Disclaimer: I do not own The Twilight Saga. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc. I make no profit from this writing. (Note: I will not be repeating this in the rest of the chapters.)

A/N: I don't see this as changing Stephenie Meyer's canon storyline really, so I wouldn't call it AU, per se. The events might conflict with a few minor plot details from SM's universe. Characters may be a touch OOC at times.

Okay, this is the companion piece for Damages II: Rosalie. It will include great deal of stuff straight from Damages II, but it's all in Edward's and/or Carlisle's POV, therefore it expounds upon events that Bella may not have experienced.

Chapter 1: Confusion

Even after all that had occurred between the Godforsaken day I left Forks and the glorious day when I saw my beloved Bella again, nothing could compare to the shock of the incidents that this past week had loosed on us all. Stunned though I had been by many of the things I heard and saw about Bella's life during my absence, I would never underestimate what had been happening to her in just the few days after our family hunting trip. What most humans would never face in an extended lifetime, Bella faced in mere days – months at most. However, these events did not only affect my love; our entire family was strongly influenced and changed by each and every one of them. For some that change was good, but for others it might equally be terrible. Not to sound too melodramatic… I was convinced that I was one of the latter.

What irked me most fearsomely was the optimism of my other family members. Carlisle, in particular, had earned my wrath for his undue (or so I considered it) hopefulness. A high temper had often been the bane of the numerous relationships in my life; I was forced to admit that much. My creator, surprisingly to some, had faced a large majority of it. In the beginning, he had been a particularly constant target. Well, the only target really, since I had known no one else upon which to vent my frustration, confusion, and emotional losses in those days. Although I had since learned that exploding on Carlisle produced little, but for painful understanding and unbelievable patience on his part, it did not change the situations which often happened in the first couple of decades we shared. While a great number of those were based in true animosity at times, too many of the incidents were caused by plain confusion.

Quite frankly, if I had a penny for every time I'd gotten confused in the recesses of Carlisle's mind, I'd be wealthier than he is (and that is saying quite a lot). Listening in on his thoughts during the return from my spar with Jasper and Emmett, however, I felt as though I had not known anything more confusing in his mind than what was going through it right then. He had no idea we were on the way back right then and surely did not realize that I could hear his ponderings clear as day – nevermind that I didn't understand them.

When I thought on what I'd once told Bella about my 'reading' distance being a few miles, I almost chuckled at the white lie. Everyone close to me was, indeed, only 'audible' from a few miles away… except for Carlisle. The last time I checked, my adoptive father's thoughts had started coming into my hearing range at about eighteen miles away. Amazing, since the nearest range to that was only about eight miles; Esme currently had the second-furthest distance.

Not that I'd told Carlisle any of this. If he knew just how far I could hear him, he would be so tense and tightly-wound that he would never be able to think straight. As far as he knew, his mind was only open to me at approximately ten to eleven miles, courtesy of a little test we did three years ago, but it had been growing rapidly since then; in the last several months especially. Likely because – as I was so focused on finding some sense of sanity in my black world, during the absence from Bella – I had tried desperately to hear those soothing, encouraging thoughts my father always thought in the early days of our relationship. I had pushed and pulled my limits, trying again and again to actually connect with Carlisle's mind on an entirely separate continent, and cool the craze of loneliness and uncertainty eating away at me. I never succeeded, or so I believed then, but I had recently become almost certain both my incessant attempts and Carlisle's constant concern for me had increased the distance from which I could listen to his thoughts.

For several years now, I had also begun to believe that Carlisle's absolute trust, unyielding faith, and willingness to share with me ever since the start of 'the Cullen family' had opened his mind to my ability in ways my other family did not share. Alice, though she did not know it, was coming in closer than the others on that count, but I had high doubts that she could ever move much farther past the current distance and openness. She had her relationship with Jasper, after all, and that was not something to share with me.

