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The Mythical Creature's Guide to Modern Warfare (18/26)

 

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog,
conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone,
comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem,
pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Lazarus Long in Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough For Love


Chapter Eighteen, Romeo

"It's fucking scrambled eggs," I told child sitting at the table, reading some religious texts while she watched Sesame Street on the kitchen TV, "you whisk the eggs and pour on pan. You stir. They cook. How can I fucking be failing at making scrambled eggs?"

"Rubber Duckie," she sang, softly and perfectly in response, "you're the one. You make bath time lots of fun..."

"Are you determined to drive me mad, Nessie?"

She turned around and pouted at me. "I am going to read this," she indicated the Hebrew text in front of her, "and find something about people who constantly insult people, and then I will read it to you, and we'll see who's sorry then."

I rolled my eyes at the child and continued my attempt at making dinner. Edward, Bella, and Kate were busy talking with Peter and Charlotte, who turned out to be old chums of Jasper's, and Jake had offered to do our patrol alone after seeing how badly Sam had turn me (my neck still hurt, but the bruise was not nearly so bad now, and the others were who knows where. And I was hungry, so I was attempting to cook. It was not going well. "Oh, I'm so scared."

"You should be," Nessie told me. And then she unmuted the TV just in time to catch Elmo say something about the number of the day or friendship or something odd like that. Fucking strange child.

I continued to stir the runny concoction, annoyed to all belief that Esme just had to go and leave us like this. And for New Year's Eve too! I mean, what are we going to eat tonight? Or tomorrow? Bella can cook somewhat, but that seems to be limited to small quantities of fish and spaghetti that couldn't feed one werewolf, let alone five and a half-human. I'm half tempted to order take out. Or delivery... but I don't know if Peter or Charlotte or Mary is hungry enough to accidentally eat the delivery boy, so I don't.

There is a shadow in the door from the living room, and, when I turn, I see it is Charlotte. She is small and pixie-like – very much like Alice – but with bleach-blonde hair and the most disturbing red eyes I've ever seen.

Red eyes. Human-drinkers. Killers. Murderers.

"I believe, Lisa, that your attempt to cook might go bit better if you were to turn on the right burner."

"The name is Leah," I hissed at the her, looking down and realizing that, yes, I'd turned on the burner behind the one I was trying to use. Stupid contraption. Quickly, I corrected this and went back to glaring at the leech.

The hair on the back of my neck went on end as I caught the slight footfall coming in from the outside door: Mary, the Wampanoag Indian. She looked similar, in many ways, to Emily, but with more amygdaloid eyes of that deep, noxious blood-red. According to Kate, she'd been around since the Mayflower. "Tenga cuidado con el hombre lobo, Charlotte. ソNo huele usted la indirecta de la leche?"she whispered, her voice low and deep. "Ella está con pequeños, y oigo que ellos se comportan como osos de madre cuando irritado, estos lobos."

Randomly, the southerner commented, "I've not been to a good bear-baiting in a while."

"You've never been to a bear-baiting at all, oshki-ikwe."

I put the hand without the spatula to my head and pressed hard, eyes closed. When I opened them again, both vampires were still there. For people who didn't eat and supposedly thought I smelled none too pleasant, they seemed to spend a lot of time in the kitchen (where I'd stayed since coming back from my, er, visit to Charlie, first icing my neck and, after that, trying to scrounge something to eat. It was after I'd run out of fruit roll-ups, apples, and wheat thins I'd been reduced to trying to cook), annoying me. It was the best place to hide from leeches inside their own house. Charlotte seemed fascinated with it, though why I don't know.

They were an interesting study in contrasts, what with Charlotte being only about as old as my grandmother, though looking about my age, with hiking clothes like Rose and Esme had been wearing when they'd left on, right down the to sturdy books. Mary – who'd introduced herself as Motuckquas, but everyone called Mary, probably because it was easier to say – was very much the opposite, wearing only a chequered dress that looked like it was made in the forties and completely barefoot; her dark blue-black hair was braided elaborately around her head. She also seemed less annoying. But, then again, she'd also made it a point to speak in English as little as possible. "Unless either of you know how to cook, will you kindly get out of my kitchen before I go postal on you?" This is not a zoo! You will not stand here and watch the world's only female werewolf like I'm some cheap exhibit on cows next to a slaughter-house. Not, I should point out, that I thought they wanted to eat me, smelling as I did to them, but I guess I'd the lingering scent of human – sweat, heat, metal – on me. Disturbing, and more then a little annoying.

Both the vampires and little Nessie looked at me strangely. I looked down at the eggs: they were burned beyond all recognition. I hadn't even noticed, so strong was the vampiric smell. Stupid vampires. Stupid eggs.

