"We've lost something vital, I tell you. When we lost it, we lost the ability to make good decisions.
We fall upon decisions these days the way we fall upon an enemy — or wait and wait,
which is a form of giving up, and we allow the decisions of others to move us.
Have we forgotten that we were the ones who set this current flowing?"
Frank Herbert Children of Dune
Chapter Sixteen, Ayin
Nessie's done the math for me: if Jake's mom's dad and Sam's mom's mom were brother and sister, they're second cousins. And if Mom's dad and Sam's mom's dad were brothers, we're also second cousins. Which means that Sam is the twin's double second cousin once removed. (This also means, since Jake's mom's mom was Old Quil's sister, that Quil's just their plain old second cousin – once removed – as well. The twins are their own fourth cousins too, 'cause dad's dad's mom was Old Quil's aunt... but that's neither here nor there.)
All things considered, I rather thought, being as wonderfully close cousins as we all were, we could all bite the bullet and get along. Knowing that this was little more than a pipe dream, I rather wished they'd all fall in line, 'cause Jake was Alpha and we'd two little Alphas-in-Waiting (or something like that), and it pretty much guaranteed that, no matter how you looked at it, that Sam would never, ever, have reason to have to be Alpha of anyone ever again.
That being said, Jake shoulda just taken the position when it was in the offering, right after he phased. It woulda made all of our lives just that much easier. But he didn't, so they weren't, and it all ends up with me holding a basket of puppies and trying to explain to their grandfather why they're not human at the moment.
I spared a look out the window. They were yelling now, and I could hear Quil asking why we couldn't all just be friends and Nessie muttering something about uneducated werewolves under her breath as she entered the house. "I have decided," she continued, closing the door and coming into the living room, "that it is the human blood, not the wolf, in shape-shifters that makes them so violent. After all, wolves were not the ones who invented the falchion or the arquebus, the howitzer or- well, you obviously get the picture," and she, obviously, had seen my face, and, slightly put out, scampered onto the couch. "Hello Mr. Black. I'm Renesmee Cullen, but you can call me Ness, or Nessie – everyone else does. I have heard a lot about you. Did you really threaten to cut off Uncle Jacob's allowance if he didn't get Aunt Leah pregnant?"
"What!" I sputtered, feeling my cheeks burn bright red. "Ness, dear, you really gotta stop listening to Kate."
"Actually, Uncle Emmett told me this. I wanted to know if it was true."
I shook my head. "Vampires are terrible gossips," I explained to Billy, turning away from the window and back towards him. Setting the basket on the table, "I think it's because their own lives are so terribly dull. Emmett's becoming a priest now and wants to hold a sunrise service on Easter, just because it's something they've never done before, and so what do we have to do next Sunday? Drag ourselves out of bed and humour him. I suppose it's better than forcing us to dress up as Easter Bunnies or something like that, but, knowing my luck, that'll just come after." Oh well. They fed us, didn't try to eat us, and, generally, weren't altogether bad folk. I still can't believe I find myself saying that, but Kate's decent, and Alice and Emmett and Carlisle and Esme weren't too bad and, as for the rest, they mostly ignored me and I returned the favour. It worked. Even if Irina the Insane was living in the attic and someone occasionally brought a deer up there so she didn't go loca on us. That was kinda weird. "You probably don't want to hear about vampire weirdness, though. It is, most certainly, very weird. But, oddly enough this time, not as weird as our weirdness." I reached my hand into the basket and pulled out a striped ball of fur. "Billy, your grandson. Dan, your grandpa."
Now, most people, I think, would be kinda freaked out if you handed them a wolf cub and said it was their grandson. Not Billy though. Billy, he was cool. Strange, yes, but terribly okay with pretty much everything life threw his way. "Dan, huh?"
"Daniel Mateau, if you want to be specific about it. We let Kate do the middle names. I think she thought 'Daniel Matthew' sounded too odd... But, then again, she was gunning for the name Ursula for a while, so who honestly knows?" Seeing his twin trying to scamper over the side of the basket, I picked her up and handed her over to Billy. "And this one's Diane Arcadia. That one I don't understand, but hey, they have names, so I guess it's all good."
"Now," said Nessie smartly, "you just got to get them to phase."
Obviously trying to be helpful (or something), Billy suggested."Have you tried asking?"
