Chapter 23: Sue

Gianna teaching Maggie Italian was very cute.

"How do I say, "I love you", in Italian?" Maggie asked Gianna, trying to sound innocent. Gianna was sitting on a sofa with her feet tucked under herself, using one of my textbooks to give structure to the lesson. Maggie was lounging on the floor in front of the couch, gazing up adoringly at an increasingly pink-cheeked Gianna.

Ilario, standing relatively unobtrusive guard in the corner of the room, furrowed his brow uncomfortably while Gianna stammered through the sentence. Maggie ignored him. She just grinned at Gianna and repeated the words.

Maggie was trying to get Gianna to say "you're beautiful" in Italian when I heard Carlisle's phone ringing in his office, and him answering it. Tanya's voice was on the other end. "Carlisle," she said, "Harry's gone."

I was up the stairs in a flash to listen to this conversation. "Gone?" asked Carlisle. "How did that happen?"

"We've been trusting him to hunt on his own, ever since he ran into some human's trail while he was hunting with Eleazar and managed to hold his breath and run," she said. "He's been going on his own most of the time. But he's been gone for almost three days now and isn't answering his phone. We don't know what the matter is - if he's hurt someone and is ashamed to come home, or if he just decided to leave, or - what. Can Alice see?" Tanya asked.

"I'll ask her," Carlisle said, and he brushed past me in the hall to find Alice. She was located in short order, with me following, and he summarized the situation for her.

"I can see him... but not far," murmured Alice. "He's... I guess he hasn't decided something very significant about what he's going to do when he gets into Washington again. He's going south, though."

I went to the room with the computers and e-mailed Rachel.

Rachel took an hour to answer my e-mail. "If you're right about what blanks out your sister's vision, then we have to expect that he's coming here," she agreed in her reply. "I've warned Sue, and the pack. I'm not sure how well he'll do with not attacking us, even if he's been okay with humans, but we're sticking to groups of four and five for the time being and think we can probably pin him if he's hostile. Please come out here as soon as you can to help keep things under control, though. We have to sleep and if we wind up pinning him we run a risk every time we need to change guards."

I wrote back, asking if Sue had appeared to know anything about his approach; the answer was quick: "I couldn't tell, but it's possible. She refused to be accompanied by wolves as a precautionary measure and wants to go about her business normally."

I sent her another message: "I'm going to buy tickets and I'll get there by tomorrow, but Harry might arrive before me. However, he's been demonstrated safe around humans. I don't think you need to worry about Sue - it's wolves who might be a problem."

I bought tickets. During that process, there was no further substantive content from Rachel, just "see you soon". I logged off, found Edward, dragged him to our cottage, used up the hour and a half that I didn't need to make my flight on time, and then told him, "I need to leave again."

He sighed. "All right."

"Can I ask you to pretend we're going to explore Scandinavia together? I'll be the one to tell Maggie. I tested her earlier; unless she's got an amazing poker face and doesn't care as much about the truth as you say she does, I'm immune to her. I should be back in a few days, and then we can really explore Scandinavia for a little while and I'll have all the right stories to tell. And I'll be able to keep in touch by phone. So you know I'm all right."

Edward nodded. I packed, and he put some things in a suitcase too so he could go running around in parts nonlocal to give me cover. We went to the main house, and distributed the news, with all false statements that Maggie could hear carefully uttered by me and not Edward. I made it clear that I was trusting everyone to keep Maggie from taking Gianna away from the house, and no one contradicted me about the needfulness of this restriction. Then Edward and I went to the garage.

Rosalie had bought me a car, which I'd managed to have no occasion to look at since it had come to reside in our garage. It was dark green, streamlined, and sat low to the ground, but otherwise wasn't the sort of flashy vehicle screaming wealth that most of its neighbors were. However, Edward drove me to the airport in one of his cars instead, kissed me goodbye, and then drove away to explore Scandinavia - alone.

I did not enjoy my flight. Anticipating the loneliness of being without Edward made it kick in faster, apparently. I felt a moment's regret at having ever activated the wolves, or at least at having done it when I had - they'd been unharmed, in fact completely unnoticed, by the Volturi so far. If I hadn't started activating them until later, then my life would be a lot simpler at this time and nobody would have died. Of course, the nature of the threat the Volturi posed to the wolves was such that I couldn't have predicted the timing in advance, and earlier was safer for the tribe - just inconvenient for me.

