"Yawaruna's Coven"

An "I Hunger for Your Touch" Future-take

For

The Fandom Fights Leukemia, Lymphoma and Sarcoma, 2011

Merry Christmas to my readers.

A huge amount of thanks is due to Raum, for the beautiful banner she made me on short notice, and to RobsButtonsBabe, for letting us use her Robnipulation, 'loinclothrob' on it.

For more, please visit Raum's blog, myredinglounge dot blogspot dot com,

and RobsButtonsBabe's blog, theunbuttonedcollection dot blogspot dot com

Playlist: .com/jmollytwilight2

"Following the Sun", by Enigma

"Balance Beam", by Blue October

"Let Go", by Boys Like Girls

"Mea Culpa", by Enigma

"Inferno", by Lunascape

"Stripped", by Shiny Toy Guns

"This Could be Heaven", by Seal

"Question and Answer", by The Moody Blues and the Isle of Avalon

"You've Got a Friend in Me", by Randy Newman

O~O~o~o~O~o~o~O~O

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007:

Somewhere in the North-West Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

Carlisle's pov:

The Ticuna dropped, lithe and supple, three yards in front of us, her yellow eyes marking her as one of Edward's. All she was wearing was a loincloth and some jewellery, but her long hair, mercifully, covered her. She was carrying, of all things, an automatic rifle, and it was aimed unflinchingly at my head.

"Nunaxē pa corix (Hello, sir)," she growled mistrustfully.

"Nunaxē pa… Chepaã (Hello, Josephine)," I essayed, raising my hands slowly in surrender. "Chanaxũane Yawaruna i Dyäwë (I am visiting The Panther and The Deer)."

She straightened from her defensive crouch, and gawped at us, then, the most beautiful smile lit her catlike features. "Caru?"

"Ngü (Yes)."

"Oho. ¿Õẽxna? Nunaxē pa Esmeralda (Oho. Is that so? Hello, Esme)," she said, turning to my mate.

"Nunaxē pa Chepaã. How are you?" Esme asked, fascinated. They looked each other over: a sparkly bronze vampire wearing next to nothing, versus a pale, caramel haired one who must be considered by her to be 'exceedingly over-dressed'. In actuality, my mate was underdressed compared to her usual couture. She was wearing low-rise skinny jeans and a sinfully short t-shirt that offered me easy access to her chest, and way too many naughty ideas.

We figured as long as we were getting away from it all, we could run around looking our physical ages. I had vintage Levi's and Nike high tops on for the first time in forever.

"Why you don't tell us you coming?" the young one demanded of me, slinging the rifle behind her back. She was sixteen, he had told me, and starving to death when he found her pregnant and abandoned by the incubus.

"It is his birthday. I wanted to surprise him."

"How you know it me?" she asked curiously.

"Well, I have seen your photograph, only you were a Newborn in it, and your hair was different. But you are exactly as he told me you would be."

"How is that?"

"Curious."

"I don't understand 'curious'," she frowned.

"You ask many questions."

The girl threw back her head and laughed throatily, displaying her strong, white teeth. "Oho. ¿Õẽxna? Papa says I ask too many."

I huffed a laugh. "Papa would think so. He was always very quiet."

"Come, come. We take you home."

"Thank you." I smiled, linking two of my fingers with two of Esme's. She moved her hand to rest within mine.

"Maricuta (Mary)?" Chepaã called, and there was a rustling in the treetops. It approached us, and stopped, and then a little girl who looked about four years old dropped to the ground, landing lithely in a crouch. She was astonishingly lovely, with butterscotch skin and straight, dark, shoulder-length hair streaked with gold. She looked trustingly at Chepaã through azure eyes, and a little warily at us.

"Mama, I talk to Oxi (Grandfather)?"

"Ngü (Yes)."

The child approached us, graceful as a hart. "Hey-a Caru."

"Hello, Mari. I am happy to meet you at last," I grinned.

She wrinkled her nose at me. "You no look like Poppa. He say you hims Dad."

"Well, he is not a hybrid like you, darling. He is a true vampire."

"I know dat," she said, eyes rolling. "Esmeralda?"

"Hi, Sweetie," Esme said, sinking onto her knees. "I brought you a present. Would you like to have it now?"

The child looked to her mother, who nodded encouragingly. Then, she raised her eyes to Esme. Apparently deciding my mate was a safe person, she stuck her little nose in the air and looked down it at her. "Yes, pease."

Esme produced a small cloth bag, and the little girl took it eagerly, opening it to examine the contents. "Ooh," she gasped, pulling out the brown-skinned Barbie doll within, "dis wike Tagará Pichi's (Scarlet Tanager Little-bird). I name her Chiura (Dolores)." She pulled out a handful of dolly clothes that Esme and Alice had made, clucked her tongue at the doll, and let go a rapid volley of Ticuna which I could not comprehend at all. However did Edward manage? I looked at Chepaã for help.

"She say the muneca gots too many clothes on, and she going to get sick," Chepaã supplied. She murmured something, almost silently to her daughter.

"Thank you," Maricuta said quickly.

Esme smiled. "You are welcome. Chierü ta choxrü nixĩ (I hope you like it)."

"Choxrü me nixĩ. Namex e͂chi (I like it. It is beautiful)," she said, stripping the doll of clothing. "Wet us go, I want show Tagará Pichi." She took the dolly and put it tenderly in her bag, then grabbed onto our hands and tugged us forward.

"Okay," we agreed.

The Rainforest grew so lush and thick that it shut out all the light, but it was not forbidding. Neither was it calm. Indeed, as my son had said, the Amazon was nothing like Forks: where our home was quiet, these trees danced, and the forest teemed with life. Many large animals did not even run from us, so they were probably unfamiliar with both hominid habits in general and Vegetarian ones in particular.

We ran for a very long time, the little one babbling on in Ticuna about various curiosities whilst swinging between our hands, until eventually, the jungle grew so dense that we were forced to take to the trees.

"Inixū taxĩ (We are going home)," Mari sang, skipping easily from branch to branch. Before long, she disappeared into the foliage. Chepaã did not appear in the least worried. Well, what could possibly harm a vampire-human hybrid, however small, in this isolated place? There were no Trads anywhere near here, as far as our allied covens knew.

"Down here the last place for healthy water," Chepaã informed us. "You want for bathing, bring some." She dropped like a stone to the forest floor, and drew a large plastic pop bottle out of the small pack on her back. She dipped it in a small pool of water obscured by all manner of fronds. "Only trouble with Camp is, it far from water."

"Edward has mentioned that," I said, pulling our own water bottle from our backpack and dropping to the ground to fill it. Chepaã dug her nails into the nearest tree and scuttled back up it to join Esme, and I followed.

We flitted from tree to tree for another five miles, and then, were confronted with a remarkable sight. Our guide beamed at us, waiting for our reaction. Esme and I gaped at the wall of huge trees before us. Their trunks seemed to stretch to infinity, and they stood so close together, that I would not have been able to place my wrist between them. More trees were wedged behind them, so that it was impossible to see anything at all.

"Is this the perimeter?" I asked softly.

"This the Compound border," Chepaã smiled. "Yawaruna keep it safe for the village. Nearly there."

"Wow," I drawled, stunned. Chepaã vaulted upward, and Esme and I gaped at each other.

"He's such an over-achiever," she said, shaking her head. We sprang up the wall of tree trunks, laughing, until we were high in the canopy, emerging at the top in time to see Chepaã launch herself into the air, and scurry up the next tree. They looked like they went on forever. The view was astounding: we were so high up that we could see the very curve of the earth. My son had an affinity for trees, so I was not surprised that he loved this place and its people.

Before we knew it, we were perched at the edge of a circular, verdant clearing. Far below, we could hear cheerful voices, and see smoke rising from a cooking fire. And we could just make out stout wooden houses amid the dense foliage to the middle and rear of the village.

"The Cullen Compound: home of the Yawaruna Coven di Amazonas," I murmured, awestruck.

"I jump fast, you come down slow," Chepaã instructed us, her face replete with warning. She sailed downward, and disappeared. Esme canted an eyebrow at me.

"She's a bossy girl, isn't she?"

"Edward once told me that she possessed all his worst personality traits," I smirked.

"Grandparents' revenge," my wife grinned.

"Come on, let's see what our boy has been up to for the past three months," I suggested, turning to climb slowly down the tree. Something landed with a thump on my back and dug in small fingers. I peeked over my shoulder. Surely it was not Ren, or she would be making an enthusiastic racket. No, it was Mari. She had apparently decided to adopt me.

Once at the bottom of the tree, I turned to look at the little village: there were at least twenty-five tree houses scattered about the circle, most at least twelve feet wide and twenty feet long, and there was a large building about double that size, off to one side, that must be the one meant for meetings. Edward had said they were like real cottages, but I still hadn't expected them to be so substantial. Esme was obviously fascinated. I knew she would be examining the structures to understand their construction. Set apart, to the right, was another very large tree house, bearing an etched wooden sign with the word 'Infirmary' in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and something that must be Ticuna.

"Dom Carlisle," an ethereal looking androgen with long blond hair greeted me, drifting over like a wraith. "Welcome. I am Arduino di Yawaruna, Felix's mate."

"Ah, how lovely to meet you," I said, privately thinking that he looked like an elf from 'Lord of the Rings', minus the ears. He was wearing a long, white linen robe not unlike a nightgown Esme once owned, and he was barefoot. "Felix has spoken much of you."

"And Aro has spoken much of you. It is his pleasure that our covens are now joined by marriage as well as friendship."

"It pleases me as well. How are Chirica and Demetri?"

"Spiffy." It was odd to hear my son's expression come out of an Italian mouth. "Demetri and Chirica are out looking for strays with my Felix. Their son Duquitu is playing over there with the other children." He reached for Esme's hand.

"Dona Esme, my friend."

She pulled him close and kissed him on both cheeks, making him blush silver with pleasure. "I'm glad to meet you at last. I've enjoyed the chats we've had on Facebook."

"I, also. Please, please make yourselves comfortable. I am sure you are anxious to see Yawaruna, Dyäwë and Tagará Pichi."

"Yes, where might they be?" I wondered.

"I am not sure. I fear it is a busy morning. They may have left to meet the search party."

"Are there many strays?" I fretted. It would not be good to have too large an increase in the planet's vampire population, especially since Caius was presumably creating an army of Trads related to him by birth.

"Unfortunately, yes, but Marcus is closing in on the monster. We have destroyed many." Arduino did not look happy about it, rather, dismayed. Edward would be grieved to destroy sentient creatures. However, the allied covens could not permit these bloodthirsty, irresponsible vampires to extend their power. If discovered by humanity, they would put the existence of our entire species at risk. "Mi scusi, please. I must report to Tatiana."

"Of course," I said. Perhaps we ought to have told the kids we were coming. They were obviously busy on forays. But we wanted to see the compound for Newborns before Bella, Edward, Emmett and Rose resumed their studies at Dartmouth in September.

"Do entertain your selves with the children," Arduino suggested.

"We shall. Grazie molte (Thanks very much)."

"Prego (You're welcome)." Arduino drifted away.

Mari hopped off my back and skipped over to a group of several hybrid children of various ages. They were attending to the words of a very pregnant human girl with bright red eyes, who was patiently showing them how to weave grass baskets. The short-haired mother-to-be was wearing a simple green cotton shift, but all the children, male and female alike, were clad only in the traditional Ticuna loincloths. I wondered what their Dom thought of that.

Esme and I watched the children with fascination. They were so rare and precious, and their existence had to be kept secret from the majority of vampires in the world. We didn't need every young male in existence going around impregnating humans.

A bronze-haired, dusky-skinned boy who resembled a human of about seven exited a house and jumped gracefully off its front porch. He was followed by a little girl I knew as well as the back of my hand.

"Theofilo! Tama!" the small, half-naked redhead howled, rocketing to earth after him. "Gimme. Back. My. Choccit. Chip. Cookie!"

The boy hid it behind his back. "No way, chica. You stole my monkey." I was surprised to hear that the child Aro had named after Edward had a pronounced, and very refined, British accent.

"Gimme the cookie, and I'll give you the toy," my granddaughter said with a roll of her brown eyes, her lips thin. The boy appraised her through glinting golden ones. Edward had told me that babies nursed by their mothers kept a human eye colour. Yellow eyes were a sure sign that Theofilo was one of the orphans.

Esme was highly amused. She wrapped both arms around my waist, eyes shining.

"Okay," Theofilo accepted, holding up the large cookie and tempting her with it. "Monkey first, cookie after."

"No."

"Yes."

"Nnnnno." Renesmee crossed her arms, scowling.

"Why?"

"Oh, boy. She gets more like Bella every time we see her," Esme sighed affectionately, shaking her head.

"Edward's in trouble," I murmured. Perhaps Theofilo was as well.

"You don't twust me," Renesmee pouted, looking balefully at him.

"I want my monkey. My Daddy gave it to me the day I picked him."

"Well, okay. I will get him. I didn't mean to hurt your feewings, Teddy."

"I know that, Pichi, but you can't just take people's things because you like them."

"I guess I should have brought her a bear instead of a doll," Esme grinned.

Renesmee's head shot up, and she looked at us in palpable disbelief. Her face still carried the roundness of babyhood, I noted. The boy looked at us aggressively.

