"Of course, you always had that detached quality as if you were playing a game
without much concern over whether you won or lost, and not that you've lost the game,
not lost but just quit playing, you have that rare sort of charm that usually only happens in
very old or hopelessly sick people, the charm of the defeated. – You look so cool, so cool, so enviably cool."
Maggie in Tennessee William's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Chapter Seven, Golf
December was an altogether better month. Well, not really, what with the immanence of the Denali vampires (minus Irina, whoever the hell she was, because it seemed her mate was the one the pack tore to pieces right before I started phasing; the boys get all the fun, I tell you), and the potential of snow (which could fall anywhere from December through early March in sprinkle-like flutters or six-feet-over-nighters. Snow, when you're living outside, can be quite problematic, even for a werewolf.
Now, don't get me wrong, the leeches did, for Jake's birthday, built us a nice little two-sides-and-a-roof lean-to thing right next to the rock with like weatherproof curtains and stuff we can pull around the other two sides when it rains really hard and use as dividers so Jake and I don't have to worry about my brother or his friends walking in on us, or can still sleep in the old little rock/den area on good-weather days, but snow is still snow. Even if our body temps are high enough to keep us from ever getting frostbite. I mean, no one was more surprised then me that Jazz-Purr the Overgrown Kitten and Physical Education were really out building the lean-to thing while I was freaking out at the manor, rather then avoiding me and my emotional whiplash, but I do wish it had electricity. Or cable. It does have a cistern and a fire pit so we can do marshmallows or a cook-out and stuff along those lines, but all that has succeeded in doing in highlighting how toast is just about beyond my abilities, whereas Seth can whip up a mean BBQ out of little more than thin air. There's also no freezer for my Karamel Sutra addiction, but that's okay. We've not gotten along well since I tossed up the better part of on Jake's birthday, proving that there such a thing as too much sugar for a werewolf. Literally. They had to give me an IV of saline and everything. I think it included some Versed too, 'cause it knocked me right out, but that could have just been me coming off the sugar high the ice cream, cake, and highly caffeinated beverages had given me.
But where was I? December? Check. Snow? Yea... Oh yes.
Today I the last day of the semester for Jake (and the others, but who cares about them?), and so I get my smokin' hot, hundred percent true Alpha, who is totally amazing for putting up with me as much as he does. If he ever heard me say any of that, he'd probably start blushing and laughing, and maybe even say something about how I'm a decent person and 'putting up' with me isn't as hard as it sounds, but I know that's a lie, so I don't say such things to him. Which is why he teases me about the "love triangle" I have going on with Ben and Jerry, and why I mock him for liking me so much, and why we patrol a lot and have sex a lot more. We avoid difficult, deep subjects entirely, and we get along. That's how it works. The only time imprinting is ever mentioned is in connection with my cruel love-affair with Karamel Sutra, and the only time we talk about kids or the future or maybe even – just maybe – getting married or something is when we're alone in wolf form, walking next to each other in that way that I can't help but think of as National Geographic's special on werewolf courtship after Emmett's veterinary spiel... That was only as a joke, coming how, after Emmett finished laying wire to the rock/den/lean-to (from his electrical engineering degree), he could paint it (from his time as an art major), and instruct us on keeping kosher as wolves (as he'd also been a Hebrew major), he could marry us in an Anglican ceremony.
I should have been happy that I'd have Jake (mostly) to myself for the next sixteen days and sixteen hours – starting from the moment he and the others got off of school. But was I? No. Because I'd had to spend all morning helping the leeches clean for their guests, who'd be here within the hour according to The Magic Eight Ball. Why? Who knows, their house was already cleaner then some space stations, but I was on my period – again – and couldn't go wolf and run away, so I had to help.
Of course, The Magic Eight Ball had also said that it wouldn't be raining too hard in Port Angeles. I was to take the Yeti's half-human spawn to a park in the city – driving their missile-proof, half-a-million dollar car – and let her play in the park while they explained the situation to Tanya, Kate, and the others. Me, because they didn't want any werewolves around tangling the issue while they explained things. The park, because that was apparently what you did with children that looked about two-years-old, even if they'd spent the ride up complaining about my driving and Ayn Rand's portrayal of money in Atlas Shrugged (she felt, apparently, that she'd created a religion out of it, undermining the whole work, or something like that).
