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


"...'I think I'll go to Boston. I think that I'm just tired. I think I need a new town,
to leave this all behind. I think I need a sunrise, I'm tired of the sunset.
I hear it's nice in the summer; some snow would be nice'..."

Augustana "Boston"


Part Four, ...and the Last

It was better the next morning, the aching pain. I didn't want it to be. I wanted the pain that felt like a heavy cold settling like lead weights in my chest, so I could not breathe. I needed the tripping beat of a broken heart to remind me that all was not okay with the world, and the sinking, sick feeling in the stomach that came with it. I didn't want to believe the world could go on without Leah around.

Okay, logically I knew it could, with gravity and the sun and spinning planets and all that, but I didn't want it to. I did not like the idea that I could survive without Leah, and damned if I was going to let her go easily. Edward had tried to find the flight they'd been on, but all we'd known was the approximate time it'd left, and unless he managed to get security tapes from the airport (which even he admitted was a hopeless task), he couldn't tell whether they'd gone to New York, Atlanta, or Seoul, the three flights they were most likely to be on, which also took them to major airport hubs so that, even if we could determine which it was, we'd have to go through the same process again there. It could be done, given enough time, energy, and bribery, but we'd none of that.

It was snowing. Not the three feet the weathermen had promised, but getting there, with no signs of slowing. Which meant the Volturi were coming, if Alice's vision had held true. Whatever the pixie was up to now, and whyever she wasn't here. She could be annoying sometimes, but where she went Jasper did, and he'd been in wars and junk, and probably knew how to fight better than anyone else here.

And we were going to fight. We might be able to make peace... but Edward didn't want to. No, that was wrong. He wanted to, but it was all kill-or-be-killed-in-the-long-run and if we could somehow get the Volturi to start fighting amongst themselves, or weaken them somehow, but the only way we had to do that was the knowledge Arrow or Arnold or what's-his-face killed his sister, one of the other's mates, but that was like two, three thousand years ago and for all we knew they were over it, whatever Edward claimed otherwise. Personally, I didn't think it'd work, but then again, seeing Seth's reaction to Leah being gone (as well as my own), I could see he might have a point.

We didn't go to school today, even though I think it was a two-hour-delay or something like that. None of us even considered it. The pups I sent to wait inside the manor under Kate's annoying but admittedly watchful eye, and the rest of us ran. And ran. And ran.

There were no patrols any more, just whoever running with me that had the energy. At first it was just Quil, in his helpful silence, agreeing with whatever I said no matter how idiotic it was, just to try to calm me down, but then it was Embry too, and even though Embry perhaps liked Leah the least of our packmates, he was quite vocal in his astonishment at what she'd done. And Seth... Seth came later, as cold and silent as if someone had died, and, as much as they annoyed each other, I don't think any of us had quite realized what the Clearwater siblings meant to each other. Even sharing each other's minds.

Edward even joined us after a while, moving like a blur beside us. He said he couldn't take the thoughts any more and he needed time to think around people who at least didn't think it'd, generally, been a good idea.

At least you have the rest of your family, bloodsucker, I remember growling. Bella sent away all of mine.

He didn't say anything, and that made me think he was a little upset with Bella himself. They'd kiss and make up before the day was out (gross vampire-love. Shudder), but right now he was more than a little peeved. After all, Bella'd only been a vampire for a few months, not knowing the decades or even centuries the others had lived thinking they could never have a child... Like Leah...

Stop that! Don't think that! Just think on the Volturi. Battle. Sneak behind their flank, startle them. Find some way to take out Ms. I-can-torture-things... maybe she can only use her power on one person at once? If there are enough of us, and we can keep her confused...? And what about the other ones? What powers did they have? Going against normal vampires is tough enough, but ones with centuries of fight experience? Hardly any of them are as old as the main ones, I bet, if what Edward says is true, so they have to be whatever qualifies as young for leeches... Does that help or hurt us?

Everything seemed dull and grey and cold and there was a pounding in my head that made it hard to think or breathe or do anything but be, but every time I gave into it and tried to rest, tried to think or sleep or do anything, my thoughts kept on running back to Leah.

Where was she now? Somewhere warm and sunny and hot, or on a plane to one of those places? Where was she going? How far was she running away from me?