"Gwammie! Gwanddad!" my granddaughter squealed, jumping up to launch herself at us. I picked her out of the air, laughing, and got about three months' worth of butterfly kisses for my trouble. "You don't wook wike you, you're dwessed wike kids. Mwah mwah mwah! You came! Mwah! You came!" She drew back from me, frowning. "Gwanddad? What happened to yoh hai-oh?"

I rolled my eyes in a fashion worthy of her parents. "There's no gel in it."

"You wook wike Daddy. Come and see yoh twee house. It's a suh-pise."

Theofilo harrumphed and stomped off, springing twenty feet up, into the tree house he had come from. He took the cookie with him. Renesmee watched him go, her brow creasing. She looked so much like Edward it was uncanny.

"We have a tree house?" Esme asked, delighted.

"We-e-ell," Ren said, eyes rolling. "Daddy said you could pwobably design a much nicer one, and you can if you want, but he didn't think Gwanddad would be abe-oh to build it."

I laughed at my admittedly lack-lustre handyman skills, but my mate scoffed. "You tell your Daddy that I can build my own tree house if I want to."

Renesmee looked at her solemnly. "You may onwy use wood fwom trees that have died."

"I'll remember that. Where is Daddy?" There were several people visible in the houses, which had no front doors, but none of them were our son or his mate.

"I dunno. He's awound somewhay-oh. That's our house, to the weft of the infirmawy. But pwease excuse me for a widdle bit, I have to go get Teddy his monkey."

"Okay, Darling," I told her, watching her scurry off to retrieve it. I sighed, putting one of my hands on my hip, and the other on my mate's bare one. I could get used to seeing –and feeling- her dressed this way. "Well, we come all this way, and there's no reception committee. Where do you suppose our son has gotten off to?

"Wherever his mate has gotten off to," Esme said dryly. "Perhaps she's getting him off."

"Hah hah. Well, they can't be home, or he would have Heard us by now," I sighed.

"Let's check. Maybe he's on the phone or something."

"Don't they have to go up into the canopy for that?" I wondered, craning my neck to look at the top of the two trees in which Edward's house perched.

"I think so," Esme said softly. I took her hand and we walked under the nearest tree in question. Esme's eyes narrowed. "I think they're up there. I hear something. But how could they be? He would have Heard us, wouldn't he?"

"Maybe Bella is shielding him," I suggested. "Well, we didn't come all this way to stand around twiddling our thumbs. Let's find out."

I ran and leapt at the front porch, which provided kind of a landing strip, pulled myself up, and peeped into the house. "Surprise!" I called, and then froze, mortified.

My son was sitting on an ornately carved chair with his eyes shut, biting his lip, and my daughter Bella was straddling his lap. The only thing he was wearing was the gold cross I gave him in 1924, and the only thing she was wearing was… nothing. "Oh, shit!" I said, staring. And that's when he noticed me.

I didn't think I'd ever seen, in my very long life, more expressions pass over a visage within an instant: passion, shock, fear, anger, recognition, incredulity and amusement all registered. The amusement stuck.

I gaped at them like the king's fool.

"Carlisle?" my very naked son laughed.

Bella's head snapped toward me in shock. She breathed "Ohmygod," and collapsed in giggles on his shoulder.

"You never swear. What's going on?" Esme demanded, landing on the porch beside me. She covered her eyes. "Roosevelt, Wilson, Taft, Carter and Clinton!" She dropped to the ground like a stone. The more upset she was, the more presidents she dragged out to swear by. We hadn't had a five-alarm trigger in a long time. My state of mortification multiplied a hundredfold.

"Jeez Louise!" Edward squeaked, attempting to hide his mate's backside while she turned silver all over with embarrassment. He looked at Bella, and started to laugh like a bear. "We're cursed, I swear."

"I'll… just … wait below," I told them, stepping off the edge into nothingness. I rather wished the air would eat me right up.

"We'll… join you in a minute," my son giggled, his voice much too high.

"Um, sorry." I winced as I stood below the house, pinching between my eyes.

"We're used to it. You're just one of many who have entered without warning. No big."

Esme and I gaped at each other. "Is that our Edward?" we whispered in unison.

"Yep," he said, stepping off into air and landing to prop himself very casually at the base of the tree. "Hi Mom. Hi Dad."

We just gaped at him some more.

Our mop-headed Victorian boy was wearing only five things: his family crest, his cross, his wedding ring, a ragged, but clean, white loincloth, and a cocky grin. I pointed at his attire, dumbfounded. Where was the boy who had asked, only a couple of years ago, whether Jacob Black owned a shirt? There had to be some mistake. He swaggered over to us, and kissed each of us on the cheek. He had given up shaving again, I noted.

"Pray excuse our scent. Water is hard to come by, here."

Bella stepped gracefully off of the deck, and offered us hugs.

All she was wearing was a similar loincloth, a beaded bracelet, and her wedding band. Thanks be to Jesus, she had a lot of hair to cover her feminine… assets.

Edward handed me a piece of thin suede, all folded up, and then passed another one to Esme. I unfurled mine.

"You're joking, aren't you?" I demanded.

"No," he said seriously, "my Ticuna will fret if you don't wear them."

"Let them," I said hotly, passing back the meagre garment.

"They are afraid that their way of dress is wrong, like the missionaries have told them," Edward pleaded. "And I want them to believe that bodies are only bodies, nothing of which to be ashamed."

"Ah," I winced. "Well, when you put it that way…"

"I don't know why you're getting your knickers in a knot," Edward frowned. "You've been to nude beaches all over the world."

"Not in front of my grandchild, I haven't."

Edward's eyes rolled. "It covers more than a thong, she's nineteen months old, and she doesn't have a photographic memory."

"Okay," I sighed, surrendering.

Edward opened his arms wide to Esme with a crooked grin. "Mom."

"Happy birthday, Sweetheart," she cooed, stepping into his embrace. He patted her back a bit.

"Thanks, Esme. Holy crow, I can't believe you finally made it. What do you think?"

"It's just as you described it," Esme said, looking about in wonder, "and yet it seems grander than what I imagined."

"Good thing it's bigger than we thought we'd need," Edward confided. "We're finding strays again."

I pressed my lips together. "That's what Arduino told us. What does Marcus say?"

Edward shook his head. "The usual. He's furious with Caius. Not that we all aren't. Marcus found four pregnant girls this week. One is Lupe, sitting down there with the kids. He picked her up in Colombia. Alec is the father. She's very relieved to be in the care of Ticuna people. The rest of the girls were Mayaruna. It's the Ticuna word for the tribe. It means 'Bad Indians'. They're warriors. God help us if Caius is purposefully breeding with aggressive girls, and decides to save them. And the big worry is, Caius has at least told Alec how to breed. If all the rebels start reproducing, we're going to have a crisis on our hands. The vampire population could quickly spiral out of control. Marcus will insist on the destruction of aggressive mothers. He did not find the Mayaruna we rounded up worthy of second chances. He said their attitudes were awful. Of course, Caius had them brainwashed into believing that he loved them."

"Poor things," I said, shaking my head. "How are you holding up?"

"Personally? Peachy," my son winked. Bella slid under his arm and I smiled at her.

"And how's my little Dove?"

"I'll let you know when I stop blushing," she laughed. "You know, the only time we don't hear people coming is when we're…"

"It's that bubble," Edward smiled, nudging her.

"You know it," she smirked.

"Rawr."

I stared at them both, gaping like a codfish.

"What!" my boy demanded.

"The Victorian is dead," Bella reminded us.

"It's just that you used to be so…" I winced.

"Tight-assed?"

"Edward, language!" Mother Cullen hissed.

"Mom?" our son asked with his head tilted to one side.

"Yes, Dear?"

"There is no swears jar here."

"Oh," she blinked, and then narrowed her eyes in disapproval. "Oh."

Bella and Edward snickered at her. Brats. Bella promptly took Esme by the hand and led her away, leaving me with my son. I had just opened my mouth to talk to him when we were interrupted.

"Yawaruna! Felix is almost back!" a cute little male vampire not much bigger than Alice enthused, running up to us.

"Thank you. Cuāā, I want you to meet my father, Carlisle Cullen. Carlisle, this is my first born, John."

The little man scooted up to me, beaming, and stuck out his hand. "Hello, Dom Cullen. It is an honour to meet you, finally."

"Ah, John! My son has told me so much about you." I smiled, shaking hands with him.

"I'd be lost here without John," Edward said, slipping a friendly arm around the good fellow, whose face wrinkled when he smiled.

"So how does my son address you, John? As his son?" I teased. Cuāā had to be 55 human years old, at least.

"I'm his uncle. Please tell me that you see the family resemblance?"

"Yes, I certainly do. The twinkle in your eyes matches perfectly," I winked.

My son and his 'uncle' found this highly diverting.

"Your English is excellent, John," I noted.

"Thank you, Caru. I learned it originally from Alessandro Souza."

"Kaure's nephew."

"Yes. But Nahuel went to Oxford, you know, and my mate Huilen went there as well. So we have had a great many enjoyable discussions about language, and it is so much easier to become skilled now that I remember everything I am taught."

"Theofilo speaks beautiful English," I remarked. "How old is he?"

Edward chuckled. "We think he's about three-and-a-half. Little imp decided on Day One that he was going to be just like Nahuel: does everything Daddy does, including the accent. It's really cute."

"Are the other orphans as…"

"Go on, finish your thought," Edward encouraged.

"He seems… more aggressive than the others."

Both men nodded solemnly. Edward answered. "He is. He never uses any aggression on any of our coven members, but he is very defensive of us all. Whenever someone new is around, he's just like a guard dog. He checks everybody out. Kid's instincts are good, too. We think he'll turn out to be highly talented."

"It hasn't manifested yet?" I asked curiously.

"Glimpses."

"Why do you suppose Ren's talents manifested so early?"

"Bella."

Why else?

"Dona Dyäwë is powerful," John said with a great deal of admiration. "Even as a hybrid mother she was a formidable female."

"Hush, John! You let her overhear, she'll soon take over my job."

"I don't want your job, stud," my daughter said smugly, approaching us with swaying hips.

"Minx." My son's eyes narrowed, and then he blinked and looked at me curiously. "Speaking of jobs, did you stop off to see Em and Rose at the clinic?"

I heard him, but failed to answer, for I was robbed of the power of speech. My mate was back, dressed in the, erm, native costume, and I was the one who wanted to emit an appreciative growl.

Of course I would do no such thing. Purring is for private.

Shame Milady has such long hair.

Eward's eyes rolled. "If you start with the nicknames we're outta here." He patted my shoulder condescendingly. "Why don't you two go check out your tree house?"

"We came to see you for your birthday," I protested.

"Dom Edward?" a hulking male said, crossing the clearing at vampire speed.

"Yes, Felix?"

"We have tracked the girl almost to the Peruvian border. She is not in good shape. She will not last much longer."

"How pregnant?"

"Approximately two-and-a-half months."

"Mm. So we have time to get her healthy. Who's doing recon?"

"Tanya and Eric."

"Perfect. Map?"

"Here. Here is the place we think she hides. Oh, hello Dom Carlisle."

"Hello, Felix."

Edward looked grim. "Is she Mayaruna?"

"No, wearing a red skirt. Yagua."

"Thank God. She's in bad shape?"

"Starving."

"Okay. I don't speak the language. We'll need Nahuel and Huilen anyway, since they know Peru. They should bring Teddy. Maybe you can put a call in to Zafrina. One team to come from the south, the other pushing West, and Zafrina's crew hemming in the East. Set it up, we'll go immediately."

"Yes, Dom Edward."

Felix was gone as fast as he had arrived. Edward smiled at me crookedly. "You two coming?"

How exciting. I looked at Esme for confirmation and she nodded eagerly. "Yes."

"Get changed, then. You can't go dressed like that, you'll scare her to death. She'll think you're going to freeze the earth or something. Who wears a shirt and tie to visit the jungle! Holy crow, Carlisle, it's not 1660, you know."

"Hey, I wore my jeans," I protested.

Edward smirked at me. "Jeans are meant to be casual. You're supposed to leave the tie at home, unless you intend your mate to tie you up with it. Now, Esme looks great with her middle hanging out. I suggest you give her a thrill and lose the shirt."

I tugged my hair nervously. Edward had somehow passed his former insecurities off to me. Was the father-son dynamic supposed to work like that? "All right."

"Yum, Dr Teeth," Esme smirked.

"Aw, Mom, can the nicknames until you can get a room. Geez Louise, I do not need my head full of pda right now, yeah?"

Esme rolled her eyes. "You ought to talk."

"Good, yeah, right, whatever. Bella? Will you get Ren, please?"

"Yep."

"Carlisle, change out of that repressive clothing."

"Yes Sir, Dom Edward."

Edward bowed like a courtier, turning out his leg in a way that would have made Regents proud. And I ought to know. "Your servant, Sire."

"Cocky."

"Admittedly, thank you. Hurry up, wallflower." He jerked a thumb up at his house. I hopped up and hid myself within. To the left of the door was a sleeping mat. I stripped myself of my clothes and left them on it.

Figuring out how to get the loincloth on was half the work. When I thought I had it right, I exited the house shyly and stepped off the porch, landing lightly beside my son.

