Chapter 35

What you don't know won't hurt you.

Maybe their lies are true.

Try and remember, try to forget those yesterdays beatings too.

You'll never see me coming.

You'll never know my name.

Try to remember try to forget but you'll never be the same.

Seth knew his attention was supposed to be focused on the patrol. The pack needed to be vigilant, but after a hundred years and a dozen failed relationships he never expected to imprint, and he was finding that it made it hard to focus. His sister had spent the last century withdrawn, and angry, and she eventually grew bitter. It got to the point where he avoided using the words "depressed" or "lonely" at all, even while phased, or she would get really defensive. Seth had spent those endless years at least appearing to remain upbeat, determined to be a source of brightness for the pack, no matter what his true feelings were. It worked, the pack thought of him as the prankster. More than once, Tekali referred to him as a lost boy, an eternal youth, their very own Peter Pan. Yet he never thought he would find his Wendy.

Then Leah found Eliza, and he was extremely happy for her, but couldn't help but be a little jealous. She had finally found her mate, it was amazing and scary. Still she was in love with a vampire. It was a shock to him and the rest of the pack. He hadn't even found out right away, it was later when he finally shifted the evening that it happened. It wasn't that he was bothered that his sister's imprint was another girl, or that she was a vampire so much, since she finally had a chance to have someone specifically for her.

In truth he was overjoyed that Leah found Eliza, since every year he felt her slipping further and further into a dark depression, and farther and farther away from his ability to reach her. He knew it was partially because she was trapped in a group dynamic when she hated groups, preferring to be alone. Mostly she had never really recovered from losing Sam to Emily. She had never been able to give up shifting, which meant she had never been able to age. If she were mortal again, perhaps she could've settled down with someone who might've made her happy enough, even without an imprint.

He had been there for her for so long, hoping that she would be able to let go, knowing that as long as she wasn't able to give up the wolf, there was no way he was going to, abandoning her to immortality without her only living family. Before Eliza he could never understand why she couldn't let go, he wanted to, but he couldn't. Still he'd tried his best to be a bright spot for her. Her rock, her best friend and confidant. He'd watched silently, repressing the traces of his own bitterness.

What had really bothered him about her imprint was the fact that he knew that Leah was never going to give up the wolf. It made him worried that he might not have the endurance to stay at her side anymore. He was happy and supportive of her when she spent most of the last week talking to him about Eliza. About her feelings, about the shock and how it felt. He was somewhat of a captive audience, while he recuperated, he listened and smiled and encouraged even as he felt an envy he couldn't deny inside. However, Leah wasn't oblivious to his pain, and tried her best not to rub his nose in her happiness. Still, the jealousy was there, even if it wasn't some all consuming monster.

Then it all went away. One hundred years of existing without purpose, one hundred years of being alive because he couldn't abandon his sister. One hundred years of hidden resentment and guilt, and loneliness... all gone in an instant.

She was so perfect, a dark reflection of his old self. The sweet guy, the misunderstood guy. She had something in her eyes that told him without a doubt that he needed to be there for her. Needed for her to know that she was important. He couldn't push, he couldn't beg. He just had to be. Let her guide him, fast or slow it didn't matter. She was his world. At first he didn't even know her name.

She just appeared the day before the explosion. Tumbling into the sunlight with Eliza. Her playful giggle caught his attention first, combined with his growing restlessness of being confined to bed, it was enough to draw him over to the window. Then he stood statue still, waiting for her face to turn in just the right way so he could fully see her face. Then she was looked up, sunlight making her skin glow softly... she looked like an angel.

He learned later that she was Bree, Isabella's newly adopted daughter. Perhaps it was a Clearwater curse, to fall in love with leeches, not that he cared. His world came unwound, spiraling into the either until all he could think of was her. Her name, her eyes, her feminine giggle. She completed him in a way that he could never have understood no matter how old he had become. She was everything now. He resisted every urge to charge down the stairs and demand her name. If he wasn't so caught off guard with shock he probably would have. Instead he sat back down on the bed to deal with the surprise. His restlessness was magnified by the fact that he could hear the voices downstairs when they came back inside. But he didn't want his first conversation to be awkward or so public.

When Leah came up to get him, along with Paul and Rachel, once again he surprised himself with his own remarkable restraint in not splitting off to find her when he got down to the first floor and found that she was nowhere to be seen. He didn't let on what had happened to him, but his confusion must have shown, because Leah explained to them that Eliza, Isabella, and their new family member Bree were down in the basement talking to their "bosses"

Seth only half listened to what Leah said about the night's events, as she and Rachel led him and Paul outside for the first time in days. His mind was fixated on one thing, that her name was Bree... then she was gone. The explosion was impossible. He never even spoke a word to her, and she had vanished in a moment so final that he felt his heart tear itself in two. Then in the distance he heard a vampire scream in soul wrenching pain, then he heard his sister scream in the same way, but he couldn't hear his own pathetic cry. The roar of the flames were too loud, drowning out his agony in a heat so intense that it pushed him back involuntarily.

He didn't even notice when Leah tried to run towards her beloved, didn't have the presence of mind to stop her. Nothing mattered... until the shadows came. Cold spreading out like a tsunami, squelching out all the fire in a single dramatic moment. The scream that followed was inhuman, and as frightening as the shadows that joined it, but it brought her back. He was moving his stiff bones and tender muscles as soon as the shadows laid her down.

Then she let him gather her up in his arms, pressing her close to him, and for the first time in his life Seth felt whole. He felt buoyant, even though he felt her pain acutely. Isabella looked dead. It tore at his heart again and squeezed in on his feelings of relief that Bree was already awake. He followed the vampire Alice back to the Cullen house. Then waited patiently for Bree to notice him, which was foolish since her focus was entirely on her new family. Then he had an opportunity to comfort her, but the pretty vampire stepped in before he could act. He left silently, trying not to let anyone know how he felt. He had held her, carried her but he hadn't even managed to get a word out to her.

Once outside, among the pack which was waiting somewhat impatiently for news, he was bombarded with questions he had no answers to. He knew that Eliza was alive, and so was Bree. He had no idea if the skeletal creature that was Isabella would live, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to know. Isabella's wounds were so grievous that he didn't think anything could survive them. Jacob didn't take that news so well. He paced and ranted, going through the list of vampires again and again trying to figure out who would have or could have attacked them. The remains of the house left no doubt that if Paul and Seth or anyone else had still been inside then they would have been dead too.

