Chapter Ten: Meeting
I hadn’t expected my declaration of love to make Bella forget she was annoyed with me, but I’ll admit that I had expected my reprieve to last at least an hour or two. In my mind I had imagined a few hours of cuddling and whispered words of love and affection. What I got was a reality check. The girl I had fallen in love with was not a sappy romantic in the same way I was. Bella was grounded in reality and very focused. It didn’t take her fifteen minutes to start hounding me about keeping secrets from her.
“You know, don’t think that just because you told me that you love me it’s going to make me forget that you didn’t tell me about the treaty,” she said with a smirk.
I was a bit shocked at her direct works and I just gaped at her. “I was trying to protect you!” I told her, “Does that mean nothing?”
Bella gave me a fierce stare. “Do I look like I need protecting?”
I wanted to argue with her, to tell her that it didn’t matter if she was capable of handling things on her own or not. The point was that I loved her and wanted to keep her safe and unfettered by these matters. Of course, Bella wouldn’t have taken kindly to that. “No, of course you don’t look like you need protecting. I should have just told you the truth instead of hiding it from you.”
Bella beamed at me. “Yes, you should have. I’m glad you can admit that. So, is there anything else I should know about the wolves?”
I thought about that. “Well, the trait that allows them to become wolves is genetic. I got a good look into their minds today and discovered that they all descend from the wolves we met back in the 30’s. I’m not sure what that means, but it is interesting to say the least.”
“Why do they hate us? Just because we drink blood?” she asked, obviously warming to our discussion.
I nodded, “It’s a little more complicated than that. I think it’s because we take lives to keep our own going. They think we are unnatural. I did like the point that you made earlier about vegetarians, it definitely struck a nerve in them. I don’t think any of them had ever seen us as similar to them in any way.” I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at that. Sam and the others had all been horrified to think that them being omnivores was anything like what we did. It made me love Bella all the more.
She frowned though, her eyebrows creasing in her frustration. “I don’t know why they never thought of it that way. If we exist only on animals, how are we any different from them? Is it because we drink blood instead of eat meat? That just seems ridiculous.”
I laughed again and pulled her close to me. “Sweetheart, it is very ridiculous. You’ve just hit the nail on the head. It’s one of the reasons we try to stay out of their way. We don’t exactly want to play up this rivalry. We are peaceful and we want to be left alone. It doesn’t help to have an enemy watching our every move just in case we slip up.”
She sighed and snuggled into my chest, letting her head rest against my frozen heart. “I guess I understand why you didn’t tell me. You didn’t want me to worry about your family back here when I had enough going on with Tanya and everything else up in Alaska. I still think you should have told me, but I do understand you wanting to protect me. That needs to stop. If you really love me, we should be partners. I’m not any less capable than you are,” she told me, tapping her right forefinger against my chest to enunciate her words.
I took her hand and pressed a kiss to each of her perfect fingers. “I promise that from now on I will keep you informed about everything,” I said seriously.
She smiled. “All right then, what do we do now?”
I pretended to think about that for a moment. “Well, we could always spend a few more minutes up here alone before Alice comes to drag us back down with the family.”
Bella laughed, knowing that I wasn’t kidding about Alice interrupting us. Her ruddy orange eyes sparkled with mischief as she lifted her chin and gave me access to her lips. “I suppose we should make the most of our time alone together then,” she teased.
I took her chin in my hand and bent my lips to hers. “I suppose we should,” I whispered against her lips. It was the sweetest kiss we had yet shared.
The next morning something happened that I had never expected. A wolf showed up at our front door.
It was around ten in the morning and Bella and I had been discussing the possibilities of a hunt. She still wasn’t used to going very long without hunting and it had been nearly a week since she had been given the chance, what with everything else that had happened. It wasn’t really fair to her that circumstances kept piling more and more hurdles in her way. She kept amazing me at her ability to overcome them. The wolf showing up only complicated it all.
“Are you sure you heard something, Edward?” Esme asked me nervously, her eyes filled with worry and uncertainty.
We were all standing around the foyer (Jasper, Alice, Esme, Bella and I), waiting for our unwelcome guest to show himself. It was nerve wracking, but none of us really wanted to head out in the forest to intercept him. There was safety in numbers after all, and because of the unique nature of the wolves’ thoughts, I couldn’t tell how many of them were out in the woods. It was definitely safer to wait, but safer didn’t mean comfortable.