"Hey, not a bad look for you, English. We need blackmail pictures with which to torture you," he chuckled.

"You're so mean," I huffed.

"What else are kids for?" He circled around me, stopped, did a double-take, and grabbed the back of the garment, giving it a tug. Suddenly, I realized the loincloth had a back: one was not meant to go around with one's backside hanging out. I couldn't decide whether to be relieved that I had coverage, or embarrassed that I had come down from the house without it.

My son patted my shoulder consolingly. "The traditional ones are thongs, but I was not going to walk around with bits of me that belong to Bella on display, especially with the Denalis around."

Thanks, I thought at him. "Do we need to bring anything?" I wondered.

"No. There's nothing we need other than people. The idea is to make a vampire chain and round her up. She's thirsty, so she might be aggressive initially, but usually the minute they see the children they turn docile."

Five minutes later, fifteen vampires and some kids were gathered in the clearing. Edward crossed his arms and addressed us all:

"We have a Yagua –also known as Yawi- girl. She doesn't know how to feed, so this should be simple. The usual: hem her in, show her the kids, and feed her. Details, Felix?"

"Dom Edward, Demetri reports that she is hovering on the fringes of civilization, dithering about stealing human food. She knows not how to hunt. I suggest a group pushing South-west from Benjamin Constant: Nahuel, Huilen, Cuāā, Theofilo; my group pushing West: Arduino, Chirica, Demetri, Duquitu, Tatiana, Boris, Thalia and Taliriktug; Yawaruna's group pushing North: Carlisle, Esme, Yawaruna, Dyäwë, Tagará Pichi, Tanya, Eric, Irina and Kate. Zafrina's coven is in motion to the Peruvian border."

"Spiffy."

Renesmee scooted up on Edward's back and peeped over his shoulder, looking solemn, as he finished giving directions. "My team: Solimoes to Juruá. Felix? Copy message to Nahuel and Zafrina. Herd to twenty miles south of Benjamin Constant. I think we can get her before she hits civilization. May God bless our endeavour, and let the children be saved."

"Amen," almost all of the people present answered. My jaw dropped.

My son spared an instant to chuckle at me, then, clapped his hands together sharply. "Break!"

The assembled vampires gave one clap, and blurred into motion. Esme and I looked at each other, startled, and barrelled after Bella, who was rapidly disappearing into the treetops.

Our group was about a mile out of the camp when footfalls alerted us that others were close by. I scented the air: Denalis. Suddenly, Eric was running alongside us. He was wearing a necklace made of small bones around his neck, and his hair was well past his shoulders. "Hello, Esme. Hello, Carlisle."

"Hello, Eric."

"Like your loincloth. You look good."

"Thanks," I grunted. The last thing I wanted from Eric Yorkie Denali was a compliment on my skimpy attire. "Where's T-"

"Friend Carlisle," Tanya said from my other side. "How do you?"

"Well, thank you, Tanya. And both of you?"

"Extremely well. Invigorating, hunting pregnant females, is it not?"

"Hunting?" I asked warily.

"We are herding her, are we not? This is much more fun than hunting humans. Humans are too easy to catch."

I grimaced, and leapt over a root. "I'll take your word for it."

Esme stumbled over the root, and I lifted her effortlessly onto my back. Her weight felt good. It had been a long time since I had carried her anywhere. "Distracted by my attire, my darling?"

"Cad. You know I was too busy staring to pay attention."

"My apologies," I smirked. She pressed her lips to my shoulder and I was the one becoming distracted. "Desist, or I shall drop you," I purred.

"You are no gentleman today, Sirrah."

"When in Rome…"

I could hear the sound of a mighty river. Soon, we reached the edge of the trees, and everyone dropped to the ground. Hidden beneath the periphery of the forest were a handful of hand-made long canoes. Bella and Edward snatched one up, and Bella hopped in as Edward pushed it into the water. Ren scooted up his back and over his head, and sat in the boat. "Come on!" he yelled at me. Esme and I jumped in, and Edward flung himself into the back. We took up the paddles and quickly pushed out into the fast-moving current.

"Why don't we just swim?" I wondered, thinking it would provide refreshment from the humidity.

"This part of the Solimoes contains piranha the size of tea plates," Edward said loudly over the din. "They're more than capable of taking a chunk out of you."

I decided swimming was not such a hot idea.

"Hi Carlisle and Esme!" someone sang, and I looked over at the next boat to see Kate and Irina waving at us with their boobs hanging out. I nodded my head shyly and continued to paddle. Edward snickered at me. When did he get so liberal?

Tanya and Eric were in another canoe just behind us. The sun came out of the cloud and turned the children radiant and the adults to diamond. Everything glittered, even the surface of the muddy-green water. Thank goodness, there were no humans anywhere near to see it.

Soon, Edward indicated that we should steer the boat into the mouth of another, smaller river, the Juruá. It was a rather bumpy start, but we ended up all right. We stayed on it for only a short distance, and then Edward indicated that we should draw over to the south bank and continue the journey on foot.

We scrambled onto dry land and pulled the boats out. Edward motioned the group into the trees, and gestured for them to listen to him. "It's too exposed here. The north side of the river is too close to the city and there's no cover. I don't know how far in this girl might be, but I'll remind you all that Caius has been highly active in this area, and we do not know her. Do not be complacent, and please keep it in mind that the Ticuna and sympathetic tribes –even the vampires- do not like going anywhere near Benjamin Constant. I'm counting on the girl being averse to going there. In 1988, for those of you who don't know, a logger named Oscar Castelo Branco shot fourteen Ticuna to death, and injured twenty-three more, in an attempt to prevent them from reclaiming control of their traditional land."

Everyone nodded, and Edward slung Ren up on his shoulder. We started jogging through the jungle.

"Is it dangerous?" I asked, thinking of the children.

Edward angled the back of his right shoulder toward me, and pointed at it. He had a silvery set of teeth marks tattooed there permanently. "Depends what brand of girl Caius has knocked up. Aside from his lot being murderous demons and all, yes, this whole part of the country's dangerous. It will be safer if we nab this girl before she gets into Peru. I don't want to run into any Korubo Indians. They smash heads with their clubs and ask questions later. The one good thing about them is Caius won't be able to get his dick anywhere near one. They hate outsiders. There are probably tribes up-river from them that nobody's ever heard of."

"Amazing to think there are undiscovered peoples in this day and age," I mused.

Edward raised an eyebrow. "So says a member of an undiscovered people. Thank God no explorers have found us."

"Amen to that."

"Anyway, the Korubo are better off staying undiscovered. All kinds of these rare populations are wiped out by disease when the outside world comes to visit."

"So that still happens?" I asked grimly.

"Oh, yes." Edward stopped running and called to the group. "Time to fan out."

His cell phone rang, making all of us jump. "Demetri?"

Where on earth did he store a cell phone? There were no pockets in a loincloth.

Oh. Perhaps I didn't want to know.

"She's about ten miles south-west of you. I have her in my sights."

"Excellent. Wait for us." Edward turned to the group. "Running south-west ten miles. Keep under cover. You know the drill." He punched a button on his phone. "Nahuel? She's ten miles south-west of Benjamin Constant. Hurry."

My son wasted no time, but streaked south, deeper into the Rainforest. Our group trailed behind him. Whilst still in motion, Renesmee hopped off his back and ran up onto her mother's. Edward disappeared briefly, and when we saw him again, he had a dead capybara slung over one shoulder. He stopped us, pressing a finger to his lips.

"She's here, very, very close," he murmured. "I don't want her to run. There are too many human habitations around here. Zafrina's coven is only about two miles from where we are, and Nahuel and his group are closing in, too. I can Hear them all. Felix and his group are going to be touching ours any minute. Time to form a chain."

Our people spread out, extending their arms and grasping hands, with Edward and Bella in the middle, dangling the giant rodent between them. I ended up on the right end of the line, and Tanya ended up on the far left. Silently, we took steps forward. Every time a tree blocked someone's path, they released hands fluidly, and relinked the chain on the other side of them. As I had no clue what I was doing, it made me feel rather awkward.

Before long, Felix's group closed the gap, and I found myself holding hands with a vampire I did not know. She had dark curly hair and a cupid's bow mouth, and ochre eyes glittering with excitement. There were a lot of vampires in Felix's group that I had not met, although I recognized some of them from photographs. They were presumably the di Siberias, led by Jasper's friend Thalia.

I also recognized Chirica and Demetri. She was the first female I had seen in Edward's coven who had the short-bobbed hair traditionally sported by adult Ticuna women. The odd thing about it was that Chirica had been turned at the age of fourteen, and Chepaã, who was sixteen, wore her hair long like a juvenile Ticuna female. Chirica's chest was obscured by dozens of pretty necklaces fashioned of natural materials. Demetri wore a necklace of dark feathers. The handsome child on his back was presumably his stepson, Duquitu. Chirica had been one of Caius's conquests.

Suddenly, almost everyone in the group grinned, and I saw, glinting through the foliage, sets of yellow eyes that gleamed like ours: Zafrina's coven was closing the circle. To the north, Nahuel and his family stepped into view.

There was a bloodcurdling scream, and a haggard-looking girl in a tattered red skirt, and a bib made of long grasses, stumbled into the middle of the circle. She threw herself at us, snarling and hurling her body against the hominid chain, and was rebuffed time and again. Her clear red eyes boiled; the perfection of her face marred by a severe hare lip. She fell on her knees, sobbing, then crouched, terrified but defiant, hissing, growling and shouting what were obviously threats. The twenty-four vampires surrounding her stood quietly, waiting for her to notice the three children.

"Hi!" my granddaughter called, and the girl's head snapped around in shock. She blinked in surprise, and her growling ceased. She collapsed on the ground, gaping at everyone, and had a good look at us all. Then she fell into tears, hugging her swollen stomach, and started to talk. We all dropped hands, and Esme and I copied our companions, sinking to sit on the leafy ground.

Nahuel was frowning. "I do not recognize her dialect. It is Macro-Panoan, but too different to follow. Can any of you understand what she is saying?"

None of the vampires assembled could speak to the poor creature. I only recognized one word: 'Cayus'. Filthy animal. He had to be stopped. We all looked at each other, and sighed.

"Bella?" Edward murmured canting his head toward the girl. My daughter took the capybara, and held it in front of her. She sank to her knees about six feet from the girl, and bit it, taking a couple of pulls at its throat. The girl screamed fiercely, bounding forward, and Bella offered up the animal, which the girl snatched aggressively. Bella licked her lips, crossed her legs and watched calmly, while the girl needlessly defended her dinner. Finally, she decided Bella was not going to steal it back from her, and sank in her teeth. Her eyes widened as she discovered the pleasure of feeding, and soon, she was drinking greedily.

Sadly, it was a small animal for one of us, and insufficient to satiate the poor starving mother. She drained it dry, whimpering, then shook it, trying to obtain more blood. She held it out to Bella, as if to ask, 'more'.

My daughter pointed a finger at herself. "Dyäwë." She pointed at her mate and daughter: "Yawaruna. Tagará Pichi." She pointed at Felix. "Machanexü." She pointed at the girl, who blinked at her, and then pointed eagerly at her own chest.

"Kara."

"Hello, Kara. Nunaxē pa Kara. Come. We will get you more food." Bella pointed at the capybara, and then stood, offering her hand to the girl, who hesitated, and then took it. The vampires assembled quietly behind them as they rose. We had scarcely taken two steps when a tiny cry split the air.

"Yana-a-a!"

We all froze.

A fat red-eyed baby toddled out of the bushes, arms reaching for the foundling. "Yana-a-a!"

"That's Mayaruna for 'mother'," Nahuel breathed.

Kara's eyes turned black with dread, and she ran to the baby and snatched it up. "Nu-nu-nu-nun." She cradled it to her chest, ready to run.

Renesmee stepped forward quietly. She was holding her cookie. She took a bite out of it, and said, "Mmm, yummy. Baby want it?" She held it up to Kara, who took it warily, sniffed it, and then offered it to the baby, who didn't seem to know what to do with it. Kara broke off a crumb and put it in the child's mouth. Oh, yes, that was well received. The baby wrapped both hands around hers –and the cookie- and gave the treat a good chomp. Rather than releasing the cookie, it continued to drool down it, and its mother's hand, closing its eyes happily.

Bella pointed at the baby, and then at Kara's belly. "Yours?" she asked.

Kara seemed reassured that nobody was going to hurt the baby. She shook her head 'no', and launched into a long speech that nobody was able to follow.

"I think I picked out the words 'mother', 'sister' and 'dead one'," Nahuel frowned. "They were probably travelling together, and the mother died when the baby was born." He pointed at Kara. "Tia?" She did not respond.

"Yana?"

Kara nodded curtly.

"Yana is the word for a mother or older female relative in many of the tribes around here. For some, it means 'grandmother', but it also means 'aunt' in some tribes."

"There are human parents somewhere out there, grieving terribly for two lost daughters," Esme lamented.

"We need to get her home, and fed," Edward said grimly. "Get her to hold hands, Bella."

Bella held out her hand, and coaxed Kara to take it. She tugged it until the girl started to follow alongside her. Twenty-four vampires and five hybrids moved east, and in time, we retrieved the canoes. Again, Ren, Esme and I got in one whilst Edward held it stationary. Theofilo joined us, along with John. Bella tugged on Kara, who looked behind her fretfully. Bella shook her head sadly. "No. Tama. Come."