Seth didn't really listen. He kept staring up at the house waiting for a glimpse of Bree. He was mildly afraid to shift, knowing how much attention he would draw from the pack mind, no matter how tempting it was to use that link to get a few more images of Bree. He knew they would find out soon enough, he just didn't want them to know before he had a chance to talk to her at least once. So that he could try explain his feelings for her.

It was the next day before he saw her come down and curl on the couch with the blonde vampire hovering far too close to her. The Cullen's didn't comment on the presence of the wolves and made an effort to make them feel welcome even. Leah wasn't going anywhere with Eliza hurt, that much was certain, and pack-vampire relations were nowhere near the point that Jacob or anyone else in the pack felt comfortable leaving her there by herself.

Esme made an effort to offer them food, which several of the pack took her up on. They all raved about the cooking. Seth barely tasted it. The hovering blonde did nothing but dote on Bree, and watch over her with a mother's careful eye, which didn't give him much of an opportunity to speak with her. So he waited, and waited. Knowing it was only a matter of time before he had an opportunity to talk to her. Not that he had any idea what he would say...

"Hey, I'm Seth... I'm your soul mate. Or. Hey I'm Seth, I imprinted on you so I'll be whatever you need me to be for you. Or. I'm the guy you were waiting for, I'm all yours baby... sigh. Or Hi, we've never talked but I love you!" The more he thought about it the more silly he sounded. He was pretty sure some of his introduction lines might even get him charged with stalking, especially since she looked so young. He wondered how old she was, and how long she'd been a vampire.

He wanted to ask Leah what to say, but she was still too focused on Eliza. Not that he could blame her now. He totally understood why her world revolved around her. Then Eliza was up, and everything kind of changed. Bree started spending a lot more time out of Carlisle's office. Meaning he had more chances to get her alone. On the third day he finally had a real opportunity, and he had no idea how to explain what happened.

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"You can go up and be with them sweetie." Rosalie suggested to Bree again. Who shook her head slightly, hugging her knees to her chest. It had been three days, and she still hadn't been able to break through and speak to her new mother via their connection. She could hear Eliza call for their mother every few minutes, trying to reach through that strange… blank feeling she felt where Isabella used to be. Bree couldn't explain it. It was like someone had lopped off a limb. For Eliza it was much worse. Bree could feel how frantic she was at not being able to connect with Isabella. It was something that hadn't happened in Eliza's memory, which in and of itself was enough to totally freak her out.

"No Eliza's there, I'd just be intruding." Bree muttered almost inaudibly rocking slightly back and forth

"How? They love you. They would want you to be there." Rose tried not to frown as she attempted to coax the girl out of her shell.

"I... don't deserve them. I can't." She pulled away from Rosalie, who had been there for her so completely the last few days that Bree felt a little overwhelmed. Why were they all being so kind towards her? She was this ugly horrible thing that no one wanted? Why were they being so nice? They had to be playing some kind of cruel game. No... she knew that Isabella and Eliza weren't playing games, but the rest might be. Hell maybe fate was playing a game with her, giving her a glimmer of happiness only to jerk it away when she began to hope it was real. They had to be, no one could ever love her for real. She was… between one thought and the next she had bolted off the couch, and out the door, leaving everyone in the room, even Rosalie flat footed.

Seth was waiting just outside the doors when Bree rushed passed him, nearly knocking him over. He managed to dodge out of the way, and hesitated for a second before following her. She ran for several minutes, Rose calling after her from the house. Seth wasn't sure exactly what he was going to do, or say. He just had to be there for her.

"Stop, please." He yelled after her, hoping that would be enough to get her attention. She stopped on a dime and whirled around fiercely. Her move was so abrupt he couldn't stop from running into her, except once he got within a foot she back handed him hard.

He flew back several feet into a tree, his newly mended bones screaming at him a little, reminding him that he hadn't rested as much as he should've over the past few days, as he twisted to avoid the worst of the impact. He landed on his feet and looked back at her, the snarl of rage had fallen into a look of conflicted sorrow and confusion. She blurred over to him, and offered a hand to help him right himself.

"I'm so sorry... I'm sorry." She said twice before taking off into the woods again.

"Bree? What's wrong?" Eliza asked worriedly through the connection.

"Nothing, I'm fine." Bree shot back, then she tried to use the mental wall shield thingy they had described the day before to block Eliza out of her thoughts for a while. It didn't really work, but she could feel Eliza turn her attention away from her, which was exactly what Bree needed. It made her want to hug Eliza, even though she needed some time alone to think.

She ran until she couldn't smell any other vampires or werewolves. She broke into a small clearing, letting the soft grey light of the overcast afternoon filter down on her face. She'd said goodbye to the sun when she was turned, and they had given it back to her. Her sister gave it back to her. Her mother... Isabella. She couldn't lose her. Bree felt on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and it seemed her entire world was shattering, and she was almost relieved as the sensation began to overwhelm her. Then she felt a presence behind her.

She twirled again, and slinking out of the forest was a wolf. His head hung low, and his posture submissive. He was slightly mangy, and a little smaller than the other wolves she'd seen. Only his coloring was different from any wolf she'd ever seen. His fur was sandy colored... and...

"Arnold?" She took a step forward in disbelief. Her overloaded senses were struggling for anything to latch onto, and the wolf seemed to be exactly like her precious stuffed animal, down to the last detail. Had he finally come back to her? If this was the final step to insanity, or if this really was one big dream… well she could think of worse things to be confronted with.

She took a few steps towards the very real wolf standing trembling at the edge of the clearing. It was ridiculous to believe that it was him, come to life for her... but she couldn't help but hope. He took a tentative step forward, and that was enough. She rush towards him with a girly giggle, wrapping him up in a hug so tight that she felt it's bones beginning to give way. She loosened her grip a little, but refused to let go.

"You came back to me." She cried into his fur, holding him with the love of a child that had finally been given the best present they would ever receive Seth let her hold him, totally shocked and confused. He wondered if fate was having a good laugh at his expense. One hundred years, and he imprints on a vampire who's grip on reality seemed to be a tenuous at best.

