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The Mythical Creature's Guide to Manners and Decorum (10/22)

 

"I assure you from a God's Olympian perch that government is a
shared myth. When the myth dies, the government dies."
Leto Atreides II in Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune


Chapter Ten, Yodh

It is a common fact of life that boys, en mass, are stupid. One, separate from others, may be kind and decent and even smart, but, so much as put two in a room together, and they become blundering Neanderthals concerned only over who has the biggest club or could hit the hardest. However, considering how our phasing gives come credence to the legend that our closer ancestors were Canis lupis rather then Homo erectus, I should probably say they become blundering wolves, and I've never exactly heard of any sort of canine being known for its intelligence.

Homo sapiens lycanthropii, I was told Edward had named us the first time they'd been to Forks. Why Edward, I hadn't the slightest idea, except that I'd been informed that leeches called themselves Homo sapiens vampyrii by one of Linnaeus's students on his way back from Smyrna shortly before being drunk by one of them, and Carlisle had picked up the name during his stay with the now dead Volturi and adopted it himself. And why had they told me this, you ask? Because Emmett had decided to up his bet for the twins being two girls to an even thousand and prove to me he knew both biology and math in the same go by claiming, since there was already only a one-in-four chance that both twins would be werewolves and clearly were, as they were both phasing (painfully) in the womb, and chances of two fraternal twins both being wolves smaller than the one-in-two chance that identical twins would be. It was all very odd, and I was half inclined to believe his choice of twin girls over twin boys was as a result of "divine revelation" from one of his "religious meditations" that, inevitably, ended in front of the TV. Vampires were weird.

And werewolves were hormonal idiots, even if the ones in question weren't as spherical as I was at the moment.

"-hands off of somebody else's," Jake said, his voice loud but not a shout, firm but with an undertone of worrisome anger that all of us wolves recognized before the thought could be fully processed, and on both sides of the argument bystanders released half-articulated hisses and toothy snarls, "unless they want them there."

I was moving away from Mom and Rachel before they could box me in with questions, elbowing people out of the way with a scarcely appropriate, "'Cuse me," that, even months earlier, I knew, would've been a "'Cuse you." But I hadn't time to reflect on how I might or might not've changed. Reflection is for people who want to remember the past, and the only thing it has ever taught me is how cruel a place the world can be.

It took me a moment to get through, but I was at the centre of things before too long, not at all surprised to find Sam and Jake standing opposite each other, a good ten feet between them and half that separating them from everyone else, who did the mob thing and ringed them. Well, the wolves did. The few humans among us stood well back, wide-eyed and not in the bushy-tailed kinda way, much to Claire's obvious displeasure. I could see now that, for all his calm voice, Jake – and, for that matter, Sam, but who cares about him? - his skin was shaking with the effort to contain the animal within.

Then Sam shouted again, asking what on earth Jake meant by that, and I almost burst into chortles of laughter as the thought suddenly struck me that his memory was, quite obviously, as short as his stamina. You know what kind. I've spent too much time around Kate, that's the only thing I can say.

Instead of laughing, though, I slipped into place at Jake's side and hissed, "I thought the plan was murder, not another fight." The part of me I couldn't control (the one that'd be happy to have him kill Sam now, be it by fruit punch, garland, or fuzzy stuffed wolf) thought it was incredibly hot; the rest of me thought he was an idiot for trying to resurrect chivalry and deserving of some punishment akin to discussing flower arrangements or colour-coordinating cummerbunds with Alice and Kate for a few hours. The semi-rational part was winning, but the one that desired blood was closing in on the lead, fast.

For a moment, he seemed inclined to say, "First one, then the other," but instead settled for saying without turning from his death-glare, "For a guy who uses words like 'blithely,' he's not exactly the smartest is he?" It looked like Jake had grown again, for he was now easily two inches taller, or maybe Sam had shrunk; he did look far closer to Quil and Embry in height then he did my husband.

Husband. Still strikes me as strange every time. I don't know why. It's the word people use for the man they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

"Don't antagonize him. Let's just go home," I said, tugging at his arm and fighting the urge to say, "I told you so." Stupid boys. Stupid werewolves. Stupid imprints who want to throw parties for stupid reasons and won't let us have cake yet. None of this would happen if we were all full of cake and happily on our way home, sans giant stuffed wolf. Stupid Seth... They, of course, ignored me.

Sam started it, though: "This isn't the place-"

"So you haven't told Emily yet."

Did we have to relive this memory? And in front of Em too? No amount of evidence at this point would sway Emily against her soon-to-be (poorly endowed) hubby, so the only thing the words could do were hurt. "Jake, just drop it; he's not worth it."

"Of course he's not – but he's going to get someone else hurt-"

"I'm not the one," Sam said in a warning growl. I fell into the best crouch I could, given my odd centre of gravity, and was snarling before the end of it, "who got one of their own killed."

