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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.


14. Chapter 14 Meeting

Rating 3.5/5   Word Count 3834   Review this Chapter

Alice

It was near sunset when we arrived in Fairbanks. We saw Edward leaning against the far wall of the gate area as we disembarked from the plane. His tall, dark, good looks were getting the usual amount of attention by the female and even some male passers-by. I could note, however, the toll the stress of the past day’s events had taken on him by the dark circles and tiny stress lines around his eyes.

Esme led us over to him and gently laid her hand on his face. Her pale loveliness radiated compassion and concern.

His eyes softened as he gazed at her. “I’m fine,” he answered to her unspoken question. “We picked up Rosalie from the hospital and Carlisle says she’s going to be fine, but it will take some time.”

I felt a twinge of guilt hit me, and I wished I had been able to warn my family before this had happened.

“Don’t apologize, Alice. It’s not something you could have foreseen,” Edward reassured me.

Jasper said, “We have a lot of information the family has to talk about.”

I laid my hand on Jasper’s arm. “There will be a family meeting tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I’ll be grateful for the chance to hunt.”

Edward led us out of the terminal and to a red SUV. On the way back to the cabin, we told Edward what we had seen in Volterra, which he knew in part from Carlisle, and he gave us an update on the events since we had heard from Bella earlier.

“I am just stunned at the werewolves getting involved with this,” I said. “Does this mean the treaty is broken? Are we sure they were Quileutes?”

“Bella said that Billy was concerned about a group of well, ‘young-bloods’ was his term,” Edward said moodily. “I won’t believe the elders sanctioned this behavior.

“Does Jacob know about their involvement?” Jasper asked him.

“I don’t think so; he was still unconscious when I left.”

“Well, I can’t ever imagine Jacob allowing anything that might hurt Renesmee, or any of us for that matter. He has risked himself for our benefit too many times,” Esme said firmly. “Caius and Jane are the real threat.”

Edward growled and inadvertently mangled his armrest in his frustration. “Jane is going to come gunning for Bella,” he choked out. “I know it. Jane hates to be bested at anything. I’ve never felt such fury as when Aro ordered the withdrawal from the field in Forks. Her mind was incoherent with rage.”

“Jane is just a tool for Caius,” Jasper opined, his dark eyes flashing. “There is a larger strategy being built here, what with the involvement of the Quileutes and humans. Jane is a blunt tool, a sledgehammer. She’s incapable of the kind of subtle positioning that is going on.”

Esme turned from her seat in the front. “It was Aro that held the Volturi together. He at least held to the pretense of morality. Caius will have no such qualms. Look at the destruction they have caused so far,” Esme said, shaking her head with disgust.

“It’s making sense why I can’t see Caius,” I realized. “If he is using the werewolves, they would block my abilities.” I was grateful to have some explanation for the lapse in my abilities. I’d become very dependent on my visions, and the information they provided for the safety of the whole family.

The sun was setting as we arrived at the cabin. We weren’t the only new arrivals; Carmen and Eleazar had arrived as well. They were aware of the sad news and subdued with grief over the loss of Tanya and Kate. They volunteered to stay with Rosalie and Jacob while the rest of us went hunting. Emmett, reluctant to leave Rosalie at all, finally agreed, when it was decided he could stay close by; there were recent deer tracks in the field behind our cabin. The rest of us split into two groups, one going north and one south so we could dilute the effects of our hunting on any one population.

It was not the best night for hunting; the showers came and went all night. Jasper and I went with Carlisle and Esme south to Denali. As the windshield wipers on the car beat time to the misty rain falling in the night, I told them what happened when we had arrived in New York, having flown from Italy by coffin.

“We’d arrived in the New York hangar and I heard the forklift put Jasper’s crate next to mine. Well, Jasper has no patience with this kind of thing.” I looked over at him to see him smiling at me, his golden curls gleaming softly in the darkness. “He blasted through his coffin and crate, wood splintering and crashing everywhere. Always the gentlemen, he started dismantling the crate around mine, to help me out. Interrupted by some workers, who’d heard the noise, he slips behind some boxes to wait and see what they’ll do.”

