Les Femmes Noires One-Shot Contest

Title: How Far

Your pen name: D-n-R

Characters: Esme, Bella, Rosalie

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyers owns Twilight and all of its characters.

To see other entries in Les Femmes Noires Contest, please visit the C2 page:

http : //www. fanfiction. net/community/Les_Femmes_Noires/73127/

A/N: This story pulls heavily from Midnight Sun, specifically the meeting scene at the Cullen's dining table. Hopefully this still makes sense if you haven't read MS. Thank you for reading.

Sitting on the bottom step next to Bella's corpse, I held my breath and shook my head sadly.

Edward had been wrong.

I'd been right.

Rosalie had been the danger.

I wished I could wait here for Chief Swan. When he finally returned he would be devastated to find his only child crumpled at the bottom of the stairs. I knew the pain of that kind of loss firsthand; I'd love nothing more than to do whatever I could to help him through. He'd probably been counting his blessings all afternoon that she'd survived the van crash. Now he'd come home to a corpse. How many shocks could one man endure in a day?

Perhaps he should have stayed home tonight, not that I would judge his parenting. And where was the girl's mother anyway?

Bella Swan's head was tilted at an unnatural angle, and her face had turned ashy. Still, I could see what Edward saw in her. She had been a pretty girl.

I swept a stray lock of brown hair off her face and tucked it behind her ear, then gently adjusted her skull to a slightly less gruesome angle. The Chief's nightmares would be bad enough without a horror show. A small pool of blood was meandering across the smooth floor, almost reaching the edge of the living room carpet. The urge to mop it up was strong, but I knew I couldn't.

Sitting on the bottom step, next to Bella, I pondered how I would tell Carlisle. Would Rosalie go home? What would she say?

What would we say to Edward? He would know what had happened before we could explain it all to him. His mistake would haunt him. Her death would haunt him.

"I'm sorry," I whispered to unhearing ears as I rose from the step, cautious of the now-congealing blood. Cracking the front door just wide enough to fit through, I called a friendly goodbye to the occupant of the house. If neighbors saw me arrive, they could hear me leave as well. The door latched solidly behind me, and I walked with unnecessary care down the icy walkway. Pulling the Mercedes away from the Swan house, I headed through the darkness toward home.



Rosalie was the threat here.

That much was obvious, even to me.

Even though I didn't want to think of it.

As much as I didn't want to think any of my children capable of what was being discussed, I knew that if one of them was to go against Carlisle, it would be Rosalie.

Lines had been drawn at my mahogany dining table. Rosalie sat across from Carlisle, claiming the mantle of leadership of the opposition. Or, at the very least, its mouth. Emmett sat next to her, which was no surprise. He may not agree with her... I suspected... hoped... he wouldn't... but he would always support her. That is how he had been since his creation. Jasper loomed behind them, leaning tensely against the wall. Jasper and Rosalie were clearly in agreement.

Edward and I sat by Carlisle.

Alice had drifted into the seat next to me, located more in limbo than on either side of the divide. She paid more attention to seeing the future results of our decisions than actually listening to the discussion that would spawn them.

Both sides wanted what they thought was best for the family. One side felt that killing Bella Swan tonight was the only option.

"Are you going to fix it?

"Not the way you mean."

Rosalie wanted the girl dead.

Edward wanted to leave.


Carlisle wanted us to trust, and wait, and see.

All this because Edward had used his inhuman speed and strength, and the girl had noticed.

That my son would have risked exposing our secret to save a human girl he barely knew should have surprised me. Next to Carlisle, Edward had the most practice at playing human. His ability gave him early warning if he was failing to look human enough. It was completely un-Edward that he would have acted without thinking. Emmett maybe, but not Edward. It was also unusual for Edward to show such interest in someone that wasn't our family. He normally did his best to ignore the humans.

Still, it didn't completely surprise me. I knew he was capable of so much. Compassion. Love. That he had taken a chance to save a girl he barely knew, a girl he'd nearly bitten a week ago, spoke volumes about his character. Or maybe about this girl.

"She won't say anything."

