The Twilight Saga belongs to Stephenie Meyer, Summit Entertainment and anyone else who may legally claim ownership. No copyright infringement is intended.

Like the last chapter, I have no beta or computer. I'm one finger typing on a small device. I promise you punctuation errors. There will probably be typos, as well. Let's blame them on autocorrect. (it's probably not autocorrect's fault, it's most likely my mistakes. Shhh...)

If anyone knows a beta reader I need one.

I do reread my chapters, but I miss things.

I don't like posting imperfect chapters.

Chapter 24: Fire

There was a loud thud that emanated from the very top floor of the house. In an instant, every Cullen was in the room looking at an embarrassed Esme. She was on the floor under an array of electronic equipment. "I was just reorganizing. I'm moving some of our more sensitive—"

Emmet looked at the equipment scattered around her and interrupted Esme. "Illegal you mean." He flashed a wicked grin.

Esme nodded. "Yes, Emmett, I'm moving some of the things that shouldn't be owned by unauthorized people to the basement."

Emmett's grin broadened. "You're putting it with our other illegal stuff."

Jasper, suppressing laughter, regarded Esme. "So, what happened?"

Esme shook her head. "I don't know."

Carlisle smiled. "You were carrying rather a lot, you must not have balanced it quite right."

Esme rose. "Yes, well, I know that."

Edward cocked his head as Esme began to gather her load. "Want a hand?"

Esme shot Edward an annoyed look but accepted his help.

Alice looked around the room. "Um, Esme, are you redecorating?"

Esme spoke absently. "Yes."

Her tone didn't deter Alice. "Why?"

Esme was becoming slightly annoyed. "It's time for a change."

Alice ran her hands along with some bolts of fabric. "What kind of change?"

Esme shoved the things in her hands into Edward's. Arms akimbo, she turned to face her family. "I'm making this into a guest suite. A bedroom, a sitting area, and en suite bath."

There was a chorus of overlapping questions. Esme put her hands up, and the family quietened, waiting for her explanation. "I believe it will be safest for Charlie if he stays with us until the danger has passed."

Bella's tone was incredulous. "How are you going to convince my dad to stay here when he can't be told about the danger?"

Esme sounded exasperated. "I haven't figured that out yet."

The family all dropped what they'd been doing to help Esme. In no time their illicit 'library' was an inviting guest room, the decor balancing on the borderline of neutral and masculine; with just enough feminine touches to make it homey.

Esme looked a bit downcast. She was obviously worried about how to convince Charlie to stay with them.

Rosalie spoke, for the first time since coming upstairs. "Don't worry, Esme, I'll take care of setting it up so you can get Chief Swan here. I just need to know when he's due to start his next duty shift, and I need someone to make sure the dogs don't lure him there first."

Bella answered Rosalie's first question. "Dad's doing doubles as a favor right now. He had the afternoon off. He goes in at seven."

Jasper promised to talk to Sam. "I'll make sure Sam knows we want Charlie here, to keep him safe. I'll tell him Bella wants her dad here with her. Sam will make sure he gets no invitations to stay in La Push.

Carlisle's voice was soft and almost coaxing. "Rose, please tell us what you have planned."

Rosalie stood straighter and crossed her arms. "No." As it was Carlisle asking, she explained. "It will work out better if no one knows in advance. That way your reactions when Chief Swan tells you will be authentic."

Not even Emmett believed her excuse. They were all certain she was up to something that would cause them to object.

Carlisle's tone was authoritative this time. "Rosalie, make sure you are careful. Don't do anything to draw attention to us."

Rosalie huffed. "You know I would never do that."

Carlisle smiled. "I know you wouldn't endanger us on purpose, you are the most vigilant one of us all. Just be careful, please."

Rosalie's grin was wicked. "Oh, I will."

Carlisle looked pointedly at Edward. "Some of us will have to be extremely mindful of staying out of any direct sunlight."


Rosalie hadn't returned home. Emmett had received a call to meet her in Port Angeles, but she had refused to answer any questions.

It wasn't long before the landline rang. Carlisle answered it. "Charlie, hello, how are you?"

The other vampires could hear Charlie's response. "I've been better, Carlisle. I need to talk to Bella. Could I stop by your place?"

Carlisle, although knowing something was afoot, kept up his pleasant tone. "Of course, Charlie, Bella would love to see you. We all would."

