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How Jacob Black Made It Through the Worst Day of His Life (2/4)


"...Essential and appealed, carry all your thoughts across an open field. When flowers gaze at you
they're not the only ones who cry when they see you. You said, 'You don't know me, you don't even care.
You don't know me, you don't wear my chains'..."

Augustana "Boston"


Part Two, ...and the Omega

I entered the manor after school, looking for Leah. The Cullen's living room was mostly empty, considering all the leeches in the residence at the moment. The two Irish women – I don't know their names; I need a crib sheet for all of them now, but I know they're the Irish because the one that looks about Judith's age has red hair and their leader has the slight hint of Irish Coffee mixed into her sugary-sweet smell – were staring at the TV intently, upon which the Titanic was beginning to sink. The nomad that'd come with Rose and Emmett – George or Gregory or something like that – was sitting close to Kate, pouring over a rather thick book in a way that made me distinctly uncomfortable. Not the way they were sitting, but the way they were looking at the book and highlighting parts of it. Either they'd decided to join Emmett in Seminary, or something else bad was going to happen.

Still, I was surprised to find Leah wasn't here. If she wasn't with Kate, with whom she'd struck up the oddest friendship, she was with Nessie. But from the sound of things this morning, Kate had dragged her into an all-day movie marathon, and as it was still today and there were still movies playing, it was odd that Leah wasn't here. Even if it was the Titanic they were onto now, presumably having finished the various incarnations of The Matrix earlier.

Still, I jumped over the arm of the couch and bounced into the seat next to Kate, causing her highlighter to jerk a little. "They feed you caffeine at lunch again, Yisra'el?"

I groaned, mostly because Kate thought it was amusing to call me "Yisra'el" because my name was Jacob and, since was as as old as dirt and had spent much of her un-life whoring around the religious courts of medieval Europe, knew the Bible and most other religious texts all too well. She thought it was funny, and insisted on calling Sam "Esau" whenever she'd reason to speak of him, much in the way she called Leah "Kiwi." It was terribly annoying, but none of us had thought of anything vile enough to do to her in return, so we dealt with it, largely by ignoring these comments. I liked the idea Seth had about using Emmett's pudding gun...

"Er, no. Where's Lee?"

"She started feeling bad during the fight scene at the Merovingian's and went upstairs. And Bella said to tell you that Loch Nesswanted to see her father, so Kiwi took her to see him and her mom was there and so she called to say she's spending the night."

It took me a moment to process her convoluted sentence, which I was sure Kate did on purpose, and before I could ask any more questions, say why Leah'd been dragged into babysitting again when Bella never seemed to be doing anything (which was true. I'd never actually discovered what Bella did with her days after she became a vampire, especially when she wasn't with her daughter) and Charlie was her father, Kate spoke up again.

"How d'you like the name Caleb?"

"What?"

The nomad beside her, speaking to me for perhaps the first time, explained. "Katrina and I have been going through this... book all day. She's been highlighting names she likes." The vampire seemed more amused then anything else, like another leech choosing names for a werewolf's twins was a mere oddity. Then again, considering some of the other things their fellow leeches got up to, I suppose it is.

"I particularly like the name Caleb because it's spelled almost the same as keleb in Hebrew and means 'dog' or 'canine'. I've tried looking for names that mean 'wolf', but you can't use Adolph because of the whole World War Two stigma and Fenrisulfr Black just sounds stupid and Romulus and Remus are just too obvious... So how do you like the name Caleb?"

"I'm more interested in why you're picking out names for my children."

"Well," she said, flipping a page and highlighting the name Cyrus, "Leah's not exactly gotten around to it yet, and, with the way things've been going, she'll probably pop before she ever chooses any names... so someone has to be prepared. For when she gets back."

"From Charlie's?" Why did we need names by tomorrow morning? Better yet, why did she like the name "Cyrus"?

"That's where Bella says she is."

"And so you volunteered?" Knowing Kate, if she had her way, they'd probably be named Ichabod and Methuselah, or something else crazy. Something was seriously wrong with the leech, but it might just have been because she didn't seem to be trying very hard to get Garrett to have sex with her, like she and her sister usually did with the un-mated male leeches. I'd already had the distinct displeasure to be on patrol and find Tanya and the nomad with the fur hat, Randy or Rudolph or something, doing the dirty, scaring the entire pack for life. Not to say I wasn't pleased about not having to deal with Kate and Garrett Frenching or worse in front of me, but I thought it odd. Hell, I found Kate in general odd.

