"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of
moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has
nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety,
is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the
exertions of better men than himself."
John Stewart Mill "The Contest in America"
Chapter Seventeen, Quebec
I felt my claws run across his human face, - leaving four parallel bleeding wounds from the edge of his left eye to the right edge of his chin – and jumped back before he could phase, edging backwards with my belly low to the ground, so as to keep my charge from getting hurt.
Embry, I called, Jake and I having switched our morning shift to Embry's afternoon one for the day, how close are you to Goldman Mainline and the one-ten?
About twenty, thirty minutes. I'm by the Soleduck River. Why?
Sam was phased now, blood staining his already healing muzzle, and turned tail and ran, hoping they wouldn't be stupid enough to follow me into our Olympic territory. Oh, nothing much, but Sam seems to have decided that the best way to keep the Volturi from killing us is to kill Nessie first. If I could run fast enough, I could be in Forks in ten minutes. I could phase and run naked through the streets... which would get me attention, which two giant wolves following me would not like. It wasn't like I could fight with Nessie clinging to me, could I?
I ran due east, and, as soon as Sam was out of sight stood on my back legs as high as I could go against a tree... Nessie seemed to get the message, and using her crazy half-vampire strength, was able to haul herself up into the higher branches by the time my forepaws were back on the ground. Oh please oh please oh please God, let her be safe, I think I prayed, galloping off in the direction from which I came, meeting Sam around the next bend and charging at him.
We flew at each other, jumping and meeting each other like grapplers or... or Morpheus and Neo in that scene from The Matrix. The one after that really cool shooting scene in the lobby, with the tinkling of the falling shells as the hit the marble... Snarling at each other, we crashed in a heap of black and grey fur, my forepaws going around his neck as I pulled his head closer to mine, trying to bite through the thick muscle there as I pushed and pressed forward with all the strength my legs would give me. Sam was trying to do the same, though the way I held his neck made it hard for him to bite at mine.
I could have made it, honestly I could of, if this stupid "sexual dimorphism" thing hadn't shown its true colours. I am the smallest wolf in the packs and, as human, stand six-feet even. Jake, the true Alpha, is six-foot-seven and the tallest of us. But Sam is an Alpha too... and easily six-and-a-half feet. It really makes a difference when we're wolves, and where my legs were stretched to the max keeping me tall enough to reach his neck, his were not, giving him the extra power needed to push me backwards with his forepaws.
I landed hard on my back, the thin layer of unmelted snow on the ground doing nothing to cushion the fallen sticks and pine cones that were concealed beneath. Working through the pain, I struggled to right myself, knowing that it would soon pass and, even if it didn't, it didn't matter. Nessie was a cub, of sorts, and even if she wasn't mine she needed to be protected. I couldn't let her be murdered by my ex-boyfriend. That would not only totally suck, but start a fight between the La Push Pack and the Olympic that we could not afford right now.
Sam was too fast, though, and was pinning me down before I'd managed to twist around. With his front legs on one side of me and his hind ones on the other, he was doing the best version of a straddle that a wolf could do. His neck twisted severely to one side, and his hackles were all on end. I imagine mine would be too, if they weren't pressed into the light dusting of snow on the ground... Shit shit shit shit, I thought. In the background I could hear Embry rushing straight for me, not daring to head towards the manor for backup out of lack of time and worry about ruining everything with whatever vampires happened to have made it there by now. He'd crossed the Soleduck about five miles north of Forks, and the one-oh-one, but he was still too far to be here soon. His thoughts were an echo of my own, Shit shit shit shit, and I couldn't help but thinking how I kinda liked Embry, and what a shame it was I thought his dad was Sam's dad too. Stupid philandering male. Embry didn't deserve to be related to this dick-head trying to rip out my throat.
Speaking of my throat, it didn't deserve to be ripped out by Sam either.
The good thing I discovered, though, about Sam being so tall was that it gave me a good foot, eighteen inches of space between my soft squishy parts and his, wherein I could, with an odd stretching of my back and twisting of my hips, I could get my back paws under, scratching at his guts while my forepaws whacked at his muzzle. There was more blood across his face, and fresh, and I could feel the sticky liquid drying on my muzzle as well, but I didn't know if it was his from where I'd bitten him or mine from some injury he'd given me and adrenaline had yet to let me feel.
