get you out." I was already out of my clothes, waiting impatiently for her slower human reflexes.

"I don't think I'll fit.." she started to say, but I was already pulling off her shirt. I handed her my shirt and then put on her clothes, then handed her my slacks. I rolled the hem up and pulled her back to the stairs. Alice was already there with an overnight bag. She grabbed Bella's other arm and we flew down the stairs.

Carlisle handed phones out and turned to Bella. He explained that Rosalie and I would be taking her truck. After confirming the success of the plan with Alice, Carlisle said, "Let's go."

Edward crushed Bella in a goodbye embrace and disappeared after Emmett and Carlisle.

After a moment, my cell phone rang. I put it to my ear and tried to ignore the strain in Carlisle's voice. I said. "Now" and Rosalie stalked out the door. I touched Bella's cheek in passing and whispered. "Be safe."

Rosalie had already started the truck and began pulling out as soon as I had closed the door. We drove in silence, both of us looking in the rearview mirror for any indication that Victoria had taken the bait. We spotted the movement at the same time and glanced at each other. Neither of us spoke, in case she came close enough to hear us.

We had been driving for almost an hour when Rosalie made a sharp sound. I spied a glimmer of orange hair rapidly receding from us. I sighed and said, "Well, we may as well turn around. I want to make sure we keep an eye on Charlie."

Rosalie nodded, but continued frowning. I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to deal with this petulance. "Rosalie, thank you for coming with me."

Rosalie looked at me in surprise. "Esme, no matter how I feel about that human or Edward's insane fascination with her, I would never let you go into danger alone."

"That's what makes this so hard to say, dearest Rose. I was embarrassed by your lack of graciousness towards Bella. She is under our family's protection, after all. I know that you don't agree with Edward's actions in this matter, and perhaps you are right, but our strength lies in our unity. Our bonds are not made from fear or desire for conquest, but from love. Despite that, it is important that others of our kind do not perceive us as weak. You've heard enough of Jasper's stories to know that fighting among our kind is not unknown. The difference between us and other vampires are not just dietary. The bonds of a coven are weak, except for mated vampires. We are not a coven, we are a family, and Bella is part of our family now. And, whether you like it or not, she is deserving of the same protection as you or I. How would you feel if Edward ever refused to help Emmett in time of need? Bella is destined to be Edward's mate. Rosalie, dearest daughter, look with your heart. Have you ever seen Edward so happy?"

Rosalie didn't answer immediately. After several moments of silence, she finally looked at me, "Esme, I apologize for disappointing you. You are right. Protection of our family comes first, and since Edward is determined to keep his little human, I suppose I'll have to accept that. I'll help however you need me to, until this is over, but I'm still not going to be her friend. Will that be enough for you?"

"For now, dear. I don't suppose there's anything you can do to make this truck go faster is there?"

Rosalie laughed, "I wish."

"In that case, I better get out and run to Charlie's. After you park this in the garage, could you start tracking Victoria?"

"Of course. The sooner we finish this, the sooner Emmett will be back." She glanced at me, and said quickly, "and the rest of the family."

I quickly outdistanced Bella's ancient truck as I ran back to Forks. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of flame colored hair in front of me, but Victoria's lead was too great. One factor in my favor was a better knowledge of the terrain, coupled with Victoria's desire to lose me. She began angling away from Forks, and probably thought I would follow. Instead, I shot like an arrow straight to Charlie Swan's house. I circled the house checking for Victoria, but she was nowhere around.

I settled in a tree near Charlie's bedroom window when he finally quit pacing and went upstairs to bed. My heart ached for him when I heard a quiet sob. He tossed and turned for hours before falling asleep. Rosalie relieved me just before sunrise, and reported finding Victoria's trail, but no sign of the wild female.

After I had changed my clothes, I headed to the police station in Forks and found a hiding place to observe Charlie from. His shoulders sagged and he looked beaten. His deputy wisely refrained from asking him what was going on.

Charlie was never out of my sight or Rose's for the next two days. Rosalie tracked the female all over town and as far as the airport in Port Angeles. She almost caught her at Charlie's house while he was at work, but Victoria seemed to sense her and abruptly vanished. Carlisle called soon after that to warn me that James might be coming to Forks to start over. I told him what Rosalie's tracing had uncovered.

