"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion….
These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as vice from virtue.
Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth…"
Charlotte Brontë's Introduction to Jane Eyre
Chapter Four, Dalet
"What," he said as calmly as one could expect from a man undergoing an apoplectic fit, "are you doing here?" Sam was shaking more than a little, but time as a werewolf had long taught be the difference between the quiver of someone about to phase and the slightly less violent tremble of someone who was fighting successfully against themselves not to. For a moment, it seemed like he couldn't control himself, and I was ready to phase out of these stupid clothes and do the whole best-defence-is-a-good-offence thing, 'cause, whatever else Emily might be, she was still innocent (in this) and didn't deserve to be mauled (again) because her fiancé failed out of anger management more times than he can count up to. It was only a moment though, and soon the shaking settled down to the normal angry wolf level, wherein it looked like we'd a case of hypothermia coming on. I was glad; as much fun as tearing Sam limb from limb would be it a) would get me nowhere and b) be more than a risk to the twins then I was willing to take. And Jake was already going to blow a gasket when he found out I came here without him... but you just couldn't have two Alpha males in the same room together and expect to get anything done.
"Me? I'm trying to convince my cousin she doesn't need to throw me a baby shower. I don't want one, don't need one, and any party without vodka is a party I don't want to attend." I said this as flippantly as possible.
Emily, who was still sitting calmly next to me at her dining room table, almost snorted her hot chocolate out her nose at the memory. "God! The vodka bar at Beka's bachlorette party... and the chicken... in the..." (she had to stop here because she was laughing so hard she was coughing. Being Sam's imprint, Sam naturally did not like this turn of events and, quite gently for a wolf, clapped her on the back so that she could breath again, and pulled up a chair, seeming to decide getting into an apoplectic rage in front of the fiancée he'd maimed in a similar fit probably wasn't the smartest idea.) "Oh, Lee, I've not thought of that in ages... No, we're keeping you away from vodka this time... not that we'd have it at a baby shower but, God..."
"Werewolf metabolism," I sighed, turning from her to glare at Sam. "Embry drank like a whole keg on his own this weekend and barely got plastered at all. We're planning a scientific enquiry one of these days to see how much alcohol it takes for us to get drunk. It should be... interesting. Emmett expressed interest in joining us, so if you want to come see if a vampire can get drunk... It should be interesting."
"The big one with muscles. Got himself mauled by a bear sometime in the '20s, now spends his time playing video games and annoying me." And taking my clothes to the Salvation Army on Alice's request. I was going to have to fill all of his video game cases with jello or something. No, tapioca pudding, the food of the devil. Messier too.
"Ah. And why does he want to do this?"
"I dunno. Boredom. Velleity. Possibly a bet. They have a terrible thing for bets, the vampires. Last time I paid attention, the pot for guessing the sex of the twins was like five, six thousand."
"Dollars?" Emily asked, surprised. It was odd, having hated her for so long, falling back into our old routines again...
...I remember when I went up to visit her after graduating, during the impossibly long extravaganza of her brother David getting married to Marissa Bahokas telling her how Sam and I had been dating for like ever and it was just like... not love, not for me at least, but something to do, and then there was the sex and it wasn't even that it was uncomfortable – I read books and knew it usually was, the first time – or awkward or anything, it was just... sorta empty and her telling maybe I'd just not found the right guy. I remembered agreeing with her, and saying that if I could think of some way to break-up with him I probably would, though it was nice having dates and all of that, even if I didn't really care for him. I remember, when I saw her on the couch with him, my first thought was well, I didn't expect her to help that way. My second was how the fuck could you? and my third was something along the lines of get out of my house you home-wrecking, trust-betraying, couch-dirtying, frog-fucking, goat-tipping pieces of week old monkey shit left in the sun. Thoughts four through eight were mostly along this line, while at nine I decided I would sit in my room for a while and figure out why I wasn't more angry than I was...
I only bring this up because now, sitting here, drinking hot chocolate with my cousin and the person we've both fucked in our time, I can't help but think how much Sam must be hating me right now for that fact and that fact alone. He must be worried, in whatever part of his body that actually does the thinking, about how we're sizing him up or some other macho Alpha thing behind his back. This made me smile.