I didn't bother with a car once I landed, I just ran. I'd looked at enough atlases to find a mostly unpopulated route from memory. I arrived at the reservation in the evening on Friday, where I discovered the tribe in chaos.

I could hear the barking and growling well before I saw anything, but to hear Rachel tell it, scuffles between wolves were not at all uncommon. A combination of emotions running high and reduced consequences due to fast healing meant that somebody got scratched up a bit nearly every day, and Alpha orders only did so much to counter wolf tempers. I could tell that there were more than a couple of wolves involved, but fights would vary in scope like everything else.

I was in no way prepared, when I arrived, for the war that the wolves were waging amongst themselves.

No one seemed to be actually out to kill. There were drops of wolf blood (mercifully undesirable to me), splattered around on the dirt and vegetation and combatants, but no one had been injured badly enough to be out of commission. I did a quick count: all thirty-two of the giant pack were involved in the fracas. Before I could try to figure out who was on whose side, the wind wafted past me and carried my scent towards their battlefield.

The majority of the skirmish died down as nearly everyone stopped what they were doing to look at me. One nearby wolf lunged to snap at me but checked himself halfway through the attack - or possibly was stopped by Rachel commanding him to leave me be.

Rachel, the only entirely white wolf in a crowd of multicolored furs, shot a dark look at one of the black ones - that would be either Sam, Becky, or a wolf I couldn't recognize by coat - and walked towards me. A wolf with striking ochre fur trotted a few steps into the forest and came back with an outfit for her, from some stash of clothes they kept among the trees. Rachel stalked off behind cover with it, assumed human form, and came back into view a few moments later decently clad. She had grown a lot. I was pretty sure she cleared six feet in height, and as she'd said, she looked like she was on her way to the Olympics. And not for figure skating.

"So..." I said. "What's all this, then?"

"It's a very, very long story," Rachel said stiffly.

"I'm immortal," I said.

She laughed once, a bit sharply. "Of course. Okay, so, ballpark, how long would it take you to do some combination of running and swimming between here and Denali?"

I mentally stitched together the various maps I'd looked at and did some quick estimating. "Maybe twelve hours. It's not that densely populated a coast, and if I did it at night... cars are only faster over developed routes where there are highways."

"And you wrote me that this Tanya vamp only bothered to call your father-in-law when Mr. Clearwater had been gone for three days, right?" Rachel prodded.

"Right, that's what she said. Why?"

Rachel laughed hollowly. "Yeah, that's about what I thought. I don't think this is the first time Mr. Clearwater's been down this way."

"What?" I exclaimed. "Is somebody hurt? Did he -" Rachel shook her head, and I stopped, tilting my head.

"Don't think he ate anybody," she said. "Or if he did it wasn't anyone we know and nobody's made a fuss over the missing yet. But Mrs. Clearwater... is, uh..." Rachel gritted her teeth. "We think she's pregnant."

I was fairly dumbfounded by this. "Oh," I said.

"I mean... she looks pregnant, and she seems to think she's pregnant, and she's been eating really strangely and acting weird. But it's too fast," fretted Rachel. "Even if he'd visited back in July when you turned him it's too fast."

"It wouldn't have had to be July," I said. "A week or two ago would have done it, although you're right that his most recent departure can't be the first."

"Wait, you knew this could happen?" exclaimed Rachel.

"Half-vampires are possible, yes," I said. "Living mothers of half-vampires, as far as I know, are not. Like you said - too fast. It doesn't slow down. The entire pregnancy lasts a month, start to finish, and if the mother lives that long she dies when it's birthing time. I have to get my father-in-law - or at least my husband - out here now, and save her while there's still a chance."

"You'll probably have to talk to Mrs. Clearwater about that," said Rachel ruefully. "She's not really cooperative."