Finally she let go, rubbing her eyes even though she hadn't been able to shed any real tears. Then she climbed onto his back, "Take me home... or I guess… back to the Cullen's." She seemed to be in almost a dream state as she did this. He obeyed her wishes, wondering how he was going to break it to her that he wasn't this Arnold.

She burrowed into his fur as he walked her carefully back toward the house, she seemed to calm as they walked. As they approached the house, she seemed to take a deep breath and then slid off his back. Her little breakdown now well in hand, and she was finally settling back into reality. She looked at Seth and asked quietly, "Who are you really?"

Seth met her eyes for a long moment, and then turned and trotted behind a tree. There was a sound that Bree couldn't identify, then the ruffling of clothes. It was several seconds later when he walked around the other side of the tree, wearing just a pair of jean shorts. "I'll tell you if you promise to tell me who this Arnold guy is."

Bree sucked in a slight breath as her eyes trailed up Seth's form, he was stunningly fit, and the word "gorgeous" flitted across her mind briefly. All of a sudden the ridiculousness of the past five minutes got to her and she started to chuckle, that grew into a giggle, then finally full blown laughter enough that she was doubled over onto her knees, laughing.

"Not… exactly the reaction I was hoping for." Seth muttered, though her laughter couldn't help but bring a smile to his face.

"You're the guy I hit, sorry about that. So what's your name, for real?" Bree asked between bouts of laughter, the confused expression on Seth's face just adding to humor of the situation.

"Seth. His name is Seth." Leah answered from ahead of them, walking alongside Rosalie as they approached the pair. She fixed him with a piercing glare, disappointed accusation clouding her expression. She had heard the news third hand, since as soon as he shifted the truth of his imprint had spread like wildfire among the other shifted wolves. Kyle thinking it was hilarious that Seth hadn't even told Leah, made the point of shifting back to human and dashing up to tell Leah.

"Seth... I like that better than Arnold." Bree said brightly as she dissolved in laughter again, and then bolted forward to wrap him in another hug Seth's heart swelled a little, he had no idea what had just happened and he wasn't sure he cared as his arms curled around her.

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Rosalie held her tongue, although she was furious that one of the mongrels had imprinted on Bree. Something Leah had informed her when she stormed out of the door. Rosalie had managed to goad Leah into a little bit of conversation as they waited for Eliza to recover. Leah had to explain to her what exactly an imprint was, after Rosalie had asked why a mutt seemed to care so much about a vampire, especially since they viewed each other as natural enemies. Leah expected complete rejection, and was pleasantly surprised when Rosalie listened to her intently, not once teasing or mocking her about it. Rosalie was intrigued, and slightly unnerved by the implications of such a union, then suddenly Leah's brother had imprinted on Bree. It was a fact that Rosalie wasn't thrilled about.

What little Rosalie had managed to glean from Bree about her past was fractured and horrible at best. Unthinkable at worst. However, it seemed that Bree found something fascinating about this wolf in particular, and Rosalie was completely at a loss for an explanation. The only upside that Rosalie could see, was that Leah seemed to be on her side about the whole situation. Leah had gotten just as angry as Rosalie, when the teenage wolf shifter burst into the room to tell her that Seth had imprinted... on a vampire.

"Seth is my brother." Leah replied to Bree's earnest question. Seth felt a little left out, he hadn't really been able to say much of anything since Leah had shown up with bitchy blonde vampire, at least he had a name for her now, Rosalie. The name fit; she was very pretty and deceptively thorny. However any complaint he might've have voiced was silenced by the overwhelming feeling of euphoria caused by having his precious brunette angel clinging to him so closely.

"Ohhhh, that's... is that weird I mean you're with Eliza, so since I'm her sister... I'm confused." Bree looked back and forth between Seth and the scowling faces of Leah and Rosalie, while she tried to work through the social connections awkwardly, causing everyone but Seth to smile. Seth just wanted his chance to explain things, before the rest of the pack... too late.

Jacob, Tekali, Kyle, Paul, and Rachel all came rushing towards him. Questions on their tongues before he had a chance to say anything. He sighed heavily as they surrounded him, some giving him reproving stares and disapproving glares to match his sister's still dubious expression, the others were asking when it happened. The one good thing to come out of the sudden onslaught of questions was that it put off the inevitable scolding that was most probably inevitable, judging by the stormy expression on Leah's face. He ran a hand over his face in exasperation, all he wanted was to grab Bree by the hand an run as far from them as he could.

It was like someone was reading his mind because a small hand wrapped around his, and pulled him deliberately away from his pack. Bree had been told by Rosalie that wolves were unpredictable and she was uncomfortable being surrounded by them. So she pushed through them and all but dragged Seth with her. She was grateful when Leah intercepted the pack members to keep them from crowding and following them. Leah may have been irritated with her brother, but she knew more than anything how important it was to give them a chance to talk.

Bree was determined to get away and face this stranger who seemed to have a strange connection to her. She had listened when Leah had explained imprints to Rosalie, so she knew that an imprint was something very special. Ever since Seth had carried her away from the ruins of her new home, she had been overly aware of him. She just hadn't got the nerve to say anything to him, her shyness was compounded by the fact that he seemed to avoid getting too close to her, even though it seemed like he was always watching her. She didn't want it to seem like she was running away from Rosalie or Leah, but neither of them could answer what she wanted to know. However, that was partially because she couldn't quite articulate the question that she really wanted to ask. The question that was all of a sudden giving her butterflies, and filling her with some kind of itchy anticipation. Was Seth meant for her?

She pulled him towards the house without speaking, and used the various balconies to climb up onto the roof. She laughed as Seth managed to follow her easily enough, although she was quite a bit more agile than he was in this form. They both knew they wouldn't really have privacy, but it gave them just enough of an illusion of such, that neither of them minded.

"So… " Seth said awkwardly, unsure of where to start.

"So… your sister says that imprinting can't be helped and that it's a very special thing. I'm confused, what does it all mean?" She asked as soon as they settled down on the edge of the roof, their legs dangling over the edge. She had never learned the social subtleties that might go in a conversation like this, so she was a bit more direct than Seth expected. The view was spectacular from where they sat, a tapestry of green and brown and lumbering slashes of black looming over the rest of the forest like giants, while the heavy underbrush made the ground seem to come alive with hidden wildlife.

