"To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto,
the least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting
themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem."
Douglas Adams The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Chapter Two, Bet
When we got to the old church, everyone was already there. Everyone being The Elders and the La Push pack, plus Judith and Zack waiting for us on the steps.
"Aunt Leah, Sam and them," Judy said, only the red rimming about her gold-flecked eyes giving away that something might not be a hundred percent right with her, "went in 'bout two minutes ago. Heard some raised voices from inside, but nothing that we could make out."
Eloquently, "Shit," I offered, running my hands through my hair and, when that failed, I turned to Quil and started trying to finger comb his.
"What the fuck, Lee?" he said, wiggling away from me, looking at me like I was going insane. Maybe I had.
"Hair cuts. After this is over, we're all getting hair cuts."
"Sure, sure. Let's just settle for trying not to get into a fist fight with Sam's pack."
"Or phasing," I added, pulling the long jacket Alice had sent me to the funeral with out of the car and wrapping it around me even though it made me feel like I was running a fever, for some reason not wanting the other pack to see I was pregnant, though Mom and Billy had probably told anyone who'd asked and most of those who hadn't. This thought didn't help any, and I went up to Jake and tried to make sure he looked presentable. "Or maiming anyone. Or-"
Jake grabbed the hand that was trying to straighten his collar. "You really need to get a different nervous habit, Lee. Promise me you'll behave yourself?"
"I always behave," I frowned. "It's them that get their noses bent all out of whack and start attacking me..."
He rolled his eyes and kissed my forehead – the only part of me he could easily reach. "That's all I ask." He still held my hand though, using it to pull me closer in the way I noticed he did whenever he was in that jealous, Alpha-male mode. I might've complained, but he was warm and scared too, and I couldn't deny wanting to be near him in the first place. Jake turned to the pups. "Whatever happens, you behave yourselves too. Stay with Quil. You keep an eye on them, alright? Good. Everyone ready?"
We all nodded.
"Well then..." he took a deep breath and tightened his arm around my waist, then headed into the church without another word. A tingle of fear formed in my throat, trembling down my chest; I knew it was wrong to be almost more scared of The Elders than I'd been of The Volturi, but those were the facts when you got down to the brass tacks of it all. The Volturi, we knew, were just aiming to kill. Our parents could do much, much worse.
Mom, Old Quil, and Billy were sitting towards the back of the room, the cheap plastic arbour pushed back against the far wall, a folding table in front of them. There was nothing on the table but a couple bottles of water and, oddly enough, a dictionary. On the left were ten chairs, two rows of four at the back and a row of two towards the centre; on the right was the same set up, only Sam and Jared were in the front seats, with Paul, Colin, and Brady in the middle and their pups – John Ericsson, Tim Morton, and Jimmy Ballard, I'd later learn – in the last. Our pack mimicked them unconsciously, Judy and Zack taking the back row, me and Jake the front and, obviously, everyone else the middle.
I crossed my arms in front of me. I didn't like this. I don't know what pipe dream The Elders are smoking now, but I know it's going to end badly. I wanted to shoot them dirty looks, but seeing as how The Elders are my mom, my father-in-law, and my husband's great-uncle, I decided this was probably a bad idea. I settled for glaring at Sam's feet instead. Stupid feet. Stupid pretender Alpha. I so needed to think up a better nickname for him than Kate's Esau. I think I'll stick with Idiot for now.
"So," said Jake, turning in his chair towards our parents and Old Quil, "how're things?"
Lightly, "You'd know, son, if you visited an old man more often."
Shrugging, "Rules are rules." Yeah, rules we created dingbat. Sometimes I really worried about Jake, I really did.
Old Quil decided to interrupt before Billy could start talking about cookies, which, while delicious, had very little to do with why we were here, unless The Elders had decided we should mask our werewolf activities as rival girl scout troops. Last I heard, people thought that our pack at least was doing some neo-native, Quileute revival thing out in the woods, complete with big-house and totem poles. Vaguely right, I supposed; they just hadn't gone back far enough with their idea of now "native" we'd gone. And I'd kill for a cookie now. Aren't the stupid cravings supposed to have stopped by now? Stupid pregnancy. Stupid Jake for getting me pregnant. Stupid me for trying to sleep in the Rabbit on the way back from Seattle. "That's rather why we're here. We'd rather like to know what the vampires are doing, now that their fighting is over."
I contained a snort. Over? Sure, the war may be over, but obviously they'd never seen leeches duelling over the remote.
"They've rather got their hands full figuring out who's going to rule their world now that the Volturi are too extra-crispy to do so."
"You'd think," Jared mumbled from across the room, "that they'd have thought about it before their little revolution."
"Well," I snapped, "you'd've hoped Kim would've given some thought about alternatives, like maybe a nunnery, before letting you imprint upon her."
Paul added his two cents, "Well, at least Kim's not a crazy, neutered bitch like you." Too bad his two cents was probably the only cash he had. We were doing all the hard work of protecting the Rez; you'd think theirs would go out and get jobs or something and stop living in, I dunno, their girlfriend's father's house for instance.
"Least she's got more balls than you," Quil said almost casually, examining his watch. If he got any more patient, I swear he'd be running backwards sometimes. Well, I guess you gotta be patient to wait fifteen years for your imprint to grow up... He's going to have major issues by that point. And maybe a cartoon fetish. "Poor Rachel. She must be a great actress, though, to get through a night with you."
"Least he's not a paedophile."
"Least he's not a snot-drinking, ass-raping, monkey-fondling shit-head like you."
