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The Mythical Creature's Guide to Manners and Decorum (18/22)


"Those who hate most fervently must have once loved deeply; those who want to
deny the world must have once embraced what they now set on fire."
Kurt Tucholsky


Chapter Eighteen, Tzadi

In attempt to escape from Kate and her Ukrainian holy water, I devised a hasty tactical withdrawal from The Cullen Asylum for the Immortally Insane and all of its inpatients. Within two days I had managed to, a) convince Mom to give into her life of sin and debauchery and move in with Charlie, even though they weren't having their wedding until July (though why, I don't know, but I've given up trying to figure out people and their marital inclinations, and so didn't even ask) to free up the house, b) convince Esme that I wasn't moving because of something one of her kids did, c) convince Carlisle that as cool as his house was and everything, the pack's sanity couldn't wait for their house up in the Yukon to be built and all the various leeches in Forks to move up there and do whatever law-making things leeches did when they weren't trying to kill each other for ideological differences to take the manor over, d) talk Alice down from a home-redecorating spree that, somehow, she managed to accomplish over the phone with a Chinese fung shui designer, an Amish furniture manufacturer, and a team of French Canadians, limiting her insanity, at least, to the French Canadians; and, e) most current importance, express to Maggie the importance of pretending to be an average fourteen-year-old if she insisted on driving into Seattle with me, Ness, and the twins and not act like spending two hundred dollars on a Mia Bossi diaper bag was pocket change. Not that, of course, that she listened to me, but no one in the store thought it odd and, likely, thought that Maggie and Ness were the children of my (much older) husband's first marriages and we just happened to get along better than stepmothers and their stepchildren usually did. But that's what happens when your children need human clothes and the one who usually provides these things says outright, "Normally, I'd be glad to, but right now I have an emergency to handle. Rain check."

Personally, I hoped that Alice's emergency had something to do with crashing stock exchanges and most certainly not anything to do with the house we were taking over from Friday, after everyone got out of school. I doubted it though. I just hoped she didn't do anything too bizarre and, I dunno, had the French Canadians take out all the walls and put in a whole bunch of oversized doggy beds. What I really wanted to know, though, was why Canadians in the first place and, secondly, why the French-flavour of Canadians.

Actually, no. I didn't want to know because, almost certainly, it would not be anything I could follow. I'd listened to Kate expound upon the forty or so generations of royalty she'd slept with, and to Jasper in his this-is-what-really-happened-during-the-Battle-of-So-and-So moments, and to Rose when she wanted to talk about things like the importance of handmade gifts, never discussing business on an empty stomach, and, most importantly, presentation. I'd done the same, when Carlisle did his so-you-wanna-be-your-own-species medical things, when Esme wanted me to "help" her cook (a task that was me, standing there, breaking the occasional egg out of respect for her vampire strength and her desire not to get bits of shell in her cooking), when Maggie wanted to go on movie watching binges, when Nessie wanted to expound upon various paradoxes that she seemed to be dedicating her whole life to solving, and, of course, when Mary decided to tell me about the "good ol' days" before Plymouth Rock. I was good at listening, better at mocking, and best of all at ignoring, but I had a feeling anything Alice might choose to share with me on the remodelling of my childhood home was going to be beyond even my abilities to deal with.

Which is why, when she started talking about it, I promptly went to sleep. It was also, probably, why when I woke up, I was lounging on sofa in Carlisle's medical lab, a tube running from my elbow into a glass jar on the floor that appeared to contain at least half a gallon of my own blood, with (if I could guess correctly from the amount of dark hair on the head tucked under my chin) Dan in human form under my other arm, while the dread Doctor Frankenstein and his demonic assistant, Igor, appeared to be giving Diane a series of vaccinations, which she seemed to be more interested in than disturbed by – though that might have had something to do with the fact Nessie was the one holding her to make sure she didn't wiggle, and Nessie looked quite interested herself in the goings on. God, wasn't it bad enough that Ed-weird had to sleepstalk his now-wife when she was human, but he had to do so to me and mine? Did this speak of bizarre habits or creepy preferences?

