"Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which we are
…condemned. Each move is dictated by the previous one."
Tom Stoppard Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Chapter Fifteen, Samekh
"I personally find it hilariously funny."
"You find your own tail funny."
"And you find Arthur funny, so we all know how well your mind works."
I growled at the both of them to shut up before they woke Di and Dan.
Quil, obviously thinking I meant something else, turned from Seth to me and snapped, "For the last time, I am not a paedophile!" waking up the twins.
With a glare the proved it was only Jake becoming immune to them, I looked down on the two small pups at my side. It'd been two days, and no one seemed to have any idea how to get the pups to phase into human form. We knew they had to have them, but, from the petulant looks they seemed to be giving me every time I, er, suggested it, they didn't want to. I didn't much care if they wanted to spend the rest of their lives in wolf form – well, not at this point anyway, 'cause it seemed that the one thing no one had ever mentioned was how tired this whole birth thing made you, and I was content (for now, at least) to flop lazily under the lean-to and try to figure out what I was supposed to do with werewolf cubs. They seemed to be at the eating-and-sleeping stage, with was fine enough, but when did you move on to showing them how to walk, talk, hunt? When do you start taking them on patrols? Vampire fighting?
And then there was the question of vaccinations. Carlisle said Di and Dan needed HBV shots soon, and DTaP, Hib, IPV, PVC, and a whole bunch of other alphabet soup things that I didn't bet the point of right off the bat but I was told every child had to have. Emmett, having gone to veterinary school sometime in the '80s, wanted to give them adenovirius vaccinations, some more for hepatitis and distemper, parvovirus, and a whole bunch of other things that I hadn't heard of, never having a dog. What the hell was I supposed to do? I mean, the pack had all survived well enough with just the human ones, but, as Emmett pointed out, none of us had been little when we first started phasing, and probably should be vaccinated just to cover all bases. Seriously!
Kate wasn't helping at all. She wanted to take a group of us to Kiev, so the twins could be baptised in St. Volodymyr's Cathedral – the one built in honour of her cousin, - never mind that none of us were Ukrainian Orthodox or had any desire to go to Ukraine, nor was it likely said cathedral would actually baptise wolf cubs, even if we wanted it done. It disappointed her greatly, and she and Garrett had been gone for several hours since I told her, quite clearly, it wasn't happening, while the cubs climbed over one another in my arms. Only Alice knew where they'd gone, and she wasn't sharing. Not even with Jasper.
Jake was another matter. Oh, the first day he was ecstatic, cow-jump-over-the-moon-esque. Today, not so much. And not just because he'd had to go to school today (on threats I'd never sleep with him again if he didn't, which he should've known better than to believe) and leave me without any pack to "guard" me and the cubs. In short, the big crimp in his jive (yes, I just used the word jive, probably because it seems a proper 'cause Kate had set an alarm on phone so that, every seventy-three minutes, a different ABBA song would play; the I would kill her next time I saw her) was Billy.
Actually, it was Rachel, who had popped by during lunch and, though had kindly pulled Jake out of the cafeteria, had not gone far enough that her voice didn't travel. So it was when she told him that Billy had sent her to find out why he had to hear of his grandchildren's birth when Emily called to congratulate him this morning. His response, I understand, was simple forgetfulness. His answer to his classmates, when they tried to make a big deal of it when he went back to try to eat, was that was precisely what he was trying not to do. After which things apparently got worse, as a thousand questions, innuendos, and whatnot were sent his way, leaving him unable to enjoy pizza day.
I honestly think that part upset him the most.
Judy, who was sitting next to me, glared at Quil too. "Methinks you protest too much," she managed in all seriousness before bursting into (very girlish, it must be said) giggles. She picked up Diane, who was trying to burrow deeper into my side, and put her in the basket my Beta and my brother had brought. "Did you bring a red riding hood? If I'm going to be bringing a basket of wolf pups to Grandpa Billy, I think I need a red riding hood. What do you think, Aunt Leah?" she asked me, tickling Daniel as she added him to the basket.
I phased out, tired enough not to laugh at Seth as he immediately put his hands in front of his face and screamed, "MY EYES!" though, it must be said, I did manage a small grin as I pulled on the clothes Alice had sent with the basket. Sweat pants and a t-shirt. Designer sweat pants and t-shirt, to be sure, but I think I might have lost it if she'd tried sending something fancier. No red capes though. Very sad.
"I don't mind," Quil said, taking a smart step back. "Gotta say, Seth, even after twins your sister is still a looker."
Hands still over his eyes, Seth turned towards the voice, "Gross, man! Don't say these things to me! And don't you have an imprint to be watching Dora the Explorer with right now?"
"Claire doesn't like Dora – and it wouldn't be on for another hour anyway. 'Sides, just 'cause I've Claire doesn't mean won't look when Lee decides to go nudist colony on us."