Carlisle turned off into a dirt road that looked seldom used. Esme had heard this story already, so she was smiling.

“I heard the workers come up to the coffin where I was lying, and they’re spooked by the whole thing. One of them worked up enough courage, though, to open the lid on my coffin. They’re staring at me, while I have my eyes closed and my hands composed in the classic corpse way. I heard one of them whisper “wow” and he reached out to touch me. So I threw my eyes open and glared at him.”

Jasper continued, “They both jumped back five feet, and fell flat on their asses. The coffin lid snapped shut and the two of them got up and ran yelling for the exit. Definitely hilarious.”

Carlisle threw back his head to guffaw and the rest of us chimed in. “Ah, it feels good to laugh,” he said.

Esme smiled at him and grabbed his hand. “I missed you,” she murmured. He smiled back and touched her face.

Carlisle brought the car to a stop and turned off the engine . He made no move to exit the car and we sat in the dark, listening to the rain on the car roof. Carlisle bowed his head over the steering wheel, his sudden pensive mood affecting all of us. “As much as I have disagreed with the Volturi, once there was a time when they were noble. When I was young, they were models of culture and refinement. It’s painful to see them have fallen so far.” I’d never heard such heartache in his voice. “There is so little that can kill us. Yet the vast majority of us die at the hands of each other.” There was a world of loss in his voice. It reminded me how old Carlisle actually was. He’d seen centuries come and go.

We were quiet, respecting his feelings of grief. He sighed. “So much change. That seems the only constant in this existence.”

The sounds of the night forest surrounded us. There was the faint patter as moisture fell from the wet leaves to the forest floor and the sounds of small creatures rustling through the underbrush.

Carlisle raised his head. “The herd is close by,” he commented. “Shall we?”

We split up, then. Esme and Carlisle headed off to the grasslands after the caribou, but Jasper caught scent of some black bears by the river, which we found soon after.

We finished our meal and started back to the car. Jasper was silent, his face pensive. “Tell me, Jazz,” I urged him.

He pulled me around so we faced one another. Grabbing my hands with his own, he brought them to his mouth to kiss them. “I’ve been thinking about what happened to Kate and Tanya. It makes me realize, we think we have forever, but we don’t. Even for us, time is not an unlimited commodity.” His golden eyes bored into mine. “We may have long lives, longer than humans, but we face the same end, the same unknown darkness.” He gathered me in his arms. I fit my head into my favorite spot on his shoulder as I wrapped my arms around his solid torso.

“I think of my life before I met you and it was cold and hollow, filled with death. Do you know how much you have resurrected me?” He kissed the top of my head. “I couldn’t go on without you. There’s much I could bear, but not losing you.” He hugged me tighter. “Never losing you,” he whispered.

“For as long as you are, then I am by your side,” I promised him softly.

He raised my chin with his finger. “I’m holding you to that,” he vowed with a grin.

I raised my hand to his face and laid my hand along his cheek. He twisted to kiss my palm. “My sun god,” I whispered to him.

“My gypsy queen,” he whispered back. His smile reached his eyes, and I giggled as he lifted me off my feet.

***

We returned to the house to find Edward, Bella, and Renesmee had already returned. Edward’s face was particularly grim, as was Renesmee’s. Bella looked lost and torn between the two. It was obvious that there had been some kind of disagreement between father and daughter, and mother felt stuck in the middle. It wasn’t strong enough to be a vision; perhaps it was just gut instinct that told me the possible cause for the conflict was the person snoring in the bed next to Rosalie.

Bella and I had discussed Jacob’s imprinting on Renesmee. I knew she felt conflicted about a possible romantic relationship developing between the two. She still felt so guilty for breaking Jacob’s heart when she had been human, and she wished for him to be happy as she would a brother. She had seen firsthand how joyful a relationship could be between imprinted couples. She had described the intense love and connections she had seen between Sam and Emily, Jared and Kim.