I finally nodded in response to Esme’s question and my eyes flicked down to the top of Bella’s head. She was wrapped in my arms, and I was loathe to let her go for any reason, especially if what I thought was coming was actually coming. I refused to let Bella be harmed and I would do anything in my power to keep that from happening. “The thoughts were jumbled, but clear enough. Any minute now the wolf will come onto our property and demand a meeting,” I told her.
“Why do they want to meet with us?” Bella asked me, her hands tightening on my arms nervously.
I opened my mouth to answer her, but before I could there was a loud knocking on our door. “Why don’t you let him explain,” I said simply and gestured to Jasper to open the door for our ‘guest’.
Jasper moved to the door and drew it open with all the care in the world. It was almost comical how exaggerated his movements were, but I assumed he was doing it on purpose to annoy the wolf. I choked back a laugh at the murderous expression on the young Quileute’s face. Jared, his name was.
“The pack is requesting a meeting,” he said by way of greeting.
“Would you like to come in and sit down?” Esme asked him politely, always thinking like a mother.
Jared’s face contorted in a look of disgust. “No way in hell am I setting foot in this house,” he spat at her.
Esme’s face fell at his harsh words, and she excused herself from the room. I watched her disappear and then turned to glare at the rude boy, furious that he would talk like that to Esme. “Don’t forget, dog, that you are on our land now. The treaty is the only thing keeping me from tearing you apart,” I snarled at him.
“What treaty? The one you broke when you killed the chief's daughter?” Jared asked rudely.
“Just say what you want and get out of here,” I said, trying to keep my temper in check while Bella was around. I didn’t want her to see how ruthless I could actually be. I didn’t need to scare her.
Jared looked as though he wanted to tear me apart just as much as I wanted to do the same to him. His eyes narrowed into slits and his upper lip curled in a snarl. “I’ve been sent to give you a message. You Cullens have violated the treaty, but Sam seems to think that there can still be an agreement made. He wants a meeting between your coven and our pack tonight at midnight,” he said darkly, as though even the thought of an agreement between our families made him sick.
“There is a large field north of town. It will be far enough away from both Forks and La Push that Bella won’t be a threat to any humans close by,” Alice piped up suddenly. Her thoughts were simple and straightforward. More than anything she wanted Bella to be in a safe place, and our baseball field seemed like the best option to her. I had to agree with her. It seemed like the perfect place.
Jared nodded. “I’ll tell Sam that you agreed. I warn you that if you fail to show up or if we think you might be trying to play us, we won’t hesitate to fight you.”
I growled, moving Bella from my arms to a safe place behind me. “Don’t threaten us, dog,” I said, stepping toward him, “We have no quarrel with you, so don’t force one. You won’t like the outcome if it comes down to a fight, trust me.”
“Trust a filthy bloodsucker? You must be kidding me,” he said in disgust, spitting on the ground at my feet.
“Now you wait just a minute,” Bella snapped, coming around me. I groaned, knowing it was useless to try to stop her when she got angry. At least Jasper was here to help me hold her down if she tried to attack Jared. “How dare you walk into someone’s home uninvited, threaten them and then spit on the floor of their home. You really are just an animal, aren’t you?”
Jared began to shake, his thoughts so furious that nothing else could get through. I placed myself in front of Bella, shoving her not only behind me, but into the nearby living room. Bella gasped loudly, her surprise at being thrown around by me was evident, but I would have to apologize later. I wanted her as far away from the wolf as possible. They were dangerous, as I well remembered, and her self-control wasn’t good enough to keep her from attacking him back. The whole situation felt like a bomb in the room, ticking and ticking away, ready to go off at the slightest provocation.
“Everyone just calm down,” Jasper said softly, his gift weaving through the room like a sedative. I felt my body uncoil as the tension drained away. Even Jared, who had just a moment previously looked as though he was going to kill us all single-handed, had stopped shaking and was easing back into a more casual posture.
I stepped forward before anything else could happen to damage the situation. “We will see you tonight. Until then I suggest that we all take some time to decide what we want to say,” I told him calmly.
Jared nodded, though his thoughts were clouded and confused. “Don’t be late,” he said as a parting shot and left as quickly as he could manage.
As soon as he was out of sight I rushed into the living room, hoping to apologize quickly to Bella. She was still sitting on the floor, a look of surprise and a hint of anger on her lovely face. “I was trying to keep him from killing you,” I said quickly, hoping that it would be sufficient enough to keep an argument at bay.
“I can protect myself, Edward,” she snapped and moved to her feet. She stepped forward, poking her finger into my chest. “I’m not made of glass and I know we have had this conversation already.”
