Stephenie Meyer owns these characters, but Edward-in-My-Head is mine, all mine.

"They call themselves 'protectors' or something like that." (New Moon, 173).

A/N: I like the idea of the Wolves as protectors. Why should they only exist to kill vampires, after all? What follows is the culmination of a storyline that's been in my head for so long that it has become my canon. I can only ask that you keep an open and inquiring mind as you read.

To set the mood, you might want to watch this video about a wolf pack in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia:

youtube / Zk1WXTeIpEY


Playlist pick:
Howl – Florence and the Machine


From Trespass:

"Enough of this! Stand down, Sam Uley!" The ancient voice pierced the darkness, stopping the wolf in mid-leap. Old Quil Ateara stepped from the shadows, placing himself between me and the unbelievable slavering creature.

"We cannot harm this one," he said. "We owe his father too much."


SPIRIT WARRIOR

"The Wolves, Carlisle! They're back!"

My father didn't flinch as I burst in. He'd been warned I was coming—and in a hurry, too. The moment I appeared, he shot across the study to embrace me.

"You're still in one piece, I see." He gripped my shoulders to reassure himself. Of course I was, but this was no time for chitchat! "Alice was worr-"

"Carlisle!"

He took a step back, dropping his hands like he was pushing my news away. I took one forward, open-armed, and we faced off in an absurd pantomime until he retreated behind the desk.

Placing it between us as a barrier.

As if some flimsy piece of furniture could hold him back if he sprang at me.

His thought stunned me. Why on earth would I do that?

What was going on?

Carlisle was good at hiding things from me when he wanted to, but the truth will always out and he knew it. Exhaling a curse, he took his seat, indicating for me to do the same.

I didn't move. I couldn't, because in that instant he opened his mind to me fully.

He already knew about the Wolves.

My god.

I just stood there, stunned and slack-jawed, waiting for him to explain himself, as my mind whirled on its own merry-go-round.

Of course he knew! I'd been so enraptured with Bella that I hadn't noticed how preoccupied he'd been lately. Since the death of that Makah man, as a matter of fact. And now, Sam Uley's transformation—it was all connected, wasn't it?

I hadn't thought to ask him what was wrong. I hadn't thought to listen . . .

And he'd been banking on my every distraction. Why had I been excluded?

"What happened tonight, Edward?"

Carlisle's abrupt question brought me to my senses; in one breath, I shared everything that had transpired since I'd left Bella's place.

"It's fortunate that Quil intervened when he did," he said at the end. "You could've been seriously hurt." And it would've been all my fault. Bloody hell!

His guilt was irrational and it irritated me. If it had come to a fight, I was confident that Sam would've been the one to come out the worse for wear.

"But why didn't you tell me?" Not just me—the whole family deserved to know. This affected our lives here!

A torrent of guilty thoughts spilled from him. Guilty and . . . resentful. He'd been caught between a rock and a hard place, and not just by me. He pressed his palms into the table, fanning his fingers one by one, as though counting the reasons. But there was only one that really mattered. He looked up with a weary smile.

"Because they asked me not to."

"What?"

"No one was supposed to know. No one living off the reservation, anyway."

He gestured at the seat I still hadn't taken.

"You're right that I should've informed you," he said when we were at eye-level once more. "I'm sorry I didn't. Just, please understand that, at the time, the safest course of action for everyone was to do what was asked of me."

Encouraged by my silence, he continued. "I'd been suspicious for months that there was old magic happening at La Push. I saw and heard things while I was hunting near the treaty line, or doing my rounds at work. Whispers and movement that seemed innocuous enough at the time. But they took on new meaning the night after Jacob Black broke the treaty.

"Everything came to a head a few weeks ago—on the morning of your first date with Bella, as a matter of fact."

That was also the morning the body was found by the old mill . . .

"You can understand why I didn't want to involve you then. You already had more than enough on your plate."

He'd let me pursue a very selfish endeavour with every faith in my success. Knowing now just how much more serious the repercussions of my failure could've been, I was left fighting the urge to spring at him.

"You shouldn't have let me go."

"What good would it have done to forbid you?

"As for the wolves, I believe now that they've always been here, in one form or another, though they remain unmanifest except in times of peril."

I supposed that made sense. Back in the Thirties, we'd been that threat—or so the Quileutes had believed. And later, when we'd gone to La Push to sign the treaty, none of them had been at all surprised to watch their leaders transform into giant canines right before their eyes. To work out the finer details of the document with claws and teeth.

"Their oral traditions date back centuries, as do their stories about the 'spirit warriors,' as they call them. I've been doing some research and found some records that are really quite interesting."

I didn't have much patience for a history lesson just then, but I was prepared to hear him out if it meant I'd get the answers I wanted.