Charlie didn't sound like he was making a social call. "I'm near your place now, I'll be there soon." The call ended.

Carlisle turned to Bella as Esme entered the room. "Your father will be here any minute. I can hear the cruiser now."


Carlisle opened the door to a dishevelled Chief Swan. "Charlie, it's good to see you. Is everything all right?"

"It's not the best night, Carlisle. Is Bella around?"

"Of course, Charlie, she's in the living room."

The men were quiet as they made their way. When they entered the room it was Esme who spoke first. "Oh, my goodness, Charlie, what's happened?"

"It's nothing too bad, Esme. It's just something Bella needs to know." Charlie looked at both Esme and Bella as he spoke. His tone was gentle. "Bells, I was at work and I got a call. There was a fire at the house." He rushed to continue. "As I said, it's nothing too bad. It can be fixed."

Bella worked to sound natural. "What happened?"

"A fire started in the kitchen. They think it was the wiring. It looks like the kitchen wall went up pretty quickly. It took some of the bathroom wall above and roof. Nothing important was lost. The house will need a new kitchen, bathroom, and roof, though. Maybe some structural reinforcement, maybe not. It's got to be inspected."

Esme spoke softly, but firmly. "You must stay with us until the work is done."

Charlie looked uncertain. "I can't put all you folks out like that. I'm sure Billy can find some space—"

Bella interrupted her father. "Dad, there's barely enough room for Billy and Jacob."

Esme was quick to speak before Charlie could protest. "We have an entire floor that's a guest room. It just sits there empty. It has a private bathroom. Please, Charlie won't you stay with us? We'd love to have you."

Carlisle joined in. "It wouldn't be any trouble, Charlie."

Charlie gave Carlisle a dubious look and prepared to protest again.

Carlisle chuckled. "You might as well say yes now. Esme and Bella won't be deterred, and once Alice hears of this—"

Alice chose her moment well. "Once I hear of what?"

Carlisle turned to Alice. "There's been a fire at Charlie's house. We're trying to convince him to stay here until his house is safe again."

Alice rushed to Charlie. She took his arm in hers, her tone prevented any argument. "Charlie, do you think Bella would want you to stay in a hotel in Port Angeles, or out in La Push? Of course, she wouldn't. She wants you here with her, with us, where you belong."

Bella nodded her concurrence.

Charlie looked sceptically at Alice.

Alice wasn't deterred. "Bella wants you here with us. We all want you here with us. You're part of our family now." Alice kissed Charlie on the cheek making him blush. "Now, that's settled. Bella, Esme and I will take you to get some food, we haven't eaten yet. Then, we'll go shopping for whatever you need. Jazz will drive us. We'll take Carlisle's car, so there's plenty of room."

Charlie looked at Carlisle. "How do you live like this?"

Carlisle laughed. "Indulging the girls has its rewards, you'll see for yourself."


When the shopping party returned to the Cullen house, Charlie looked dazed. Esme had done well curbing Alice's tendency to excess; but, it was still a bit overwhelming for Charlie. They had taken the shops in Port Angeles by storm. The only shops left unexplored were those that sold female wares exclusively. Carlisle had expected this. He steered Charlie into the living room, sat him comfortably in front of a sports channel and put a beer in his hand. Bella followed Carlisle into the kitchen to help him prepare supper, and to give her dad some space, as they all were. Bella spoke in a proud tone. "Alice really was good about not overdoing the shopping. It's just that my dad's idea of shopping is mail ordering underwear and socks when his have become more holes than garments. I've been buying stuff for him since I got here. Even that bugs him a bit. He was unprepared for something like today. I had to keep reminding him that he wasn't allowed to go back into the house to get anything. I told him he was lucky to have his uniform on. That seemed to calm him, but I had to keep repeating it. He kept giving Alice his credit card when she went to check out in each place. Esme would distract him, so he never saw the totals. That would have sent him into shock. Still, he may notice there are no charges on his card when the bill comes."

Carlisle wrapped his arms around Bella from behind and kissed her ear. Whispering as he did, "We'll take of care that too."

Bella smiled. "I never doubted it."

