"And round we go, on crooked ways or straight, and well I know that ignorance is our fate, and this I hate."
Chapter Thirteen, Meem
We all turned at looked at the door curiously. "Who the hell do we know that knocks?"
"Leah, don't curse."
I rolled my eyes at Jake, who gave a small laugh at this. "Sure, sure, Mom."
Loosing me for the moment, Jake manages to stand up without spilling me off the couch, and goes to the door. "It'd've been too easy just for Edward to tell us who was here and what was going on, wouldn't it?"
"Eddie keeps his own consul – he's rather a bit like Louis le Jeune that way, with the exception, of course, of not being obsessed with getting a son... At least some people can be happy with a daughter. Liked his third wife though, Adèle de Champagne. Very intelligent woman – smart enough to think we were crazy, Tanya, Irina, and I (though, of course, Tanya was calling herself Aelith then, and Irina was Adèle, after Louis's mother, Adèle de Maurienne, and I was Aenor) when we wanted to go to Constantinople with her daughter, Agnes... Still, we'd been in France for ten years and that was too long, and Constantinople was a nice change..."
"Kate..." I said slowly.
She didn't seem to hear me though, "Agnes's second husband, Andronikos Komnenos was like that too, what with the son-wanting and all. He had affairs with two of his nieces..." The vampire, not noticing the looks we were all giving her, turned to Seth. "Don't ever have affairs with your nieces, Seth. If you're going to sleep with them, at least marry them first..."
"Kate!" I said more loudly, jostling her leg with mine and probably breaking all the bones in my foot in the process. "What did I tell you about these stories?"
Kate, her amber-coloured eyes seeming far away, turned her head towards me but did not seem to see me at first. After a moment, and with somewhat forced enthusiasm, "I didn't mention sleeping with Andronikos myself, now did I? Or his successor, Isaac II? Though I do feel rather bad for doing that to his wife, Margaret. Her grandmother, Euphrosyne, was the third great-granddaughter of my cousin, Vladimir... which I suppose made us first cousins seven times removed..." And, with that, she went – even more oddly – silent.
"Kate's been around for a while," I told Mom and Charlie. "You probably want to stand over here while Jake gets the door, just in case Sam's pack has decided to play ding-dong-ditch-the-pipe-bomb or something like that."
To my surprised, they did without comment, while Jake, of course, said, "Glad to see you're concerned about my welfare, Leah," as he opened the door, giving me no time at all to share my comeback ("I'm Alpha female, remember? The pack can be all mine when you're gone," enter evil laughter) before it revealed, dumbfounding me, Colin and Brady.
Seth, being Seth, was the first to speak, giving a general, "Hey guys!" that make me wonder if the kid had ever heard of the term "self-preservation." It constantly surprises me that the kid has lived seventeen years now without having gone with some random stranger who promised him candy. "What'cha doing here?"
Brady, who'd always struck me as the more easy-going of the two stepped right on in and said, "We're defecting," then, promptly, added, "It smells like a perfume shop detonated in Willy Wonka's; how on earth do you stand it?"
Brady and Colin, however, seemed to have decided that the best way to make a good impression on their new pack (if they were being truthful about wanting to defect, and I didn't hold Sam above using suicide wolves – or, at least, decoys – in his plot to generally be the biggest asshole this side of the Mississippi. On either side of the Mississippi, really) was to wear actual clothes, by which I mean fairly unpatched cut-offs and surprisingly clean shirts. Which meant that, when Brady tried to take another step into the ultra-whiteness of the Cullens' living room, Jake was able to grab him (and Colin for good measure) by his shirt collar and tug him back.
More than a little snarl in his voice, "Does he know you're here?"
With which Charlie seemed to find some fault with, for he went, in a very parental way, "Jacob!" while I insisted, "Pat them down for explosives." Mom, hearing this, said in turn, "Leah!" which got Kate to say, very loudly, "Seth!" and cause everyone, especially Seth, to jump.
"What?" my brother said, less with anger than with shock.
"Nothing. I just thought we were playing the name game again. It's a lot more fun when you play it with more than three people."
"Shut up, Kate."
"I don't smell any explosives on them. 'Sides, Eddie dearest wouldn't have gone upstairs if he thought Esme's beautiful living room would be destroyed," my strange, strange Russian friend stood and openly gave the boys at the door the ol' hairy eye. "Now who are they?"
