Chapter 8- July 20, 2000

"I'm sorry, sir, I'm not at liberty to discuss that information with you."

"Well then, who is?" demanded Carlisle angrily, resisting the urge to slam his fist down on his desk in frustration. "I've been through three supervisors, two district managers…"

"These kinds of cases are closed," said the woman on the other end. "All of our children are well looked after."

"That's not the point," he said, doing his best to keep his voice down. Neither Emmett nor Alice knew of his secret phone calls, and he didn't want to get their hopes up.

"I'm sorry, sir."

"What am I supposed to tell her siblings?" he demanded suddenly. "Those kids have been absolutely frantic. If you just give me a phone number, or better yet, give it to Beatrice, and she'll get it to them, so at least they can talk to her."

"I'm sorry sir. It's a closed file."

"So open it."

"I'm sorry."

Carlisle grunted his displeasure, said a curt farewell and slammed the phone down, running a frustrated hand through his hair. Ever since Emmett had told them about the Swan's third child, Isabella, both Carlisle and Esme had been searching.

Beatrice had been of little assistance. She had known about the girl, but had informed him that her case had been assigned to a different worker. Beatrice had no access to the other file, and could not tell them where she was. The Seattle Social Services office had been obstinate as well, spewing off information about policies designed to protect children from predators and unfit parents.

Carlisle had tried explaining that he was neither a predator nor was he unfit, but the obstinate office workers would have none of it.

When he had contacted the Seattle police in a last-ditch attempt to get even the smallest morsel of information on the absent child, he had been met with both excitement and concern. A few of the officers had requested to speak with Alice and Emmett, to determine that they were both healthy and safe in their new homes, but there had been no word on the youngest Swan child. He knew that the Seattle police officers had been able to answer Emmett's questions about the whereabouts of his parents' remains. Carlisle could see that it bothered Emmett to know that because of his parents' lack of will, life insurance and financial savings that they would be buried in a plot designated by the state.

He was old enough to understand, and he was old enough to be upset.

Carlisle had been sure to tell him that as soon as he was ready, there would be no problem going down to visit the site to pay their respects. He had even offered to ask a priest or other religious official to say a few words, but Emmett had just crinkled his nose.

Renee and Charlie Swan, he'd learned, had not been religious people.

With the loss of both parents and his sister, Emmett had been turning surly and obstinate. For the first while, he had been rather reserved. Other than the original outburst about his sister, he had nothing much to say. He answered questions when asked, spoke small words of comfort to his sister and seemed to enjoy light, idle conversation with Rose, but other than that, he'd kept his peace.

Things had changed, however, when Alice had accidentally called out for her mother, and acting on instinct, Esme had responded.

Emmett had not been pleased, and had not hesitated to say as much to both Esme and Alice. Alice had dissolved into a torrent of tears, announcing that she did know who her mother was and that it had been a mistake, and Esme had tried apologizing for the slip, but Emmett had merely snapped a rude response and stormed off to his room in a flurry of rage. When Carlisle had come home from work that day, he'd found little Alice, red-faced and sniffling on the stairs and his demure, sad wife in the kitchen, preparing dinner.

Emmett had remained surly from that point on, even going so far as to make cruel remarks to his sister whenever she found herself upset.

Even Alice had begun to avoid him.

"Any luck?" Esme's voice came from the hallway outside his door and he couldn't help but smile as her hand turned the knob and she stepped carefully inside. She shut the door quietly behind her and leaned up against the door, taking in the mess on his desk.

"No," he sighed, standing to greet her. He took her in his arms, his chin finding the top of her head as she rested it on his shoulder. She felt so warm to him, cradled in his arms, and he wished in that moment, as he did whenever he held her, that he would never have to let her go.

"We'll keep trying," she said valiantly. "We have to."

Carlisle just sighed.

"How's Emmett today?" he asked.

"Seems better," said Esme carefully, maneuvering herself to look up at him. "Civil, at least."

Carlisle nodded in brief approval.

