"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right."
Salvor Hardin in Isaac Asimov's Foundation
Chapter Nine, Teth
"I'm not going."
"You agreed to go."
"No, I didn't."
"Well, Alice agreed for you."
"I hate Alice."
"You just told her you loved her." Indeed, the clairvoyant midget, probably Seeing the future of all her clothing disappear, had decided that the best way to keep me from flipping out, whatever the reason, was to provide me with chocolate often and early.
"She brought me chocolate pudding... you came up here and told me that Emily and Kim are throwing me a baby shower. Today. And that I have to go."
"You do have to go," Jake said, trying to inch the door of the walk-in closet wider. "Because I am going, and I have plans for murdering Sam by drowning him in the bowl of fruit punch."
"Really?" I didn't want to want Jake to kill Sam – it'd piss off Emily – but that hadn't stopped me yet. I tried, I honestly had, but the more time that had passed since his tongue-defilement, the more I wanted him dead... which made no sense, I know, but you know what they say about revenge and freezer burn...
"What if there's not fruit punch?"
"There will be. Quil called Claire's mom, and she's helping Emily set up, so there will be punch."
"And does Marissa know why Quil wanted punch so badly?"
"She probably just thinks that Quil likes fruit punch... She already thinks he's kinda weird. I mean, what other guy is content to just to watch cartoons with a three-year-old and baby-sit whenever, without any creepy undertones?"
"In fifteen years she won't be so happy when he's hanging around her all the time."
"Sue doesn't mind me hanging around you."
"Only 'cause there's a piece of paper around here somewhere that it'd be bad for your health for you to be hanging around other girls all the time."
"You're in rare form today Lee," Jake said, now with the door half-open and looking at me oddly as I sat in the corner of the closet finishing up the pudding. If he was surprised at my chosen location for pudding eating, he chose not to show it, but, since we were werewolves and not exactly the best at hiding what we were feeling, it seemed he'd gotten to the point where nothing I did surprised him any more. How awful. "Now you want to tell me why you're sitting in a closet?"
"It struck me as den-like."
"I see... Well, no, actually, I don't."
"Neither do I. I just thought, 'hey, that closet looks like it'd be a nice place to hang out,' and so I did."
"And do these voices in your head tell you to hurt yourself or anybody else?"
"All the time," I dead-paned, looking sadly at the now-empty all-too-small bowl of pudding. Alice had brought me after I'd stomped upstairs and burst into tears after discovering Embry had ate the last blueberry muffin, again, probably fearing that this would somehow lead to the the destruction of her clothes. And I thought terrible hormones were supposed to be better by now. Stupid, stupid hormones. "But then I usually end up hitting you or one of the boys, and the thoughts go away... It works out."
"Esme made more muffins."
"Embry's probably ate them already."
"Alice said he couldn't."
"Since when does Embry listen to leeches?"
"Since Judy learned your right hook."
"We had to 'bond' somehow. You know that she told her mom that she wasn't? Her mom, I mean? Told the poor woman that we were. Like we'd adopted her or something."
"Does that mean I should ground her or something for hitting Embry?"
"Let's just ground them all and save ourselves the trouble..." I sigh. "You really going to kill Sam today?"
"That's the plan. I even have a back-up involving garland in case Quil drinks all the fruit punch." He smiled one of his wonderful, boyish smiles at me that made me wonder why I hadn't just jumped him in the first place rather then go through all the rigmarole we had (okay, I could list all the reasons, from him being my best friends' younger brother up to imprinting and back down again to him being my younger brother's best friend, but still).
"If I'm going to be there – which I'm not – then Mom's going to be there. And if Mom's there, Charlie will be, and killing someone, however deserving, in front of a cop is generally considered more stupid then usual."
"Edward and Jasper have been helping me with that. We've come up with this wonderful distraction. I just hope they could get enough helium..."
"You're crazy, you know that?" I sighed again, giving in as he helped me to my feet.
The ride to the old church was tolerable, if only 'cause I got to sit in the front with Jake and Judy and the muffin-stealing overgrown-munchkins that were, unfortunately, my pack. That didn't stop them (mainly Embry) from complaining though. "Aren't baby showers like girl things?"
"If I have to go to this stupid thing, so do you."
"But you're like the one Emily's doing this for. You have to go."
"It was coercion, believe me. And if I have to go, you have to go to."
"I dunno? 'Cause I'm a bitch? Quil's going for Claire... so why don't you find yourself a girlfriend to pester all the time instead of me?"
"God, man, we know. She's only three. Whatever. Imprintee, child-bride, whatever, it's still creepy," Embry said, staring out the window. "These family things weird me out."
Seth, squished between the two, tried to ease the tension. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what he was trying to do. One never could tell with Seth. "Mushrooms weird you out."
"Have you ever looked at a mushroom, man? It eats things, but grows like a plant... it's like... a planimal. Totally weird."