Did she recognize him for what he was? I doubted that; human legends of vampires were far enough removed from the truth that "vampire" wasn't what anyone would suspect of us. Humans, unless unusually perceptive, could never put a finger on what was odd about us. They just felt the danger. But the idea that we weren't normal, weren't human, was dangerous enough. Rumors spread quickly. Rumors could be our death sentence. Keeping the secret was the Volturi's main law; destruction was the punishment for failure.

My family destroyed was unthinkable.

My family fighting with each other was equally unthinkable.

I couldn't have prevented this situation, but I didn't have to accept what was happening. Clearly this argument had started well before my children reached this room, and it pained me to wonder what maliced words had already been spoken. It broke my heart to see the table divide us. My table was a place we came together as a family.

Edward fixated on Jasper, choosing him as the greatest threat. As my oldest son, older than even I was in this life, Edward was quick to analyze the thoughts and memories that he heard in others, but he was often tragically naive with his understanding of what he saw. You couldn't say this to Edward though, and I regretted holding the unmasked thought for any length of time. Sometimes simply suggesting that he was wrong would cement his decision.

I had no doubt that Jasper was mentally strategizing as skillfully as anyone who had been a soldier for many lifetimes. Rosalie's mind would be a tempest of anger; that much was written on her face. Edward would dismiss it as disorganized, dismiss her because she was a woman, or dismiss her because she was "just being Rosalie."

Edward would pick the logical greatest threat.

Edward was focused on Jasper.

He forgot so quickly that Rosalie had plenty of experience with assassination. While her motivation in this situation wasn't as strong as it had been in Rochester, her effort would be far less. She wasn't a newborn this time, so leaving a clean crime scene would be easier. There was only one person to be... dealt with. She wouldn't need to hide her presence as, unlike Rochester, this town would not be surprised to see her walking among the living.

"You know I'm capable of control. I would leave no evidence behind."

"Yes, Rosalie, we all know how proficient an assassin you are."

Rosalie was plainly declaring her intentions. Edward heard everything she said, but still concentrated on Jasper.

Carlisle steered the discussion back to a choice between leaving as a family, or waiting to see if the girl would cause a problem.

"I can't see what will happen if we just ignore this," Alice complained.

Of course Alice couldn't see that future. At least two people at the table were intent on not ignoring the situation, so that future would not manifest itself to her.

Eventually Alice did see some possible distant outcomes.

Bella became one of us, which horrified Edward. Personally I found the idea of another daughter almost as wonderful as the simple idea of Edward finally being in love.

Edward killed Bella, which agonized Edward just as much. I had to wonder what would happen if we fought among ourselves to keep her alive, just to have Edward eventually kill her. Would he survive that?

Alice struggled to see more, as Edward grew more agitated.

"Alice," I began softly, waiting for my daughter's eyes to refocus into the present. She hated the fallibility of her visions and the crushing responsibility of her talent, so it pained me to ask. I hated to burden her with more expectations, but I thought a shorter timeline might be easier, and might help soothe everyone. "What happens tonight? With the girl." If we could get through tonight...

Alice stared once again at a point none of us could see. "She's at home. She had planned to cook dinner, but Chief Swan... goes to the station." Her nose wrinkled. "She'll decide cooking sounds too tiring, and have a bowl of that cereal stuff instead. Then she reads a book..." She frowned and her head twitched minutely toward Jasper.

"The book," Alice repeated with less certainty, rubbing her temples. My heart broke for her, trying to see a future that was undoubtedly fading and changing rapidly, as each person at the table thought of the best solution to Edward's mistake.

"She has cereal," she began again before trailing off once more. What happened to the book? Edward flinched beside Carlisle. Alice turned to Jasper, still staring through him at the future.


Alice slapped her palms down on the table with an echoing smack. Her eyes snapped to Edward.

"Stop that!"

"Tell him to stop." Edward's eyes never left Jasper.

"She should have died today, Edward. I would only set that right."

"She wont pay for my mistake. I won't allow it."

His mistake. How sad that saving a life was a mistake.

"Enough," Rosalie shouted, pushing away from the table. "This is going nowhere. We wait and see." Her sneer was undisguised, and her tone was blatantly mocking. I looked to Edward to call her on a lie, but he did not.