But Carlisle had always shared his deepest mental journeys with me. Even his full relationship with Esme had been open for me to see once he saw how serious I was about Bella. It was so important to see any other examples I could of vampire-human entanglements. Even if Carlisle had not spent long in Esme's company while she was a sixteen-year-old human being, even if Carlisle's time with my biological mother had been very brief… it was useful to see any examples I could of such relationships.

As many times as I had watched the memories of my biological parents through the kindly lens of my creator's vision, I never tired of it. No matter how flawlessly those memories were now implanted in my own head, no matter how much simpler it was for me to watch them through my – now firsthand – account of it, I went back time and again to see it secondhand through Carlisle's own mind. Something about it always reminded me just how strongly he had felt about my mother's plea and how desperately he would have regretted losing me to the Spanish Influenza. Having known me so short a time had not lessened the effect of my imminent death on his heart. It still amazed me that he could feel so strongly for a boy he did not know well at all, but then as Carlisle had told Bella last September, he saw in me the son he would have wanted to have… the son he could never have through natural means.

Taking in a deep breath, which – while being unnecessary – brought me some sort of focus, I admitted to myself some very important things. This weekend was going to be one of the most difficult ones I had ever faced, but I had to go through with it. Not merely because I had promised Bella as much. There was my relationship with Carlisle. That relationship was not one I was willing to relinquish in a fit of temper, no matter how much his vote and Bella's choice upset me.

I found it quite ironic Carlisle was presently thinking of just that choice, albeit in regards to Rosalie and not Bella. Frowning quite deeply at the self-loathing turn of direction which my father's thoughts had taken, thanks to this hapless subject, I wondered briefly why he was even thinking about it in the first place. But then his gaze turned down to his side and I realized with surprise that he had been talking to Bella.

Why on earth was Bella even at our house at all? Alice had plans in Seattle or some such, with Esme and Rosalie, and when I'd asked she had been quite positive Bella was going to be at Charlie's tonight.

As if on cue, Carlisle's changing wonderment explained the situation.

'I do hope Charlie is all right,' he thought concernedly, eyeing Bella's partially-drawn features from his peripheral vision. Her expression worried me. 'Bella is clearly attempting distraction from thinking on his situation, if she is so willing to discuss Rosalie. Edward said she avoids the topic usually… I am glad, though, that Charlie gave Bella over to my care. She needed someone to listen to her troubles. Today has been very trying for her… Perhaps I could call up to Beaver and check on the situation. Someone must be working the phones, if Charlie's station got the call to come up.'

From my knowledge of local geography, I knew that Beaver was north of Forks, the only thing north of Forks until you reached the water. So Charlie was up in Beaver... but why? If he had put Bella in my father's care, then it must be a serious situation up there, but what could it be? I tried to listen intently and see if Carlisle would mention it, but he did not. He decided against calling, instead feeling that the people of Beaver would need the phone lines for more important uses during their troubling circumstances; he moved back to contemplation on Rosalie's bitterness and the life he pulled her into. This left me to block him out as best I could. I knew well enough how guilty he felt for bringing all of us into this existence without our express consent. Yes, I was frustrated – and, admittedly, very hurt – by his decision to change Bella, but I was forced to admit that he was giving her the choice that none of us had. Besides that, I never liked the way in which he tormented himself for turning us all. Carlisle's unkind thoughts towards himself would hardly boost my already-weak mood.

Emmett's and Jasper's thoughts were all so focused on the alone time they would later spend with my sisters that I decided to tune them out as well. For the next few miles, I engrossed myself in arguing (quite relentlessly, I might add) with my own mind over the precarious point which my relationship with Carlisle had reached. It was not precisely what I wished to think about, but it required all the thinking I could give it. Bella was beyond hopeful that the matter be resolved happily and my entire family was in quite an uproar over my current coldness towards our father and leader. Sighing, I raised my hand in a familiar gesture to pinch the bridge of my nose out of aggravation.

It was a vicious cycle that I faced. My feelings towards Carlisle, that is.