Neither of us was showing any signs of submission. I'm beginning to wish I'd gone with my flight instinct and ran for Forks, phasing and running through town shouting, "He's trying to kill my baby," until someone was kind enough to take me to the police station... Stupid me. Stupid Sam. Stupid Jake for thinking babysitting Nessie and "visiting" Sam were a good combination. Stupid me for listening to him. Stupid Sam for making us lose Irina in the first place. Stupid Bella and stupid Edward for having Nessie; looks like they win the stupid contest for today.
Still, somehow, I manage to get my legs bent enough to scratch at his stomach, and its either surprise that his soft parts are being attacked or actual pain that causes him to stop snapping at my neck and pull back long enough for me to twist around and get my feet under me. Then I pushed up and...
Well, he didn't exactly fall away, but he slipped off, nearly grabbing my flank in a retaliation bite. We circled each other for a few minutes, growling, and making snaps at each other while waiting for an opening. You're going to get us all killed if you keep this up, I told him, knowing he couldn't hear me. It looked like he was doing something similar in his own head. You think you're so fucking high and mighty, Sam "Sucks Dick" Uley? Well, let me fucking tell you something, you elephant-raping, pig-pinching fish-seller: sometimes you're wrong. You were wrong to try and be Alpha. You were wrong to force us into having to have two packs. You're wrong to want to kill an innocent baby. I don't know what the mother-fucking hell it is with you, whether you're just trying to hold onto your "power" or you really are this stupid, but you've got to fucking STOP IT you tire-biting, pimple-popping, glue-sniffing-
I paused there, because I'd noticed the moment I'd said "stop it," or, rather, thought it, Sam had stopped. Like completely. Like "Alpha Command" completely.
Never one to look a gift wolf in the mouth, I trotted over to him and kicked some snow in his face, just to see if he was pretending. He wasn't. So I spun around and went to the tree I'd left Nessie in. Thank God Paul hadn't found her – God knows if Paul had even phased at all; he hadn't looked like he was going to earlier. She was safe and unharmed and clung to my back as I took the long way around back to the car. There was no sign of either Paul or Sam there.
Phasing, I jumped in the car and locked the doors, glad that I'd left the keys in the ignition. I, of course, at this point was naked – probably something Edward had never intended when he'd lent me his leather-interiored, multi-millionaire's let's-take-a-drive-through-Jerusalem-or-B
Nessie, despite my protests, didn't strap herself into her car seat as I backed out of the, er, clearly at fifty miles an hour and U-turned, tires burning, back into the heart of our Olympic land, going an easy eighty down the one-ten.
"I did not save you from Sam just to let you be killed by my get-away driving. So sit your ass down and try not to get a concussion."
She merely threw a packet of alcohol wipes into the car seat and continued rummaging around in varying pockets, bags, and compartments I'd not even begun to guess might exist. "Is it always like this when werewolves get together, or only when members of two different packs meet?" I saw her open a emergency kit in the rear-view mirror, pull out a bottle of water and a towel, and toss it into the passenger seat as well.
"Sam's a fly-hopping, condom-eating, pansy-footed ass who couldn't tell the difference between his ass and the foot up it if you gave him an hour and a crib sheet."
"I see," she said calmly, shaking a quilted jacket out of what had to be the world's tiniest vacuum bags. "Why did you date him then?"
And now, I thought, doing such a sharp right onto the one-oh-one I was surprised we didn't go on two wheels, I'm discussing my love life with an infant. "I dunno," I said anyway, "I was young and naïve and didn't know any better and just wanted a boyfriend and he asked, God knows why."
"Why didn't you just start out dating Uncle Jake then?"
Already we were passing Tillicum Park. I had to force myself to ease up on the gas and go the speed limit so Charlie wouldn't come out of nowhere and have to arrest his almost stepdaughter for speeding... That gave me an idea. "I dunno, Ness. I know it's hard for you to understand, your family being immortal and born decades or centuries apart and all that, but three years can be a lot for us mere mortals. When I started wanting to date, Jake was still in middle school... and he was my best friends' little brother... and we were too alike then, I think. Or I dunno what. It just took until we were both wolves, I think, and knew what each other was really thinking..." I couldn't believe I really was having this conversation with a pseudo-two-year-old. "I guess it just wasn't the right time, or we weren't ready, or something like that."