Either she was being truthful, or she was successfully hiding her plans from Edward.

Or Jasper was planning to move first.

"It's decided then," Carlisle declared. "We wait and see if the girl keeps quiet. Alice and Edward will watch for problems." When no one else spoke, he added, "Obviously, no one will... hurt the girl."

I searched my children's faces for compliance. Jasper's face was resigned, decided. Rosalie was seething. Concern was a surprising emotion to see on Emmett. Alice continued to worry at the future.

"Dunno about anyone else, but I could stand to hunt," Emmett suggested with a wink, as if this were a normal day.

Rosalie smirked, eyes flashing icily. "We probably should. Never know when we might need to travel suddenly. Or try in vain to defend ourselves against the Volturi. Might be a good thing to have our strength up!"

Rosalie flounced out the door in a swirl of blonde waves, with Emmett trailing behind her, his broad shoulders shrugging apologetically in our direction.

Jasper stood unmoving, waiting for Alice, but she stayed at the table. For all I knew, he finally tired of Edward's unblinking stare. "Guess I'll hunt too?" he confirmed with Alice.

She pondered just for a moment. "Yes, you do." She quirked an eyebrow at Edward in silent conversation.

"I'm sure he does," Edward replied flatly. "So I think I'll join him."

I don't think he would do anything, Edward, but what about Rosalie? How could Edward be so sure?

He offered me a weak smile, but said nothing, simply rising and following Jasper as he left.


"So her father leaves her alone."

"She tells him she feels fine." Alice had continued to watch the girl's future long after the others had left the house.

"Cereal? Surely she needs more than that."

Carlisle smiled at me. "One dinner of breakfast won't harm the girl, dear."

"But she's recovering from the accident. Maybe I could-"

"Yes!" Alice beamed a smile at me. "You'll take her dinner. Oh that clears most of the evening right up! You talk to her. She goes to bed early." Alice was nearly bouncing with relief.

While the girl really did deserve TLC, I wanted to be nearby in case Rosalie changed her mind. When Rosalie changed her mind.

Or Jasper, although I had faith that Edward and Alice would both be monitoring Jasper closely.

In truth, I was also more than a little bit curious about Bella Swan. What was it about this human girl that had my son running for Alaska ,and my family fighting amongst themselves?

"Well then." I rolled my eyes at my daughter and smiled at my husband. "Apparently I just decided to take dinner to the Swan girl. I'd best be on my way."

Carlisle gave me the Mercedes keys, and I tried to soothe his worries with an embrace and a soft kiss. Cell phone and prop coat in hand, I made my way to the garage, into Carlisle's car, and toward the heart of Forks.


Not having any easily-prepared human food in the house, I decided the charming Forks Diner would have to do for acquiring a human meal. Selecting from the menu was a bit of an adventure. The waitress recommended the pot roast so I ordered that. Then I worried the girl might not like beef. Or maybe she was a vegetarian? I didn't want to bring her something she couldn't eat. I found a meatless ravioli on the menu and ordered that as well. "Isabella" was Italian, wasn't it? They didn't normally do take-out, but a gracious request and a large tip resulted in two styrofoam containers of what I could only hope was adequate food.

The Chief's modest two-story was easy enough to find, just off the main road outside the center of Forks. With a cursory glance I could tell it was structurally sound, the shingles and windows all present and squared, but it needed a loving touch. It cried for a flower bed or a new coat of paint. It wanted to be a home and not just a place to live. I hoped the inside would give more insight into the Swans, especially Bella.

I shook away the distraction and carried my offering to the front door. Minding my strength, I knocked gently, briefly considering the door would do nothing to stop any of our kind if we were intent on getting into the house.

I hated that I thought of that.

I hated that I had to.

Eventually the door squeaked open, revealing a confused-looking girl in rumpled sweatpants. She just stared at me with wide eyes, while warily gripping the edge of the door.

"Hello. Bella?" I asked hopefully.

She nodded, looking around behind me.

"It's lovely to meet you, dear. I'm Esme Cullen. My husband was your doctor today in the ER?"