No, not from me, I had to keep reminding myself. She's doing this to keep the twins and Nessie safe. She's doing it for them...

I could imagine getting off a plane somewhere in Africa or Australia, a place with large, burning deserts, where vampires would sparkle for miles on the sand... or not. It wouldn't be unusual to cover all your skin from that kind of sun... somewhere hot and muggy then, where people wore few clothes and it'd be unusual to find someone as pale or covered as a vampire would be. If she was lucky, maybe she could hide herself some sort of tribe there, some tribe that would never know what she or Nessie was but would see to it they were safe... I know all the "native peoples of the Americas" are different, but Leah always looked... (is exotic the word? I dunno. She's the kinda person who, if you saw her in a movie, you couldn't tell if she was Indian or Polynesian or Lebanese or some mixture of the three with a hint of English or French thrown in. She was just break-all-odds beautiful like that, more so because she could still look as amazing when covered in mud and other collected forest litter, and she was a sexy wolf. I don't even know if that's possible... for a wolf to be sexy, I mean, except to other wolves, but, as I don't know what they call it, I guess that's the best term for it. Nor do I know how to specifically explain how she is, just that, well, she is. I think it's something to do with the ears... and how amazingly short she is. I mean, the pups are smaller, but she's a good head shorter than me... don't ask me how that's sexy, but... she's beautiful. Let's just end it there) exotic. Like she would look native anywhere. And, to blend it, that'd be good. The natives might no she's not, but as long as she didn't try for Italy she'd be fine...

And she could be taken in by that tribe, or town, or wherever she found she could say in, and they'd be the ones that were there when the twins were born, and they'd be the ones to see them grow up, and maybe, after it's been long enough, after she thinks all of us (even the vampires) are all long dead, she'll marry one of those townspeople who were there as our kids grew up and forget all about me...

You're being melodramatic, Jacob, I told myself, but couldn't help it. I felt lost and hurt and abandoned, and if I wanted to be melodramatic, I damn-well would be.

Dude, Embry said, phasing to join me a little after midnight, Quil having given up trying to calm me down hours ago and went, ostensibly, "to school," which, in this case, meant to hang out with Claire, you need therapy.

Sure, sure.

It's only for a little while, I'm sure. As soon as the Leech Lords come and we kick them back to kingdom come, Bella'll tell us where she sent them, and we'll be able to find them. She'll be gone a week at the most, and I'll have all sorts of fun things to tell us about annoying people in the plane near her and the wonders of, I dunno, Brazilian teriyaki sauce.

...Or we'll all die and I'll never see her again.

One, major downer Jake. Go, get a Xanex, and work on being all peppy and "we're going to win" before you go back to the manor, and, two, he said with disdain, you're starting to sound like a bad romantic comedy – without any of the funny bits.

Dryly, Thank you, Embry, as always, for you're overwhelming support.

I know. What would you do without me? He was running towards me, going north along the border with the forest, But come on, Jake, we're worried 'bout you. Had to practically tie down Seth to keep him from running to the airport about an hour ago, finally realizing that it wasn't a cause of alien abduction or something... I think Dracula gave him something to make him sleep, too. And you're even worse over this then Seth is...

Gee golly Mister, I wonder why...

I could sense Embry rolling his eyes. I can't believe she left either – it's just not like her – but she'll be back. She'll not be able to stay away long. I mean, Leah's never exactly had sense of self-preservation or, oh, I dunno, much common sense-

Hey!

What? She married you, didn't she?

I went Hey! Again.

I'm just saying, that, good idea or bad, Leah'll be back. Eventually.

But Embry had always been saying that, I think, about everything. About his dad, about – okay, well, mostly his dad, but still. It required a faith I did not have that everything was meant to end up well. Life was not some happy go lucky '50s sitcom. Parents didn't always laugh at their kids' antics. Families didn't always recover from a fight or a misunderstanding. People died, not to dramatic music as they fought for something they believed in, or old in bed surrounded by friends and family and love and more poignant music – sometimes they were young and sick, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes the battles they fought and died in weren't the noble ones of movies and books, where sacrifice was honoured and something wonderful built from the ruins; sometimes they died just because the men in charge were greedy, or quarrelsome, or afraid. The days of speeches before guillotines and the hangman's noose are long gone, replaced by nuclear bombs and homemade bombs and missiles that could go for miles and miles... and you died just because you lived in a city the enemy thought if it destroyed they might win, or because they wanted to make a statement that had nothing to do with you, or they missed. People died, and people got sick, and people lost their jobs, and people left, without ever knowing why when you thought they loved you...