At the same time I Emily had spoken, though, Sam had managed, sounding somewhat strangled, "Twins?"
I scooted back my chair a bit so he could see the balloon-like bulge under my shirt. It wasn't exactly unnoticeable today, what with my lack of a Queen-of-England-esque hat. "Yeah. Terrible pain when they get angry and phase, 'cause then I have to phase until they decide they want to be human again, and sometimes that can take hours when I'd rather be, I dunno, something else."
Sociably, seeming to have decided that it was best to ignore Sam when he was angry and let him calm down on his own, "You picked out names yet?" She'd always done that when I was angry with her too. It was rather odd to see her doing the same with someone else, almost... I dunno, a violation, though God knew how long it'd been since- No, I knew that. Sixteen days exactly after graduation, and I was twenty-one now. I'd no right to be bothered by it at all. But I was. No one should be nice to Sam at all, not even Emily, not after what he'd done.
"Kate's been doing that – Kate's one of the Denali veggie vamps, and I swear has a disturbing story for each king Europe's ever had – but no, I don't have any names yet... Can't seem to find anything that goes well with Black... I like the name Dawn myself, but Dawn Black just sounds like a dyslexic trying to say black dawn..."
Sam, being Sam, interrupted, "You weren't pregnant last week at The Elders-"
"Of course I was." Idiot. Did it look like someone could get this annoyingly round overnight? "I just didn't flaunt it, did I? though I'm surprised Mom and Billy didn't have a parade in the streets when we told them..." Sam, anger, and brains could never be said to mix...
This seemed to click with something in Emily's mind. "You fought in a war," she gaped at me, "while pregnant?"
"That's so... irresponsible of you, Leah!"
"Well, they tried sending me and Ness to Mumbai but I came back..."
"Leah Jacqueline Clearwater, why on earth would you do that?"
"'Cause," I said honestly. Why not, I figured. It's not like I was ashamed I'd come back, "I didn't see the point in living if everyone I loved ended up dead." And then, half-hearing Jake's response to my own proclamations of my name, "Oh, and it's Black."
"What is?" Emily said, looking towards the oven for a moment before turning back to me.
"My name... technically." I was looking right at Sam when I said it, one hand resting on my stomach. "We got the paperwork all done on New Year's Eve... we're just holding a ceremony now 'cause Mom and Billy want pictures, and Alice wants to buy tulle... It's a nightmare really. Like one moment, I'm just sitting in their manor, next thing you know I'm being attacked questions about three different shades of lilac and if I prefer mariachi bands or jazz music or like sequins over lace..." Sam's face, as I said this, went from confused to angry, then infuriated at the smallest reminder of his twenty-four hours in jail, then blanched in something I took to either be horror or humiliation before settling into something forcibly blank and not-quite-normal-colour. "But, anyway, that's why I'm here – to escape. Though there are some lovely treaty details I'd like to discuss with Sam if he's feeling in a business mood..."
"Oh, that'd be wonderful!" Now was the part where I seriously wondered what I'd gotten into renewing contact, or something, with my annoyingly perky, almost always happy, and devastatingly kind cousin. She was the kinda person who'd've collected every stray cat, dog, and platypus that wandered her way if Uncle Eric and Aunt Lisa had let her. She also had the tendency to send baskets of homemade muffins to people on every occasion – weddings, funerals, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, engagements, breaking of engagements, rumours of sniffles, and because it's Tuesday being the main ones – and make the best brownies on this side of the Mississippi. She was also the kind of person who pulled everyone she knew into her projects, be they cooking, can food drives, or her ill-fated quilting experiment. Granted, I actually did like Emily if you completely ignored the whole Sam thing, mostly because she was a master of the one-sided conversation, didn't expect much from me, and was completely immune to the usual long-term effects of me bitching at someone – which is to say, usually not ever crossing my path again. But there is only so much happiness I can take in a day, and Alice and Kate have already used up that quota. "Rachel and I were saying just the other day how much we missed having you around, and Kim was really starting to like you when the packs split... and you know the younger boys like worship you."
Weird. Very weird. But probably true. I am like amazing. "Yeah, and Mom and Billy have expressed very loudly how they'd like to see their grandchildren – which is to say, often. So, Sammy dearest, let's talk," I wrinkled my nose, "politics."