"That doesn't mean you have to tell me these things. I don't want to know about any of them. Kapish?"
"Does Ruth know how much of a prude you are?"
I, tactfully, interrupted by cuffing both of them outside their heads. "Idiots," I cursed, taking the basket from Judy, who was still laughing, and turning my glare from Quil and Seth to my children. "I don't suppose either of you feel like phasing, do you?"
Di gave me her best puppy eyes impression while her twin yawned in my direction. I gave them an exasperated sigh and dared Quil or Seth to say anything.
Neither boy was exactly the freshest doggy biscuit in the bag, though, and Quil, obviously having a death wish, wondered aloud, "Maybe they can't phase back."
I didn't want to think that. No, in fact, I refused to believe it. The twins were half me and half Jake, and if they had half the stubbornness between them that Jake and I each had naturally, it was likely they just liked being cubs and had decided it was worth pissing off their parents to have a bit of fun. Or whatever reason made sense in their two-day-old heads. I mean, we were mythical creatures. Our heads didn't work right. Werewolves, for instance, shared heads and did the annoying imprinting thing. Vampires did things like play three-dimensional chess and plot ways to have sex with various members of the royal family.
Speaking of that, the whole telepathic-werewolf thing didn't work so well on newborns. Oh, you could see their thoughts alright, it was just that the thoughts themselves were the problem. They tended to make whoever was listening too closely very tired. And thirsty. Don't forget that.
Still, Quil's suggestion, or idea, or sick joke – whatever it might be – put me in a sour mood all the way to the Rabbit. Seeming to realize this, Nessie was already waiting by the car when we got there, looking the part of a cute kindergardener – wearing a candy red jacket, hood pulled up over her bouncing brown curls and carrying a basket of her own, which, from the smell of it, was filled with some of Esme's blue ribbon Tex-Mex. "It's a bribe," she said in all honesty, having some trouble not bouncing in excitement – her Aunt Alice's influence, I'm sure, the poor kid.
"A bribe for what?"
"Nothing much. Nothing at all really."
"I'm not sneaking into the Smithsonian and stealing The Dead Sea Scrolls for you."
"They're housed in the Heikhal HaSefer at the Muze'on Yisraelanyway – in the Givat Ram district of Yerushaláyim. It's like a twenty hour flight with two layovers, if we get lucky, and I doubt we'd be back in time."
"In time for what?"
"It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. It's on on Thursday, and there's no way we'd be able to find a quick way there and back, plus into the Heikhal HaSefer, in time, and they're not real big on Easter, the Yehudim, and I really want to see it. Uncle Emmett tells me it's a riot. So maybe some other time."
I raised my eyes to the heavens in supplication. What did I do in a past life to earn this? What, really? Was I Josef Mengele? One of the MKULTRA or Unit 731 guys? Someone tried for war crimes at Nuremberg or Khabarovsk certainly, 'cause there was nothing else that could explain all the things that happened in my life. I mean, really. Vampires with venereal diseases (or so I thought – I never hoped to find out myself), hybrids planning thefts of irreplaceable artefacts around their television viewing schedule, and in-laws demanding to see their grandchildren despite the fact said grandchildren were wolf cubs at the moment. Shaking my head at the thought of it, "Bribe for what then?"
"I want to go with you to visit Billy."
"Please, Aunt Leah. I promise I'll be good."
Thinking of Sam's reaction to seeing Nessie, I smiled not entirely comfortingly, and drawled, "You are only half vampire."
"Yea! Thank you Aunt Leah! Thank you!" she was bouncing in true Alice fashion now. Her poor parents. Well, poor Edward anyway – the mind-raper was decent enough to know he was an ass, as opposed to his leech-loving wife, was just an idiot. I was reduced to pitying sadomasochistic Bambi-killers now. The things I do for Jake, honestly. If he wasn't such a good kisser... Okay, if he wasn't a good lot of things, kissing just happening to be the one that came to mind. If he wasn't so good at a couple of other things, I'd not be dealing with this whole cubs-who-refused-to-phase problem either, but that, I supposed, was neither here nor there. "You won't regret this!"
Seth, who was climbing into the front seat, gave me a look that said, "This is going to end badly," but took the basket of food from Ness nonetheless and began riffling through it.
"Can I drive, Aunt Leah?" Judy was giving me her own puppy dog interpretation, complete with wide eyes and trembling lower lip.
"You're only twelve."
"Thirteen next month. 'Sides, I look old enough to drive."
"Looks can be deceiving," I said in my sageliest voice, pushing her into the back seat, where Quil and Ness were already waiting, humming, if I wasn't mistaken, "Fernando," almost as if she knew what her cousin had done to my phone; Kate would pay. I handed Judy the basket with Di and Dan in it. "Now be a fairy godmother and hold the twins for me."
I could see her pouting in the rear-view mirror as I climbed into the driver's seat. "You can be so mean sometimes, Aunt Leah, you know that?"