I swear, the jerk winked at me. I swear it. Winked. I've seen the Cullens' video collection. I know they have every monster movie known to man, including but not limited to the ninety-two-hundred Dracula movies. I also know that when all you do is go through high school over and over again and you don't sleep, it's not like he didn't have the time to watch them and/or brush up on his übercreepy Angelus-esque stalking techniques. I mean, really. He was just making it too easy to mock his thought-raping, sneak-into-your-room-at-night-and-watch-you-sleep ways. I'd have to think of new insults to hurl at him. I could try for the overeating leech jokes, but, really, beyond Vampy the Buffet Slayer and Count Snackula, there weren't all that many you could make, and then they'd just say they drank a lot of animal blood to keep from killing innocent humans and, if one wanted them to not do that, well, they could, but don't come running if we didn't like the results...

So I settled for glaring at the back of his head and thinking as loudly as I could, Stay away from my daughter, you sexually-repressed mind-man-whore. I paused after a moment of this, pondering, and thought loudly towards him, Make that stay away from everyone. Who knows what kind of ancient mind STDs you're carrying around – something far deadlier than Kate's chlamydia. I don't want to get brain-syphilis 'cause you can't help but riffle through my thoughts, and I certainly don't want Di or Dan to come down with whatever common-sense-destroying kind of crab you've been carrying around for the last hundred years.

"Leah's up," the mind-rapist said simply to Carlisle, "and she's making references to Mary Shelly."

"I'm ashamed of you, Aunt Leah," Ness said with mock-sorrow in her voice. "You're starting to repeat yourself; I could have sworn you've used that one before. You could," after a moment's deliberation, "at least reference Mary Wollstonecraft or, I do not know, some other Mary. Mary Mallon maybe."

I didn't even try to follow her reasoning. "Whatever, Loch Ness. I'm living in fear of Kate coming back from Ukraine and staging a holy water-balloon fight."

The girl, who rightfully shouldn't have been walking yet, let alone chiding me for my lack of variety in my insults, looked at me peculiarly. Which is to say, more peculiarly than usual. "Ukrayina?" and not even her father's hand, which moved at vampiric speeds to cover her mouth, could stop her from continuing, "She's not in Ukrayina."

It was my turn to look puzzled while Ness's own puzzled stare turned on Edward. I tried not to snicker, burying my face in Dan's hair as best I could, and, failing almost utterly, succeeded only in waking Dan up. He gave me a look that said, quite blandly, Oh, good Mommy, you're up, and continued, with hardly any change of inflection, Let's go to the park. Or, at least, it was some version of the let's-go-play-somewhere-where-it-doesn't-smell-so-sickly-sweet thought. I think. Being only a week old and not (at least, apparently not) genetic freaks of nature, like Nessie, neither twin could talk, and even the strange pack-mind thing that allowed the pack, when phased, to share thoughts, wasn't much help. Mostly because, presumably, at a week old wolf thoughts were no more understandable to adult wolves than baby speak was to humans.

The last two days, I might have failed to point out, had also come with Jasper opening a new round of betting, this one on when the twins would start to talk and what their first words might be. There was an embarrassingly large sum on spread not too thinly amongst a variety of curse words.

After a moment, "So, any reason why I'm not supposed to know where Kate is? She's not off starting a war, is she?"

"No," Edward told me, using his favourite you're-an-idiot tone.

"Founding a cult?" Knowing Kate, if it wasn't the one, it was the other. Not because Kate particularly liked wars or religious extremists, but she claimed they made life "interesting" and, presumably, living forever got quite boring very fast.

If possible, his, "No," contained even more vitriol than before.

God, I just used the word "vitriol." I feel myself becoming a sexually-repressed Victorian already.

"I would like to point out," he continued, obviously hearing my thought, "that I am technically of the Edwardian Era. Queen Victoria died several months before I was born."

"Narcissist."