"Did you know that early Spanish explorers were chased off the peninsula by packs of vicious wolves? And about three hundred years ago, there was an earthquake off the coast that triggered a tsunami. Once the ground stopped shaking and the ocean was calm, some of the Quileute warriors called on the spirit of the Wolf so that they could hunt where ordinary men could not go. Or so the story goes . . . "

He gave a bleak sigh. "Of course they have their stories about the Cold Ones, too."

Of course they did. But we'd shown them time and again that we were no threat. Would we be forever forced to prove it?

"So, why now? What's brought them back this time?"

"Our presence threatens them-"

Demon. Leech. Soul-sucker. Their hate-filled thoughts had bombarded me at that meeting on our return, even as the elders and Carlisle put their marks to the new draft of the treaty. Not even Jasper's gift could blunt their fear that night.

"And perhaps this generation needs its heroes."

Heroes? "Sam's not the only one?"

Then when we'd met again, after Jacob Black broke the treaty, Quil told us that there were other vampires hunting humans in the west. He'd been referring to deaths at a remote campsite in Yellowstone, and I realized I'd seen that same carnage in Sam's mind, too. Had he run all the way to Wyoming to chase them off? Were there others?

"He is, so far. But I wouldn't be surprised if there were more that we don't yet know about."

There had to be more. Wolves were pack animals, after all. And the Quileutes were a very small tribe.

"From what I understand, Sam Uley first transformed about two months ago. You can imagine how frightening it must have been to go through that alone."

"Alone? Aren't they forever telling stories about their ancestors?"

"He was raised without a father or grandparents. He had no one to tell him that the stories were real, or to explain what was happening to him."He examined his palm, avoiding my eyes. What would you have done if you'd awoken to this new life alone?

Without foresight like Alice's … ? There was no way I could answer that.

"After his change, Sam hid in the woods until he regained human form. Providentially, he ran into Quil Ateara when he returned. Quil was the only one with enough of the ancient knowledge to understand Sam's condition. He took him under his wing, bought him to the other elders, and they've been guiding him ever since. Keeping his secret. It hasn't been easy, but he's learning to control his paroxysms, and he's come to embrace his heritage and his duty to the tribe very seriously.

"He didn't exhibit much control tonight," I opined.

Nor did you as a newborn, if you'll remember.

I wished he'd stop comparing me to that—that dog!

"I'll assure the band council that you weren't there to antagonize anyone tonight. I'm sure there'll be no more incidents like that in future."

"Why are you so cordial with the Quileutes all of a sudden? And what does all this history have to do with the death of that Makah man?"

His expression blackened."That was an extremely unfortunate incident." That man had a name and he had a life that he could have still turned around. Unfortunately, he never got the chance. Dave Cohlene will only be remembered around here for the way that he died and to me, that's the real tragedy about all this.

"Cohlene was extensively involved with some local bikers who'd started recruiting teens to peddle drugs on the Makah reservation. They'd set their sights down the road at La Push next. Quil got wind of this from some of the Makah elders and of course wanted it stopped before it could start. It was suicide for an old man to confront known gang members on his own, so Sam volunteered to go with him. His control had been exemplary to that point, and so the band council allowed it.

"Quil and Sam went to the cabin where Cohlene was known to conduct business, their intent being to scare him just enough that he'd warn his compatriots off. Needless to say, he was not afraid of Sam or Quil, or the lineage they claimed to represent. In hindsight, they should have brought back-up because the situation quickly went awry. He threatened them with a weapon. Sam leaped to Quil's defense and they came to blows. During the fight, he transformed; his teeth and claws were powerful and Cohlene stood no chance. There was no way to revive him." He paused. "And that's where I got involved . . .

"While the other council members were dispatched to find Sam once he'd calmed down, Quil contacted me. You can imagine that I was somewhat stunned to receive the call. It couldn't have been an easy one for him to make, either, but he was desperate. He blamed himself for putting Sam into a situation he was unable to handle and, by extension, for Cohlene's death. Tradition dictated that if retribution was called for, it would come from his family and the Makah. They wanted the White Man's law kept out of it.

"I was asked to make sure that there'd be no implications during the autopsy and to—how shall I put it?—assist with the police investigation. It was simple enough to remove tire tracks and other traces of Quil and Sam's presence at the scene that human investigators might detect. I also moved the body from the home to a spot near the derelict mill. By the time it was discovered, scavengers had already been attracted by the smell of blood. As far as his fellow gang members and everyone else in Forks was concerned, he'd been attacked and killed by an animal."

Carlisle fell silent. Outside the window, birds were chirping. Dawn had come as we were speaking.

"I didn't relish deceiving Charlie Swan," Carlisle said at last. "He's a decent man. In other circumstances, I've considered him a friend."

He folded his hands in front of him and gazed at me.

"I can't believe you did that – all of it … any of it," I blurted.

Do you think less of me?

