Chapter 1

Hale wanted to drop off the house's beautiful third store balcony so that he might have a way to focus all his pain on something physical, like his broken legs, rather than something mental.

Because his heart sure was killing him.

From where he sat on the porch situated to face the browning grass of the backyard, Hale watched as his family laughed, joked around, and played chase. Three beautiful couples enjoying one of the last pleasing, sunny days before winter hit. Leaves in an assemble of oranges, yellows, greens, and browns twisted around their heads and near their feet, stirred into small twirls of dancing colors as his family ran by, or floated upwards and away as the angelic looking beings fell into the piles they had hurriedly put together.

The one person who would have been sitting alone with Hale, who would have made the silence that much more bearable, and his solitude that much more tolerable would have been Edward. Hale felt his absent presence as comparable to a lost arm. Something that was familiar, real, and loved, and very much needed. He ached. Hale turned his eyes to the cause of his heartache some yards away, laying upon the leaves and speaking to Bella, his girlfriend, in hushed whispers that the family could probably hear, but pretended not to.

Not for the first time, Hale wished that he had vampiric hearing as well. The desire to jump off the third story balcony and channel the pain emanating from his chest into somewhere else became much more pressing. Maybe he didn't want to hear what they were saying after all.

Although Hale was lucky in that neither Jasper's, Edward's, or Alice's special talents worked on him.

Hale swallowed hard and turned his burning eyes back to his laughing family, feeling like an outsider as he watched. Ignoring the strange burning in his chest, he instead focused his eyes to what his family was doing. Beautiful Rosalie was more exquisite than any painting, Hale thought. With her blond curls falling elegantly down her back, and her beautiful, brown cashmere sweater complimenting her complexion and her yellow, brown eyes. The added fall colors made it that much more breathtaking.

Strong, brutish Emmett was laughing and blowing leaves at her, while she scowled and crossed her arms. Hale knew she wasn't seriously disgruntled, as a small smile curled the tops of her lips. Emmett knew it too, because he let out another large guffaw and lifted her up and spun her around. Rosalie laughed, and it seemed like two figures in a perfect snow globe.

Hale turned his eyes to his small, pixie like sister, Alice, who was three inches shorter than himself, as she spun around before falling backwards into the pile of leaves she had just finished organizing together. She yanked down stern looking Jasper, who could have, with his unparalleled vampiric strength, stayed standing up. But he allowed her to pull him down on top of her before smacking him with a large kiss. His face mellowed out before they laid there, perfectly still, as only the most elegant and breathtaking statues on earth could do.

His mother Esme, with his father, Carlisle, were walking about the yard, stopping and laughing, with Esme's hand through his arm. Hale would have joined them, but after years of being told to be careful, of being included very little into the family activities because of his frail nature, his sisters and brothers had just decided it would be easier not to try anything with him, because the chances of him being hit too hard or falling and spilling blood was too high. Hale figured he just wasn't worth the effort.

He would have been joined by his fellow brother, but he was with Bella, and everyone was complete except for him. He looked back down to his book, before looking back up at the loud laugh Bella let loose. His eyes, rather than watching Bella, instead focused on Edward's beautiful face, only to see the look of pure wonder and delight that lit his eyes to watch her laugh. Hale bit his lip before shutting the book, gathering the blanket he had been using for warmth, and padded into the house.

On his way in, Hale wondered what it was that Bella had that he didn't. Hale knew he wasn't the best looking bloke in the world. His black hair was virtually a bird's nest. Brushing it did no good, and these days Hale just let it do what it wanted. His face was very narrow and almost feminine. The only claim to beauty he possessed were his green eyes, which were often commented upon as being a most fantastical color that no one had ever seen before.

Hale looked back over to Bella and quickly compared himself to her. Her brown, chocolate hair was laid out and around her head like a halo, and her blush high on her cheeks made her brown eyes sparkle. And she was a girl. Hale abruptly spun back and made his way inside.

It was enough torture for one day. No sense in sitting outside like some spectator, wishing for something that would never happen. Hale really hated being in love with his brother.

After finishing a documentary on Tchaikovsky later that night, Hale went downstairs again to grab a sandwich and some chips for an early dinner. As a vegetarian, Esme had been making dishes and meals more to Bella's palette than the one Hale had been used to. Before leaving his room, he took a large breathe of air before releasing the mouthful along with the remaining tension evident in the set of his shoulders and back.