The mental man-whore rolled his eyes and took an unnecessary deep breath. "I know," he said to Carlisle, "that I have done much that can never be forgiven, but nothing I can recall seems to justify the hell of her thoughts."

Knowing from Kate about about his little teenage rebellion, I decided to be outraged.

"Why," Ness quickly cut in, "is Aunt Leah not supposed to know Cousin Kate is visiting Stefan and Vladimir, to make sure they are not plotting to take over the world?"

Her father pinched his nose and walked out of the room. About to make a comment on how he shouldn't judge my parenting techniques if his own was to let his "parents" handle it – not to mention I'd probably spent more time with his kid than his wife had twice over. Maybe it was 'cause his shoulders seemed to sag as he passed out of sight, or maybe something else, but I didn't. It was hard to remember, but Edward was, beneath all the leech stuff, only seventeen-years-old. I was twenty-one and didn't know the first thing about raising kids... but he was, nominally, at least, even younger, and, from what I'd learned over the long months of knowing Kate, probably had never thought about kids of his own when he was alive. I guess it wasn't his fault that his stupid human bride managed to get pregnant. I mean, who'd've thunk it, vampires being dead and all, and his flash frozen "genetic material" (pause while I gag) was, presumably, like him, dead...

I'll settle for blaming Bella and trying not to feel sympathetic for the bastard. Must think of other things... "So," I asked at last, "are Estragon and Vladimir planning on taking over the world?"

"Stefan and Vladimir," Ness corrected.

"Whatever. So, are they taking over the world or not? Do we have to look out for giant magnifying glasses being perched over us or mice tunnelling into the nuclear reactor downstairs?"

"We do not have a nuclear reactor. Autoclaves, yes: reactors, no." I wanted to bang my head on something, but nothing presented itself. "Kate will call when she's on her way back – and will probably swing through Kyiv, or Moskv, or maybe even Piter, what with how she was moping the fall of Kievskaya Rus' before she left – but, right now? I don't think Stefan and Vladimir are planning global conquest. Localized warfare, maybe, but nothing to worry about."

It may surprise you, but I still worried. Not about the Romanians, though. Not even about Kate. I worried about Nessie, growing up with leeches for parents. I worried about Di and Dan, growing up with the likes of me – not to mention the terrible influences Seth and Billy would be on them when they were older. I worried that more werewolves would phase before the Cullens' ice palace in the Yukon was finished, kids as young as Zack and Judy and Matty. I worried that, if not the Romanians, than maybe the nomads wouldn't like this pentaumvirate the Denalis and the Cullens and the Irish and the Amazonians were setting up with the whoever's-available-at-the-time nomad and would start another war. Maybe another one of my cubs would die...

I worried that they would fit in worse than the rest of us, with them never knowing a world other than the mythological. I worried they'd imprint or be imprinted on (Di was safe from my pack, thank God, but there were Sam's three who'd phased after the schism and weren't imprinted yet still to worry about, after we finally merged packs; and who was to say, if me and Judy and Di had phased, someone else wouldn't come and do it on Dan?) and never fall in love, like I had with Jake...

I worried something would happen to Jake, like with Dad...

I worried Irina might sneak out of the attic and do something amazingly stupid to get us all killed again...

I worried a lot, and didn't like it.

Still, life went on. We moved on Friday back onto the Rez, and nothing happened. Kate didn't call, Alice didn't cover the plumbing with gold leaf, and Sam didn't do a thing, except for glare at us whenever he happened to see us. His pack was rather friendlier, as best they could be, but Sam seemed to have them on constant watch ever since Colin and Brady broke away, in case anyone else decided to try the same. I heard from Rachel that Jared was in something of disgrace for wanting Sam to step down already and let everything get back to normal – or as close to normal as werewolves ever got.

