The Mythical Creature's Guide to Living in the Modern World (12/23)

"You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love 'til it kills you both.
You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other 'til it makes you quiver,
but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood -
blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch,
but at least I'm man enough to admit it."

Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Lover's Walk"

Chapter Twelve, Nu

I ran until I was five miles past tired. I ran until I was exhausted. I ran, and I ran, and I ran, as if running would solve all my problems, and somewhere, buried deep in my psyche, was the Leah that wasn't human. The part of me that was a middling-sized grey wolf, with no knowledge of stupid boys and stupid rocks without cable and knew vampires only as mortal enemies and nothing of their skills at monopoly, just begging to be psychoanalysed. The Alpha female. The Beta of this pack.

This Leah instinctively knew what to do. This Leah would know why I was angry at Jake, for more then just the Charlie/Bella thing. Why I smelled different since the new pack had started. Why Jake and I suddenly were getting that tension I'd rather ignore, because it'd ruin everything. Why I was putting up with the bloodwhores. Why I felt warmer then usual when he'd stood that close to me. Why I was, even now, fantasising about the arms that had held me.

But I couldn't find that Leah. No matter how hard I ran, and let myself fall into my inner beast, the monster inside me wasn't willing to take over me, because, no matter how odd of a pack we might be, it was still my pack and wolves were, after all, social creatures. The wolf in me couldn't rise to the surface, because no wolf could ever feel and stupidly angry and angrily stupid and alone as I felt right now. Lost. I didn't know why I was here, not really, only that I'd rather be with Jake then Sam. I was here to take care of Seth, but in some ways he was more mature then I was, and didn't insult everything in sight, and actually liked vegetables. It seemed to be Jake I was actually taking care of, because he'd big ideas in his head about the packs and the tribes and the vampires, and forgot about things like eating and sleeping. He'd never known what it was to not know where your future was heading, to have to stop thinking ahead more then a day because doing more just hurt too much to bear, to not know your purpose in life. I'd been in his head. He knew why he did what he did. He knew he was doing something worthwhile with his life, something unique in the universe. His problem was knowing if he was strong enough to do all he dreamed. He'd never had the terrible, isolated feeling of being unable to dream any more.

Gods above and devils below, I was lost. If I believed truly in God as anything other then an instrument of my misery, I'd pray for some sort of understanding. If I remembered any of the rituals and beliefs of the Quiluetes, I'd try them and beg for idiotic things to stop happening to me. A deal with the devil would be preferable to staying, unloved and unwanted and unappreciated and un-everything-else, in this small Pacific Coast Rez, where nothing ever changed, only got more run down, and the sun never shined, and everyone worth anything but us werewolves left to go to school in Seattle or get married in Hawaii or get real jobs or whatever else people in the real world did with their lives.

I felt hot tears well in my eyes, and at that point I returned to my rock rather then run and risk coming across someone from the other pack or Jake or Seth on border patrol see me. Luckily the rock, den, whatever was empty of the others, and I could mope in peace there.

But, really, was it too much to ask to life to make sense? My wants were simple things: a place to stay and safety and security from what was outside, and a sense of purpose. I just wanted to know I was doing something with my genetically cursed life. I couldn't be a mother. I was a failure as a daughter and a sister. My hopes of achieving anything were null. All I had going for me was the werewolf thing, and normal werewolves didn't spend their time playing board games with vamps.

But that didn't help me figure out why I was so angry at Jake. Nothing did. It was all I could do to curl up on my sleeping bag and think about other things then how much I hated my life.

I thought instead about high school, how bright and glorious things had seemed then. The world was full of opportunity, and I'd a plan for my life then. I think everyone is hopeful in high school.

I knew what classes Jake was taking better then I did Seth, even though I'd been the one to register my brother.

With the werewolf connection, I shared about equally the two boys' thoughts, but I could tell you better what Jake had said to Embry about me, about how, yes, the physical parts of me were great, but he enjoyed just hanging with me too, even though happy-go-lucky Seth had actually yelled at some of the boys from the other pack to get their heads out of the gutter about me.

