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The Mythical Creature's Guide to Manners and Decorum (8/22)

 

"It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the
young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been
instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded.
It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by necessity of selection,
and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness,
prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all
they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail into the body on the cross of life."
W. Somerset Maugham Of Human Bondage


Chapter Eight, Kheth

It seemed to me that every step we took farther from the destruction of the Volturi and Matty's untimely death, the worse Judith got.

The worse all of us got, for Jake seemed to have gotten it into his head (with, I must point out, Jasper and Edward's help, though why he listened to either of the blood-whores, I'm not sure, though it probably had something to do with the fact that, even without phasing, it was rather evident to those of us who knew him well that he wanted to reunite the packs now in possibly the bloodiest of all possible ways) that anybody who stuck their tongue in my mouth without me wanting it there was undeserving of their own pack as, in all likelihood, he was going to do something that inevitability caused one of them to get hurt or, at least, emotionally scarred. And Quil, seeming think this would somehow lead the La Push Pack to, again, somehow (I wasn't too clear on the logic here, if there was any) retaliating against us by doing something to Claire, had been involved in three separate skirmishes on the border near my cousin's house, though, thank God, they had all occurred when Jared was the one doing their patrol and Sam's Beta, at least, seemed to understand Quil's need to make sure his imprint was safe and had done little more than snap at him every time he tried to cross the border. Embry was okay, considering, as was Zack, but then there was Seth...

Curled up in my chosen corner of the furniture-less room the Cullens had taken to forcing me to sleep in lately, (largely so Kate could annoy me without using up cell minutes, or so I thought), with Judy tossing fitfully in her sleep next to me, I glared at my brother. Who are you and what have you done with Seth?

As he'd come into the room human, tossed his bookbag to the ground human, and, on the whole, was being very human as he pulled out his chemistry homework and was muttering to himself things like "12.358 moles" and "8.314 J/K*mol" while punching buttons on his calculator angrily, he obviously couldn't hear me, but still. The sad thing in all this is, I think this could well qualify for the angriest I've ever seen my brother, and he's pouting at at a Chem book. So I continue to glare at him for until, at last looking up, he sees me. "Hey Lee."

Don't you 'hey Lee' me, Mister, I thought at him, though, of course, there was no way he could hear me, me being wolf and him not at the moment. You're part of Kate's plan to force me into phasing back to human, so I won't hear when Jake and the others decide to go after Sam and his pack. I was pretty sure that was Kate's plan anyway. Well, I wasn't having it. So what if I'd spent the better part of the week a wolf? So had Judy. We were calling it girl bonding time. Even if it allows us to spy on what the boys were doing when they were wolves and we weren't with them, all from the comfort of the leeches' home, complete with soft, plush carpets and television. Well, it's not going to work, not even if it means I have to glare at you from now until eternity Seth Daniel Clearwater.

(I paused my ranting for a moment to consider all the different ways in which his name sounded stupid, why my mother had potential thought the combination of "Seth Daniel" sounded good – I think it was the acid she had to have been on while she was pregnant, because how else could my brother be so insanely happy at all times except now, when he was glaring at his Chem book, - and all the other bad middle names that could have followed "Seth" and she hadn't chosen. I blame Kate. Why, you ask? Because, shortly after the boys had left for school, she came in, sat cross-legged in front of me with a stack of computer printouts two inches high and, without further explanation, said, "Talmai, meaning 'heap of waters', which I think is an ironical touch, and was the father of Maacah, one of the wives of David."

(I'd blinked at her, then moved three inches over so I could see the TV screen, but said nothing.

(She continued: "Reuben, which is either 'he has seen my misery' or 'behold, a son' depending on whose interpretation you take, though it could also come from the Arabic ra'abil, meaning wolves, also ironic, and he was the oldest child of Jacob and Leah in the Bible..."

(At this point I looked at Nessie, who was holding the remote, who kindly turned the TV up so I could hear Oscar and Big Bird talk about the letter of the day. It was either Sesame Street or C-Span.

(But still Kate had continued, flipping the page over, "Simeon, or Simon, second son of previous Jacob and Leah, meaning 'he has heard of my suffering' and, if you take Sefer haYashar's account seriously, was immensely strong at a young age."