But she had had so little time with Renesmee as a child, she was hoping that the whole imprinting question would be years away. Like every mother, she was reluctant to admit to her child’s growing independence. Especially, since she’d had only one-third of the usual allotment before a child matured as an adult. Nessie was the only child any of us were ever likely to have a relationship with; we all loved and cherished her. Bella didn’t want Jacob to take Renesmee away from us, but would Jacob come with us when we moved as we inevitable had to?

Edward on the other hand, was very firm about keeping Renesmee under his wing, regardless of any imprinting that may have occurred. He was hoping that when the family moved, now just days away, that Jacob stayed behind. I think deep in his heart he wanted Renesmee to have a human life and that didn’t include any kind of supernatural beings. Whereas Bella always trusted Jacob absolutely, in Edward’s mind, there were always doubts.

Jasper surprised me. When we had discussed the matter privately, he had said that there was such a strong pull between Jacob and Renesmee, it seemed almost tangible to him, like the field that kept two stars circling each other. He’d seen the same thing between Edward and Bella, and hoped that Renesmee would find the same kind of happiness that her parents had. “Love is a rare enough thing in this world,” he had said to me one evening as we were walking the woods. “We should celebrate it and nourish it wherever it’s found.” Was it any wonder I loved him so?

The sun was rising as Carlisle gathered us in the living room. I’d assured Carlisle that Garrett would be here soon; I’d seen him headed towards Alaska earlier and Esme had phoned him to tell him where we were.

Carlisle stood poised in front of the large fireplace that dominated the room. With the rest of us scattered around the room, Emmett shared the sofa with Carmen and Eleazar. At Carlisle’s request, Nessie came to where they sat, her face somber. “Mi corazón,” Carmen murmured softly to Nessie as she knelt beside them. Carmen’s hair was so black, the highlights shone almost blue against her petite olive features.

Carmen brushed a tendril away from Nessie’s face. “So young, so beautiful and so brave.” She placed a hand on Nessie’s face while Eleazar took her hand. The two of them bowed their heads as Nessie showed them what she had seen of the fight at Kate and Tanya’s, and her own narrow escape afterwards.

“Shape shifters and humans wrapped up in this?” Eleazar questioned Carlisle. “How odd.” His eyes shifted towards the room where Jacob and Rosalie lay.

Edward answered his unspoken thought. “Jacob had no knowledge of their part in this, and, in fact, acted bravely to try to save Kate and Tanya. They were seriously outgunned.”

“I’ll say,” Eleazar said. “They were lucky to have come away at all.”

“Jasper,” Carlisle called. “Not everyone has heard of your experience in Italy. Would you?”

Jasper straightened from where he’d been leaning on the wall. In a brief, almost military style, he reported how we’d gone to Volterra based on my vision, how we’d found the castle and our conversation with Marcus.

Eleazar got up and started pacing. “Caius, what a cowardly dog he is,” he snorted disdainfully. “He was always the one pushing for rules, investigating rule breakers and instituting punishment. A petty man, unhappy sharing power.”

“It wasn’t always that way,” Carlisle said. “When I first came to know Aro, Marcus and Caius, they were thoughtful and moderate. I was impressed by their generosity and love of knowledge.” He sighed. “But something changed. Marcus wrapped himself in apathy, and Aro became a collector of talents, frightened of his own death. He gathered the guard around him and corrupted them to his own personal goals. Caius became bitter as the power balance shifted away from the three of them equally. Aro became the only one whose opinion counted. Aro still went through the rituals and courtesy of courting the others’ opinions, but there was no doubt who was making the decisions.”

Carmen stood up. “Well, Caius is making them now, it sounds like. But where is he headed with this?”

