A/N: All you need to know about this story before you read it:

1. My characters are not perfect. They make mistakes, they fuck up, and they do things not everyone will agree with. If that bothers you, please don't read. I'm tired of being flamed for having imperfect characters, so I'm warning you ahead of time.

2. This is a vampfic with canon pairings.

3. This fic contains pregnancy. If that makes you irate, don't read. See above.

4. My vampires differ slightly from canon. They still can't eat human food, but they like the smell of it. Their senses are not quite as keen as you usually see (i.e., they can hear conversations, say, on the same floor of the house, but not between floors).

5. There is mention of rape, but no actual depiction. There are mildly graphic depictions of both violence and consensual sex.

Aaaand I think that's it! All usual disclaimers apply.

PS: HelenahJay was saying how she thought Rosalie would be a kick-ass big sister, and I think that's what prompted this, because it seems it's usually Alice who gets cast as Bella's bff and confidante, and I wanted to maybe try something different.

As Children After Play

Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
- A.E. Housman, 1896

Two and a half weeks.

Two and a half weeks it had been since the new girl started at Forks High School, and Alice was about ready to rip her own hair out in frustration as she paced her family's kitchen, trying to get a glimpse of her. Before she moved, Alice had seen several future visions of the small, delicate girl with the big dark eyes Edward was destined to fall in love with. But now, now that she was actually in town, Alice wasn't able to see her at all. Every time she tried, all she saw was hazy, swirling darkness. It didn't make any sense. When people were merely indecisive she was able to see a plethora of possible futures, so it couldn't just be that Isabella Swan was flighty. No, this was something different, and it made Alice want to scream. Never before had her attempts to part the veil of time been so utterly thwarted.

"Still trying?" Esme asked, her voice sympathetic as she came into the room and dropped an absently mothering kiss on the top of Alice's black head. "You're going to give yourself a headache."

"We can't feel the effects of alcohol or anything else fun," Alice said, knowing she was pouting but not inclined to care at the moment. "Yet we still get headaches. Whoever thought up real-life vampires had a sick sense of humor."

Esme chuckled as she watered the plants on the windowsill, then turned to her adopted daughter. "Very true." She cocked her head to the side, her smile gentle and commiserating. "Feel like talking about it?"

"I don't think there's anything new to talk about." Alice threw her hands up as she resumed her pacing. A flash of sun caught the facet of a lacquered nail when her fingers moved, and she was distracted enough to study the ruddy polish. It was about time for either a touch-up or a new color. Maybe tonight she'd be able to talk Rosalie into helping. Even though their vampire bodies were preternaturally still, they did a better job painting each other's nails than their own. Alice couldn't explain it; it made no sense. But there it was, and all the female vampires she'd ever met admitted it.

She pulled her attention reluctantly back to the subject at hand, which wasn't nail polish. "I can't get a read on the girl at all. That's not normal. I'm starting to worry."

"About her, or about your ability?"

Alice winced. "Both, probably. Is it that obvious?"

"No need to be embarrassed. It's just who you are. You're used to having an upper hand and you don't right now. Of course you're worried." She crossed to the seldom-used dining table and sat, motioning Alice toward another chair. "Tell me what you know about her."

"Nothing, I told you! I can't see anything." Alice threw her little self into the chair and it creaked alarmingly. She sent a grimace of apology Esme's way, but the older woman waved it away.

"No, not like that, honey." Esme smiled fondly. "You have other senses besides your premonition. I don't go to school with you, remember? What else have you noticed about her?"

"Oh." Alice thought hard, trying to figure out what Esme might like to hear. It was so difficult, sometimes, to read people without the help of her gift. She wondered how Edward would ever manage if he ran into someone whose thoughts he couldn't read. She snickered a little to herself. It would be quite amusing if that ever happened. "She's really pretty—sweet, you know? Not all shiny like Rose or smooth like you…she's got something else about her."

"What does she look like?"

"Long dark hair, big dark eyes. Little—but she's still taller than me." Alice grimaced inwardly. Practically everyone was taller than her. "Her voice is low—not rough or gravelly like a smoker's but…nice. Not really girly." She thought for a minute. "Not that anyone would know. She hardly talks."

"Maybe it's hard for her, being in a new town and everything. Give her some time."

"See, but that's just it," Alice said. "This isn't a new town for her. Her dad's the chief of police, and she's been spending summers here since she was a kid. The only thing that's new is the school."