"Oh," Nessie said, sitting on the back seat. I could see spots of blood drying on her face and clothes from here, but I knew it wasn't hers. She was sitting to calmly, even for a baby genius like her, to be injured. "Aunt Leah?"
Somewhat distractedly, "Yeah?" I was trying to remember where the police station was. I chose left on Division street and was rewarded with the sight of the City of Forks Administrative Offices, Local Court, and Police Department. I was beginning to draw stares too... not because anyone could see the expensive Mercedes' nude driver, i.e. me, but because of the expensive Mercedes itself. I was beginning to come down off my adrenaline high too and was feeling more than a little sick – like weak, I mean, and ready to throw up all my gummy bears.
"Do you think I'll ever find somebody? Someone like Uncle Jake is to you, or Daddy is to Mommy, or Grandpa Carlisle is to Grandma Esme?"
I could have pointed out to her that she was only three months old, but what was the point when she was growing faster then a fungal infection and had read more books than I'd probably read in my entire life? "I can't honestly say what might happen, Nessie dear," I told her as I ripped open one of the alcohol wipes and adjusted the rear-view mirror to see my own face reflected in it. "But it's not impossible. Not all guys out there are like Sam; some of them have brains – at least brains enough to think with something other then their dicks a good portion of the time – and some of those are worth the time. Maybe you'll find someone. I dunno. Even your idiot father did, in time.
"But I thought you were refusing to think on the future. And I'm pretty sure boys, for you, fall in the future."
"I think it is all the talk of weddings that is making me wonder about it. Sam and Emily, your mother and Grandpa Charlie; you and Uncle Jake, one day – it just seems to me very sad. I am the only one of my species that we know of... Or maybe I'm not a species at all, just a some sort of hybrid, like a mule or a hinny..."
I balled up the used towelette and shoved it under the seat before turning to look at Nessie. She looked very young – not two-year-old young, but just young – and vulnerable. I pulled on the jacket she'd found for me and motioned for her to climb into the front. Dabbing her face with another alcohol wipe, I told her, "If there is one thing I've learned in my life," short of the creepy things you can do with various items of fruit and how boys are stupid, "it's this, so listen closely: it doesn't matter what you are – werewolf, vampire, human, or something in between. None of it matters, so long as you're happy."
"Are you happy, Aunt Leah?" her voice was small. I pulled her into my arms and stepped out of the car, glad the jacket she'd found went almost to my knees, even if I had to look idiotic. At least I'd gotten the worst of the blood off of us, and the collar hid what looked like choke-marks around my neck.
It was hard to believe I'd ever could be this happy, excepting the recent run-in with Sam and all, but I was. "Let's go find your grandpa."
Turns out, though, that when a girl who looks like she might've been a victim of domestic violence comes in with a baby and asks the receptionist to point her in the direction of the Chief of Police, people don't give you a hard time about how you're dressed. Surprised the hell out of Charlie, though, me walking into his office after he'd been "informed" via a phone call I'm sure the old woman at the desk didn't realize I could hear that there was a "possible 273-D" heading his way. I guessed the receptionist was also the local emergency dispatcher.
"Holy Crow," Charlie said, springing out of his chair and coming forward with this really worried look on his face. It took me a moment to place it, but it was a dad kind of worry, like that one Dad had on when he saw me kinda broken-looking after Sam dumped me, or when he taught me how to drive. He didn't even take one look at Nessie – that's how freaked out he was – and just guided me into his chair. I suppose he had every right to freak out, what with the bruises that were starting to yellow across my face and the rest he could see of me, and the spots of blood I was sure to have missed, matted in my hair and behind my ears. "What did that boy do to you?" Yep, defiantly dad-mode. "I don't care what he is, I'm to make him rue the day he put his hand to a girl." Rue? Rue? And I thought I'd been spending a lot of time around the leeches. "I always knew he had a temper, but this is just going too far... Where is Jake? What did he do to you?"