"I am literally whatever you need me to be. I'll be a friend, a confidant, a... lover. I'm yours absolutely and completely." He said unable to look her in the eyes. He was afraid that she would reject him, however, he decided her direct question deserved a direct answer. "I will never leave you, and I will never betray you." He continued trying to modulate his tone so that he didn't sound like a lovesick puppy.

"So… you belong to me?" Her tone wasn't possessive, or offensive, she was just trying to understand.

"Yes, if that's what you want." Seth said quietly, his voice soft and serious.

"Why? Why me? I'm nothing, I'm ugly, I'm..." He turned and gently touched her cheek, turning her to face him. The idea that anyone would think she was ugly was insulting to him.

"You are the most beautiful woman I've ever met. You are everything I could've ever hoped for, and then some." She blinked at him, thankful that she could no longer blush properly. Still she felt an anger rising in her throat, why did they all keep lying to her? It wasn't nice to be so dishonest.

"I'm not... pretty. I've never been pretty." Bree pulled her face away from his touch, a little reluctantly. She fought the urge to lash out at him. A part of her desperately wanted to believe him, but she couldn't. She'd always been an ugly freak, her dad and schoolmates all seemed to agree on that.

Seth guided her face back to look at him, she resisted for a few moments before allowing herself to be turned, and his eyes bore into her intently. "I could tell you how beautiful you are until the sun expanded around the world, but you wouldn't believe me would you? I don't know who fed you those miserable lies, but they aren't true. I've been around for a long time, and I've seen a lot of things. You are the one person in the world I would want to share all my experiences with, but that's kind of irrelevant, because I never thought I would find someone like you."

"You don't even know me? How could be so sure?" She asked, inwardly she was waging a war with herself. Half of her was ready to jump off the roof to get away from him, the other half was ready to jump him.

"Because I was born to love you." He said meeting her eyes, his expression was filled with such total sincerity that she had to force herself not to not turn away from him.

"Oh... wow." Bree stared into his genuine eyes, and for the third time in her life, and the third time in the past few days she felt that maybe there was something inside of her worth loving.

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She felt the world spinning back towards her in a thundering cacophony, a million voices raised in laughter, a million voices crying in sorrow, a million voices screaming in pain. It was unbearable, intolerable to even her immortal ears. Nothing but brightness in sharp contrast to the darkness that she had fallen into. Even the love she felt from her daughters, pulling her up into the life she wasn't sure she wanted to live, felt course and irritating. Howls of wolves sounded off in the vague distance, like echoes bouncing off bottomless canyons. Then the grey mists of death pulled away, and all that was left was silence.

She was flesh again, and those phantom sounds no longer rang in her ears like miserable reminders of a half forgotten nightmare. She was whole again, a monster capable of tearing down cities if she so desired. She no longer dreamed, she no longer felt anything except the burning of unrelenting anger. The seething hatred that had defined her black existence was back swirling around her mind in its familiar refrain. Standing alone and defiant in the heart of a terrible storm of brutal retribution and revenge. Her rage bleeding from her core like an open wound... except she no longer stood alone. She hadn't stood alone in so long.

She had Eliza, and then Bree. Now she had Alice... Alice, why Alice... Why was it always Alice?

She opened her eyes to a space that was far too familiar as of late. She felt no movement in the air, or heard a single sound beyond the rustling of leaves outside the windows, and the dull heart beats and cautious breaths of the wolves standing still outside. They had all stopped for her. She knew they had all been waiting for her. Somehow... they all cared. Isabella flared her nostrils in a huff, sitting up so quickly and unnaturally that it drew several audible gasps. Then she turned her head slowly, to scan the room and assess her surroundings, but before she got a chance to really analyze anything more than that she was really in Carlisle's office... again, she was grappled by a set of very welcome arms, followed quickly by another person engulfing her in an overly tight hug.

"Mother!" Eliza cried into her shoulder. Squeezing so tightly that she would've died instantly if she were human.

"Isabella!" Alice's embrace was far more restrained, but the emotional context it created wasn't easy to understand. Alice wasn't holding her like a friend, or even as a family member. Hers was the embrace of a lover, familiar and vaguely sexual.

Isabella was taken aback by the dual hugs, and it took her another few seconds to sort out why, and then how she should react. However, Alice pulled back before she could say anything, looking embarrassed. She seemed so ashamed of her actions that she took several panicked steps backwards, before she looked down humbly at her fidgeting hands.

Eliza felt no such restriction, hugging her mother fiercely. Isabella finally had enough presence of mind to reach out and wrap her arms around her daughter, pulling her in close.

"I was so scared." Eliza whispered in a trembling broken voice.

"How-" Isabella began, but her question was cut off when the door was suddenly yanked open with enough force that it almost came off its hinges. Bree stood in the doorway clearly dithering on what she wanted to do. To Isabella's momentary surprise, she noticed Rosalie standing behind Bree , her expression clearly concerned and a little elated. She wouldn't have thought that Rosalie would be happy to see her awake, but she didn't have time to dwell on her surprise. Bree's hesitation lasted for only a moment, before she launched herself at Isabella and Eliza. The force of the her impact crushed the couch, separating the back from the base, and knocking off both arms.

The trio tumbled over the ruins of the expensive piece of furniture in a mess of arms and legs. Furious giggles quickly erupted from all three of them, followed by uproarious laughter from the rest of the room as they sat up looking disheveled.

"How do you feel?" Carlisle's voice came from the door as he entered the room, his voice filled with a combination of confusion, concern, and amazement. He couldn't quite understand how everyone could be so flippant about such a serious situation.

Isabella disentangled herself from her family and stood slowly. She frowned slightly thinking about his question, and looked down. She was clad in a simple white spaghetti strap shirt that was slightly loose on her frame, and a pair of thin cotton shorts. Her skin was unblemished and flawless, as usual. Then she set about testing her body, she felt stiff and felt the need to work out that stiffness. She started with her hands, balling them up into fists a few times while twisting her wrists around. Then she moved up her arms and flexed while she did, rotating her shoulders and neck to make sure she still had flexibility. Finally she bend down, extending her back muscles, turned her hips, and stretched her legs. If anything she felt almost more limber than before, she couldn't explain it.

"I feel… fine, better than fine actually. What happened?" Isabella asked, her brow furrowing into a scowl of cautious curiosity.

"Your house exploded." Carlisle responded before anyone else could, shifting out of the way to let Rosalie into the room though she didn't quite go past him, intent on leaning against doorframe.