"What about the others? Jasper? Rose? Ed?"

"All fine," said Esme softly. "The therapist said Jasper did a very good job of opening up this week. She thinks we might be able to bring him down to biweekly meetings."

"That's wonderful," said Carlisle, genuinely pleased.

"Well, he's certainly happy," laughed Esme gently. "You know how he hates going."

"It's good for him," said Carlisle. "Healthy."

"Do you think we should make Emmett an appointment?"

Carlisle pondered that for a moment, knowing full well what the boy's reaction would be.

"We'll see."

"Are you ready to come down for lunch, or do you have some more calls to make?"

"No," said Carlisle, stretching. "I'm done."

Esme had thrown together some sandwiches, soup and sliced veggies for everyone to enjoy. Much to Carlisle's surprise, all the kids came to the table when he called out, including Emmett. Carlisle watched him carefully as he chose his sandwich, ensuring there would be no mealtime debacles, as seemed to be the norm since the arrival of the four newcomers.

"How's everyone today?" he asked idly, looking around at each child in turn. Edward, as always, was first to respond.

"Great, dad!" he said, bouncing on his seat. "I made a whole Lego castle by myself."

"That's wonderful," said Carlisle with exaggerated seriousness, repressing a smirk. Edward took his building blocks seriously, and always grew contrary when Carlisle chuckled.

"Yes, it was," said Edward eagerly. "It took me a very long time, and I worked very hard."

"Alice and I painted our nails," said Rose brightly. "Esme lent us the nail polish."

Alice smiled shyly at Rose and held her hand out for Carlisle to see. She had decided on a multicolored pattern, each nail a different shade of grotesque. She had pinks, blues, greens and one nail that Carlisle suspected had been dipped in a vat of glitter.

"Very pretty," he commented, smiling softly through the lie. He felt his lips turn up even more when she beamed and turned back to her food, pink-cheeked.

"What about you, Jasper?" asked Carlisle. "What are your plans for the rest of the day?

"Dunno," said Jasper, shrugging as he wolfed down another bite. "Maybe gonna go 'shide…"

"Don't talk with your mouth full, Mister," admonished Esme. "You'll choke."

"Shrry."

Jasper took a big swallow and looked again at Carlisle.

"Might go outside," he said again, wiping his mouth on his hand.

Carlisle nodded and looked down at his plate. Preparing himself for the inevitable rebuttal, he turned to the final child, frowning when Emmett refused to look up.

"What about you, Emmett?" he asked, as gently and kindly as he could. "Will you go outside too?"

"No."

"What would you like to do?" he asked. "I'm heading into town later, would you care to come along?"

"Oh dad, I want to…"

"Hush, Edward," said Esme gently, holding out her hand to take Edward's. Ed fell silent and frowned at his father, and Carlisle could almost hear the chant of 'not fair!' going on in his head.

Emmett's head snapped up at the offer, frowning suspiciously.

"…sure," he mumbled eventually, falling silent once more. Carlisle nodded to himself and returned to his food, taking a big bite.

"Ed, would you like to paint with me?" asked Esme softly, interrupting Edward before he could even start on his father.

"Oh, yes, mom!" he cried, effectively distracted from the idea of a visit to the main part of the town. "Can I use the easel?" Esme laughed.

"Of course."

The rest of the meal passed in relative silence, only the girls exchanging quiet conversation. Carlisle tried not to eavesdrop, but couldn't help himself when the two heads bent to meet, speaking in whispered tones to one another.

"…no!"

"Why not?" demanded Rose. "It's no big deal."

"Because," said Alice again, giggling. "He's my brother!"

"So what?"

"So that's what!" she said, her voice rising for a mere moment. Emmett's head snapped around to her, frowning in confusion as both girls looked at him.

At the look on his face, both Alice and Rosalie dissolved into loud giggles, returning to their sandwiches with nothing more than furtive, amused glances. Emmett, sensing the laughter at his expense, slammed his spoon down on the table, earning him an even louder round of giggles.