I checked to make sure Seth had had a good day at school, and done his homework, and expressed awe over grades like it seemed the Alpha female of this tribe was expected to do, but it was Jake I looked forward to seeing when they got back. He was the reason why I headed in the afternoons to Leech Landing, to be forced into knitting, or watching foreign news channels or Dr. Phil, or listen to Nessie think-talk to me about how The Lion King is the Disney version of Hamlet as we try to get her to do normal kid-like things, or play every game Milton-Bradley ever made – because they took the Rabbit to school and parked it in Doctor Dracula's driveway and I could see them that much sooner.

I had teased Sam with Jake not just because Jake was the one person who could most get under his skin, but because everything I had said was true, one way or the other. And because no one else had even popped into my head to tease Sam about – not some made up imprint, not some boy we'd gone to school with, not one of the other werewolves, - just Jake.

My head bolted straight up from my forepaws, upon which it had been dolefully resting. I could see my snout wrinkly with disbelief and displeasure even as the thought hit me, overwhelmingly, brightly, undeniably, and, worst of all, irrevocably:

I was in love – or, at least, serious like – with Jacob Black.

Shoot me now. Silver bullet, please.

It wasn't imprinting – I'd spent enough time around those glaze-eyed idiots to know this wasn't that – but the good, old-fashioned type of... serious like. I had fallen against all odds for my younger brother's best friend, and all because we treated each other like shit most the time and somehow managed to be decent to each other the rest.

I had to do something to stop this. For the good of the pack. I would have to-

A duffel bag came flying into the den. It landed right by my feet. He-who-I-must-not-think-about soon followed. "Seth's back."

I cocked my head to the side, as if to say, "Is he?"

"Yea. He says your mom stopped him from turning some of it pink. And he might have shrunk some things. But at least it's clean."

I blinked. I hope he took it to mean, "Great. Now get the hell out of my sight."

He didn't. "I'm sorry I took off like that, Leah."

This time my blinks were of surprise.

"I just got the idea, and I knew you were at the Cullens, and I didn't want one of them to try to stop me, so I just went ahead and did it – I know, I know, it was stupid, but it needed to be done."

I plopped my head atop the duffel bag. Translation: "It went well then?"

"Bella didn't eat Charlie or anything, and he seems to be doing okay with it. He knows we're werewolves, but doesn't know about Sam's pack. And I think he knows something different's up with them, but doesn't want to know any details. I think he'll figure it out if they stick around long enough, but he should be able to handle it by then, I think."

Great. Just what we needed. The vamps hanging around for a while more. I gave a sharp bark, wanting him to leave me alone.

"Don't be mad, Lee." Jake sat down on the duffel, near my head, and reflexively stroked my head. It felt both weird and kinda nice. The vamps must leave, and soon, so things can go back to normal and I can stop thinking thoughts like this. It's all due to such close proximity and high tension and hormones. It's not real. Not in the least. I'll get over it, and he'll never have to know. "I know something that should make you happy."

I twitched my ears.

"Seth ran into Dad at your house. I've been ordered to come home for dinner tonight, and invited to sleep in my bed for once. Apparently, you're welcome to join me for both." And already word had spread to Billy. Next thing you know Mom would be airing her wedding dress and sending bridal magazines to my rock. Parents got so worked up over their kids' (supposed) relationships. "So, you wanna come?"

Errrrr, no.

He seemed to sense this. "Oh, come on Leah. It'll be fun. Paul and Rachel'll be there, and we can annoy the crap out of them, and make up things for them to send back to Sam, and get a free meal out of it."

This in no way enticed me.

Okay, I lied. The free food did. But I was a werewolves, and I thought with my stomach.

"Maybe Dad will even let us break into the beer." Waggling his eyebrows in a way that did not transfer over into wolf very well but worked amazing when he was in all his human glory, "If I get drunk enough, you might even get lucky."

I laughed. This was why I was falling in love with him, even if I didn't want to be. He said things like that. Such stupidly sweet and idiotic things like that.

I still waited for him to turn around before phasing and finding an outfit passable enough to wear to the Rez amongst our pile of things. I couldn't stop myself from watching as he changed into a clean shirt, even though I'd seen him without one a thousand times. It was just to prove to myself I felt nothing when I looked at him.

It didn't work.

Chapter Thirteen.