It's been a while. Hopefully it's worth the wait.

For context, Bella and Jasper have left to hunt Victoria. Edward and Nessie have been living in the cottage. Emmett asks them to stay in the main house so he can hunt. Whilst there, Nessie bonds with Rosalie. She's just received a phone she wasn't expecting.


"Mom?" My eyes zig-zagged around the occupants of the room, as if seeking confirmation that the voice was truly hers. A similar joy emitted from each of them, all happy that I could have this reassurance that none of them could give me.

"Oh my- Mom!"

My heart was pounding in excited anticipation; not a feeling I'd felt in a while. My cheeks ached from smiling and my hand pressed the phone too tight to my face - as if I could reach in and touch her through the phone - but neither of those things mattered.

Her breathy laugh acted as an instant relaxant, calming every tense muscle from head to foot and blanketing my heart in warmth. "Surprise."

Ironically, her words dispelled the surprise I felt and my anxiety and fear magnified explosively. "Are you okay? Where are you? Is it safe to be calling? Are you safe? What's happening? Is she gone? Are you coming home?" Each thought passed like a swarm of birds disturbed from their nest. I voiced them like the lone baby calling for it's mama.

Throughout my indelicacy, Bella has been shushing as only a mother could. When I finished - a cathartic release of everything I hadn't realised I'd been holding in - I dropped onto the couch. Bella stayed silent, waiting.

"I'm fine," I said, finally.

"Ness…" she chastised.

"I promise I'm fine. I miss you, but I'm fine." My yearning for Bella overshadowed any amount of joy or comfort I felt in the moment, so whilst 'fine' was often regarded as a dismissal, it was the best word choice to describe my current state.

"I miss you, too."

I relished the comfort it brought.

"If I promise to ask my questions slower, will you answer them?" I teased.

She snorted. "Okay, but first I want to hear about you."

"I told you I'm fine. Jake stops by when he can, Seth too. Grandpa calls and…" I breathed. "And I'm being taken care of. I know I'm safe here. But I want you home."

"Soon," she promised. "Jasper and I are in Seattle-"

"Wait!" I interrupted. "Are you allowed to tell me that? As in, we're not being listened to?"

She laughed. "Ness, we're tracking newborns not running from the CIA, we're okay." Embarrassment licked my cheeks even though I knew her teasing was harmless. "Besides, we're using a phone Jasper assures me is safe."

"Is he with you now?" I asked. My leg began to bounce.

"Yes, he's here. We never leave each other alone."

Good. "Has he talked with Alice?"

"Briefly, before you came to the phone. They'll talk after. You sleep, they don't," she said.

I glanced up and caught Alice's eye. Only her and Edward visibly lingered, but I knew the others could still hear if they chose to eavesdrop.

I bit my lip. "Are you any closer to… you know."

"We've found what we believe to be their base, for want of a better word. We discovered it last night and have been watching them all day, but there's been no sign of Victoria." There was still a bite to her voice as she said the name and a chill ran down my spine. Especially considering she could be anywhere.

"What will you do?" Part of me dreaded the answer but the question had to be asked.

"We're going to destroy as many as we can here, then continue until we find Victoria. Until she's gone, more newborns could be made and we can't take that risk, not with what we've seen so far."

"Please be careful," I begged.

"We will," she reassured. "Our plan means we'll be close enough to witness, but far enough away that there's no risk to us."

"Do I want to know the details?"

She laughed lightly and it was like a warm shower through my veins, enveloping me, even if it was only through the receiver. "Always the curious one." I rolled my eyes. "It involves a lot of fire."

My heart skipped a beat.

"It will work," Alice said quietly from her spot. I looked at her and her face was certain. She tapped the side of her head lightly, that side smirk that only Alice could pull off, and that was all I needed.

"Be safe," I begged her again. "And you and Jasper come home to us."

"We promise."

A yawn escaped before I could control it; the mixed emotions exhausting my already tired mind and body.

"That's our cue to say goodnight," she teased.

"I don't want to," I moaned, but even I could hear the childlike whine in my voice, betraying me.

"Bella," Jasper's voice came close to the phone. I gave a small sigh, happy to have spoken to my mom but also resolved to say goodbye - he wanted his time with Alice. I looked back up at her, anticipating her happiness, but as my eyes found her, her eyes were lost elsewhere, her body stiff as a vision took over.

Edward was watching her.

Her brows furrowed then her entire face dropped, becoming impossibly whiter. In less than a minute her demeanour had morphed from confident to panicked as her vision played.

My hand gripped the phone tighter, now understanding that Jasper's plea was to attract Bella's attention, not a desire to speak with his wife.

"Mom?" I whispered down the line, dread filling my voice.