And, with the discussion of how freaky mushrooms were taking up everyone's concentration, I was left to sulk (and feel carsick) in peace. Because I did not want to go to any freaking baby shower, let alone one in which Sam or any of the other La Push Pack would be at, 'cause I'd end up having to shower for ages afterwards, again... And I wasn't exactly comfortable with everyone staring at me, celebrating that I'd managed to get myself knocked up. It was like, hello, you can't just pretend that this time last year you didn't all think I was just a genetic dead-end, menopausal bitch who you'd be happy to have go away somewhere and never come back. And I hate Paul. And Sam. Colin and Brady are okay, and Jared at least is fair when it comes to things, and I don't know anything about their pups, but it's like, if Judy and Zack, who've been wolves the shortest time of all of us, are feeling wolfish-thoughts about similarly young members, then bad things are bound to happen. And they're all bound to be there, 'cause the list of females I know is like, five plus a dozen or so undead vampires, one of which is my mother, another is in Hawaii, and the rest are all the imprints or imprints' mothers. So I guess that makes it like seven in total, but still. Point made. And since imprints never go anywhere without their imprinters, and since we travel in packs...
God, pink streamers and annoying boys. I can see it now.
Actually, I can't. I've never been to a baby shower... 'cause Melissa's didn't count, 'cause I mostly spent it eating and ignoring everything around me. What I do remember includes a lot of pink, stuffed animals with pink ribbons, and an amazing cake. I was still friends with Emily then and would've thought that she'd have remembered how much I hated that one, but it's been three years and she probably feels like she's doing me a favour or making up for "stealing" Sam or something. She can't just buy me chocolate like a normal person why? Hell, she can't even send me a muffin basket? The note can read: "I hope these muffins make up for the general shittiness of the universe" and everything.
I don't want to have to deal with any of this mess right now... Especially the boys. Especially the La Push boys. I mean, my own are enough to deal with. I abdicate responsibility for all things not-me related. Jake can deal with it. I'm tired of having all these arguments that get nowhere with Sam and his and if, maybe, we actually could agree on the fact we needed one Alpha and one pack...
Maybe if I pretend to faint like halfway through? Or, no, fake contractions... I can only pull that one like once before they get wise to it, but maybe... Judy likes me. Maybe I can get her to pretend to faint... anything to get out of this. I've said it once, I've said it again: a party without vodka is not a party I want to attend.
Even if it might be nice to talk to a girl who isn't a blood-drinking parasite. I'd enjoyed talking to Emily – for a while, before she started getting overly girly – and it'd be nice to see Rachel, who really was okay except for the whole Paul thing, wasn't that bad. And Mom would probably be there...
But, if we really are growing feral-
"...cannibalism is never the answer."
This comment, naturally, shocked me out of my thought-stupor. Jake was leaning next to my, open, door, looking very amused and not at all surprised that I wasn't getting out. I was rather surprised we were hear already... I had rather expected, in my brooding, for it to take lifetimes. "Wha-?" I paused, spat out the hair I hadn't realized I'd been chewing on, and glared up at him. My stomach was doing anxious flip flops,
"I know you don't want to do this, but we have to work on inter-pack relations somehow. We can't just go around growling and fighting all the time. One of these days someone is going to get hurt..." and he saw my face fall at that. "Oh, Lee, I-"
"I know," I said, getting to my feet and, because it felt right, burying my face in his shoulder. Even though he'd not expected the gesture, Jake's arms were around me in an instant. "I know I'm being stupid, but there's something inside of me telling me that this is a bad idea. A really, really, really bad idea."
I could feel him smiling into my hair as he held me, standing like that by the Rabbit, passenger door still open, all the passengers gone inside to what could best be called their doom. "Whatever you say, Obi-Wan."
But I pouted. "It's not funny, Jake. I just feel like I want to go hide in a hole until everyone has sorted everything out – and I never feel that way. But it's like... Well, I dunno what it's like, but I don't want to me here... I know! We're alone now, with a back seat all to ourselves..."
It was an all out snort of laughter this time. "As tempting as that sounds, Lee-"
"I knew it," I fake-sobbed, surprised to find myself giving off real tears. Stupid hormones. Stupid sped-up pregnancies. Stupid werewolf genes. Nothing to commend them at all – at least, I felt at the moment, not to their female constituents. "You think I'm-"
"You've got real issues," he said with a laugh, pulling back and shutting the car door at last, "you know."
Rolling my eyes, "You just know how to sweet-talk a girl, don't you?"
"Yes, and I happen to know there'll be chocolate cake inside, so it's not a total loss." He dragged me into the party with this and, leaving me in Mom's company while he went to make sure the pups stayed separated from each other. That was kinda amusing to watch, how the boys split up, each pack to their own corners of the room in some travesty of a middle school dance, but Mom was all over me with questions of the sorts I guessed people asked in situations like this, so I didn't much chance to actively mock.
"I do hope you'll figure something out soon," Mom said, looking like she was going to wax philosophical on the wonders of her "baby girl" having babies of her own if we didn't head her off. "I worry about you sleeping outside in weather like this."