"I think you made your opinions very clear last week."
"Well then, call it terms of surrender. Whatever. Semantics don't matter."
He huffed. Ness could look scarier.
Emily, standing, headed for the door, giving the excuse, "I think I heard the washer beep," when she knew full well we werewolves would've heard it if it had, which we hadn't.
Once the door closed and we heard another door click down the hall, the taciturn idiot burst into speech, "We made an agreement back in September, remember? Your pack stays off the Rez, and ours stays away from the Cullens. We've done that, so why the hell can't you do the same?"
"Our parents are here, our families, our friends... and its our birthright as much as yours. 'Sides, you can't ask twelve-year-olds to live out in the woods to fight Evil while there's another pack that gets to stay at home, at least, when not at war."
He chose to ignore this last part. "You left."
"Into exile, sure, but we're back. The Cullens can't stay that much longer, anyway, and we always said that we'd reconsider the agreement of ours when they left."
"But they've not left yet."
"Does Jacob even know you're here?"
"I'm afraid you're confused: I'm carrying his children, not a child myself."
"So he doesn't even know-"
"So what?" I said angrily. "I am his wife. Alpha female. Queen of the Pack. Empress of the Rez... and I'd make a grab for something else too if I could get Kate to send me one of her crowns... Either way, I think that gives me more than the authority to discuss some way for us to get along."
"Sometimes I doubt you're a pack at all, just a bunch of kids who happen to live in the same place and have the same stupid ideas."
"Of course we're a pack, dickwad. There's me and Jake, and we're the Alphas, and then Quil's Beta and he watches over Judith and Zack, who're the Omegas, and then Embry and Seth kinda make up the middle. If you come to your senses, your pups can join ours and the rest of you can pile in with Emb-"
Even if he didn't say anything, you could almost see his hackles raise at the suggestion that he go from being the punitive Alpha of the La Push Pack to nothing but a lousy Gamma in a reconstituted gang... There was even a slight change in the scent of the room, his sea and salt and fire scent getting, if possible, even more pungent, though it and the similar-but-not-quite scents of the La Push wolves already impregnated everything within reach of my nose. Emily's wisteria perfume was nearly gone already, though she'd been here but moments before, and my own pine and earth and, yes, milky smell was just the smallest of combatants here. "You may act like a pack and have you're own little patrols and rank, but at the end of the day, you still get your kibble from the leeches, abandoning everything our ancestors and our tribe have stood for for time immemorial so you can- can frolic with the bloodsuckers and cast off everything that makes you Quileute!"
I snorted. "I think the thing that makes me a Quileute is my heritage. Dad was a Quileute, and his dad, and his parents, and his parents... The Rez is my home, whether I live there or not. It's in my blood – literally, in this case, but still. So what if we get along with the Cullens and their friends? - so did Ephraim Black and Older Quil and your great-grandfather, Levi. Does that make them not true Quileutes?"
"Our ancestors didn't cavort with them!"
Cavort? Immemorial? Sam must have borrowed Billy's dictionary. Didn't make him any smarter though. Mother-fucking turd-collecting ant-sampling idiot. "If you just got to know them... Sure, Ed-ward is a mind-raping jerk, and Bella's still Bella, and Alice is in need of Ritalin. Or Adderall. Probably both. But Kate's not so bad and Garrett's okay and even going the veggie route, and even Benjamin is decent to be around-"
"Can't you hear yourself?" I blinked. When had I supposedly gone deaf? "Okay? Decent? They kill people-!"
"Yes, yes, yes, I've heard that argument from you already. A thousand times probably, but you know I'd be the last one to like the leeches, and I do. The Cullens are decent, and Carlisle is probably a better person than most humans I know, and the Denalis are odd but harmless, and they're going to be in charge – well, them and the Irish and the Amazonians, but the later are mostly-veggie already, and the Cullens are eight-and-a-half, and Benjamin and Tia might join them permanently, and Garrett's going with the five Denalis when they leave, if they can ever get Irina out of the attic... But the point is, they may be a little out there, but they're mostly good folk, and okay, so Stefan and Vladimir were half-mad or something, but they've gone back to Europe and are probably raiding the Volturi's castle for treasure, and Heidi and Felix are still trying to decide what they're going to do... But they're just like people. Some are Hitler-evil and taken care of, and some are Princess-Di-good, and some are bitches like me or and others are assholes like you..."