On the one hand, I understood that he did not wish to lose his son, which was what most certainly would happen once Bella was gone from this world. That thought drove me to a painful place that I had only truly entered into once before. When Rosalie's phone call came through, when the words had unthinkingly tumbled from her lips, everything fell apart inside of me. Bella was my sun, moon, and stars; she was my heaven on earth.

Heaven for the damned. What a moronic coincidence of phrasing.

On the other hand, I hated that Bella would inevitably become a creature of eternal night, as I was. She deserved so much more than what my world could offer her and I wanted so wretchedly to give it to her, it caused a pang in my long-dead heart whenever I imagined it. How could I take her soul from her and resign her to this dead existence? And to make the feeling even worse, Carlisle was taking my choice away from me. If Bella's reason for joining the supernatural world was me, then shouldn't it be between us two? No one else should cut into our mutual choices.

But it was not Carlisle who had taken the decision from between Bella and me and placed it on the table for all of our family to deal with. Carlisle had not done that in the least; Bella had.

Therein lay the cycle. A cycle of endless questions and doubts and fears I could not squash no matter how I attempted to reason it out in my head.

By the time we entered the limits of Forks, my ruminations had driven me half-mad with consternation. In their place soon after, Carlisle's thoughts caught my attention once more. Without my notice, his mind had taken an entirely different turn from before; one that was much more discomfiting.

'…not after a spar.' Apparently Carlisle was thinking about the three of us. What we would 'not do' after a spar, however, I could not yet tell.

'And the Jeep was gone.' I could not discern the meaning behind the remark, but I did discern that Carlisle was on red-alert, senses attuned to everything he could possibly manage to take notice of. I watched through his narrowed eyes out the back of the house, the light inside doing nothing, but casting a glare on the glass surface. Even with vampire sight, it was difficult to see outside. Through the medium of my father's mind, I sensed as he did when Bella recognized the tension with some surprise and inquired as to Carlisle's wellbeing. His response made me realize precisely what my father was focusing on.

A stranger was out behind the house somewhere, right at the edge of our land. I could not hear their thoughts at this distance, only Carlisle's, but through my father I could definitely hear them moving in the undergrowth. It was too small for a wolf, and too swift to be a human. That left only another vampire.

'Too close!' Carlisle thought loudly, running through all the scenarios in which he could evade this visitor. I sighed in partial relief at the options he was considering. None involved fighting, if he could help it. He merely wanted to ensure Bella was safe. That calmed my mind enough that I could think more clearly, but still I worried. I didn't know what to do. If this stranger did attack, Carlisle was not exactly a fighter from what I knew, and Bella was vulnerable. I could not lose Bella, and I knew the loss of Carlisle would destroy our family. But I had no information to go on! Whoever the stranger was, they knew how to avoid cluing us into their exact location. It was maddening and infuriating to be so useless.

"Emmett, trade me," I rushed the words out at top speed, only half-understandable to my brothers, but Jasper had been noticing my spike in emotions for the past five minutes. He was about ready to head to the house on foot anyway to see what was wrong. His eyes, taking on all the qualities of the major he once was, were ready for strategy. Good.

"What?" Emmett asked, confused as anything. 'Man, what did I miss? Something's up. Edward's face looks like it's been clamped. Hope Bella's okay.' My burly brother had no idea how close he was to the truth.

"Trust me," I implored Emmett intensely and though he was still confused, he trusted enough to acquiesce to me. At the wheel finally, I pushed the Jeep faster to the point of causing a whine in the motor.

Carlisle called out to me as he recognized the familiar sound of the Jeep approaching and immediately his mind seemed a much easier path to tread. It always was when he purposefully opened his thoughts to me. Carlisle noticed the rustling growing stronger and closer to the property line and my panic grew as my father's did. But something changed dramatically, in an instant. The visitor, as well, must have finally heard us as we approached the street where the drive to our house began. Through Carlisle's thoughts, the sound of the stranger's movements became so easy to pinpoint it was ridiculous. I now knew in what direction they were heading, as did my father.