(Nessie turned the TV up louder, and I gave a lupine sigh.

("Dinah," Kate said louder still, "only daughter of above mentioned Jacob and Leah, meaning 'vindicated,' and, as I understand it, the name of your Jacob's maternal grandmother..." and so on and so on my annoying, yet, sadly, best friend, had continued for over an hour, until, temporarily giving up my make-sure-I-at-least-know-if-the-boys-lost-control-and-phased-in-school-by-being-phased-myself plan, I went human long enough to tell her how I'd no inclination of feeding her penchant for biblical references; how, if she continued to mention baby names, I'd name them Thing One and Thing Two just to spite her; and how she could pick the middle names if she wanted if it meant she'd leave me the monkey-flinging shit alone, but, God, if she didn't let me watch the damned singing muppets, I was going to go off the deep end, which in turn resulted in Nessie changing the channel to live coverage of some vote going on in the House and discussing it quite loudly with Alice's half-breed, Nahuel, who I thought, having lived in the Amazon forest for the better part of a century-and-a-half, probably didn't care the least about some random bill that wouldn't effect any of them anyway passing through Congress.)

Back to the present, though, Seth was back to glaring at his book, "Jake says I can't go see Ruth until I finish my homework."

My brother has a girlfriend. God, I feel old.

No, wait, that's wrong. I feel too God-damn young, that's what it is. I am too young to be married. I am too young to be den-mother to two half-grown pups and those two as-yet-born. I am too young to have lost so much in my life, or gained half as much as I have.

I have, with my brother's help, destroyed Alec, one of the prized child-guards of the Volturi, which is a plus in the adult direction. I've done other things besides, which should make me an adult, but...

I feel too young. Twenty-one is so very young. I'm only just now beginning to understand how much is out there that I don't know. Not things like all the state capitols or the names of all the kings of England – I used to know that, the state capitols, I mean, back in fourth grade, but it doesn't matter one iota about that, - but things that actually matter. For instance, the imprint thing. Still don't know why Sam (may fleas find their way up his ass), Jared, Paul, and Quil have imprinted when none of the rest of us have, let alone why they imprinted, why it happens at all, nor what it's purpose might be beyond something of the survival-of-the-species, make-sure-they-hook-up-with-girls-significantly-outside-their-gene-pool-to-expand-ours-but-still-close-enough-that-there's-a-good-chance-the-werewolf-gene'll-be-passed along. And a we don't even know if that's the actual purpose of imprinting. That's just what the Elders think, but who know how he manage to turn into wolves, let alone anything more than the presence of vampires sets it off. I still half fear that Jake will go off and imprint and leave me behind... which makes me feel like a stupid eight-year-old girl, because I fucking flew to Seoul and back to be with him and, from his reaction to such, I doubt he'd ever willingly leave... but imprinting isn't willing and has been known to break up perfectly functioning relationships before. I could go on with the list of things I don't know, including not limited to a) whether or not we were really going "feral," as Kate put it, or simply insane during all the escalating pissing-contests between various members of the two packs, b) when the twins would be born, and if, like Ness, they'd grow super-fast because they'd done so in the womb, c) how to take care of said twins, d) how to stop afore mentioned pissing-contests before the twins were born because said contests can only escalate and it had already gotten to the point I was surprised the boys weren't fighting in the halls of their school, and, e) when Esme would stop pretending to be the sweet, innocent, blah-de-blah-blah mother around here and admit that she was just as bad as Alice, or Kate, or Rose when it came to planning for my completely unnecessary, over-the-top, I-still-have-no-idea-where-it's-being-held second wedding to Jake, 'cause one was apparently not good enough for people who'd been around long enough to know the difference the camera made on their stalkerish lives. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to be a character in one of Kate's odd banana daiquiri stories two hundred years in the future. Knowing her, she'd track down one of my descendants, or one of Seth's, or somebody's just so she could say, "I knew your mother/aunt/etc when..."

Kate has been seventeen for a thousand years. I am older than she'll ever be, but...