Esme breezed into the room. "All of Charlie's new clothes, toiletries, and everything else has been put away in his room and en suite. I left him some books, and the new issue of Field And Stream magazine, along with some other fishing-specific magazines, on his bedside table and his coffee table. I left some CDs and DVDs I thought he might like by the media center in his room. I put games there too, but I doubt he'll use the game systems without encouragement. Before he goes up for the night, I'll see that he has plenty of snacks and drinks. Hopefully, once he's used to us he'll feel comfortable using anything he wants around the house, and he'll make himself at home in the kitchen." Although it was impossible, Esme seemed flush with excitement.

Neither Carlisle nor Bella mentioned that Esme was referring to the top floor as Charlie's rooms.

Emmet came in the back door. "It sounds like your dad is settled in, Bella. Why don't I call Jacob to come up and play some video games? That should help normalize me a bit. Rose has gone in to talk to your dad now."

Bella looked terrified, while genuine concern became evident on Carlisle's face.

Emmett guffawed. "You should see your faces. It's okay, Rose won't eat him or anything. She did some work on his cruiser while you guys were shopping. It's okay. Alice checked it out first with her psychic mojo. Your dad will be happy Rose did it."

Carlisle and Bella looked relieved until Emmett continued.

"In the end." Noticing the changing expressions Emmett hastened to add to his statement. "He just needs to test drive it." The sound of the garage door could be heard. "Which they're doing now."

"They?" Bella's voice betrayed her continued worry. Not that Rosalie would hurt her father, but that she would be off-putting.

Alice breezed in. "It's okay, they're gonna be great friends."

Carlise's voice was filled with disbelief. "Rosalie and Charlie are going to be friends?"

Alice's laugh sounded like the tinkling of fine crystal. "No, they're going to b be the best of friends. Charlie is the one who mends the rift and brings Rosalie out of her sulk."

Bella's expression was incredulous. "Sulk?"

Emmett laughed. "It's what we're calling her extended temper tantrum today."


Charlie sat alone in the Cullen's kitchen. The sun was filtering in the window as it slowly burned off some of the denser morning fog. Charlie was gazing out the window, but he wasn't paying attention to the excruciatingly slow meteorological process. His mind was on the family he'd been living with for the past three months. He was, by nature, a quiet man. He was also an observant man, yet not one who was quick to judge. Like the lifting of the heavier fog, his opinions were formed slowly.

He had spent a lot of his time when he first arrived observing his daughter and her new husband. As her father, he needed to make sure Bella was being treated with care and respect. He also wanted to be sure she was happy. The more he watched the pair, the more he realized that her marriage was the opposite of what his and her mother's had been. Bella and Carlisle clearly enjoyed every moment they spent they spent together. Whether they were doing something mundane around the house, reading together, deep in conversation, or any of the other myriad of activities they obviously enjoyed, it seemed they enjoyed everything more when they were together. Carlisle did treat his daughter with respect and Bella reciprocated. Even when they had a disagreement they discussed it together and found a way to a mutually acceptable resolution. Their care and concern for each other shone through in everything they did. They shared common interests and played together. A smile curved Charlie's lips as he recalled them, in the middle of doing dishes together, chasing each other around the house, each trying to hit the other with a soapy dishcloth. Bella had been no match for Carlisle who won easily. They were affectionate and tactile. It seemed like they were always touching even if it was simply sitting against each other or holding hands. Charlie shook his head to clear it of the images that followed. They were passionate too, and he didn't want to think about that aspect of their marriage. He acknowledged to himself that their marriage was still in the honeymoon phase, but everything seemed deeper than that. He could easily imagine them as deeply in love fifty years from now as today. He would put money on that, and he wasn't a betting man.

His thoughts turned to Edward. He sighed in relief. He believed Bella had dodged a bullet there. Edward was nice, polite, and thoughtful of others, but he was a broader. Charlie sensed something dark in Edward. He didn't think Edward was a bad person, just... Charlie searched his mind for the current terminology. Emo. Edward seemed too broody and emo for Bella. Sure, she'd had a phase when she was younger. Her mother had told him about it. It was brief, a normal pre-adolescent thing. It seemed to him that Edward was stuck in that pre-adolescent phase. The only thing Charlie had observed that made Edward happy was music. Although, some of Edwards compositions were very depressing.

Charlie took a sip of his coffee and his mind turned to Alice. He genuinely adored Alice. To be in her company was to be surrounded with light. She was such a bright, happy person. He never met anyone so genuinely optimistic. She made everything fun. It wasn't one of her easily visible traits, but he knew she was not only intuitive but incredibly smart. He thought she'd make a good cop or an even better detective. With her intuition, she had a wonderful sense for reading people, and with her intelligence, she would solve many cases almost too easily. Her brightness, her optimism, would keep her from burning out or becoming too jaded. Although, her deep love of fashion might not be a good fit with the rest of her coworkers. Charlie almost snorted his coffee when he imagined Alice trying to dress up an older, set in his ways cop.