It was then Garrett came through the door, shaking the rain off the pea coat he was wearing, the hat in his hand dripping.

Esme started towards him, “Garrett, welcome. Let me help you…”

“Wait, Esme.” Garrett raised his hand. “I want to answer that question. Let me tell you where Caius is headed with this,” he said grimly. “Genocide.”

We were shocked into stillness. Garrett stood there with his hands on his hips, his eyebrows drawn into a fierce frown. His black eyes were tinged with crimson, I realized as he surveyed the room.

Carlisle spoke first. “A strong word.”

“An appropriate word,” Garrett argued as he stepped to the center of the room. “You haven’t seen what’s going on out there. The Romanians, gone.” He started ticking off his fingers. “The Egyptians, scattered. Mary in Boston, gone. Peter and Charlotte, gone. Now, Kate and Tanya.”

Jasper hissed through his teeth. “Peter and Charlotte?” They had been coven members together before we had met. I saw Bella and Edward exchange a wide-eyed glance.

Garrett looked over his shoulder at Jasper. He turned to face us. “I caught up with them in Atlanta. I spent a night with them in July. A week later, I went back. They were gone, the house was just cinders. No answer on their cell phones.”

Bella whispered, “We tried to reach them, too. I saw this crazy article in the Star.”

Emmett rose, his hands clenched at his sides. “This is all Caius’ doing? Who is working with him?” he demanded hoarsely.

“Jane, Alec, Corin, Demetri, three or four others, from the information I have,” Garrett answered dourly.

“It appears they’ve gained allies in other places,” Carlisle informed him. He looked at Nessie, raising an eyebrow expectantly. She’d been sitting at Bella’s feet, her arms wrapped around her knees, her head resting on her arms. She nodded

She started to rise, but stumbled and swayed. Bella was instantly there, her hand under Nessie’s arm. “Carlisle, she’s exhausted,” Bella objected.

“I’m fine,” Nessie protested, shaking off her mother’s hand. “Let me do this.” She walked over to Garrett.

She stood there before him, her slender body straight, her brown hair tumbling down her back in a curly mass, her cheeks tinged with color. She held out her palm.

Garrett looked at her, his face softening. “Renesmee,” he acknowledged, “you’ve grown.”

Edward’s face turned down. The rumble of a growl started in his chest. Garrett looked at him. “I mean your daughter no harm, Edward. But I can see she’s grown into her mother’s beauty.”

Bella tilted her head slightly, acknowledging the compliment. Edward’s eyes narrowed, then he nodded once. Garrett placed his hand on Nessie’s. He took a step back, startled as Nessie began, but soon leaned forward, his eyes closed.

We waited as the two of them were motionless. Garrett straightened and dropped Nessie’s hand. “Thank you,” he said, bowing slightly.

Nessie returned to Bella’s chair and perched on the large sidearm. Edward possessively placed a hand on her shoulder.

Carlisle spoke. “We believe the werewolves are a rogue group from the main pack that Jacob is a part of. However, no matter how rogue they are, it’s hard to imagine them being complicit with Caius. It’s even harder to imagine Caius working directly with them; he’s hated werewolves, and has hunted them nearly to extinction. Although there are differences between true werewolves and these shape shifters, I am thinking the humans are serving as some kind of intermediary.”

Emmett was near the end of his patience. “Does it matter really how they are structured? We know who is behind this, isn’t time we acted?”

Garrett shook his head. “You still aren’t seeing the whole pattern. Anyone that stood with you in Forks seven years ago is being eliminated out of hand.”

“They’re taking down any possible allies,” Jasper pronounced.

Garrett turned to him. “Exactly.”

Garrett looked around the room. “Destroying your coven would be the credentials Caius needs to bring any other covens into line. You should all consider yourselves as having a big target drawn on your backs.”

There was silence as we digested that startling statement. In that moment, I think we all felt a sense of vulnerability. I felt like I wanted to look over my shoulder to see if I was being watched. Esme clutched a hand to her throat. “What can we do to protect ourselves?”

