"I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. That I could forget the mockers and insults!
That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and bloody crowning!"
Walt Whitman "Song of Myself"
Chapter Seventeen, Pe
What Sam did do, however, proved to me that the world had at last come to and end, 'cause things had stopped making sense entirely. Sam stepped forward, then tumbled into a pile with Billy, who, for whatever reasons of his own, had decided to intervene and causally roll towards me – conveniently tangling Sam's bare feet in the wheels.
Needless to say, this stopped the argument in its tracks as Sam apologized profusely to Billy, thinking it his own fault and acting like an adult for the first time in ages, and Seth and Judy (who, in natural werewolf fashion, had been scrounging the kitchen for something to eat, coming up with half a bottle of apple juice, a box of expired of S'mores Pop-Tarts, and a bag of frozen peas; my boy scout brother, either very hungry, very odd, or both, ate the peas right out of the bag) to pop their heads out of the kitchen with the complaint that, if Jake and Sam were going to fight, couldn't they do it in a place where they could watch. Still, when it was all sorted out, Billy was alright, if hard pressed to hide how pleased with himself he was, Sam and his had left, and there was, officially, no food left in the house.
"Well," I declared after we discovered this, "the Cullens never bothered to ask for their credit card back. So, who wants Chinese?"
In the end, we ended up (after Seth ran home and begged the car off Mom, who would have come with us herself if Charlie wasn't coming to pick her up for a – shudder – date later) going to Las Estrellasin Port Angeles, being outvoted, even after claiming the twins wanted Chinese too. Oh well.
It was quiet when the Rabbit came, at last, to a halt in The Cullens' driveway. Jake was driving, and Quil was in the passenger's seat, with the rest crammed into the back. Once again, I was curled up (in wolf form) in the back seat, watching Di try to pounce on my tail as Dan, quite amusingly, tried to push her out of the way so he could have a turn. As we piled out, Quil handed over the take out we'd brought for those who'd been on patrol, and he, Seth, and Judy took their places running the border. Ness, after scratching me behind the ears, ran into the manor, thanking me for allowing her, "a valuable insight into how werewolves behave in their home territory," for the paper she was writing with her father. I'd nothing to say to that except that, if you were reduced to having your children spy on your pseudo-friends so you could write reports about them no one else will ever read, you've been around a bit too long. But oh well.
There was the usual string of overheard gossip – who'd hunted what, how Edward feared that the hegemony they hoped to install would inevitability succumb to the "Iron Law of Oligarchy" (something that would, he argued, only be expedited if, like Jasper and Tanya were advocating, they moved to set up their "castle" about a hundred miles north-west of Whitehorse, on the shores of Aishihik Lake, in the Yukon, where there were few people and fewer reasons to fear when non-veggie Nomads stopped by), and what insanity Emmett, Alice, and Kate had done this time. There was even a "Marhabah" from Benjamin and Tia as they borrowed the Aston Martin for a quick jaunt to Aspen for some skiing and some hunting – which was unusual, not the them saying hi part, I mean, but the fact they were going so far to hunt, either meaning that the Cullens trusted them enough to keep to their new diet without a minder or they'd given up on it and had fancied some late-season holiday-goers. Little Senna, Zafrina's mate, even gave us a small smile from her perch on the porch before going back to whittling something that looked to be some kind of cat; this in particular was odd, because Senna had never struck me as all there in the brains department and never really appeared to pay attention to anyone around her, not in a bad way, mind, but rather eccentric, as all leeches were, just in her own peculiar way.
Then, in that way you see cats do, I picked up Di – gently – by the scruff of her neck and Jake, phasing, did the same with Dan, and we brought them back to the Rock.
And we were alone. At last. Just the four of us.
A stray pine cone had found its say under the lean-to, and the moment we set them down the twins, apparently not at all tired, took after it, though it was easily a third their size, and I, with a sigh, dragged my aching body under the lean-to and, finding the nearest clump of blankets to flop upon, did so.
Someone's tired, Jake teased, nudging me over just enough so he could lay down behind me, using my shoulder for a pillow.
My eyes felt leaden, unwilling to stay open for much longer, though, psychically, I wasn't sleepy in the least. It was rather like... like I'd spent the last eight hours reading and, while I could climb into bed if I wanted to, there was no guarantee I'd be falling asleep any time soon. Mentally exhausted, I clarified. Why is it that every fucking time I come within ten miles, it seems, of Sam something happens to set him off, and we ruin perfectly good food, and have to yell – and I know I've said it before, but I can't think of anything else wretched to call him, and you know how much I hate to repeat myself.
That I do... 'Sides, you have a temper, Sam's an idiot, and I'm a ruggedly handsome-
I gave a bark of laughter. Oh yes. Just keep telling yourself that.