Charlie's mind made the natural leap from Alice to Jasper. She obviously adored that boy, as he did her. Charlie had the hardest time figuring Jasper out. He still hadn't gotten there. Jasper was so quiet that he seemed to be pathologically shy. The boy was the most polite person Charlie had ever met. He pursed his lips and shook his head slightly. He thought Jasper seemed almost like he was from another time. A more genteel time in the past. His instincts told him Jasper was hiding something. Charlie knew that if he was an extremely shy person he would seem like he was hiding something because he was trying to hide himself. Charlie figured Jasper had been hurt badly and was hiding his wounds. What Jasper couldn't hide was his intelligence and his aptitude for keen observation. Charlie was sure Jasper would excel as a cop too. He wondered if that's what drew him and Alice together, their hidden similarities. However, Charlie would never encourage Jasper to become a cop. If he'd already been hurt badly, and Charlie was certain he had, he didn't need to be exposed to the horrors most cops see.

There was a loud crash from the floor above. Charlie could hear Emmett and Rosalie arguing, although he couldn't make out what they were saying. He thought those two were quite the pair. Rosalie had a temper, no one could live in this house and miss that. Emmett seemed to always be the one to try and calm her or appease her. You didn't have to be a cop to see that Emmett was a big bear of a boy who wouldn't hurt a fly. A jock, for sure, who enjoyed a healthy competition. Rosalie, on the other hand, seemed like she had made a conscious choice to refrain from violence. Charlie didn't know what happened to her in her past, but he figured it was pretty awful to make her so defensive. Because Charlie could tell she wasn't a sociopath or a born bar brawler. She was a sweet person who had suffered, and that had turned her defensive. Her temper, Charlie concluded, was just her defensive coping mechanism. She was afraid of being hurt again and she wore her temper like a shield.

He sipped his coffee enjoying the flavor. He had always been a simple coffee drinker; but, Esme had cajoled him into trying some vanilla in his coffee. He found he couldn't say no to Esme, so he tried it. He still didn't drink hipster fufu coffee, but he admitted a little vanilla in his coffee tasted good. Charlie sighed. Esme. Just the thought of her name put a broad smile on his face. He thought her name suited her. It was old fashioned, but so was she, in a good way. She was still a strong, independent woman, with strong opinions that she wasn't too demure to share, but there was a softness about her that was a scarce thing in the twenty-first century. Esme was such a caring, gentle creature. The love she held for each member of her family showed in everything she did. Even when they were discussing a news story of the day she would always express genuine concern for the strangers involved. She was a rare jewel amongst a vast beach strewn with rough rocks. Charlie chuckled to himself. The boys at the station would have a field day if they heard Chief Swan give voice to that thought. Charlie sobered and pondered the truth of his unusually poetic thought. Esme was just that, a rare and precious jewel. She had come to him when Bella was laid up after her skating injury. She was sincerely concerned that he had no one to help him, no one there to welcome him home after a long day, no one to care for him. His deepest most hidden wish was that Esme would come to care for him in more than a friendly way. Even after Bella recovered, Esme continued wanting to visit him. He made it clear she didn't need an invitation, she was always welcome. They had ended up spending a lot of time together. It didn't matter what they were doing, he just loved being with her. He would be content to spend his life solely in her beautiful company. Another part of him acknowledged that too. Esme was beautiful. How he longed to hold her and run his fingers through her soft caramel curls. He longed for more too but turned his thoughts away from that. Such a beautiful creature was deserving of his respect.

Charlie's coffee was cool enough to take a long drink now. His lip twitched up. The Cullens, and now that grouping applied to his daughter too, were a unique family, but they fit. There wasn't a bad seed in the lot. He had always thought so though. Even when his best friend expressed unfounded contempt for them. He had argued his respect for Carlisle Cullen and his appreciation for his work. All of his reasoned arguments had fallen on deaf ears. He was shocked to discover that Carlisle, Bella, Esme, and Emmett had agreed to go to La Push to set up a medical clinic on the reservation where Carlisle would treat the Quileutes. He wasn't surprised to learn that after making the agreement, it took the Quileutes over three months to set a date. Today was that day. The four Cullens had set out early, leaving Charlie bereft of Esme's usual morning companionship.