"Well, I don't see either of you trying. Some of us have to eat, and you smell disgusting, and I don't care if you fucked kings or are just fucking royal pains in the ass, but those are the rules."

"Mommy's not going to be happy you used that word in front of me."

"Your mommy, Nessie dearest, can fuck an ox for all I care." I scraped off the burnt offerings as best I could and set the pan in the sink to soak. Taking a fresh one out of the cabinet, I began to crack another dozen eggs. "Your auntie Leah is hungry, and, until I get fed, the French, it keeps coming."

She wrinkled her nose and turned up Big Bird, while Charlotte looked back at Mary and said, her own voice high and annoyingly tinkly, "Usted tiene razón; ellos se parecen a osos. El Cullens mantiene tales animales domésticos extraños."

Me, being me, spun and threw an egg at the perpetrator, who naturally caught it, having superhuman reflexes, but, being supernaturally hard, ended up with egg yolk all over her hands anyway. "I don't know what you said, but I caught the word 'animal' in there, and I don't like it."

My torture might have continued on indefinitely if Kate hadn't shown up and waved them out, though not before the Emily-impersonator vampire added, "I shall call you Kiwidinok," leading me to shout back, "I am not a fucking kiwi!" Apparently it meant "woman of the wind" in Chippewa, and she was calling me it because my emotions freaking every three changed seconds, but I didn't care. I was Quileute, she wasn't Chippewa, wherever the fuck they were from, and I was perfectly happy with my name. Now, if she knew Quileute, I might have been interested, 'cause like only The Elders and one of Old Quil's nephews still speak it. I suppose, one day, they'll "ask" us to learn it, but it's strange. I mean, there are like no nasal stops – m's and n's – at all in it. Though, knowing our luck, the Cullens know it, which really sucks, our mortal enemies being the only ones who know our language any more...

But my point being, I'm not a hyena-humping, ambulance-chasing, Jack-the-Ripper-wannabe like The Annoying Ones, and Kate, amazingly enough, saved me. Though I'm going to have to "accidentally" set Mary on fire if she doesn't stop this "we-may-be-from-different-tribes-and-different-species,-but-we're-both-Native-American-and-should-stick-together-by-me-giving-you-a-spirit-name-in-a-third-tribe's-language" thing. She drank human blood, I didn't, that's all I needed to know. And I "...know we need them as like backup or something, but they've been here less than five hours and I'm about ready to pry their ass-hatted, nose-warted, fungus-covered faces off and get the biggest fireworks I can find and shoot their asses to the moon!"

"I am curious," said Nessie, now watching the news and ignoring my shouting, "for true werewolves, ones that turn according to the phases of the moon, would they be 'cured,' so to speak, if sent to the moon? Would they still transform according to the phases of the moon as seen from Earth, or would they phase according to the phases of Earth? Or would they be permanently transformed into wolves, or into men?"

Kate and I blinked at her.

"Mommy and Daddy don't criticise me," the child said, sliding off the chair and heading for the living room and, presumably, her parents.

"When I was her age, my parents were still cooing over how cute I looked and cursing about all the nappies they had to change."

"When I was-"

To which Jake broke in, coming through the back door, "I'm sure Sue thought you were annoying then too." I knew it was him because he smelled so strongly of pine and earth and life, and his scent was a Godsend compared to the sharp, sugary smells of the vampires – and the coppery undertones of the nomads. And because none of the vampires slammed doors open like that, so that they crashed into the walls behind them.

"You don't understand. The vampires are calling me kiwi now and-" I had spun from my latest attempt at scrambled eggs (so far, so good) to look at him, "What the mother-fucking, giraffe-jumping hell happened to you!" Because, you see, Jake had scratches up and down his legs, a bite mark forming on one ankle, a few half-healed slashes across his back, and a rapidly yellowing black-eye. And then it dawned on me. I shouldn't have been so stupid as to let him go out alone, not right after Sam attacked me... "Jacob Isaiah Black!"

"Leah Jacqueline Clearwater!" he said right back, looking me straight in the eye with the silliest grin on his face – one that did nothing but make me more angry, obviously not its intended affect.

"Ekaternia Dobryninva!" Kate shouted, standing up from her chair. Both of us turned to look at her. "What? I thought we were playing the name game. I honestly don't see where we go from here, unless we want to start thinking of people with the same initials. Oh, or anagrams! We could do A Cabal Hijacks Bios and Cereal Wheel Art, if we... Not the name game, I see." She span her chair around and sat down astride it. "In that case, continue."

This, oddly enough, managed to calm me down somewhat. But only somewhat. "You were supposed to be patrolling."

"I switched with Quil," he said, brushing it off lightly. "Besides, Sam deserved it."