I couldn't be hopeful. What did I have to hope for anyway? I should be happy that Leah's not here to get killed with us, today or tomorrow or whenever the Volturi come to us in this horrible snow that I think a normal-sized wolf would drown in, and that she and our children are safe. I should be overjoyed that she's doing something intelligent, so that she'll live and the twins will live, even if I'll never get to see them. I knew that, if we went to war with the Volturi, if Edward got his way and we tried to kill them before they killed us, at least some of us would wind up dead. Maybe all of us. Maybe we'd all die regardless of the outcome. But God above, I wanted Leah here with me.

I remember Leah always being there, waiting haughtily with my sisters when they were in middle school and the rest of us still in elementary for us, so we could all walk to Old Quil's place, which was closest, and hang out for about an hour before Ms. Call came to pick up Embry and Sue came to pick me and my sisters and Seth and Leah up, and she'd drop us off at home on the way.

I remember her hanging out with my sisters, and even a little of the typical boy-having-a-thing-for-his-sisters'-best-friend thing from when I was like in seventh grade.

I remember her constant presence, the centre of the pack upon which we all turned, the self-styled "homebody" that had made the home we'd taken over, and gave us the mothering we needed and yelled at us when we were stupid... I remember how just last weekend she'd helped Judith and Zack study for some science test they had and how they'd come to her like proud children to their parents, when they got the test back on Wednesday... I remember so many things, and she was always there. Always! And now...

Vampires... I growled, smelling the sickly sweetness as the wind turned, coming from the south-east for but a moment...

Vampires, Embry repeated, and I could hear Zack, who'd been sitting on the porch at the manor, phase out. But not strong... scouts?

The Volturi didn't strike me as the type of vampire that sent scouts ahead, let alone from that part of the woods. I can't hear anything moving... Either they're just standing at the border, or... I didn't finish my sentence, because they suddenly came into view about five hundred yards in front of me standing by one of the larger trees on this side of the national forest: two men in Elizabethan dress, as still as stone.

For a moment, I thought it was the Volturi, and was preparing to lunge when I felt Zack phase back and, relating what I saw to the mind-raper, shouted, Stop! into my mind. Stop! Edward says they're not the Volturi. Carlisle, Maggie, and Zafrina will be there soon.

I let lose an angry growl. I couldn't even tear apart random leeches now? Okay, I knew their reasoning – they might be nomads sent by Alice and Jasper or something – but it would have done me no end of good to rip apart a pair of flouncily-dressed bloodsuckers.

"Well look what we have here, Stefan," said the closer as I drew nearer, Embry coming around behind them but still a hundred or so yards off.

The second responded. "Copiii de la Luna. But I had thought those nenorocitii italienehad killed the last of them a hundred-and-seven years ago."

"Yes... Caius Licinius Regillus and his incident with the priculici... pity it didn't kill him. I did not think it was the full moon yet."

"It isn't, unless the moon turns differently in the New World. Or, perhaps, we have lost a day somewhere."

"More like a week or so."

"Or, perhaps, Vladimir, we gained a week somewhere." Both their voices seemed oddly flat, as if "losing" a week was not something to be worried over.

"Or a month. It is winter, certainly, and we are in the north... "

"It is not impossible," said the second, Stefan, who seemed completely uninterested as I phased and I pulled on a pair of shorts. Now that I was human again and could see colours better, I could see both were wearing what actors in Shakespeare's plays always wore – that whole doublet and jerkin and hose nonsense – in deep, deep back, thought it looked as if there was a layer of dust upon their shoulders, like their hats, they'd forgotten to shake off, or was possibly just some odd silver decoration I was too savage to know a thing about. If not the Volturi, who are they? Certainly no one Alice and Jasper would find in South America... I think. But who knew with vampires? They could be long-lost conquistadors for all I knew, "that we have lost a year."

"I would hope not. If we have missed the fight, I will be most displeased."

"As would I. But as the unusual werewolf is staring at us most peculiarly, I dare say we are right on time."