The last one in, Emmett closed the door behind himself. His jaw dropped. He quickly closed his mouth and looked around. The

Quileute council were all packed in the small building. The crowd did not increase the ambient temperature. It was freezing. The back wall of the ramshackle, one-room building had large gaps between the boards. The cold wet wind whipped in through them. Were he not a vampire he might not have seen them in the dim light coming through the one, cracked window. The window had a thick layer of what smelled like soot. It was a better smell than the overpowering smell of death. He glanced down. There was a tarp covering most of the dirt floor, but the bloodstains were easy for him to see. This shack must have been used to dress animals, he sniffed, and perhaps fish after hunting and fishing. Being a vampire he had noticed everything, including the roof leaks, in under a second. His gaze turned to Carlisle, to see what he would say. But, it wasn't Carlisle who spoke.

Bella marched up to Billy Black, bent down to eye level and poked him in the chest with her index finger as she spoke, her tone did not hide her indignant outrage. She wasn't gentle with her poking either. "Billy Black, I know you are behind this. You know Carlisle can't practice medicine in these conditions. There is no way to create a clean spot, to say nothing of a sterile field. Oh, I want to wound you myself and watch you treated with no hope of any aseptic technique! Did you except Carlisle to leave, break his promise? That only proves that you know nothing about him! He hasn't been refusing to treat you all, you have been refusing to allow him to treat you. He would never willingly leave anyone in need if he could help." Her eyes narrowed to slits. "Or did you bring us to this shack hoping to get us to build you a proper place for a clinic? There is no need for subterfuge. If you had told us you didn't have a place to hold a clinic we would have gladly created one for you, and respected you for asking. But, no... Here we are, cornered into creating a clinic space without discussing it first, and there you are, losing more of my respect. Frankly, I didn't think there was a glimmer left to lose."

Billy opened his mouth to respond but Old Quil sent him a sharp look as Bella turned her back on Billy.

Bella drew a calming breath and addressed the rest of the council. "Will you allow us to build a clinic for you?"

Old Quil answered appreciatively. "We greatly appreciate and welcome your assistance. We sincerely apologize for the unexpected conditions you found here today."

Bella gave a nod of understanding. She turned to Jacob who was standing in the door he had opened at the sound of Bella's raised voice. "Come with us, Jake, we'll be in public, gathering supplies, so we could use the help. She turned back to Old Quil. "Is this the spot you'd like the clinic on?"

This time Old Quil nodded assent.

Bella raised her voice, not in anger this time, but to ensure the pack and younger men of the tribe heard her. "I will expect to find this shack demolished and removed when we get back. I want all traces of soiled ground turned over, as well."

Emmett looked at Carlisle. He was hiding a grin, but his eyes betrayed the mirth and pride Bella had engendered. Emmett almost lost it and let out the laughter he'd been holding in. Only Bella saying his name quelled his outburst.

"Emmett, I don't know anything about building. We'll rely on your expertise in the field. Carlisle will be in charge, of course. He will tell you what he needs." She turned back to Jacob. "We'll need to get a good, powerful generator. Emmett will take care of electricity and heating. We'll also need a good dehumidifier or two... We might as well get those as part of portable air filtration and conditioning systems. I'm sure Emmett will include vents for one in each room in his building plans. And bleach, gallons and gallons of institutional-grade bleach. I don't want a single virus, bacteria, or fungi left alive! Bella paused in thought. After a minute she turned to Carlisle. "I don't know everything that we need. We'll need to coordinate and organize."

Carlisle moved to Bella and looked deeply into her eyes. "I'd say you have made a good start."

"I don't even know how many rooms you'll want. I know you'll need an office, a waiting room, and an exam room; but I don't know if you'll want a separate treatment room, or exactly what equipment you'll need. You need to make the building plans with Emmett and order medical equipment and supplies... I don't even know if we need a permit to build in La Push."

Carlisle smiled. "Why don't we have a planning meeting over breakfast while this building is removed?" He looked at Jacob. "Will you join us for breakfast in Forks, and advise us as we plan?"

"Sure." Jacob nodded, trying to hide his delight at being consulted.

Carlisle addressed the council. "It would be helpful if we were advised of anything unexpected before arriving from now on."