Isabella's head whipped over to look at Eliza and Bree instinctively. "Are you two okay?"

Eliza's smile grew wider at her mother's instinctive concern. "I'm good... now. I woke up days ago, slow poke."

Isabella's eyes closed for several long moments, the memories rushing back quickly. She took almost a minute to process her thoughts, which for her was a very long time. "How long was I out?" She asked quietly without looking up or opening her eyes.

"Six days, fifteen hours, twenty-seven minutes, and forty-eight seconds." Alice said from the middle of the room. Her face neutral and her eyes were closed so that no one could figure out what she was thinking from the emotions she couldn't quite contain. Alice hadn't even realized until Isabella asked, that she had been tracking how long she was out to the second.

"Fuck." Isabella looked up at Eliza, "Did I miss anything?"

Eliza blinked several times and then did the last thing that Isabella expected, she doubled over and started laughing again, but this wasn't quite the exuberant laugh she was used to. This was a helpless, almost insane laugh. Relief so obviously dominating the uncontrolled fit of joy. Eliza couldn't stop though, it was so absurd. Her Mom wasn't even aware of how bad it was, and here she was asking if she'd missed anything. She wanted to scream at her, to make her mom understand how close she was to losing her mind from worry and grief, but she didn't. She couldn't. For her mother, for Bree, for Leah... she had to remain strong. So she forced herself to stop, and straighten up.

Yet when she finally looked up, and noticed how little amusement her mother found in her reaction, she almost lost it again. Isabella shook her head at Eliza, crossing her arms to announce her displeasure. "I'm concerned about the visitors we were promised."

"Visitors?" Carlisle inquired.

Eliza's smile faltered, and she shook her head quickly. "They won't be here for two days at least. From what I can tell from their logged public flight plan, only one of our... no... their private jets have left so far. They're headed to Cairo first, then they'll stop in New York to refuel, then they're coming here."

"She's right, my vision gave a pretty firm landing time of 11:46am Pacific time at Sea-Tac Airport; Concourse A, gate 14. The day after the day after tomorrow... unless something changes." Alice spoke up seriously, but with a touch mirth.

Isabella glanced at Alice and raised an eyebrow. "Eliza asked me to check. No wolves to interfere with my visions." Alice answered the unasked question with an embarrassed duck of her head. There was so much more she wanted to say but now wasn't the time.

Eliza grinned widely at Alice and teased, "Thanks Data." Before turning to Isabella to shrug at her. "Seemed like a good idea for a bit of extra insurance."

"I prefer Seven of Nine, since she filled out her uniforms so much better. But Data is better than the Yoda comparisons I usually get from Emmett" Alice responded a little too thoughtfully. Eliza's grin grew wider, she was happily surprised to find an unexpected geek among the Cullen's.

Isabella groaned slightly, "Please don't encourage her, or we'll be stuck arguing over which Captain was the best."

Eliza stuck her tongue out at her mother. "Totally Picard, Kirk was a misogynistic ass who had about as much diplomacy as a cat in heat." Everyone in the room, save for Alice and Isabella, started to look between the two of them with a bit of exasperation. Carlisle especially.

"I like Sisko. He had... well he was a bad ass and went on vision quests and he had the whole religious figure arc." Alice replied with a smirk, playing off of the mild amusement coming off of Isabella. The playfulness of the conversation felt good, considering the horrors they had all just endured.

"What are you guys talking about?" Bree asked from Isabella's side, she hadn't moved more than a foot from her regenerated mother. She was confused about the conversation, and obviously hadn't the faintest idea of what they were talking about, but she really didn't want to be left out of the loop.

Eliza sighed and went over to Carlisle's desk and pounded her head against it a few times. "So much work... No. Clue. How. To. Start." Each word was punctuated by a thump of her head against the wood. Then she stood straight up and scanned the room. At the very least her Mom's lips were quirked in a restrained smile, and Alice looked ready to break out in giggles. .

"I think we need to focus on the more pertinent situation here. Who's arriving on that flight?" Carlisle interrupted grounding the growing humor. His frustration was clear, and Isabella could tell he was more than a little irritated at being ignored, again.

Isabella glanced over at him and her expression softened for just a moment. He'd opened his house to her family during her convalescence. She owed him some common courtesy if nothing else. "Let me get caught up and I'll fill you in." She turned to her daughter and raised an eyebrow.

"Well… let's see. Where do I start?" Eliza's smiled turned sour again, and she started to pace while figuring out how to lay out all the events that had occurred since the explosion. This wasn't the sort of news she was used to delivering, and didn't have the first clue how to go about it. "Henry..." Words failed her, trailing off as she felt the shock of his loss again rather acutely.

Isabella blinked and her mouth dropped open, remembering him in the stairwell. "Is he…?"

Eliza shook her head and looked down, biting her bottom lip. "He... didn't make it."

Isabella nodded slowly, she didn't need their connection to grasp that underneath Eliza's surface humor, she was seriously traumatized. So she didn't push that any further. She looked at Eliza for several long seconds, then she looked down thoughtfully and somberly, deliberately giving off the impression that she needed a moment to assimilate that startling and painful news.

It was just enough time to give Eliza a chance to gather herself back up, and present a brave face. The strength must've needed to get through the aftermath of that kind of trauma, made Isabella endlessly proud of her. She too had been very fond of Henry in the brief time that she had known him. She decided then and there, that at the very least they would erect a headstone in his memory. Once she felt Eliza had regained control of her emotions, Isabella narrowed her eyes speculatively cluing Eliza in that she needed to continue.

"After losing Henry, I can't think of much else other than some minor dramas, but nothing terribly earthshaking. Oh, Leah's brother Seth imprinted on Bree." Eliza's mouth was twisted slightly in amusement. "And from her internal monologue, I'd say that the attraction isn't completely one-sided." Bree shot her a slightly offended look, but shrugged when she couldn't deny it.

"We should all probably sit down and talk about that in private later, sorry for putting it out there publically Bree. I know it's new and strange for you." Eliza responded quickly through the connection. Feeling a little guilty for being so casual towards Bree's feelings.