"Before we figured out she was pregnant, we all thought she was maybe sick, but she wouldn't go to a doctor - flat refused. Then we figured it out while you were still in transit and told her that you've got doctors in your family and a regular one wouldn't do because we have to be all secret-secret, but a vampire doctor would be fine - and she still flat refused. I knew she wasn't, like, a huge fan of abortion, but she really does not want one, one bit. Maybe if you tell her it's going to kill her that'll be another story."

"I'll talk to her," I said. "What were you all fighting about?"

"Whether to force her," said Rachel quietly. "I mean, listen, we didn't know what the hell it was going to turn out to be, it could have been some unstoppable monster or even just like a newborn vampire is supposed to be when it doesn't know to expect turning, something we'd have had to kill anyway - right? And, uh, some of the others wanted to kill it whether Mrs. Clearwater liked it or not, to be safe."

She paused. "We... figured out how to split the pack. Becky seems to be Alpha of that half now. She balked when I Alpha-voiced everybody that Mrs. Clearwater's in charge of her own body, and everybody who agreed with Becky answers to her, now, not me. I can still hear Becky's thoughts and vice-versa, but the non-alphas can only hear within the... sub-pack, plus relays when me and Becky are both wolfed. Anyway, it's kind of a major issue, and we aren't very pacifistic critters at the best of times. So there's been a lot of fighting and you walked in at one of the worst times.

"I'm hoping you can get Mrs. Clearwater to see sense," she continued, "and then it'll just be like we split the pack on purpose, like we were trying to, but if you can't get her to see sense, I don't want to have to hold her down while you get your husband to do the doctoring."

"Frankly, I'm in your camp," I said. "It's not an unstoppable monster, and not even as bad as a regular newborn vampire. Might or might not even be venomous. I think Sue'd be a fool to go through with having it, since she'd die. But in so doing she wouldn't be unleashing hellspawn on the world." The black wolf, who Rachel had looked daggers at before, growled. "What do the Clearwater kids think?"

"Leah was on the fence until somebody had an excessively gruesome mental image of what forcing Mrs. Clearwater to have an abortion might look like, and now she's with me. Seth's in my camp too," Rachel said.

I nodded. "Well," I said, "take me to Sue."

Leah and Seth de-wolfed and came along too, following Rachel in silence.

My guess, when I saw Sue, was that she was almost two weeks pregnant - the equivalent of being mid-second-trimester.

Her guess, when she saw me, was apparently that I was a vampire doctor there to strap her to a table and forcibly cut her baby out of her, because she made a very abortive attempt to flee. I supposed I looked different enough that she didn't recognize me personally, and wouldn't know what Rosalie looked like. When she tried to get up, Leah ran over and seized her hands. "Mom, calm down," she said. "Don't hurt yourself."

"I told you no!" Sue cried, but she didn't try to fight Leah - it would have been pointless; the wolves were considerably stronger than humans even without their fur on. "I told you no!"

"I'm not a doctor," I said, "I'm Bella." She relaxed a little, although she still looked at me suspiciously. "However, I strongly advise you to let me get a doctor. You aren't going to live through this if you insist on continuing. It's happened before, half-vampires exist, but their mothers don't."

"It's up to me," Sue said stubbornly.

"I don't dispute that for a moment," I said. "It's entirely up to you. I won't even tell anyone who doesn't already know, if you don't want me to. But honestly? Sue, you are an idiot. No one has ever lived through this. An overwhelming majority of women who've tried didn't even carry to term."

"How do you know so much about it, anyway?" she asked.

I summarized the story I'd gotten from Huilen and Nahuel. "My husband and I thought that we could have our kids," I said. "We've got a surrogate lined up and everything. But we weren't going to ask her to die just for that - and you and Harry already have two children."

"And we wouldn't if I'd killed Leah because she wasn't convenient," spat Sue.

I looked over my shoulder at Leah, who shrugged; apparently her accidental status was not news to her. "Be that as it may," I said, "this one will kill you."

"You can't be sure of that," she said shiftily. "Harry would have died, but..."

I blinked at her. "You didn't know I was coming, or you'd have known I wasn't a doctor. Is Harry nearby? Did he say he'd turn you after you give birth? It's - well, it would be the best shot you have, but I highly doubt that Harry can turn you safely."