He opened his door and was greeted by the sounds of the downstairs TV and Alice's tinkling laughter. Emmett boomed a choice swearword followed by a short, clipped snap, and Alice's tinkling laughter again. The piano was softly being played in the background followed by an abrupt stop, which gave way to another player, whose beats and tempos were all wrong, and whose fingers just couldn't seem to grasp the right notes like the first player. Hale wondered when he had started feeling as though he was unwanted and the stranger in the family, before descending down the two flights of stairs to the living room and kitchen.

On the way down he admired the house again, running his hand down the smooth, cherry wood railing, which contrasted sharply with the bright white walls and soft, padded carpet. The stairs were wide, with the same cherry wood on the bottom half that laid vertical to the stair. It presented an elegant, but comfortable, environment. As he got to the second staircase he looked down on the living room. At his quiet shuffling, his family looked up quickly from their positions arranged throughout the living room, acknowledged him, and looked back to the TV. The piano never stopped playing. Hale swallowed and breathed.

"Hale! Where have you been all day, sweetheart? I was just wondering when you would be down," Esme exclaimed. "Are you hungry, I just put out some spaghetti for Bella."

Hale shook his head. "I'll just grab a sandwich if that's okay? I have some more homework to finish."

Esme looked a bit down for a moment before quickly brightening and turning around to ask Bella if she would like to eat now.

Hale quietly maneuvered his way through the living room and into the kitchen, before opening the fridge and retrieving the needed cheese, butter, and turkey. He set his items upon the marble counter before reaching into the cupboard and retrieving the bread. He set to work on quickly making his sandwich. Once done, he grabbed a pack of Dorittos from the cupboard and made his way upstairs.

"Oh, Hale." Carlisle intoned from his position at the dining room table, a newspaper set aside before him. Hale turned around and looked down at his father. "When was that soccer game? This week, yes?" Hale's mouth dried up as the familiar pain in his chest socked him in the stomach. This wasn't supposed to bother him anymore.

"Er, I was done with soccer a month ago. Championships were October twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh." The room became very quiet as fourteen pairs of vampiric eyes and two brown, dull eyes looked up at him at his position on the stairs. Carlisle looked like he didn't know what to say and Esme, who had been running back and forth from Bella to the kitchen, had stopped in place with the steaming plate of spaghetti. Hale kept his eyes on the ground.

"Oh. Son, why didn't you tell us it was that weekend?" Carlisle asked quietly.

Hale turned down his eyes. "I did, dad. But everyone was pretty busy with stuff." Hale stopped before thinking that he would love to tell them they forgot because Bella wanted to go to Seattle and they all decided it would be good to go. Without him. He quickly began speaking again, however, the words tripping out of his mouth. "It's no big deal, we lost anyways. The rival team was way better. Would have been embarrassing for you." He quickly turned away before yelling 'night!"

Entering his room and slamming the door closed behind him, Hale quickly evened his breathing before realizing he had squished his sandwich with his hand. He was over it, right? It was happening a lot lately, with him being the last thing remembered, but it would all even out. He heaved a great sigh before returning to his desk and beginning his homework. A half hour later a quiet knock startled him from his math homework. Hale quickly looked up and at the door before uttering a quiet 'come in'. He knew that they would hear him.

His white door opened to reveal his father, closely followed by his mother, who quietly shut the door behind her. Hale set his pen aside and allowed them his full attention.

His father and mother both moved over to his bed before sitting upon his dark green comforter and sheets. Such movements weren't needed, but they were so used to interacting with humans that the movements they used in society to appear normal had worked their way into their inside lives.

"We are so sorry, Hale." His father suddenly began. Hale looked to his face and knew without a doubt that he was serious. His eyebrows were furrowed and his eyes rather anguished. Esme looked the same, except she kept wringing her hands, which Hale knew by now was a totally unconscious reaction to stressful situations.

"If we had known, we would have made time. You know that, right, son? Things have just been so hectic with Bella lately. Your brother has finally found someone, after a hundred years of being alone. I guess we are just so overjoyed that we are working very hard to include her in everything. By doing that, however, it appears we have unintentionally left you out. I am sorry, Hale. I hope you can forgive us. Even vampires are not perfect." Carlisle attempted to crack a smile, but it came out small and weakened by distress. Esme sniffed sharply and bit her lip before reaching out one of her small hands for Hale's own.