"I'm done," he announced loudly, scraping his chair on the floor as he stormed past his now-somber, frowning sister.

"Whatever." Alice's muttered word went unheard by Emmett, but was more than loud enough for Carlisle to hear.

"I'm finished too. I'll see you all later," said Carlisle. Alice looked up, alarmed, as if she thought that he, too, would be offended by her laughter. Carlisle smiled at her in what he hoped was a reassuring way, making sure to eat the last bite of sandwich from his plate so Alice would know he wasn't rushing because of her.

"I'll go out now," he told Esme. "Need anything?"

"No thanks," she said gently, caressing his hand as he passed. "Talk to him?"

"Of course."

Carlisle placed his plate in the sink and slunk from the room, leaving the girls to whisper and Edward to scowl jealously.

"Emmett?" Carlisle called out hesitantly, loathe to draw more attention to Emmett than he already had to himself. He waited a short moment, listening when the reply came.

"What?"

Carlisle found him in the sitting room, slumped on the sofa with his head on the armrest.

"You still want to come out?" he asked gently. "I've got to pick up some papers at work and maybe we can go grab you some new shoes? Your old ones look a little worn."

"Yeah."

Emmett stalked past him without so much as a glance, and Carlisle watched him nervously as he stuffed his feet into the almost-too-small sneakers he'd had when he came to the house. His big toe would poke through soon, Carlisle noted.

"Want to sit up front?" he asked, opening the door and letting Emmett through. The boy nearly tripped on the threshold before he caught himself, staring up incredulously.

"For real?"

"Sure," said Carlisle, shrugging. Emmett was the same size, if not larger, than most kids who were allowed to sit up front, and he was sure no cop would pull him over because of it.

"Awesome," said Emmett, cracking the first smile Carlisle had seen in days. "Dad never lets me…"

"Go unlock it," said Carlisle, knowing how much he'd loved using his father's keys as a child. It had always made him feel so grown up…

Emmett took them almost reverently and made quick work of the garage door, using the remote to unlock Carlisle's black Mercedes. Carlisle grinned and slipped into the driver's seat, Emmett following soon after with a small smile on his face.

Score one for me, thought Carlisle.

"Ready?"

Emmett buckled his belt and nodded in response, the garage door sliding up to allow them passage. Carlisle started the car and began to drive from his yard, winding through the trees until he reached the main road.

"You know, the town's not such a far walk from home," he commented gently, glancing over at the quiet boy. "You're old enough to walk sometimes, if you'd like."

"Okay."

Back to one word.

"Can I ask you a question?" Carlisle's voice was loud in the car, though Emmett didn't seem to mind. He nodded carefully, pointedly avoiding Carlisle's gaze as he appraised the carpet.

"How are you doing?"

"What do you mean?" deflected Emmett quickly, glancing up. "I'm fine."

"You don't need to hide from anyone here," he said easily. "It's just us two of us."

There was only a brief moment of silence before Carlisle heard the deep intake of breath before the rush of words.

"Alice hates me."

"Alice does not hate you," he admonished gently. "She's upset with you."

"She won't even talk to me anymore," he mourned sadly, and Carlisle saw him wipe angrily at his eyes as they teared up. "She only talks to Esme."

He spat Esme's name like a dirty curse word.

Carlisle kept quiet.

"I mean, Esme's nice," Emmett said hastily, seeing the small frown on his foster father's face, "but she's not mom. I think Alice forgets that."

"I don't," said Carlisle gently. "You know she has bad dreams?"

Emmett stared at him.

"It started after you told us about Isabella…"

"Bella," Emmett corrected automatically.

"Bella," Carlisle agreed. "She's come to us almost every night."

"I didn't know that," said Emmett softly. "What's the dream about?"

"I don't know," admitted Carlisle, "but it scares her. She calls out for your mother."

Emmett flinched as if he'd been slapped.

"I'm not telling you this to make you sad," said Carlisle quietly, reaching over to take his hand. "I'm telling you this because you need to know that you're not the only one grieving."