'They're running Southeast. You'll have to hurry.'

I warred within myself over whether or not I should be the one to go after them, but my need to be beside Bella and ensure her safety was too strong. The Jeep whined again as I floored the pedal and immediately got Jasper on the move with words so swift he almost didn't comprehend them. "Intruder. Heading Southeast of the house. Carlisle's been listening since we entered city limits. They've heard us, but you'll find the trail."

Jasper didn't wait to be told twice. In a flash, he was running in the prescribed direction with a vengeance, Emmett hot on his heels. Both of their thoughts strayed to fighting, defending, but catching the stranger was foremost. Thankful for their quick reaction, I pushed the Jeep further yet, to its utmost limits as I sped up the drive, and spun around in the front meadow to face the house. I noticed nothing at I rushed inside, but for the scents of my father and Bella. Poor Bella was so tense that Carlisle worried over her muscles becoming cramped. Now that he had heard Jasper and Emmett pass through the back yard, he was much more relaxed. Not completely, but enough that he now was trying to soothe Bella's anxiety so she did not have a nervous breakdown. Not for the first time, I was glad my father had taken up the medical profession.

The relief in Bella's features when I simply laid my hand on the back of her neck lightened my heart a little. Contrary to her relief, Carlisle worried. 'You heard the sound, did you not?'

"I heard. Jasper and Emmett are on the trail," was my brief response, but I was too concerned over Bella's safety and Jasper's progress now to do much else. A few miles away, my brother was certain that he had never smelled the scent before. This concerned me, but there was nothing I could do as yet.

"Do you know what it was?" Bella's shaking, worried voice partially softened me out of my anxiety. Carlisle softened as well, tightening his arm about her shoulders in comfort. The gesture reminded me that I would do far more good sitting beside Bella and comforting her than standing rigid with apprehension. I was beside her in less than a second, wrapping my arms around her waist tightly. It was very comforting to feel her warmth and hear her pulse beating beneath her skin. Even Carlisle's hand, caught between my chest and Bella's shoulder, added to the comfort. He was a steady presence and would be there to defend Bella if need be; his thoughts said as much.

'We will not allow anything to harm her, Edward,' he projected directly to me. 'And now you'll be able to hear any intruders long before we see them.'

I nodded my understanding towards him, then turned to answer Bella, "It was definitely a vampire. No one Emmett, Jasper, or I recognize. They were gone before we came into a range where I could have heard them."

"I should have called out to you sooner," Carlisle's words were synchronized with his thoughts; he only spoke aloud for Bella's benefit. I completely disbelieved his idea, however. Without his thoughts being so focused on the stranger's movements, I'd have had no idea where they were.

"You were right to concentrate on the sound, rather than sending a mental message for me," I shook my head in definite disagreement. "I'm glad you were so focused on it. I wouldn't have heard it so clearly otherwise."

"I'll check the scent," were the next words he uttered and I nodded absently in agreement. As he disappeared from the house, I wondered briefly if he would be able recognize this intruder, but dismissed the idea almost immediately. I doubted that anyone Carlisle knew would feel like sitting back in the shadows as if they were a skulking thief. Either they would come as a friend or they would strut arrogantly in my father's face. The Volturi preferred pomp and circumstance to precede them and while it was pretentious, I was pleased by the need. For it gave warning of their coming.

"Edward." Bella's sigh of relief snapped me from that disturbing train of thought, and to my appreciation, she laid her head against my chest. The action soothed my frayed nerves somewhat.

"I'm sorry Charlie had to go," I could not help myself from whispering into her ear. Carlisle was right to believe she was distracting herself from worry. "But he'll be fine. You'll see."

I meant that, too. Meant it more strongly than almost anything else I had ever promised her. Alice would see if something happened to Charlie and I had no doubt she would prevent it in any way possible, as would I. The questions were clear in Bella's eyes as to my intensity, but Carlisle's return saved me from answering.

"I didn't truly expect to know them, but…" His worried tone dragged me back into the pit of anxiety I seemed to be digging for myself.