Old Quil looked Carlisle in the eyes, showing his sincerity. "We will keep you informed, myself or Sam will see to it personally. I assumed that someone had informed you this time. Once again, I apologize."

Carlisle smiled and took Old Quil's extended hand. "Mistakes happen, think nothing of it. We'll have the clinic in order in no time."


Outside the shack, a handsome boy sporting a large grin was waiting for them. He made his way to Bella. "Hi."

Bella smiled. "Hey, Seth."

Seth's grin threatened to split his face. "Are you gonna work in the clinic? You should, you saved my dad's life. He'd be dead if it weren't for you. I just wanted to let you know that not everyone here agreed with Jacob's dad, back when he convinced people to stop going to the hospital in Forks. There are people here that don't see you guys; the Cullens, as enemies. You don't hurt anyone, so you're not our enemy. It's simple for most of us. I just wanted to make sure you know that there are people here that are your friends or at least will be when they know you. Not everyone here hates you for something out of your control. You're good, and we know it."

Carlisle who had been standing beside Bella smiled at Seth. "You seem to be a very responsible young man. Would you help us, Seth? You can let us know who will be afraid to come to the clinic so that we can be more helpful."

Seth turned his grin on Carlisle. "Sure! I can do other stuff too, to help you at the clinic."

Carlisle nodded. "Yes, I believe you can. Tell me, Seth, are you good with computers?"

Seth looked incredulous. "Are you kidding? I've been computer literate since I was a kid."

Bella hid her laugh with a cough.

"How would you like to be our clinic medical assistant? You will need to have a bit of on the job training. You can't be responsible for any patient care until you're a little older, but there is plenty that you can do now."

Seth was elated and it showed. "I'll work so hard, Dr. Cullen, so hard that you won't have to do anything but patient care."

Carlisle nodded agreement. "You will have to leave something for my wife and others to do, but I'm very pleased with your enthusiasm. Your parents and the council will have to agree, but if they do, the job is yours; as long as you keep your grades up at school, and help your family as much as they need."

"Excellent!" Seth beamed. "I will Dr. Cullen."

Carlisle smiled. "Good. Now, you can only work part-time hours, no more than fifteen hours a week, and I'm afraid the job only pays twenty-two dollars an hour."

Seth's eyes widened. "I'll get paid?"

Carlisle smiled indulgently. "Of course you'll get paid."

Seth's excitement was contagious. Everyone except Billy was smiling. "When can I start?"

Carlisle appeared to consider for a moment. "As it's not a school day, how about now? You can join us for our breakfast meeting. If your parents and the council agree."

Old Quil spoke in quick, hushed tones with the council members. He turned to Carlisle and made his voice heard by all the assembled. "The council agrees to Seth Clearwater taking on duties at the clinic. I will speak with his parents. For now, he may join you for your breakfast meeting under the supervision of Jacob, with my permission. If his parents should disagree with that, I will send Sam to fetch him home."

Carlisle tilted his head in acknowledgement. "Thank you. But, my car isn't big enough for all of us, why don't Jacob and Seth wait for permission from Seth's parents. Then, he and Jacob can meet us in Forks."

Bella caught Jacob's eye. "Take the Rabbit, don't put Seth on the back of your motorcycle."

Jacob's brows furrowed. "How stupid do you think I am?"

Bella simply smiled at him.

Billy Black chose that time to contribute to the conversation. "His parents will not want him to go to this meeting with just Jacob and three of them. They won't want him alone at the clinic with them either."

Old Quil faced Billy. He spoke with quiet authority. "You have ensured that medical care will be given here, with all our supervision. An unnecessary demand on your part. Forks Hospital would have been fine all this time. You have cornered the Cullen's into paying for and providing the labor to build an unnecessary clinic that will only cause them inconvenience. Yet, they do all this with goodwill. I will speak with the boy's parents myself, and assure them of his safety."

Billy looked livid. He didn't like to be challenged, especially in public. After all, he was a direct descendant of Ephraim Black, the Quileute's last real chief. He firmly believed that he knew what was best for his family, his tribe, and his best friend's daughter. He had always had good instincts. He could sense that something was coming, and it wasn't going to be good for any of them. He knew it had to do with The Cold Ones. He wanted to keep a closer eye on the Cullens, even if they didn't harm humans, they were vampires, the warmth of human blood no longer flowed in their veins. He gave Old Quil a tight smile. "As the council all agree, I will formally state my opposition, and say no more."