"You turned him, and you're new," she said. Her stomach rumbled. "Seth, dear, will you make me some more scrambled eggs?" she asked her son apologetically, and Seth nodded and ran to the kitchen.

"I held my breath and poured venom into an existing open wound," I said. "I don't doubt that you'll have one hell of a wound when your baby chews its way out of its shell, but it'll be in the middle of your abdomen, nowhere near the heart. The shell might interfere with getting venom into your bloodstream properly. I mean, it has to contain venom somehow, or the venomous half-vampire I met would have turned his mother before he was born. She died instead. And it is ridiculously hard for vampires to handle humans safely without experience and control that Harry doesn't have, so if he tried to create another wound for the venom, that could kill you all by itself."

By the time I finished this speech, Sue was looking at me speculatively. "Well," she said, "thank you for that information."

I pressed the heel of my hand to my forehead. "Sue," I said. "Sue, this is crazy. I flew out here away from my family because I heard Harry had gone missing from Denali and I wanted to help control the situation. If you ask me to hang around for another two weeks and turn you so you can have this baby of doom with a sliver of a chance of living -" I shook my head, about to offer to find a syringe in the Forks house somewhere and fill it with venom that someone else could administer, but Sue spoke.

"Away from your family, hm?" Sue asked craftily.

My eyes flew open. "You wouldn't."

"Just because I won't kill my baby to do it doesn't mean I don't want to live, Bella," said Sue in a falsely kind voice. "It's already getting very difficult to keep your father in the dark, especially now when everything would be ruined if he visited me in person. Billy's been running interference, but I have to get on the phone with him sometimes too. He's not a stupid man."

"Sue, you aren't just threatening to embarrass me if you bring in the possibility of informing Charlie," I said frantically. "It's not that, if it were that he'd have known months ago. There are vampire laws, breaking any one of them is punishable by death, the lawmakers have their eye on me and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if they were covertly observing Charlie to make sure I haven't let him in on anything. And it's not just me who'd be in trouble, they'd kill him too."

"Aren't we paranoid," said Sue smugly.

"It's not paranoia when my species is ruled by a mind-reading mass murderer," I said. "With similarly spooky people in his employ!"

Seth came back in with a huge plate of scrambled eggs, and Sue scarfed them down, which prevented her from talking for a couple of minutes. "You realize you're going to have to drink blood if you hope to live through this," I said. "The baby's sucking up blood and if it can't get it from your diet it'll just get it from you."

"Leah," said Sue lightly. Her daughter made a truly awful face, but I heard her go outside and turn wolf, presumably to kill something and get its blood for her mother.

"You don't need me here," I said. "I can find a hypodermic in the family house in Forks, most likely - Carlisle didn't bring all of his medical stuff with him - and fill it with venom. That's how my turning was done."

"But you've met a half vampire, and his aunt who told you about how he was born," said Sue. "If I'm going to live through this, I need an expert, don't I?"

"Then let me call my husband," I said. "He was with me the entire time, when I met them, and he's a doctor -" Sue scowled. "He won't make you do anything you don't want to!" I protested. "But he'd know better than I would how to take care of you, just in general!" I was really hoping that he'd hear something in Sue's thoughts that would let him convince her to give up on the have-a-half-vampire project. But the other remarks were also true.

"No," she said. "No doctors. What if you're wrong about what he will and won't do? I don't know your husband."

"Rrrgh!" I said, not quite growling, just too exasperated to bother with language.

Seth's scorching hand patted my arm. "Please help my mom," he said in a small voice. He looked older than I did at this point, but he was acting his real age, which just squeaked him under the threshold of the ability to get things by being cute and innocent.

"I'm trying," I told Seth. "Mrs. Clearwater, I am really quite sure that my husband isn't going to assault you, especially not if I tell him otherwise."

"Well, I'm not," Sue said.

I gave up. "Fine," I said. "Fine. Where is Harry?"

"I don't know exactly," she said. "He was heading back to Denali and then I called him and told him I'm pregnant and he said he'd turn around. He's presumably still on his way."

"If you don't mind my asking, how did you even manage to safely -" I began. Seth giggled manically and Sue frowned.

"I do mind," she cut in, and I decided that I'd been rude enough that she deserved to interrupt me - just the once. "But I assume you already knew about those tarts Harry's had to live with up in Alaska."