"Mean? This is me being smothering. The twins are just cubs and I have the most driving experience of anyone here," I turned the key, "so I drive."
"Yes," I conceded, "but still your Alpha."
Laughing, "What, Judy, planning a coup?"
"Me? Never. You may be positively insane, but you're still my Aunt Leah. Just saying, though, there're three of us now, and Di is actually a – what do we want to call this? Princess? Junior Alpha? Alpha-in-Waiting?"
"I personally like Tsesarevna myself," Nessie told us. "It would probably make Cousin Kate happy too."
I rolled my eyes at this. "Whatever you want, Ness darling."
Judy gave a fake pout, "What about me, Aunt Leah? Here I was feeling all special, and now here Di and Dan have come, taking my place. However will I survive this heartbreak?"
This time, I gave a snort of laughter. "Tell you what, Judy, I'll lock you and Zack in a closet until you work everything out, and then you won't have time to worry about politics."
"Politics?" snorted Quil in return, "is that what they're calling it these days?"
Nessie, knowing Judith's arms were full with the twins, who seemed to be trying to crawl out of the basket from what I could see, hit Quil on the shoulder for her. "You really shouldn't say things like that," the girl explained when Quil turned towards her, mouth gaping, seeming to think of Ness's violence, hereto non-existent, as my fault. Which it probably was. "As you are rather bound to your imprint, it will be – at the very least – another dozen years before Claire Young is likely to see you in anything other than a filial affection."
"What?" Quil blinked.
Seth snickered. "I think she's saying Judy's probably going to get some long before you ever do." Get some? Out of all the euphemisms my brother could have used, he chose that one? And here I was thinking I was the only corrupting influence on him when it turned out that school of his was, by far, the worse offender. "Probably means that her and Nahuel'll have kids before Claire's even out of middle school too."
"Nahuel and I are just friends, I'm not even a year old yet, and you have a sicker mind than even Uncle Emmett, Uncle Seth."
"Nessie, honey," I said as we entered La Push, "there are five vampire-human hybrids in the world, and you are the only one not related to him. Add that to the fact he somehow managed to watch Blue's Clues, The Virgin Suicides, and C-Span with you in one sitting without going insane, and is learning Hebrew for you... I think it's as about as much of a given he likes you as it is that Sam's a two-timing rat bastard with only two braincells and a single shiny penny to his name."
"You have serious issues, Aunt Leah."
"And so do you, but at least mine are only quarterly."
"The subscription, the one for all my issues. Mine is quarterly, whereas yours, I'm sorry to say, is the weekend subscription – the ones with the big extra sections and colour cartoons on Sundays."
I turned onto Billy's block. I didn't need supersight to recognize what was going on in his front lawn, but it certainly made the details all too clear: Jake was there, Brady not to far away, facing off against a fuming Sam, a furious Paul, and a trying-to-be-diplomatic-and-failing-terr
"Leah! Don't kill them!"
"Them! What the fuck about us?"
"I'm not going to kill them – not with the Rabbit anyway," I said, my voice calm in contrast to their worried tones, and slammed on the breaks as I drifted into the driveway behind Sam, Paul, and Jared. As soon as I'd pulled the parking break, I flung open the door, grabbed the basket of food Esme had packed for us, and, jumping out, flung it at Sam's head.
Causally, as I went back to the Rabbit and took the other basket from Judith before joining Jake, my husband commented. "Subtle much, Lee."
"I'm just getting pissed off by people trying to make my day worse. Do I even want to know why Sammy boy decided to annoy us today?"
"He finally realized where Colin and Brady went to. And it's been two weeks since the shower."
"Hmm," I mused, "took him long enough. Well, have fun. I'll be inside if you need me."
"You don't want to help?"
"Not really. I'm tired, Di and Dan are probably hungry, and there's only so many idiots I can deal with in a day. Do try to keep the yelling down, won't you? Oh, and if you have to phase-"
"Do it in the backyard where no one can see us, I know. Have fun."
Jared looked like he might be laughing at us if he wasn't so busy trying to convince Sam to give up the ghost already. "...not worth it. As much as you hate it, Jake and Leah had nothing to do with-"
"Nothing to do with it?" Paul snarled. "Emily wouldn't have called off the wedding if it wasn't for their little show at the baby shower."
I paused on the steps. Emily finally realized the two-timing dirt-bag she was getting married to was a two-timing dirt-bag as likely to skip out on her as he had me, and probably with another member of one of our extended family. I didn't have any more girl-cousins, but maybe he'd settle for running off with Adam's girlfriend, Lydia, or David's wife, Melissa. 'Cause God knew I'd not willingly come near that piece of toad-sniffing, rat-fucking horse shit with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole, though, remembering the tonguing incident, I might make that just wouldn't willingly come near Same ever.
'Bout damn time.