"Naturally. It's my job as BFF and maid-of-honour – and since we all know the moment Alice gets back from Amazonas she'll start planing a proper wedding for you and Kiwi. And since, primarily, we don't know if she'll get back before the Volturi arrive and the weather channel is warning record snows, and, secondly, anything I might work on for the wedding Alice will change, baby-names and china patterns are my only source of bridal party entertainment. And Garrett got tired of looking at china patterns with me."

Personally, I don't think it was china patterns Garrett had been looking at any more than he was paying much attention to the names Kate picked out, which made the fact she was sitting there looking at baby names all the stranger. "I see," I said, even though I didn't. Vampires are fucked up. I guess that's all there is to it.

I got up to leave, figuring if Lee wasn't around I'd go bother someone else for a while, when Kate asked even more strangely, "Is your cell phone charged?"

Like Leah, the Cullens had given me a phone too to use in case of emergencies. However, as Leah seemed to be the go-to wolf for the pack, I'd never really used it. I kept it charged, though. The Volturi threat was looming ever closer; we had to be ready to fight at any moment, and all the rest the Alpha stuff. "Yeah."

"Keep it on you today, okay?"

I blinked at her. What else would I do with it? Use it as a doorstop? As I didn't have a door... "Of course."

She flipped the page again, ignoring me. Not that I cared. I'd heard entirely too much of her sexual encounters to be able to look at her straight. I mean, I know technically she was only like seventeen or something, but she was so old my reaction to this knowledge was much like what they would be if one of my grandparents were still around and were telling me about their exploits. Gross.

I went out the back door and wandered through the camps of various leeches before reaching the woods and continuing on, on two feet, until I reached the river. I don't know why, really, only that I wanted time to think, and it's hard to think about human problems when you're running patrol as a wolf. Besides, Quil could take care and tof the pups. They might've only been children, but they took the wolf-thing seriously.

I snorted. Children? Matty was only four years younger than me. And look at me, Alpha wolf and married and with kids on the way. Ridiculous. And yet it was true, and rather then be disappointed with me, Dad had all but cheering me on, mostly because his wheelchair prevented the more acrobatic cheers. All in all, it was strange, and I hadn't gotten use to the idea at all that I'd be a father. That I was a father.

And a vampire was naming my children.

I shook my head at that sat on a fallen tree by the river's edge. There was a thin, skin-like layer of ice on the water, and I supposed it must be cold out if the snow threat was that bad, but I couldn't tell. Maybe...

"I wouldn't go swimming if I were you. You might not be able to get frostbite, but a werewolf with a cold is not something we want to be dealing with when the Volturi come."

I looked around for the voice – Edward's, I'd know his mind-rapping tones anywhere – and then, when I couldn't see him on either side of the river, I looked up, surprised to find him about halfway up a giant pine, sitting there as if readying for a nap. If he could sleep, that was. Instead, he just seemed to be sitting there with his eyes closed, listening. "I'm surprised. The bat thing not working out for you?" Believe it or not, for all Edward bugged the crap out of me, I think we "bonded" or something when Bella was pregnant with Nessie. I mean, why you both didn't want the same person to die, it's kinda hard to continue hating the other. I mean, I didn't like him that much, especially 'cause he couldn't keep his head out of everyone else's, but he was mostly bearable. Nowhere near as funny as Emmett, or fun to annoy as Rose or Alice, but he was okay. Just so long as he stayed out of my head.

"It is hard for me to be in the house," he said out of nowhere as I lay on the ground to get a better look at him. There was a thin dusting of snow from yesterday, but the teachers had all be worried for the three feet or something ridiculous we were supposed to get tonight, so bad we might even have to have a snow day, which hadn't happened since, like, second grade. That'd be cool, if it wasn't for the fact that that much snow meant the Volturi would not be far behind – a day or two at the absolute most, if Alice's vision hadn't changed. According to Leah, who actually was kept informed by the leeches on these sorts of things, Alice and Jasper and one of the Amazonians were still in Brazil, though damned if she knew why. It was kinda annoying never to be told any of this sort of thing myself, but as Leah didn't have stupid school to worry about, I guess she had the time to be filled in on annoying personal details about the vamps, "with so many thoughts from such old minds. It is hard to sort through them and find the current. I did not think any of the pack would be out here."