I want to break something. I think that's the only cure. I am going to break something and it will make me feel less confused and less inclined to willingly watch Sesame Street with Ness while she skimmed through some book in the original Aramaic or Hebrew or Sumerian or whatever. I'll settle for Seth's Chem book, though.

I was just getting to my paws and preparing to shred the book – not for any good reason, but because I thought it had to be better then sitting here, trying to make sure Judy slept, keeping all wolf frequencies open in case one of the boys phased and decided to try and get themselves hurt, or killed, or whatever going up against Sam and the La Push pack; because it had to be better then sitting here feeling empty and...

That was it, wasn't it? I was empty... Judy cried, and I was empty. It hadn't even been a month since Matty died and things were getting worse for us... because Judy could barely sleep without getting a dream of her brother, with whom she was so close, closer than I'd ever been to Seth... because I felt so empty and shallow and useless having let my pup die, it was ridiculous, and I couldn't cry or anything because I didn't have the tears left in me to do so... because Jake saw Matty's death as something that had proven how we had to be one pack again to be strong, so no more pups would die, so I could be happy again... because Quil now worried more for Claire's safety then he'd during all the days we'd spent so far at the Cullens...

Halfway up, I fell back on my haunches, all intentions for murdering Seth's Introduction to Chemistry abandoned. How long had it been? Two weeks, six days, nine hours, twelve minutes...? I honestly had no idea, not really, but it would just hit me like this. Matty was dead. Matty was dead. The boy who had phased and joined our pack solely because of the leeches who'd come to help protect Nessie was dead. And I was still alive. I should be happy for that. Life is good. It means I get that house I want, that family, those lazy days on the beach with daiquiris of any-flavour-but-banana. Being alive means getting to live...

Yes, my life manages to suck on occasion. But it's gotten better. And, even if it hadn't, I suppose it was better to be alive and bitch-depressed-messed-up-crazy than dead and nothing at all.

Get it together, Leah. We've had this discussion... We can't change the past. Pouting won't make it go away.

You go away...

And meanwhile, in Judy's dream, I could hear her brother calling out to her, "Judy, Judy, why didn't you help me?" while he bled pitifully from a thousand wounds he'd never suffered. Eli, Eli, la'ma sabach-tha'ni? and all that – but, no, wait; that was Kate's influence in my head, and Emmett's, who knew a verse that could be perverted for any occasion.

Seth had set down his books by now and was looking more keenly at me. "I feel like I'm being a bad brother to you."

I blinked not just to clear my head, but in response to his bizarre comment as well. Seth was okay, for an annoying little brother who I spent all of my free time around (not of my own free will, assuredly, but still) and who just happened to be one of my husband's best friends. It was like a bad sitcom, only without Seth being a druggie, alcoholic, or human trafficker. Which was good in my book. Hell, he was more vanilla than Edward even. That was scary.

"I mean, with this whole," he waved his hand at me, finishing the motion by brushing a lock of hair out of his eyes, flushing a little. "I should've threatened him with bodily harm if he hurt you."

I was hurt? I looked down at myself. Looked like a dog who'd eaten a beach ball, but other then that...

"I mean, well, Sam. I should've-" he noticed me rolling my eyes at him. "No one else can be quite so mean without saying anything at all, you know. And, no, it's not a compliment. Are you going to phase so I can talk to you properly or is this going to be a monologue?"

With a faint growl, I trotted over to the closet, which was, thankfully, one of those walk-in numbers, and, when I came out, was in a pair of sweats and a baggy t-shirt that, painfully, read "Toothpaste is not a spermicide."

"Nice shirt."

"Go fuck yourself, baby brother."

"I love you too, Lee."

I wrinkled my nose, but, groaning as I slid down the wall, I sat next to him anyway. "I don't even know how we can be related."

"It's the werewolf thing that gives it away. And the fact we both got Mom's nose. You look like someone took a tire pump to you."

"Tire pump?" I shook my head and stole his Chem book away, much to his dislike, and flipped through to some random diagram of an ice cub melting. "Of all the pregnant jokes out there, you go with tire pump? Obviously, I got all the brains in the family."