“We’re beyond sitting around, waiting for them to take potshots at us,” Jasper said. “Carlisle, they’re killing people out of hand. It’s time they were stopped. We must act.”

Emmett stood up. “Absolutely.”

Eleazar and Carmen exchanged a glance. “Count us in,” Eleazar said.

“I agree.” Carlisle’s face was somber. “It would be wrong for us to allow others to suffer for their friendship with us, and to disregard the threat to ourselves.”

Edward cocked his head to one side as if listening. “Rosalie is conscious.”

Emmett and Carlisle headed for the bedroom door. Garrett turned to Jasper. “You’ll need to find them first. They’ve abandoned Volterra, and I have no news on where they’re meeting.”

Bella laid her hand on Renesmee’s knee. “We can’t go back to Forks now, can we?”

Jasper looked sympathetically at Bella. “That would certainly be the first place they’ll come looking.”

“Excuse me.” Edward headed for the bedroom. “They’re asking for me.”

I tried sifting through the futures again. I still couldn’t find a clear vision of Caius. His ability to confound me was eroding my confidence in his abilities. Suddenly, Jane came into focus. I felt some relief that I could be of use.

“Esme, call the Irish coven,” I urged. “Jane is on her way there.”

Esme eyes widened. “Any details?”

“She’s meeting others to bring with her. No wolves this time. I’m guessing they’ll have two days.”

Esme pulled her cell phone out of her pocket, and punching in numbers, walked out towards the kitchen.

Garrett looked at me and cocked his head. “An advance warning system. Very convenient.”

I grimaced. “Unfortunately, it has holes in it. Otherwise, Kate and Tanya would be here.”

Jasper spoke up. “The werewolves can function as blockers. Renesmee, too.”

Garrett spread his hands. “I know you would have done what you could, Alice. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.” Garrett’s eyes fell to the floor. “Did you know Kate and I had become close?”

“You made her happy,” Carmen whispered. “Don’t go there, Garrett. I know we’re all thinking ‘if we had only been there, it might be different.”

“How is Rose?” I inquired as Edward and Carlisle returned from the bedroom.

Edward frowned. “Well, she’s complaining about the dog smell in the room, so I’d say she’s doing well.”

“How is Jacob?” Nessie asked Carlisle.

Carlisle smiled at her. “He’s awake. You can talk to him, if you’d like.”

“Rosalie says she saw Alec destroyed,” Edward reported as Renesmee left the room. “Jacob beheaded Demetri, but Jane gathered the pieces.”

“Alec destroyed?” Eleazar asked. “I can’t say I’m sad to see him go.”

Bella’s face brightened. “Demetri was beheaded?”

Carlisle shook his head. “He could knit together, Bella, but my experience says it would be at least two weeks.”

Bella’s eyes grew unfocused. “Two weeks,” she whispered. She looked up at Edward, the two of them exchanging glances in an unspoken conversation.

Edward turned to Carlisle. “We must find a place where Rosalie can convalesce. We’ll have two weeks that we can keep her safe and hidden, before Demetri becomes a threat again.”

“We must hide Renesmee, too,” Bella added. “I don’t want her exposed to danger.”

“Out of the country would be best,” Jasper added. “The soldiers worry me.”

“Isle Esme,” Edward and I said together.

“Jacob, too,” Bella said. “He can’t fight in the shape he’s in. “

Edward drew in a deep breath. “Bella, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

“Of course, it is.” She glared at him. “Emmett will be there to take care of Rosalie. He can chaperone, if need be.” Her voice made it clear she didn’t think it would.

Jasper stepped to the middle of the room. “So we must find out how the government and werewolves are involved in this, locate and kill eight, possibly nine of the most dangerous vampires in the world, and do it all in two weeks?”

No one spoke, suddenly stuck by the enormity of the task. Jasper looked at me and smiled ruefully. “Piece of cake.”