"But they still kill people. And they'll kill more, be it on accident or to change more of them or because they're not decent," this he spat, standing up and clutching the back of the chair he'd vacated rather harder than it was probably intended to be held, "and how are we supposed to abide by that? Kill here on the peninsula or across the country or across the world, if we have the power to stop it-!"
"Power! Is that all you ever fucking think about? Power over your pack? Over La Push? Over me-?"
He was not the only thing that snapped then, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"'Oh Leah,'" I said, adopting a shrill affectation of his voice, "'let's do this tonight.' Or 'I want to go so-and-so,' or 'So I'll pick you up at seven for the dance-I-never-asked-you-to-but-assumed-y
"Don't even begin to bring that up a-"
"I wasn't the one who fucking brought it up in the first place!"
"Me?You come into my house smelling like him-"
"God, you making this into another Alpha pissing contest? 'Cause Jake sure isn't playing, and I'm the hell not. Firstly, I'm not with you any more; I don't need to explain my actions to you. If you recall, you dumped me. You've no fucking right to talk that way to me," I raged, jumping up from my chair and feeling the anger burning, not just in me, but the twins. Not now, darlings; Mommy has some yelling to do 'fore the maiming begins. "Second, who're you to judge me? If you recall, I caught you making out with Em before you broke up with me, you porpoise-humping, ass-raping, cock-sucker, and Jake and I are not just together, but married, so if I want to have sex with him in a club or the leeches' car or wherever-the-fucking-else I might want to, it's my fucking choice-"
"Besides the fact you're menopausal-"
Holy maker of sliced bread, was that all he remembered me as: his bitchy, non-period-having, freak-of-nature ex? "Obviously not-"
"-I can't believe you were stupid enough to not use-"
"My own choice, Samuel-"
"-protection. Who knows what the irresponsible fool has been-"
"Jacob is not irresponsible! He's twenty times the Alpha you'll ever be-!"
"-doing in his-"
I stalked backwards a bit, reaching the counter and looking for something heavy to throw at him as I yelled back, "You may be the first of us, and the oldest, and maybe you know the most about the whole werewolf thing, but you were never the kind of person who could lead. Sure, you could force people to follow you, but they'd never do it willingly like the do for Jake. The pups love him. Seth like worships him. 'Cept for you and Paul and Jared, I can't think of anyone who hates him. And I can think of a lot of people who hate you, isolating them when they first changed-"
"For their own saf-"
"-not letting them tell their parents-"
"Don't you wonder what Ms. Call must have thought of you? Keeping her boy out at all hours, doing who knows what, looking like you took a year's worth of steroids overnight? 'Cause it was probably something like, 'Just like his father-'"
"As big an-"
"Oh come on, Sam! You know Embry has to be your half-brother. Look at a family tree – all the direct male-line descendants of the last pack phased first, for some reason the descendants of Levi Uley first, maybe just 'cause you were older. And he's the most like you, looks more like you than he does Quil or Jake-"
"At least now she thinks her kid has a home somewhere, where he's fed and told to do his homework. What about John and Tim and Jimmy's parents? Huh? What have you told them? Wonder why no one's come after you with pitchforks-"
"At least Jake told the Moras what their children were getting into. At least he let's us think for ourselves-"
"And," I said, having found no suitable throwing-item and holding the counter top in a death grip instead, I went in for the kill, 'cause God fucking knows I tried. I think I did. Having one pack is the only way to make everyone happy, 'cause, as much as I hate to say it, hanging around the boys all the time can be tiring and I don't have the first clue how to care for a baby, let alone two, and I need my mother for that, and Quil missed being able to spend more time with Claire and Seth could use being back on the Rez more as a chance to ask Ruth out and Embry I knew was real close to his mom, or had been once, and would like to see her more, and I was tired of all the inter-pack stress 'cause it made the twins act up which made me act up, "just so you know, he beats you in the sack by like a factor of ten, so, I'm quite happy we broke up, 'cause God knows if I had to pretend to enjoy it for the rest my life I'd have to be a better actor than Rach-" And it was there I had to stop, because of the hand on my windpipe as it pushed me against the magnet-laden refrigerator.