"I'm not ashamed, I just don't want everyone to get upset like those creepy assholes that blew us up." Bree elaborated, feeling the need to make sure they knew that Seth was important to her. Even though she didn't quite know how important yet. Bree unintentionally sent a smattering of memories through the connection to both Eliza and Isabella while she spoke. It gave Isabella a much clearer idea of what had happened than any verbal description they could put forth.

"Oh, sweetie. We don't care about that, and no one in this room should either. They'll have to answer to me if they give you a hard time." Eliza responded quickly.

"No, they'll have to answer to me first. I do want you to take your time though, make sure you want him too before getting into anything too heavy, but from what I've seen I approve of him. He's already treating you right." Isabella offered, in an attempt to be supportive.

Bree frowned in confusion at that, wondering how Isabella could possibly know or think that he was treating her right, and then she looked down in embarrassment, realizing that she'd sent her memories through their mental connection Bree wrapped her arms around Isabella's waist and squeezed tightly. Isabella smiled down, and stroked her hair slightly, reassuringly. She stopped after a second, realizing that the girl might not want to be touched, and confounded at how her own maternal instincts took over.

Eliza was clearly riding an emotional high responded. "Not that Seth's been able to spend too much time here, the wolves are all on high alert. Patrolling constantly. Oh, and Bree's been spending pretty much all her time with Rosalie and Emmett. She's taken quite a liking to Rosalie."

This time Bree looked up and frowned at the teasing tone in Eliza's mental voice. "What's wrong with that? Aunt Rose has been really nice!" She said out loud.

Isabella closed her eyes, putting one hand to her temple and the other held up in a stopping motion to the halt the conversation. "Okay. I was wrong. I'm not so fine. Is it possible for vampires to get concussions? Hallucinations maybe?"

Carlisle frowned but before he could step forward to begin an examination, Isabella shook her head and looked at her daughter. "Rosalie… nice? Maybe I didn't hit my head. Maybe I stepped into another universe like one of your science fiction shows. Who's going to be sporting the goatee?"

Eliza giggled and stepped forward to join Bree in embracing their mother again, each squeezing just a hair tighter than they did when they tackled her earlier. Then Eliza began to murmur quietly into Isabella's chest, too softly for anyone but the three of them to hear. "Don't scare me like that again." Then she picked up her volume a bit and added, "it would totally be Carlisle with the goatee."

Isabella lost herself in her daughter's for a moment, holding Eliza and Bree tightly for several long seconds. Then she opened her eyes and searched for Alice over her shoulder. When they locked eyes, Alice attempted a very small smile which came out awkward, and then nodded. Her expression promising a conversation later.

Isabella broke away from the hug, her expression turning serious, as she looked at Eliza. "We have to figure out what to do."

Carlisle spoke up, "If you're worried about where to go, we have plenty of accommodations, and I assure you that your house is not likely to be livable again."

Isabella shook her head slowly, her tone turning formal. "No, we can't stay here. That would present an unacceptable level of risk for you and the Denali."

"What risk?" Rosalie asked, leaning against the doorway, frowning.

Isabella grimaced slightly, "Carlisle, I'm afraid I'm going to have to apologize in advance for my manners. Before I leave here I'm going to be forced to threaten your life." Carlisle blinked in surprise at the gentle tone of Isabella's voice, it was nearly as disturbing as what she said.

"It's to keep you safe though." Eliza piped up, nodding earnestly.

"What… I ….huh?" Carlisle began to stutter, looking completely befuddled.

"My daughters and I have been informed that we're no longer welcome among the Volturi." Isabella stated plainly.

Carlisle's confusion deepened at that. "Informed how?"

"Well, they told us. But instead of a nice watch or a commemorative plaque for our decades of loyal service, our version of a pink slip was… KABOOM" Eliza said spreading her hands to imitate an explosion.

Carlisle spoke up, "Why would they do that?"

"It seems Caius doesn't like the idea of-" Isabella broke off and looked up at Eliza. "Wait, did you tell anyone about Leah's imprint?"

Eliza shook her head, it was something she had turned over and over again in her head since the explosion, "No one, and I asked Leah if maybe one of the pack spread it as gossip. As far as she knows, no one has mentioned it. That leaves Henry, and you saw how he reacted to the call. There's no way he say anything. He would've gotten out at the very least, or if he was the one that informed on us, than I imagine that conversation would have happened a lot sooner."

Alice spoke up, her voice soft. "My vision was pretty clear about one thing, Aro got a phone call before he talked to you. I saw that they were going to do something… I had no idea what, and I tried to get to you…. I…" Her voice trailed off as she took a steadying breath.

Isabella clenched her fist momentarily as she got a fairly clear idea of who the guilty party was, since only one was person was privy to an individual's innermost secrets. She managed to restrain her impulse for the time being, needing to be sure before going off half-cocked to finally end his selfish existence. Mimicking Alice, she took a steadying breath before she turned towards Carlisle again.

"When the Volturi find out that we survived, they're going to take it upon themselves to rectify the situation. If they find us with you, your coven will be judged as guilty by association, and as you know they don't give second chances." She wasn't being cheeky, and Carlisle took her very seriously. Nodding slowly, forced to concede the point, though his face looked troubled as he did so.

Isabella's head turned back to Eliza, "We just need to figure out what to do."

Eliza's expression turned serious as well, mirroring her mothers. "We really do. Options?"

"I'll lay out all of our options to be fair." Isabella frowned slowly, ticking off numbers on her fingers. "Option one, we flee right now. Which might work since they can't track us."

Eliza shook her head at that. "No chance. The Volturi are coming for the Quileute's, and they'll be here in just over two days."

Isabella nodded in acknowledgement. "Agreed. So we stay to stop the attack."

"We do have the option to leave afterward. If we have to." Eliza said reluctantly, though she clearly didn't like the idea.

Isabella sighed and shook her head. "No… probably not. If the first assault doesn't work they'll send another with the big guns. The pack would be helpless against Alec and Jane, or god forbid Chelsea shows up, what would happen to them if they lost their mental link?"

Eliza shivered and nodded. "So we're fairly well nailed down geographically, at least in the short term."

Isabella nodded her reluctant agreement, looking thoughtful.

"We could always take the offensive." Eliza ventured, her voice betraying a bit of excitement at the thought.

Isabella's mouth turned up in a smirk. "Let's leave that option on the table for now. As much as I like it, there's a good possibility that if we go on the offensive, one or more of them escapes, and there's also the risk that someone like Alec and Jane show up here while we're gone."