"Under age," said Jake blandly before turning back to Colin and Brady. "I don't believe Sam would just let you get up and leave."
"He didn't," said Colin in a way that made me think that, if he was phased, his ears would be flat against his head and his tail curled under.
"Jake, let go bro; it's only Colin and Brady," Seth, well, I don't want to say whined, 'cause that sounds bad in human context, but it's sorta true if you think of it in wolf ways – like Seth was trying to say, "I know I'm only Gamma here and you're Alpha, but this is my idea," - which, I must add, seemed second nature after all the time we'd spent as wolves. Probably weirded the hell out of Mom and Charlie, which is probably what prompted Mom, when happy-go-lucky Seth completed this thought, "if they try anything, between the three of us they won't get as far as the treeline," to exclaim, "Seth!" herself.
"What is it with humans always having to exclaim each other's names?"
"Kate, now's a bad time. Let the grown-ups handle this, why don't you?"
"You still haven't told me who they are."
"Colin and Brady. The no-touching role applies to them too."
"He's out hunting with Emmett."
"Don't you have any self-discipline?"
"I've not ate your parents."
I had the strangest friends, I swear. "For which I'm thankful. Now, d'you mind?"
"Oh, no, go right ahead. You're not bothering me."
I sighed and pulled myself off the couch, walking to stand a little behind Jake.
"Explain," Jake said again, letting go of both boys but standing with arms crossed in front of me, as if he wouldn't put it past them to try and go for my throat if given half a chance. Endearing? Yes. Annoying? More so. Given my recent track record with members of the other pack, though, it was probably a good idea...
Still as annoying as hell though.
With a smile directed at me (which earned him another growl), Brady did just that. "After the baby shower, Jared told us that Sam didn't want any of us to phase until he said it was okay. It was weird, but we listened. And that was over a week ago. Then last night I was at Colin's and lost track of the time, so I phased and cut through the woods to make it back in time, so Mom wouldn't ground me again. Thought they just forgot to tell us we could again – not the first time they've forgotten about us. Turns out they hadn't forgotten, they just didn't want us listening in."
"Listening in?" I echoed.
"Well, didn't want us to overhear them discussing the whole let's-be-one-pack thing, I guess. Jared's trying to convince Sam it's time to give up the ghost, but Sam and Paul aren't listening... I don't know the details. I phased out before they could realize I was there and told Colin this morning... And we decided that if Sam's not even going to tell us about something as important as that, we didn't want to be in his pack any more."
Colin pipped up then, adding, "Thus the defecting. We figured you'd take us, since you want one whole big pack..."
"I'll take you."
"Kate! Garrett. Find."
"I know like twenty languages, Kiwi. That makes sense in none of them."
I glared at her. "Kate." I said slowly – very, very, very slowly. "Listen to me very, very, very carefully: if you mention wanting to have sex with any of my pack again, I am going to have myself a Katie bonfire, kapesh?"
"But," she said oh-so-very-innocently, "they're not your pack."
Turning with an exasperated sigh (how do I end up in these conversations, I ask you?), "Jake?"
He frowned at the two boys standing in the doorway, then, a small smile crossing his face, nodded. "Welcome to the pack, guys."
"Cool!" Seth exclaimed, clapping the younger boys on the back, "Hey, I'm going to go show the guys the Rock and everything before Kate starts sexually assaulting them. See ya later Mom, Charlie!"
"I wasn't planning on assaulting anybody!" Kate yelled after him, still huffing on the couch. "I've never had to assault anybody to get them sleep with me. I've had my own cousin's great-great-great-great-grandchildren lusting after me-"
Seeing where this was going, Jake quickly said, "I think I'll help," and rushed after Seth, Colin, and Brady, leaving Mom, Charlie, and I to listen to this latest of Kate's memories.
"-Margaret of Hungary's brother was Andrew II, and his daughter by his second wife was Violant d'Hongria, and her fourth daughter was Isabella of Aragon-"
"-and her son was Philippe le Bel, whose third daughter was Isabella of France-"
"-and her oldest son was Edward III, and who do you think was the 'Alice Perrers' who was his mistress? Hmm? My own... first cousin twelve times removed, not that he knew it, but-"
At last blinking, Kate turned and saw my exasperated face now but a half-pace in front of her. "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"
"Would you believe me if I said I didn't mean to?"
"Oh... that hurts, you know."
"It was meant to."
