The Mythical Creature's Guide to Living in the Modern World (8/23)


"Yes, it's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true,
the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats,
and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and
everybody lives happily ever after."

Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Lie to Me"

Chapter Eight, Iota

"You signed me up for Wood Shop?"

We were sitting on the Cullens' covered porch, on their porch to avoid the sickly sweet vampire smell inside after Jake insisted that we all see how wonderfully well behaved baby Bella was being with her blood-lust, at the Cullens' because they had bribed us with the best Tex-Mex food I've ever had, even if they were on that liquid diet of theirs. So you can understand, after my hell of a day, being subjected to this additional annoyance was enough to send me over the edge, and a spoonful of chilli con carne towards his face. "It was either that or Home Ec."

"And at least she got it so that, if you have to, you can sneak out after fourth and still have creds to graduate," Jake said in his best attempt at being the wise old Alpha he wasn't.

"What about you? I basically stole the schedule Billy made for you."

"One word: sabbatical."

Seth was balanced on the railing, stuffing his face. Jake was sitting on the porch, leaning against one of the larger posts, and I was beside him, finished after my fifth plate and dozing on his shoulder. Hearing his idiocy though, I took the spoon that had recently flung chilli and rapped his head with it. "You will go to school."

"But, Leah, honey," he said, taking the spoon from me and placing it out of my reach, "I though you wanted me to spend more time with you?" I wanted to kill his benign smile and show him just where he could stick it if he thought he could end the conversation that easily.

"Uh, no. I don't care if you wanna dead beat around this place after you graduate, but until then I will have the leeches physically drag you if I must to get you to school."

Seth leapt off the railing and went inside for eighth helpings, shaking his head at us. "What's with the pro-school thing all of a sudden?" Jake asked as he helped himself to what remained on my plate. "I didn't think you were that into it."

I wasn't when I was there. I kept waiting to get out. But now, here I am, living under a tarp and guarding vampires with no hope of gainful employment after they leave. I'm only good at fighting things, but I hear the Army Special Creatures division is like a glorified polo club for things effected by radiation. I could work at the diner in town, or the McDonald's in Port Angeles, but with only a high school education I'm getting nowhere fast. I can't go to college, not even Mount Rainer Tech, because a) I have no income and b) monsters don't invade around my class schedules. I didn't think it would be any different for them, the whole college thing, but if I at least saw they got a high school diploma, that was better then nothing. I'll have done my civic duty. Then, one day, when Jake takes his place on the council as "chief," and Seth takes Mom's place, at least the Rez will have guys who can do basic math and build Wood Shop birdhouses and spice racks. So what if I'll probably still be living at the rock, eating the leeches' food and be a freakishly unaging wolf who acts as guard dog for exorbitantly loaded vampires?

I think that's my problem. I really do. Even at my bitchiest, I've never been very selfish. I mean, I'm here right, taking care of these too. With Sam, we were just kinda "whatever" to each other when we weren't making out, and what we did do together was all at his prompting. And afterwards it was like, I may hate the guy and verbally insult him every time I see him, but I still want him to be happy, even if he broke my heart and started doing my cousin. And even now I was an ass of the worst kind, but at least I was an ass for the pack.

God that sounded wrong.

Anyway, I eventually answered, "I'm not. I'm just looking out for you," yawning as I did.

"Maybe you should spend some time watching out for yourself. You're still smelling strange."

"Sleeping in the mud-" I argued from his shoulder, already half-asleep and ready to pin it on the stressful day I'd had, what with Vamp-er-Bella waking up and having to go to La Push and seeing Paul and Rachel like that, though Jake just as well would pin it on my smell. Seth said he hardly smelled the difference, though we'd both spent time sharing our Alpha's brain and even I thought it was a little different. Stronger. A little more earthy and woodsy and with a faint hint of squashed holly berries then it'd been before. And the vamps could obviously smell it too, so it wasn't just in his mind.

"I didn't say it was a bad thing, Clearwater. It was just an idea. Like sleep. You're always up on Seth about it..."

Speak of the werewolf: "If you two are so intent on sleeping, this place has like a thousand beds."

"Sleep? At the Bat Cave? No way."

My brother looked to Jake, for all I know wanted him to play the vampire's Xbox until they ran, "I think I could stand some rest before my patrol... but I'll go back with Leah... Hey, wait up Leah," he called to me, clearly surprised that the thought of being asleep near the leeches had motivated me enough to stand and start down the path to my rock. "I said I'd go with you – see you later, Seth."

I continued slowly down the path, allowing him to catch up with me. After a moment, "So, you might wanna be warned the next time you see Sam, he'll probably blow a gasket." I was still wearing his jacket, and my hands were in the pockets, playing with his keys again. There were a handful key chains in addition to the two keys actually on the ring – a Ferrari logo, a black square one that said, "Obey the Penguins," and a simple third one that said, "I beat the Kobayashi Maru," and made me wonder what the hell I'd gotten myself into joining this pack – and made it oddly heavy.

"That mad about this whole thing is he?"

"Err, kinda." Why did I have to sound so guilty saying that? Why did I feel so guilty saying that? Jake and I joked all the time about this exact sort of thing. I was almost as comfortable around him as I was Seth. I wasn't big on people touching me, or touching them for anything other then hitting them, but Jake didn't bug me as much as it could. I'd even gotten used to being around him all the time, which normally would have annoyed the hell out of me, and now merely drove me bonkers.

"Why, something else happen?"

"Not really... He's just kinda gotten it into his head that you and me are a thing."

"You wouldn't have done anything, by chance, to encourage this would you?"

"Me? No? I just said some things with... contextual meanings."

We both broke into laughter as we neared the rock. "I don't know whether to kiss you, Lee, for distracting Sam like that or as charge for bringing me into your bickering."

I shoved him and entered the "den" first. "You so much as try I'll see to it you never have puppies."

"Ah, you wouldn't do that to me – it wouldn't be fair to you at all." The look on his face was a mixture between flirtatious and idiotic. I threw his keys at it. "Thanks, I knew you wouldn't give them to me any other way."

"God, are you going to get after-school special on me? 'Cause if you say that I'm a 'beautiful girl' who 'deserves to be loved, respected, and appreciated,' by someone other then Sam the douche, I am going to run right back to La Push and tell your dad that you imprinted on The Thing and will be playing lap dog to the vampires forever."

"That's a low blow, Leah, even for you – and imprint on Nessie? She's like three days old. And- no, it's just too gross to think about," he seemed to think about it anyway, and shuddered. "What if I tell you I'm secretly in love with you, worship the ground you walk on, and would gladly beat up Sam for your honour?"

I suddenly woke up. In the darkness of the night, with the moon not yet risen and the shade of the thick trees blocking the light, Jake's face was shadowed. I could not tell if he was serious or not. I didn't know if I wanted him to be serious or not – I'd never thought of him that way before, no matter how much I joked about his flea-ridden hide. Okay, maybe I had, but not seriously. I didn't know what to say, and felt my face flush. "If you do that, I think I'll tell Billy you imprinted on Edward instead."

"Fine then," he said, moving to lie down on the free sleeping bag, "Be that way," and went, in a particularly teenage-boy-like manner, straight to sleep.

Though I'd been dead exhausted all through dinner, I could no longer sleep. I just sat there, on the sleeping bag closest to the rock, with my knees pressed against my chest and my back against the cool stone, thinking. Not just about what he'd said, but a lot of things, late into the night, until the moon was a thumbnail sliver I could see just below the tarp's edge and the hollies, and real wolves were howling in the distance.

Chapter Nine.