Of course, though, after that unbelievable pain, what was it but snowing in Port Angeles? And not just light, little snowflakes that a babysitter might let her tiny, Late-Show-watching charge play in, but all out flurries. So what, might you ask, was I doing instead that was causing me to reminisce about how much I hated vampires, how much I hated snow, and how much I really, really wished there was a Ben and Jerry's in Port Angeles?
I was sitting in a Chuck E. Cheese, watching Nessie the Half-Dead Spawn play in the ball pit.
The universe hates me, mocks me at every turn, and is trying to get me to commit suicide. Because, honestly, after all this screaming and screeching and the guy in the mouse costume trying to hit on me, I honestly think I might.
"Get the methane-burning fuck out of my face, you overgrown excuse for a rodent, or I'll put your tail so far up your ass you'll loose an eye to it."
"What the hell, lady?" said the kid, who couldn't even have been Seth's age. I could see a hint of his acned face through the mouth of the mouse. "I was just bringing you your drinks."
"Oh. Well never mind then." I stared at my coke and Nessie's chocolate milk, then looked back at him. "You have anything stronger?"
"We have Budweiser-"
"Cool. I'll take a six-pack of that, three large pepperoni and sausage, a medium super combo, and the largest thing of buffalo wings you have."
"Your kid having a birthday party or somethin', ma'am?"
"God, do I look old enough to have a kid?" I dropped the coke, spilling it carelessly on the floor and Chuck's feet, and put my hands to my hair. Alice had done it and dolled me up again before she'd let me take her niece anywhere. It was all clean and pulled back and non-fuzzy. "It's the hair, isn't it? I have mom hair..." I stopped patting my hair and started patting my way down my shirt, which was one of those button-down ones a guy might wear over a tank top, and looked down at my shoes. They were sensible and flat-heeled and weren't covered in mud. "Or the shoes..." I was going to have an Alice-bonfire when I got back to the Manor...
The mouse-man backed away, muttering, "I think I'll go get your order now," just as Nessie came running up to me, looking very kid-like with her arms spread out high and shouting, "Mom-ma!"
I glared at her but picked up up anyway, 'cause she was kinda cute. Just a little. "That was not funny, monster child."
"Yes it was."
"No, it wasn't," I insisted, not believing I was having this conversation with a child who, theoretically, should have still been in the womb.
"I didn't want you to attack the man-in-the-mouse. Then we would have had to leave, and I am very hungry, and haven't won any tickets yet."
I glared at the child of idiots. Of course she would have to be the one with the brain. "Fine. Whatever. It's all on your daddy's credit card anyway." I doubted I could manage to eat them out of house and home by myself, but a girl could try.
Nessie went very silent then, and started acting very toddler like, wiggling in her booster seat and, well, not talking. I looked over my shoulder: the waiter had returned with my beers and the wings. "Here you are ma'am," he said cautiously.
"The name's Eddie, ma'am," he said, bending down to mop up the spilled coke.
Well that was just too damn funny. "You're dressed as a mouse, and I've already got a boyfriend. I'm calling you Chuck."
Nessie giggled. The boy, from what I could tell from under the mouse-head, blushed. I popped the top off one the beers and took a long swig of it. God, this day was going to kill me. If it did, I was sooo coming back to haunt the vampires' asses. Just watch me. At least The Thing wasn't so bad; a bit annoying, maybe, but at least she was part-human. If Charlie and Mom ever got together, she wouldn't be a bad step-niece. Not a good one, either, but still.
As the mouse stalked off, I pulled out the phone the vampires had tossed me – typically, and iPhone. I swear they didn't own anything they had to pay less then two hundred dollars for – and checked the time. We'd still forty-five minutes before we could even think about heading back.
After the pizza's arrived and I was on my third beer (thank God for werewolf metabolism; even now I was feeling only the slightest bit buzzed), Nessie asked me very quietly, almost embarrassedly, "Are you going to be a mommy, Aunt Leah?"
I bit down on the mouth of the bottle in surprise, and felt the glass cut my mouth. Gagging as I removed the shards and towelled off my tank, I asked finally, "Who the hel... met," I caught myself just in time, "gave you that idea, Ness?"