Hale felt bad. Of course he forgave them. He quickly gave her his hand and gave them both a small smile back.

Carlisle cleared his throat and took Hale's other hand before quietly asking, "When were your conferences going to be?" He drifted off, however, at Hales dropping smile again. "Did we miss those, too?"

Hale nodded and shrugged halfheartedly, feeling both parents grasp his hands a little tighter.

"Oh, Hale! We are terribly sorry!" Esme quickly wrapped him in a hug.

"Honestly, it's fine."

"No it's not! You're our baby! We should be remembering these things!"Esme gasped out before continuing, "How about this! Next Saturday Alice said it's supposed to rain. You come with and play baseball with us! Bella will be coming too so you can finally get to know her a little bit better, too. I just know you will like her, and you haven't really had a chance to truly get to know each other. She's truly wonderful! How about that? Doesn't that sound like fun?"

Hale felt as though he had to freeze his smile in place to say anything back to that. Sure, he thought, I would love to sit around with the same girl that has been stealing my heart and family. Feeling as though the words he would attempt to speak would end up being stuck in his throat, Hale just nodded.

Esme clapped excitedly before jumping up, hugging him tightly again, pecking a kiss on his cheek, and running from the room. Hale glanced at his father, only to see a somewhat vague smile stretching his lips, and warmth in his eyes as he faced towards the door his mother had just ran out from.

Carlisle turned his head back and looked at Hale. "Your mother, God bless her, is wonderful, but not very perceptive." He lifted Hale's chin and asked in a gentle voice, "What's the problem, son?"

Hale felt his eyes blur before being wrapped in two strong, cold arms and pulled to an equally short chest. He hated the fact that his father could use his gentle voice and make him cry. "Oh, Hale. What is it?"

How do you explain to your father that you're gay, in love with your brother, while also being the one and only odd one out in the family? How do you tell your father that you just feel as though you don't belong? Hale just shook his head before whispering out in a chocked voice, "Just a bad week."

Carlisle nodded. "We all have those. The thing to remember is that it all gets better. Tomorrow will be another new day. And this weekend will be very enjoyable." He unclasped his arms before looking down into Hale's face. "Never forget that I love you." Hale nodded slowly. Of course not.

"Good. I'll see you in the morning. And remember. You can always come and talk to me."

"I know, dad. Thanks. Night."

"Night, son."

As predicted by Alice, that Saturday was indeed stormy and gray, with the dedicated promise of thunder and lightning, which Hale could see from the top of his third story balcony, looking out into the vegetation of the local forest. The trees looked scraggly and weak without their leaves for protection, and the forest floor seemed dull and gray. Hale was surprised the rain wasn't turning into snow, but according to the weatherman, it just wasn't cold enough outside. They would be taking Emmet's jeep to the clearing where the family always played baseball.

For the most part, Hale could actually feel a little glimmer of excitement trying to push his shattered feelings away. He allowed the joy to fill him, as this would be the first time he had ever gone to one of the Cullen's baseball games.

Hale was actually rather surprised that Esme had suggested it, as she was always the one anxiously wondering about 'whether a baseball would hit Hale and go right through his little human body? Or what if Rosalie or Emmet accidentally ran by too fast and blew him away, or, God forbid, hit him with their bodies? Or what if Jasper smelled some blood that Hale had spilled tripping or falling on the uneven forest clearing? Or…' The list went on and on, and quite frankly, Hale was beginning to feel a little like a fragile prisoner locked up in a brick tower, waiting for his savior to come.

"Everyone ready!" Alice called up the stairs, mostly for Bella and his own ears. Hale felt a bit disgruntled again, knowing she was also coming, but quickly pushed it away before grabbing his baseball cap and sweatshirt. Hopefully his mom wouldn't make him bring along a coat; it wasn't that cold.