"Tanya and Kate?"

"And Irene or whatever her name was, for all that she's apparently settled down since her heyday," sniffed Sue.

"Irina," I said. "You know that for the first several hundred years they never went in with a plan to leave the humans alive, right?"

"I said," Sue said coldly, "that I do mind."

I sighed. Evidently she'd been left unharmed (at least directly) by the experience, though. I'd assumed from the first time I'd heard about the succubus sisters that it was a matter of gender that they were able to leave their toys alive after becoming vegetarians while Edward had no such expectation. Since learning a few more things, I was half-convinced that he'd only been covering for his concerns about extramarital relations. Or that they'd at least been a significant factor. Anyway, there was nothing of practical import to be found along this line of inquiry.

Leah chose this moment to return with a large bowl full of animal blood - elk or something like it, I guessed, although my experience with the land fauna of the Pacific Northwest was limited. Leah herself was covered in little red dots. Extracting the blood had apparently been messy. Sue accepted the bowl and, with rather impressive aplomb, sipped from it. Apparently pleased with the flavor, she drained the bowl.

"It probably wants human blood, you realize," I said. "Nahuel said he can live on animal blood or even food that humans eat, but he's an adult and can consciously decide what to have for lunch. The baby can't do that, and may or may not continue to siphon off what you need to stay alive unless you give it human blood via your diet."

"And where do you propose we get that?" she asked testily.

I held up my hands. "For your purposes it doesn't have to be enough to hurt its source. But I can't extract it and neither can Harry. I'm sure there are any number of tribe members you could ask."

"Most of them are in favor of killing my baby," Sue said. "I don't think there will be many volunteers to donate blood to keep him healthy."

I assumed she was just guessing on the gender and decided it wasn't worth nitpicking. "Or," I said, "you could let me call my husband - hang on now, let me finish - doctors can buy blood. I don't have to tell him what it's for. He trusts me implicitly. I can probably get him to tell me what I need to do and say and what papers I need to have forged to buy some blood. He'll think that's a little weird but he won't ask awkward questions. And it'll come in a sealed up package and I'll just have to leave the building while you drink it."

Sue looked skeptical. "What kind of husband is it that you have that you can call him up and get him to tell you how to buy human blood - which you shouldn't be drinking - without explaining what it's for?"

I bristled, and almost hissed, but I didn't want to provoke Leah or Seth into phasing with a threatening noise. That was my Edward she was... sort of vaguely implying a mild insult towards. Which was not nice, but it didn't really call for hissing either. "Remember," I said, "my species is ruled by a mind-reading mass murderer. You know, the entire reason why I activated the pack in the first place. I'm the only person I know of in the world he can't read. My husband knows that it's safer if he doesn't know everything. And he trusts me."

Sue pursed her lips. "I'll let you try that if it looks like I need more than I can get from people in the tribe. Rachel, would you mind being the one to ask around? You'll be more likely to get agreement than most people who might try." Rachel had been standing very quietly, watching the conversation.

"Of course, Mrs. Clearwater," she sighed.

"If that's all," I said, "I'll be leaving for a bit too. I need to tell Edward I'm okay and how long I'll be gone, and then I want to hunt." I looked at Rachel. "I don't think I'd be very helpful at keeping the fighting to a minimum, but if you can think of something useful for me to do, let me know. I may as well help out as long as I'm going to be around for two weeks."

Sue had no objection, so Rachel and I left the house: her to pretend to be from the Red Cross, me to find some way to tell Edward that I was going to be gone for two entire weeks.

Less, if Sue died.

I called Edward. We talked for about an hour, getting sappy over how terribly long a span of time two weeks was. Then I found and ate a killer whale, and wandered the beach for a couple of hours. Seth found me at about three in the morning, and said that his dad had arrived.

Harry did not look like a happy vampire when I went to talk to him. He was hanging out in an old, secluded shack in the woods near the reservation, to avoid provoking wolves in Becky's pack. The building smelled enough like Sue that I guessed this was where she'd met her husband.