"It's disconcerting," I agreed darkly. Nothing about this made me feel at ease. Something else kept me uneasy, though; something I had not noticed until my father had come back a moment ago. His thoughts were blocked again, as they had been for days. Strange how I had not acknowledged the freedom of his thought process until it was closed off again.

"The girls."

If I was not concerned for Emmett before, I certainly was now. His typically-jovial voice conveyed all the ancient sadness which I usually carried with me. Bella, too, recognized this sadness, but even as much as I yearned to comfort her, I could think of no words. Emmett's feelings were still something of a mystery at this particular place in time and he wasn't being detailed in his mind, either. On that rare occasion he purposefully blocked me, Emmett was good at it. Mostly it was because his thoughts reached a Mike-Newton-level of annoyance or because the things he envisioned put Rosalie in situations I'd rather not see her participate in. Nevertheless, as often as I had chided Emmett's single-mindedness, it was really a talent when it concerned blocking my ability.

No doubt Carlisle was concerned as he wondered, "Alice didn't call, Jasper?"

"Not for a few hours," answered Jasper. "I called once and—"

"She picked up?" Bella's interruption was decidedly unexpected and it brought us to stare impolitely at her. The flush on her face proved how little she had intended to blurt out her query. In spite of her impromptu reaction, she had already said it and now it piqued my curiosity. Why was Bella was so surprised? A sigh of comprehension came from Carlisle and I cursed his blocked mind, for it denied me the understanding he had clearly gained.

"Yes, she did," Jasper answered Bella suspiciously, honing his ability in on her emotions so as to gauge what reaction this caused in her. From out of Bella's astonishment, hurt blossomed. To me this explained nothing, but my blond-haired brother was one step ahead of me.

'Alice ignored her call,' he thought to me before continuing aloud, "She didn't pick up for you, did she?"

"No," Bella's embarrassment came in double force, through her blush and through Jasper's extra sense. Who knew what on earth embarrassed her, but I could tell that the remaining hurt was still related to Alice's ignoring her phone call.

"That doesn't sound like Alice." Jasper's frown and seeming naiveté of his own wife's actions had my eyes rolling in vague irritation. Honestly, did he not know Alice at all?

My psychic imp of a sister had been blocking my ability for a few days now. Infuriating as it was, there was little I could do to change it. When Alice was steady on her course, no one could sway her. All the same, it clued me into the fact she was planning something. At the strength she was keeping me out, I suspected it was actually more than one thing. Ignoring her best friend was such a strange thing to do as well, so much against Alice's natural liking for Bella's companionship that I had no doubts she was planning quite heavily. Somehow, a reticence towards Bella was necessary to this plan. That was the part I disliked the most. Not hearing my sister's mind was easy, compared to seeing Bella hurt over this sudden distance with her closest friend.

Well, I didn't care what Alice was planning. We were going to talk – and soon – about this situation; Bella wasn't going to be unnecessarily hurt any longer.

"Actually, it sounds quite a lot like her," I debated Jasper's statement with some dry humor, for which he made no effort to hide his disdain.

"Meaning what, exactly?" he countered with a spark in his eyes that I recognized with ease. Defensiveness for my dark-haired sister filled his mind like wildfire.

For the love of all that was holy, did he seriously believe his wife was full of only sunshine and daisies? Alice was small, and innocuous at times; a sweet-natured girl with so much enthusiasm she had to let it out in her own gregarious way. From first hand experience, I could prove those ideas right… to an extent. But anyone who thought Alice Cullen was unable to be downright conniving had another thing coming. No one who saw the future and made it work to her advantage was innocent of some amount of vicious ambition, no matter how small. It was lucky for all concerned that Alice's ambition was only to keep her family happy and safe. If she had turned to the dark ways for which vampires were recognized, rather than the alternate way of life which my father had created for us, I shivered to think what she might have become.