Bella nodded again. Her cheeks pinked slightly.

"I'm sorry if I'm disturbing..." Does she speak? Just how hard did she hit her head?

"Oh," Bella's forehead creased in thought. "You weren't. I was just... uh... resting." She waved her hand vaguely behind her.

"Resting is good." I tried to give her my warmest smile. She looked so sad and lonely just standing there in her empty house. "I heard about the accident from Carlisle. And Edward." I watched her expression turn to curiosity at that. "I'm sorry to intrude, but I just couldn't resist checking to see that you were alright."

"That's... very kind of you, Mrs. Cullen. Thanks. I'm... fine, really." She waved her hand again vaguely, indicating herself? The house?

"I'm so relieved to hear that. I knew you'd probably be resting, so I thought I'd bring you some dinner so you didn't need to cook." I lifted the white boxes slightly, in case she hadn't noticed them.

She blinked at the boxes, then at me. "Oh, God. I'm sorry," she flustered. "Please come in." The girl stepped back from the door indicating I should enter.

"Thank you, dear," I said as I stepped past her. "These are still hot... if you're hungry now?"

Bella slowly pushed the door shut. "I could eat. I mean, thank you." She fiddled nervously with the frayed hem of her t-shirt as we stood there in the hallway. "The kitchen is that way." Her hand again waved vaguely deeper into the house.

I couldn't help but look around as I moved down the hall. The wall held a few dusty pictures that reminded me of hotel art. Soon the hallway opened into a small living room. It was plain, and untidy, but basically clean. The essential furniture - recliner, couch, and television - declared "a single man lives here." The few decorations looked like mismatched cast-offs someone had picked up at a yard sale. Someone had tried to spruce things up, but that happened a very long time ago. A handful of framed photos sat on the mantel.

The human blanched at my brief curiosity. "Sorry, please ignore," she waved her hand again to indicate... everything? "Charlie," she offered in explanation. Oh, her father. She shuffled further down the hallway and bumped her way around a corner, watching over her shoulder the whole time to see that I followed.

The kitchen was cramped and in desperate need of updating, and Bella quickly indicated the small dining table when she caught me looking around. I placed the two boxes on the table next to each other, then stepped away to give her plenty of room.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know what you and your father liked, so I just picked what sounded good."

"He's not here," she said. I know.

"Well then he can eat his later," I said with a laugh.

She just stared at me with her big, brown eyes.

"A plate?" I tried to prompt her into action.

"Oh," she said. She spun and yanked open a sticking drawer, rattling in a tray of utensils before slamming the drawer closed. "I can just eat it like that... One less dish to wash, you know?"

I nodded and smiled as she poked open both boxes.

"Charlie will love that," she said to the pot roast. She sniffed appreciatively at the ravioli. "This looks delicious. Thank you again. You didn't need to do this." She closed the container of roast and shuffled it into the refrigerator before returning to the table. She half moved to a chair before catching herself.

"I'm sorry! I'm not thinking at all. I should... show you out?"

"Well I could stay for a bit? Keep you company? I'm sure your father hated leaving you here after the day you had."

She shrugged at that, fiddling with her knife and fork.

"Sure," she finally replied. "Company's great. Can I get you anything?" She looked at the ravioli. "Oh! Would you like... I could... I could get plates-"

"No no, dear." I intercepted her nervous rambling. "I ate already, so don't worry about me. You just sit and relax. And eat!"

She sat in one of the mismatched chairs, flinching slightly as the leg slid loudly on the vinyl floor. I slipped into the opposite chair, draping my coat over the high back, as Bella slid the box of pasta closer to herself.

I couldn't help but recall the last girl I faced across a table, this very afternoon.


Now that I had privacy for my own thoughts, I could consider the potential error of Edward's choice. He had to know Rosalie was skilled at hiding her thoughts from him. He had to know she might change her mind at any moment. Why would he follow Jasper? Both Jasper and Rosalie were competent at hiding their thoughts from Edward, and both would have equal odds of hiding their plan from Alice if they so attempted.