"Jake's at-" I began, and then realized what Charlie was saying. "God, Pops, Jake didn't do this to me."
"Tricia said it was a victim of domestic..." Then he sighed and stood up from where he'd been kneeling beside me, "I'm going to have to talk to her again about what she tells people."
I let out a small sigh and sink into his chair. It is nice and soft. "You can let go of me now, Aunt Leah," Nessie says, wiggling in my arms.
"Oh! Sorry Ness." I hadn't even realized I'd been holding her so tightly. Damn maternal instincts. I blame it on the periods. And all the sex. I'm pretty sure sex lets out some of the same hormones women are supposed to have post-partum. That, and I spend so much time around the leeches and she's the only one I really like – because she is cute and amusing, and a lot better for my sanity then Kate, even if she's a talking baby – and she seems, oddly enough, to like me the most of the pack. The other day, I was sleeping on the porch in wolf form, and she decided to curl up next to me and nap herself. The leeches have pictures of it, for blackmail, I'm sure.
"It's okay. It is just the oestrogen, chorionic gonadotriphin, and epinephrine coursing through your bloodstream. I understand," she told me honestly. I guess it was her way of saying "bizarre maternal instinct" as well. Then she turned to her grandfather, around whom she'd pretended to be a perfectly normal, albeit precocious, toddler, and now who was reeling a bit from seeing said toddler saying things like "gonadotriphin" and whatnot. "Hi Grandpa Charlie."
Charlie sank into the nearest chair. I couldn't blame him. "Half-vampire?" he asked me weakly.
Nessie nodded and climbed from my lap to his. "Yes. Daddy didn't turn Mommy until after I was born. I didn't mean to hurt her so much... but she was only human. Want to see?"
Nessie held up her hand and, hearing this, I sat up straight in the chair and said, "No! Ness, nobody wants to see that."
"Oh," she frowned. Then her smile came right back up. She was a lot like Seth that way – and, apparently, according to Kate, a young Phillip the Handsome, before his wife started dragging his wife around the country with her - "well then, never mind. But Mommy was really upset she had to lie to you, Grandpa. She loves you, but it was to keep her safe. The Volturi do not like humans knowing about our – well, their – existence."
Leaning back in the chair again, feeling the shakes come to muscles which had been over used and were healing too fast for my energy levels to keep up with, I added, "They have a tendency to kill people."
"I see," said Charlie slowly from his own seat.
"But it is okay, Grandpa Charlie. We won't let them find you when they come here. Grandpa Carlisle and Grandma Esme are getting all the Europeans that the Volturi don't get to first, and Aunt Rose and Aunt Alice and Uncle Emmett and Uncle Jasper are looking for American nomads and maybe the Amazonians, and the cousins are bringing the Egyptians and the Asians... The Egyptians and the Amazonians are very old – not near as old as the Volturi, but old enough that the nomads will listen to them if they believe... Most nomads don't end up living more then four or five hundred years before joining a coven or being killed..."
"I see," he said again.
"Ness, I think you're overwhelming him."
She frowned again, then hopped off his lap and smiled. Again. Brightly. "It is okay, Grandpa. Daddy will make it work, and he will get Peter and Charlotte and Mary to believe, and they will help with the others. Grandpa Carlisle has many friends and is well respected. The Volturi will not kill us. I think."
"If Sam doesn't try and kill us first," I mumbled.
That Charlie could understand. Police work, not the supernatural, was his business. "Sam Uley did this to you?"
"He wanted to kill Ness. I didn't want him to."
That gave him pause, and then, deeply, "Thank you for keeping my granddaughter safe. There's a shower in locker rooms... I'll see if I can rustle you up a change of clothes..."
"Thanks," I managed and stood, following after him to the indicated room. My stomach was telling me at the moment gummy bears and juice boxes were not the breakfasts of champions, or, at least, a full stomach was not to be fought on or attacked.
"Is this a typical day for you guys?"
I thought about it. "More or less. People our world really don't like your daughter." And, with that, I ducked into the shower room and threw up everything I had in my stomach and a little more.
Sam Uley must die.