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The Mythical Creature's Guide to Manners and Decorum (3/22)


"You'd get things so scrambled up nobody would know who to fight any more.
You'd make a mess, a terrible mess, Finny, out of the war."
Gene Forrester in John Knowles A Separate Peace


Chapter Three, Gimel

I was woken to the sound of politics.

It was the first Tuesday after Matty's funeral and, as such, the first day the pack had gone to school since my Seoul trip, thus proving that without me they'd all be dirty, uneducated ragamuffins. After they left, I went inside to find Kate in the hope that, if she insisted on pestering me with any wedding details, it was to be cake tasting. Never did find Kate. I got as far as the library, moved a couple of dusty old books off one of the couches and something that might well have been an original copy of the Magna Carta, and laid down. The plan had been to rest (something that was getting more and more annoying to have to do as, according to Carlisle anyway, I appeared to be passing the halfway point of my pregnancy, never mind the fact I couldn't have been much more than two months along. As best as I could tell, the only reason he thought this was that I'd reached the point that, even with baggy coats and distracting hats, no one could think any longer that I was just a skinny girl who'd put on some weight) and then continue on to the next floor, but the couch was just too comfy and I was just too tired.

Thus my annoyance at being awoken by Carlisle saying, quite firmly, "...'the state of men without civil society […] is nothing but a war of all against all; and that in that war, all have a right to all things.'"

Tanya, with a sigh, "We've no disagreement that we need some sort of government, if only to keep us from being exposed, or true Immortal Children from being created, or from the business in the South from getting out of hand again, but we don't exactly have all that many choices on what to do. We've all been around long enough to know how power, if it doesn't corrupt, is abused, misused, misunderstood, and/or allowed to languish by those who hold it – so we just have to find some way of putting someone in charge without giving them power."

"What we need," said Kate gravely from somewhere near my feat (which, when I opened my eyes a moment later, was where she was. Specifically, my feet, painting my toes in alternating "Pink Desire" and "Blue Amusement" nail polish, "is to find an ageing, solipsist hippy, give him a cat, and hide him in an unprobability field."

"No." That was Ed-weird. Defiantly. No one else could sound so condescending – not enough that you could take offence at, but enough to let you know what he thought of your idea – with one word.

"Well it's not like we can have a democracy. Give a monkey power and the world will be nothing but bananas. There are what? Maybe eighty nomadic and southern-clan vampires? There's are barely a quarter of that many of we old ones, who know the value of staying hidden, who remember why we should not gorge ourselves in cities or make children into our kind." I, fully awake now and realizing what torture Kate was putting on me, tried to jump up, only to find my feet held fast. "Hold still, Lee. This stuff only dries so fast you know."

"Damn right I don't. Now let me go," and that's when I noticed my legs. Which is to say, what was on them. More specifically, they were brown leggings, as opposed to, well, nothing, as I'd been wearing one of my trademark dresses when I dragged my tired self up here. Looking up higher, I could see that said dress had been replaced by a long-sleeved shirt and some sort of weird dress thing that went from my thighs to below my breasts. From my weird angle, I looked like some sort of, I dunno, Robin Hood ready to go fight vampires in Transylvania. Seriously, I saw a similar get-up in a horror movie once. And I'm pretty sure it's title might have been Robin Hood in Transylvania; I blame the leeches. "Better yet, start running so I don't have to kill you in front of all these witnesses."

"Leah, Leah, Leah," said Alice, who I now noticed was sitting on the other arm of the couch and, therefore, probably the one who'd instigated this travesty, "we're already dead, honey. Technically it would be necrocide."

"Or re-murder," Kate added helpfully.

I growled at both of them.

Tanya, without even looking at me, "Just let them have their fun," sniffed dismissively and continued, "Whatever you may feel otherwise, Carlisle, in the case of our species any sort of democracy will inevitably lead to the tyranny of the majority. Our leaders must be installed and their power assured. No good ever came from letting people do as they would without giving them cause to fear the policeman lurking 'round the corner. In your goodness you fail to see how few are the least bit good at all; you forget that, where you immediately abstained, the rest of us fought with the devils on our shoulders and in our hearts to even think there might be another way. If we do not put in place some government that cannot hope to be overthrown, or at least one strong enough to make that idea too unpleasantly difficult for our nomadic brethren to consider. We are not angels, Carlisle, no one is. And if the fear and force are what is needed to keep us from becoming devils, then that is what we must do."

"Angels, demons," came a voice from behind me, which I would have jumped at if I could. I hadn't seen Garrett standing behind the couch (well, duh, I mean, I look forward, he's behind... but I hadn't smelt him either, probably because of all the other leeches in the room, "this is getting unnecessarily religious, I think. What has government to do with religion, especially one that, whatever ultimate truth there may be, has forsaken us?"