"Wasn't intentional. Just bored." I got up to go.

"You can stay if you wish. I hate to say it, mutt, but you're thoughts are saner then some of our guests."

The are blood-sucking vampires. Of course my thoughts are saner. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be willingly hanging around Edward Cullen of all people. Next thing you know, Sam'll show up with cookies and we'll have a tea party.

"Those memories are... particularly unpleasant, but the memories of a thousand years are no light matters. To keep them straight, Kate talks about the past near constantly, as if writing the story of her life, while Tanya does her best to forget and live in the moment, or the future, because her past is too long and Dark for her to willingly travel... The others are all like this to some degree, or are like Alistair and have begun to loose sight of reality..."

And I care why?

"There is a reason why vampires rarely survive for more than a few hundred years without joining a coven, and even there find it hard to stay in their present times... Most start to forget, and make mistakes that get them killed because of it, whether by superstitious humans or the Volturi, to keep the rest of us safe. Alistair is near two thousand years old and knows little of the world outside his making, except that he must hide from humans excepting to feed... In another few centuries he'll probably be the end of himself..."

And again I care because? I really didn't care about vampire politics or psychology or physiology or whatever this was. Volturi want to kill us, we stop them from doing so – that was all I really needed to know. I didn't want to think of the human-drinkers as anything other then murderers, though some I knew were trying, temporarily, the vegetarian diet and the Amazonians had always been something of opportunistic omnivores...

"We do not easily get along, groups of us, though the Volturi are the exception. They rule by fear and power... but they are the oldest of us too, excepting perhaps the Romanians... and the old ones always make mistakes."

Ah, I get it now. "You think that if we can get them to make one of these 'mistakes' you're talking about, we can win." But how do you get three thousand year old vampires to make mistakes?

"I do not know... since time immeasurable, they have led our world, kept it safe. Before them were the Romanians – there were four then, but only the younger two remain – who ruled from castles and were constantly at war with themselves and others and the humans they controlled like a shepherd controls sheep. They brought peace to our kind... I saw it in their minds when I went to Italy." I tried not to remember those awful days surrounding Bella's cliff dive. But I did anyway, and with it words from the book we'd had to read over the winter break – The Virgin Suicides – or, more specifically, the movie of it we'd watched in class the Monday after we came back. I never really was one for remembering things from movies, excepting things like Use the Force, Luke and Beam me up, Scotty, but for some reason this came to me now as if dredged from a half-forgotten dream: It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us calling them from out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together... I remember thinking of Bella during the movie and not knowing why, because she'd not been trying to kill herself, had just become some sort of adrenaline junkie because she could not remember how to live after Edward had left her, because she'd given to him everything in her life, everything she had, however stupid or blind or loving it might've been, and was nothing but an empty shell of a girl who had once been, if not vibrant, vivacious and filled with possibilities and strength.

And then Edward had left, and taken everything she'd once been with him, and had yet to give it back. She was Bella, yes, beneath the marble skin and red-orange eyes, but either life or motherhood or death had changed her, and was smaller now. Less alive, maybe, or jut more fearful than a creature that was near impossible to destroy should be. It was hard for me to like this Bella, who still behaved like a fragile human amongst more powerful creatures born of myth and legend. I knew why she did it, understood it even, but could not like it and could barely remember why I had once liked her now... What lingered after them was not life, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself.

Edward didn't say anything, though he must have heard my thoughts. I think he saw it too. He loved Bella, but she was different. Not bad different, but just different, and maybe that would change in time or maybe not, but he knew it was his doing and accepted rebuke for it without words. "Even as we are afraid of the Volturi, they are afraid of us. They fear Alice's precognitive abilities especially, because in all their years they have never seen anything like it... They tried to hide it, Aro especially, but as much as they desire power, they fear for what they already have."

God, you can be long-winded sometimes, I yawned, adjusting myself into a more comfortable position.

He was staring blankly out at something, lost in memories of his own. They could be such downers sometimes, vamps. I mean, yes, we could well be killed in the next couple of days, but why should we let that detract from the now? And now I've found a decent place by the river free from everyone but one annoying mind-reading leech where I plan to take a nap. Or maybe just think about things, like how I probably didn't do so hot on my Beowulf exam, or how if we had school tomorrow I'd have to convince one of the vamps – Kate, probably – to call into the school and pretend to be our parents, saying we were sick or the roads were too slick, or something in case the Volturi ended up coming during school hours. Kate would probably be impossible about it, but she'd do it. "There are five of them, you know: Aro, Caius, and Marcus, and the wives. Athenodora and Sulpicia. They were cousins before they were changed..."