"I was talking to Mommy," she said, picking at her crusts. "I wanted to know why you smelled hurt today, and she said it was so you could have babies."
Please O please O please God, don't make me have to give "The Talk" to the half-vampire in the middle of Chuck E. Cheese. I knew the universe hated me, but this was a bit much, even for it. "More or less," I said, admittedly faintly. I could already feel, as I was biting my lip to keep from saying anything that might loose me chocolate privileges with the vampires, that the cuts the glass had made were already healed.
"Grandma Esme and Aunt Rose told me all about it," she said, finding her voice and another slice, "and I was wondering, Mommy and Daddy had me when Mommy was still human, and they said that's what married people do, have babies. So I wanted to know if you and Uncle Jake were going to have babies."
I managed a small laugh, "Jake and I aren't married, honey," I said, suddenly feeling well enough to pull the last pizza towards me. It was just an annoying thing kids asked. It wasn't Billy sending the kid questions to ask me in exchange for blood from the local Red Cross. I mean, that would just be ridiculous... But this was Billy I was, er, thinking about.
Nessie shook her head though, little brown curls bouncing against her head. "I know that," she even giggled. It made her seem very human and very young. I blinked at the thought of discussing my love life with a three-month-old, but, then again, I'd never thought I'd hear her opinion on Ayn Rand either. She held out her hand, and I touched it somewhat wearily, and her memories flowed into me, showing me exactly what she meant – scenes of me and Jake together, laughing, in their living room; or us as we were on their porch, or coming out of the woods; and, once or twice, us as wolves, bumping into each other as we walked, occasionally resting our heads on the other's shoulder. "I've seen you together," she said, taking her hand away. "You act like Aunt Alice and Uncle Jazzy, or Aunt Rose and Uncle Emmett, or Mommy and Daddy when they think nobody's looking. They say you're going to get married before Uncle Jake is out of school."
My teeth clenched again. "Do they now?" I'd been too soon to rule out Billy. Must go the the Rez and sabotage his wheelchair. Jake'll thank me later.
"Yes," said The Thing, looking confused. "Aunt Rose says you're getting married on Valentine's Day, and Uncle Jazzy says in March, while Aunt Alice says it's going to be a May wedding and I'll get to be flower girl."
I could only repeat myself. "Do they?"
"Yes," she nodded smartly. "What's a flower girl?"
"It's a half-human hybrid, like you."
"I do not believe you, Aunt Leah."
The iPhone started ringing then, and I was so thrilled to end this conversation that I almost kissed it – but only almost. Because the ringtone was one I recognized very vaguely, and was currently James Hetfield belting out:
Nose to the wind
(Shape shift) Feeling I have been
(Move swift) All senses clean
(Earth's gift) Back to the meaning,
Back to the meaning of wolf and man
I pressed the "talk" button and said, "Very funny leech. Abso-freaking-luetly hilarious. Remind me to send the video of me kicking your ass into the next century to America's Funniest Home Videos."
"Well I thought you'd like it," Alice informed me with a huff.
"You also thought that I liked you too much to kill you, but, amazingly, I don't think that's the case."
"Ah, mutt, I knew you loved me."
I groaned into the phone, bashed it a few times on the table, and handed it to Nessie.
"Hi Aunt Alice. Does this mean that I can come home?"
Even from across the table, I could hear the midget respond, "Yes. Kate especially wants to meet you."
"Woop-te-do for the clown," I muttered, and signalled the mouse to our table.
"Tell Mommy and Daddy we'll be home soon," Nessie continued. Then, quickly, before the mouse got to us. "I thought the ringtone was funny," and punched the "end" button.
"Chuck, I'll take five more of these Supreme Combos, to go, and-"
I thought about it. Five werewolves and a half-vampire in a house full of strange vampires, and us having to hang about to make sure nobody tried to kill the Cabbage Patch kid here. "Make that ten larges, four large pepperoni, and all the buffalo wings you have ready."
"To go?" Chuck choked.
I smiled when he brought me the bill. I left a 25% tip too. And my phone number.
Okay, not really. It was Billy's, but a girl can have some fun can't she? And, besides, Rachel might find the guy inside the Chuck E. Cheese costume a better date then Paul.
Gathering our pizza, I led The Spawn out to the car and our very probable doom.