"Quisque suos patimur manis," the mind-raper told him, even as I managed to get myself sitting upright, if awkwardly, as Kate continued to hold my feet so my nails could dry.

Insult people in English, you bed-wetting, toe-sucking, porcupine-fondling pervert.

Apparently Garrett had a similar thought because, not a moment later, he asked, "English, please?"

"'Each of us bears his own hell,' from The Aeneid."

"Wherever it's from," he said, in a tone that made me remember the stories Kate had told me of her "Galahad," the Revolutionary, "and however true it may be, this sounds nothing more to me Tanya than the eact same argument the Volturi were using. They cared nothing about the death of a child – it was free will they were trying to murder."

"Free will?" I snorted, "There's no such thing. Oh, maybe for the little things, but some things are inevitable. Vampires and half-mad governments being two of them. Another being the fact your girlfriend won't let me go." I tried to shake free. "I'm not you're bloody pet, I'm a human-being who'd rather not be bored to death... I'll go play Go Fish! with Nessie or something... or clean your basement... just stop treating me like a Barbie doll."

"See?" said Garrett, as if he'd made some point, gesturing at me.

Kate – slowly – let me go, only to throw a pair of knee-high boots on me before I could slink out of her reach, "What we need is some sort of... polyarchy... where no one group can suppress the others, as The Volturi did, but enough so as to enforce the rules that we all agree must be enforced: secrecy, safety, and security."

"A council," Carlisle agreed, speaking up once more, "where none rule so much as carry out the laws."

"Not a triumvirate – that would be too few," Tanya continued, "nor a decemvirate – too many, but a... pentumvirate?"

"But who would be the five?"

"Zafrina, Siobhan, Carlisle, and myself – and to settle any disputes that may arise between us, we could find a nomad, any nomad, and have them break the tie."

"I am not sure," demurred Doctor Why-Do-I-Even-Bother-Pretending-With-These-Tests-When-My-Super-Vampire-Bat-Powers-Tell-Me-You-Have-(Insert-Diagnosis-Here)?

Edward, being Edward, disagreed, quoting, "'Covenants without swords are empty words,'" from some source the others seemed to know.

I left them to it, high-tailing it out of the room as soon as Kate had stopped buttoning up the annoyingly tall shoes. (Pause for a moment to allow me to seethe at said shoes, my feet having grown quite used to being unshod and vaguely insulted that they'd managed to find something in my clown-size. Grr. Okay, I'm over it. Mostly.) I was halfway down the stairs before I realized Alice was following me. "I'm not letting you slather me in make-up, 'do' my hair, or try to convince me that I should carry white roses or lilies-of-the-valley or whatever else you're thinking of trying to do, so save yourself the energy and-"

"Jasper, Kate, and I all believe you are developing some sort of neurosis from spending too much time here and not enough time with your human friends."

I glared at her. It was Death Glare Mark Four, and one of my personal best, if I do say so myself. However, it must have been undermined somewhat by the clothing she's picked out for me, 'cause it didn't faze her a single bit. "I don't have any human friends."

"Exactly."

"Where's Ness?"

"Bella and Rosalie took her to a park in Oregon, just north of Portland."

'Cause Washington didn't have good enough parks for the kid? I shook my head. "Well, where are my clothes then – mine, not this stuff."

"I stole it."

"Stole it!"

"For charity. Emmett's taking it all to the Salvation Army as we speak."

Snarling, "All of it?"

"Well, none of it fit you any more, and you were wearing holes through what little you had left, and patches were so Depression Era – so I decided to take things into my own hands."

I tried to keep from phasing and ripping Alice's head off, if only because Nessie liked her for some peculiar, Nessie-reason. "I am stealing the Audi and getting out of here until I can be sure sanity has returned."

"Good," she clapped like a demented pixie on a sugar-high – which is to say, exuberantly, while bouncing up and down and smiling a little to widely. "The keys are on the hook in the garage." And then she ran upstairs, giggling, I swear to God.

It's only when I'm in the car and heading down La Push Road to I realize that I am heading to the Rez, rather then, oh, Port Angeles where I could buy replacement clothes or, I dunno, somewhere else. I also realized that I couldn't remember most the time since pulling out of the Cullen's garage, meaning I hoped I'd not a) run over someone or, b) been abducted by aliens, though I thought "b" was a bit too unlikely. I mean, what were the odds that a werewolf living with vampires would be abducted? Exactly. They'd have normal people to be figuring out still before worrying about oddballs like us.

