A/N: I've taken some liberties with canon here, concerning the Volturi—a necessary move since Bella and Jake are together, thus meaning Breaking Dawn never happened. Just enjoy the ride.
Disclaimer: Just having some fun in Meyer's world…no harm intended.
"Emb … calm down."
Liz ghosted her fingers down Embry's flexed bicep as he gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. Jaw set, he drove with his eyes locked on the road, focusing on keeping the tremors at bay.
Fucking Jake. Fucking Cullens.
It was bad enough he had to deal with a bunch of blood-sucking demons, "vegetarian" be damned. But now he had to bring his imprint around them—on purpose? He and Liz should still be lying in bed, enjoying the afterglow … or maybe having another round.
Replaying his conversation with Jake, he found himself getting angry all over again.
There is no. way. in. HELL I'm bringing Liz over there.
There's only four of them, plus their new friend.
The psychic, her boyfriend, and the mind-reading douchebag. We outnumber them easily.
Good. Then why don't you bring Bella along, if it's so safe?
Look, you know I wouldn't ask you unless I had to. We need Liz there to answer questions. I've already put Paul and Sam on guard—they'll be phased and standing next to her the whole time.
Don't make me order you, bro.
Get your ass over here, now. Bring Liz. That's an order.
"I don't understand what the big deal is," Liz said, her eyes crinkled in confusion. "You said they don't … drink human blood." She shook her head, the concept still too weird to grasp.
"They can't be trusted."
"Why not? Have they ever given you reason?"
"They're like wild animals. Unpredictable."
"Wild animals … you mean like a wolf?"
Embry froze, her words stinging him to his core. He swallowed. "I would never hurt you," he said in a hoarse whisper.
"Honey, I know you wouldn't. I trust you. And that's my whole point. If they've never given you reason to doubt them, then let's have some faith."
He looked over at her, finally releasing the steering wheel and taking her hand. "You don't understand. If anything happens to you … if I lose you—"
"I have complete faith in you and the pack to protect me. I'll be fine."
He squeezed her hand, then held it to his chest, gripping it tightly. As he pulled up the Cullens' driveway, a rancid odor overpowered his nose, a not-so-subtle reminder of who was waiting for them. He coughed, making a face.
"Now what's wrong?"
"Their smell. It reeks. Be glad you don't have wolf senses."
The pack stood strategically placed in the yard; Paul and Sam were phased and on alert, just as promised. Jake was waiting for them at the end of the driveway, arms crossed against his chest.
"Are you ready?" Embry asked, giving his alpha a withering stare through the windshield.
"I think so." Liz suddenly felt nervous. Squaring her shoulders, she huffed. "Let's go."
Embry got out of the truck, meeting her halfway. Looping his arm around her waist, he pulled her to him. "Where are they?" he asked Jake.
"Inside. They agreed to stay there 'til you two arrived." Tipping his head in greeting, Jake offered Liz a small smile. "Thanks for coming."
Embry looked around. "Are the pups here?"
"No. They're patrolling the rez. I figured tensions were gonna be high enough, no need to add dynamite to the mix."
The creak of the front door pulled away their attention. Embry looked up as Carlisle Cullen stepped cautiously onto the front porch, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmett falling in behind him. It had been 10 years, but they all looked exactly the same, their perfect features frozen in time. A fifth, vaguely familiar vampire hovered behind them, gazing warily at the pack.
A low rumble vibrated through the wolves as they stared down their enemy. Embry hovered protectively over Liz, while Sam and Paul flanked her side.
"Jacob, thank you for coming on such short notice," Carlisle said. Looking at Liz, he raised his hand in greeting. "I'm Carlisle. This is my wife Esme and, for all intents and purposes, our children, Rosalie and Emmett. Of course, you've already met Duncan." He pointed to the vampire behind him.
Eyes wide, Liz nodded. "N- nice to meet you."
Embry curled his lip in a snarl.
"Embry, thank you for bringing your mate," Carlisle continued. "I know this isn't easy."
"Let's just get to the bottom of this," Jake said. "Tell us what you know."
Stepping to the side, Carlisle extended an arm and urged the vampire named Duncan to the front. "I think it's best we let him explain."
Duncan shifted from one foot to the other. Tucking a chunk of salt and pepper hair behind his ear, he sought out Liz with his bright amber eyes. "Hello, Elizabeth. I told you we'd meet again."
Hackles raised, Paul and Sam belted out enraged growls, while Embry began to shake with angry tremors. The rest of the pack stood at the ready, fists clenched.