Alice wasn't even out of the vision when the events of what I assumed she'd seen began to take place. There was no distinct beginning; one moment Bella was talking then the next, there was nothing but bedlam as animalistic snarls - each one distinct from the other - was all that could be heard down the open phone line. Fear paralysed me as my full attention was drawn to the noise. The stillness of the room contradicted the uproar we were listening to; frozen as the sound played as if it were amplified for all to hear - the tearing of flesh, the thud and thwack of connecting limbs.

As the ruckus continued, showing no signs of reprieve, my vision began to blur and I felt completely disconnected from my body. The turbulence was sickening me to my core but the sole reason I couldn't move away was because I needed to hear the outcome, needed to hear her pick up the phone and tell me she was okay. What was worse was that I couldn't distinguish her voice among the cacophony. No until one moment became the climax:

"Behind you!" Jasper's voice, firm, fearful and fiery dominated the soundscape of the battle, like a baby's cry in a busy supermarket.

The scream that followed was a sound I'd never heard my mother make before and a sound I would never forget. I felt it infiltrate my psyche, icing each of my veins one by one; the echo remained in my eardrums even as the source was drowned beneath the continued momentum of the unseen brawl.

Abruptly, three sharp beeps pierced the air, indicating that the phone had been cut off.

In an out of body experience, I watched from the sidelines as the phone slid from my hand, clattering to the floor; the sound if it a claxon that and initiated a room-wide response.

"Don't be a fool!" Rosalie yelled to Edward as he ran to the front door. "Going there alone will result in nothing but your death."

Carlisle ran to Alice, taking her stricken face in his hands. Rosalie had a phone in her hand, desperately making one call after another.

With my mind lost to the moment that had occurred not a minute prior, the present played like a damaged film - I could see it but I wasn't there.

Then Edward was in front of me, forcing my unseeing eyes to his own face as a dismaying, strangled cry somewhere between a laugh and a scream erupted from my core. His mouth was moving, but I couldn't hear a word. In its place, white noise filled my ears; the ringing was piercing and overwhelming and my body slacked, overcome with the ricochet of whatever hysteria was escaping me.

My conscious mind had already established a narrative so certain that it was difficult to rebuke: the fear that I would never see my mother again… that she'd been hurt by the very monsters she was protecting me from… that I would be a shadow of myself without her. It was so loud and so clear because, since Bella and Jasper had left, I'd been plagued by my anxiety and a whole manner of 'what ifs' that ended disastrously. Trying to ignore it was a daily battle which I'd lost for good the moment I heard that scream. There was a shred of hope trying to fight its way through in the form of denial; a small part of me that hadn't succumbed to fear. It refused to believe that my mother was gone, but it was so small it disappeared under the certainty that something terrible had happened. Because that scream was unlike anything I'd ever heard before.

Between supporting my crumpled form and controlling his own emotions, Edward tried to break through, his mouth shaping into the words 'not gone' and 'hold on to it' repetitively. But nothing seemed to help. Even as I processed the need to calm down, my body had a life of its own. The weight of my fear crippled me as I saw it reflected back in Edward's eyes. Experiencing what could only be labelled as a sensory overload, I closed my eyes and let my head drop to his chest, the chill of it seeping through his sweater.

Moments later the cold became warm and a minute part of me relaxed as I was unknowingly transferred into Jake's arms. I buried my face in his chest and splayed my hands on his back. Doing so was my natural instinct. His arms tightened around me like a vice as my mind opened to him.

There were only a few occasions in my life where a hug from Jake hadn't had its desired effect - his heat had provided a sense of comfort and safety since I was born - but on this occasion it wasn't enough. The grief was overwhelming and I knew the only thing that could truly alleviate it was one person I was so afraid could no longer do so.

Suddenly, as if my wish had been heard, a welcome chill fell across my back. The sensation of fire and ice surrounded me and it was a feeling so familiar that it gave everything within me the ability to pause. My heart swelled, my breath took pause, my frantic mind stuttered. Instead of being plagued with imagined scenarios of what had just happened, I was reminded of times together with Bella and Jake, holding me just as I was being held now and the cocoon of safety it brought, even in my worst moments.

"Hold on to the hope, Ness." Edward's voice cut through in a whisper.

My mom was a fierce vampire, a strong fighter, and that was before you added motive into the equation. Her love for me guided every decision she made, and it was impossible for her to be taken down easily. She persevered and fought through the darkest time in her life because of me, she was fighting now to protect me - there's no way she would leave me. In spite of all that, one thing I had to remember was that she wasn't alone. I didn't know Jasper very well, but the rest of the family did and they trusted him. So I had to as well. So whilst there was no doubt that Bella had been hurt in whatever had taken place, there was nothing concrete to suggest it was worse than a fixable injury. What was ruining the riot in my head was the absolute worst case scenario. The best case was that she was fine - their plan worked and they're on their way home right now. So, I did as I was told and held onto the hope.