But more to the point, I was driving towards the Rez, where technically I wasn't allowed to go, with no idea of what my subconscious was doing driving there. Sure, I could go to the school, find Jake, and together find a broom closet, but that would probably undermine my whole "school is important" lecture and, while it'd be fun to piss of Sam, there's no guarantee if, say, I went home and hung out there for a while that Sam would ever notice...

Maybe it was leftover anger at being dressed up by leeches and having my own clothes stolen, or maybe it was because, deep down, I really was just a bitch with a sadistic touch, but this gave me an awful, terrible, wonderful idea...

Which is why, a few minutes later, I was pulling up to Sam and Emily's place.

"Hey Em," I said as soon as my cousin opened the door, obviously surprised that someone had bothered knocking. "How're things?"

The great thing about Emily, one of the reasons she'd been one of my best friends before she decided to play hey-let-me-see-if-I-can-French-your-boyfriend-on-your-couch-at-just-the-right-moment-so-you-see-us-on-your-way-downstairs-to-yell-at-us-to-turn-the-TV-down (I acknowledge that Sam couldn't do a thing about it, having imprinted and all that, even if I do think he's a rat-sniffing fish-assed used-douche-wrapper for doing so. I even acknowledge that Emily couldn't help Sam imprinting upon her, and that she probably couldn't help being overwhelmed by so much love, devotion, whatnot that people like Jared and Quil spill on their imprintees, and so her making-out in a severely under-clothed state before they'd known each other for much more than what I'd later discover was half-an-hour. I can even say it probably wasn't her fault that she needed that kind of love rather than, oh, want a better father figure than wonderful Uncle Eric, or maybe a pet, as Uncle Eric and Aunt Lisa never let her have one. But still. Understanding is one thing, forgiveness is another, and I can only do one of the two), is that she's not one to pester about annoying little details like, "Leah, we've not spoken to each other civilly in ages, what you doing here?" or "Why are you dressed up like an elfin version of that girl from Van Helsing?" or even, "Why are you on the Rez when you know that the pack in general and Sam and Jared in particular won't like you being here?" Oh no, Emily just blinked once or twice, pulled me into the kitchen and, putting a kettle on, commented as causally as one could in these situations, "Oh my goodness, look at you Lee." She placed her hands on my shoulders, held me at arms length for a moment, admiring the very clear sign of my forest escapades with Jake, and then pulled me in for a tight hug. "You look fit to burst. I'm so happy for you."

In case you hadn't noticed, I didn't have a plan here other than go-talk-to-Emily-at-home-so-that-Sam-can-know-I-was-there-and-he-can-blow-his-false-Alpha-gasket, so I settled for a, "You are?"

"Of course! Why wouldn't I be?" she busied herself with getting cups and hot coco powder from the shelves. We'd been such close friends once, even closer than Rachel and Rebecca and I had been...

"I dunno what I was expecting. I just had to get out of the leeches' house for a while – their arguments over what government they need would make a medieval philosopher headachy – and kinda wound up here."

"Well," she said, placing a cup in front of me, "I don't care why you're here. I've missed having you around. It gets so tiring being around all these boisterous boys day in and day out."

"Tell me about it."

"Oh, I don't want to talk about me. I'm boring. I want to hear about you. You're what four, five months? Why didn't you tell anyone?"

I shrugged. I really didn't know the answer to myself. Probably some wolf thing that I didn't know enough about to ignore. "Dunno. Still getting used to it myself. As for how far along I am, these guys're growing at like two, three times normal speed. Our best guess is I'll pop sometime in April."

"Guys?"

"Twins."

Emily seemed to brighten a full hundred watts. Why, I dunno, but I guess some people are like that about babies... Creepy. "Oh, wow. Leah! You and Jake must be so happy... Have you thought of names yet? Oh, forget that for the moment, we'll have to throw you a baby shower..."

Quickly remembering why Emily had annoyed me sometimes as well, I backtracked, "Er, no, Em, that's really not necessary..."

But it was too far gone. "Yes, of course it is. Just leave it all to me... Rachel and I were on the phone this morning talking about how you needed a wedding shower, we can just roll it all together-"

"Wedding shower?" Oh please oh please oh please tell me Alice hadn't-

"Yes. The invitations came in the mail this morning." She had. I was afraid to find out how gaudy they'd ended up being – or where she'd finally decided on holding it. She'd been talking about the Space Needle for a while.

Just then the kitchen door opened, and you-know-who appeared. He looks angry. Good. My evil plan is working. Mwa-ha-ha. Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Sorry. Like I said, been watching too many old movies with the leeches.

Chapter Four