I shrugged. It didn't really matter, since we weren't affected by the cold, but try telling that to Mom. "The Cullens have been good about letting us crash at their place. It used to just be the porch, but we're slowly taking over one of the rooms on the third floor... I think we'll have most of it conquered before the year is out."
"You intend to stay there, then?"
"Well, it's not like they don't have more than enough space..."
"Well, Charlie and I were thinking we could redo your room – it's not like we need two houses, and his is closer to the station..."
I wasn't concentrating on the conversation so much as watching the people around me, keenly aware of my packmates and more so, if possible, of the potential enemies. Mom surely wasn't noticing every time John ducked a little too close for comfort, or how even Quil would look up every few minutes from his corner, where he and Claire were doing whatever an almost-eighteen-year-old werewolf and his fourish imprintee do, to update his mental map of where the other pack was. So it was that I took a moment to realize what it was being said. "Oh, Mom, you shouldn't-"
"Well, like I said, it's not like we can use two houses."
"Yes you can. You can sleep in one one night, the other the next, or switch off weekly."
A frown creased her face. It was odd to see it there, happiness all but enveloping her ever since Charlie had proposed... I hadn't asked questions, but, God, it was creepy. Now, though, seeing her look sad seemed wrong somehow, and, for a moment, the old fear – that I'd ruin everyone around me – stirred sourly in my stomach. "Don't you want to live on the reservation then?"
With a forced smile, "Don't you?"
The one she returned me was real, though. "Reservation life isn't for Charlie."
"Hmm," I said, imagining Charlie at one of the bonfires... and then, chuckling, "you never know. The Swan family is very odd. He could be the next been shaman if you tried."
"And be the wife of a shaman? Never, Leah dear: too much entertaining for my tastes."
"Hypocrite. You love parties."
"Yes, but I hate cleaning up after them. And this was all Emily. And a little bit of Kim, Rachel, and Melissa." I'd noticed. Thank God they all had the sense to, for the moment, leave me with my mother. "You have such a way of making me feel old."
I said nothing to that, and instead looked with weariness upon the gift table, upon which, to my dismay, Seth was putting a life-sized stuffed wolf, complete with pink ribbon. I'd've thought Mom, of all people, would've realized you needed money and stuff to have a house of your own, and, with our distinct lack of pecuniary income, our ability to run a household became zero. After a moment, "I still need you, Mom. I mean, for the obvious, how am I supposed to know what you do with babies without you?"
Laughing, "Honey, you don't do anything with them."
It was my turn to frown. "Fine then. Be that way. See if I care. I guess I just won't tell you about Seth's girlfriend."
"Ruth Huntley? Everyone knows about that already."
Stupid Rez rumour mill. Take all the fun out of life, why don't it? "Ah, but I have details. For instance-"
"Leah!" Seth shouted, running over to clamp his hand over my mouth before I could say anything more. "Don't listen to her, she- Hey!" he shouted girlishly, pulling his hand back suddenly. "You bit me."
"You were asking for it, baby brother."
"See how mean she is, Mom?"
I rolled my eyes, and went back to watching the boys. "Isn't this supposed to be my party? Doesn't that mean you have to be nice to me?"
"I'm always nice. 'Sides, this isn't your party: it's the twins."
"And since I'm the one whose insides their clawing up- Seth, do me a favour and drag Jake away the punch bowl, will you?"
I guess Jake had informed Seth of his plan too, 'cause my brother didn't question me. Rachel, who'd been drawn over by the his earlier shouting, though, looked at me oddly. "I'm trying to keep your brother out of jail."
"No – Emily was right, you look like you swallowed a balloon. I didn't believe her at first, but... you can't really be only three months along."
"Oh, believe me, it's less than that. The popular money's on April, and I've Jasper's number programmed in if you want to place a bet..."
"No, that's okay... I just had to see it with my own eyes. Jesus H. Christ, Lee, you and my brother... I'll have you know when I called Becca-"
"You told your sister!" That pulled me away from the rather heated, whispered discussion Seth and Jake were having by punch bowl. "Holy fucking mother of God, woman, are you crazy?" Rebecca, unlike her sister, had the most annoying tendency to share everything that was on her mind...
"She only squealed just a little and did her I-told-you-so's for an hour. Apparently she and Rip are visiting his grandparents in Apia next week, else she'd be here telling you so herself."
"And give her the pleasure of knowing she was right? Never. She's only been insisting on it since I was eight."
"She always wanted you for a sister." God knows why. But, with typical, child-like determination, she realized that, in order for me to be her sister, since I wasn't one naturally, I would have to marry her brother, and set about trying to accomplish this for several weeks until something more amusing occupied her thoughts.
"Never wanted Paul for a brother, though."
"He's not so bad."
And then the shouting began.
"-my presumption! Fucking hell, Uley, you were the one who-!"
"-into my home, our borders, what did you think I would do? Blithely allow-?"
Oh shit, shit, shit.
"-expect you to at least keep your hands off of somebody else's-!"
Oh, mother-fucking horse-throwing, peacock-gambling, squirrel shit. This couldn't end well.Chapter Ten