“I love you,” I reminded her. “That gives me a little leeway in this, I think.”
She tried to glare at me, but I knew that my words defused her anger. It was still so early in the relationship that I assumed it was hard for her to stay angry with me, especially when I told her I loved her. “You have to let me fight my own battles,” she finally said, her shoulders falling limp as the anger drained from her.
I stepped toward her and pulled her into my arms, burying my face in her hair. “Bella, you aren’t fully in control of your emotions yet. If I feel that you might do something to put yourself in danger, I will step in. I can’t lose you, okay? I need you to understand that,” I whispered, kissing the spot where her jaw and ear met.
She shivered and wrapped her arms around me, dropping her forehead to my chest. “I guess I can’t argue with that, can I?”
Alice sighed loudly, and we turned to look at her. “Haven’t you learned anything yet, Bella? You are part of our family. We would die to protect you. It has nothing to do with you not being able to handle yourself. It has to do with how we would feel if we lost you.”
Esme came back into the room then, peeking around the doorway from the living room to the kitchen before re-joining us. “I called Carlisle at work and told him about the young wolf. He was worried about Bella and decided to come home early,” she said in a quiet voice. Her eyes flicked to my face. “He thinks it might be a trap,” she thought frantically.
I shook my head as discreetly as I could. That much I did know. Jared may have been angry at having to come to our home and talk to us, but his mind was simple and unable to hide anything. The wolves simply wanted to talk to us, especially to Bella. They honestly didn’t know more than that, they were unsure of the situation themselves. Bella’s jab at Sam had really gotten to him, and he didn’t know what to think anymore.
“I’d like to talk to him about all of this. I’m sure he will know what to do,” I said with a somewhat forced smile. The truth was that I didn’t want the wolves anywhere near Bella, but I also knew there was nothing I could do to keep her away from them. I just had to let things play out and protect her as best as I could.
“Alice, will things work out all right?” Esme asked, her hands clasped together, as though she could hold everything together as long as she never unclenched her hands.
Alice shrugged helplessly. “I can’t seem to see anything where the wolves are concerned. It’s like a blind spot.”
Jasper put an arm around her, his thoughts worried for her. “Don’t beat yourself up. They are strange creatures and ruled by emotions. I doubt even they know what will happen with their own bodies from moment to moment.”
I thought about that, wondering if Jasper was right. Not that it mattered right now, but it was an interesting thought. For now I just had to work on a plan to protect the one thing I loved more than anything else. I was not going to lose Bella, no matter what the wolves had planned.
The night was quiet when we arrived at the field where we usually played baseball. It was a large clearing, maybe a good mile in all directions before the trees started again. I wasn’t sure if anyone but our family had ever used the area, but it was our favorite recreation space. I hated bringing the wolves here to our safe haven. It felt like an intrusion into our private lives, but I knew that Alice had been right in suggesting it. There was nowhere else inside our boundaries that was far enough away from Forks and yet big enough to make us feel safe. We were left with no option but this on, and I resented it. I wasn’t the only one either.
“I don’t like bringing them to our field,” Esme said with a sigh, looking around and thinking about all of the time we had spent here during the last two years. Carlisle put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. He wasn’t happy with the circumstances either, but he was the head of our family and he knew we had no other choice.
“Do you all come here a lot?” Bella asked me, tugging on my hand a bit to get my attention.
I looked down at her, at the way our hands were clasped. It reminded me of why we were here at all, and all my frustration with the situation drained away. All that mattered was this girl at my side, the person I wanted to spend my very long life with. Right now I just needed to focus on getting her through this night. If I could do that, we would be well on our way into that long life together.
“We like to play games here, mostly baseball, but occasionally football or soccer,” I told her, forcing a smile to appease her growing nerves.
A smile blossomed on her face as she looked up at me. “I’ve never been one for sports. I was always too clumsy to enjoy them, but I think I would like watching you guys play. It would be fun,” she admitted.
“Edward, do you hear them yet?” Carlisle asked me, knowing that I might hear their thoughts before the others could hear or smell them coming.
I shook my head. I hadn’t heard a peep out of anyone but us since arriving here, and I had been really listening. “It isn’t quite midnight yet, so they aren’t late,” I pointed out, but I had to admit to myself that I was surprised they weren’t here before us. It would have been a sound strategy, advantageous. Perhaps Bella really had rattled them, even more than I had realized. It might make them unsure of what they were walking into. If that was the case, it was a good thing. We definitely needed any advantage that we could get, no matter what it was.