Kara lumbered her awkward body into the canoe one-handed, refusing to release the baby to any of us, or accept a hand in. Once she was sitting safely between Bella and me, Edward pushed off and jumped into the boat, which, although still bearing empty seats, was sitting far more heavily in the water. The Denalis got in their canoe, and Thalia and Taliriktug joined them. Felix, Arduino, Demetri, and his family took the third. The rest of the vampires melted into the adjacent jungle, waving. They would join us at the Compound later.

The journey back to the camp was much slower, as the current was now against us, and it was nearing midday. Several times, Edward made us duck as he read the thoughts of a meandering human. It was a blessing when we got back on the vast Amazon, where we could choose a path far removed from human conveyances.

"Is it what you expected?" my son asked me during a quiet stretch of water.

"Not really," I admitted. "The jungle is much as I thought it would be, although the trees are unbelievably tall in places. But the river banks can be so wide. I thought there would be jungle right to the edges of the water."

He nodded. "This is the dry season. From November to April, everything floods."

"Ah. I wasn't expecting to see such well-developed human habitations, let alone cruise ships."

"It's a fascinating country," Edward smiled thoughtfully. "Manaus is such a beautiful city: all that glass and modern architecture. And then, farther west, you have people living in grass huts who murder any friendly moron who tries to cross their boundary line. Hard to credit, isn't it? As far as the government can guess, there are more than 2000 indigenous nations and tribes in Brazil alone, speaking derivatives of 166 languages. And the place is so vast that some natives never meet anyone outside of their own tribe. If it wasn't for logging, slavery, rubber, sugar cane and coffee, a lot of these people probably would have stayed invisible forever."

"Sounds paradisiacal," I mused.

"Hardly. Some of the native bands eat their enemies, some of them shrink their heads, and some of them have incestuous relationships made proper by their religious cults. They have little help when industrialists run them off their land, other tribes war with them, and slavery is still a threat. Abuse and murder by outsiders are also real concerns. The friendly ones who interact with Westerners often end up losing a whole village to an epidemic, and then, there's the weather, the pests, the wild animals and disease to contend with. John is very old for a Ticuna."

"Who are you calling old, Grandfather?" said person piped up.

"Hey, 'old' is meaningless now, yeah? You're a babe compared to me."

"And the beggar wakes up from his transformation and instantly sets eyes on his mate. Some people have all the luck," Nahuel called over, mock-glaring.

"Right you are. And hopefully collected years make one wise." John narrowed his eyes at Nahuel, and then Edward.

"From your mouth to God's ear, Sonny," my boy said.

"Heh heh. They thought in our village that you were either a demon or a god, strolling in and rescuing our girls," John teased.

"Yeah, I get that a lot. Just wait 'til some of them get a load out of Caru here. Nobody will ever have seen a body this white." He gave my backside a resounding smack.

"Thanks a load, Boy," I frowned. I might just have to dominate him.

Edward held up his hands and surrendered to me, eyes huge. Damn. He was still nervous of my temper after all these years?

"Sorry, Dad. Gut reaction," he muttered.

"Caru needs a better trade name," John decided. Several people snickered.

Edward rolled his eyes. "I'm sure everyone will have fun picking it."

John chuckled, yellow eyes bright at my expense. I didn't mind at all.

Finally, just before Renesmee's suppertime, we made it through the final stand of trees and dropped into the camp. Steam was issuing from a cottage set far from the others, and the children sniffed at it appreciatively. Theofilo, Duquitu (who looked about four) and Ren tugged at Kara and herded her toward the tree. "What's for supper?" Theofilo called.

Chirica's head popped out of the door. "Spaghetti e meatballs."

The children exclaimed appreciatively and scrambled up knotted ropes dangling from the corners of the front platform. "Come up, Kara," they encouraged her, crooking their fingers at her whilst peeking over the edge.

Kara eyed the leap unhappily. She scented the air, knowing that there was food up there for her baby, but she didn't know how to jump and hold onto a baby at the same time. She paced fretfully beneath the tree, but she needn't have worried. Chirica was exiting the door with a big bowl of steaming food in her hands. She sailed down to the ground, and held it out to Kara.

"Hey, Arduino, please get me Lupe," Edward said quietly. Felix released his mate from his embrace, and the vampire padded away silently to find her.

Kara sat down on the ground, hard, and turned her baby on her knee so that its fingers could reach the pasta and meat in the bowl. She broke the food into small pieces and put some in the baby's mouth, then reached for a huge handful and stuffed it in her own. Edward and the others watched her warily. She chewed the noodles about three times and then shuddered, and spit them on the ground, retching and sobbing. Bella and Chirica tutted over her, and gave her hugs. Then, Bella coaxed her into handing over the baby.

"Nun-un-nu-nu-nun," Kara fussed, shaking her head vehemently.

"Ngü. Yes," Bella insisted, nodding. "It's okay. Ecüx."

"Nun-un," Kara insisted, and then, a gentle hand rested on her shoulder, and she turned to find Lupe smiling at her softly. Kara had a thorough look at the other girl: her red eyes bright and kind, her dark hair sleek and glossy, her belly round, and her skin flawless and incandescent. The contrast between the emaciated girl and the healthy one was startling. Kara pointed at herself. "Kara."

"Lupe," the other girl responded. "Bienvenida, Kara." She embraced her, and that seemed to be the end of any misgivings the new girl had. Lupe took her by the hand and led her out of the clearing, up into the trees, and soon they were gone from sight.

"She'll take her hunting," Edward told us. "Let's get a look at the baby."

"It's a boy," Bella informed us. "I had a peek. He needs a clean diaper, but holy crow, he sure looks healthy."

"Poor little girl," Edward lamented. "She was starving to death, and still managed to put human food in his tummy and keep him clean. Noble little lady, isn't she? She must love him to bits. Let's get done quickly in case she comes back." He took the baby from Bella and jogged across the clearing, leaping easily to the infirmary's platform with the complacent child pressed one-handed against his chest. Esme, Bella and I followed with great interest.

Inside the infirmary were several cots divided by rush curtains. Medical supplies were stacked upon shelves in the middle of the room, and there appeared to be an operating room at the back.

"Wow, this is really something. Do you treat humans here?" Esme wondered.

"No, we never bring humans here, just in case there's a new hybrid who's thirsty," Bella answered. "We do get thirsty, but girls who are hybrids before they burn seem to have less blood lust. Sometimes, though, somebody picks up a stray in need of medical attention. And the transformations can be kind of messy, so we like to have a place to put them that's safe and easy to clean."

Edward chuckled. "Yeah, we learned that with Chepaã." He sobered as he set the cooing baby on the table. "We'll fix Kara's lip while she's unconscious." He tugged at the baby's nappy and ducked to the side as he pulled it off: a wise move, since the little boy did what all little boys do, and promptly jetted a stream of urine into the air. Edward clapped the nappy back down, rolling his eyes, and held it there until the baby was finished.

"Hah hah. Saw you comin', Squirt," my son baby-talked, drying the baby and chucking the nappy in a hamper. "Yes I did." He manipulated the baby's hips and knees, checking for abnormalities, and palpated his abdomen. He checked the baby's genitals, cleansed his hands with disinfectant, then examined eyes, ears, gums and throat, nail beds, weighed him, and took his temperature. "Hundred-and-two, as usual," he murmured. "How old would you say he is, Dad?"

"Mmm, four months, perhaps?"

"That's about what I thought. He has six teeth, and he's fit as a fiddle. Kara's a good mother." Edward scribbled notes in a file, and looked at me. "You want to double-check?"

"No need. You've got it covered," I said proudly.

Edward soon had the baby bathed and ensconced in a snowy-white nappy and a blue pair of shorts. "There we go, kid. Let's go wait for Yana." He squirted disinfectant on his hands and rubbed them together, cooed at the baby, and put him on his shoulder. The baby put his fist in his mouth and gnawed on it. "Are you drooling on me, Squirt?" my son chuckled, patting the infant.

We all exited the Infirmary to find a huge bunch of vampires in the clearing. Many were sitting on wonderfully-carved chairs. Others were dancing to Brazilian music issuing from a large, old-fashioned boom box. More people seemed to be arriving by the instant.

"Happy birthday, Edward!" the cry went up, and he was pulled into the collection of excited beings. Bella pressed a kiss to his mouth, echoing the sentiment, and Esme pulled him down to kiss him on the cheek. My son was blushing silver all over. He looked happy, though. It was so wonderful to see him happy on his birthday. He had never wanted us to celebrate them, until Bella changed his life.

"Thank you, everyone," he said, passing the baby off to Esme, who was tickled silver to get hold of him. She looked like an angel, standing there with a babe in arms.

"Speech!" a familiar voice boomed, surprising me.

Edward waved his arm dismissively. "No speech, Emmett! I'm worn out from giving speeches. I just want to party."

A camera flashed in my face, and I realized I was gawping at my boy again. A pixie-laugh informed me that Edward had another surprise visitor. Well, she might not be a surprise to him, but she was to me. My shocked expression was about to become family fodder on Facebook.

"Ali! Jazz!" Rosalie sang, hurrying over to hug them both.

There was an awful lot of Cullen Clan skin showing tonight.

We were all together again, for the first time in three months. I thought I might just burst for joy.

"Hiya, Titch," Edward said, reaching out for his half-naked sister. She had obviously retrieved every beaded necklace she owned from out of her copious jewellery collection, and was wearing them all. Edward rocked her a little, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I've missed you."

Alice eyed him cheekily. "I've been waiting a long time for you to say that."

"Oh, come on!" he scoffed. "You Knew it was coming."

"Doesn't make it any less sweet," she winked.

"Hey, Texas," Edward said, embracing Jasper and giving him a pat on the back. When on earth had he put a barbell through his nipple? And how in Perdition had Alice accomplished it? Ew.

"I didn't get a hug, Tough Guy," Emmett pouted.

Edward held his arms open with a long-suffering look. "I didn't think you wanted one, seeing as how I'm dressed like a character from one of your, um…"

"Tarzan movies?" Emmett grinned, hugged his brother, and winked, laughing a very dirty laugh.

"S-s-sure," Edward smirked. "I understand there are a lot of movies of that sort featuring Tarzan."

Rosalie cuffed Emmett upside the head.

"What!" he whinged.

She walked around him to reach Edward, and cuffed him, too.

"Ow," my boy winced, rubbing the back of his skull.

"I think I liked you better when you were a prude," Rose growled. "Be glad I don't turn you over my knee and give you a hearty birthday spanking."

"Ooh, no, that's Bella's job," he enthused, waggling his eyebrows at his mate, who then licked her lips like the apex predator she was. Rosalie cuffed him again.

"Ew," she opined hotly. "Honestly, you two. I don't know how we're going to bear having you under our roof again in September. Can't you go buy your own house?"

"Where would the fun in that be?" my son said, grinning his face off. He gave Bella a smouldering look. "Just think, Minx, in a few short weeks we'll be back in our dungeon."

"What's a dungeon?" Renesmee asked innocently, tugging on the edge of his loincloth. He took her hand gingerly and she wrapped her fingers around his index and middle ones.

"Aw, never mind, Tigger. Daddy is just joshing with Uncle Em and Auntie Rose." He spun her in a little circle and claimed his fingers back.

"It's a gwown-up joke Daddy?" Ren asked, eyes wide, standing with her hands linked behind her back.

"That's right."

"Daddy?"

"Yes, Darling?"

"How is your pwan going?"

"Hm? What plan?"

"The pwan to make Auntie Wose and Unco Em think that you and Mommy are sexy-wul deviants. What does that mean, Daddy? Sexy-wul deviants?"

"Aw, Rennie!" Edward sighed. He threw up his hands, and chuckled, shaking his head ruefully. "Kids will hang you."

"At least this time we'll be hung for sheep," Bella muttered.

Rose spluttered and wheezed. "Do you mean to say that you've been pretending to be a Sub for the past two years of school? I am going to murder you, Edward Masen Cullen!"

"You're a little late," he drawled, dancing eyes shifting slyly to me. "And do you really want an answer to that question, Rose?"

"Aargh!" she growled, throwing up her hands and stalking into the group. Once her back was turned, Edward and Bella high-fived each other, giggling silently.

Emmett watched them, stunned. "You have, haven't you! You've been playing BD-DS just to get our goats. You insufferable little sh-"

"Emmett! Not in front of the kinder," Edward warned, cocking his head at his daughter, standing by his knee. "Tigger? Go play with the other kids, please."

"Is Unco Em gonna give TMI?" she wondered with big eyes.

"Yep."

"Bye."

Edward sidled closer to Emmett. "We're not play-acting, Emmett. We really, really like it. I can't wait for my spanking tonight. I've been a bad, bad vampire, right Minx?"

"I think I may need to tie you up, Mocha-chino," Bella traced a finger up his bicep, then, quickly reached behind him at vampire speed. There was a loud thwack, and he jumped.

"Ooh." My son regarded his mate from under heavy lids. "Grr-wow, Baby."

Esme beamed at them both affectionately. "I think we've been a bad influence on them, Doctor Teeth." She winked at me and twitched her head toward Emmett.

