The Mythical Creature's Guide to Living in the Modern World (18/23)


"Love doesn't lead to the dark side. Passion can lead to rage and fear, and can be controlled,
but passion is not the same thing as love. Controlling your passions while being in love,
that's what they should teach you to beware, but love itself will save you, not condemn you."

Jolee Bindo in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Chapter Eighteen, Tau

I remained rooted to where I stood, unable and unwanting to face what lay beyond. I'd had my taste of fantasy. But he would ruin me, worse then Sam had ruined me, if he left now. I knew that. It wasn't that I needed a guy or anything in my life to have meaning – nothing as stupid as that – it was that I had given him a part of myself. And if that was shattered, I was broken. Irreparable. Irreplaceable. And all the Alpha's wolves and all the Alpha's men couldn't put Leah together again.

Hell, no, that was wrong. That was wrong that was wrong that was wrong. It was that I'd pieced myself back together once before, but breaking again... I'd be more chunks of dried glue then anything else. And you couldn't make anything useful out of hunks of dried glue and bits of Leah dust. Not for all the dog food in Spain.

The door opened, and Jake entered, looked about, and saw me. His smile brightened, and he came over to me, putting an arm around my waist as he said, "Hey, guys. I'm stealing Lee. See you later," and, with that, pulled me out of the manor, still smiling. I don't know what smiling boded, but it was something not good, I can tell you that. For all I knew, Jake was secretly an axe-murderer and sang show tunes while he chopped his victims to bits and hide them in the walls of Forks High. But still, axe-murderer or not, his arm was a little lower on my hips then friends usually placed them. Could it be-?

No. Vampire-loving, flea-having, under-age axe-murderer. Not boyfriend material. Remember this, Leah. Remember. (And if you're listening to my thoughts, Mr. Ice-capades, I will teach your daughter ever rude word for vampire I've ever come up with. I'm serious about this. So stay out of my fucking head and go do something productive, like run cable out to my rock.)

Once outside, I expected him to go into whatever explanation of how he'd managed to get so intoxicated he might want to sleep with me he'd created while at school. Or maybe an we-just-got-caught-up-in-the-drama excuse that would end in a forget-about-it or an I-like-you-Leah,-but-just-not-that-way. Or maybe he had meant what he'd said last night, but once he'd realized how clingy I was going to be he decided to skip out now while he could.

But no, his arm was still around my waist, and, when he sat down on the porch, he tugged at me to join him, so that our sides practically pressed together, and that pine smell I so loved became nearly overwhelming. This surprised me so much that I didn't immediately recognize that Seth had taken up his familiar perch on the porch railing and, to my even greater shock, Embry and Quil had joined him there. "Tell me you didn't," I turned towards Jake, the anger of certain knowledge seeping through my fear and all-but-erasing it. "I'm not playing mother-fucking-hen to two more of you."

"Calm down, Leah," Jake asked, not at all surprised by my anger. His finger was tracing unseen tattoos on the bare skin above my knee. My own hand was resting, uncertain, near his, fingers curled as if to ask, "What the hell is going on here?"

"Yeah, Lee," Seth joined in, swinging his monstrously long legs so that his sandals clattered against the rails, "Quil and Embry didn't like what Sam tried to do last night. So they want to help us."

"It means that you don't have have to run yourself so ragged on patrols. And you'll still be Beta-"

"And I don't give a flying fuck if it means they'll be sleeping at the rock too."

"Like hell they won't," he reassured me, then looked at them. "Okay, maybe occasionally, but you'd go mad, Quil, if you didn't see Claire for a day, and Embry, your mom still doesn't know about us, so it'd probably be best for everyone if you weren't sneaking out as much as Sam's been having you. You can take over the after-school patrol, and Quil can do his after Claire's gone to sleep. The rest of us can stager our shifts so there'll be two of us running at a time."

Quil, a few inches behind Jake in height and with a strange brown tint to his hair that probably was what made him a chocolate-brown wolf, spoke up then, "With the two of us gone, it make yo- well, us now-"

"We need a cool name," Seth suggested, "like The Justice League, only wolfy-"

"-anyway," Quil continued as we all rolled our eyes at Seth, who was, after all, the baby. Mom had managed to get him in school a year early, so he was only sixteen. Not that it made much difference, except that the others felt they could roll their eyes at him too, "since this collective-"

"'Collective', Ateara? We're wolves, not Borg."

"Ooh, that can be our logo: we're wolves, not Borg. All we need is a name now-"

I pulled myself away from watching Jake's hand and snapped at my brother, "Shut up, Seth, about the name."

"Make me," he said childishly, sticking his tongue out.