Emmett stayed silent.

"Your sister loves you," he said again, "and she misses you. She's upset that you've been reacting so badly whenever she tries to bond with someone else in the house."

Emmett said nothing in return, but instead examined the floor of the car.

"When we get home," said Carlisle, "talk to her. Ask her if she hates you. I guarantee you she'll say no."

Emmett just sighed, pulling his hand away.

"I miss them," he said in a quiet, tearful voice. "All three of them. Mom and dad and Bell."

"I know," said Carlisle gently, pulling into the main part of town. "It's okay to miss them."

"Yeah."

"You and Alice are part of the family now," said Carlisle easily. "I hope you know that. Any time you've got something on your mind, I want you to come to me. Let it out. It's not healthy to bottle up your feelings."

"'Kay."

"You want to come in with me or wait in the car?" asked Carlisle, turning into the hospital parking lot.

"Come in," said Emmett quickly. "I mean, if that's okay…"

"Sure it is," said Carlisle easily. "I'll show you where my office is."

"Cool," said Emmett, slipping from his seat as soon as the car stopped. He walked alongside Carlisle right to the emergency room doors, entering the waiting room. He looked mildly uncomfortable, so Carlisle was sure to bring him quickly through to the back, where his office could be found at the end of a quiet hallway away from the patient beds.

"Here we are," he said, using his key to unlock the door with his nameplate on it, the very official-looking "Carlisle Cullen M.D., Chief of Surgery" written on it.

"You're the chief?" asked Emmett, sounding both amused and a little impressed.

"Of surgery," said Carlisle gently. "We don't handle anything too intense here, but there's still a few procedures in a day."

"Cool," he said, moving into the room. Carlisle moved straight for the desk but Emmett stopped at the bookshelf, examining the medical titles he found there. When he saw the Newton's cradle on the shelf next to some older medical dictionaries, he grinned, pulling one of the balls back. It clacked soundly against its neighbour when it hit, and Carlisle chuckled.

"All the kids love that," he commented gently.

"They're cool," Emmett agreed. "My old teacher had one."

"Yeah, but I'll bet the teacher never let you touch it," said Carlisle wryly, remembering all too well the covetous teachers who refused to let their students touch the interesting artifacts on their desks.

As a curious child, such objects had often been the cause of detentions and angry letters to his father.

"No," said Emmett, eyes following the shining silver balls raptly. Carlisle chuckled again and gathered the papers he needed. When the cradle fell silent, Carlisle sensed a sudden tension in the room. When he looked up, Emmett was across the room, away from the bookshelf with his head bent down.

Carlisle watched, confused as the boy shuffled his feet, moving ever further from the shelf.

"Sorry," he said dully, flushing redder Carlisle had ever seen him. He thought he caught a glimpse of a tear in the corner of Emmett's eye, and he took careful steps to keep his distance.

"For what?" Emmett's head snapped up at the words, frowning as deeply as he had this morning when his sister had laughed at him.

"For touching it," said Emmett lowly, looking embarrassed. "I mean, I should have asked…"

"It's no problem," said Carlisle, shrugging. "Take it if you want to. Put it on your desk at home."

The incredulity on Emmett's face would have been comical, if it hadn't made Carlisle so sad.

What could this child possibly think of us?

"Really?"

"Sure," said Carlisle easily, hiding his sadness with a grin. "You'll get more use out of it than I will, I'm sure…"

"Really sure?" asked Emmett again, looking torn between excitement and doubt.

"Positive," said Carlisle, moving to take it. He removed it from the shelf and held it out before him, letting Emmett take it.

"Thanks," said Emmett, sounding genuinely pleased. "I've always wanted one."

"Well, there you go," said Carlisle, depositing his papers in his open briefcase. "What kind of shoes do you want?"

"Dunno," said Emmett, pink-faced. "Not pink ones."

