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A Matter Of Time

Summary:
A TLYDF Recommendation, Nominated for Immortal Cookie Award, Won Best Imprint in the Silent Tear Awards Two weeks and the whole world can change. Caius and Jane led an insurrection against Aro and are making a mad power grab. Renegades from the wolf pack, unhappy with the treaty with the Cullens, are attacking vampires at every opportunity. Jacob and Renesmee are struggling with the paradox of imprinting. Edward, Bella and all the Cullens must come together to protect the world they've come to love. A tale of action, deceit, intrigue and sexual awakening.


Notes:
Stephanie Meyers owns all things Twilight. My thanks to all the wonderful people at PTB who helped with this story.


11. Chapter 11 Reunion

Rating 4.3/5   Word Count 2163   Review this Chapter

Bella

The longest night of my life ended with a sunrise seen from the windows of an airplane. We flew into Wasilla and rented a car. Edward drove like a demon possessed, but it still seemed achingly slow. Fear had me trapped in its icy grip and left me with no defense. I was mute with terror for Renesmee’s life. I gasped in horror as we came down the driveway to the Denali’s home, seeing the charred wreck of the house.

But then we saw Nessie come running from the trees and suddenly I felt a world lighter. Edward was out of the car before it stopped rolling and I followed close behind him. Edward scooped her up in his arms and lifted her off her feet. She was crying, sobbing, and trying to talk while Edward murmured calming words to her. She reached out to me and never have I felt more maternal and protective than just then. I held her as her slight, vulnerable body trembled in my arms and I was torn by relief that she was still alive and guilt that I had let this happen to her.

She pulled back slightly from me so that we gazed into each other’s eyes. Her hair was a tangled mess, her eyes were red and swollen, her nose was running and her skin was blotchy. But she was here and she was alive. I was so grateful, I could have gotten down on my knees. I watched as she gazed into my eyes but then her face crumpled and she was sobbing again. I rocked her as I hugged her closer, murmuring, “It’s alright, it’s alright, we’ve got you now,” again and again.

Carlisle came up and Nessie reached out with one arm and brought him into our hug. “Nessie, you’re hurt!” Carlisle said in surprise and I stepped back to see there was an improvised bandage on her arm. There was a scrape on her knee that had bled as well. I had smelled the dried blood but nothing fresh, for which I was grateful.

Nessie caught sight of Emmett then. She pulled away from my arms to turn to him, her shoulders slumped in defeat. She stepped up to Emmett, put out a hand as if to touch him, but then let her hand drop. “Oh, God, Emmett, I’m so sorry,” she whispered. Emmett was entirely still, his eyes unfocused as he processed what she was trying to say with unspoken words. We were all shocked into motionlessness.

“Show me,” he whispered even softer and held out his hand. She reached hers out to him, and we all crowded around her to touch her and share in the vision.

I saw the Hummers arriving and the fire from the hilltop. Edward and I exchanged a look as we saw the wolves chase Nessie down the path, both of us thinking back to my conversation with Billy Black. The soldiers surprised me, but then seeing the beautiful twisted face of Jane through Nessie’s eyes made my stomach knot. I heard Edward growl under his breath at her appearance. There was a sudden intake of breath from Emmett as we saw Rosalie scrabbling in the dirt under Jane’s pain and then Jane flinging Rosalie into the blazing house.

Emmett broke away and Nessie pulled her hand away, sobbing harder. “I tried, I didn’t know what to do,” she wailed. Edward and I put our arms around her, trying to comfort her and reassure her that there was nothing she could have done.

Emmett took two steps away, facing the gorge. His whole body was strung as tight as when an archer pulls back the bowstring in the moments before an arrow’s release. His fists clenched at his sides and suddenly he threw his head back and let out a roar, a howl, a cry of such grief and pain that it echoed back from the hills at us. It drove a flock of birds from their nesting place in the trees and they rose in the grey light and wheeled away as one.

It seemed the echo came back at us again and again, as if the hills themselves were groaning with pain and loss. We were immobile in the silence that followed and then Emmett seemed to collapse in on himself. He fell to his knees and his head dropped to his chest.

My chest ached with inexpressible tears and suddenly I wished I could cry, as if that would let out some of the heartache that was trapped inside. Carlisle stepped closer to Nessie, murmuring, “Come to the car, Nessie and let me take a look at that arm.”

“No!” Nessie cried, pulling away from Carlisle. “Jacob! Jacob is down by the river, he needs you!”

“Where?” Edward and I exclaimed together.

Nessie ran over to the edge of the gorge and pointed down to the rock-strewn beach. I could just barely make out a tail from behind a rock.

Carlisle grabbed Nessie by the shoulders. “How badly is he hurt, Nessie?” Carlisle asked, his calm authoritative voice reaching through Nessie’s despair.

“He’s burned badly, a lot of broken bones,” Nessie sniveled. “He hasn’t been awake.”

“Edward, get my bag from the car and follow me down,” Carlisle ordered and then he flipped over the edge of the cliff. I watched as he went swiftly down the cliff face, almost spider-like, finding handholds and toeholds where none seemed to be. He jumped the last thirty feet and ran over where Jacob lay. Edward was behind him in a flash, holding the bag with just two fingers as he crawled down the cliff face.

I held Nessie’s shoulders as she shuddered with emotion, watching Carlisle and Edward crouch over the unconscious wolf. Edward called up to me, “We need something we can use as a stretcher.”

I glanced around and the residue of the house seemed most promising. I strode over to the blackened remains. Emmett was beside me, then. He pulled a charred door out of its frame. With a somber face and eyes that looked a thousand years old, he turned to me and said, “This should do it.”

