When we first arrived here a little over a week ago, our main concern was returning home again. However, something shifted. Even though our initial intention was still the same, something had changed. We couldn’t go back just yet, because it was not right that we could return to our home when others were being kept from theirs. We had to see this through to the end. Not only that, but if we didn’t do what we could to help, for all we knew, we might not even have had a home to return to.
“Alice, are you all right?” Upon hearing the inquiry, Alice looked up from her spot on the winding staircase. She had been sitting there for quite a while, and the only movements she made were when she occasionally rubbed her temples almost absent-mindedly. In doing so, she found herself looking up at Jasper, his concern evident on his face as he hovered over her.
“I’m okay,” Alice replied, smiling up at him. “Don’t worry about me, Jazz.”
“Alice, please don’t say you’re fine when I know you’re not,” Jasper responded. “You know I can tell when you’re lying to me.”
“I’m sorry,” Alice said, apologizing. “It’s just that… I think something’s going to happen and soon.”
“What is it?” he asked.
“That’s just the problem; I can’t tell exactly what. Something’s keeping me from really seeing it clearly.”
“You mean someone hasn’t made a decision yet?”
“No, it’s not quite like that. It’s more like… how it was before Nessie was born, when I couldn’t see Bella clearly. But at the same time, it’s not that strong.”
“Is there any danger?” Jasper asked urgently, his body tensing up instinctively.
“No.” Alice quickly shook her head. “There’s no danger. I can tell that much. What I can say is, I believe there’s someone we’re about to meet. But when I try to see who it is, it’s almost like trying to see someone through frosted glass. You can almost make them out, but not enough to see who it is.”
“Maybe we should tell the others?” Jasper suggested.
“Not yet,” Alice replied. “No, I… I don’t think there’s anything to worry about just yet. I think it will be better if we just wait for a bit before letting everyone else know.”
“Alice, if something’s going to happen, then they’ll need to know about it, too,” Jasper stated.
“I know that,” Alice agreed. “But I think we’ve all been through enough these past few months, don’t you? We almost lost everything. If you and I were any later in getting back, then we would have. For now, we should just focus on trying to recover from all of that. The last thing we need is something new to worry about.
“I’ll tell the others about this soon, Jasper. But, at least for now, let’s just focus on the fact that we survived.” Jasper was quiet for a long moment, but then he let out a heavy sigh.
“All right,” he relented. “But soon, Alice. Promise me that.”
For a moment, it looked as if Jasper was about to say something else, but before he got the chance, they heard the familiar crunch of gravel out front, indicating that Carlisle, Esme, Emmett and Rosalie had returned from their trip into town.
Normally, it wasn’t necessary for so many of them to head out to buy food. While they did occasionally head out for the necessary amount of groceries to keep up the human charade, only one or two of them would have to volunteer. Today, however, called for more food than usual. In order to thank them for the part they played in alleviating the recent crisis, the Cullens had invited both wolf packs over for a celebratory dinner. Because of that, they needed to provide enough food to meet the unusually large appetites of the shape-shifters. And since Sam’s pack had grown significantly because of recent events, the amount of food would be so large that it might seem strange if anybody went out without bringing along extra help to carry everything back home.
With one final concerned glance over at Alice, Jasper crossed the room to hold the door for his family so they could carry in the numerous bags of groceries.
“I can’t believe Seth and Embry have never played Escape Velocity Nova!” Emmett announced as he entered the house. “The game’s been around for months!”
“Not everyone owns a computer, Emmett,” Rosalie replied. “Do they even have computers on the reservation?”
“Please try to be nice to our guests when they get here,” Esme requested. “After all, we do owe them our lives.
“Now, I’d like some help in straightening everything up before everyone arrives. I’m afraid we haven’t cleaned in a while, not with…what almost happened.” For a brief moment, Esme trailed off, the ghost of the fear and despair that had enveloped them all in the past few months appearing in her eyes. However, it was gone in the next second, and she turned to smile at her children while reaching out to lovingly squeeze Carlisle’s arm.
“Emmett and I will help clean up,” Jasper offered.
“Yeah, no problem,” Emmett agreed, already heading off to get the vacuum.
“Rosalie, would you help in the kitchen?” Carlisle asked. Rosalie wrinkled her nose at the thought of preparing food, but went off without protest.
“Oh, Alice?” Esme began once Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie had left the room. “Could you do me a favor? I’m not sure how Sam and Jacob’s packs like their burgers cooked. I believe Edward and Bella brought Jacob along with them when they went out hunting around Mt. Queets with Nessie. Would you go and ask Jacob for me? I tried calling them earlier so I could ask him myself, but I suppose they’re in a no-service area.”
“Of course,” Alice agreed without hesitation.
“Thank you.” Esme smiled before heading off to join Rosalie in preparing the dinner, asking rhetorically if Sam would agree to exchanging phone numbers, since all enmity between their families had come to an end.