"I know he's an ass-eating, crow-juicing pumpkin-whore, but that doesn't mean you have to go around fighting him for-"

"He tried to KILL you, Leah!" He looked like was going to shout some more but, biting his lip, caught himself and said calmly enough that it surprised me, "I feel... very protective of you. The idea of someone hurting you, like Sam – no, especially Sam makes me so unbelievably angry it hurts, and I know it's ridiculous, because I know you love me, but it's just this..."

"Primal?" Kate offered from her seat, arms crossed across the back of it and her chin resting there.

"...primal, animalistic anger at the it all, and I think it's something of the Alpha that I can't control, but I had to fight him. I just had to – it was like I didn't have any other choice."

"He was would-be territorial claimant," she offered again, very scientifically. Stupid thousand-year-old vampire. Go the fuck away. Now.

"Shut up, Kate," I said. "And he didn't kill me. But he could have killed you. Nobody knew where you were, and then-!"

"Er... actually, the guys knew..."

"You told them but not me!"

"I didn't want you to worry!"

"Worry? You just didn't want me to kick your ass for going chivalrous on me."

"He couldn't help it," Kate said again, like some strange commentator I wanted to hit with my spatula, "it's his hormones and your pheromones. He smells like wet dog and testosterone, for God's sake. I'm sure it smells like sex to you, but I'm personally revolted. Between your milky smell and him, I'd be running out of the room if I didn't want to know how this was going to end. "

It was Jake's turn to shout at her, "Shut up. And I wasn't doing it to be chivalrous. I just wanted to beat him up."

Anger turning into sadness for no reason I could see, I turned back to my, once again, burnt eggs. I flung them into the sink with the rest and told him, doing my best to keep my voice steady, "I would have rather liked to do that myself." And I would have. If Nessie hadn't been there... Sam would have gone down. He would've had to limp home, and never would have been able to have puppies, so help me God if I lie.

"I know, Lee... but, just think, if I hadn't have gone today, you wouldn't have got to hear my wonderful tale."

"And what," I said, taking a seat next to Kate, who was watching us as one watched a sporting event, "would said 'wonderful tale' be?" Quickly, before I deny you any tail. For a week. However hard that might be on the both of us. Especially now – he looked hot when he got angry. It was a stupid thing to find attractive, but there was very little about Jake I found unattractive... and most of those involved socks he never wore any more anyway. Stupid hormones.

"Well, I went to Sam's place and just walked up and hit him while he was barbecuing – he didn't even see me coming – and shouted at him for a bit about being a jerk and attacking you – and Nessie – and then he phased so I phased and we'd only managed to get in a few swipes before Charlie arrived."

I leaned forward, "I told you somebody would call you in for dog-fighting one day."

"Oh, no he wasn't arresting Sam for that."

"He arrested Sam?" I started laughing. And I mean really laughing. "That's great. What for then?"

"You should've seen Charlie – he's starting to take this 'Clallam-County-is-filled-with-mythical-creatures' thing pretty well. He just got out of the cruiser, not pulling his gun or anything, yelled at us a couple times, and then blew a dog whistle."

"Where'd he get a dog whistle?"

"I dunno. Police issue?" Jake waves it off and takes the seat on Kate's other side, calming down a little. "Anyway, he does this and Sam and I just stop and he tells us to phase and, once we get on pants, he tells Sam he's under arrest for domestic battery."

"But-" my mind works furiously, and I lean further still, propping one elbow on the easily hundred-year-old text Nessie had been reading. I knew enough about the law to know that "domestic battery" and "domestic violence" were more or less the same thing. "Charlie arrested Sam over me?" I dropped the spatula to the table, realizing only then it'd been in my hand still.

"Yeah. He did. It was great. And then I asked Charlie to wait a minute so I could finish beating on Sam before he took him in, but I guess Charlie was in a mood, 'cause he arrested me then-"

"You got arrested!" I shouted. "And you didn't call me!"

"I'm getting to that part, Leah!" He shook his head. He was going to need a haircut soon, I noticed. "So, Charlie arrests us both – me for 'obstruction of justice', or something stupid like that – and drives us all the way to the police station, lecturing us about how behaving like men does not, apparently, involve fighting with people over every little thing. I tried to explain how, as werewolves, it did, but then he went on a spiel directed at Sam about how he didn't care if we healed at like nine times the speed of sound, you just don't go hitting girls, especially his future stepdaughter – by the way, he told us he asked your mom the other day."

"He didn't tell me."

"What do you say? 'Hey, your mom said yes, so I'm going to be doing her as your stepfather now. Nice talk'?"

"Is sex all you ever think about?"

"He's a-"

We both turned to Kate together this time and said, as loudly as we could, "SHUT UP!"