"Hey," I said by way of greeting. Harry shifted position uncomfortably, still unable to discern that I was a person - and having plenty of other reasons to be unhappy besides that - but he waved. "How much did Seth already tell you?" I asked, as the young werewolf departed.

"Most everything," said Harry hollowly. "You really think she'll die?"

"The odds aren't good," I said honestly. "I know of four live half-vampires and ten who didn't make it to being born, have reason to believe that I haven't heard of all the ones who didn't make it, and have never heard of one whose mother lived. That having been said, it is likely that Sue has a better chance than any of them did - even without accepting a doctor's help, which would make me far more optimistic than I am. I think the other hybrids' father didn't care at all about their moms, and didn't try to look after them or turn them when they gave birth."

"But you still think she should abort," Harry said.

"Yes," I said. "It's an insane risk to take even with the available possibility that she'll live. This isn't just a little dicey, it's something that literally no one has ever lived through. But she won't. She won't even let me tell Edward anything, far from letting him show up with the relevant tools."

"I didn't know it was possible," murmured Harry. "I thought... I mean, the Denalis never had to bother with... anything."

"The Denalis of whom you speak are all three of them female," I said. "It's different the other way around, although I didn't know that for sure around when I turned you. It didn't occur to me that it'd be information you needed, but in retrospect I wish I'd mentioned it." I sighed. "I'm so sorry."

"I missed her so much," Harry said softly. "And she was only getting harder to remember as time went by and I couldn't stand it, that I might forget her, that she might not want to see me again - and I knew I shouldn't just run from Denali straight to her immediately, that I wasn't safe, but after I was able to be around a human without killing him the only thing left was to convince her to see me. And then almost two weeks later she finally said she'd meet me here, and I was making regular visits, but I guess I stayed too long this time because the Denalis noticed and called... but it's good you're here."

"You should call the Denali of your choice and say you've decided to move out and live on your own," I said. "That way they won't expect you back. Since you've demonstrated to them that you're safe around humans, they won't have any interest in tracking you down."

"I should," muttered Harry. He took out his phone and dialed Eleazar's number. "Hello," he said, when the ex-Volturi picked up. I quit breathing and held perfectly still, to avoid making noises which Eleazar would hear.

"Harry?" asked Eleazar's voice.

"It's me," Harry said. "It occurred to me that you'd wonder where I'd gone... I decided to move out. You know I've been having trouble getting along with Laurent and Irina and Kate and Tanya and David... I thought it would just be best if I left. I haven't eaten anyone. I'm not going to start. I just want to live by myself now."

"Well... all right, Harry, if that's what you want," Eleazar said reluctantly. "But know that you're welcome back any time, and that if you need anything, you can call us."

"Thank you," Harry said softly. "I'll let you know if my phone number changes. Thank you for letting me into your home, and please pass on my thanks to Carmen as well. Goodbye."

"I will," Eleazar promised. "Goodbye, Harry."

Harry clicked his phone closed, and I started breathing again. It was mildly uncomfortable not to, just because it deprived me of a sense, although I had plenty of practice from my habit of underwater hunting and resorted to holding my breath more readily than my family tended to. Harry said, "I should have thought to do that as soon as I'd been gone longer than they were used to."

"I'm kind of surprised that they didn't get curious about twenty-four-hour-plus departures earlier," I said.

"I told them I was just exploring, that I liked to be alone," he said. "It's a big park. And they knew I wasn't that fond of most of the group."

"Fair enough," I said. I heard someone approaching the house on two feet at a relaxed walk; probably Leah or Seth with some news or question.

"Please don't let my wife die," Harry said suddenly. "I don't know how I can do without her. And Seth is so young, he can't lose his mother."

"I will do everything I can short of assaulting her to keep her alive," I said. "But she's not letting me be as helpful as I'd like. Maybe you can do a better job of talking her into letting me bring Edward in."

"She's very stubborn, Sue is," murmured Harry.

And that was the end of that conversation, because at that moment, the door slammed open and there stood Charlie.

At first, we all just stared at each other. There was a chance, however remote, that Charlie would not recognize me or Harry - especially not in the dark; it wasn't even four a.m. and I had no idea what would have possessed him to go wandering through the woods at such an hour. Supersonic and fast, I told Harry, "If he doesn't recognize us pretend we're lost and don't speak English."

