The Mythical Creature's Guide to Manners and Decorum (11/22)

"She wanted something just like the real thing, he needed love
and it all worked out somehow. He knows that love is the king of emotion,
but he can't touch her 'cause she's too perfect now."
Matchbox Twenty "Suffer Me"

Chapter Eleven, Kaph

"It's karma."

No, the mother-fucking horse-jumping float-burning freezer-melting banana-eating hell it's karma. Karma's supposed to even things out and, as I don't recall being a serial murderer-rapist-cannibal who authorized the second holocaust, I don't deserve this.

Quil, who had phased back, been proffered pants from who knows where (and frankly, I don't want to know who brings an extra set of pants to a baby shower, even a werewolf one), was now playing the part of ambassador. Paul and Jared were in the far corner trying to calm Sam down enough to phase back, Embry looked like he was having a staring contest with the stuffed wolf, and the pups were sitting around eating my cake while Emily cried in the bathroom with Kim and Melissa. The remainder of the humans were sitting around in shock, excepting Billy, who went and got himself a piece of cake like we'd been watching nothing more than the weather, and Claire, who was sitting on the floor playing with my tail. "Right now, by the way, she's probably telling me exactly why it isn't. Am I right Jake?"

Jake, who was flopped beside me with a I'm-sorry-I-knocked-you-up-but-wasn't-it-fun-getting-there look on his wolfy face, nodded at Quil then went back to looking only slightly sheepish. Stupid boy. It was all his fault too.

Blame our illustrious ancestors.

I wasn't aware that any of their ghosts were whispering in your ear, "Sleep with her, sleep with her, we want great-great-great-whatever-grandkids."

Well, you never know.

I dunno...You know, babies, Mommy really doesn't appreciate it when you use her insides as a scratching post.

You talk to the twins?

You say that like its a weird thing. Pack hears each other's thoughts, they little werewolves so part of the pack... no idea if they understand me, but they get disgusted when you kiss me, so I think they've inherited the gross-old-folks,-run gene.

Embry, who, like I said, was staring at the stuffed wolf, had to add his two cents in – 'cause that's what the pack does. I swear, we're like a gossip mill without the grinding grain part. Dude, we can see both your thoughts you know. It grosses all of us out. And there's something wrong with this wolf.

I yawned, then flinched again. Dimly, I could hear Quil explaining to Mom and Rachel that whenever I got mad, the twins got mad with me, leading to a lot of time as a wolf before they calmed down. Charlie was pinching the bridge of his nose, and I was fairly certain he was trying to figure out a way this party could end without him having to bring anyone into the station. At least it was my own party I was ruining.

Like what?

Look at it, Embry said, Who does it look like?

Jake, obligingly, padded over the the table where, amongst the gaudily wrapped presents (let's see, what do you get the couple that has nothing except an old car, a lean-to, and a pair of Cullen-bought cell phones. But said phones do have unlimited minutes. Even if this means that Rachel will undoubtedly give her sister my number and I will have a thousand texts expressing Becca's happiness that she finally got what she's been angling for since Jake was in kindergarten... and I was in second grade... God, I'm a cougar. It was not the first time I'd had this thought.

No, you're a puma.

What's the difference?

Cougar-in-training. Smaller age difference.

Is that what they're teaching you in school these days?

Sometimes. Other times they teach us how Einstein invented the light bulb.

Don't you mean Edison?

I do. They don't.

Thank God for our wonderful teachers.

Hey... I think Embry's right. Doesn't the wolf look a little like Seth?

Yes, boys, it's sort of sandy brown. Like Seth. Like sand too.

I could feel Embry roll his eyes. But there's a brown patch behind the left ear... and look at the pattern on the snout. The little prick had somebody make a stuffed Seth.

I'm more concerned, said Jake, coming back over to me and licking my muzzle (Rachel squeezed her eyes shut for several moments at this and peaked at us with one eye before opening them fully once again), about why he put a pink ribbon on it.

To distract us, Embry said definitively. To distract us from his real goal. I'm going with mind control. You'd never expect it coming from Seth.

A thought suddenly struck me. Seth, pink ribbon, me pregnant... If Seth thinks I'm going to let him imprint on my daughter (if I have one) he's got another thing- and the twins kicked out violently at this, either in agreement or disgust, I'm not sure.

Seth's muzzle over paws with Ruth. Why would he want to imprint on anyone but her? Good point... Being around Sam's stupidity was obviously effecting my head in unforeseen ways. Must leave. Must leave now.

Gross, Jake was going loudly, shaking his head as if that would rid the idea, gross, gross, gross... Stop thinking things like that, Leah, or I'll have to poor bleach in my ears.

Oh, Jacob honey, don't worry about that. It'll all just come out the other.

Remind me why I love you again?

And this is why we think you two are gross. Are we nearly ready to get out of here, 'cause it looks like Emily's coming out of the bathroom and I don't want to be around for Sam Smack-Down: human edition...