Esme spoke quietly to Bella, who nodded in understanding. Bella took an embossed leather notebook out of her bag. She wrote something down quickly and handed the paper to Jacob.


By the time Jacob and Seth arrived at the Cullen home for their breakfast meeting, Charlie had been called inand was hastily heading to his cruiser. A cold rain was falling with a few snowflakes mixed in, so he didn't stop. He held a large breakfast sandwich in his right hand, a travel mug and his keys were in his left. He raised his hand in greeting, keys jingling and got quickly into his police car.

Esme opened the door for Jacob and Seth. She took their jackets and led them into the warm kitchen. Jacob looked at Carlisle with a mixture of admiration and amusement. "You know my dad and the others think this meeting is being held in public, in a restaurant."

Carlisle looked completely innocent. "I never said that, I merely said Forks. I don't know why your father assumed our breakfast meeting would be held in public."

Jacob grinned. "Sure, sure."

Bella spoke knowingly. "Well, they will all have to be pleasantly surprised that you survived a breakfast meeting, alone and hidden away with a mass of vampires."

Alice's voice was prim. "I take exception to being called a mess."

Bella looked at Alice. "I said mass, Alice, as in a lot of vampires."

Alice's light laugh set the tone for breakfast. Esme ushered Jacob and Seth to the kitchen table. Places we're set for seven. Only three had plates, the rest were set with tall, ceramic, opaque glasses that had matching opaque lids and straws. They were obviously constructed to keep beverages warm. The middle of the table was replete with mouthwatering breakfast offerings. There was a footed glass bowl filled with colorful fruit salad, a platter of breakfast meats, including sausages, bacon, and steak, another platter held various breads, muffins, croissants, and bagels. There was a smaller container on a warmer that had eggs prepared in a variety of ways. Another wamer across from the first had pancakes and waffles, while a final plate held a variety of sliced cheeses. Mixed throughout we're crystal maple syrup dispensers, and compote dishes holding jams, compound butters, and other various condiments.

Bella sat, shook her head, and spoke one word. "Eat!" The room's artificial light refracted off Bella's glass as she filled it with orange juice from a nearby pitcher.

Jacob and Seth didn't have to be told twice.

Emmett took a long drink from his straw. "So, Carlisle, what are you thinking of in number and sizes of rooms?"

Carlisle looked thoughtful. "Nothing too big. It should open into a reasonably sized waiting room." He turned to Esme who had her graph paper and drafting supplies ready. "I'll let Esme figure out the dimensions of the rooms. The waiting room should have a window to a front desk area. This area should hold all the computers and office equipment we need. I think two large exam rooms, will be good. One where I will be with a patient while the other is turned over and then the next patient is readied in that room. Two treatment rooms, one for simple casting and so forth, and one for IV infusion recliners, and hemodialysis stations. I'll need an x-ray room with a dark room next to it. More advanced imaging will have to be done at the hospital. A room for phlebotomy will be needed, as well, not too big, but not claustrophobic either. I'll need a large supply room, we'll need a cleaner's cupboard, I'll need an office; and, of course, bathrooms, two for patients and one for staff should do."

Carlisle turned to Jacob. "I'm going to need help. Will the council want certified help, or do you think they'll accept someone I've trained personally?"

Jacob swallowed. "Want me to call them and ask?"

Carlisle looked surprised. "Will they all still be there?"

Seth answered Carlisle. "They'll be around Emily's table, eating, gossiping, and arguing. It's what they do."

Jake nodded. "Every chance they get."

Carlisle smiled. "Well, yes, please, call them."

Esme slid her drawing over to Emmett and moved to the oven. When she returned with a platter of cinnamon buns fresh from the oven and a tray holding three steaming mugs of hot chocolate, Carlisle was holding her drawing. "It's perfect, Esme, thank you."

Emmett grinned. "It should be a cinch to build, too."

Jake smiled at Esme as he ended his call and she placed a mug of hot chocolate in front of him. "Thanks." He turned to Carlisle and Bella. "They want Bella to be your assistant, nurse, whatever." He flashed Bella a wicked grin. "It looks like you got quite a reputation when you saved Seth's dad."

"Yes, well—" Bella was cut off by the sound of something hard hitting the house. It happened six times in rapid succession.