Charlie shot that plan to hell immediately - "Harry?"

I was almost offended that he'd recognized Harry and not me, but of course he had reason to think Harry might be anywhere at all, whereas last he'd checked I'd been in Norway playing newlywed truant. Also, this was apparently Harry's shack.

"...Hello," said Harry.

"Harry, is that you?" demanded Charlie. "What are you doing here? What's up with your face? Billy and your wife have been giving me the runaround - and who's this?" He gave me a closer look, and I held very still, trying to avoid projecting any mannerisms that would make me look familiar. "Are... you..."

"Charlie," said Harry, momentarily distracting my father from his attempt at figuring out what was going on with me. "Please trust me. It's not good for you to be here. Please go home, go to bed, and wake up and think of it like a dream."

"Hell no," said Charlie, and a little candle-flame of hope in the land of metaphors winked out. "I could have let it go if you disappeared for a week and wouldn't explain, but Harry, I haven't gotten a verifiable story about where you've gotten to since July! Billy and Sue contradict each other, they contradict themselves, you're always sick or visiting relatives or running some mighty long errands, and I just don't buy it for nearly two months straight, my friend. And Sue hasn't let me drop by and check in on her for the last couple of days either. Her kids chased me off when I tried last night - I swear Leah looked like she might bite my head off."

"Charlie, I'm fine," said Harry. "I'm completely fine. And that's all you need to know, and it is very important that that be all you know, and I think you should go home and go to bed now."

"Not that simple anymore," Charlie said. "I have co-workers. Sometimes I mention stuff to them. I told 'em I couldn't get ahold of you, end of July. Came up again in conversation last week. I was willing to trust Billy and Sue pretty far, but they're not the other cops' friends. And cops start wondering what's going on when somebody goes missing that long and his wife and a friend of the family are running interference. This is me wandering around every place you might be hiding at an ungodly hour of the morning so on Monday, Rick doesn't ask me "hey, did your friend Harry turn up yet" and I have to say "nope" and he has to launch an investigation."

I failed to restrain a curse word.

Charlie looked at me again.

"Young lady," he said, and my still heart sank, "I don't care what freaky stuff you've gotten into - keep a civil tongue in your head."

"And you got here how?" Charlie asked me, about an hour and a half later.

"I flew," I said.

"You can fly, too?!"

"On an airplane," I said. "Are you absolutely sure you aren't being followed or tracked at all? You haven't noticed any weird, pale people hanging around, there haven't been any unexplained disappearances in a radius of a hundred miles besides Harry...?"

"Not that I've noticed," muttered Charlie. I thought he might be disappointed that I couldn't fly. "But if it's a... you seriously call yourselves "vampires"?"

"That's the English term, yes, for immortal creatures that drink blood," I sighed. I'd been explaining Things You May Not Have Known About The World 101 to Charlie since it had become clear that his cooperation would be necessary to keep the secret from exploding any farther beyond its current straining boundaries. He was so uncomfortable with the concept that I thought if only he'd stumbled across something he shouldn't have seen five or six weeks ago, he'd have blocked it all out of his mind and done the cover-up on request without needing to know details. As it was, the runaround he'd gotten was not letting him feel satisfied with partial explanations.

"If a vampire's following me, I wouldn't necessarily have noticed," Charlie said.

"There's nobody else within a couple of miles, anyway," said Harry quietly. The edge of the inhabited part of the reservation was four miles away from the shack, and Harry's range seemed to be about three miles, irrespective of whether he knew the people he was sensing or not. The shack itself had unclear origins but had been a haunt of Harry's since he'd been a kid; Charlie had been there once before, when Harry had been trying to generate interest in repairing it for some purpose or other that neither of them recalled.

"So you weren't followed here," I said, "at least not closely. That's good. I might have been overcautious; goodness only knows how many people the Volturi would like to have an eye on, but they've only got so much staff to spread around. But Dad, that doesn't mean you can talk about this to anybody. Not anybody except Quileutes, they're okay, and certain individuals they've had no choice but to tell. If enough people find out, it will cause a big enough stir that the Volturi will definitely find out, and definitely intervene."