Hale trudged down the stairs, looking out for his mom. He found her outside in front of the jeep, worrying over Bella's decision to not wear a coat, and asking if maybe they shouldn't just put an extra in the car for her. Bella, for the most part, seemed embarrassed with her blushing cheeks. Edward had on his crooked grin that Hale had always loved as he grasped her hand gently. Hale swallowed thickly before making his way over to the jeep and waiting. Jasper quietly sidled up next to him. Hale didn't bother looking up and at him. There wasn't anything to say. He and Jasper hadn't had a real conversation since he had been thirteen years old, and, for the most part, Jasper never really spoke to Hale.

Now Hale was sixteen. It was therefore odd that he was now standing next to him. They stood in awkward silence till the rest of the family came over. Edward pulled Bella up onto his back and quickly carried her away, moving at an alarming speed. Hale clenched his fists as he watched them go, and quickly turned to watch the rest of his family as they all walked over and pulled themselves into the jeep. Hale abruptly realized that there wasn't enough space for him, too.

He swallowed again, before being suddenly grasped by two strong hands around the waist and being deposited onto Carlisle's lap. Esme patted his thigh softly, and they were off. Emmett drove with Rosalie sitting in the passenger seat in the front. Alice sat upon Jasper's lap, with Esme in the middle and Carlisle on the side with Hale in his lap. The trip was very bumpy but fun. Emmett let out his booming laughter as they went over large hills and over small streams and the jeep swayed back and forth. Carlisle held Harry close to his chest, with his head resting below his chin. Normally this would have annoyed Hale, but it was nice being noticed again, and the action worked to help soothe some of his hurt feelings. Hale let a small smile escape.

They reached the clearing, and everyone jumped out, with Carlisle setting Hale down gently before following. Esme grabbed Hale's hand and led him over to the very beginning of the clearing where he could sit down. Bella was already there, and as Edward saw them approaching, he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before running over and finding bases. Hale looked away from the scene and over to Alice to see she had the bats and Jasper the baseballs. They set the extras by Bella, where Hale sat himself down as well.

From there, everyone rushed around and, in a couple seconds, just as the first sound of thunder boomed across the skies, they began playing. To Hale, it was like nothing he had ever seen before. He always forgot how fast his vampire family actually was, but watching them hit the ball so hard it thundered, and seeing Edward run and manage to catch a baseball a mile away. Hale was filled with awe. He admired the full grin Edward had upon his face, and the way he and Jasper fake fought. Edward looked over and smiled. For a minute, Hale thought it was for him, before he heard Bella quietly giggle and wave a little wave back at Edward. Hale's heart dropped in his throat and landed somewhere in is stomach like a rock. It was probably what made breathing so difficult.

It was a half hour into the game when Alice suddenly stopped running and stood stock still. In a blink of an eye, Jasper was by her side, holding her waist and looking into her eyes. Everyone watched with bated breath as Alice snapped out of her vision in a panic, her eyes and head moving around for Carlisle before exclaiming, "We're having visitors. I didn't see them before! I'm sorry. I wasn't focusing on anything but the game! I…"

"It's alright, Alice," Carlisle soothed, "just let us know how many minutes we have left?"

"Two, maybe three."Alice's upset voice informed him.

"Alright, we'll hide Bella. Everyone huddle together and put her in the middle. It should help throw off their scent. We're lucky in that there's no wind today."

Shortly after Carlisle spoke, Edward was in front of Hale and grabbing Bella, before turning around and sprinting back to the coven without him. Hale had never felt so dumb or forgotten in his whole life.

"Dad…" he breathed. Carlisle and the rest of the coven all snapped their heads around, as though they had forgotten all about him. Hale crossed his arms, bit his lip and hunched over. In the next instant, just like with Bella, Carlisle had grabbed Hale and sprinted him over to the group.

"Alright, Hale?" he questioned. Hale didn't say anything back.

To Hales right, Edward gave a major twitch and his nostrils flared before glaring at Hale. Hale flinched, and looked down again, wondering what he had done.

"Knock it off, Edward." Jasper whispered.

Edward let loose a small growl before saying back just as quietly, his growl evident in his undertone, "He's going to give us away!"

"That's enough, Edward." Carlisle ended the matter with a gruff voice that Hale had never heard. Hale felt Edward look at him once more before turning back around and facing the opening in the trees that Alice had indicated the three visitors would come out through.

Hale wanted to die.