"You married our illustrious Alpha. I think that's more a sign of insanity than brains."

"Don't you like worship the ground he walks on? Don't lie to me, I've been in your head. And what a scary trip it was. Thank God it was so short."

It was Seth's turn to roll his eyes. "I like Jake. I like you, most of the time. But the idea of you together still weirds me out. Like oil and water suddenly mixing or, I dunno, cabbage and chocolate or some- Hey! You don't have to hit so hard, you know."

"I do when that's what it takes to get through your thick skull. 'Sides, you think that's weird? The idea of you having a girlfriend."

At that my brother blushed. Like the-red-coats-are-coming scarlet blushing that, had he been human, would've had all the leeches in the manor running for him. "Ruth's not my girlfriend- I mean, we haven't even been on a date yet. And-" If it was possible, he went redder still.

"Seth and Ruth sitting in a tree," I started singing, just to annoy him.

Imagine my surprise when, from two floors below, I heard Emmett bellow out, "K-I-S-S-I-N-G," to be joined a moment later by Kate and Alice. "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Ruth with a baby carriage!"

"What they said," I finished, shaking my head at annoying, all-hearing vampires who had nothing better to do then gossip for the rest of their undead lives about werewolves and the odd things we do.

"So yeah, you were saying something about being a bad brother or something?"

"Well, yeah, I mean... Sam tried to hurt-"

"Defile," I corrected. "Just thinking about it makes me need mints..."

"Ooookaaaay," Seth drawled, "defile, hurt, whatever. I'm your brother. I should've threatened him with bodily harm after the last time."

I snorted. "Firstly, Claire could beat your ass, not to mention what Sam would've done to you had you tried. Secondly, I can take care of myself, and don't need you watching out for me. Big girl. Have the evidence under my shirt to prove it. Thirdly-"

"I know you can take care of yourself," Seth sighed, "but that doesn't mean I have to like it."

"Well, I know that you can't help being an annoying shit, but I don't have to like it either."

"Ha, ha, very funny, Lee."

"I thought it was hilarious. Is that enough 'girl-talk' for you, though, or do I have to ask Kate to paint your toenails too?"

"What's the rush? Jake's not going to run off and attack Sam all on his lonesome or anything while you're not paying attention. You can go downstairs and listen to the Cullens and everyone else talk about all the fun different ways they can run their government."

"If I wanted to, I could hear from up here. But I don't, so I won't, and I just want to go back to sleep... which is easier when there's a ten-pound weight under my fur and not thirty trying to claw its way out of my skin."

Seth looked sympathetic for a moment, then burst into one of his oh-so-annoying smiles. "It's your own fault you know."

I hung my own head mock-dolefully. "I know. Abstinence-only education has failed me too. I really must write that letter to our dear congressmen telling them how, if I wasn't really a closeted lesbian trying so hard to fight against her natural urgings because their church told me it was 'impure' and whatnot, I wouldn't have slept with everything that moved and how, if only I'd known about birth control and abortions weren't stigmatized, I wouldn't be becoming a unwed mother, 'cause their way of thinking won't recognize a civil wedding... Too much?"

"Too much. I think you've spent too much time around Kate: your humour's gone to pieces."

"Well, you didn't spend all morning hearing how it would be wonderful for the twins to be Reuben and Dinah Black."

"Reuben? As in the sandwich?"

"Apparently it was someone in the Bible first."

"You could always go with Seth..."

"Name one of your own God-damn children after yourself! God! Everyone with their own banana-fucking, monkey eating opinion... Well just see how you like it when you get your Ruthie pregnant-"

"I-" Seth began, but I was on a role now, and yelling was almost as good as breaking something.

"-and then we'll see who has to deal with vampires with baby name books!"I was all but shouting. Judy began to stir. "Now look what you've done!"

"I've done!"

"Don't shout! Judy's trying to sleep!"

"But-"

"Oh, go annoy someone else. I'm tired and feel like curling up in the closet-"

"The closet? But-"

"It's dark," I explained. Dark would be nice... maybe I would curl up in there... And, with that, I kicked my brother out and, phasing back, went to try to help Judy through her waking nightmare...

Chapter Nine