I put my hand to his face, our shared grief leaving me speechless. He leaned into my hand, his eyes closed. Loss and sadness wrapped around us like a blanket, it was only being together that made it bearable. We stood like that for a moment, drenched in grief, before Emmett turned away.

Renesmee and I watched, with our arms around each other, as the men brought Jacob up from below. They set him gently in the back of the SUV. “How is he?” I asked Carlisle.

“Well, I’ve given him a shot of antibiotics to try to stop any infection.” Carlisle frowned. “I need him to wake up and change back into human form. I’ll feel more confident treating him when I can predict his anatomy.”

We heard the sounds of a car traveling up the driveway. Carlisle turned to survey our group. “Bella, give Renesmee your jacket. Edward, Emmett, close up the SUV.”

I helped Renesmee with my jacket; she winced as she moved her hurt arm through the sleeve.

A black and white car with the seal of Alaska on the door came into view, carrying a single occupant. An older man, once muscled but now gone soft, got out of the car wearing a state uniform.

“Hello, folks,” he nodded.

Carlisle strode forward to meet him. “Hello, I’m Dr. Carlisle Cullen and this is my family. We’re from Washington, but flew up as soon as we heard of the fire. We are friends of Kate and Tanya.”

“Hello. I’m State Fire Marshall Clement. Would you know who was home last night?” he asked Carlisle.

“I believe it was Kate and Tanya and a member of our family, Rosalie Hale,” Carlisle said. “Two other family members are traveling in South America, but we’ve contacted them and they should be here by tomorrow. Has there been any word on survivors?”

“I am sorry, folks,” he said as he pulled the hat from his head. “We found no survivors. We did find a body, a young female, just outside the house. Looks like burns were the cause of death, but the coroner has her now. Some kind of calcification occurred though, the body was as hard as stone.”

Emmett jerked almost imperceptibly behind me. All of us suddenly held the same hope and the same fear. Could it be Rosalie? Her injuries must be terrible if she had been rendered so catatonic they had taken her to the morgue.

“I’d been treating Rosalie for scleroderma,” Carlisle said. “That might explain it.”

“Well, she must have had a severe case of it; I’ve never seen anything like it.” He scuffed his feet and then peered at Carlisle. “The way the fire progressed, we are thinking some kind of accelerant might have been used. Are you aware of any one who might have held a grudge, maybe an ex-boyfriend or some such?”

“No, I can’t think of anyone like that. But I will certainly contact your office if I should recollect or hear any information.”

“It was a busy night last night,” Clement said. “First this, then an hour later we had a car fire down the highway. Another Hummer like the one in the yard. It had California plates and four bodies inside. Seemed likely they might be connected.”

“Well, that is odd,” Carlisle said. “I can’t think of any reason why someone would do something so violent to Kate and Tanya. They were a very gentle and loving family. We’d like to identify and claim the victim’s remains. Where would they have taken her?”

“Fairbanks Memorial,” Clement replied. “Just follow Route 3 north. You’ll see the hospital signs.”

“Well, thank you, Officer. We’ll go then,” Carlisle indicated.

He turned and the rest of us followed his example and got in the car. Edward grabbed the wheel with Emmett riding shotgun. Carlisle sat next to Renesmee in the back seat, and murmured, “Once we get out to the highway, Nessie, I want to take a look at your arm. In the meantime…” He pulled some pills from his case and shook a couple into her hand.

Emmett twisted in the front seat to turn to Carlisle. His face held more fear than I could ever remember seeing in Emmett. Almost not daring to hope, he croaked, “Carlisle, do you think…?”

“We’ll have to see, Emmett,” Carlisle said compassionately, trying to answer Emmett’s unspoken question. “Let’s rent some lodging so we can leave Jacob to rest with Bella and Nessie, then I’ll take you and Edward to the hospital. You may be posing as orderlies.”

We rented a cabin outside of Fairbanks and brought Jacob in unseen. Carlisle left us with instructions on caring for Jacob, and then they were off. I urged Renesmee to take the first shower; nothing can help an attitude, even grief, like hot water. I looked through the bag I had packed hastily last night in Forks, finding some clean clothes that wouldn’t be insanely big on her, and left them in the bathroom for her to change into.

I was surprised when she came out of the bathroom, her hair slicked back. “My clothes fit you,” I said, taken aback. Seven years, and she was full grown.

She looked down at herself. “Yes, I guess they do.”

She had new bandages on her wounds and thankfully it blocked most of the smell. I was still enough of a newborn that the smell of blood, any blood, was a distraction. She sat down on the bed next to me, and I put my arm around her shoulders and kissed her hair. She leaned her head against me and sighed. “I don’t think I could cry another tear. My tear ducts have been running overtime.”

“Be grateful you can cry,” I murmured. “It’s a release I’ve missed.”

She straightened up and looked me in the eyes. “Mom, I saw Leah there.”

“Leah? Leah Clearwater?” I exclaimed.

She nodded and held out her hand. I pressed it to my face and watched the dark river flowing by as a figure crouched on the riverbank. She replayed their conversation.

I moved her hand from my face and cupped it in both of mine. “I don’t know what she’s gotten herself mixed up in. I spoke with Billy Black several days ago and he had said there was some dissension within the tribe.”

“What’s going on, Mom?” she asked, concern clouding her face.

“I don’t know, sweetheart, but we’ll find out.” I placed my hand on her face and saw her sway with tiredness. “You must be exhausted,” I said. “Why don’t you crawl under the covers and rest for a while?”

“Stay with me while I fall asleep?” she asked, as she slipped between the covers.

“Of course,” I assured her. She hadn’t asked me to do that in years. The guilt stabbed me again as I realized how traumatic the night had been for her.

I stayed with her until her breathing was deep and regular. I checked on Jacob, who still seemed under, and then headed for some attitude renewal myself.