With a vexed sigh at Jasper's continued mental defense of his wife, I explained, "Alice is planning something. I can't tell you what it is precisely, but I know she is certainly planning something. Or perhaps has already started the plan. Who knows?"

"I see your point." He also sighed, the defenses in his head ceasing almost instantly. Despite his initial displeasure, Jasper knew sincerity when he felt it. There was no reason not to accept my words. "But what do you mean 'who knows'?"

"She's been keeping up a constant mental blockade the past few days—" Here I could not restrain myself from throwing a heavy-handed look of suspicious concern to my father's features. He, too, was running a blockade of sorts. "—so I definitely have no idea of what's gone through her mind."

Carlisle's blocking was far more adept than Alice's, as it was bound to be after living around my gift for so long, but Alice's method was working rather well. Where Alice merely covered all of her thoughts with a blanket of something else, Carlisle cordoned off the parts he did not wish me to see and left his other conscious thoughts in tact. It was like placing pieces of paper over some of the phrases in a novel; the story was still there beneath the patches, but you could not understand it until they were removed. To my misfortune, Carlisle was the only who could remove those paper patches in his mind.

My attention drifted to Jasper's sudden frown of concern towards Bella. 'Why is Bella suddenly feeling down and out?' he wondered absently, still looking her way. Joining him in his gaze, I then noticed Bella's eyes were turned to where Emmett sat. There was no problem in recognizing why she felt so downhearted; my dark-haired brother slouched unhappily on the stairs as though his world had ended. I could not stop my mouth from tightening in displeasure for the way he and Bella were affected by all of this. She was obviously getting much too stressed and Emmett was losing too much of his bright vitality.

"Just call," I told Jasper brusquely, to which he snapped away from Bella and took out his cell phone, just as it rang. It was Alice, of course. She was nothing if not prompt.

Bella was trying so hard to comprehend the rapid conversation that I had to bite back a chuckle. Jasper was in no mood to slow his speech to a human level. This stranger had been a threat to his mate and family; he wanted answers and confirmation of Alice's safety.

Having finally given up on understanding, Bella simply leaned back into me, easing a small amount of anxiety I had not remembered building up to. As she leaned, I also dropped my head back onto the sofa, just letting the feel of her sitting safely in my arms wash over me. The discussion between Alice and Jasper leaked into my brain, but it was nothing I did not already expect. The girls would not come back tonight. It was just the way they operated on a ladies night out. If the intruder had remained nearby, they would come back, but that was not the case here.

In the middle of my concentration, an unbelievable thought popped into the one mind from which I'd never expected it to come.

'—Edward's his favorite. Just look at how he acted when Edward went to Italy… No way he'd act the same if it was me.'

Stunned by this unconscionable error in judgment, I had turned around before fully processing the movement.

Emmett Cullen was no intellectual, it was true. But to believe such downright lies was asinine in the extreme. Even worse than the thought itself, was the way in which it came across. There was no jealousy, no anger, no sourness… no malice at all in his mind. He acted as if this was just a simple fact to be accepted; there was a sort of resigned knowing quality in his tone that made me want to cringe away.

"Emmett." Quiet though my address came across, the big fool brother of mine glanced up at me. I tried to convey the truth through my eyes, the feeling fairly burning in them.

"You are very wrong, you know."

What else could I say? I knew for a fact that there was a certain bond between Carlisle and I which could not be replicated. We'd shared a great deal with each other; a lot of firsts had occurred for both of us before Emmett had entered the picture; before even Esme had come into our lives. In spite of that unique bond, to think that Carlisle would lose his head over my destruction, but not completely lose it if Emmett were to be destroyed… The idea was ludicrous. Completely unheard of. I was closer to Carlisle than Emmett was. We spent more time together because of mutual interests. But there was absolutely no indication in Carlisle's thoughts or feelings that he loved Emmett any less than me.

"Doubt it," was the muffled response from my brother. Again, he did not sound in any way angry about what he believed to be true.