"You're no fun. I think I'll go bother Irina. See if she'll come out of the attic, you know... She always did have a soft spot for English royalty, you know... and Prince William and Prince Harry are my cousins thirty-four times removed... Maybe we can plan a field trip..." And, before I could roll my eyes, she was gone.
"Sorry 'bout Kate. She's been in a strange mood the last couple of days. I personally think she's more worried about Irina than she'd care to admit. But yeah, like I said, don't listen to a word she says and you'll be fine. Nice seeing you and all. Bel-"
Mom, however, wasn't going to let me go all that easily. Oh no. She'd subjected herself to the leeches' house, and she was damn well going to see one of her children while she was here. "Let's talk, Leah."
"Er?" How about not? Not's good with me.
But Charlie was heading upstairs to look for his daughter and Mom was indicating his vacated spot on the couch before I could come up with a good reason that she'd believe for letting me leave without talking. 'Cause when your mother searches you out for a talking-to, you know nothing good is going to be said. "I'm concerned about you."
I'm concerned you don't realize that any vampire in the house is going to hear every word you say, and everyone in the pack will see my memory of it. "You shouldn't be. Carlisle says the twins seem to be doing okay, and it shouldn't be long now before they're born – maybe another week or so, at the rate they're growing – so I'll be back to normal in no time. Jake and I have even talked about names. He's going to pick out two guy names, I'll pick out two girl's ones, Kate will take the middles, and we'll go from there..."
"That's not what I mean, honey."
"Oh?" The twins know I don't like being referred to as food (not even by my own mother), and protested a little at that. I wished they wouldn't. It made it very hard not to get mad at Mom, who surely knew this. "Well, we've got plans for after they're born too. The bloodsuckers think they'll grow up normal enough, but probably run hot like we do, and who knows if we'll be able to impress upon them the importance of not phasing in public? So, since Jake is the one with a marketable skill, the Cullens are going to loan us money so he can start a garage, and I'll just play house 'till they're old enough, or I can get one of the pack to babysit. Alice has even said, if I'm desperate for a day job, I can organize their basement for them, and that could take years. And I know you're probably going to say something about how you didn't raise me to mooch off of blood-drinking parasites, but at least its a plan. You can consider it compensation for us playing guard dog for the last few months." Or not. I really don't care what you think, Mom. I mean, it's only taken you how many of those months to build up the courage to stop by and lecture me?
Okay, maybe that's wrong. I really do love Mom. But, God, she can be annoying as hell sometimes. Kinda like Kate but, at least, thank God, Mom doesn't tell me about her sexual conquests. Shudder. Gag and shudder. Thank God for the small miracles. Like Colin and Brady. They coulda decided just to stay with Sam, or let Sam figure out what he was going to do, but they came anyway. Like the fact that Charlie is at least a decent guy and, if Mom has to remarry, she could do a lot worse than Charlie Swan – even if his daughter is dumber than a box of rocks for becoming a vampire...
I paused in my thoughts, waiting for Edward to chastise me for such a thought about his dear, darling wife. Nothing came, though, and my pause only served to let Mom say, "That's wasn't what I wanted to talk about either, though it is good to know you and Jake have a plan."
"Well, you know... Billy's pension won't go far trying to feed four werewolves."
"Never mind. What did you want to talk about?"
I stood up. "Why do you want to talk about that cum-drinking, parrot-humping piece of rhino shit for?"
"You're right – that was way too PG to describe him, but it was the best I could come up with at a moment's notice.
But Sam? Of all the reasons you could come over, you come over to talk about him? Well, newsflash, Mom," I unclenched my fists and spread them, as if trying to mimic a bulb-flash with them, "I'm over him. Been over him. Under, around, and through him as well. If you don't believe me, ask the mind-raper upstairs or one of the pack if I've thought about Sam that way in ages."
"Then what was the other day about then, you kissing him?"
"Me? Kissing him? I was trying to patch things up with Emily, then soon as she leaves for two seconds he tries to shove his tongue down my throat. I had to eat mints for a week after that."
"You shouldn't have-"
"I'll tell you what, Mom," I snorted, deciding I've had enough of this and stomping angrily to the door, "you shouldn't come and try to Elder in things you don't understand. It just makes us both angry. Now, if you don't mind-" I threw the door open.
And nearly walked into the person on the other side of it. "What the fuck do you want?"Chapter Fourteen