"Indeed, Milady," I growled, giving her a look that ought to melt her panties. Oh, wait. She wasn't wearing any. Mmm…

"Have you got a whip here, Edward?" Esme asked innocently.

"Several."

Mmph! I think I just embarrassed myself like a fourteen-year-old boy. And I'm wearing a white loincloth. Dear dear. I attempted not to squirm like a bug on a pin.

Edward nearly bit his tongue off, trying not to laugh at me. This must feel like his ultimate revenge: two years ago, I had teased him after Charlie caught him and Bella making out, threatened to shoot him, and dragged him home in what Jasper called 'thoroughly jizzed white underwear'.

When all else fails, keep calm. A rule to live by. Esme reached out and ironed my backside with her palm, purring. Then, she smacked me. My eyes rolled back in my head a little.

"Oh Lord! I need to bleach my brain. You guys are animals," Emmett wailed, hurrying off to join Rose. Edward and Bella high-fived each other again, and then high-fived us. We all had a good chuckle.

"They're so gullible," my son mouthed.

Suddenly, there was a very odd flapping noise, and Edward looked at the sky, positively quivering with excitement.

"Unco Marcus!" the children yelled.

"What?" I began. And then a great, black, winged horse appeared, its red eyes burning brightly. It circled the clearing, flapping its wings, and descended to land neatly on its heavily-armoured hooves. It trotted around a couple of times, and Marcus dismounted neatly with a little boy in his arms. Both Marcus and the boy were wearing Roman tunics and kilts. Arduino hurried to attend the animal.

"Brother Carlisle," Marcus boomed. "Come stai?"

"Bene, grazie, e tu?" I asked, kissing him on both cheeks.

"Eh, still kicking," he smiled. His eyes were golden. My eyes widened, and I attempted to hide it. "It's alright," he said, mock-punching me in the shoulder. "Didyme would not want me to be unhappy forever. Hunting the bastard who killed her has done me a world of good. This is my foundling, Amato."

"Ciao," the little brown boy said, waving.

I nodded, still gaping. Marcus slung an arm around me. "Quite the son you've made, there," he confided. Pride warmed me.

"Yes."

"I hope my son is like him," the Volturi prince confided. "Edward will like the gift Aro sent him."

"Aro sent me a present?" Edward asked, perplexed.

Marcus handed over a small, rectangular package wrapped in parchment.

"Why don't you sit down so everyone can see," Bella suggested. She motioned for us to go to the fancy chairs spread out in the north-east section of the clearing. Edward nodded and headed for his customary chair, which had an ornate panther carved into the back.

"Yawaruna is going to open his presents," Bella called, settling next to him in a chair with leaping deer carved in the back.

Marcus smiled and offered his arm to Esme, who took it shyly and followed him over to a plain but sturdy seat. I stood and watched her walk over, the better to see her figure, then followed and sat down beside her. The chair I chose felt quite strong and comfortable. Milady's hand on my thigh also felt wonderfully strong and comfortable.

"This is from Aro." Edward opened the gift, careful not to tear the paper, and found a photo in a frame of gold. "Ah," he said, smiling softly. "And a letter, too." He examined the photo. "I love it. It's the best present he could have given me. I'll have to phone him later."

What's in the picture?" Esme asked eagerly.

In answer, Edward turned it so that everyone could see. It was a photo of Aro and Sulpicia. Both of them had golden eyes.

"Ahh!" the group sighed.

"It is seventeen months since Aro converted to our diet." Edward said, smiling like the cat that ate the canary.

Everyone clapped.

"Hey, I changed my diet, too," Marcus growled.

"Let's hear it for all those of you who have changed their diet since this coven was created: Dom Marcus, Felix and Arduino, Demetri, Chelsea and Afron, Santiago, Theofilo, Dona Zafrina, Kichiri and Senna, Huayna, Ajacopa, Pilar and Luis. Good to have you with us tonight."

There was some good-natured teasing and high-fiving of the newest converts by the old, and those who had been Vegetarians since rebirth. I noticed some people translating Edward's words for the non-English speakers.

"And to all those of you who have never hunted people, or who gave it up long ago, let me say what a privilege it is to know you. I am proud of every person in this family, and of all our Vegetarian friends and allies, for resisting evil."

So you succeeded where I failed, I thought. I wonder why Aro listened to you, and not to me?

"Aro told me how his dear friend Carlisle unconsciously echoed the habits of Albion ap Wellins, who predated animals instead of people years before anyone else considered it an option," Edward informed the group. "Albion was the sire of Sascha Romany Denali, by the way. Aro said that he scoffed at Carlisle many a time, but Dom Cullen would not be persuaded to hurt humans."

Lupe alighted in the clearing, holding hands with Kara. The newest foundling was looking better already, especially since the venom in her hybrid blood had not yet absorbed the nutrients from her feed. Her cheeks had some colour. When her hare lip was repaired, she was going to be very beautiful indeed.

"How much did she feed?" Edward asked seriously, dropping his narrative.

"Five animál."

"Excellent. Gracias, Lupe. Good girl, Kara. Look, here's your baby. What is his name?"

"She say it Michi."

"Michi. Did you tell her it means 'cat' in Ticuna?"

"Si, I told her 'michi-meow'."

"Nice. Please sit down. They've got me speaking again."

"Daddy! Sto-wy!" Ren demanded.

His eyes rolled. "Many years passed and Dom Cullen came to America. Many more passed, and he founded the second-largest known coven in existence, at that time. And he taught us to hunt animals. And many, many more years passed, and the Cullens lived in peace with the humans they encountered, and everyone prospered. Then I came to the Amazon with Dyäwë, and here we are."

Everyone got clapping again. "Tell the one about Kaure-Pichi and Yawaruna!" Theofilo demanded.

"Tama. Tumãxã nüxüˇ i chixu ya wuxï i ore Theofilo (No, you tell the one about Theofilo)," Duquitu demanded.

"No, the stowy of how you found the Ticuna," Ren begged.

"Don't ask me to tell stories or we'll be here all night. Time for some dancing!"

"But, Daddy-"

"No."

"But-" Ren whinged, jiggling about.

"I'll dance with you if you don't ask me again."

"Fine. But finis-s the stowy of Unco Aro."

Edward rolled his eyes. "And then, King Aro got curious. He came to see the Yawaruna Coven, and learned everything there was to know about us by reading my mind. He thought about how difficult it was becoming in Volterra to make humans disappear without getting caught. The Vegetarian Vampires seemed so easy to lead, and he noticed how much more peaceful and loving we were compared to the selfish, bloodthirsty Trads who live in other parts of the world. He saw how we prospered, and how happy we were. And King Aro made a decision: he would try Vegetarianism. And that is how the Vampires of Volterra Italy became Vegetarians. The end."

"You told the short version," Emmett pouted. "And you didn't do the voices."

Edward shrugged melodramatically. "It's been a long day. The kids want their cake."

"Cake!" nine kids started bellowing. "Cake! Cake! Cake!"

Bella hushed them, gesturing with both hands for them to tone down the racket. "Presents first."

Everyone scurried to get their gifts, and set them at Edward's feet.

"Wow. I'm spoiled rotten," he said, bemused.

I would have thought that a crew of rambunctious vampires would not want to sit for an hour and watch Edward open presents, but they did. They stared, fascinated, as Edward started with the children, sitting each one on his knee and making a big fuss over things like feathers, pretty stones and flowers. The adult South Americans gave him things like tools, small masks, necklaces, baskets, musical instruments, and even beautiful paintings.

Rose and Emmett presented him with documents pertaining to the establishment of a new charity, The Amazon Trust, which would benefit the native peoples and runaways of the region. I knew he would like that. He usually asked us to donate to charities in honour of his birthday, rather than give him things he didn't need. Rose and Em also gave him a picture book of photos taken at the Yawaruna Aid Station and Clinic near Manacapuru, which he loved.

Alice and Jasper gave him a new guitar, which he promised to play for us, and a receipt for a donation to cancer research. Esme and I had also made donations in his name to the Alzheimer's Society, Spinal Cord Injury research, and various charities combatting human trafficking.

To keep for himself, I gave him a book about building aqueducts and reservoirs. "It's a shame to be without water when it rains here so much."

"Thanks, Dad, that's a wonderful idea," he enthused, looking like he was itching to read it.

And finally, Esme had a gag gift with which to tease him.

Edward pulled the neck of the cloth bag open, and peeked into it. His forehead crinkled, and he put in his hand, looking worriedly at Alice, who was already laughing. As he drew the gift out, he started to cackle. "You brats!"

And then, we were all laughing, for he was unwinding the long bullwhip and calling his Bella, "Come here, Minxy Kitty. Here, kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty!"

"Oh, Heaven help us, Esme! Why are you encouraging him?" Emmett wailed.

"Esme, you'd better be teaching me how to wield that," Bella said, eyeing Edward sidelong as she backed away.

"Edward can teach you. He already knows," my mate shrugged. Edward laughed wickedly. Right, like that was going to happen!

Bella ran, shrieking, for the canopy with Edward in hot pursuit.

"They are at it again," my granddaughter sighed, rolling her eyes just like her father. "Eveybody should weave them awone for awhi-oh if they don't want to get into twouble."

"Let's have some music!" Jasper suggested, and soon, just about everyone had a musical instrument in hand. Except Alice, who appeared to be managing recording devices instead. Pretty soon, there was some very lovely music going, with guitar, ukulele, flutes, drums, tambourines and various rattles and shakers.

An hour later, Edward and Bella returned to the clearing arm-in-arm, the whip held loosely in her fingers. Both of them looked a lot more relaxed.

"Way to go, Bella," Esme murmured.

Edward took the coiled whip from his mate's fingers and dropped it onto his chair, then, he swung her into his arms and they danced a slow salsa.

"Daddy?" Ren whined, big-eyed, and patted at her parents' legs. Smiling softly, they picked her up and held her between their chests. Ren lay her head on her Daddy's chest, and Bella lay her head on her daughter's back. Edward cuddled them both, eyes shut, and danced more sedately. Camera flashes, courtesy of Esme, Rosalie and Alice, made the little family wince. Edward's eyes flared. "Ladies! We are trying to get our kid to sop lop-e-e pop."

"I can understand Op, Daddy," Ren said sleepily. "And we still haven't had cake."

"Drat," Edward grunted, and raised his voice. "Ca-ake!"

"Caaaaake!" all the children bellowed, trampling the adults to get to Chirica, who obligingly fetched it and lit a hundred and six tiny white candles.

"Holy crow! It's like a forest fire," Edward mused, eyeing the flames covering the white frosting.

"Don't even say that!" Rosalie begged.

"Make a wish!" the kids bellowed.

Edward looked at his mate tenderly, and we all knew what he was thinking: he already had everything he could wish for, and wished only to keep it. He drew in a theatrical breath, and blew them out, huffing on the ones at the end as if it were making him out of breath.

The little clearing seemed much darker. Even with vampire sight, the Rainforest was black as pitch most nights. Providentially, arrangements had been made. The Ticuna vampires brought out lidded glass jars, with little glowing bugs inside, which cast a pretty golden light on the faces of the delighted children.

"The icing's from Artifice," Bella informed Edward.

"Ooh, what kind?" my son demanded.

"Banana."

"We've never had banana," he said, surprised.

"I know, right? We had the company make it, because we thought it would be popular. You're the guinea pig."

Edward stuck a finger in the frosting, and licked it, absorbing the flavour. "Oh, that's really good." He swiped his finger through it again, and Chirica warned him off with a cake cutter while Bella lured him away from the cake with a small dish of icing of his own. Chepaã and Cuāā each brought a tray of little wooden bowls, each containing a little icing, and passed it out to all the vampires, some of whom had never experienced the flavour of human food. I took a dish, thanking Chepaã, and ate it happily. Trust my son to discover food we could actually taste!

"I hope they market this one soon," Esme moaned, licking her fingers. I purred at her sub-audibly, and all the vampires nearby jumped, to my chagrin. My mate's eyes danced and I did my level best to stop blushing.

"Getting late. Ren should be asleep," Edward said softly.

"We'll have to switch to Pig Latin," Bella whispered, eyes rolling.

"Or Aramaic," Edward pouted.

"Unco Aro is teaching us Awamaic," Renesmee informed them, her face covered in crumbs and icing, and slipped her thumb in her mouth, sucking it loudly.

Edward and Bella stared blankly at each other. "Swell," he sighed.

"Big ears," Bella growled, grabbing a serviette and scrubbing her kid clean. Renesmee whined and tried to turn her face away. She didn't like it.

"How much juice do we have in the box?" Jasper called.

Emmett stopped dancing and crossed to the boom box. "About an hour on these batteries, and then there's one more set that's freshly charged."

"Should be plenty. Let's put on some canned stuff so we can all dance," Jasper suggested.

And so, we all did dance, our people and our music suiting a 'rag-tag melting pot of a coven', as Marcus liked to call it. Sinatra, Doris Day, Collective Soul, Judy Collins, Santana, Trading Yesterday, Pitbull, Billie Holliday, The Black-Eyed Peas, Sting, Louis Armstrong, Guy Lombardo … all favourites of Edward's. The night darkened, and the children yawned, and we danced, and talked, and enjoyed the noises of night in the Rainforest.