But, with Emily gone and rumoured to be at her parents on the Makah Rez, nothing was going to get back to normal any time soon. Quil, who overheard from Claire's parents when he went over for play dates, had found out that Em had mailed Sam his ring back and, the several times Sam had gone up to Makah to try and see her, she'd refused, which just made Sam madder and less sensible, if that was at all possible, which had Alice trying to convince Jasper to teach some of us how to plant bugs in Sam's place, never mind there was no way any of us could get in there even if we wanted to without being smelled out. An upset Sam was something none of us particularly wanted, at least, not when we were nearby.

Weeks passed until, after three fittings (for me and Judy), a rehearsal dinner, two trips to a high-end tailor in Seattle (for the guys), the last minute change from blue thistle and bamboo shoot boutonnières to something with bluebells and cornflower due (or so Alice said) to some sort of unexpected panda habitat debacle involving a pet snake, an off-duty paramedic, and a wine-flavoured wooden cigarette; and seven overnight trips back to the Cullens for all-night games of monopoly and an introduction to the job I'd convinced Rose, Alice, and Esme I wanted (rather than continue to find money miraculously in pockets and whatnot, which seemed a bit creepy to me when we weren't actually "protecting" them full time now; the money that mysteriously came my way now was going to be payment for cleaning out their basement, an occupation that could take a lifetime), it was less than a week until the wedding.

The Thursday before the wedding, after a particularly long night of Monopoly, involving four boards placed together and a sixteen-sided die, I was trying to do laundry. At least, if anyone asked, that's what I was doing. What it looked like, to anyone not in the know, was that I was watching a twenty-seven-year-old movie with the guy from Ferris Buler's Day Off that I thought had died of cancer ages ago, don't ask me why, and some girl who looked super familiar but I couldn't place at all while dozing in front of several half-folded baskets of laundry, Di and Dan curled up (as wolves in the nearest one, sound asleep and shedding all over Seth's shirts, which just went to show that I shouldn't have been cornered into cleaning things in the first place. It just wasn't fair. Alright, I knew I was the only one without school or whatnot to fill my day and the bi- or tri-weekly basement clearing I was doing for the Cullens was technically cleaning, but still. Laundry had never been my strong suit. Just ask Mom) in the nearest basket.

So maybe it wasn't a surprise that, when I was stirred out of my half-slumber, hearing a noise I couldn't immediately place, my hand searched blindly for the iPhone on the table for a moment before lifting it to my ear. Begging the question of why exactly one saw fit to call me in the middle of the day after late night board-gaming and how, if she wanted to drag my ass to do anything at all today, she'd have to come onto the Rez herself and get me, it took me another moment to realize that the reason no one was answering was because the noise was still continuing, and coming, not from the phone, but the door.

Looking through the pigeon-hole, I could clearly see Sam standing on the porch, eyes downcast, hands in pockets, looking for the first time in a long while like he wasn't going to go at the throat of anyone who so much as looked at him the wrong way. In fact, he looked much like he did the last time I saw him, before the whole sneak-into-my-room-during-exams sex thing that began our whole falling out, right before he phased, when we were heading out to a movie or something... I remember asking him if he was getting the cold that was going around and he was saying maybe, but he'd spent the last two hours or something on the phone with the funeral home, arguing with them about whether or not he'd sent them the last check for his mom's funeral that February...

Leaving the chain on the door, I opened it a crack. "I don't want to talk to you," I said softly, so as not to wake the twins. "We've nothing more to say to each other."

He was fully dressed, I noticed, which was weird for those of us of the werewolf persuasion, and in the Olympic peninsula's constant rain, had gotten soaked enough that his ridiculous body head hadn't dried the out yet. "Look," he said, tone melancholy, sticking his foot out so I couldn't close the door in his face, "I know it's entirely too late and probably will mean nothing to you, and I understand that, but I," he paused, seeming at once both much older than he had when I'd last seen him and much, much younger. Like he might have actually been that boy I had, once, thought I loved and thought loved me. It was disconcerting. I didn't want any guy standing on my front porch with dripping clothes and hair plastered against his forehead to be talking in this tone to me – not Jake and certainly not anybody else, Sam at the top of that list. "I just thought you should know," he continued, "that I still love you."


Chapter Nineteen