Bring up Matty, would he? I'd show him who's-

Jake put a hand on my shoulder, restraining my spring. "I was actually talking about you, but, since you can't seem to stop bringing up the fact, sure, let's talk about him for a while." Stupid mother-fucking fish-frying, flannel-wearing, witch-chasing, cow-tipping, trapeze-tumbling, treaty-treading, treasonous idiot-son of a filthy crack-whore and a bottle of scotch! Forget I said anything about not fighting. Just bring up poor, dead, Matty – and in front of Judith – will he? Does he have any idea how hard it is for her, not just to lose her older brother or a packmate, but to be estranged from her parents because of it? The girl is only twelve years old, for fuck's sake! The guy obviously doesn't know how to treat anyone, not just the poor saps who date him. "How about we talk about why, when you were fucking fully aware of the Volturi coming, you decided to let my pack handle it all on our own and went about your fucking business without so much as a thought that maybe – just maybe – the extra paws might help. How about we talk about what you can tell the Mora's when they ask why their son died in a war he wouldn't've been in-"

"Oh, yes," he said sarcastically, somehow managing to show more teeth than was strictly necessary, "Jake. It was my fault you chose to betray the tribe and become the leeches' family pet. If you'd just killed the half-breed while you had the chance, none of us would be in this mess right now."

The twins were clawing to get at the idiot. I wanted to phase, God, so badly, and rip Sam's brainless little head off for even trying to think the stupidity he was spouting. Matty's death was a freak accident, one that I was sure we were somewhat responsible for, but not entirely. Never entirely. Not like Sam was thinking. Stupid sadistic senile slippery smelly shameless sanctimonious Sam Uley. He must die. But, even as I thought these reasons for why I should give his shoulders a rest from carrying around that overinflated head of his, I knew it was the wolf who wanted to do it and was only waiting for the human part of me to let its guard down long enough. Must remember that Charlie's here and it probably won't be good for his job to have to explain why he let someone be killed right in front of him...

"First of all, Sam, if we were all as xenophobic as you, there'd be a lot fewer people around. Second, while I'm sure this may be a hard concept for you to grasp, there's a large difference between helping people and being their pet... but I suppose that's understandable for someone like you. I mean, can't seem to remember the difference between 'yes' and 'no' or 'yours' or 'someone else's' so I guess-"

"I've already-"

"Oh, yes, 'cause a half-apology really does make up for sexually assaulting someone." I was happy to note, as I struggled to straighten myself into some position reminiscent of a normal human being, Sam's face blotched a rather unbecoming shade of purplish-red. Jake, I was less happy to note, was staring down said ex-Alpha, meaning he didn't see the why-did-you-have-to-tell-everyone glare I sent his way. "You know how long she spent trying to get the taste of you out of her mouth?"

"I-"

"I don't want to be in charge of anybody, Sam, but, God, if you're going to be like this, I'd rather give it my best shot then let you hurt anyone else in the process."

The sound that came out of Sam's mouth in response to this wasn't even human, his body phasing from human to dark, utterly black wolf in seconds. Before I can so much as blink, Jake's phased too, as have Embry, Jared, Paul, and Quil, and I can hear a few strangled mutterings from human humans near the wall as well as an excited giggle from Claire, but they are faint over the lupine sounds. My eyes flitted between the tawny yellow eyes of the wolves opposite me and the pups (plus Seth, Colin, and Brady, who should count as ones anyway) and back again, before darting towards the imprints gathered by Mom and Rachel.

"Seth," I said softly, my voice tight as I clenched my teeth together, fighting the urge to phase and join my pack as Jake crouched defensively in front of me, his tail just brushing my leg when he shifted, "take the pups outside. All of them." My brother didn't say a word, just shooed them – even Sam's, who didn't protest, which I took to be a sign Emily was right and I was a goddess incarnate to them, whatever their reasons – outside. He knew as well as I did what would become of us if another pup got hurt, and God knows it wouldn't be pretty. Attempts to get drunk could only take us so far on the road to recovery.

The two Alphas continued to stare at each other, a wild sight amongst the streamers and the various other party paraphernalia. Its things like this that prove to me that the universe is out to get me: in a truly random universe, the pattern would be so random that it would have long stretch of time where normality held say. But, since it never did, I was forced to the conclusion that it was being manipulated with the intent of driving me mad. Stupid universe. Didn't it have anything better to do besides see that my life got the dirtiest end of the pig sty? You'd've thought it might've cleaned itself up after the Volturi... but no. That was asking too much, obviously. I spared a quick look towards Emily and wasn't surprised at all to find silent tears trailing down her half-beautiful, half-torn face. Or to see Colin and Seth's heads in the window behind her.

"Guys," I said, trying to step around Jake and finding myself being tugged back by Embry, who's teeth had a careful grip on the back of my shirt. I could tell when we got home we were going to have to have a long talk about their medieval tendencies and which grave to bury them in. Still, the shirt was a shirt was a shirt, and it was more than easy to tug right back and, with the faint tearing of fabric, be free. "Jake," I tried again, putting a hand on his wide, russet-furred shoulders and tangling my fingers there, kneeling down so I was eye level with him, "come on. Let's just go home."