I glared at him. He seemed as immune to it as his son. It must be something in the Black genes. Knowing my luck, Di and Dan would be too, and then where would I be? And, another thing, their alliterative names? Far too cutesy for me – though we did pick out names separately, and I changed my mind at the last minute, but Jake could've chosen something different – but they worked, I guessed. Next thing you know, the next pair will have two "E" names, and the ones after that "F" and, well, you get the picture. Not, I might add, that I'm planning on ever giving birth again. Jake can do the sea horse thing if he wants, but two are more than enough for me. "Of course."
"Have you tried asking politely?"
"And here Jake said you liked me," I replied dowerly, turning to steal a glance out the window. I'd never thought that I'd get married (well, not after the whole-stupid-boyfriend-imprints-on-stupi
Okay, maybe I do, but still. He should be kind enough to wait for me to ask for it. Or something. Though that might be too much to ask for from the guy who, in all probability, probably would have threatened something of the sort if we'd not been living at the Rock and, therefore, not handicap accessible.
"I do. I was, however, close friends with Harry and he had to tell someone about the things you did as a child."
"That's low, Billy."
"Just is – and, yes, that's a perfectly good reason."
"I hate to say it, my dear, but you've been spending too much time with my son."
"That is," Nessie pointed out, seeming all too interested in the banter between Billy and me, possibly because she'd never seen me argue for so long with somebody without insulting their parentage, interest in small children that they claimed wasn't sexual, intelligence, and/or personal quirks (id est, tail-chasing, squirrel-conspiracy-seeing, et cetera), "rather the point, is it not? You cannot get grandchildren, Mr. Black, without Aunt Leah and Uncle Jake spending large amounts of time together. At least," she amended, looking pensive, "not that I'm aware of. I will have to ask Father about that."
It took the utmost strength of will not to burst out in laughter at the thought of the mind-raper having that conversation with his daughter. Billy, however, only hmmmed and held the furball in his left hand close to his face. "Diane, is it?" Being two days old and currently a wolf cub, Di sniffed him. "Now, you're a pretty thing as you are, but don't you think you could make things more difficult for your parents if you were human for a bit? Just think of all the trouble you two could get into if you phased. You'd be bigger, for one, and no one would be able to hear your thoughts..."
To my utmost surprise and Nessie's infinite amusement, Di seemed to take this to heart and, a moment later, her twin decided to join her, and, next thing you knew, there were two human infants with a tuft of dark hair in want of clothing in Billy's arms.
"It's reverse psychology. Worked wonders with you 'til you got wise about the time you entered kindergarten." I shot him another glare. "I stole all the presents you left behind after the baby shower, by the way. They're in Jake's room."
I stole my children back from their grandfather and, sure enough, found a couple of onesies, some diapers, and a pair of carriers, muttering to them the entire time about how it was so not fair they'd listened to Billy and not to me. I mean, hello, I'd tried explaining it to them, for all they were two days old. I'd tried show-and-tell. Begging. Only reason I hadn't tired Alpha commanding is that I wasn't sure I wanted to a) set the precedent and thereby give the twins reason to hate me when they got to those annoying puberty years or b) if the command of an Alpha-by-marriage would work on Alphas-by-blood and Jake thought it was more "cute" than annoying that they'd remained cubs.
I was just tucking Dan into one of the carriers and daring him to move until I did the same with his sister when the door slammed open. Rather hoping it was Jake come to tell us he needed his axe to dissemble whatever was left of Sam so the boys could run the pieces out to James Island and burn them or something unduly complicated like that, but my hopes were immediately dashed when the yelling began again, this time along the vein of "like,-oh-my-god,-there-is-a-half-vampir
"...bringing a fucking leech onto our land!"
"Well, Nessie wanted a pet of her own so we thought we'd take her here, you know, let her see the possibilities- What do you think, Sam? I've been here all day, you've seen me. Leah probably was stuck babysitting or something."
"That thing nearly got all of us killed. It-"
"Firstly," said Nessie, and I hurried with Diana, knowing that people who weren't used to Ness would probably not take well to anything she might say, be it a discussion of the Epicurean Paradox (yesterday, while I was trying to sleep), the likelihood that Sesame Street might ever admit to a homosexual relationship between Bert and Ernie (the day before, on the phone with Kate, who found the whole labour part of giving birth boring), the use of Brownian motion to create Finite Improbability Drives (the day before that, when she wanted to have a tea taste test), or (as seemed likely today) some long debate the place of intra-specific hybrids in treaties. In fact, Sam would probably not take the last one very well at all and, while that would normally be amusing, it mostly just was annoying at this point, "I would point out the fact that none of us here are dead and how, even if we were, it would not be my fault so much as Cousin Irina's for telling the Volturi, your pack for keeping us from catching her and killing her mate in the first place, Mother's for deciding that it was a good idea to marry Father while still human, Grandfather Carlisle's for not protesting more vehemently against it, and Aunt Leah's for deciding that she didn't like Mumbai after all. And, secondly, if I remember things correctly, it was Uncle Jake, Uncle Seth, Aunt Leah, Quil, Embry, and several my my cousins that risked their lives to keep us safe. I do not recall you, Samuel Uley, as having offered any help at all."