"Enough!" Jake bellowed. The commotion ceased, and he glared at Duncan. "Stick to details, unless you want to piss off a whole pack of wolves. Who are you and what do you want?" Whipping around, he faced Carlisle. "Is he a friend of yours? Have you known this whole ti—"
"No, we've never met before," Duncan said quickly. "I knew of them and their Denali cousins—there aren't many of our kind who choose a vegetarian diet. After the incident two days ago, I tracked down Tanya, and she put me in touch with Carlisle."
"Why?" Jake asked. "Why did you reach out to them?"
"Because my life is now in danger." Duncan pointed at Liz. "And so is hers."
As Embry gripped Liz's shoulders, she looked at the vampire in confusion. "You told me in the forest I was in danger. But why? And what does my aunt Katharine have to do with any of it?"
Sighing, Duncan took several cautious steps forward. "Katharine was a dear friend of mine. We met by chance in the forest a year ago. She'd fallen into a ravine and injured herself, and … and the scent of her blood led me to her."
Another rumble rippled through the pack.
"I had no intention of harming her! I helped her—brought her home and treated her wounds. I kept myself under control."
"And you just introduced yourself as a vampire?" Looking dubious, Liz placed her hands on her hips.
"No, I never meant to— But, she was smart, your aunt. She knew right away I wasn't human."
Liz raised an eyebrow, but was silent.
"Katharine was cautious, but unafraid," Duncan continued. "We struck up a conversation. She shared my passion for literature and was curious about my past. We began to exchange books, talk about history. Eventually we grew a deep friendship."
"Doesn't that go against bloodsucker law?" Jake asked, his face contorted in a sneer. "I thought your kind was forbidden from revealing yourselves to humans. Isn't that the whole reason the Volturi came storming here 10 years ago?"
"Who are the Volturi?" Confused, Liz looked expectantly at Jake, then the Cullens.
Carlisle sighed. "They're the governing body of our kind. They rule from Volterra, Italy, but they have spies all over to keep an eye on things, make sure our secret is protected."
"Which is why they came to Forks before, threatening to annihilate all of us, after word got out that Edward Cullen was dating Bella Swan." Leah cast a disgusted glare in Carlisle's direction. "Apparently they still come 'round, just to make sure everyone's on their best behavior."
Liz's eyes widened. "Bella— She … what? How is—"
"I'll explain later," Embry said, keeping a wary eye on Jake. He knew nothing pissed off his alpha more than thinking about his imprint and that leech, together.
Duncan ducked his head, looking pained. "You are correct on all counts. I shouldn't have told her. I should have left and never seen her again. But … I couldn't say good-bye. Being around Katharine made me feel … human again. She didn't see me as a monster. I was her companion." He rubbed his forehead in frustration. "Our friendship was a selfish act on my part, one that ultimately cost her life."
"What do you mean?" Liz narrowed her eyes. "How?"
"Being friends with a human made me incredibly unpopular with my coven—who were already disturbed by my recent decision to feed exclusively off of animal blood. Our leader, Aileesh, warned me that the Volturi still patrolled this territory, that I was putting them all at risk. But I was too stubborn to listen." He ran a shaking hand through his hair. "One day, sure enough, the Volturi guard were passing through and saw me leaving Katharine's house. They began asking questions."
"Why didn't you just lie?"
"I did. But they knew. They always know. And they ordered us to eliminate the threat."
Liz gasped. "You mean—"
"Yes. They ordered us to kill your aunt." Duncan squeezed his eyes shut as he recalled the memory. "I refused. I pled with Aileesh, but she wouldn't listen. I tried to warn Katherine, but she wouldn't leave." He buried his face in his hands. "They cornered her in the forest—the plan was to ambush her, make it look like a bear attack—but she collapsed before they even touched her. She knew their intentions."
The pack looked on, speechless, as Liz stood there, eyes welling with tears. "Aunt Katharine …"
"I'm so sorry, honey." Embry hugged her to him, nuzzling the top of her head. Paul and Sam leaned into her sides, offering their own warm comfort.
Sniffling, Liz looked at Leah. "So, your theory was right. But I don't understand—Duncan, why did you continue to live with them, after they—"
"I wasn't going to. My plan was to leave, find another coven to align with." His voice was hushed as he paced the deck. "But then I learned you were moving here, and I knew you'd be in danger. I owed it to Katharine to keep you safe."
Seth cleared his throat. "But why would Liz be in danger? She never talked to her aunt. She didn't know anything about vampires until you showed up two days ago."
"It wouldn't have mattered." Carlisle gave Liz a rueful smile. "You were living in your aunt's house, and you had ties to the pack. If the Volturi came through again, they would've instantly suspected something and gone straight for their coven, if they didn't go after you first."