Eliza heaved a sigh and nodded. "You're right. So it doesn't look like we have many options at all."

Isabella shook her head slowly and glanced down into Bree's wide dark eyes. Bree met her look with a curious expression. "I'm thinking that it might be a good idea if we left you to stay with the Cullen's, where you'll be safe."

"What?!" Bree cried sounding deeply hurt. "You… you want to leave me behind?"

Isabella shook her head quickly, "Not at all sweetheart... But you said you felt a connection with Rosalie, and there's the real possibility that you would be safer here. If you come with us, you could end up getting hurt or worse. I'm just trying to keep you safe."

Bree shook her head quickly. "No. Mother, where you go, we all go. I always thought that was part of being a family."

Isabella stared at Bree for several seconds before turning to look at Eliza who shrugged. "What? I didn't teach her to be stubborn. That shit's genetic."

Isabella rolled her eyes and then looked back at Bree and nodded, unwilling to take the decision she'd made away from her. "Okay." She started to continue but she was interrupted by a protest from Rosalie.

"Wait that's it? You're just going to let her come with you, when you know full well that she could be killed? How can you even consider that, and call yourself a 'Mother'?" Rosalie's half angry, half horrified voice demanded.

Isabella crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "Eliza's seemed to survive just fine."

"Eliza is trained to fight and defend herself, just like you are. I just taught Bree how to hunt properly for god's sakes! Before this week she'd been part of a group, picking off humans without realizing she had an alternative choice. And now you say the most dangerous coven on Earth is going to be coming after you. She'll be helpless." Rosalie threw her hands up in the air, her voice going up an octave.

Isabella's voice was calm in the face of Rosalie's tirade, but all the more effective for it. "I won't abandon someone just because it might be 'good for them'. I would never abandon someone who I consider to be family. I won't get into the fact that you started teaching Bree how to feed without asking me if that's what I would want for her. Animal blood is not the only way."

Rosalie's tirade was cut short as if a bucket of cold water had been thrown on her, her arms dropping to her side as she looked at Bree imploringly. Bree looked down guiltily but shook her head slightly, pressing closer into Isabella, making her decision clear.

Eliza spoke up. "The Swan Coven doesn't abandon its own."

"Swan Coven?" Isabella raised an eyebrow at her daughter. "Since when…"

"Oh please, " Eliza interrupted. "The Cullen's are already the Olympic coven. I refuse to share a name, and I refuse to be called the 'Forks Coven'. Beyond the fact that it's a stupid name, consider the sheer amount of silverware jokes and one-liners I could make out of it, we'd be totally ridiculous. I'd lose it the first time someone asks us if there's a Spoon's coven. Of course the name 'Goddess Eliza Coven' is available I'm certain…."

Bree spoke up quickly. "Or the 'Goddess Bree Coven'… I'd be okay with that too..." Her voice was earnest and sincere enough to make it obvious she was teasing. Though she studiously avoided using her last name as a suggestion.

"Well.. I guess Bree's suggestion has some possibilities." Isabella said dryly, more to tease Eliza than anything.

Eliza couldn't keep the pride off of her face at both her mother's and Bree's willingness to join in the banter. "Wait a sec, that's not fair, I've been here longer!" Eliza protested a little too loudly to be taken seriously.

Isabella groaned and ran a hand over her face, "Heaven help me. I have two of them."

"I'd kind of like to be a Swan... actually so I'm all for Eliza's suggestion." Bree said quietly, looking down in embarrassment.

There was a pause before Eliza responded quietly, "You already are sweetie." She closed the distance between them, and placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder, while brushing a lock of Bree's hair out of her face.

Alice covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a giggle, and she wasn't the only one. Rosalie was biting her bottom lip tightly and Carlisle was rubbing his hand over his jaw, in a movement that suspiciously covered his mouth.

After rolling her eyes in mock exasperation, Isabella shook her head. "We'll go to La Push, for now. The Volturi already have sentenced the wolves to death. The worst that they could do is sentence them to death again."

Isabella paused and looked down at her state of dress, and glanced at Eliza. "Please tell me you have something else for me to wear." The idea of walking out in small cotton shorts and a spaghetti strap shirt that was slightly too large for her frame didn't exactly please her.

Eliza chuckled softly and gestured with her chin to a set of clothes folded on Carlisle's desk. "Alice went ahead and ordered something. We figured you didn't want to wear Rosalie's clothes for long… but when your body was healing we didn't really have anything that fit you easily."

Isabella picked up the clothes, happy to find that they were black. Then she looked around the room with a raised eyebrow in an expression that was clear. Rosalie smiled once at Bree, then stepped back and headed down the stairs without another word. Carlisle nodded slightly and headed out of the room shortly after Rosalie.

Alice hesitated for several long seconds before heading out the door, but not without a last backward glance at Isabella, her eyes flicking up and down Isabella's form as if memorizing it.

Bree moved to follow Alice, but Isabella didn't let go of her. Motioning for Eliza to shut the door, which she did and then leaned her back against it casually. After the door was shut, Isabella let go of Bree, and then walked over towards the desk, stripping as she walked. Bree blinked in surprise at the casual movements and then turned away to give her a bit of privacy.

From her place leaning against the door, Eliza didn't watch her mother dress, nor was she uncomfortable with it. They'd dressed around each other for years. Eliza's eyes were on Bree, but she didn't say anything. Her expression was serious and all hint of humor and teasing was gone.

"Bree, I need to ask that you reconsider." Isabella's voice came from behind Bree as she changed, in quick efficient movements.

It took a second for the words to register, causing Bree to spin around in shock. She found herself face to face with Isabella. "What? I thought you said…"

Isabella was fully dressed, standing stoically with a serious expression practically etched into her stony features. Her black slacks and boots were simple and elegant, and the equally black turtleneck added just a hint of softness to her appearance. Isabella held up her hand to cut Bree off. "I did, and I meant it. But I want you to fully consider what I'm going to say. I know you're connected with us now, but that doesn't mean you have to stay with us. "

Bree tried to interrupt but Isabella shook her head to cut off again. "I'm not telling you we don't want you, quite the opposite in fact. It's just a point of fact that staying with the Cullen's would be safer for you. When the Volturi find out we're alive, which they will shortly if they haven't already….they are going to be after us to kill us. They won't have a choice."