It hurt like hell, and my kidneys certainly didn't like me much at the moment for letting them become punching bags, but I managed to phase back... with the twins still in let's-give-Mommy-a-hard-time wolf form. Mother-fucking cock-sucking ass-kissing toad-"wrangling, tribble-tickling, flag-burning son of a biscuit and a bail bondsman." My clothes were, once again, ruined, but standing naked in front of a group of my in-laws, pack members, and assorted enemies was nothing new to me. And, however shallow it may be, thank god I don't have stretch marks. "I swear, this is the last time I do this Jake."

Embry, who had phased back himself and was sniffing some of the wrapped packages, threw one at me, saying, "Wool. Think it's a blanket," before trying to find something that could be construed as clothes for himself. Good news, it was a blanket, and a large one at that. Bad news, it was pink. Not some supposedly gender neutral colour, like yellow, but pink. Still, it was something, I guess, and wrapped it around me.

"No more parties... I draw the line. There can be no more... Well, nice to see you everybody. Wish I could say it was fun- Emily," red-eyed and puffy-cheeked, rather then heading out the door like any normal person would have done after being told her fiancé forced his tongue in another girl's mouth (I'm going to have to hope Alice, in her infinite, all-Seeing wisdom, has stocked up on mints. I know she can't see us, but she's really good about guessing what'll happen based off of what she can see. Which is probably nothing good, as all the drug stores within fifty miles of Forks that sell mouthwash have all disappeared from her vision), is marching straight for Sam. Well, I always knew my temper came from Mom's side... Still, I may hate Sam and think Emily is a bitch for doing what she did, I don't want him to have to deal with hurting her again, or her to get hurt. Which, as Sam is still phased, though it's been several minutes now, is probably what will happen. "Em," I say again, hastily tucking the blanket in on itself so, hopefully, it won't fall, "Em, you, don't want to do this. It's nothing. It didn't mean anything. It's just the wolf thing... It's what happens this time of year... just watch NatGeo or Animal Planet or look it up online... can't help ourselves... I mean, you've said it yourself, the younger boys like worship me..." I was, sad to say, almost dancing in front of her, trying to keep one step ahead as, slowly but surely, she made her way towards Sam, Paul, and Jared. "Like I said, its nothing."

She paused then, and her eyes, still soft from crying, rose to meet mine. The scars down one side of her face tried to turn her expression into a grimace, but I had known Em since before I could remember. We'd been like sisters, once. Before. Maybe, if there was no such thing as magic, we still would be. Couldn't turn back time, though. Frankly, I'm not even sure I'd want to. Still, despite the scars, I knew the look. It was the small smile people give you when you ask them where your sunglasses are when they're perched in plain view on your head. Raising a hand, she put it gently to my face and said, "No, Leah. Its everything." Then she ordered us out, all of us, even Mom and Billy and the imprints.

"Does anyone else get the feeling they're missing something?"

"Who gives a flying fuck?" I said, in too much pain to have cared, even if I wanted to. Which I didn't. If anyone needed karma to give them their comeuppance, it was wonder '50s couple Sam and Emily. "Let's get out of here. I think the pink's giving me cancer..."

I scrambled out to the Rabbit, opened the back hatch, and climbed in. As soon as it was closed behind me, I tore off the blanket and phased back. There you are, kiddos. You happy? You better be, 'cause you're never having brothers and sisters... Or ever seeing your aunt and uncles again. I paused to consider this. Okay, you can see Seth, he's okay, when he's not being an idiot. I paused again. I can't remember the last time he wasn't being idiotic, but he's okay, some of the time.

The car doors opened and shook as overly large boys climbed in. "So, Lee," Quil asked, leaning over the backseat and staring at my wincing wolf-form, "That was fun. Let's not do it again."

"Ah, don't be mean," Judy said, climbing over her Beta and clambering into the "trunk" of the car with me. I was a large wolf, but she was a small girl, and could curl up next to me easily. "Don't listen to him, Aunt Leah. I had fun. I wanted to see Sam and Uncle Jake fight though. It would've been fun."

"No it wouldn't," said Jake, slamming the driver's side door shut and still quaking a bit with anger. "Sam is a pansy. One hit and he'd be down, no fun at all."

"Well, if you hadn't told Sam – and I quote – to 'stop eye-fucking Leah' every time he looks at her, then none of this would have happened." I perked my ears up at this. So did the twins. So that's what started this all? God, I was going to have to have a talk with Jake about beating up every guy who so much as looked at me. I mean, I'm hot. I'm not being snotty here, it's true. It's part of the werewolf thing. People look at me. It happens... You don't see me scratching the eyes out of every girl who looked at him that way, now did you?

Okay, point taken.

"He shouldn't have been looking at her like that. He's engaged to Emily – they're getting married next week – for Christ's sake."

"And it has nothing to do with said eye-fucking being directed at our illustrious Alpha female?"

"Well, like I said, he shouldn't have been doing it."