"God, sometimes I wonder how you managed to pass kindergarten, kid."

"I just wear sandals," he told me, waving his, indeed, sandal-shod feet in my direction. "It solves the whole problem of having to tie shoelaces."

"-Anyway," Quil said loudly, "this collective, group, pack, random selection of wolves now is five. Sam just has Paul and Jared now, plus the younger ones. He won't try something like last night again. Not, at least, 'til the younger ones are better fighters."

"Not without smoking something," Embry added. "He was really pissed after you left. Almost as pissed as he was last night."

"Poor Sam," I snorted. "Life is so hard on shit-groping ass-hat false Alphas. I mean, what with the having to order everybody about and act idiotic all the time – nobody, obviously, understands his pain."

Jake stopped tracing patterns on my knee and patted it instead. "There, there, Lee. It's not his fault his brain is the size of a pea."

"Are we going to get into this argument again? Yes, Sam is a dickhead, and, yes, Jake's like the best Alpha ever. Woo-hoo. All hail King Jake the First. Can we show them the rock and the border and stuff sometime before dinner?"

"Lead on, Seth," Jake said, and, with that, my brother dropped over the railing and ran off into the woods shouting, "Come on slow-pokes!" and making me really wonder what on earth Mom was doing when she was pregnant with him because, God, it did a number on him. With a look at us, Embry and Quil followed. I slowly got to my feet, already unable to bear the enthusiasm of two additional boys, and started down the porch, pausing to glare at the eternal Olympian Peninsula rain.

Seeing me leaving, Jake jumped to his feet and caught my arm. Instinctively, I wrenched it away. "What the hell are you doing, Black?"

"We need to talk, Leah. It's kinda hard to do it while you're running away from me."

"No it's not. It's called a Bluetooth, and you clip it to your ear, and you don't have to hold the phone up to your ear while you're trying to run – you can run out and get one while you consider just how much we don't need to talk."

"Then will you just listen you me?"

My throat was swelling closed. My instinct to punch him in the face was getting quite difficult to control. Tightly, because that was all my betraying voice could manage, I told him, "I know what you're going to say, Jake..."

Surprised, "You do?"

I nodded – because that was all I could do. "I just want you to know I'm okay with it. I understand."

"Okay with what?"

Was he going to make me God-damn say it? Don't you dare, Jacob Black, or I shall take your murdering axe and hide you in tiny pieces in high school walls. "With breaking up with me." I'll start chopping at your toes and work my way up from there... and I'll hide you in the boy's locker room, where the smell of your corpse will be covered by the smell of sweaty socks and unwashed boys...

Slowly, as if I were a child. "Technically, Lee, we aren't together." Well, yes, if you want to be that way. Make it into a stupid one night stand, why don't you, so you can tell all your little furry friends what a cheap slut I am. I'll put them in the locker room with you too. And all the stupid vampires who bet on us doing it. Try spending your entire undead life surrounded by stinky socks and vampire. It mightn't be hell, but it's the next best thing to it. Except for my existence after this conversation you stupid, no-good, boy. Why couldn't you just let me ignore you? It would've been better for everyone. But no, you have to clarify and talk about it. What are you, an eight-year-old girl? Okay, no, I know for a fact, you're not, but you know what I freaking mean. So don't you dare say what you're about to say, Black. "Which is why," holy fucking mother of God, was he blushing? "Which is why," he repeated, most distinctly blushing now. I didn't know what was going on, and that bugged me almost more then when I thought I did. "."

I blinked at him. "Speak English, Black. I don't speak teenage idiot."

He took a deep breath, and tried again. "Do you want to be?"

I blinked again. I was seriously confused now. Was he asking me to run out and get Thai food, or was he trying to 'dump' me in a new and unexpected way? "Want to be what?" I asked, not even looking at him any more, focusing instead on the expensive outdoor lamp that sat by the Cullen's door, trying to figure out if it was closer to three or four hundred dollars. "Are we talking Hamlet, or...?"

"Together. Do you want to be?" he said somewhat stupidly. I felt stupid as I, slowly, found coherence in his words. And then I blinked several times, trying to figure out if I was just hearing things. "'Cause I meant everything I said last night; the only way I'm leaving you is if you want me to. So, do you want me to, or-?"

But my mind was suddenly flooded with the thoughts – and hormones – that I'd denied myself all day. Thoughts of maybe – just maybe – this time it might be different. That it might end well, which is to say, not at all. I might have a chance at being happy... So I flung my arms around his neck and kissed him so hard that he stumbled backwards into one of the poles of the porch railing, and he was kissing me back, and I swear, for once in my life, I had no complaints. Just Jake's mouth on mine and his arms around me.

Chapter Nineteen.