Bree frowned at that, and tilted her head waiting for Isabella to finish.

Isabella reached out and set a hand gently on Bree's shoulder. "The Volturi's whole claim and basis to power is the ability to control others in our world and enforce our few laws. Once word gets out that there's two former members who are openly defiant of the council's will… that's would be disastrous for them. It would bring a question of validity to their purpose, it would make other vampires and covens being to question the effectiveness of the Volturi. "

Eliza nodded and spoke up, "The covens in Africa and Asia try to keep relative control of their territories because they don't want the Volturi stepping in. But even with their impressive power none of them fuck with the Volturi, because they're afraid of what they'll do. That fear keeps every coven under the Volturi's thumb."

Isabella nodded, as her daughter finished a basic explanation of vampire politics; a topic Eliza was far more up to date on than Isabella was. "Exactly. Their entire reputation is going to be at stake here."

Bree nodded slowly, though her face still showed confusion. "What's your point?"

Isabella smiled slightly at the blunt question, "As much as it pains me to say this. And believe me. It really pains me. Rosalie was right. Eliza and I are trained, and if we go down at least we're going down fighting. You're not trained. If either one of us screwed up, you would be helpless. You would be safer here, where you're not associated with us. Aro would probably declare that you weren't responsible for our actions."

Bree frowned at that and then squared her shoulders. Isabella almost sighed because of how familiar the movement was, and she knew what Bree's decision was going to be before she'd even spoken. Bree met Isabella's eyes unflinchingly, "Not a chance. Not only did you both stand up for me when no one else would, which I might add makes you the first people to ever do that for me. You risked a fight to do it. Then you saved my life twice, and offered me a family and a home."

Eliza opened her mouth to speak, but Bree cut her off without taking her eyes off of Isabella's. "It doesn't matter that the home got blown up." Eliza's jaw clacked shut and she looked abashed as her joke was short circuited.

"I also can't let the Quileute's get slaughtered. I'm a part of them now, as much as Seth is a part of me. Plus, I was in the stupid room with you, do you honestly think Aro is just going to let me go? I might be naive, but I'm not stupid. So I'm staying with you as long as you'll have me. And if I'm untrained… well you'll just have to help fix that." She crossed her arms over her chest stubbornly.

Isabella stared at Bree for several moments before stepping forward and embracing the girl in a hug. She glanced over at Eliza. "Genetic huh?" Eliza grinned a little bit and shrugged.

"We'd better go. " Isabella finally spoke up.

Eliza nodded and then hesitated a moment, "Um… one more thing."

Isabella raised her eyebrow at Eliza. "I swear to god if you try and tell me you're pregnant…"

Eliza sighed theatrically, secretly thrilled at even the little jokes her mother was throwing out. "Well… if I am, you're right I probably did need a refresher course on the whole birds and the bees thing. No… sometime, not long after we were brought here, while I was still unconscious, your dumbass ex came in here. Carlisle kept him out, but only because Bree promised we wouldn't kill him."

Isabella raised her eyebrow at Bree who looked abashed. "What, he was pitching a fit and we were worried about whether or not you were going to survive. The house had just blown up, you looked like one of those skeletons they have in anatomy classes… and both Alice and Leah were in near hysterics. I was a tad high strung! But Carlisle promised to keep him out of the room, and he made me promise that we wouldn't attack him this time."

Isabella shook her head and frowned, "He tried to kill us. He's going to die." Her voice had gone ice cold and the red in her eyes was beginning to darken and dissipate. Bree cast a worried look at Eliza who didn't seem fazed at all.

Eliza sighed a little bit, "We don't know for sure… we can't prove it." Isabella raised a doubtful eyebrow. Eliza ducked her head slightly in acknowledgement. "Alright, the little shit probably was the one that made that call. But as much as I'd like to rip his head off... we keep our promises, and Bree spoke for us. Also we kind of owe Carlisle for all the hospitality and blood he got his hands on."

Isabella scowled at both of her daughters for several seconds. "Let's get out of here before I give into temptation."

"I only promised just the once. I didn't say anything about next time." Bree offered helpfully. When Isabella didn't even give her a slight smile in response, Bree deflated slightly. Eliza sighed, and wondered whether her Mom was going be able to get out of the house without killing Edward, or for that matter any anyone in the house who tried to interfere with that goal.

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Author's notes: WHOOOOA O_O long chapter!

1) This was a SUPER long chapter. It was also one that took quite a bit of editing. The three sections about Bree were written by my wonderfully amazing Co-Author Samantha Minuet. She gets to stretch her writing skills on something other than dark and creepy Edward. Giving a different face to the main group. She's young and idealistic and really wants to be happy despite a shit upbringing. She's also emotional. I hope all that came across in this chapter. I also want to acknowledge that Samantha is the genius behind the lyrics on these chapters! So those of you who recognize them from somewhere. Thank her. Music isn't my forte. (has something to do with me being deaf X_X)

2) I apologize for how long this took to get up. I'm in a super busy three week period and I've been sickish. after next Friday I should be back to having a lot of time to write.

3) Samantha Minuet's Author's Note: So sorry about the long wait, Kathryn was sick, and I literally pinched a nerve and couldn't write. Talk about lousy excuses. Anyway, this was fun for me because I got to contribute quite a bit this time. I hope you all are patient, and I promise we'll get out the next chapter a lot more quickly!

4)Thank you to the people who commented on a Harry Potter concept. Samantha and I are still batting ideas around. though we haven't settled on anything yet. So feel free to review or pm an idea to me. If something clicks like it did with this story you'll totes get appropriate credit O_O

5) I'm sorry to people who feel like I'm bashing Edward. Um. Probably won't stop. As you can see he's a giant douche. And I get closer to writing his comeuppance every day.

6) The next few chapters are going to be focused around relationships. So expect group dynamics and shifts and some focus on Eliza/Leah, and Isabella/Alice. I hope those of you who are watching the Alice/Isabella relationship are happy with it. I haven't rushed it, nor are they suddenly all cuddly and lovey dovey. Isabella is not just over her issues. Their relationship is going to be tempestuous. but at least the two of them are connecting. As for Eliza and Leah... I figure we should check on their progress *shifty eyes*

Please read and review! I will be responding to the last chapter's reviews this weekend!

Next Chapter- One coven rises, one coven falls.