Hundreds of stars decorated the ebony sky before Kara lay down upon the hard ground, sighing, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

"Poor little thing. How old do you think she is, Dom Carlisle?" Felix wondered.

"Seventeen, perhaps," I mused, watching Esme and Thalia talk to Chirica.

Felix stooped to pick the girl up. She did not even stir as he carried her away. Lupe followed behind, carrying Michi, who was also sound asleep. "Bring her to my house, Machanexü (Giant). I am keeping her."

"And they wonder why I love these people," Edward whispered to Bella as he cradled Ren in his chair.

"They're wonderful people, Mocha-chino." She brushed Renesmee's hair out of her eyes, and the child tucked her face into Edward's chest, sighing. Bella and Edward breathed a laugh, and gazed at each other for a long time, as though to say 'just look what we've made together'.

"Any regrets, Minx?"

"Only one."

My son's face turned sober. "And what might that be?"

"I told you 'no' 2,146 times."

A smile flashed across his face, and faded. "Number 2,147 was the charm," he whispered, eyes tender.

"I know, right?" she whispered, eyes aglow.

He leaned in, and they smiled around their kisses.

"Happy birthday, Mocha-chino."

"They just keep getting better," he murmured.

She looked at him flirtatiously. "Any way I can improve upon it?"

"Mmm," he purred. "I seem to recall some minxy kitty cat threatening to warm my backside."

"Think we can get her to bed?"

"There's only one way to find out." Edward stood with his daughter dangling in his arms. Bella went to say 'goodnight' to their guests. My son winked at me. "Hey, Doctor Teeth, quit eavesdropping on us, and get your mate."

I had no idea where our house was, assuming I could get her away from her new friends.

"It's the one directly behind the infirmary," my boy informed me. "If there's one thing I've learned, it's to take advantage of your opportunities. Use your mad skills. And Carlisle?"

"Yes?"

He looked around furtively, and leaned in to breathe in my ear. "If it thunderstorms while you're here, do not miss the opportunity to, um, romance your mate outside."

I felt my eyes widen. He leaned in again. "Hey, the Chinese say, 'if you've learned something of value, you are obliged to share it'. There's a little round button hidden in your cottage with a picture of the Cheshire Cat carved into it. Poke the cat."

I nodded, perplexed, and he winked at me, grinned, and turned to look for his mate. After inclining his head at her, and receiving a nod, he evaluated me thoughtfully.

"Dad?"

"Yes, Boy?"

"You are six foot three. For that reason alone, I will always look up to you." He held his head at a funny angle in front of me, and it dawned on me that he was waiting for me to kiss him on the forehead. I did so, and ruffled his hair. Then, he angled my grandchild toward me so I could kiss her on top of the head as well.

Bella hurried over. "Goodnight," she said, kissing me on the cheek.

"Goodnight, Dovey."

They moved away, murmuring to each other, and vanished into the inky darkness.

I turned to watch my beloved, who was still chatting away with the females. Alice and Rose had joined them. The boys were lamenting the fact that the batteries for the music box appeared to have expired.

What on earth could Edward have hidden in our cottage?

"I'll play for them for a little while," Jasper volunteered, gesturing at those who were still dancing. A lot of the vampires were now sitting in groups, chatting.

"That would be fun," Rosalie said a tad wistfully. "We haven't been out much lately."

"Emmett Wallace McCarty Cullen!" Jasper gawped. "Are you telling me that you are failing to fulfill your seduciary responsibility, sir?"

"Who, me?" Emmett squawked. He rumbled, flexing his pectorals for Rose. "Of course not."

"Oh, it's okay, Jasper. It feels good to be useful, even if we are pretty busy at times." Rosalie's eyes were drawn to Theofilo, sitting on Nahuel's lap, but she looked neither jealous nor unhappy. It was a nice feeling, knowing that she felt fulfilled now that she had useful employment.

"What should I do with the leftover cake?" Alice wondered. "There's no fridge, right?"

"We can put food in jars with lids," Chirica advised. "so it no get all bugs."

"Milady," I murmured, and Esme's eyes flew to mine, and morphed dark with promise.

"Yes, Love?"

I held out my hand, and pulled her up. "Time to say 'goodnight'."

"Where are we going?" she wondered.

"We have not yet explored our little house," I drawled.

"Oh, that's right," she said enthusiastically. "Goodnight everyone," she waved.

"Goodnight," the remaining people chorused.

I gave Esme my arm, and she wrapped both of hers around it, happy and affectionate. When we were well away from the group, I paused and moved her heavy curtain of hair behind her shoulders, leaving her chest bare, pale blue in the light of the stars.

"What if somebody sees?" she hissed.

"I don't care," I growled, nuzzling at her neck. "I have been waiting to see you like this all day." I pressed my painfully hard erection against her burning mons, and she rubbed herself against it, making us both moan.

We both glanced around furtively, not accustomed to having to be quiet. But somewhere in the village, there was another moan, a masculine one, followed by a dramatic female whimper that went on and on.

"Good heavens," my mate breathed. "Not shy here, are they?"

"Edward once told me that when they first settled here, the Westerners had to shoo the local lovers out of the public eye, and into their homes, all the time. I expect overhearing a couple is rather mild in comparison to tripping over them."

"I can't seem to get my head around the changes in Edward. Imagine if we'd brought him to a place such as this before he met Bella."

"Oh, he'd have run away, clutching his head and screaming," I said seriously.

"He doesn't seem to mind pda anymore."

"He trusts the people here," I murmured. "And there are a lot of males. He will display his dominance, which includes ownership of Bella, as part of his headship."

"You don't do that very much," she checked.

"I didn't get a huge coven dropped in my lap all at once. I'm gobsmacked over his coping ability, actually. He manages to assert himself without being heavy-handed. Somewhere along the line he's learned to relax. And speaking of relaxing…" I cupped my mate's breasts in my hands, running my thumbs over her nipples in circles, watching her eyes darken and fill with silver lights. Pressing her gently against a tree, I pushed myself against her, teeth gritted, desperate for relief.

"Well, Doctor Teeth, nothing about you is relaxed, that's for sure," my mate teased. A soft growl rumbling in my chest, I sucked her neck just beneath her ear, and gave her a little nip, making her gasp. The heady scent of her arousal was enough to make me consider abandoning the last shreds of my propriety. If I were to ravish her here, against a tree, would we get caught? The thought was not altogether unpleasant. Moisture oozed out of my tip, making the suede garment even more erogenous.

"I've had a soft cloth rubbing against my cock and balls since this morning," I growled, palming her pussy through the fabric concealing it, "and I've had to look at you, walking around in front of all the males with your tits obscured only by hair, all day."

"Mmm. Does it make you feel powerful?" she purred, parting her legs to give me access.

I shifted the loincloth aside and slid two fingers along her swollen folds, and she gasped. She lifted one leg and tipped her hips forward, and I massaged her clitoris gently, then, slid both fingers into her receptive heat. Her engorged womanhood embraced them, sucking and massaging, squeezing, releasing and engulfing, whilst she bit at her bottom lip and clutched my bare back with needy fingers.

"It makes me want to push you up against this tree and fuck you," I growled. "I want a switch."

"Yes!" she wailed. "Fuck me, Carlisle. Now!"

I tugged my loincloth aside, allowing Lance to spring forth and be caught by my worshipful mate, who encircled him with both hands and began to milk him. And if she did, I would not last.

"Lancelot," she whimpered, and happy energy tingled off the tip, releasing a drippy string of pre-cum that stretched to the ground. She petted him again, making me buck.

Growling sub-audibly, I pulled her hands aside and trapped them against the smooth bark of the tree, and she mewled loudly. Jism poured down her leg, and I was done with waiting. There would be no games this time. I bared my teeth, and venom coursed down my chin onto my chest. Esme took my hand between hers and licked my palm, and I snatched it back, and captured my cock, wetting it, whilst she begged me in hushed tones to hurry up before somebody came through the trees. I pulled my frenulum down my length, hard, so the slick, wet skin slithered over the glans, and Milady collected her own squirt and added it. Clutching her hip, I pulled her onto my shaft as she balanced herself precariously on her toes, arms around my neck, and we both moaned much too loudly for safety.

Without ado I thrust forward, and she put her head back, exposing her elongated throat to me. "Harder!" she gasped, and I answered with a possessive growl. Soon, she was mewling in earnest, and begging me for more, and I obliged her.

"More, more, give me everything!" she gasped, submissive to the pounding fuck I was giving her. So she wanted me to dominate her, did she? I was up for that. Literally. I pulled back and spun her around, lifting her so that she had to throw her arms around the tree. Lifting her on the diagonal, I impaled her on my cock so fast that she cried out, heedless of who might hear her. I snarled in response, and pistoned my cock in and out, relentless as a freight train. My balls slapped against her flesh, adding to the raucous noise of nocturnal creatures expressing themselves in the darkness, and my mate abandoned her scruples, and let go her ecstatic sounds into the wild, her body already going limp. Holding her up, I continued my domineering assault, not attending to anything around us. The air between us turned static, as something before an electrical storm, and I just hoped that our bubble wouldn't implode upon the area around us. Frantic for release, I pushed on, and that's how I missed knowing that we were no longer alone.

Whispered female voices cut through our intimate circle, and a territorial growl swelled in my chest, but I bit back a roar, for it was only Senna and Kichiri, who were interested only in females. Indulging in some heavy petting, they were as oblivious as we to the presence of others. Squeaking, they grasped each other's hands and ran away, giggling. At least ten feet from our space, I heard Zafrina, Tanya and Eric talking in whispers. I covered Esme's mouth, growling so softly that I didn't even think it was audible to vampires. More feet padded beside theirs, hidden in the blackness. I thrust into my mate again, and she bit back a whimper.

"–in males," Zafrina said.

"Can I watch?" Eric wheedled.

"That is acceptable, as long as you do not touch my mates."

"Mmm, can I touch myself?"

"Yes."

Oh, please, go away! You're killing the mood. I licked my mate's throat, making her shudder, circled my hips silently, and attempted to keep my thoughts on the last session my mate and I had enjoyed in our secret lair, which involved suspension, a lot of shackles, the strategic use of clothespins, and masks.

"Can I touch my mate?" bloody cock-blocker Eric said, voice strangled.

Urgh.

"After we have had her."

Blech!

"Mmm, and you can have us, too," Irina said.

Perdition take them all! I'm going to vomit.

The slatterns and manwhore withdrew, leaving me and my mate in blessed peace. That was far too much information. I wondered if Edward knew that the extended family members were planning orgies.

Never mind. We were alone again.

Blowing out a relieved sigh, I unclamped my hand from Esme's mouth, and decided my cock might recover. She huffed out unsteadily, turning her face so I could lick at her lips. Soon, we had forgotten the disruption and re-established our rhythm. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves when another female voice cut through our bubble. Both of our heads whipped up, and we froze.

Rosalie. And she was seriously annoyed, by the sound of it.

"-know why they keep asking. They should know by now that Cullens and Hales are monogamous."

"Babe. I would not be threatened by a little girl-on-girl, if that was what you wanted."

"Em! I don't. Sharing is not my bag. You know that!"

"Oh, thank God!" Emmett sighed.

"Then why did you ask me?" she whined.

"I thought you were angry because the thought turns you on."

"No, it-"

It was at about that moment that I realized my son and his mate were heading straight for us, and if there was one person in our family by whom I did not want to be caught, it was Rose. She would go on and on about it.

I bit my tongue to keep from howling, and threw my mate over my shoulder, streaking through the trees in the middle of the camp. Soon, the infirmary hove into view, and I ran underneath it, to the cottage directly behind. To my left, I was startled to hear Edward and Bella playing quietly in their home.

"Ah, Minx," he moaned. Smack! "Eighty-five."

"You are so bad, aren't you?" his mate cooed. "Bad." Smack! "Bad." Smack! "Boy!"

Perdition take me! Did vampires always get naughty in warmer climes?

Everybody in the place who had someone to play with appeared to be going at it. I rearranged Esme so that she could wrap her limbs around my torso in an off-kilter fireman's carry, and hurled myself up at the platform of our cottage. I barely even looked at anything before tumbling her onto the sleeping mat to the left of the door. I hadn't had blue balls in a long time, and I was not going to have them now!

Lifting my mate's leg over my shoulder, I picked up right where we left off, and Milady knotted her hand up in my hair and pulled me down, growling in her throat. I clenched my fingers, grabbing at the mat, doing my best not to get carried away and rip into the floor. I knew my cock was angled to strike directly over her g-spot. Her muscles gripped me, producing indescribable pleasure. She lifted her other leg to my shoulder, and I spread them and held them out in a vee.

Soon, Milady was making an awful lot of noise considering we were supposed to be using discretion, and I felt powerful, and in control, and like every nerve ending was on fire. I lowered her legs and wrapped them around me, wanting the affection of her embrace. My mate's body juddered wildly, stealing my reason, and I followed, arching. As we climaxed, I bit her throat, sending my venom hurtling into her already-vibrating cells. She bit me back with a savage growl, and I felt the power of my orgasm heighten until everything in front of my eyes turned blazing white.

"Oh, fuck!" I gasped, shuddering, and the room gradually grew dark as I came down.