Jasper was a planner. Maybe that was the answer? Edward was caught up in whatever plans he found in Jasper's mind. But Edward had to know that once Carlisle's decree had been made, Jasper would most likely follow it.

If Jasper defied Carlisle, we'd lose him, and Alice would follow. Alice was the sibling that Edward would miss the most. Alice would be crushed to be apart from us.

I couldn't see Jasper doing that to Alice. He would consider the fall-out when forming his plans.

Rosalie was mercurial and that was the red flag that Edward was failing to see. She would agree with Carlisle, and change her mind just as easily five minutes later. She would act without worrying about the ramifications.

She'd done it before. She'd gotten forgiveness from us before. Rochester.

If she bothered to think of the aftermath, she would assume she'd be forgiven. Emmett would give her anything. Carlisle and I weren't the first parents who had let her have her way. Rosalie got what she wanted from everyone. She'd expect no different here.

Why didn't Edward realize this? Why did he believe that Carlisle's direction would be enough to stop her?

Rosalie had glared at us.

Bella just stared at me.

"I love your eyes," she said, apropos of nothing.

"Thank you. That's very sweet of you to say."

"They're just like Edward's."

"I know. It's such a charming coincidence," I lied with a smile. Most humans wouldn't have noticed. Most were too uncomfortable to look that closely.

Such an odd girl.

She shoved her pasta around for a bit, apparently lost in thought. Finally she began to eat, and I watched, and filled the gaps with stilted conversation.


To the girl, it must have appeared that I hung on her every word and bite.

In truth, I mainly wondered what Jasper and Rosalie were doing.

Bella liked school, hated being the center of attention, loved books.

So much like Edward.

I hoped Edward was still with Jasper. I hoped Jasper was hunting, and wouldn't make a liar out of Alice.

Bella asked about Alaska, then told me about Phoenix.

So much sun. Our family would never go there. Strangely, Bella's fair skin showed little sign she'd ever been there.

The last place we'd lived with half as much sun was Appalachia, where Rose brought us Emmett.

I wondered what Rosalie and Emmett were doing now. If he'd talked her into looking for larger game, they would be traveling far from Forks. Alice would have more time to see if Rose changed her mind. I'd have more time to act once Alice called with a warning.

Rose's mind changed often. I expected it to change here, especially with the speed at which she'd acquiesced to Carlisle. I expected Emmett would try to talk her out of it, but how far would he go to actually prevent her acting?

Not far.

But I didn't blame him; he loved her.

Midway through her ravioli, Bella brought up the van crash, hesitating on the details.

"Edward just kind of appeared out of nowhere," she said, falsely casual. Her dark eyes shifted between my face and her hovering fork.

"Edward's very fast," I assured her.

She nodded, unsatisfied but oddly unsurprised.

Beyond that we had little in common to talk about. She knew next-to-nothing of Forks or her classmates, had barely met Edward and Carlisle, and after seeing the inside of their house I knew that interior design was a pointless topic.

Finally she'd finished her meal and we were left staring awkwardly across the table at each other.

Barely half an hour had passed, and I needed to stay longer.

"Here. Let me clean that up," I offered as I reached for the now-empty container.

"It's okay... I can-"

"Nonsense, dear. I've got it." I gathered the box and her silverware and stepped away from the small table. "Why don't you go back to the other room? Rest some more."

Bella squeaked her chair back. "Oh. Okay. Thank you, Mrs. Cullen."

"My pleasure dear," I assured her as she padded out the door into the living area.

Outside the kitchen window it was pitch black already. I tidied the kitchen at a slow pace even for a human, taking extra time to wipe down the table and then wash the silverware by hand in the steel sink.

I found the girl sitting nervously on the sofa in the living area.

"Can I get you anything else?" I offered.

"No thanks. Really. You've been more than kind already." She obviously wanted to send me on my way, but didn't seem to know how to broach the topic.

I needed to stay. No matter what it took.

Once you've invited yourself into someone's home, how do you ingratiate yourself for hours? What exactly do you do for entertainment?

"What were you doing when I so rudely intruded?" I winked at her.

"I had been, uh... reading." She fiddled with a worn novel that lay next to her. "So... I'll just get back to that? I'm sure you'd rather be home with your family."