I rolled my eyes at Judy. Boys: synonym for idiots. I really shouldn't have been surprised when Judy translated this for me, saying, "Aunt Leah thinks you're an idiot." We've spent entirely too much time in each other's heads. Judy was pretty cool, for a thirteen-year-old. Then again, considering my other two friends were a thousand-year-old vampire with boundary issues and a baby half-vamp who, while only a few months old and looking no more than a few years, had asked me if I thought Nahuel "liked" her, I guess Judy was very cool. Sure, she'd nightmares about her brother's death and really worried about what would happen when (and if) she got her period and if Zack liked her and imprinting and all that, but she'd be a fool not to. It was nice to have someone look up to me like she did. Kinda weird, but nice.

"She always thinks I'm being an idiot."

"Boys usually are." Yep, I'm defiantly rubbing off on them.

"Personally," said Embry, "I take offence to that."

Seth, laughing in the front, "Don't bother, she's turning into Little Leah."

"Better than turning into you – what was with the wolf anyway? No one wants to see a life-sized version of you."

"I dunno. Alice had it made up and told me to give it to Ruth, but that was just a little too creepy for me... so I gave it to Mom instead, and it was in the truck when I was unloading everything for her. Makes me feel real loved."

"Something too creepy for Seth? Call the presses."

"I don't go around stalking her."

"Wait, I thought that stalking was the most popular sport here in Forks among guys."

"Second. Some of us still watch baseball."


"I'm bored now."

"We'll be at the Cullens soon. It could be fun. They might have decided to try the 'Balloon Alice' idea after all?"

"Balloon Alice?"

"Yeah, I agree with Quil. What the fuck, man?"

"It was supposed to be Charlie's distraction while I killed Sam... Edward and Emmett were going to tie a whole bunch of helium balloons to Alice, wait 'til she starts to float away, and call Charlie frantic... I guess Jasper really didn't like the idea."

I rolled my eyes again. Judy translated. "Boys are stupid."

"Baby showers are stupid."

"Yeah, next time you knock her up, don't tell your parents, okay? 'Cause that was just awful..."

I growled, not that it shut them up, but at least we did get to the Cullens' shortly after that. The leeches themselves were all in a tizzy, a huge wooden crate in the centre of their living room, overflowing with books, and a second near the glass wall, where Carlisle was pulling out a painting as we walked in. "Maestà... They've sent us the lost pieces of Duccio di Buoninsegna's Maestà... I saw the altarpiece in the Duomo di Siena on my first trip to Italy..."

"What were you doing in a Roman Catholic church, Carlisle?"

"I went to see the altar. Our faiths may have been different, but that did not stop me from wanting to see Duccio's masterpiece. Whatever one's faith, you can still appreciate its beauty... The next day Hedi," the vampire gestured to the former Volturi guard, who was holding a small wooden box in her hands, "found me and took me to Voltera."

"Jocelin knew you had been looking..." she said faintly, not seeming all there. Weird, but whatever. That was vampires for you.

Jasper and Edward, meanwhile, were going at the box of books like children in a candy store. "Edward, an original copy of Montaigne's Essays... You'll enjoy this one. 'Non c'è così uomo il bene che se lui mettesse tutte le sue azioni e pensieri sotto lo scrutinio delle leggi, lui non meriterebbe appendere dieci volte in vita sua.'" Jasper declared, handing the book to his brother, who answered, "The irony is not lost on me," before delving back into the box.

Still in wolf form, I trotted into the kitchen, hoping someone would take pity on me and feed me. Instead, Kate was there, waiting for me. "Thank God you're back, Kiwi. I can't stand it, them going through all that old stuff. It's like, yes, cool, but we were all there. Well, most of us anyway. Why do I want to look at paintings I've seen before, or read musty old books? Tanya agrees with me, only she'd rather be going on still about what we're going to do with the whole pentaumvirate thing we're setting up, and how the Cullens need to move out of Forks and somewhere up north away from people, for like when we have to do anything with the nomads, so they don't eat people, and Esme's all for this 'cause she wants to build a castle and no one seems to understand that castles are so blasé but me, even though I thought Emmett would agree with me, but noooo, he wants a dungeon and coffins and a chapel with the Maestà on the altar so he can practice his preaching. So I went to go try to talk some sense into Irina, but she's doing the whole crazy-attic-girl routine, which is even more boring than castles or old boxes... Am I the only one who doesn't care if The Romanians are raiding Voltera? I mean, cool and all, I guess, if you like that stuff – which I don't – and all I can say is, if next thing you know Stefan and Vladimir are burning Rome, I told you so, 'cause those guys are like freaky weird. I'd cross the street to avoid them. And how was the party?" I rolled my eyes at Kate and lay down on the floor next to her, head on my paws, and prepared for the onslaught. "Oh, never mind. I found a Renaissance-style bridesmaid dress I want you to look at, very Nu-Georgette. I was thinking ivory with wisteria lace, to offset-"

Yes, I must have been a mass murderer in a previous life. That's the only way to explain my life.

Chapter Twelve