"How could I?" Hadn't he covered up our family's failures in just the same ways? "But it doesn't change the fact that Sam's guilty of involuntary manslaughter."

"No, it doesn't. And he'll have to live with that on his conscience. But those weren't Cohlene's parents participating in the ceremony tonight: they were his grandparents and they believe in old magic. They accept what happened to him as justice that's been served."

Totalitarian justice, I couldn't help but think.

"They also believe he was under the influence of evil spirits and that by striking him dead, Sam released those spirits from his body. So the ceremony you witnessed tonight was more than a funeral. They were thanking Sam, in a manner of speaking, and assuring him of their forgiveness."

I snorted. "How convenient."

It's their truth. And you should know by now that the truths we cling to most fervently depend very much on our own points of view.

"I still don't understand why Quil contacted you for help. Even if there had been witnesses, no one would've believed what they'd seen. It could never have gone to court."

Because werewolves don't exist and neither do vampires.

"It's not about a verdict. It's about keeping the secret."

I shook my head slowly, still trying to make sense of it all. "So, where does that leave us now?"

"I suppose we've come to yet another truce."

If only it was so easy.

"And you trust that they'll keep Sam on a tight leash from now on?"

He growled. Must you put it that way? "I do, yes. They'll give me their word. They're nothing if not honourable, Edward."

Their word would be good enough for him, and so it would have to be for the rest of us.

"But if, as you think, it's our presence that's caused the wolves to return, does that mean we'll have to leave?" Even if I couldn't be with Bella forever, there was no way that I could leave her behind while she was still alive. Every fibre of my being screamed in revolt.

"Even if our presence has somehow triggered Sam's change, I've secured peace with the tribe over the consequences. I see no reason to move for the time-being."He wondered why this didn't seem to make me happy.

Something's still troubling you.

"Everything about this troubles me Carlisle."

"Edward."

"They know that I've been seeing Bella."

I'd be surprised if they didn't.

"William Black and his son saw us together once and I believe they've been spying on us ever since." Carlisle might be sanguine about their spying, but I was not. "They know I go to her at night. They think I'm seducing her."

A volley of questions sprang to his mind: how far had we taken our relationship, and how was I withstanding the bloodlust? What he asked instead was, "They think you intend to make her one of us? They don't know you." They don't know you at all.

"They think they have some claim on her. Sam warned me to stay away from her—he said she was his kin. Do you know what he meant by that?"

"I don't. Perhaps that's something you should ask her?"

"I don't know if I can," I whispered, remorse a knife twisting my gut. "We had an argument tonight. It's been building for a while now. She's got it into her head that she wants to be one of us—can you imagine? Her heart's quite set on it." The irony. The greatest threat to Bella's humanity was not me, but her. I doubted the Quileutes would appreciate the joke.

Carlisle opened his mouth.

"Alice hasn't said anything!"

I continued in despair. "Bella deserves to have a life Carlisle, but she won't listen to reason. I said some hurtful things to dissuade her; I hoped she'd drop it but, but I . . . I think we might've broken up, instead."

He was shocked; a broken pair bond between vampires was virtually unprecedented. But then, our relationship was unprecedented, as well. Wasn't it?

"She strikes me as someone who feels things very deeply," he said, after thinking about it carefully. As are you, my son. "Love is complex, and she's so very young. No doubt she's afraid of losing you. To life. To the passing of time. Perhaps it's her way of saying she never wants to let you go."

I doubted it. He knew as well as I did that she was wise beyond her years. And if there was one thing that Bella had no trouble with, it was articulating her thoughts.

He leaned forward across the desk, but stopped just short of taking my hand. Can I help?

"I don't know." And I didn't know why my next question escaped me, either. "Has there ever been a case, do you know . . . of a human that chose to become a vampire?"

"Not to my knowledge. But I barely scratched the surface of our history during my time in Volterra."

And it would be too dangerous to attract the attention of the Volturi by inquiring now; that was a given.

"Do you want me to talk to Bella?"

"No. I-"

Alice was the only one who could help me now, I knew this for certain.

I had to find her.


So there you have it. Feel free to PM if you have questions about the AU Quileute storyline. I'm happy to explain why I chose to deviate from canon, but I won't give away how it affects forthcoming plot. You'll just have to trust me. :)

Thanks are in order: first to my wonderful pre-readers, Malianani and Miokuancha, especially when it came to balancing out Carlisle's thoughts and speech. I've told you what wonderful writers both these ladies are, haven't I? I'm so lucky to know them.

And my sincere thanks to all of you, for sticking with this story during its interminable hiatus, and for your wonderful reviews of the last chapter. (Yes, the pace of my writing IS excruciating, I know!) I've read them all and I appreciate your comments and feedback so much. I'm still trying to catch up with the responses. If you haven't heard from me yet, you will.

Until next time… ~W