I did want to be with my family. I wanted them together and safe more than anything. Unfortunately that meant staying as close to Bella Swan as possible for now.

Motherly angst worked well on my adopted children. Perhaps it would work on the human?

I took a deep and unnecessary breath. "Bella, I feel terrible about the accident and even worse that you're here all alone. Please. I feel so rude imposing on you like this but I'd feel so much better if you let me stay. I'm a mother, Bella. If you were one of my own you wouldn't be out of my sight until I knew you for sure were alright."

She blinked at me in surprise. Maybe motherly angst was a new thing for her?

"Um, no, I get what you're saying. Sure, you can stay for a while. I mean... if you don't have somewhere else you'd rather be?"

"I don't. The kids are doing whatever it is teenagers do, and Carlisle is probably doing paperwork. Really, there's nowhere I'd rather be." Trust me. I capped off the reassurance with my best convincing smile.

The girl nodded, dazed.

"Okay," she mumbled. "Reading isn't very social, I guess. I could turn on the TV?"

"TV is great," I reassured her. I settled into a lumpy chair that was probably the Chief's. "Whatever you like to watch is fine with me."

She nodded again and took the remote from the coffee table, quickly flicking on the flat-screen. It came on to a sports channel, and she quickly fumbled through some other channel choices. She didn't seem to know what she was looking for, eventually settling on a nature show about wolves.

"I wish they had more interesting shows," she lamented vaguely, and I nodded.

I wished that I could open a window.

It being the dead of winter made that impractical.

I could hear for miles, even through the glass, but I could hear and smell someone approaching much better without the barrier.

The TV droned on about predators and prey. Bella looked bored and uncomfortable.

I wondered if I should go outside. Was it better to stay inside, closest to her? If I went outside I'd have earlier warning, but less access to Bella.

Jasper would have known the best strategy.

Jasper was hopefully far,far away, and with Edward still. Hopefully they were getting along, and not fighting.

I wondered how far Rosalie was.

How far was I willing to go to stop Rosalie?

I had no real training in how to fight one of our kind, but neither did she. If Jasper came for the human girl, I knew my cause was hopeless. But with Rosalie, I had faith I could at least delay her. Perhaps just my presence would be enough, and she would turn away. Yes, she would see that I was protecting the human, and she would turn away.

Probably to try again another day, but at least we would know her plans and what she was capable of doing.

What was I capable of doing? Would I physically fight with my daughter to stop a murder? Could I bring myself to raise a hand against one of my children?

I shivered at that though, unable to even vaguely visualize the scenario.

"Cold?" the human asked. "There's a blanket." She pointed out a tan blanket draped on the arm of the chair.

"Lovely, thank you." I started to pull at the blanket when my phone buzzed in the kitchen. My throat constricted and I fought to not rip the blanket. "Oh, I should check that."

Bella watched me move the entire way into the kitchen. Human speed never felt so slow before. My phone was in the pocket of my coat, and I frantically dug it out to find a text from Alice.

Just one word: Rosalie.

I hastily returned to Bella, who was watching with barely-veiled curiosity. I spun a story without pause. "One of the kids has... misplaced something. It may be in the Mercedes. Do you mind if I go check?"

"Please," she fumbled, confused. "I mean sure, yeah." Bella moved to stand as I did.

"Sit, sit," I insisted. I'll be right back" I hope.

"It's uh, not locked," she said, sinking back into the couch.

I arched an eyebrow at her in scolding. She blushed furiously.

Not that locking would help her tonight.

"I'll be sure to lock it when I come back in." Hopefully she'd understand the teasing in my voice.

The moment I was out on the porch I inhaled deeply. Pine and cars. Mist and ravioli. Normal and human smells.

I stepped silently to the car, listening. Again, normal human neighborhood sounds. As I opened the passenger door for the pretense of "searching," I heard it.

Running footsteps in the woods behind the Swan house. Vampire footsteps.

I stared at the interior of Carlisle's car, illuminated in the warm yellow glow of the interior lights. I desperately wished my husband was here.