"Fuck!" I heard Edward yelp at his ten-yard distant cottage. "Ninety-nine!"

"Had enough?" Bella growled.

"No! More! I want them all!" he sobbed.

Beneath my heavy weight, my mate turned her head, and smothered a chuckle in the mat. "She melted the ice man."

We snickered for a few minutes, then, I licked the mark I had left on my mate's throat. It would soon disappear, as mate-bites did. I let her up, and she licked the one she had given me.

"That was so hawt," Esme praised me.

"Yeah," I said, worshipping her for being so brave as to let me be rough with her. I normally tried to avoid it in deference to her past life experience.

"You're still too tense," she said, eyes narrowed.

I sighed, combing back my hair. "Rose got me nervous." I looked around the inside of the cottage, which was merely shadow over shadow, and thought I spied a solar-powered lantern. Yes, it was kindly-set-out on a little table opposite the front door. I crawled over and fetched it, switching it on, and placed it between us on the floor. It cast a pretty, golden light over everything. I searched the walls curiously.

"What are you looking for?" Esme wondered.

"Edward told me there's a secret button. He said to look for a little round carving of the Cheshire Cat, and push on it."

"Whoa! How intriguing. What do you suppose happens? Perhaps a little box pops open or something, like the one he built in his closet back home to hide his stash."

"I don't know. He certainly was saucy enough about it."

"Uuuuungh! A hundred and six!" the saucy brat yelled. Esme and I stared at each other in utter disbelief.

"That can't be him," we said in unison.

Esme began to examine every nook and cranny of the room, sniffing the air for anything unusual. I copied her. "Do you really think he's a Sub?" she mouthed at me.

I nodded curtly. A person with so much authority and responsibility would be frantic to escape it. "But not a painwhore," I mouthed.

It took us two hours to find the button, concealed in the thoroughly-carved baseboard, at the south-west corner of the room. "You press it," I urged my mate, who was positively quivering with anticipation.

"No, you," she insisted. "He told you about it. It's intended for you."

We stared at each other excitedly. "All right!" I grinned.

I pushed the button. At first, nothing seemed to happen, and then, an entire panel of the central wall drifted neatly and silently toward us and to the side. Esme and I gaped at each other, astonished and thrilled. A little box popped open, all right! A box big enough to hold people. We scrambled up, grabbing our lantern, and took it over to the hole in the wall.

I angled it inside, and gasped. There was a complex metal pulley system linking the 'door' to the wall. My scientifically-minded son had pulled out all the stops on his imagination. Inside the wall was a confined space, large enough for me to stand in. To the sides of the closet, horizontal metal bars of a burnished silver colour repeated themselves every couple of feet, and there were bars attached to the front edges, running parallel, and a large one suspended close to the ceiling. The back of the box was padded in shiny red leather, as was the inside of the door. The sides of the box were painted black, as were the floor and the ceiling. On the floor was a lidded plastic tote box with a big red bow on top, wrapped in cellophane. It bore an envelope with a 'C' on it.

"What is it? It looks sort of like a cage," Esme said curiously.

It took some manoeuvring for me to get the tote out. It was going to take more effort than that to open my mouth and tell my wife the use intended for the closet. I couldn't decide whether to pump my fist like a silly teenage boy or crawl under a rock and die.

"Carlisle?" she asked, trying to catch my eye. "Why are you blushing?"

I pinched my eyes shut, sighing. "It's a glory hole. I'm never going to be able to look him in the eye again."

"A glory hole?" Esme demanded. "But aren't those supposed to have a hole cut-"

"In the door, yes."

Esme bent to examine the door. "Oh, Montgomery! There is. Oh my stars and garters!" She rounded on me ecstatically, and grabbed my arms, jumping up and down and squealing shrilly. "Our son's a deviant! Our son's a deviant! And he has great taste!"

"Ssssh-ssssh-ssssh!" I hissed, panicking. "Everyone will hear you!"

At least two people had heard her squeals: Edward and Bella were killing themselves laughing. Esme clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes growing round and black. "Sorry, Edward."

"Only you would consider that a compliment, Mother!"

"I've corrupted him through and through," I said hollowly.

"Nah, I think it was Emmett," my son said calmly. "We're going out. Chepaã has Ren, so there's nobody nearby. Have a good night, yeah?"

"Right. You, too."

An unflappable Edward: Who would have thought? We heard some scratching outside, and in moments two pairs of feet thump-thumped over our roof.

Esme's eyes twinkled, back on the verge of laughter. "Well, he's not a bluenose, that's for certain."

I huffed a laugh. "You're the one who helped him outfit their dungeon. This only just occurred to you?"

"No, you know what I mean. He was so determined to gull Em and Rose, and use that as an excuse to try things that weren't vanilla."

"I get the feeling they've tried a few flavours," I mused, brow cocked.

"Imagine Edward looking up BDSM equipment on the 'Net!" my wife squeaked.

"I'm having trouble adjusting," I admitted.

"Well, he was so…"

"Innocent?"

"Easily flustered. Open your box, I'm dying to see."

"I'm afraid to. Like I said, I must be able to look him in the eye tomorrow."

Esme sighed and pushed the box over to me. "Come on! He's not just your son, he's your best friend, and he keeps everyone's secrets. He did, even before he understood anybody's appetites. You're taking this too seriously. I bet he's put stuff in there to razz us."

"You think he's joking?" I asked, reassured.

"A gentle poke, like he usually does. I bet there's something good in there, too," my mate coaxed me.

I tore away the dusty, protective plastic wrap from the box, and opened the letter curiously.

Hey C,

I'm really, really wondering how long it took you to find the button. – lol

In case you're worried, I built the whole house with B's help. Nobody knows but me and B. Actually, there are a few secret lairs in this village, so don't be shy about it. And if you're not into it (I seriously don't want to know. TMI), then at least you have a fancy closet. The bars are strong enough to withstand just about anything, and the whole thing's soundproofed, so you'd both better be careful.

We went back to Hot Toddy's House of Deplorable Sin last Hallowe'en (Not for that, thank you! ) to watch 'Rocky Horror' with the students. Toddy really is a loon, you know? Nice man, regardless. Anyway, he gave us gift baskets again. We divvied them up with the sibs. Toddy knows where to get high-quality adult toys. Some things in this box, I set aside for you, and others were things none of us wanted. You can return anything to me that squicks you out. I'll give it to the cousins. Nothing fazes them. They are incredibly warped, yeah? Scary boo. I don't understand them at all, and have no wish to do so.

Speaking of being fazed, don't be startled when the music comes on.

There's also stuff in here from His Golden Eyes. You won't be able to break it or bite through it. Trust me, I've tried.

(I didn't tell you that!)

Be 24 for once.

Xoox ~ E.

Ps~ No, I did not carry this through Customs! I swam with it. Duh!

I handed the letter to my mate, who read it, shook her head, and laughed a little. She gave it back to me and I put it away in its envelope.

"So are you game?" she asked me.

I fiddled shyly with the envelope. "I'm not sure. We've never really tried sensory deprivation."

"Look in the box."

I sat cross-legged and Esme scooted up beside me and melded herself to my side. The top of the tote contained gauzy, pink, net fabric. I pulled it out. It was a ballet tutu designed for a Dolly Boy. A bright pink Post-It note was pinned to the front, reading 'Just Joshing'.

"Brat," I mumbled, chucking it behind me out the door. But the next thing was lovely: a quilted royal blue corset for Esme, with black flowers hand-painted all over it, with a matching thong. And there was also a simple chemise for her to wear underneath it, a royal blue suede flogger, a black leather crop, a pair of black elbow gloves, a cat mask and black Mary Jane stilettos with big blue bows.

"Put them on," I growled, feeling my dick grow heavy again.

"Beautiful, aren't they?" Esme crooned, stroking the satin.

"Assuming these were from Toddy, he must like Edward and Bella a lot," I mused.

"Bella says he's very respectful of their relationship," my wife told me, lying down to do up her stays. She sat up awkwardly, pushing up her boobs. "Will you help me with this, please?"

"Certainly."

Milady got up and braced herself against one of the vertical posts in the glory hole, sticking her behind out cheekily. I carefully put my knee against it, grasped the upper four ribbons, and tugged them tight. Then I laced the bottom ones closed, and cinched them in. I gave her backside a little tap, since it was probably the last moment I would be in charge for a while.

"Would you like me to put on your shoes, Milady?"

"Yes." She leaned her back against the post, and I lifted her foot tenderly, and put on the shoe, doing up the strap, and ruffled the bow. I repeated my actions on the other foot, kneeling at her feet. I looked up at her, quite ready to beg for attention.

"Will you sit in the chair for me, Milady, whilst we look at the rest of the things?"

Esme sat in one of the two chairs in the room, spreading her legs wide. She rested her hands on her knees, and I decided I was one lucky guy. I reached into the tote and pulled something out: a leather case. I unzipped it.

"Sounds?" Esme asked.

"Nice ones," I said, surprised.

"What else?" she wondered, peering down.

I pulled out a cardboard box, with lewd pictures on it. "Electric Mayhem?"

"Can't be as thrilling as Lancelot," she cooed.

I pulled the toy out of its box and examined it. A large, transparent purple device not unlike a Rabbit, it had a section at the base full of pearly beads. I turned it on, watched them spin, and resisted counting them. It would be far more fun to count them when they were inside my wife.

I had to stop opening my presents and give it a try. Esme appreciated that. And I found out there were a hundred and seventy two beads in it. Hah.

When she was satisfied, I got through the rest of the tote's contents: Golden Eyes' cuffs and spring hooks, black Shibari ropes, flirtatious dice, raunchy playing cards, and several lotions and lubricants were definite keeps. Other things, such as diamond tipped acupuncture needles, were definitely not.

I had to laugh at the duct tape.

"If I can manage to look at my son, I will be thanking him," I decided.

"I'll thank him for you," Esme decided. "Now let's have a little adventure. Get in that hole, Doctor Teeth."

"You'll have to catch me first," I drawled playfully, and threw myself out the window.

"Naughty! Come back here!"

It took Milady twenty minutes to catch me, which was a shorter time than usual, but when she did, I found myself hampered by extraordinarily durable handcuffs. I wondered what metal Eleazar was using to fashion his products these days. Hah. And then Milady tickled and prodded me into submission, and forced me back to our new lair. Before I had time to overthink it, I was squashed into the special cupboard behind the wall and my mate was looking at me, her head doubtless full of naughty schemes. I looked around with a mixture of wariness and excitement, and wondered if this was the only vampire-durable glory hole in existence.

Probably not.

"I wonder how I'm supposed to shut the door," Milady mused.

"Perhaps you just push on the wall, Milady," I suggested.

"Well, we'd best get you arranged first," she decided. She inserted the key in the handcuffs and released one of my wrists, and looped the chain over the top bar. A wide leather belt passed behind my back and pulled me toward the front of the box. I shivered a little. The space was very restrictive. I tugged on the bar inadvertently. Nothing happened. Not a scratch on it. What on earth was it made of? Something obscenely expensive and strong. Rhobonium? Tantalanium? Where on earth did Edward get it? Eleazar? If there was any vampire on the planet mucking about with metal, it would be he.

My musings were interrupted as Milady pushed my ankles apart at vampire speed, and fastened another shackle around my ankle. She used a spring hook to imprison me against the post, and I realized she had braced my feet apart with a spreader bar. "My gracious, Milady. I had best never make you angry."

"A responsible Domme never touches her Sub when angry," she crooned, running a hand up my front. "You ready?"

"I don't know. Yellow."

She caressed my face. "Why? Why are you nervous?"

I shrugged. "I can't remember ever being restricted in a small space. The last time I can think of being confined and powerless was while I was burning."

"Are you afraid?" she asked me softly.

"A little."

"Okay. I'm not going to hurt you at all, though. And I won't leave you in here for too long, how's that?"

A good Domme always looks to the welfare of her Sub. "Yes. All right, Milady."

"Now how do we get Lancelot through that hole?" she mused, pulling away my loincloth. She angled him toward the hole carefully with her left hand, and pushed against the outside of the door with her right. It slid very slowly toward me. Had my heart been beating, it would have been trying to climb out of my throat. I was by no means certain that I was going to like being confined, even if Lance thought it might be a good idea. He was only half-hard, and considering going soft.

But it was a little late to be stopping, or a little early, one or the other, because I was abruptly sealed in, and although I knew Esme was on the other side of the door, thinking only of my welfare and pleasure, it felt for all the world like I was alone. Except Lance wasn't alone. My mate was gently pulling him the rest of the way out of the hole onto the other side of the door. I felt her fingers cautiously probing, and then she gently lifted my balls through the hole, which then held me tight as a cock ring. I grunted despite my nerves. I was now quite unable to move, secured against the padded front of the chamber like a bug on a pin, and the air outside was a little breezy. It made my member hyper-sensitive.

Suddenly, soft music emerged out of the blackness. I jumped out of my skin, crying out, and the chains rattled above me. I gripped the bar in my hands nervously. Edward had told me not to panic about the music. I stopped panicking, and I took a deep breath, and concentrated on relaxing. I wondered what powered the sound system. Surely if it were battery-powered, the player would be almost out of juice after all this time.