Charlie nodded slowly. "What about Sue?" he asked finally. "Is she all right?"

I bit my lip as Harry struggled through an explanation. Charlie's expression grew darker as he heard the story of her pregnancy, the wolves' split, and Sue's refusal to let me so much as ask Edward how to get human blood. "Would it help at all if I talked to her?" he asked quietly.

"I'm going to try, when she's woken up later this morning," Harry said. "I only got here a few hours ago. If I can't, you're welcome to give it a shot - but I don't think she's going to budge."

"Wouldn't surprise me," said Charlie, looking at the ceiling. It was hard for me to guess how much he could make out in the little moonlight filtering in through the windows. My night vision wasn't something I'd ever written about extensively before turning.

"You look tired," I said.

"A bit," he admitted. "I have tomorrow off, though, so it won't do me so much harm to pull an all-nighter."

"You have to sleep, Dad. You're not a vampire," I said. "Yet."

"Oh-ho-ho no, Bells," he said. "That's - not - no."

"It'd be safer," I said. "In a wide variety of ways."

Charlie shook his head. "Bells, I know you don't take after me this way, but I put down roots. I can't disappear from my life."

"Okay, well - think about it," I said. "Now that you know and you can't un-know... offer's on the table. Say the word and I'll do it."

"Not likely, Bells."

"I guess I can just send you the un-photoshopped versions of my wedding photos," I sighed.

"That," Charlie said, "will be good enough for me."

Harry, Charlie, another attempt by me, a plea from Rachel, Leah's badgering, and Seth's puppy eyes did nothing to persuade Sue on any count.

However, the fact that she could no longer threaten to tell Charlie on me meant that I didn't have to wait for her to agree to anything -

Which meant that I was pacing around in her backyard arguing with myself about whether to go against her wishes or not.

An important consideration that I was wrestling with was how much of my desire to call Edward and get him to come was just that. Honestly, I did hate keeping secrets from him. It didn't feel right. The fact that Charlie didn't seem to be under surveillance wasn't making it feel any more urgent. I hated being away from Edward for more than a few hours at a time.

In an attempt to separate out what of my feelings was about Edward and what was about getting Sue medical help, I contemplated calling Carlisle instead. Carlisle had more medical expertise. If I told him what was going on, he'd probably take the time off work and show up and help Sue. He couldn't read her mind and find an argument that would convince her to accept what she most needed, but he was a charismatic and pleasant enough person that he might have a shot at it anyway. I ignored for the purposes of the thought experiment the fact that Edward could read Carlisle's mind, and therefore bringing Carlisle into the picture would be two people learning about the wolves and the Clearwaters' predicament, not just one.

I found, predictably enough, that I was less enthusiastic about calling Carlisle. Or, when I tried another substitution, Rosalie. I just wasn't as keen on hauling them into the situation. Partly, I felt less entitled to their time - while they'd really be coming for Sue, not me, the entire issue was ultimately my own fault since I'd activated the wolf who'd mauled the man I'd had to turn who'd knocked up his wife with a dangerous baby.

I decided that was silly, disregarded it, and identified the other reason I didn't feel much like phoning them besides their mere non-Edwardness. If I had to bring in someone other than my very own Edward, then I wasn't personally handling the situation. It wasn't just that I wasn't entitled to ask them for help. If I told them I felt that way they - well, Carlisle at least, perhaps not Rosalie - would think I was being silly and that of course I could ask for whatever I needed.

Edward, on the other hand, felt and acted like almost an extension of myself. I didn't even think he'd dispute the description. If I got Edward to help me with something, it still felt like I had accomplished the something - I had this impression about my ability to keep my whereabouts secret even though he was covering my continent-hopping.

With all of this sifted out, I came to the conclusion that I didn't actually think it was important to force medical interventions on Sue that she wouldn't accept when offered. It was also beginning to look like she was not capable of being convinced. I'd known that earlier, really, or I would have sided with Becky and I would have found some way to physically prevent Sue from telling Charlie anything when threatened. (For instance, it would not have been at all difficult to take away her phone, and her kids had already started chasing him off from attempting to visit her in person.) So, no Edward. Or at least no physical presence of Edward.

I called him again.