That, it finally occurred to me, was my optimal plan. I couldn't fathom actually battling Rosalie, but if I could delay her, distract her, bringing as little harm to her as possible, then Alice would see. Alice would send someone to help. Carlisle? Emmett? Edward?


If Edward came to help, there would be fighting. I would never have thought him capable of raising a hand against Rosalie, no matter how many times he probably wanted to, but this Swan girl had left him changed almost overnight. He was protective of her in a way I'd previously only seen him treat our family. He'd already risked exposing what we were just to save her life. Fighting within the family wasn't a huge leap from there.

I didn't even try to imagine the scene of Rosalie and Edward in combat.

I didn't want to see it.

I didn't want to think about it.

If it came to that kind of fighting, the family would shatter.

Edward would never forgive Rose. Emmett and Rose would never forgive Edward. Jasper wouldn't be able to handle the aftermath of emotions.

I had no idea what Carlisle and I would do.

The footsteps stopped behind the Swan house at the same time the scent reached me.


I spoke low and quick; only our kind would hear my warning. "Rose. No one will hurt the girl."

Her reply was barely masked. "We can't risk leaving her alive."

Her defiance of Carlisle and me was shocking. "Rosalie Lillian Hale. Go home."

There was a pause, only a few human seconds but an inhuman eternity with my heart in my throat.

Rosalie finally hissed her reply. "You can't stay here forever. I'll be back." Then she ran back the way she came.

I blew out a useless exhale, and closed the car door. The interior lights faded away and the truth of her statement stole any scrap of victory I'd felt. I couldn't stay here forever.

How long can I stay? How soon will she try again?

I glanced at my silent phone. If Alice didn't have the answers, who did?

I dashed back into the Swan's house, probably a bit too fast, pocketing my phone as I ran. Winter air swirled around me as I closed and locked the front door.

Bella shivered on the couch. I can't imagine what my expression was, but it piqued her curiosity once more. "Find what you were looking for?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied truthfully, sadly.

"Oh, do you need to go?"

"No, not yet." I retrieved the blanket from my empty chair and draped it across Bella's lap. "Chills call for cocoa, don't you think?" I didn't give her a chance to answer, instead heading into the kitchen. "You have cocoa, right? Where is it?"

"Um, yeah it's uh... in the cupboard over the microwave. But you don't need to-"

"Don't worry! I'll just be a moment."

Rosalie would be back. How long could I manage to stay here? How far could I push this charade?

I found the cocoa mix easily. Sure it could be made in a microwave, but I'd seen Martha Stewart do it "properly." I doubted the Swans owned proper ingredients, but I could make do. I set a small pot of milk to heat on the stove, and found a clean mug drying by the sink.

Despite the darkness beyond the window, I could see everything outside. Still, it was useless to watch because the odds of Rosalie approaching from that direction were pretty slim. I would hear her long before I saw her, but even that could be too late if she was intent on entering the house. So I closed my eyes and listened, and only heard normal noises.

It was frustrating.

And terrifying.

For a while I watched the pot, encouraging it to never boil. Take your time.

Inevitably I had to finish making the cocoa. It was easy to kill a few more minutes cleaning the kitchen though.

I smoothly carried the mug to Bella in the living room. It was as hot as I could get it without scalding the milk. "You'll want to give it a minute," I warned, as she made to take a drink. "It's very hot."

She eagerly sipped anyway and flinched violently, almost sloshing hot drink all over herself.

"Ow, you're right." The girl set the mug down on the coffee table. Her burnt tongue swished around inside her mouth, and she blushed sheepishly at me before focusing back on the current program.

I wanted to pace, or stand silently and listen. Neither were currently appropriate. Dingy curtains were drawn on the front window so I couldn't even watch outside without the girl noticing. Instead I wandered to inspect the items on the mantel.

Front and center was a large photo of a very young Bella, Chief Swan, and presumably her mother. The image showed an unusually sunny day at First Beach. The Chief was holding the girl on one hip, with his other hand gesturing at whomever was taking the photograph. Bella was tipped forward staring at an object in her hand, oblivious to her father's directions. The mother stood to one side, smiling into the distance.

