Bella didn't hear me. She only glanced up when he did, and then she smiled, too. With real energy, her whole face lighting up. I couldn't remember the last time she'd looked so excited to see me.

What was with her? For crying out loud, she was married] Happily married, too - there was no question that she was in love with her vampire past the boundaries of sanity. And hugely pregnant, to top it off.

So why did she have to be so damn thrilled to see me? Like I'd made her whole freakin' day by walking through the door.

If she would just not care... Or more than that - really not want me around. It would be so much easier to stay away.

Edward seemed to be in agreement with my thoughts - we were on the same wavelength so much lately it was crazy. He was frowning now, reading her face while she beamed at me.

"They just wanted to talk," I mumbled, my voice dragging with exhaustion. "No attack on the horizon."

"Yes," Edward answered. "I heard most of it."

That woke me up a little. We'd been a good three miles out. "How?"

Tm hearing you more clearly - it's a matter of familiarity and concentration. Also, your thoughts are slightly easier to pick up when you're in your human form. So I caught most of what passed out there."

"Oh." It bugged me a little, but for no good reason, so I shrugged it off. "Good. I hate repeating myself."

"I'd tell you to go get some sleep," Bella said, "but my guess is that you're going to pass out on the floor in about six seconds, so there's probably no point."

It was amazing how much better she sounded, how much stronger she looked. I smelled fresh blood and saw that the cup was in her hands again. How much blood would it take to keep her going? At some point, would they start trotting in the neighbors?

I headed for the door, counting off the seconds for her as I walked. "One Mississippi... two Mississippi..."

"Where's the flood, mutt?" Rosalie muttered.

"You know how you drown a blonde, Rosalie?" I asked without stopping or turning to look at her. "Glue a mirror to the bottom of a pool."

I heard Edward chuckle as I pulled the door shut. His mood seemed to improve in exact correlation to Bella's

health.

"I've already heard that one,'7Rosalie called after me.

I trudged down the steps, my only goal to drag myself far enough into the trees that the air would be pure again. I planned to ditch the clothes a convenient distance from the house for future use rather than tying them to my leg, so I wouldn't be smelling them, either. As I fumbled with the buttons on the new shirt, I thought randomly about how buttons would never be in style for werewolves.

I heard the voices while I slogged across the lawn.

"Where are you going?" Bella asked.

"There was something I forgot to say to him."

"Let Jacob sleep - it can wait."

Yes, please, let Jacob sleep.

"It will only take a moment."

I turned slowly. Edward was already out the door. He had an apology in his expression as he approached me.

"Jeez, what now?"

Tm sorry," he said, and then he hesitated, like he didn't know how to phrase what he was thinking.

What's on your mind, mind reader?

"When you were speaking to Sam's delegates earlier," he murmured, "I was giving a play-by-play for Carlisle and Esme and the rest. They were concerned - "

"Look, we're not dropping our guard. You don't have to believe Sam like we do. We're keeping our eyes open regardless."

"No, no, Jacob. Not about that. We trust your judgment. Rather, Esme was troubled by the hardships this is putting your pack through. She asked me to speak to you privately about it."

That took me off guard. "Hardships?"

"The homeless part, particularly. She's very upset that you are all so... bereft."

I snorted. Vampire mother hen - bizarre. "We're tough. Tell her not to worry."

"She'd still like to do what she can. I got the impression that Leah prefers not to eat in her wolf form?"

"And?" I demanded.

"Well, we do have normal human food here, Jacob. Keeping up appearances, and, of course, for Bella. Leah is welcome to anything she'd like. All of you are."

"I'll pass that along."

"Leah hates us."

"So?"

"So try to pass it along in such a way as to make her consider it, if you don't mind."

"I'll do what I can."

"And then there's the matter of clothes."

I glanced down at the ones I was wearing. "Oh yeah. Thanks." It probably wouldn't be good manners to mention how bad they reeked.

He smiled, just a little. "Well, we're easily able to help out with any needs there. Alice rarely allows us to wear the same thing twice. We've got piles of brand-new clothes that are destined for Goodwill, and I'd imagine that Leah is fairly close to Esme's size___"

"Not sure how she'll feel about bloodsucker castoffs. She's not as practical as I am."

"I trust that you can present the offer in the best possible light. As well as the offer for any other physical object you might need, or transportation, or anything else at all. And showers, too, since you prefer to sleep outdoors. Please... don't consider yourselves without the benefits of a home."

He said the last line softly - not trying to keep quiet this time, but with some kind of real emotion.

I stared at him for a second, blinking sleepily. "That's, er, nice of you. Tell Esme we appreciate the, uh, thought. But the perimeter cuts through the river in a few places, so we stay pretty clean, thanks."

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