We all waited in silence, no one wanting to break the stillness of the night in case the wolves were waiting just out of our view, ready to pounce. Bella moved closer to my side, wrapping the hand that wasn’t clasped in mine around my upper arm. Even without being able to hear her thoughts, I could feel her nervousness and I knew how afraid she was of the unknown. I pulled my arm out of her grasp and wrapped it around her waist, letting her fall against me in a closer embrace. She made a sound of pure happiness, and it made me smile, even as tense as I was.
Before long I heard the faintest whisper of words coming from the southwest. I turned toward the noise, my attention focused on the words, hoping to make them out.
“It’s them,” I whispered, and I could feel the tension rise in all of us. Bella’s hand tightened around my waist, her grip slightly painful.
“What are they thinking?” Alice whispered back, her voice barely audible over the wind that had just picked up in the field.
“It’s just bits and pieces right now,” I told her, “but it gets clearer the closer they get.” I focused on the voices again, trying to determine how close they were.
“What are you expecting, Sam? Do you think the Swan girl is really going to prove that they aren’t monsters? We know they are!”
“We don’t know much about the Cullen's, they have never broken the treaty before.”
“But how do we know that for sure? They were away for over seventy years. How do we know what went on wherever they were for that time?”
Sam didn’t get a chance to respond to his furious pack member because the wolves neared the edge of the field. “They're here,” I said, nodding toward the forest. I knew that my family could already tell that the wolves had arrived, but I said it anyway, mostly to let the wolves know that we had been waiting for them.
They moved into the field, clad only in frayed shorts. It was obvious to me that they had stopped shy of the field to transform and put on some clothing. The last time they had transformed in front of us, there had been two ladies present and Sam had been very uncomfortable with his nakedness. This time they had taken the necessary precautions to be at least halfway decent. I appreciated that: I didn’t like the thought of Bella being exposed to a bunch of naked men.
“You came,” Sam said as he strode across the field to where we were waiting. He was obviously surprised by our acquiescence. He hadn’t expected us to show up. It was the excuse they would have used for attacking us.
“We always try to keep our word,” Carlisle said simply, stepping in as the head of the family.
Sam turned toward Carlisle, his eyes wide in surprise, not believing that such a distinguished looking person - a doctor for crying out loud - could possibly be a vampire. He finally pulled himself together, a frown creasing his eyebrows. “Well, keeping your word is the reason for this meeting, isn’t it? If you hadn’t broken the treaty and made Chief Swan’s daughter one of you, we wouldn’t be here tonight,” he said seriously, his voice deep and full of authority.
Carlisle stepped toward Sam, dropping his arm from around Esme’s shoulders. “We take full responsibility for that mistake,” he said calmly, placing his palms beseechingly before him. “It would have been worse if we had left her to die. Instead, we had to save her. We aren’t monsters.”
One of the wolves behind Sam scoffed. It was the one I recognized as having been the messenger, Jared. Sam turned a hard glare at him and turned back to Carlisle. “Perhaps we don’t have the whole story,” he said, and then turned his eyes on Bella, “You were very vocal yesterday, and I was hoping to hear everything from you, if you’ll tell us.”
Bella blanched, looking up at me as though wanting me to tell her what to do. I squeezed her waist and nodded. “I’m right here and I won’t let anything happen to you,” I whispered in her ear.
“You won’t leave my side?” she asked, her eyes begging me to promise.
“I won’t leave your side,” I said and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
She dropped her hand from my waist and instead entwined our fingers tightly, linking us as a united front as we walked closer to the wolves. She faced them bravely, her chin jutting out in defiance of what they might think of her. “What exactly do you want to know?” she asked, her voice strong with no trace of weakness. I squeezed her hand, my chest puffing up with pride for her strength.
Sam looked at her thoughtfully. He could tell that she wasn’t really like us. She was fresh, vibrant, very much alive. The rest of us had lived for so long that we kept our emotions in check, always thinking everything through before doing or saying things. But that wasn't Bella, and somehow I doubted that she would ever be as tranquil as the rest of us. She had too much to say and do to be quiet and thoughtful.
“I want to know everything, from the moment you first met the Cullen's until yesterday. Tell me what living with them is like, what kind of things you do in this life,” he suggested, as though it wasn’t important to him, though that was far from the truth. He needed to know Bella’s story, but I couldn’t figure out why: the thought was missing from his mind.