Carlisle just laughed, and for the first since their meeting, Carlisle saw a wide, genuine smile on the boy's face.

ooOoo

August 2, 2000

Esme and Carlisle stood together at the window, watching as the hired U-Haul truck rumbled slowly down their drive, creeping ever closer to the house. The other occupants of the Cullen home were oddly silent, Carlisle observed, as the truck neared, no one knowing quite what to say to the two wired, tense children on the loveseat.

"What do you think they've got?" asked Alice quietly, her whisper penetrating through the silence to all the ears in the sitting room.

"Dunno," said Emmett dully.

"Probably all your toys," said Jasper quickly, picking up Emmett's slack. "That's what Rose and I got from our house in the truck."

"All of them?" asked Alice quickly, turning to Jasper instead. Carlisle shifted his gaze to observe the interaction, taking careful note of how Emmett reacted.

As predicted, when she shifted to stand, Emmett grabbed her shirt sleeve in his hand, tugging her back down next to him. Alice didn't resist and rested her head against his arm.

Reconciliation between them had been relatively easy, as Emmett's apology and been sincere and forgiveness seemed to be in Alice's very nature.

"Probably some toys," supplied Esme gently. "And we've asked for some of your mementos too."

"Like what?" asked Alice.

"Photos, videos, some of your parents' things that you might want…"

"What about Bella's things?" asked Alice eagerly. "Those too?"

"I don't think so," said Esme, her face growing sadder than ever.

When the social workers had called to confirm the address for the truck, they'd been informed that Isabella's things would not be coming to the Cullen house as Alice had so desperately desired, but rather they were being sent to her new home. Carlisle knew it was only reasonable to allow the absent child her things, yet something in him wanted very much to have them.

Maybe having her things in the house would be a kind of mental step up from their desperate, failed searching. It would be an indicator that they would be successful, and being denied those artifacts did the exact opposite—it only confirmed their fears.

Maybe Isabella would never be theirs.

Alice's face fell dramatically and she pressed it into Emmett's shoulder, no doubt staving back tears with great, Herculean effort.

Alice had grown sick of crying.

"I'll go out and meet them," said Carlisle. "No one get in the way of the boxes, okay?"

A rumbled assent rose from each of the children, though Carlisle suspected that Edward's curiosity would overcome him before the boxes were settled, and Esme would be forced to intervene.

"Come sit with me, sweetheart," said Esme suddenly, seemingly sensing the same thing Carlisle did. "You can see the truck from here."

Edward didn't put up a fight, rushing to the sofa and nearly jumping up to get a good look.

The men pulled fully into the drive just as Carlisle was opening the door. Today was a very fine day for Forks, with no clouds and no rain. The sun was shining in all its glory, casting a lovely sheen on his well-maintained lawn.

"Right in here, gentlemen," said Carlisle, quickly signing the papers on their clipboard. The men spoke little as they began to unpack the boxes, hauling each one into the sitting room. Carlisle helped where he could, taking a box here and there to help lessen their burden.

When the task was done, neither Emmett or Alice moved from their place on the couch, and not one of his children was speaking.

"Where would you like to begin?" said Carlisle. Each box had either a name or location written on it, and he left it up to the two of them where they'd like to begin. Emmett rose without a word and moved to one of the boxes with his name on it, dragging it closer to the sofa. He nudged one of Alice's towards her and nodded pointedly, encouraging her to open it.

"Why don't you and Rose take Edward outside to play?" suggested Esme quietly, glancing pointedly at Jasper. "It's so nice out…"

"Sure," said Jasper vaguely, his eyes glued on Alice as Carlisle used a sharp blade to slice through the tape on the top of her box. "Come on, Ed."

Edward frowned at the mass of boxes but didn't protest, not wanting to give up a chance for sunny outside time.

It was a precious and rare commodity in the Pacific Northwest.

ooOoo

August 20, 2000

Carlisle was baffled by the words on the television.

"Are you seeing this?" he demanded of his wife, who was seated next to him, just as still and just as stunned.