"Which," Mom said loudly, in the way moms have of being able to be heard above arguments, "brings us to our next order of business. This two packs thing is getting ridiculous."
Sam the Idiot, going rather bug-eyed, looked at her. "Forgive me, Mrs. Clearwater, but we were never meant to protect bloodsuckers."
"No," Jake snarled, "we were meant to keep people safe, not try and kill innocent children."
"Bella's spawn is no more innocent than Leah is."
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" I yelled, jumping to my feet. Sure, I might've spent the better part of last night fucking around with Jake in semi-public places, but that didn't make me a whore. I mean, it's not like we weren't a) married or b) adults, sort of, or c) … well, I don't have a "c," nor am I sure they know more than Jake and I got engaged (I'm still trying to figure that one out myself), but still. Adults, people!
Jake was not a moment behind me, as were the pack, lupine growls poring from our human throats as, oddly enough, they decided to defend my "honour" or some other such shit as that, and were met by the other pack growling right back at them. "Lee, let me handle it," Jake said without looking at me, putting a hand on my shoulder and pushing, forcing me to sit back down. Stupid (incredibly hot and sweet and annoying) Alpha. Taking an angry pace forward, until he was right in front of The Grand Idiot himself, Jake hissed, "What the fuck is that supposed to mean, Uley?"
"She protected the thing."
"So did I!"
Subversively, I said from my seat, "Nessie's not a thing. There's a whole sub-species of human-vampire hybrids." Well, five, but still. "'Sides, I like her twenty times more than I ever did you."
Seth, whispering from behind me, "I don't think that's helping."
"Oh, go watch Sesame Street."
"God's sake, Jake, she's not even a year old yet and already had a war fought over her. You need to stop mooning over Bella Swan and realize she and her child are evil-"
"I think you need to get your head out of your ass, Uley."
Mooning over Bella Swan my ass. "I think we need to kick it further up until he finds his brains somewhere in there."
"Boys," Billy said, "can't we leave everyone's asses where they are for the moment and get back to the point of the matter?"
This "behaving" thing was getting on my last nerves. So I forgot all about it and decided to be my normal, bitchy self. Stick with what you're good at, that's what I've always said. "What is the point of the matter, Wheel-man? We can't fucking stand those jerks, they can't fucking stand us, and if we have to be around each other very much longer you're going to have Wolf War Three going on inside your bingo hall, and, in case you've somehow managed to forget, they," I waved my hands generally at the boys, "shed terribly, so give us the low-down and we'll just be moseying along."
"Moseying?" Embry asked, leaning forward.
"Yes," I whispered back, "moseying. You got a problem with that?"
"No," he snorted, "not at all Your Most-High Alpha-ness."
I looked over at Jake. He seemed about to fall to the floor with laughter. Idiot.
Slowly, Sam half-turned towards The Elders, "As loathe as I am to agree with Leah," (loathe? I swear, if my mother wasn't here I'd ask him just how loathe he was when, the week before finals, he snuck into my room and all but asked me if I wanted to have sex with him. Then I would've pointed out that he took my shrug as a sure-Sam,-anything-you-want-Sam-you-big-h
Billy patted the dictionary. "I've been doing some reading about that actually." Pulling it towards him, he opened it to a marked page and, leaning down, "Where is it? Ah, here. Alpha. It says a lot of things, but basically, when it comes down to it, is says, '...one male and one female (called the Alpha pair) fulfil this role... the Alpha usually decides the fate of the group... though other pack members may guard the maternity den used by the Alpha female...'"
I looked at Jake as if saying, Please tell me your dad isn't determining pack policy based off of what it says in a dictionary?
He looked right back at me. Well, at least it's not TV Guide or Reader's Digest, which, while true, did nothing to help.
"Now we seem to have an excess of Alphas and two unnecessarily hostile packs. So here's what you're going to do. You lot are going to find some way to get along, and it's going to end, one way or another. Some of us, you see, would like to be able to have our children visit us every once and a while."
"Like that's going to happen."
I shook my head. "No, its quite simple, you see: we don't elect our leaders; Alpha is hereditary. Jake's the great-grandson of Ephraim Black, Sam is not, so Jake's like the Grand High Pubah, and what he wants goes. So what do you want, Jake?"
"Personally, I'd like to see Sam roasting over an open flame for what he tried to do to you-"
"That's not being helpful." Sweet, but not helpful. "Just decide something so we can get the hell out of here. If we're lucky, Esme will have made waffles."
"Anyone who runs out on his tribe is not fit to rule," Sam said, "his own pack or anything else."
"Runs out? Maybe you've forgotten that it's only 'cause Jake and us helped the Cullens out the Volturi didn't kill them all and come onto the Rez and kill anyone who might carry the werewolf gene."
"If he just would've let us kill the Spawn in the first place-"
"They still would've come-"
"-then they wouldn't have gotten Matthew Mora killed."
I leapt out of my seat and stalked over to Sam. "Cheap blow, Mr. Let-Me-Run-My-Mouth-Off-About-Things-I-D
To my surprise, he did. As did the rest of his pack.
"See?" I said, gathering my sarcasm to me. "Simple. Jake's in charge, which means I'm in charge, and I'm dead hungry, so let's get out of here."
Jake shook his head, and nodded. "It'll probably be best if do go. I'll like send our demands or something by mail... 'cause I don't think staying here is going to end well. By Dad, Mrs. Clearwater, Mr. Ateara." Once we were outside, he started to laugh. "That's why I love you, Leah."
Confused and, yes, very hungry, "'Cause I yell at people?"
"'Cause life's never boring with you around."