Duncan nodded. "I managed to buy some time, convinced Aileesh you weren't an immediate threat, but it soon became clear—" He gestured at Embry and the pack. "You were becoming involved in our world. She didn't want to risk the Volturi accusing of us of plotting with the wolves."
Feeling Liz shudder in fear, Embry squeezed her tightly. "Those bastards will never lay a hand on you," he whispered. "I promise." Paul and Sam growled in agreement.
"So it was it your coven who broke into her house, then?" Jake asked.
Duncan pursed his lips, then nodded. "Aileesh went looking for clues, any signs that Elizabeth and I were in contact. She didn't trust me."
"Why did you come after me in the forest?" Eyebrows raised, Liz crossed her arms over her chest. "To warn me?"
"Yes. I let your dog out, hoping you'd chase after him, which you did. I knew the others were following me, so I ran through the reservation first, thinking the wolves would catch their scent and go after them, giving us a chance to talk."
Jacob sneered. "We caught their scent, all right."
"Yes … but then you focused your pack's energy on me, instead of the real threat."
This time, it was Jake who released a vicious snarl. "You're all a threat, bloodsucker. Don't kid yourself. If it weren't for you, none of us would be in this mess right now."
Duncan sighed. "You're right. And I'll never forgive myself."
"I still don't understand why you called the Cullens," Embry said. "What was the point of dragging them into this? Were you just looking to save your own ass?"
"I needed help. Once Aileesh found out I betrayed them, I knew I had to go into hiding or risk being killed. But I couldn't leave Elizabeth without protection. I'd heard rumors that the Cullens had a pact with the Quileute shapeshifters from long ago. I figured they were my best chance at communicating with all of you."
Jake rubbed his chin. "How many are there? More than what we saw the other day?"
"Just three. Aileesh, her mate Evan, and another male, Jonathan."
Quil scoffed. "Easily destroyed." Enthusiastic murmurs from the pack ricocheted across the lawn.
"No." Duncan shook his head. "Don't underestimate them. You saw how easily they escaped before."
Carlisle nodded. "We'd rather not solve this with violence, if it can be helped."
"Oh?" Narrowing his eyes, Jake glared at the Cullens. "Then what are you suggesting?"
"That we go talk to them. Right now, all of us, together. Insist that they leave, immediately. We'll appeal to Aileesh—make it clear they're outnumbered and that it's in their best interest to relocate."
Embry rolled his eyes. "And if that little plan doesn't work? Then what?"
"Then we destroy them." Shaking his shoulders, Emmett bounced from foot to foot. "Been a while since I've had a good fight."
"Where are these bastards hiding out, anyway?" Jake asked. "We've been searching outside the rez borders for days, with no luck."
Duncan curled his lip in a half-smile. "Aileesh is very smart. We rotated our camp every few days. And they did all their hunting away from Forks, so they didn't draw attention to themselves."
Disgusted, Jake shook his head. "All this time, you were right under our goddamned noses."
"What are we waiting for?" Brady pounded his fist into his hand. "Let's end this!"
Frowning, Embry raised his hand. "Hold up—how do you know they'll even be at their camp right now?"
"Since the incident with the Volturi, they only come out at night, to hunt. I know they'll be there," Duncan said.
Jake exchanged a glance with Embry, then nodded. "Okay. Let's do it." He turned to Seth. "Take Liz back to the rez and stand guard over the imprints with Alex and Jason. The rest of you—let's go."
Brow furrowed, Liz gripped Embry's arm. "What does this mean? What if they don't agree to leave and you have to fight?"
"Honey, don't worry. We way outnumber them. It would be suicide not to agree to our terms."
"Don't worry, Liz. He'll be home before you know it." Seth patted her on the shoulder.
Liz threw her arms around Embry's waist. "I don't like it. I don't want anyone to get hurt."
He rubbed a soothing hand up and down her back. "Honey, I promise. We'll be fine. Seth's right, we'll be home before you even have a chance to make him a sandwich."
She huffed a laugh, then thunked her forehead on his chest. "Please be careful."
Brushing away her hair, he tilted her chin up for a kiss. "I will, sweetheart. I promise."
"Emb. We need to go." Jake pointed at the rest of pack, who were already phased and falling in behind the Cullens.
"Take good care of her, Clearwater." Embry gave Seth a pointed look.
"You know I will."
With one last kiss, Embry took off his shirt, then ran to join the others.
A/N: So, there you have it. Hope this answers some of your burning questions about Liz's aunt and how she got involved in this crazy world.
What do you think?
We're beginning to wrap this story up, folks. I'm thinking two more chapters-ish.