Bella looked at me again, and when I nodded she took a deep breath and faced the wolves again. “All right, I’ll tell you my story. But you have to promise that after I tell you, you will let us all leave in peace,” she said seriously.
Sam looked surprised, but also thoughtful. “I promise that no matter what you say, we will take time to think about where to go from here. You have no worry from us tonight.”
The rest of the pack didn’t look like they necessarily liked that promise. Most of them frowned, a few even cracked their knuckles menacingly as they looked at us. If this hadn’t been so serious, I would have laughed at them. They were acting like common teenage thugs. It was absolutely ridiculous.
Bella ignored them though and began to tell her story. She started with her first day of school, talking about how uncomfortable she had been with the move up to Washington from Phoenix, how she was trying to keep depression at bay and failing miserably. She talked about seeing us in the cafeteria that day, about the uncomfortable Biology class we had had together which had led to the confrontation in the parking lot. When she brought up the attack I closed my eyes in shame. I could still see clearly the fear in her eyes as I lost control, unable to stop myself from tearing into her throat and spilling her precious blood. I wanted to run as far away from that clearing as I could go, to run away from myself and the pain I had caused her. Yes, that act had brought to me the sweetest joy of my life, but I still wished that it had happened differently. She hadn’t deserved the fear and pain I had brought to her.
She skipped over the actual pain of the transformation, instead dwelling on how desperately we tried to save her. How I never left her side during that time. She talked about Esme singing to her and Alice holding her hand and preparing her for our way of life. She didn’t mention that she had tried to attack me or that it had been difficult to build a relationship together afterward. Instead she talked about how comfortable she had felt as a vampire, how right it had seemed to her. She explained that she felt she had always been meant to be one of us. The wolves had bristled a bit at that, but none had spoken. They were just as interested in the rest of her story as Sam was.
The most important part of the story was obviously the hiker she had almost killed. She told the wolves of how she had run after him, intent on killing him and having no way to stop herself. She told them how we had stopped her from making the mistake, how it was then that she truly understood how hard it had been for me not to kill her. She talked about the remorse she had felt at even having almost ended someone’s life. The way it had torn her up and made her question things and ultimately realize that she was lucky she had been part of our family and not another coven that didn’t care about human life.
She ended her story with the sudden vision Alice had had of Charlie being in danger and our mad rush to get back to Forks in order to save him from the rogue vampires. At the mention of the three who almost killed her father, the wolves froze, looking at us in astonishment.
“They weren’t friends of yours?” Sam asked suddenly, realizing that this subject hadn’t come up before.
“No,” Carlisle said with a forceful shake of his head, “those deaths in town that they caused had nothing to with us. We would never cause such chaos on purpose. We were actually formulating a plan to take care of them ourselves when they disappeared.”
“You have us to thank for that,” Sam said grimly, “we smelled unfamiliar vampires and could smell fresh blood on them. We didn’t care if they were friends of yours or not, we had a duty to keep La Push and Forks protected.”
Bella stepped forward, her eyes bright with gratitude, “You saved my father’s life, how can I ever thank you for that?”
“Well, don’t thank us too soon,” Sam said with a dark look, “one of them, a female with red hair, got away. I’ve never seen anyone so fast.”
There was a pause as everyone in the group digested that. Alice especially looked thoughtful and I could tell she was trying to pinpoint the red-heads future. Finally, Bella broke the silence.
“So, now you know my story, know that what happened to me was an accident. Will you honor our agreement and let us leave?” she asked seriously. Her gratitude for her father was one thing, but our own lives were still the matter most pressing.
Sam hesitated, the story running through his mind as he thought about what she had told them. “It seems there is much to be thought about. Our treaty never factored in transformation as a way to save someone, even if the fault had been with one of you to begin with. The truth is, we don’t know as much about each other as we thought. Bella, you don’t seem like a walking corpse. You have a lot of life in you.”
Carlisle spoke up again. “Why don’t we all take a few days to think things through? You should know that we were planning to leave as soon as possible. That might help you make your decision.”
Sam nodded. “We will meet again in a weeks time. I expect that you won’t leave before we meet again. I also would advise against visiting with Chief Swan. I don’t think any of us want him hurt.”
Bella looked crestfallen. “I would never hurt my father. I promise that I won’t even leave the Cullen’s home without someone with me.”
Sam nodded and spoke seriously. “See that you do that.”
We all began to back away from each other, our faces grim with the silent treaty still hanging by a thread between us. It wasn’t the resolution we had hoped for tonight, but it definitely could have been worse.