"That's still a big change," Esme said. "She still probably needs time." She gazed out the window at the sun-dappled trees without really seeing them. "I wonder just what happened to make her decide to move?"

"Don't know. Half the school thinks she must have had some sort of awful falling-out with her mom and got kicked out. The other half thinks she's not Chief Swan's kid at all, but in witness protection for some reason. The other half really doesn't care, since she hasn't made much effort to make friends with anyone."

"That's three halves," Esme observed gently.

"So I rounded up. So sue me." Alice mashed her chin into her hand, staring morosely across the table at nothing. "I was so sure when I saw her in my vision, Esme. So sure."

"What about Edward? What does he think of her?"

Alice snorted. "Like he'd tell me." She shook her head. "I know they've met; they have biology together. He refuses to talk about it, though. All I know is that he's constantly pissed off because most of the guys at school keep thinking filthy things about her."

Esme fought to keep a smile off her face. "How do you know that?"

"He complains about having to listen to it. It's just impossible to tell exactly what he's so upset about—that he has to hear all the shit in their heads, or that it's about her."

"Have you tried making friends with her?"

"Of course." Alice heard her own voice becoming more impatient, and she tried to calm it. There was no reason to get upset with Esme—she hadn't done anything. "And she's a sweetheart in school. Shy, but I can tell she's smart, and she has a sense of humor. She won't come over, though, or do anything after school or on the weekends. I really don't know what else to try."

"Won't or can't?" Esme asked. "I've never met the chief of police. Is he a strict father, do you suppose?"

Alice shrugged and scolded herself to keep from picking idly at her chipped nail polish. "She hasn't once mentioned him."

"Mm. Let me think about it." She could see that Alice was growing impatient with the conversation again and wanted to be able to move as she fretted. "Anything else?" she asked, willing to give her daughter the room she needed to mope. She knew, as they all did, how much Edward needed a mate, a love, someone to give his eternal life the meaning the rest of theirs had. But these things couldn't be forced. And though Alice hated to be reminded of it, her visions had been wrong before. They were no guarantee that this Isabella Swan was the answer to Edward's loneliness.

"Not really," Alice said, tapping one manicured nail against the gleaming wooden tabletop. She grinned suddenly. "Except that she's a complete klutz."


"Yeah." Alice nodded, still smiling. "It's about all anyone really knew about her before she started school—apparently during summers she hangs out more with the kids on the rez than in town. But a couple kids whose parents work as nurses and orderlies at the hospital say that she's always in there, like clockwork, every summer."

"For what?" Esme asked, and she glanced up to see Rosalie check herself in the doorway, coming to an abrupt halt. Golden eyes narrowed in suspicion as she caught the last few of Alice's words.

"Oh, just klutzy things. Falling down stairs, running into doors, breaking things." Alice's tone was light. "Wouldn't that be funny? Someone so uncoordinated joining this family?" She laughed out loud.

"Right," Esme said as Alice drifted out of the room and up the stairs. She returned her eyes to Rosalie, whose jaw clenched tightly, her face a stony mask, her amber eyes glittering with tension. "Watch," she told her elder daughter.

"Oh, I will," Rose replied, crossing her arms over her chest. A muscle twitched in her cheek, under the smooth surface of her elegant skin. "I'll do more than watch. If something's happening, we'll find out."

"Don't scare her," Esme asked, her voice solemn as Emmett came up behind his mate and slipped his arms around her. "Alice says she's shy."

"We won't, ma." Emmett grinned.

"I mean it," Esme said, a fraction sharper. "The sight of you two is likely to scare her silly if she's as retiring as Alice says. I'd have Jasper do it, what with his empathic gift, but..."

"We know," Emmett said. "It wouldn't do anyone any good if he accidentally made a snack of her."

Rosalie elbowed him sharply in his side, which only made him laugh harder. "Rose, baby," he said, "you can't save everyone. Even if you think they might need it."

"No," she agreed, her eyes still on Esme. "But I can sure as hell try."

Rosalie Cullen sat in the darkness of a cloudy night on the Olympic peninsula. It wasn't raining to speak of; just some light mist, and the occasional splatter of drops the locals called "spitting." Rosalie had learned quickly that the locals here had as many words for rain as the Inuit had (apocryphally, she amended; there was no proof that the urban legend was actually true) for snow.