Jacob stood abruptly, his chair falling backwards. "I smell a strange vampire."

Jasper rushed into the room, dialling his phone as he did. The humans could only hear his side of the conversation. "Sam, there's a human drinker at our house."

The rest of the vampires heard Sam's brief reply. "We'll be right there."

The rest of the Cullen's entered the room on Jaspers heels.

Bella's voice rose in fear. "Jake, wait! Where are you going? Jacob was clearly headed outside.

"I don't want to phase inside." He continued toward the door.

Jasper's drawl followed him. "Maybe you should wait till Sam gets here."

Carlise's voice was calm and authoritative. "If it's someone with mal intent we should stay together.

Esme's soft voice was tinged with fear. "Carlisle's right, we're all safer together."

Jacob's voice snapped in agitation. "Everyone will be safer if I phase."

Seth's brow furrowed. "You mean if we phase."

Jake responded to Seth condescendingly. "Sure, whatever."

Rosalie rolled her eyes. "Do it in the garage, it's locked and empty right now. I had the cars out doing routine maintenance."

Jacob nodded and altered his course, Seth followed him. In seemingly no time at all, they were rejoined by a huge russet wolf and a tall sandy-coloured wolf.

"Emmett no! Stay away from the windows."

Emmett's tone when he responded to Jasper belied his edginess. "What? We need to get a look."

Jasper moved quickly into the next room. His fingers danced on the discreet keypad. The immense metal shutters lowered swiftly, securing the house.

Edward interrupted. "Jacob says he can hear the pack. They're getting close."

Carlisle's tone was grave. "Emmett, Edward, Jasper, will you keep Bella safe, please?"

"Carlisle, no, I'm staying with you." Bella's determination was evident.

However, Carlisle wouldn't allow himself to be swayed. "Isabella, my love, you are human, you can't go out there until we know what's going on. It's safer in the house, Jasper, with his experience, Emmett with his strength, and Edward with his ability to hear thoughts, when he's focusing, can keep you safer than anything I could do."

Bella's voice was firm. "Take Jasper with you. Edward and Emmett can keep me safe. You need Jasper with you."

Alice's quiet voice entered the conversation. "I'll stay with Bella too, so there will be three of us with her."

Bella whirled to face Alice. "Alice, no. Carlisle will need your prescience. He shouldn't be leaving Edward in here either."

Carlisle took Bella's hands in his. "I'm a vampire, remember? If Alice sees anything, or Edward hears anything, they only need to speak it for me to know." He brushed her cheek with the back of his fingers, adoration shining in his eyes. "Emmett, Edward, and Alice will stay here to protect you."

At the look of love, devotion, and concern on Carlisle's face, Bella acquiesced with a solemn nod.

Emmett caught Carlisle's attention. "We'll keep her safe."

Carlisle smiled grimly. "I know you will."

Edward spoke. "The pack is here."

Jasper, Rosalie, Jacob, Esme, and Seth moved to the door. After giving Bella a quick kiss Carlisle joined them. They were outside and the door was secured again before Bella could blink.

In what were only minutes, but to Bella seemed a lifetime, Carlisle and the rest of the family, except Rosalie, were back inside.

"We did a thorough search. Whoever was here is long gone. Sam is following their scent trail. They left us a little present. Victoria in pieces. That's what was hitting the house. Pieces of her body were thrown at it, hard. Rose is building a fire. The rest of the pack is staying for her burning, and to help make sure the gift giver doesn't come back."

Carlisle took Bella's hand as everyone moved outside and gathered around the fire Rosalie was working on. Pieces of Victoria we're in a pile on the ground. All except her head. That was tucked under one of Rosalie's arms. When she saw Edward, she threw Victoria's head to him. He caught it without hesitation.

Esme looked at Jasper. "Is that all of her?"

Jasper answered with certainty. "Every bit is present and correct."

They stood silently as the fire built. As the fire grew, they were joined by Seth and Jacob, back in human form and wearing clothes that Jasper had given them.

The fire was almost two stories high and burning incredibly hot. Without a word, Edward stepped forward and tossed Victoria's head into the center of the blaze. Jasper, Alice, and Rosalie joined him. Each tossing the remaining bits of Victoria into the flames. They all watched in silence as Victoria was turned to ash.

When the fire died completely, Emmett remained behind to soak the spot where Victoria had burned; while the rest of the family went solemnly inside.

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