And I want to sleep now...

"There used to be a third, Didyme, and she was Aro's mortal sister. He changed her himself..."

Disgusting... Leech, leech, go away, come again another day...

"She was Marcus's wife. A few decades before they overthrew the Romanians, she and Marcus wanted to leave, going their own way. Aro pretended to let them... and then Didyme was destroyed. They claimed the Romanians did it, and that is why they went to war, but I could read Aro's thoughts, and he feared me knowing the truth. He does not know I know it, I do not think, but I know he killed his sister to keep Marcus with him, for his power is great..."

What good does three thousand year old politics do anyone?

"I do not know, Jacob." Edward slid off the tree and, in seconds, landed beside me, hardly leaving a mark in the snow. And then, to my great surprise, he took a seat beside me. The pack was never going to believe this. "Perhaps if we can use this somehow... But Carlisle is a pacifist at heart and lived with them for many decades; he does not want to see this going to war. He thinks that, if we can but halt them long enough to make them listen to us, they will not destroy Nessie or any of us. But...?"

"But what's the likelihood that vampires that flew halfway around the world to kill us will leave without doing so?"

He nodded, and I resigned myself to this conversation. "They are five, plus the ten permanent guards, and more than a few temporary guards who they made and were disappointed in for lack of special power and would normally be gotten rid of some way or another. They are the peace and civilization of our society... but we are nine now, and different from them, and have promised us no harm, 'one may smile, and smile, and be a villain; at least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark.'"

"I thought they were Italian?"

He did not answer me. "No matter what happens today, or tomorrow, or whenever they arrive, they will try to destroy us. They found Carlisle amusing when he was but one vampire who refused to hunt humans, but there are the Denali now too... and Garrett, at least, is seriously tempted into keeping our diet. I cannot speak to Carlisle about it, because he wants peace so badly, but we are running out of time, for once, and I must ask you... if we go against the Volturi – not just to demand they listen to us, but actually fight them – will you fight with us?"

Yes, my thoughts answered before I thought it fully through. They were family, the Cullens, in some twisted way, and werewolves were created to destroy vampires. What could be better then destroying the leaders of the vampire world? But, my mind remembered too late, the pups haven't been in a fight before, and Leah is somewhat... incapacitated 'cause of the twins. And not all the witnesses you have gathered will fight, I know that much, if it comes to that.

"If it comes to it, even Carlisle will fight. Tanya and hers will not abandon us again. Peter and Charlotte will stay, as will the Amazonians and the Irish, I think. At least one of the nomads will as well, and Benjamin may go against Amun and stay, as will his mate if that happens. That will give us another dozen or so fighters. We may have a chance."

"And if we somehow succeed?" Will you be Lord of the Mosquitoes then? Will you go to Italy and take over their castle, or will you build one here? Will you suffer other vampires to drink human blood if you're in charge, or will you be prepared to fight with them too?

"If it comes to that..." he trailed off. And after a while he left, not having said anything more.

I wanted to talk to Leah, who had a better grasp of vampire politics than I did – again, thanks to Kate – but I couldn't begrudge her her day with her mom. The pack had rather been monopolizing her time, and she really did need the rest. I mean, if it came to fighting, I knew we would stand beside the Cullens, but win or lose that fight, I could not see any positive outcome. Blood-sucker HQ, right here in Forks? Of course, the other option might be death for all of us, so I supposed that wasn't the best outcome either. But leading people lead you to doing things you never thought you'd do, like protect leeches, leaving your home behind. Like telling your English teacher you turn into a wolf. Like getting arrested with Sam Uley, who if things had gone the way they had in the past, would have been my Beta and ostensibly my friend... I mean, our great-grandfather's were like cousins and Alpha/Beta in the old pack.

But it was no use trying to figure out the past or the future. That was one of Leah's rules that I'd gratefully adopted. You couldn't change the past or anticipate the future; all you can do is deal with the now. And now I was on the edge of a battle no one might survive, not knowing what to do or what was right, with only a vague nagging feeling in the back of my mind that, no matter what I did, a little part of it would always be wrong.

The First...