She had swathed her blond hair with a dark scarf, not wanting the pale strands to give her away as she sat high up in a tree, peering into the darkened window of Isabella Swan's bedroom. Alice's innocent reference to the town joke about Isabella's perpetual clumsiness had set off warning sirens in Rosalie's head, and Esme's, too. If the pretty little high school girl really was a first-class klutz, that was one thing. But if the moniker was actually an attempt to hide something more sinister, Rose had every intention of exposing the cover-up. She and Esme both knew firsthand the insidious mess that abuse made of a young woman's mind, and though their memories of their past human lives were watery and indistinct, the emotions were anything but. Rose wasn't about to sit by and let someone else's life play out the way hers and Esme's had.

By unspoken agreement, she and Emmett had decided not to say anything to Alice until they had an answer one way or another. Their baby sister was overwrought anyway, with her conviction that the new girl was destined to become Edward's love and her inability to see Isabella's future, and her emotional state was so much more delicate than anyone else's in the household. Rose wanted no part in getting Alice worked up over what could—maybe, possibly—be nothing.

Instead she perched unmoving in the tree outside Isabella's bedroom window, listening to the girl mutter as she slept. The words were indistinct, mostly—sometimes not even words, or ones that made sense, anyway. Rosalie shook her head. How terrible would it be, she wondered, to talk in your sleep? To lay yourself bare, be so vulnerable, without the ability to stop it? Maybe without even knowing you were doing it? To Rose, who valued her privacy above nearly everything else, it seemed utterly horrible. While most of what the girl murmured was nonsense, every once in a while an intelligible phrase slipped out, and Rose didn't like what she was hearing. The words stop, please, and sorry appeared far more often than she ever cared to hear.

The tree trembled suddenly, and Rosalie's nostrils flared as she breathed in the familiar scent of her brother, Edward. She hadn't heard him approach, but that was unsurprising. She'd been concentrating on the window, and anyway, Edward was a sneaky bastard. He could be quieter than just about anyone except Jasper when he wanted to. She watched him scramble up to her without turning her head from the darkened window.

"Fancy meeting you here," she said when he was settled on a limb just below her. He didn't say anything, and Rose finally looked at him. His eyes were black, though she knew perfectly well that he'd been hunting just the other day and shouldn't look so hungry yet. Or was it an entirely different sort of hunger? She studied his pale, delicate features, but he was giving nothing away except irritation, and that was par for the course with Edward. Seeing him not irritated or withdrawn was unusual. He was very, very good at hiding whatever else he was thinking or feeling, and Jasper wasn't around to give her any clues. She exhaled impatiently and tried to swallow back her own irritation. "Not speaking, then? That's just fine. I can posit my own reasons why you're here."

He glared, his dark eyes swallowing the night like the inexorable pull of a black hole. "Care to offer your own explanation?"

"I certainly have nothing to hide." She refused to be cowed by his eyes, no matter how much they unnerved her. She'd never seen someone look so hungry, so desperate. "Alice let slip that Isabella's known as a first-class klutz around town. The way she said it made Esme and I agree that we needed to keep tabs on the situation."

"She prefers to be called Bella."

Rose raised an eyebrow at her brother. "So you've spoken with her, then? Or listened to her thoughts, at least? You know, you could save Esme and I a lot of bother and worry if you just tell us whether she's being abused and using the clumsiness as a cover story."

"I could," he said, and his voice was tight, "except I can't."

"You want to run that by me again?"

His jaw was clenched tightly; Rosalie could see absolutely no movement of muscle in his angry face. "I said," he said, through his teeth, "that I can't."

"Has she already, like, sworn you to secrecy or something?"

Edward didn't answer, and after a few moments Rose turned away. There was no point in trying to drag information out of him; he could clam up tighter than a…than a what? She needed Emmett around to provide the humorous comparisons. They weren't really her forte. She watched the window instead. Isabella—Bella—was quiet for the moment. They had no classes together, and she'd only caught glimpses of the girl in the cafeteria and parking lot. She couldn't say yet what she thought of her—she'd never even heard her speak. All she knew was secondhand from Alice, and a little from Jasper. Edward had a class with her, but getting him to relay his thoughts was like…like…fuck. Where was Emmett when she needed him? Probably at home in front of one of the video game consoles. She let one corner of her mouth curve up; he was impossible, infuriating, infantile…and she loved him utterly.