"They're here!" Alice bit out sharply, voice anxious. All the coven vampires froze. Hale could feel his heart pumping out of his chest, and his eyes and throat hurt as though they were on fire. Why couldn't Edward say it was partly Bella's fault? Why was all the blame solely his? When had he become the last one wanted, needed? Had it always been like this and he was finally old enough now to start noticing it?

The worst part about it all, though, was that it was Edward who had said it. The same vampire that had always been with Hale. Who might not have always talked to him, but who had at least kept him company from time to time. The one Hale most identified with, who Hale loved. Carlisle's strong, cold hands pressed down and squeezed Hale's shoulders before letting go just as three beautiful beings glided out of the forest and across the clearing to them.

There was, thankfully, no wind in the clearing, which was protected by the many trees of the forest, so the three vampires wouldn't be able to pick up on their scents. Hale hardly noticed, however. His mind was twisting and turning on an ocean of turbulence like a ship in a hurricane. Carlisle's voice brought him back, but he dared not raise his head, if only so he wouldn't have to see Edward's ferocious glare turn to him again.

"Greetings, my name is Carlisle Cullen, and this is my family. May I ask your names and where you have come from?"

The moment was tense until one of the two male vampires stepped forward. He had black hair, cut closely to his head, and olive toned skin without a blemish. He looked to be about six feet tall. His eyes were red,

"Hello, my name is Laurent. We are just passing through. My acquaintances are Victoria" here he nodded to the red headed female vampire, "and my other friend is James."His voice was hypnotic and low. He nodded towards the other male. Both looked to be very young, with red eyes. James had light brown hair that was cropped close to his face and fell in layers around his head. All were breathtakingly beautiful.

Laurent added, "We did not know this territory was already claimed. I must say, we are all very curious as to how you remain undetected by the smaller population in this part." For the most part, it should have been evident that none of the Cullens had red eyes, and were, therefore, not drinkers of human blood.

However, Carlisle, with his infinite patience, answered him, "We do not drink the blood of the people in the area. We are, what we call, vegetarians, and only feed off the local animal population that surrounds the area. It is easy to feed, as we can travel far without meeting many people. It is our own joke."Here Carlisle attempted to give a small smile and chuckle, and both groups relaxed.

Laurent gave a deep laugh. "Interesting, I would be curious to know how that has-" His sentence was cut off, however, as a strong gust of wind, coming from nowhere, or by the fates, drove by the group, whipping Bella's hair. Jame's and Victoria's noses both flared before James let loose an inhuman smile, showing off his too pearly white teeth and red eyes.

"You've brought a snack? And a most beautiful snack it is. I thought you said you weren't drinkers of the human blood?"

Edward let loose a growl, as Carlisle quickly inserted, "The girl is a part of our coven. She will not be harmed."The tension was back and thicker before. Hale associated it to be like swimming through oil.

"Of course not," Laurent soothed, trying to release the sudden tension, his voice becoming a deep and soothing sound and hands held up, "we're just passing through and don't want trouble. Right, James?"Here Laurent looked back, his eyes narrowed slightly and lips a thin line.

"Yes, just passing through." James agreed before snapping his eyes away from Bellas, still smiling. "I think we have out stayed our welcome." He began to walk backwards away from the coven, Victoria copying his motions, before they broke into sprints too fast for the human eye to detect and were suddenly gone. Laurent held up his arms and slowly followed the group.

"I am sorry this did not turn out the way I had hoped. We understand that this is your land and will not hunt upon it while passing through."

Carlisle nodded, and the seven vampires watched as Laurent also broke into a sprint and was gone. Suddenly, a flurry of activity began. Edward let loose a growl, picked up Bella, and was sprinting with her towards the jeep. Mayhem broke out, with Edward yelling and growling in his inhuman voice, Bella's confused and slightly frightened questions, Carlisle's calm soothing voice, and Esme's wringing hands.

"Enough, Edward!" Carlisle broke out, "What do you see Alice?"

"She doesn't need to see anything! I can already tell you that he's a tracker, and he will always be after her! He'll never give up. The fact that there are seven vampires protecting her is only the tip of the challenge! This is a game to him!"

"Alright… alright, Edward. Let's just calm down for a moment. We will head back to the house and think of a plan there. We aren't doing anything rashly. This needs a plan."

In seconds, all seven vampires were at the jeep and driving off.

Hale wondered when they would remember that they had left him.