Carlisle reminded me to be careful, and murmured how he missed me. I called Rosalie to warn her that we might have to deal with the tracker. We decided that both of us should guard Charlie at all times, in case James and Victoria teamed up again.

The next day, I was horrified when Carlisle called to tell me that Alice had another vision and that James was probably on his way to Phoenix and not Forks. Rosalie spoke briefly with Emmett and reminded him not to take any stupid chances. We looked at each other apprehensively after the call. Alice's vision of Bella's death meant that our family was going to be fighting.

Victoria seemed to vanish after we heard the news about James going to Phoenix. Rosalie and I took turns checking for her scent while Charlie sat slumped at his desk, in obvious despair. I longed to comfort him, but there was really nothing I could tell him. I felt a surge of relief when my phone finally rang. My relief quickly vanished as I listened to Alice explain that Bella had left to meet the tracker. Brave Bella was trying to spare us and save her mother. How could she be so brave and so foolish at the same time? She was no match for one of us.

The next call was from Emmett for Rosalie. He was unable to give her an update on Bella because he and Jasper had to leave because of the blood. Emmett confided to Rosalie that it didn't bother him as much, but he knew Jazz was suffering, so he went with him. I could picture his happy grin as Rosalie praised his restraint. Carlisle finally called when they were driving Bella to the hospital. He wanted me to tell Charlie our version of Bella's injuries. He also told me that James had bitten her, but Edward was able to suck the venom out. I was so proud of Edward in that moment.

"Charlie, may I have a moment of your time? It's rather urgent."

"Esme, I'm surprised to see you here. Has something happened?"

"Yes, Charlie. I have some bad news for you. Bella has had an accident…""

"Oh no! I knew that truck couldn't make the trip! Is she alive?"

"Wait a minute, Charlie. Bella is in the hospital. She's going to be ok, but she has multiple injuries. It wasn't a car accident."

Charlie interrupted me, "What happened? And why are you the one to tell me? Did Edward do something to her?"

"Of course not!" I said sharply. "Let me start at the beginning. Edward was very upset when Bella ran off . He's grown very fond of her since she came here and he felt that she was returning his feelings. After she left, he begged Carlisle to let him go to Phoenix to talk to her. Carlisle finally agreed, but of course he wouldn't allow him to go alone. He and Alice went with Edward to Phoenix early this morning. Bella agreed to come to their hotel to meet them. For some reason, she decided not to wait for the elevator and she took the stairs. She tripped and fell down two flights of stairs, then landed in a plate glass window. Carlisle heard the commotion, so he started taking care of her immediately. Alice is calling Renee. She's on her way to surgery right now. Carlisle is going to call you later to tell you how she's doing. Don't worry, Charlie. She's going to be fine."

Charlie had sagged back into his chair with a look of horror on his face. "Will she be disfigured?"

I patted his arm gently, "No Charlie, she has a broken leg, some broken ribs, a lacerated scalp and multiple scrapes and bruises. Luckily, her face isn't cut. Carlisle sewed up her scalp before she went to the hospital, and braced her leg."

Charlie looked relieved, "Poor kid. She got her sense of balance from me. I love sports, but I was never very athletic. He sat up, more focused, " I'll have to call Mark to cover my shifts until I get back from Phoenix. I need to book a flight…."

"I don't think it's bad enough for that Charlie. Bella should be able to come home within a week or two."

"Yea, but home is going to be with Renee, back in Phoenix. She's never going to come back to Forks. She hates it here."

"I don't think that's quite true. One of the reasons Bella agreed to see Edward is that she was missing Forks. She's young, and Edward is the first boy she's ever dated. She was just feeling confused. Everything will work out. You'll see." I kept speaking in a low, soothing tone and watched Charlie visibly relax. The tension went out of his body and he leaned back into his chair. Comforting is an age old skill of mothers. "Who needs Jasper? ' I thought smugly.

"Thanks Esme. You don't know how worried I've been."

"You're welcome Charlie. Would you like me to stay with you until Carlisle calls?"