She'd never known what it was like, before meeting Emmett, to be so wholly in love with another person. Her human once-fiancé she had thought she loved, before his violent betrayal. But it was nothing like what she felt for Emmett. She remembered what it was like, in the long years before she'd found him. Though she had Esme and Carlisle, and Edward, it was still impossibly lonely. She glanced sideways at her brother, huddled silently below her, staring steadfastly through Bella's dark window. She knew what he was feeling, and that knowledge made it impossible for her to ever get too frustrated with him. It was awful, knowing your life was the next thing to eternal, but to have no partner to share it with. Family was one thing. It kept them strong. But love, romantic love, was something altogether different. She knew Alice swore up and down that this girl, this Bella, was destined for Edward, but she wasn't holding her breath. It wasn't that she doubted her baby sister's sincerity, but her visions were so apt to change from moment to moment, and she hadn't seen anything more about Bella since the girl moved to town. If Edward saw (or heard, Rose amended) anything, he clearly wasn't sharing. And while he was here—possibly a good sign—he was also angry. She didn't need Jasper to tell her that.

Suddenly, something in her brain clicked. She stared hard at Edward. "You can't read her mind," she accused.

He didn't deny it. A muscle in his jaw twitched.

"Shit, Edward. Is that what you're doing here? Trying to figure out what you can't your normal way?"

"Would it be possible for you to just leave me the hell alone?" His voice was quiet and furious.

"Sure. I'm not Alice. You know I'm more than willing to let you sulk by yourself." Rose paused. "But I already told you what Esme and I think might be happening to that girl, and I will not leave her alone until we know the truth. So if you're going to be stalking her, too, we might have a little problem."

He didn't say anything for a long moment, and Rosalie returned her attention to the window. Bella was mumbling again. The only two words that Rose could catch were hate and cry. She glanced at Edward, fairly sure that he'd heard, too. The familiar hissing sound of Bella twisting and turning in her sheets surrounded them.

"You really think someone's hurting her?"

Rose was a little surprised that he had initiated conversation, but she schooled her expression so it wouldn't show. "Can't know for sure, but she has some of the warning signs. Shy, preternaturally quiet. Won't go places after school. And the big one—this talk of constant clumsiness."

"Has anyone suspected before?"

"How should I know?"

He didn't reply.

"Look, Edward. I know you know Alice thinks this girl is your Cinderella or whatever. But—"

"That's not why I'm here."

Rose blinked. Had he actually interrupted her? By volunteering information? "Are you going to tell me why, then?"

She didn't really think he was going to answer, but he did. "You already guessed it," he said, his voice grim. "I can't see her thoughts; she's a complete blank. I know she's no idiot, so there has to be another reason."

"Things don't always happen for a reason."

"But it's never happened to me before."

Rose studied him. "I don't believe that's your only motive for being here."

"Yeah, well, the rest is private." His voice did not invite further prying.

Rosalie looked at her brother in the misty darkness. He was wearing a beat-up grey hooded sweatshirt with a rip at the throat, and only a little of his messy hair stuck outside the hood. If he were turned any further away from her she wouldn't be able to see his face at all, obscured by the fabric. His black eyes still unnerved her, but damned if she was going to say anything to him about it. His expression as he stared unblinking at the window was not happy in the slightest.

"Private?" she asked, though she knew he didn't want to talk anymore. "Ed, let me ask you something. You don't have to answer." Not that he would anyway. "Would you be sitting here in this tree at three in the morning, listening to a human girl babble in her sleep, if Alice hadn't told you that you were destined to fall in love with her?"

He didn't respond, as she knew he wouldn't. Rosalie stood on a branch, stretching. She heard her spine pop, a familiar noise reminiscent of the long-gone years when she was actually human. Actually alive. "If you're going to sit here all night anyway, I'm going home," she said. She missed Emmett, and would rather spend time playing his idiotic video games than sitting here with her uncommunicative emo vampire of a brother. "Tell me if she says anything else intelligible, even if it doesn't make sense," she said, trusting on Edward's flawless vampire memory to relay the knowledge back to her without fail. "And if you see anything. Like talking to her dad, or whatever."

Edward's head moved minutely, the shadow of a nod that a human would never have detected. He did not look at her as Rosalie leapt lightly out of the tree and lit out for the cover of the forest, picking up speed as she ran home.