"Oh, yes, the werewolf. I had already forgotten," the first – Vladimir, I think – of the two very pale, very creepy looking vampires said. And I say creepy in full knowledge of a large percentage of Tanya, Kate, and Irina's sex crimes, thanks to Kate's love of storytelling and Leah's inability to shut her up before details are shared. I wonder what Leah would think of these-

-and then I remember that Leah is gone, and will not be around to tell me what she thinks of the latest leech arrivals. She will not be around to share with me any of her thoughts on life, the universe, and everything ever again. I forgot for a moment, with the vampires here. I feel ashamed because of it.

But I remembered myself enough, at least, to play the Alpha. "You're trespassing onto our land, vampires. Who are you, and who sent you?" I hope I look menacing, but doubt it. It's hard to be anywhere near as scary in human form as you can be as a wolf. At least that's what Nessie tells me – told me. She's gone too now.

"Ah. Custes portae. We are at the right place then."

"Guard dog, more like."

"Still, it knows of our kind," said one to the other, in a very odd monotone, and then, without moving or changing his voice at all, spoke presumably to me. "We have come because the nomads have spoken of the Volturi coming to attack the coven here. We wish to offer our... services... to the coven leader."

"Even if he was," said the other more softly, "kith with Aro Sempronius Regillus at one time."

"We all have our little faults, Stefan."

"To be on peaceful terms with those that killedDumitru and Lizuca is hardly a 'minor fault'."

"But they wish to destroy the Regilli and their wives. That makes up for most infractions, does it not?" And then, probably to me (neither had turned to look at the other as they spoke or, indeed, moved at all), "We are called Stefan," he gestured to the slightly shorter, slightly younger (in mortal years) looking leech beside him with an almost imperceptible movement of one hand, "and I Vladimir. Where is the leader of the coven that resides here?"

"Carlisle will be along in a moment," I said, Embry hardly moving from behind the odd pair. "I'm Jacob, the Alpha of the pack here." And the only Alpha once again...

Carlisle was standing next to me no more than a minute later. The head of the Amazonians – the wild-looking Zafrina who dressed in animal skins and wouldn't have looked out of place in a Brazilian version of Tarzan. And not as the damsel in distress – came too, and, like Zack had said, little Maggie. Maggie, who was almost double Carlisle's age and, if I remembered correctly, knew lies when she heard them, or had a truth sense, or something like that.

"I am Carlisle Cullen, and leader of the coven here. This is Zafrina, head of the Amazonas, and Margaret Crogen of the Irish," the good doctor said, though Maggie looked a little off-put at being called her proper name. None of them, though, seemed too pleased to see the vamps in front of them, which said something, truly, about both the amount of time I spent with these leeches and how much it was probably not a good idea to be around Stefan and Vladimir.

"We know who you are," said Stefan.

"Yes. You are the one Aro Sempronius and Caius Licinius want to kill."

"We have heard rumours."

"They are gathering witnesses."

"Even as you gather yours."

"But theirs are to spread the word they have destroyed the yellow-eyes and their abomination."

"There is rumour Athenodora Ulpia Flava and Sulpicia Mucia Atella are being brought with the Regilli and their guards."

"Rumour has it that yours are to help you fight and destroy the nenorocitii italiene."

Carlisle, who seemed to understand what they were talking about, shook his head. "We have no wish to fight. We desire only to show the Volturi that they have been misinformed and no Immortal Child has been created."

Both waved their hands at this, and took a step across the border. "Immortal Child, no Immortal Child," said Vladimir, "it does not matter to us. We do not think you will get out of this unscathed."

"No one ever does with the Italian bastards. Our castles are still in ruins, hidden beneath the ashes of Dumitru and Lizuca and three thousand years of dirt and the contagions of city and cement..."

"There is a chance that we will be able to have our revenge."

"And a chance is enough."

Weary but welcoming, Carlisle led them back to the manor. I phased back. Those the Romanians, you think? I asked, yawning and continuing south once more.

Not to put to fine a point on it, Jake, he said, sniffing disdainfully at the place the leeches had been standing before turning and trotting after me, but duh. With a name like Vladimir how could they not be? I'm just surprised neither of them introduced themselves as Dracula.

Dracula was Transylvanian.