I grabbed both carriers and headed back to the living room in time to see Jared step in front of his Alpha. "Sam, she's only a kid," he said, trying to be reasonable. Jared may have been a dense jerk, but, of the idiots left to Sam's keeping, Jared was the least idiotic. I mean, yes, he imprinted, but he did drag himself along to Kim's book club for five months before she took pity on him and said he didn't have to – proving that at least Jared can read. I'm none to sure about some of the others, but you gotta take everything you can get with these boys.
Sam looked inclined to say that, no, she was not a child but the devil incarnate, but couldn't find the right phrasing. But that's okay. I'm not entirely certain she wasn't – Ness was, after all, Bella's child, and Bella was a sadomasochistic co-dependant with serious daddy issues; not to mention Edward is (still) a sexually repressed Victorian who, one must admit, is at least usual enough in his religious convictions to be certain he won't be among the "Saved," whomever they may be – but still, he had no right to think such things. She was my niece. I was the only one allowed to insult her.
"Can't you just Alpha command him, Jake, and end this all?" I said, sparing not a glance for my ex, who, personally, I've never been gladder is an ex. "Or, I dunno, de-bleat him?"
With a look that said, "If he was a goat..." Jake quickly changed subjects. "How'd you get them to phase?"
"I didn't. Billy did."
"Cool, way to go Dad."
"I dunno," said Quil, who was leaning, partially unseen, by the back door. "Least as wolves we – sorta – had an idea what to do."
"Which is why you ask Aunt Rose. She loves babies. And she said that Uncle Emmett's always wanted a puppy."
I rolled my eyes. "So, you two gonna fight or what?" Dan made a noise that sounded oddly enough like an of-course-they're-going-to-fight humph that turned into an I'm-hungry fuss. At least, that's what it turned out to be, and, as much (as I discovered) I dislike breastfeeding when engaging in inter-pack politics, I had to. Why, because werewolves are always hungry. Especially the babies. And I'm hungry too, but can I eat? No... because I threw the food Esme had sent along at Sam and there's practically a gold-foil guarantee that there's no food in Billy's house. "I just ask out of vague curiosity. That, and I'm getting tired of this all, and that's saying something, 'cause you know I like a good fight as much as the next person. But this is frankly ridiculous. I mean, we've beaten this to death so much that I'm frankly getting bored of having to think of insulting things to call Sam. So why don't we all just do the human thing for once and be logical about his."
"But you're not human, Aunt Leah. You're a human subspecies, a hybridization yourselves, and-"
"Not helping, Ness."
I deliberately ignored her. "I could even draw you a map to this if you wanted. Just look at us – you're looking about ready to tear up Billy's house because of a stupid mines-bigger-than-yours fight. Now, I for one love the Rock, but I'm getting kinda tired of living there, and would much rather take over the house like Mom wants to let me once she moves in with Charlie. Then there's the fact that the leeches, while dreadfully annoying sometimes, aren't exactly a danger to anyone – well, maybe our sanities," I clarified. "Still, though, the leeches like us and are in charge of things now, so we don't have to worry about power mad leech princes coming to kill us-"
"Stefan and Vladimir are raiding Volterra, and have spent much of the last millennium plotting."
"I'm talking about in our lifetimes, Ness."
"Oh. Well. You may be right then. Continue."
"Thank you for your permission," I said, settling onto the couch beside her. "But, anyway, we have been over this: Ephraim Black was Alpha, so Jake is Alpha. Levi Uley was Beta, so Sam isn't. Why do we have to keep going over this?" I turned to look at Sam curiously and saw he was trying (and obviously failing) to look anywhere but me. Stupid sheep-stealing lip-molester. "Do you have a learning disability we don't know about? 'Cause that would explain quite a lot. Oh, not you too," as Di began to fuss. "You mind, Ness?" I handed her Dan and took up his sister. "Thanks. Now, what do you want, Diane? Don't tell me you're jealous too, 'cause, if you are, I might have to start charging for my fan club membership. Be a good way to start you a college fund, I guess..."
Jake backed off sending death glares at Sam long enough to snort at the comment, missing the green-eyed monster taking over my ex. Which was rather unfortunate, considering what happened next.