"I wouldn't, if I were you." I put every ounce of understanding and brotherly affection into the words, meaning them totally. Emmett looked away in some disbelief, but his mind thankfully strayed into less offensive waters. Subconsciously, I knew I would have to get to the bottom of that issue at some point soon. I had the feeling it was not any fault of Carlisle's that my brother felt this way. One person, whose pessimism rivaled my own – if that were possible – was likely influencing Emmett. If I ever confirmed their actions, they would not want to be near me for quite some time. No on had the right to implant such false innuendo in the head of someone who thrived on the love of his parents almost as much as on that of his wife. But for the moment I relaxed and let the matter rest. It was one more thing to deal with in this messed up family; we were the definition of dysfunctional.

"They're staying out," Jasper told us all as he closed the cell phone in his hand. "No sense in them coming back now the stranger's gone, anyway. We can handle any tracking and Alice will call if she sees anything at all."

"How far did you follow the trail?" The idea of tracking had my interest. I wanted to know all I could about this stranger who had us on alert. They were a threat to my Bella's safety.

As Jasper retraced the steps he had taken to follow the unexpected visitor through the forest, I counted out the miles in my own head. Frankly, I was disappointed that Jasper had only tracked such a small distance. The scent clearly continued on through the trees, beyond the point where my brothers stopped.

"Far enough to get a feel, then…" The trailing hint was as subtle as I could make it come across without sounding like a reprimand of Jasper's skill. No doubt he had talent with tracking, but when I was on edge I needed more definite information than what he'd found.

"But not quite the most satisfactory distance," he concluded for me, sending out a feeling of understanding for my concerns.

'If it were Alice,' he thought intently, '– and it partly is, in this instance – I would want to know more, too.'

Out loud, he finished, "I say we go a little farther."

This was something I felt compelled to do for Bella's sake, at least, but probably equally as much for my own. Panic was not a friendly companion and I hoped dearly that following this path would end some of it. With both Carlisle and Emmett here at the house to defend Bella if need be, I felt safest doing it now.

"Perhaps we can get a sense of what they were doing, at least," I agreed and nodded at him in thanks, although he could feel my appreciation well enough without the gesture.

As Jasper made his way to the back door, Bella's fearful question gave me pause before I stood. "What if you run into them?"

I needn't tell her of Jasper's other talents as yet; that story might wait until after her transformation. The old vision of Bella with cold, hard, white skin and crimson eyes made me flinch internally. To all except Jasper, however, I appeared completely normal.

"We'll sense them before we reach them," I attempted to reassure her. It was true we would hear the thoughts and feelings of the stranger before we came upon them, but it wouldn't be for long at the rate which we could run. Bella was obviously not convinced. I had not honestly expected her to be, but her inability to debate the point stopped her from arguing with me about it.

"Be careful," she asked me pleadingly. The worry in her voice stopped me from chuckling when she squeezed my hand with all of her frail human strength.

"I will be," I told her as truthfully as possible, smiling reassuringly. I kissed her warm lips very softly, in the hopes of taking away some of her anxiety if possible. Her lack of response enlightened me upon a point which I already knew, but sighed exasperatedly at all the same. Bella would never stop worrying, just as she had told me Tuesday morning.

Our argument, one of the heaviest and bluntest we had yet encountered, was hard to think back on without cringing. Unresolved problems followed us everywhere and brought on such a feeling of discomfort that it was difficult to even discuss it. The hardest bit of it all, same as with Alice's distance, was knowing that Bella was hurting so deeply because of it. She had been through so much since involving herself with me and yet I was still hurting her. Unintentional though that hurt was, as much as I was trying to limit what hurt her, it still happened. I would rather destroy myself over and over again than make that occur so often to my beloved.

Realizing I could do little else for Bella's overwrought nerves or my own misguided musings at the present time, I followed Jasper out the back and turned my senses to the vampire scent ahead of us as a momentary and necessary distraction from it all.

A/N: That was a little shorter than I'd like, but it needs to follow similarly in order to work right with Damages II. Next chapter will be longer, I swear. :)

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