The Chief looked dutifully at the camera. Bella looked at her hands. Mrs. Swan looked at something unknown. It was comical almost.

The other photos were all of Bella, occasionally with one or the other parent, but never again with both.

Where was her mother? Why wasn't she here taking care of her child? Who sends their child away?

I would do anything to keep mine with me, together.

If Rosalie kills the human, it would turn into Edward versus Rose and Emmett. Carlisle and I would likely forgive her, again, but things would be uncomfortable and Edward would probably leave. Or Rose would leave, and Emmett would go with her. Edward would miss his brother. Alice would miss her only sister.

If Jasper killed her, he'd likely lapse and drink her blood and set himself back yet again. He'd need to leave, and Alice would follow him. Separation from the family would devastate Alice, and Edward would miss her terribly.

We'd all miss anyone who left, or was lost. Hopefully we could prevent any of that from coming to pass.

I'd been lost in my head for longer than I thought. When I glanced at the human she was staring at the TV with glazed eyes, taking dozy sips from her mug.

"Tastes alright?" I questioned.

I must have been too still for too long, because the moment I spoke she jumped in her seat and half the mug of cocoa sloshed down her front.

"Oh no, I didn't mean to startle you." I moved quickly to blot the liquid from her clothes with the blanket. Luckily, it had cooled to a temperature that didn't burn her immediately. My cold hands served to take most of the remaining heat away.

"No, its... It just happens to me. Its okay." She pushed the stained blanket onto the floor and stood up. Bella sighed, "I'll just go change." She shuffled up the stairs. A door opened and drawers slid.

Alone, I looked at the photos and at the puddle of chocolate where Bella Swan had been, and didn't think I understood the girl any more than when I had arrived.

Oh Edward, what were you thinking?

I sniffed, smelled.


Upstairs were more footsteps and a door closing. A faucet was turned on.

I listened beyond the house.

Nothing but the normal sounds. Nothing I didn't want to hear.

I snuck up the stairs at vampire speed, in search of smell.


I could smell Edward.

I found the open door of her room easily enough. It was a little girl's room. The only thing that said "teenage girl" was a purple bedspread. This room wasn't Bella.

Silently opening her closet, I found the source of the scent - her jacket. Edward had saved her; his distinctive scent was all over her jacket.

In the bathroom, Bella was rustling fabric, brushing teeth.

Edward had saved her. I was trying to save her, as much for us as for him.

Rosalie could be back at any moment. Jasper could come. There could be fighting. My children would never forgive each other.

And after everything, the girl could kill herself with a cup of cocoa, or trip down the stairs.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I couldn't look.


Time had run out. I stepped out into the hallway just as Bella emerged from the bathroom, freshly scrubbed.

Which way would Rosalie come from? Up the stairs? In a window? I couldn't let her do this.

If after everything... after the guarding, after the fighting, after the danger... the girl's life still ended, the others would be angry, and Edward would be devastated. He barely knew her though; it made no sense. Still, especially if he were the one to kill her, as Alice had seen, he might never recover.

"Oh," the girl squeaked as we almost walked into each other on the landing at the top of the stairs. "I was thinking its pretty late, so I think I'm just going to..." Once again she gestured vaguely, this time in the direction of her room. "I should show you out?"

I could envision Edward blaming himself for eternity. He'd never forgive himself.

"It's nothing personal, dear. It seems I'm nothing but a rude guest tonight." I smiled sadly at her as confusion painted her face.

I listened, but still heard no sign of Rosalie yet. I had to stop her from getting to the human.

The only new sound was the ringing of my phone.

The Swan girl hesitated at the top of the stairs, uncertain because I stood statue-still despite her invitation to go, while my phone trilled in my pocket. I reached out, taking her warm hand to stop her progress. She looked at me again, confused.

"I'm sorry," I explained, taking her by the hand and elbow, and gave her a firm push toward the open air. She tumbled, silent and wide-eyed, finally coming to rest at the bottom of the steep staircase.

I listened to my phone ring and her heart stop.

I had succeeded; I had prevented Rose from killing the girl.

My family would forgive me.

I was the only person that each one of them would forgive.

We were saved.