His grateful look was all the answer I needed. "Can I get you anything? Some water or coffee? Do you need me to bring you something to eat from the diner?"

"No thanks. Excuse me a minute. I need to call Billy and let him know what's happened. I promised him I would call as soon as I heard anything."

"Of course, I'll just go sit out front. Let me know if you need me."

How could I have forgotten about the treaty? What would the Quileutes think had happened? I felt a fresh wave of relief that Edward had been able to stop Bella's transformation. There would have been no way to convince the elders that we had not broken the treaty. Thankfully, the werewolf mutation seemed to have died out, but they still had detailed information about our family. Exposure would mean another hurried move and I wasn't ready for that yet. I pretended to read a magazine while listening to Charlie's call.

"Billy, you don't know what you're saying. Dr Cullen saved her life. If he hadn't been there, she could have bled to death."

There was a pause, as he listened to Billy's reply.

"Well that's where we differ. I'll talk to you later. Bye." Billy hung up the phone too forcefully and muttered, "Superstitious old coot."

I heard his footsteps behind me, but I waited until he was next to me to look up in feigned surprise at his approach. "Everything ok, Charlie?"

"Fine." Charlie looked uncomfortable, then said hurriedly, "Thanks for everything, Esme. Town is sure lucky to get such a good doctor with such a nice family. I'm glad you prefer small town life."

"It's always a safer atmosphere to raise children. There are so many temptations out there for teenagers these days. Besides, with our love of camping and the outdoors, we'd be miserable in a big city. I have to be surrounded by trees, not concrete." I pretended to shudder at the thought.

Charlie patted me on the shoulder and said, "I know what you mean. At least a man can breathe out here. Besides, I doubt there's too many good places to fish in the city."

The desk phone rang abruptly, interrupting our conversation. Charlie picked it up on the second ring, and smiled when he heard Carlisle's voice. "Thank you for calling Dr Cullen, er, Carlisle. Uh huh. Uh huh. When will Renee get there? Will you ask her to call me after she sees Bella? Thank you so much, for everything."

Charlie looked over at me and smiled. "Doc says she's going to be ok. She needed to get some blood, but surgery went fine. They're keeping her sedated right now, so she can't pull anything out. He said that in a day or two they'll cut back on the medicine and she'll wake up. No permanent damage done."

My cell phone buzzed. I put it to my ear and said, "Hello Carlisle. Charlie was just telling me the good news. What time is your flight? Rosalie and I will be there to meet you. Until tomorrow then."

I looked at Charlie, "I'm so relieved that Bella is doing well. She's such a lovely girl, despite being a bit headstrong. But, I suppose every parent of teenagers has to deal with that." Charlie chuckled at that.

I was encouraged by his response. " How are you doing, Charlie? Do you need me to stay longer?"

"Thank you Esme, but I'll be fine. I'm used to being alone. Now that I know Bella's going to be ok, I can relax. I've been frantic with worry ever since she took off."

"A very understandable reaction for a parent. Please promise me that you will call if you need anything Charlie. Even if you just need to talk. I do have more experience dealing with teenagers than you do."

Charlie chuckled again, "That's certainly true. Don't know how you do it. Thank you for everything, Esme. It sure has helped to have you here. I promise I'll let you know if I need anything."

I waved good bye and turned to go. Rosalie had spoken to Emmett earlier about Victoria's disappearance.

Carlisle felt the threat was over and everyone would be coming home soon, except Edward. Jasper and Emmett had already left in the Mercedes. I felt a thrill of pride as Carlisle described how Alice and Edward had helped him with the injured Bella. I wasn't sure if I would have had their stamina. I was especially proud of Edward, to be able to taste her blood and still stop himself was miraculous.

When Rosalie picked me up, she told me what Carlisle had not wanted to say when I was with Charlie. She told me about the tape and Alice's origins. Poor Alice! No wonder she had no human memories.

Rosalie's voice was fierce when she spoke of James, "I wish I had been with Emmett, instead of Jasper. To leave Alice alone like that." She looked at me and smiled. "Looks like James got more of a challenge than he expected. Too bad for him that he underestimated why our family is so strong." A look of complete understanding passed between us. We are family.