"Then we get booked and thrown in Forks one cell with some guy who started his New Year's toasting a little too early, which I guess is good, or else we might've phased and continued our early fight anyway, so we just yelled at each other for an hour or so before Charlie came back and gave us our phone calls – though you should've been there. I was telling Sam what a jerk he was, et cetera et cetera, and how if he'd any balls at all he'd hang himself by them, and he started giving reasons why you and I couldn't be together, and I told him what a jealous old cunt he was and should go back to knitting pink sweaters for Edward, his gay lover, 'cause I sooo knew they had something going on, and then he wanted to know how you were able to Alpha command him, and I explained the whole thing about how you'd agreed to marry me and-"

Kate let out a whooping cheer; I blinked a lot. I don't recall having gotten engaged, and I think it's the sort of thing I'd remember. "Er, when did that happen?"

Jake frowned. The vampire started laughing. It tinkled like glass and hurt my ears, her laughter. "Remember the other morning?"

"Which other morning?" I remembered quite a few of them... We'd fought over the last pop tart yesterday. Was it that he was talking about?

"The one where I asked you to be interested in getting married, and you said you weren't the kinda girl people married, and I said I wasn't most people and asked you to be Alpha female."

That's what he'd been asking? Wow. I... I don't know what to say. Honestly I don't. Do I go, "What?" again or do I do something else? I chose one of the something-else's. "You told me it was a fucking promotion-" Kate fell out of her chair. Both Jake and I ignored her, and would have ignored even that if it hadn't been so loud. "You don't freaking ask girls to marry you by telling them its a mother-fucking promotion."

"I'm fucking sorry, Leah!" he shouted right back at me, standing up, "I haven't exactly had that much experience with this sort of thing."

"It shows! I mean, I just thought – well, Hell, I don't know what I thought, but I wasn't thinking that."

"Don't you want to marry me?"

"Martha Stewart's pink pastel hell, I do, but-"

"Is that a fucking 'yes, I want to,' I do or a 'no way in fucking hell,' I do?"

"Yes, but you're still in school, and," I forgot some of my and's. I know there were several of them, and many of them were really good or, rather, at least not that bad. Hell if I could remember any of them though. He looked really hot, and there was a thin sheen of sweet on his skin that made it glisten deliciously, and Kate was right, he did smell like sex, and it was kinda cute, albeit annoying, he'd gone out and gotten arrested fighting for my honour. Mostly stupid, but still kinda cute.

"Well then, let's get married!" he shouted.

Shouting right back at him, "Well, now that you're being clear about it... Sure, why the hell not? - Only let's get one thing straight: I am not wearing some stupid-ass marshmallow dress!"

"Fine. Whatever. I'm not wearing suit then."

"Like they make suits in your size anyway? Next Halloween we just need to slap some green paint on you and can call you the jolly Green Giant."

"Ha. Ha. Ha. You're killing me with your humour. If neither of us are getting dressed up then," his voice getting closer to normal decibel range, "why bother having a ceremony at all?"

"Yeah. Let's skip out on the fucking fake arbour." I hated that fake arbour. It was the tackiest thing I'd ever seen, and I'd ruined my fingers enough wrapping flowers around it... and, Jake looked so sexy all Alpha-wolfy that it was kinda disgusting how I serious was thinking about the next three words that came out of my mouth: "Let's elope then." I think we were still so caught up in the energy of the moment... well, I don't know what, but when I next asked, "Seattle or Las Vegas?"

From the floor, trying (and failing) to pull herself up, "There's a wonderful Elvis-impersonator chapel on south Las Vegas Boulevard. If you take Edward's fast car, you can be there in-"

"The clerk of court was still open when I left Forks."

That was right. The courthouse and police station and fire department were all in that one little building, and they were probably staying open late to process all of the idiots out on New Year's Eve. "Well, alright then." And next thing I know, we're at the courthouse/police station/fire department. Not quite sure how that happened. I assumed we had taken Edward's fastest car, but I remember almost nothing of the car ride.

"Weren't you just in here this afternoon?" asked the clerk when the line got to us. I'd given to two guys behind us who didn't look drunk so much as singed for illegal fireworks fifties taken from our the-vampires-feel-so-sorry-for-us fund to be our witnesses.

"Yeah. The charges were dropped though. This time me and her," he said, pointing at me, "want to get married." An application for marriage license was produced and postdated (because the people at the Forks Courthouse are helpful, thinking we were just in a rush and wanted to do it on New Year's Eve rather then, oh, something else. If there was money exchanged, my werewolf eyes didn't see it)...

And then I was suddenly Mrs. Jacob Black, and not entirely sure how it had happened. I'm not entirely sure Jake knew what happened either.

Chapter Nineteen