I took a deep breath, eyes closed, and clung to my renewed thinking. I didn't know what had happened and I wouldn't know unless I had better control of my emotions. An awareness of how selfish I was being was the final realisation I needed, because whilst everyone was distracted by my fragility, our missing family was second on the priority list. I couldn't allow that. I needed to be stronger than this. My mom needed me to be stronger than this.

I opened my eyes and backed away from both men, their arms slipping away easily but hovering as if stuck above static. A tissue was given to me and I cleaned my face. Jake, in his uncertainty, took a step towards me. I stopped him with a glare, turning my eyes back to the source of my interest who was momentarily stuck somewhere in the future.

Rosalie stepped to my side and took my hand. I heard, rather than saw, Jake's reaction to that, but Rosalie's presence felt less like comfort and provided me with something else (solidarity, maybe?) Whatever it was was what I needed at this moment.

Alice's eyes cleared, but there was nothing triumphant in her expression. Her eyes flicked around the room before locking on Edward, his attention now with her, too. He nodded his head - a tiny movement that was barely visible.

"Did you see where they are?" Rosalie asked.

Alice didn't respond. Her brow furrowed and she fell into another vision.

"Alice," Carlisle said with enough authority to penetrate her vision, "where are Jasper and Bella?"

She shook her head, her eyes closed, fingers digging into her temples.

"Edward?" He asked, turning to the only person who could know what Alice was seeing.

"She's still looking," he mumbled, a ferocity to his voice I had never heard before. "They weren't part of the vision."

"What did she see?" Aside from our rather informal doctor's appointments, I'd never witnessed Carlisle be so clinical or analytical. It was quite a phenomenon.

Edward's fist and jaw clenched simultaneously. "Newborns. Here. Near the house."

"How many?" Carlisle asked, trying to squeeze as much information as possible, like juicing pomegranates. He knew, like the rest of us, that there was more to share.

"All of them," he confirmed, running a hand through his hair.

My breath left me in a whoosh as one conclusion popped into my head.

The control I had over my emotions was petering on the precipice, moments away from falling into something I didn't know I'd be able to survive. Because in spite of the hope Edward told me to have, what he'd just said negated it. Hope is what allowed me to step away from despair, hope was how I'd managed to wipe away my tears, hope is what made me prepared to act. Hope was lost if that's what Alice saw. Because if the newborns were making their way to forks - if all of them were - then...

"Their plan didn't work," I said aloud.

Eyes turned towards me but I kept mine on his. "If the newborns are alive, then their plan didn't work. And if the newborns are alive, then… does that mean that they- that Mom…" I couldn't complete the thought.

Edward screwed his eyes shut, igniting the tears that I had just fought back.

"No, it doesn't," Alice hissed, her focused eyes shooting a stern glare at Edward.

Edward was shaking his head. "We don't know that, Ali-"

"I'd know if he were dead, Edward," she growled. Her conviction was fogged in frustration, but it was like an electric shock running from my feet to my head, allowing everything within me to rise out of its deflation. The tears stayed put, however; dancing on the rim of my lashes.

"What about Bella?" Jake asked.

"I don't know!" She cried, her blazing eyes turning swiftly to him then elsewhere, as if ready for the next attack of no confidence.

"How can you not know?!" He was shaking, his voice full of accusation.

"Jacob, stop," I pleaded.

But Alice wasn't intimidated by his impending phase. "I can't see her. I can't see either of them, but it doesn't mean anything has happened, it just means that I can't see her, which I know is possible now if her decisions are based on something I can't see. Now do you understand?"

"Like Nessie," Edward clarified.

"Exactly," she said as an exhale; her voice returning to it's usual volume. "I'm worried too, but we can't ignore the fact that newborns are coming here." She let a beat pass, allowing the news to settle among the group before she continued: "As much as I want to keep searching for them, that isn't going to help. There's a fight coming and we need to be prepared. Bella and Jasper being alive or not doesn't matter now. They'll come home to nothing if we end up dead."

Rosalie excused herself, phone in hand once again..

"Play the vision again," Edward said.

Between them both, they watched it repeatedly. If the situation were different, I might have spent more time being fascinated at how the two of them communicated with each other. I hadn't noticed it fully until now.

When they broke away, Alice was on a phone, tapping rapidly at the screen.

"How long do we have?" Carlisle asked.

"There was nothing to distinguish a day," Edward answered, "but the sun is setting and there's snow on the ground."

"The snow fall starts at 8am on Thursday," Alice announced.