"That's not possible," she breathed softly, a deep frown marring her forehead. "She's from Seattle…"

"Call the office," he demanded angrily, gesturing to the phone next to her.

"You know they're not there," she soothed gently, unable to tear her eyes away from the screen. "I'll call first thing in the morning."

"Isabella Swan was last seen in Tucson, Arizona by her foster mother, and has been missing for approximately 3 hours. Officials in the area are looking for this man in connection to the disappearance. This man is described as six foot one, with dark hair and..."

A photo of large, dark haired man appeared on the screen next to the one of the little missing child with the name "Felix Franconelli" under it.

"How can she be missing?" demanded Carlisle, enraged. "I swear to God…"

"Arizona, Carlisle?" asked Esme softly. "How can we even be sure…"

"You saw her pictures just as clearly as I did," he interrupted. Alice and Emmett's old photo albums had arrived with their toys and other personal effects, and Alice had been more than eager to share the pictures that included Isabella.

"We are currently looking for Mr. Franconelli and his vehicle, described as a navy blue two door pick up truck, Arizona license plate number 354-6JD. It was last seen at his sister's home in Tucson by a patrolling officer of the Tucson Police Department. Anyone with information pertaining to this investigation should call the tip line on the screen…"

"I'll call, all right," snapped Carlisle, reaching over to snatch the phone from the table on Esme's side.

"Don't," said Esme quietly, taking it back from him just as his fingers closed around it. "You don't have any information to help."

"They'll have information for us," said Carlisle angrily.

"I'll call social services in the morning," repeated Esme.

"What do we tell the kids?" His voice softened from angry indignation to morose dread as the law enforcement official on the television faded away, and the CNN news anchor returned, looking properly downtrodden.

"Such a shame, Kathy. Such a shame… I hope they find her safe and sound." There was a brief pause in the narrative, and both Carlisle and Esme paid careful attention, in case of further information.

"In other news, we now go live to Austin, Texas, where our correspondent Patricia Walker has…"

Esme reached over and turned the television off, leaving them in the fire-lit quiet of the sitting room. She snuggled in closer to him and he put his arm around her, rubbing her chilled arm. She looked him square in the face, his last question hanging heavy between them.

How were they supposed to tell their kids that she was missing?

"We don't say anything about this," said Esme fiercely, taking Carlisle's face in her hands. "You hear me? We don't."

"They deserve to know," he argued weakly.

"They're children," she said passionately, sitting up to see him fully. "They're just vulnerable children, no matter how old they try to act. It would destroy them both."

"They're bound to find out," said Carlisle quietly. "We can't keep our searching a secret forever…"

"Knowing we're looking and knowing she's got an Amber Alert out on her are two different things," said Esme. "God knows what that man's done with that poor baby, and I won't have them worrying about that on top of what they've already got going on. They've just lost their parents, for God's sake… It'll do them no good to know."

"You're right," Carlisle sighed, kissing her hair in appeasement. "But what if they find out?"

"Then we tell them," she acquiesced. "But until then, we go it alone, you hear?"

Carlisle pulled her close without an answer, worry brewing hot and thick in his stomach.

He would do all he could to bring that child home.

A/N: Thank you for your patience... It's very much appreciated. I've been trying to get my fanfiction writing done in between my numerous essays, tests, lectures and my shifts at work and those free moments have been few and far between.

As some of you have seen on my profile (or on one of my removed stories), I've taken down quite some stories for editing and rewriting. They're very old stories of mine and they deserve some TLC. Some of them were done when I was just 13 or 14 (I'm almost 20 now), so they are definitely not up to par. They will return in even better condition than they were before, and I hope you can all take some pleasure in revisiting some of your old favourites once they're back!

I've looked over some of the responses for the outtake suggestions, but I'm still looking for some more. If you have anything you'd like to see as a Dark Waltz outtake (either during the actual Dark Waltz story or during the period between the final chapter and epilogue), please let me know! I'm definitely open to suggestions (and don't worry about repeat suggestions- the more they're mentioned, the more popular I know they are!)