The quality of the speakers was very fine, and the music sensual. Gregorian chant mixed with modern rhythms. And a woman's singing mixed in. Very nice. I began to relax.

Nothing at all was happening outside. I counted the passage of minutes, listening to my own breathing. The chamber was completely black and the outside world was silent. Time seemed to creep by. Seconds and minutes grew convoluted, and I began to lose track of time. How long had I been inside? I tried to account for time through the music. Had Esme left me alone? How long would she leave me alone here? My skin began to crawl as my anxiety grew.

Something touched my exposed cock, and my body banged against the door. It didn't even rattle. I was truly trapped. A chill ran down my spine. Then, something ran down the bottom of my shaft, leaving a trail of heat behind. A finger? Very weird. I couldn't tell. But it was … pleasant. The thing touched me again, tickling, and Lance twitched and woke up.

Milady's fingers examined Lance, turning him this way and that. The tips of her fingers slapped him playfully, and then she gripped him between vee'd fingers, waggling him around. She explored my balls, and I leaned against the padded front of the booth. I could not move. I could not thrust. I could not direct her touch. I felt like my cock no longer belonged to me. I was utterly powerless.

There was a pause, and then something spidery and tickly wrapped around my shaft, just behind the head. A hard stick brushed me. And then the woolly-feeling thing circled around my shaft again. It had to be some sort of small whip. Something with a long handle and tiny falls on the end, just big enough to wrap around and fall away. The clingy falls withdrew, and then flicked at my balls. I grunted. It didn't hurt, it was thoroughly sensual. Was the toy made of suede? Shame Lance didn't have eyes. I had no way to predict what was going to happen next.

Something touched the tip of my cock, and I realized it was moist. Milady was rubbing the moisture around, and the sensation was completely overwhelming. I squirmed against my bonds. I could not move. I wanted her to stroke me off, and there was no way to make it happen. She was determined to torture me with teasing.

Her hand withdrew, and then, she lightly slapped the side of my thoroughly hard member, which was pushed sideways, and rebounded. Oh, more, give me more than this. My forehead rested against the padding, my eyes drifted shut, and my fingers opened and closed tensely around the bar. Again, there was no sensation. No touching. I squirmed impatiently, and the muscles of my back rippled. My legs were tense. Muscles clenched.

Something cold touched my glans. Something much cooler than me. Wet? Milady gripped Lance firmly at last, and I groaned, resting against the front of the box. But instead of pumping, I felt the cold thing touch the opening of my urethra. Oh, in the name of all that is holy, she has a sound. A small one, presumably. It… has a smooth oval end.

The sound passed gently into my cock, and smoothly down inside it. I moaned demandingly for more. It felt indescribably good as it pumped slowly in and out. Milady manoeuvred Lance around so the sound could pass deeper into my body. She would never get it all the way in at this angle, which was frustrating. My prostate turned hard, desperate to be touched from the inside, but from this position it was never going to happen. I whined and pouted, and pushed my body against the front of the door. I was starting to get tense again. Angry? Maybe angry. Lancelot wanted to joust. No, to tup. No, to be in charge. Grr.

Milady withdrew the sound carefully, and again, Lance was bereft. I panted, wondering when any relief would come. Would she keep me waiting all night? The thought made Lance droop. And then, I felt warmish air on his head. Esme was blowing on him. Please, please use your mouth?

Suddenly, her hand gripped hard around my length and pulled it. "Ohh, ffffuuuck." Finally, finally, she was going to beat me off. I pressed up onto my toes, and tried to get closer to the front of the box. Her hand circled and polished, sliding my frenulum around, and Lance was painfully engorged. I arched against the bar, my toes clenching against the floor, fingers gripping at the chain restraining me. Her hands alternated, milking me, and her palm passed over my glans, making my body jump. And then, the hands were gone again. Was my mate trying to kill me? I thought I might go into a frenzy. I locked my teeth together to stop myself from gnawing through the upholstery. And then, a new sensation: she was pouring warmish water over me. Oh, Heaven. Oh, how can something so simple possibly be so wonderful? Could vampires pass out? My breath came in whimpers.

A rough cloth rubbed my thoroughly teased cock, and I cried out, writhing within my bonds. It was gone. And then, and then then then then, sob, I was encased in the burning mouth of my mate, who was seemingly determined to suck Lance right off my body. My whimpers turned to screams as I climaxed, my legs collapsing so I was supported only by the top beam, and hot ejaculate spurted at last, five, eight, ten times out of my cock and down her masterful throat. And I was screaming, heedless of the noise, with my eyes rolling back and venom spilling in rivulets down my jaw and throat. I yelled and yelled, straining against my bonds, which were keeping my legs crooked and useless, while my entire body exploded into white lightning. My orgasm seemed to go on forever and ever while I cried and spilled venom down my front.

At last, I came down, literally dangling from my restraints, and shut my eyes, completely spent. I rested my head against my bicep, and drifted. And then the most enormous, incredible wave of euphoria blossomed in my chest and left me powerless in its grip. I drifted along on it, feeling as peaceful as though I had just experienced one of our Naps. I purred with contentment.

There was a click, and a whoosh of air, and the mechanism began to move forward. The golden light from our lantern spilled into the cabinet, piercing my lids. I squeezed them shut, but the tension did not last. Every muscle in my body was slack.

"Our son really is a genius," Esme murmured, bending to release my left ankle from the shackle.

"Mm."

"Put your foot down," she urged me. I placed my foot flat against the floor, and put some weight on it, deciding some of my muscles still worked after all. Esme took my left leg and propped it under me. I endeavoured to push myself up, feeling about as tough as a newborn bambi.

"You okay?" she asked in concern as she pulled out the spreader bar.

"Peachy," I said. No sound came out. I swallowed venom, which quieted the razors in my throat.

"If I release your hands, are you going to fall on me?" she fretted.

"Probably," I rasped.

Esme turned sideways and leaned against me, then unlocked the cuffs. One end of the chain clinked downward, and my hands fell like stones. I flailed out to stop them from striking my mate, and grabbed onto the bars beside me to hold myself up. Esme slipped under my arm so I could lean on her. We slowly eased our way out of the cupboard.

"I don't think I've ever seen you so relaxed," she confided, helping me to find the floor and sit on it.

I slowly put my head in order, blinking in the soft light from the lantern. I shook my head, still reeling. "I feel like I had a Nap," I mouthed.

"You don't look like it. You look pasty."

"I feel good," I said, surprised. "Really…free."

"You released all that tension. I'm glad."

"I'm glad I tried it."

"Not so scary?"

"A bit. I didn't know what was coming, you know?"

"Right."

"Could you hear me screaming?" I wondered.

"When you got really loud. It was hawt."

"I'm sorry, but I need a rest now," I winced.

"I can wait," my dear one said firmly. "All I really want is a cuddle."

"I wanted to play with you while you were wearing that outfit, but I'd rather be skin to skin with you right now," I admitted.

"I can put it on again later." Esme rapidly divested herself of her beautiful garments, and came to lie with me upon the mat. I spooned up behind her, resting my forehead against her shoulder.

"What time is it?" I rasped.

"You mean you don't know?"

I felt a little sheepish. "No."

"Nearly four in the morning."

"Thank you."

"Kinda fun that you lost track of your inner clock, Doctor Teeth."

"I was thanking you for what you do for me. For… not being repulsed."

"We're mates. We have synchronized desires. Why would I be repulsed, Carlisle? That was totally erotic."

I smiled against her shoulder, feeling almost giddy. Apparently, she was not averse to doing it again sometime. "Esme, how do you feel about being suspended from a bar?"

"Pretty wet."

"Good answer."

And so, I shackled her, spread-eagled, to the bars in the glory hole, and licked every part of her that I could reach. It was so much fun that I decided we must have a similar device built at home. Perhaps our clever son would help out with that.

Morning dawned, the gentle light filtering through the window openings of the tree house, and we finished a slow lovemaking session with satisfaction, used some of the precious bottle of water to wash, and donned our loincloths.

I went out on the little front deck of the house, and looked at the pretty day. It was what the Scots call a soft rain, and everything was so lush and leafy one could not help but feel young. I hopped down off the platform and jogged over to Edward's house, and stood outside wondering if I was going to interrupt something again, but all seemed quiet. I could hear the voices of children.

"May I come up?" I called.

"Yep. Come on up, Dad," Bella's voice came to me. I alighted to find Ren and Mari playing with their Barbies, some small, colourful, very-much-alive lizards, and a large wooden doll house, which was full of furniture. Bella was scrubbing breakfast dishes in a small basin of soapy water. Her hair was elaborately braided, and she was wearing a grey t-shirt that belonged to Edward.

"Good morning," she said, eyes twinkling.

"Good morning, Dovey," I said as usual, claiming her right hand and examining the palm for bruising.

"Oh, please," she said, eyes rolling. "Vampire."

"Habit," I grimaced. "Thank God you're no longer breakable."

"Amen. But just so you know, I don't hit him hard. He only likes it sensual."

I mouthed, "So where's the pervert?"

She snorted and jerked her thumb toward the ceiling. "Communing with God."

"You think he'd mind if I…" I gestured upward.

"Of course not, Doctor Teeth. Go enjoy the morning. Both of you should have a break before you go to the Clinic tomorrow."

I got excited again. I would get to see my boy working. "You won't mind?"

She rolled her eyes. "Go do some male bonding. I've been wanting to do some work on my scrapbook."

"Thanks, Dovey," I smiled, feeling so light of heart.

"Nice to see you looking your age, Carlisle," she said, turning her back to put a dish in the cupboard.

I exited the house, and sprang up onto its thatched roof, then climbed up into the tree. It was a long climb: the tree was a good hundred feet tall. I was surprised to hear my son chatting with someone. Perhaps he was on the phone. Well, if I was disturbing him, he would tell me so. I continued climbing up into the canopy.

"… worry about her, since none of us can talk to her properly. I hope she learns the language quickly. Ticuna is hard, though, they use so many identical words for different things. Fancy the word for 'red deer', 'fox' and 'cow' being the same. Anyhow, I'm sure it will work out as you intend. Please bless Gabriela, it's so good to hear she's gone home for the weekend. Fer says she's going to the beach with everyone. I can't imagine never having been to the beach. God? Please take away the cancer. It's grieving Kaure and Gustavo so much. I wish there was some way I could see them."

I realized abruptly that my son really was communing with God. Bella wasn't kidding. My boy was talking to God.

"Morning, Dad," he said, propping himself up on one elbow. He was reclining on one of the gnarled white branches of the tree, looking completely unlike himself.

"I am looking completely like myself," he protested, sprawling out with a hand tucked under his neck.

"It's not how I'm used to seeing you," I clarified.

"Pot calls kettle. You had best get used to it. You are unlikely to ever see me wearing anything that buttons up to my chin again."

I was trying to work out in my head how to thank him for one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my life.

"You're welcome."

I gestured impatiently. It was only proper to say it out loud. "Thank you."

His lip crooked up, eyes warm. "You are welcome. I thought you would. Well, you know, it takes one to know one."

I pulled up on a branch near his, feeling shy, but wanting to know.

"Ask."

"Does it bother you?"

He smiled softly. "Why should it? It's not hurting anybody."

"Do you… ever… feel guilty?"

He sighed, staring up into infinity. "About being bent? You know, I could have been a child beater. No, my good man, it doesn't bother me, probably because it doesn't bother Bella. For me, it's only a game, not a lifestyle. But you feel guilty. You carry a lot of guilt, Carlisle. You should take your own medicine."

"Eh?" I blinked.

"God loves you, my friend. Just as you are right now. You need to take yourself less seriously. Leave the Dom at home once in a while, and let the twenty-four-year-old kid have some fun. In fact, maybe you should take a sabbatical, and come to school with me in September."

"School?" I said, nose wrinkling. "Ew."

Edward gawped at me, and chuckled, delighted. "Are you telling me after all these years that you hate school? After making me go over-and-over?"

I pouted, reluctant to answer. My mindreading son threw back his head and slayed himself laughing until he sounded like he was crying, his golden eyes shining. The sound echoed into infinity.

"Shut up," I advised him.

"Oh, Dad, that's rich. So come along and live near the campus. Work in a music shop and-"

"No," I said gently. "Not that I wouldn't love to live near you again, but..."

"You love the hospital."

"Yes."

"I miss Forks."

"I miss you."

He swallowed hard, and nodded. "One more year."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

A scrabbling noise approached, and Edward sighed and pinched his eyes shut.

"Yawaruna!"

"Yes, John, come up."

Cuāā's head popped up beside us. He was wearing the pink tutu that I had chucked out the door the night before. "Look what I found!" he beamed. I beamed back at him.

"Oh sweet Jesus, Carlisle! Here I've been worrying about the Denalis for months, and you are the one who corrupts my Ticuna? And my dearest one, too!"

I shrugged, attempting not to laugh. "It's a good look on him, don't you think?"

Cuāā beamed, and turned to see if Edward approved.

"I'm gonna kick your ass."

I scrambled up and hurled myself toward the next tree, laughing insanely, and decided that my life was enviably good.

"You're gonna explain this to Nahuel and Huilen," my son-and-best-friend bellowed, following me into the air.

"Oho. ¿Õẽxna?" I yelled.

Yeah, I love my life.

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