Carlisle sighed. "So a little over 24 hours, give or take."

Rosalie appeared in the doorway. "Emmett and Esme will be back in a couple of hours."

"Carlisle, where do we start?" Edward asked, his gaze fixed on his father.

In his clinical voice, Carlisle responded, "Newborns in Forks will be extremely hazardous, we need to do what we can to protect the community - that needs to be our priority."

"We need to contain them," Edward surmised.

"Exactly."

"Contain the town in 24 hours?" Jake asked dubiously. "Even with Charlie's help, that will be impossible."

"No, not the town, the vampires. If we can isolate them, away from the townsfolk, then maybe that will keep them at bay," Carlisle clarified. "Our house is on the outskirts, if we can find a way to make them come in from the north, through the forest, they won't pass by the town."

"No, just a few stray hikers," Jake mumbled sarcastically.

"Jake!" I hissed.

"Leading them to one location will make it easier for us to fight them, too; stop them passing into the town," Edward added. "We'll need your help," he said to Jake.

Jake shook out his tense arms. "You know the wolves will fight."

"But even with six of us and ten of them, we're still severely outnumbered," Rosalie rationalised.

"Newborns are chaotic, if we strategize and practise what we know, we'll have a better chance, even if we are outnumbered-"

"Five of you, you can't rely on, um, Jasper, or Bells for the matter to be here in time," Jake shrugged.

Rosalie glared at him, and replied through clenched teeth, "I wasn't talking about them."

"Jake," I said to grab his attention, "I'm the sixth." I tried to hide the hurt I'd felt that he'd forgotten I was here.

He scoffed. "You aren't fighting, Nessie. Not only is it too dangerous, but you don't know how to fight. It's not a risk I'm willing to take."

"But I am," I insisted. "Besides, Carlisle just said we're going to practise what we know. Everyone here knows how to fight and I happen to be a fast learner."

"You'll learn everything in 24 hours, are you insane?!"

"Don't talk to me like that!" I yelled, offended. "Don't you remember who taught mom? I was there for that! Are you forgetting that I already know some stuff?"

"But it's not enough!" He argued. "Nessie, you'll get yourself killed. No, you're going to La Push while this goes down."

"It isn't your choice," I huffed, "and stop treating me like a child!"

"Then stop acting like one," was his smart response, which just served to infuriate me more.

"Who do you think they'll be tracking to get here - Edward?" I paused, ensuring what I said didn't fall on deaf ears. "What if it's me and it takes them straight to La Push instead?

He shook his head, unrelenting. "Your mom would agree with me if she were here."

Low blow. He knew it was too, as soon as the words fell from his mouth, accidental or not. The remorse in his eyes deepened as my eyes hardened to steel.

"You want parental consent?" The venom dripped from my voice. "Fine. Edward, what do you think?"

There was no audible gasp, but I felt the atmosphere thicken with a collective tension.

"Do you think I should be banished to La Push, or do you think it would be better for everyone if there was one more person on our side in this?"

To anyone else, this would seem like nothing more than a stubborn attempt to hurt Jake, but truthfully I could never hurt him and this meant more to me than winning an argument. Edward knew all of that, even if I didn't express it aloud - he could read my thoughts after all.

Please, don't send me away now. You need me as much as I need you.

Yes, worry fuelled my decision, but I was sick of being treated like a fragile doll. This was my town in danger, my home, my family, my mother… there was no way I was idly sitting by as this fight happened. I knew what I was and could be capable of, even with all that fear plaguing me.

Edward's face didn't give away much, but his eyes shone with an emotion I couldn't name. Before he nodded his head, I knew his answer, and as soon as he said the words, "you can stay," I was already mid-launch across the room, wrapping my arms around his waist.

"Thank you," I mumbled sincerely.

His arms came around me and I felt his cheek come to rest on the crown of my head. "On the condition you listen to everything you're told to do, or not do - do you promise?"

I promise.

He kissed my hair before loosening his grip. "We should plan what we're able to."

Carlisle nodded, leading the way out of the living room and into the dining room. Edward was followed by Rosalie.

I looked at Jake, feeling guilty for what I'd done, even in my moment of triumph.

"I'm just trying to protect you, Nessie," he said softly, sorrow in his eyes.

"I know," I conceded, "but sometimes I need to protect myself."

He scrubbed his face with his hands before sighing and turning to join the others in the dining room.

I fell onto the nearest couch, needing a moment to process my thoughts. Alice, too, seemed to be collecting herself. I looked at her, allowing her a peak at my fractured demeanor beneath the display of strength.

"They're not dead?" I asked in a quiet voice, pleading with her for the truth.

"They are not dead," Alice responded. Though I wasn't sure if she was trying to convince me or herself.