A short time later, Carlisle pulled his Mercedes out of the drive. He had volunteered to drive Alice over to Mt. Queets, stating that Alice’s Porsche would stand out too much. However, Alice had a feeling that he was only using that as an excuse, and that his willingness to drive her was really because he was simply glad that she and Jasper hadn’t really abandoned the Cullen family after all.
In the Queets Basin, Edward stood with his back against a tree, watching as Bella continued hunting, a look of deep pride and love on his face. Even though a part of him was still sickened at the knowledge of how close he’d came to never being able to share this time with his wife and daughter, the latter he could hear a short distance away as she hunted with Jacob, he couldn’t bring himself to dwell on it today.
“Did you finish before us again, Edward?” Bella asked, looking up from the deer she’d recently brought down.
“Not exactly.” Edward shrugged, smiling warmly. “I was just noticing how much you’ve gotten the hang of hunting.”
“I noticed that, too,” Bella agreed proudly, glancing down at her clothing. “I didn’t even rip anything this time.” Looking back up, Bella was able to notice the look that appeared in Edward’s eyes for the briefest moment. In response, Bella arched an eyebrow. Something about that look reminded her of one that she’d seen on his face after her first hunt, when she’d taken on a mountain lion. “You’re not disappointed about that, are you?” Instead of replying, Edward simply cocked his head to one side, the hint of a smile forming at the corners of his mouth. With a smile mirroring his, Bella abandoned her kill and was at Edward’s side in a flash, placing a hand on his cheek. Meeting her eyes, Edward didn’t even try to holding back his crooked smile before leaning in to kiss her. Just as the kiss began to grow in intensity, Edward pulled back, glancing off into the trees.
“Sorry, love,” he apologized, stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers. “But we’re about to have some company.” Sure enough, Bella caught the familiar scent of Carlisle and Alice on the breeze.
“Alice, Carlisle,” Bella greeted them as they stepped into view. “Is anything wrong?”
“No, of course not,” Carlisle assured.
“Esme just wanted to ask Jacob how she should prepare the burgers for the celebratory dinner tonight,” Alice continued. “She tried to call, but apparently you don’t have reception out here.”
Before another word could be said, the sound of Jacob’s howl cut through the air. In unison, the four vampires turned in the direction of the sound, recognizing the howl’s tone. Jacob was calling them.
“Edward.” Carlisle was the first to speak. “Can you tell what it is Jacob wants?”
“No.” Edward shook his head, frowning in confusion. “I… I’m not sure what’s going on.” Without another word, everyone dashed off through the trees to join Jacob and Renesmee, with Edward in the lead. After a few yards, they reached a stream where Renesmee could be seen crouched on a rock. Seconds after they arrived, Jacob emerged from behind a nearby bush, where he’d phased back into his human form.
“Jacob?” Edward began, approaching him. “What’s going on? Your thoughts weren’t very clear.”
“I’m not sure.” Jacob shrugged. “Nessie and I were finished hunting and we were about to head back to join you and Bella, but then… we noticed that.” Jacob pointed to his left at a thick patch of fog that had risen up among the trees.
“You called us over… to look at fog?” Bella asked in confusion. “Jake, there’s fog out here all the time.”
“Yeah, but does fog form in less than five seconds?” Jacob pointed out seriously. “That’s why I called you guys. That fog wasn’t even there a minute ago.”
As this sank in, everyone continued to stare at the unusual formation until Renesmee broke the silence.
“Mommy?” she said, climbing off the rock and taking a few hesitant steps closer to the fog. “The fog’s coming closer.” Sure enough, when everyone looked over, they all saw that the fog was swiftly rolling towards them. In a matter of seconds, the fog had completely enveloped them.
“What’s going on?” Bella whispered.
“Wait,” Alice spoke up. “Do you smell that?” Upon taking a moment to smell the air, everyone was able to notice a heavy, musty earthy smell that seemed to come from everywhere.
“It smells like a swamp,” Jacob noted. “But there aren’t any swamps near here.”
“Perhaps we should head back to the car,” Edward suggested. “I don’t like this, and because Jacob and Nessie are with us, we don’t even have Alice’s visions to tell if there’s danger.”
Before anyone could reply to Edward’s concern, a loud cracking sound was heard, followed by a few heavy footsteps.
“Jacob!” Carlisle cried out suddenly. “Behind you!” Upon looking over his shoulder, Jacob only had enough time to make out a massive shadow looming behind him before a large, heavy tree branch came crashing down, only just missing him by inches.
“What was that?!” Jacob exclaimed, staggering back as Edward moved protectively in front of Bella and Renesmee. As everyone stared at the shadow, it stepped into view, revealing itself as a large, grotesque human-like figure with very dark, leathery green skin. In its hand was the tree branch, which it was wielding like a club.