Everything changes. Everything is temporary,
except for the sky. When you find yourself caught
up in the horrors of a lifetime, look up.
Don't look down. That which is beneath
our feet is liquid, but the sky,
the sky is solid, constant, ever ready and
ever hopeful that the sun will rise
in the morning and the moon will rise at night.
They don't really set, you know.
They’re always rising, just rising for someone else.
~ Amber Kizer
I stood leaning against the railing on the back deck at the Cullen’s home. My breath showed in thousands of miniscule droplets of ice every time I exhaled. The stars were magnificent pinpoints of light in a black silk sky, the moon a sliver of its usual self, barely visible. I hugged my arms and rubbed them to bring some heat to my body. It was probably time to go in, because I had truly become chilled. I only came outside for a breather from all the people in the house, but then I'd been captivated by the night sky.
My family and Jake were inside, strategizing with the Cullens. It was overwhelming to learn of my birth parents’ existence and then hear that Sam is a bigger threat than they'd originally estimated. I wanted to shift, to be the fierce wolf that was capable of taking out Sam and his rebel pack. I wanted to confront Quil, the old bastard, and demand answers. His son was out there somewhere, possibly still on the run, and he'd decided we weren't important enough to help.
There was a fury running under my skin, through my veins and into my bones. I felt it vibrating, eager to cause destruction. Me and mine were at risk, and I would do anything to protect them.
“Hey.” The word was quiet, gentle, as was the hand to my shoulder.
“I didn't hear the door.”
“I can be quite sneaky, and you appear to be preoccupied.”
I tilted my head to look at Edward as he stood behind me. “It's too much to digest at once, that's all. I want to act now, but I understand that it would be reckless.”
“The very last thing I want is to put you in harm's way. Though I believe you will have to join Jacob's pack if it comes to a fight, it will pain me to watch you in danger.” His voice echoed the feelings he dreaded.
I sighed and watched the cloud of breath linger before drifting away. “I will fight with my pack, my family. I don't care who's taking who's side, but their own laws say that Jacob is the true Alpha, and if they can't accept that then they need to be dealt with. If they choose a fight to prove their point, I'll be there in my fur coat to show them that they're wrong.”
“I love how fiercely you would protect your tribe, despite what the council did. You have integrity.”
“I would protect those on the right side of the tribal laws. But it doesn't hurt at all that it's Sam I’ll be fighting,” I growled.
Strong arms wrapped around me. “You are incredibly sexy right now.” His tongue snaked out and ran along the outside of my ear.
“Yeah, well, I'm freezing and your family can probably hear you. It's time to go in,” I said as gently as I could.
Edward was smiling at me when I turned, and we went inside holding hands. The conversation was still serious between Jacob and Jasper, who apparently had training as a fighter. They'd been strategizing for hours, dissecting the best way to defeat the handful of wolves that defected. The wolves left in La Push were Seth and Leah, and pre-teen Collin and Brady. They'd lost Jared, Paul, and Embry. Quil V was on the fence, but Jake thought he could sway him with the familial ties.
I looked at the two sides of my family spread around the room; Jake was standing at one end of the fireplace with Jasper across from him. Jake had a drink in his hand and kept gesturing with his glass as he spoke. Leah was sitting in the chair closest to him, her legs tucked under her, appearing to be listening intently. Seth was standing behind the couch, and Mom and Dad were sitting on the couch in front of him. The Cullens mostly stood, and I guessed it was because they didn't get tired. Esme had played a damn good hostess, and her meal was really good for someone who never cooked.
Alice was near the back doors we’d just come through. “Are you okay?” she asked me quietly, a look of understanding in her golden eyes.
“I will be,” I answered, squeezing her upper arm as I moved past. It was like gripping a tree branch.
“They’ve almost hammered out the details for what they plan to do about the rebel pack,” Edward murmured to me as we came to the loveseat. I pulled him down next to me so I could lean against him. His arm went around me instantly, holding me tightly to his side.
“Can you tell me about it later?” I asked. “There’s too much in my brain right now.”
“Yes, of course.”
My eyes had slipped closed of their own accord when I heard my name. I opened my eyes to see Sue looking at me from her seat next to Harry. “Yeah, Mom?”
“You're going to want to find them, aren't you?” she asked softly.
There was no judgment from Sue; in a way, I knew there never would be. “Yes,” I whispered, suddenly aware that the room had fallen silent.
Carlisle cleared his throat, and I tried not to laugh; it was clearly a human facade, a habit. “We have friends in South America that have heard of them, and they believe they know where they are staying. They’re using pseudonyms, and our friends have not yet made contact.” He looked at Esme and then back to me. “We don't want anyone to spook them into running again.”
“That makes sense,” I mused. “But can you ask your friends to try to talk to them? Make friends or bump into them at the grocery store? Something?”
“I honestly think it will require a visit,” Carlisle said.
I sat up straighter and looked around the room. Jake was watching us now, Jasper's ideas put on hold. We had the attention of the room. “Who would need to visit? I’m in school, I have a job, I can't drop everything to go to freaking South America right now.” I recognized the sound of impending hysteria in my voice and took some deep breaths.
“We could go in your stead, Bella, if that’s what you prefer. It would be better if you went personally, especially since they might recognize you, but it isn't a requirement,” Carlisle pointed out.
Harry spoke up for the first time. “Your mother and I should go, Bella. It should wait until after the holidays, after the nonsense with Sam’s pack is taken care of,” he looked pointedly to Jake, “and we should take some of the Cullens with us as intermediaries.”
“I agree with that idea,” Edward spoke up. “Bella should stay in school and continue with her life in the event that this turns into nothing but a wild goose chase.”
I nodded. “Yes. I think you’re all right.” I felt much lighter, more at peace. If someone could take care of this for me, I could focus on school. Exams were scheduled for the next month, and then a winter break, which was when we were planning to return to finish this council business.
“Is it safe?” Leah asked. I looked at her; it was the first peep I’d heard out of her since she arrived.
“What do you mean?” I asked, frowning.
“I mean, are you putting my Mom and Dad at risk because you have to chase a ghost. Because nobody tells you no.” Her legs shot out from underneath her and she stood, stalking toward me with her hands on her hips. She towered over my seated position, so I stood, too, which forced her to back up. She immediately moved forward again, inches from my face. I heard Edward's low warning growl from behind me.
“They can take care of themselves, for one thing. Dad volunteered, for another. If there was a risk, the Cullens would protect them, or not even let them go!” I all but shouted.
“Or the vampires will eat the werewolves!” she shouted.
Everyone was on their feet now, Jake pulling on Leah's wrist, Edward standing sentry directly behind me. My parents circled the coffee table to stand with us.
“Leah.” It was quiet, the only word needed from Sue. Her calm authority always worked on my over-the-top sister. Then I remembered that Jasper was an empath, and wondered if it was his influence I felt.
Finally Leah broke her gaze away from mine to look at our parents. “She doesn't have to have everything. You can tell her no once in awhile,” she snarled.
I rolled my eyes. “Because fighting to survive in the forest alone at a young age constitutes a spoiled brat.”
I heard her scoff, but she relented and sat back down. The others went back to their previous positions, and I felt the vampires in the room unclench.
“I promise you now I will defend them with my life,” Carlisle assured us. I knew that already, but I wasn't sure if Leah believed him.
“It’ll be interesting,” Harry said. “So, what are the plans for Thanksgiving?”
It seemed that the mini-crisis was momentarily averted.