His long stare, ending with a gentle lick on one of my cheeks, seemed to say, I know you want this as much as I do. I'm tired of dancing around this. Let us end it, though he had to know I was of the opinion that nothing we did here today could make things any better... and, probably, would make it worse.

House. Beach. Alcoholic beverages. Some peace and quiet. That was all I wanted. But was it too much to ask? Apparently. Stupid universe.

"Fine then, get yourself killed, see if I care," I huffed, planting a kiss on top of his head and staggering to my feet again. The humans were looking more than a little confused, and it looked up to me to play ambassador. Again. At least they were next to the food. Taking a stop at the buffet, I cut a plate-sized slice of cake and kicking up a chair, joined the highly confused imprints, parents, and assorted other non-werewolves. More than a few appeared worried that their loved ones would be hurt; Melissa, on the other hand, appeared to be vaguely appalled that I'd touched Jake while he was in wolf form. I momentarily considered illuminating her on the wonders of werewolf sex, then remembered my mom was a few spaces down. Still, I mused biting into the chocolate-chocolate cake, she doesn't know what she's missing.

Billy was the one to break the silence, rolling over and handing me a glass of punch, presumably to make sure I didn't choke and die while chewing and thereby deprive him of non-Paul-descended grandchildren. "Care to share with the class?"

"Sure. As much as I want the entire cake to myself, I doubt this," I waved my fork at the stupid boys, who were doing little more then growling at each other (no, I take that back, they were probably holding very tense, one-sided arguments in which they were trying to convince the other – who, I say again, could not hear them – how stupid he was) and making some half-pacing, half-circling motions, "will last longer then this slice..."

This didn't appear to be the answer Billy was looking for, so I commented for him: "Sam is having delusions of grandeur again... Jake wants him to step down graciously before someone gets hurt, but that's not happening... It looks like Jared," I jabbed the fork towards the dark brown wolf close to the black one who was gesturing himself towards us, then, around a mouthful of cake "is trying to talk Sam out of it, or maybe just remind him we're here. Embry just wants to fight – he's kinda peeved at the moment, has been since his birthday; we think Ms. Call told him who his dad is, but he's been good about hiding it from us if that's the case – and isn't too particular about who. Had the strangest arm wrestling match with Emmett yesterday... Paul, well, he's probably torn between wanting to rip Jake a new one and fearing what Rachel," I jabbed my fork again, "will do to him if he does, and Quil's just going with the flow. They'll probably continue like this for another few minutes, exchange some hits, and then someone will say enough's enough and drag this out to another day..."

Emily was doing a poor job of containing herself by this point. It was kinda embarrassing. "What did he mean?" she asked around the sniffles of a woman betrayed, "What did he do? Tell me, please-"

If the way he treats women is any indication, it looks like Sam's taking after his father. If Emily was smart, she'd recognize this. But people who make-out with their beloved cousins' boyfriends generally aren't the smartest of people. "Er-" I looked to Rachel for help, but she, like everyone else, with the possible exception of Billy, was looking at the wolves. "So," I continued somewhat weakly, "translating: Sam's probably saying something about how epically stupid helping the Cullens was, blah, blah, blah, to which Jake is adding something about doing the right thing... and that growl was Embry saying something along the lines of, 'Forget that, just crush his spirit already, then we can sell the spirit dust to the gypsies,' and, yeah, I've spent entirely too much time in their heads... You know what's just awful, though? They all phased in their clothes, so I get to drive back with three naked boys..." And Emily was looking at me in a way that just made me want to slap her. I mean, Sam's a dick, but that was established long ago. She shouldn't be so surprised. Fool me once and all of that shit. "Don't take it too seriously, okay?" I said falteringly. "I don't think he meant it. We were just arguing and he kissed me and as soon as I could I got away from him... He loves you, he really does, it's just..." I waved my fork uncertainly, saddened that the cake had been unaccompanied by ice cream. I felt a pang in my chest. "It's just scents and instincts and- God-fucking beaver-humping damn it!" I felt one twin phase, then the other, exerting strange and all-too-familiar pains on a body that was not meant to hold such forms.

Flinging my plate down, a slid out of the chair, phasing as I did so, hearing the shouting match before my paws hit the ground. So, what did I miss?

Seems Jake and Sam can talk to each other now, Quil offered, and we can hear him through Jake. Someone is not happy you told on him.

If he'd just kept his hands to himself... I shuddered, not so much from the memory as the twins, who were quite mad at a certain Alpha for making their mommy mad... which made me wonder if they weren't überwolves with steel claws. Jake, just tell him how upset he's making Em and he'll give up. I lay my head on the floor and tried not to whimper. God, once they were born these babies were going to be grounded until they could walk...

Jacob did one better than that: You've got two weeks. Either your pack willingly joins mine by then, or there's going to be hell to pay, and with that just turned his back on Sam and trotted over to me, showing the bastard just where he fell in the scheme of things.

Chapter Eleven