Transylvania, Romania, Tasmania, wherever. They're old geysers with a hatred for Italian food. Probably the Romanians they like to talk about as being the oldest. What do you think that means?

Three, four thousand years. Old enough to remember the hanging gardens or something – at least, that's what Kate says. I think. Maybe she was talking about something else... I kind block her out.

That's a long time.

Le duh.

He rolled his eyes at me. It was kinda disconcerting to see him do it, and see him doing it through his eyes. Damn hive/pack/whatever mind. I certainly wouldn't want to live that long. I mean, okay, you get to see cool things when they happen, like Star Wars or Pompeii, but think of all the boring years in between.

'Cause the leeches lived forever to see a volcano explode and a sci-fi movie?

I wouldn't've wanted to die without knowing seeing it. Or the new Star Trek. Or-

Neither of us had remembered Zack was still phased, he was so quiet. Matty's never seen Star Trek.

What! Embry paused. How is that even possible?

I dunno, he shrugged. Ask Judy. She's his sister.

It has to be physically impossible for any teenager living in America not to have seen at least part of one Star Trek episode. I mean, there are like five series with like twenty-odd seasons between them... and reruns on all the time.

I like the tribbles episode. That was a classic.

I wonder, if you sent leeches into space, would they be able to survive? Like without a spacesuit, I mean. They don't need to breathe and they don't exactly mind the cold.

I dunno. Would you rocket them packets of freeze-dried blood?

Maybe... or maybe they could eat the tribbles.

It was Zack's turn to roll his eyes. Who knows what part of the blood the vampires actually need to survive? And then the odds of the exact same haemoglobin or plasma or whatever evolving in another species, especially one like the tribbles...

Vulcans and humans could interbreed. Take Spock and what's-her-face from Enterprise... T'Pol and Trip's clone daughter... Elizabeth. That could mean their blood is compatible, and vampires could drink it.

Do I need to point out, I asked sadly, that Vulcans are not a real species...

Not that we know of... but if the point holds true for vampires and humans, why not for vampires and aliens?

'Cause vampires used to be human and aliens, well, aren't...

This conversation lasted the duration of two more laps around the border, no more creepy Romanian leeches appearing out of the shadows. ...I always felt Voyager had more potential then it ever actually had.

Four of Nine was hot though.

The women they stick in unitards always are.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

No, only that they wouldn't find excuses for them to wear those uniforms if they weren't hot.

Voyager was only just starting to get good too when they cancelled it.

There, there- hey, is that a car on the driveway?

We all stopped and cocked our ears. There was defiantly something speeding down the long driveway. Matty, get inside and tell Edward or someone, and stay inside, okay?

But-

What's the rule?

"Pups do not belong in war," he said dully, but what if it's not war, and someone ordered pizza to eat the delivery man? Can I help then?

Damn, dude, don't sound so eager.

And go tell-

Going, All Mighty Alpha. God. Take a pill.

I heard that young man! I called as Embry and I ran towards the manor, where the car was, inevitability, heading. Followed quickly by an, Oh my God! I'm turning into my father.

You only just now- hey! I know that car. It's the Audi. Didn't-

But I never heard what Embry said, my breath baiting as I phased and rushed towards the edge of the tree line. Yes... someone was getting out... could it? Was it? Was everyone right in saying that she'd come back, eventually? Had she come back already? Had she-?

She was dressed like I'd never seen her before, in pink and with make-up and such, but I knew it was her behind the camouflage she'd put on. I rushed forward, and when she saw me, she ran to me, leaping into my arms so quickly I had to spin her though I knew she'd hate it (too corny, she'd say, I just knew) so I didn't topple over, which is saying something about how fast it was. "I couldn't do it," she kept on saying, "I tried, but I couldn't leave you. We got to Seoul, but I just couldn't go through with it, and-" and I think she was crying, and I was holding her tightly and saying how I would never let her out of my sight again, and I couldn't get enough air because I was using it all to tell her how much I loved her and how I was glad she came back and how she could never, ever do that to me again and my heart was going wild as its pieces ripped themselves from wherever they'd sunk in my body and jammed themselves back together not all too well, and even though the snows were coming and there were probably half of the worlds leeches sitting at my door, I was happy 'cause Leah was back and that was all I needed to know...

(And back to Modern Warfare)