There are no other cars on the road, and it would be less conspicuous to drive with the headlights off. It’s not as if they can’t see. But when Emmett suggests this, the strong hands at the wheel tighten, the jaw flexes, and Carlisle shakes his head.

“It wouldn’t be safe for a human coming the other way,” is all he says. Then the jeep falls deep into silence once again.

A baseball game. That was all it was supposed to be. The cover of thunder, rain kept at bay, the seven of them running, laughing, egging each other on. That was what it had been. Edward, fielding pop flies and catching them all out; Carlisle, alternating handedness, equally likely to smack a ball deep left as deep right; Alice firing pitches that threatened to break the sound barrier.

The only difference was her.

She stood there with Esme at the edge of the field, talking. Esme told her about the baby, which surprised Emmett, but then, Bella couldn’t know that they could all hear, even racing almost a half-mile between bases. They played as usual—Edward called him a panty-wearing brute, he called Edward a salad tosser, Carlisle told them to cut it out but then cracked one far into right field and, as he rounded the bases, informed them both that they could do something to his genitals that left them with their mouths hanging open.

It seemed only an instant later that they were in the huge house, which has all but exploded. Edward is pacing so hard he’s starting to wear a dent in the floorboards —Emmett can see it—and everyone else is trying to get arranged as quickly as possible.

Bella was the one who created the plan. She’s much quicker than Edward gives her credit for. And though Carlisle is nowhere near happy when Edward conveys this, he grits his teeth, nods, and starts moving.

“If Esme and Rose take the truck, they can lure the female,” he says. “Alice needs to stay with Bella—we need her sight.” He glances at Jasper. “Of course that means Jasper is with them.”

There’s a long look at Edward, who has stopped pacing and stands, frozen. Emmett knows this look; it’s the look they all give Edward when something is going unsaid.

Finally, he turns to Emmett. “Edward and I will need your strength.”

He nods before he even thinks about it.

Rosalie, however, does not.

“I don’t see why we need to help,” she says. “Edward brought this on us; it’s his problem.”

Edward’s snarl rattles the windows.

Emmett takes a step toward her. “Rose—” he begins, but Carlisle has already beaten him there. He looks carefully at Rosalie, takes a deep breath, and says exactly the opposite of what Emmett expects him to.

“Edward did bring this on us.”

The look on Rosalie’s face is pretty much priceless. The one on Edward’s, more so.

But Carlisle goes on. “If Bella hadn’t been there today, we wouldn’t be facing this. But we’ve faced the need to move quickly before.” He shoots a glance at Jasper, and Emmett, then Edward, and then Rosalie herself. One by one, they look away.

“And whatever this family faces,” Carlisle continues, “we face it as one.” He lays a hand on her shoulder. She flinches, but doesn’t bolt. “I need you in this with us, Rose. And I need you to go with Esme. Will you do that for us? Not for Edward, but for us?”

For a moment, the room is still. Emmett watches as Rosalie stares.

But after a second that lasts an eternity, she nods.

Suddenly Bella is back downstairs, dressed in Esme’s clothing, which fits but just barely. Carlisle is pressing car keys into hands, passing out cell phones that Emmett didn’t even see him retrieve. He looks to Alice for confirmation of the plan, and when she gives her affirmation that yes, it will work, he stalks toward the kitchen, beckoning them behind him.

They all look the other way as Edward kisses Bella, and then they are gone.

In the garage, Emmett leaps into the back seat of the jeep with such force the whole vehicle sways. Edward sits shotgun, curling himself into a ball.

Emmett expects them to peel out, but they don’t. Carlisle climbs into the driver’s seat as though he is a human, and, like a human, fastens his seat belt. The key finds the ignition.

But before he turns it, he turns his face to Edward.

In the garage, they all look a little eerie—fluorescent light does not do good things to vampires. The light glints off Carlisle’s face as he gives Edward a long look, and squeezes his shoulder. This time, Emmett can imagine what is said. On the field, when the others discovered what was going on, though Edward acted foolishly, Carlisle was the one who stood there. Calmly, as though Bella’s presence is the most logical thing in the world.

“She’s with us.”

Bella is the the game changer. The hook and ladder in the red zone with seven seconds left on the clock. The player no one knew was even practicing, who stepped in to make the team function better than it ever had.

The others think Emmett is simple. Well, to be completely honest, they think he’s stupid. He knows this. It’s because he goes along easily; doesn’t question. But that’s not because he’s dumb. It’s because in this family, when everything is at stake, he knows he is needed on the field. They play the game as one: all the right players, playing the right positions.

And with the right man calling the plays.

The wind whips through the jeep as they race off into the mountains in silence. Emmett wonders if they will find the tracker. He wonders where Rose and Esme are, and how far away Alice has managed to get Bella.

Carlisle is still calm, staring straight forward into the night. He doesn’t like this, Emmett knows. He would never kill anyone if he can avoid it. But he will do what he has to to protect all of those under his care.

She’s with us. It means a lot more than just baseball.

And as Edward sits silent, and Carlisle’s hands are steady at the wheel, Emmett knows they’re going for the win.


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