Of course he's jealous, Lee. Even an idiot with barely two brain cells to rub together would be jealous and, at last counting, we decided he had three. And so we had. We figured one was needed for breathing and walking upright, the second for talking and eating with utensils, and the third to be able to do things of such stupidity you had to plan them to get them that screwed up. Think about it, though. Firstly, I am ruggedly handsome. Secondly, he's idiot enough that the Powers That Be, (id est, the mystical werewolf gods that controlled who phased, who imprinted, and what not; Kate suggested we call them baji-naji, which I'm sure meant something to her and not a thing to me) thought he wouldn't figure out how to carry on the Uley line by himself, so they had to do their whole mind-voodoo-thing-
Yes, you know the one, where they take people who have a chance of being perfectly sensible or, at least, not complete idiots, and make them go all-
Yes, yes, I said, yawning as I watched Di try to head but the pine cone away from her brother and ended up tumbling over her own feet instead. She looked down at her paws as if about to scream, "Why, feet? Why? Why did you betray me?" and settled for a moment of pouting before running after Dan, who'd paused to watch her, head cocked, in amusement. My lips, of their own accord, slipped into a lupine grin. I may not have been able to talk to them so they understood me – not at this point, anyway – and they may have annoyed me to hell with their let's-help-Mommy phasing and there still remained the fact I was certain I was not the poster girl for raising children, werewolf cubs or no, but I couldn't help but love them. I didn't even know them, only that they were babies and slept a lot and were hungry almost as much and could be tricked using reverse psychology even thought I'm fairly certain no one's ever done any studies on the psychology of newborns, but I love them. I know you mean imprinting. I was just mocking the name.
You don't agree it's mind-voodoo?
Oh, of course it is – but still, it amused me. I had to comment. But you were saying... about Sam having to have that mind-voodoo-thing so he'd know how part A fits into slot B?
Personally, I was going to say something along the lines of needing 'the magic-voodoo-thing to give him The Talk,' y'know, but that works too. But where was I?
I swore I heard him roll his eyes. Anyway, back to two, he's upset that he's such an idiot the PTB had to do their mind-voodoo-thing on him, whereas I, obviously, am. Not an idiot, I mean. I mean, I snagged you in the end didn't I?
I resent the implication. You couldn't get rid of me if you tried.
I know, he sighed, send you halfway around the world and you still find your way back. Worse than carrier pigeons wolves are.
I told you it was a stupid idea to 'initiate' Colin and Brady by trying to loose them in the woods.
Blame your brother – it was his idea.
And you decided to take it, O High and Mighty Alpha.
It was either that or send them to Kate, and I didn't want them to run away in horror when she started talking about the various descendants of her cousin she's slept with.
She can't help it, I said reasonably, my smile growing as he sighed. She has this thing for royalty, and it's not her fault her cousin's children married them. Royalty, I mean. Kate's been very... detailed... on the subject. Something about, I said, wanting to wave my hand airily at this, but, having paws that didn't bend that way at the moment, settled for pulling myself to them as I prepared to break up the fight that was about to happen between the twins over who had possession of whose tail, how, once they married the Austro-Germanic-Hungarians – the guys in the middle, anyway, that it was pretty much a fait accompli that all the princes would be related to her one way or another. But, last I checked, she was planning a trip to London because, apparently, she's not slept with any of the Windsor and- Hey!
I had just shaken my kinks out and was beginning to make my way over to Di and Dan when Jake, finally seeming to realize what I was doing, jumped up and, with a not entirely gentle nudge, pushed me back onto the pile of blankets we'd made a nest in. I've got them, you rest. I snorted, but didn't protest. You were looking a little overwhelmed.
Yawning, You can say that again. He didn't, but broke the twins up, and, after a moment's trotting into the woods, found them each a pine cone to play with, which delighted them.
It doesn't seem that hard.
What doesn't? I asked as he curled up beside me again, nuzzling my muzzle a little.
The parenting thing.
We've only been at it two days.
And no crises.
Just wait 'til they start puberty. That'll be be fraught with difficulty, I'm sure.
We'll practice on Judy and Zack.
Three she-wolves, I mused, sinking into the blankets as I started to doze off. I'm surprised Emmett hasn't started in on the speciation jokes.
No one's imprinted on anybody yet, at least, so that's a plus.
Speaking of imprinting fools, his voice went sing-song, but I know something you don't know.
The difference between hardwood and softwood? I suggested.
Well, yes, but I think you'll find this one even more amusing.
There's something amusing about types of wood?
No, not really, but can I get on with it?
If you really want to. If not, I'll take a nap.
God, Lee, could you be any more supportive?
Fine, I harrumphed, but if this is something about Judy planning to do something about my threat to lock her in a closet with Zack, I already suspect it, and it'll never work anyway. She's only embarrassed that I forbid her to have cubs until she's out of school in front of Zack, Colin, and Brady.
Did you now?
Oh yes. Didn't I tell you about it last night?
You might've, but my ears were still ringing from the don't-you-dare-imprint-on-my-cubs lecture you were giving them before then, so I probably just couldn't hear any of it.
You wound me so.
I guess you don't want to hear my exciting news then.
Fine. Tell me. I'm all ears. And paws.
Jake gave me a look that said, "I won't even dignify that with a response," before, at last, telling me, I know where Kate and Garrett are.
And I care why?
'Cause it's something you might want to hide from?
She's already besieged me with wedding plans. How much worse can this be?
They went to Ukraine.