"Buffy, shame on you. Why does a man do what he mustn't? For her. To be the kind of man who would nev-
To be a kind of man. And she will look upon him with forgiveness... and everybody will forgive and love.
And he will be loved. So everything's okay, right? C-can we rest now? Buffy? Can we rest?"
Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Beneath You"
Chapter Nineteen, Qop
Rather than risk the newly painted door slamming it against Sam's feet, I let it hang open as far as the chain would let it, and went back to the TV. I turned up the volume as loud as it would go, despite it showing a commercial now for a tropical diet gum, and studiously did my bed to ignore my dearest, darling, ex. However, as one might expect, Sam had never much exercised his common sense (let alone his common decency) and didn't seem to realize I didn't want a thing to do with him. He was trying to tell me something through the door anyway, something the senior dating service ad that was now on couldn't quite block out.
It's not the same couch, not after Alice had had her way. That one was old, Lands End, I think, like the rest of the furniture that's God knows where now. Probably in that basement of theirs, next to the autoclave and Carlisle's seventeenth century shoes. The old one had a wooden base and there were three cushions of a blue jeans material that were soft and faded from so many years. I liked that couch. This one was new, smelled new, the colour of pale honey. It's in a different place too, this new couch, and though everything from the colour of the walls to the carpet to the TV is different, it's still the same room, and I can't forget-
Its been years now, you know. It still hurts, a little, in the way any betrayal burns afterwards. I know I felt nothing for him like I thought I felt for me. I know I was planning on breaking up with his sorry ass... but still. You just don't expect to find your boyfriend making out with your cousin/best-friend-who-he's-never-met-be
If there wasn't magic, and myth, maybe... but there are, you see, and I've had too much insight into the idiot's head and have had to deal too often with his shit and with him trying to kill me or people I don't want him to kill or not lifting a hand to help keep me or anyone else from dying to be able to be polite or politic to him. I can't even look at the guy without getting angry. All the things he's done – and I don't mean the ones to me, though those piss me off too, but to everyone else, all 'cause of this fake Alpha crap. It he'd been even half the kinda Alpha he should have been, Matty wouldn't be dead. I know I shoulda fought harder to keep Matty and his sister and Zack safe, maybe even shoulda sent them to Seoul in my place, so that they wouldn't have ever been exposed to danger, but God, somewhere in the long, twisted, crazy story of our lives I knew – just knew – that it was his fault as much as mine, and I couldn't forgive him for that, no more than I could myself.
I mean, I mean, really. Honestly. Truly. I'm only twenty-one. Twenty-one, I tell you. I'm too young, by my books, to be a mom. Too young to be married, especially quasi-creepily to a guy still in high school, and no matter how much I really do love Jake, its still more than a little weird, and I'm sure the kids at his school make fun of him for it when they think he can't hear them, or something like similar that he'll never tell me about 'cause he doesn't want me to feel guilty or some other such shit, as if it was my idea to get married in the first place... I shouldn't have to be dealing with all of this. It shouldn't have come to this.
Sam, I want to tell him, in the mind-to-mind fashion we wolves have, so he'd know it was truly how I felt, that I wasn't lying, that I really meant it. We had some good times – once. But you've got to know I never felt anything for you. Not really. I liked being with you. I liked doing things with you. I liked the fact that I'd someone to be with and do things with, but, it may have taken me awhile to realize it, I never really loved you. You were a friend, and a good one, once. I used to really like you – in the friendly way – before this all blew up in our faces.
You've got to know, I want to say, that I can never forgive you for what you and Emily did. I can understand why you did what you did – imprinting doesn't give you a choice and, as much as I hate you sometimes, I can't begrudge anyone their happiness. I can understand it, I can even get over the fact our "break up" occurred the way it did, but, by all the angels above and devils down below, I don't think I can honestly be expected to forgive you for making out with my cousin while we were still dating, moving in with her a week after we broke up, trying to kill me and molest me in turns while engaged to her; or now your coming to my door, when I'm happy and married and have twin pups curled up in the laundry basket, and telling me you love me. That last part, that I really can't forgive. Well, the trying to kill me part rather annoys me too, but right now the useless-protestations-of-love part bug me really a whole lot more.
It took me a long time, I would continue, for me to learn to trust anybody again, but I did. I love Jake. I know it probably makes no sense to you – hell, it makes no sense to me half the time – but I do. There's no one else I would rather be with. I don't know what's wrong with you, if you're just crawling back to me 'cause Emily left you or you've gone completely crazy, but I thought I'd bashed it through your thick skull. I don't know what you could possibly think that would make it seem like a good idea to try to win be back, and, frankly, I don't want to know, so just leave me the hell alone!
But, you see, we didn't have the stupid mind to mind connection any more (thank God), so I couldn't, and, clearly, there was no way that anything I might say might actually mean anything to him. And, for all I tried, when I closed my eyes and tried to listen to the incredibly actors on the TV asking, "Are either of you palaeontologists? I'm in desperate need of a palaeontologist," for some reason I'd not paid attention to enough of the movie to understand, I couldn't. Despite the flickering lights and loud sound and the smell of freshly washed laundry that, God, I couldn't believe I'd actually done, that memory consumed everything... Coming down the stairs and seeing that, theanger I'd felt at their betrayals, and then the strange emptiness that had settled upon me in the months after...
I had Jake now and I knew it was never love I felt for Sam, but, God, even remembering those days hurt. I didn't want to feel that dead again. It was bad enough during the battle, with Alec's maddening black power had trapped me, making it so I felt nothing. But to just come here and say those things-
That feeling of emptiness didn't remind me of him, not any more. It reminded me of that battle, which reminded me of Matty... Matty who was cold and dead in the ground, never even having made it to his fourteenth birthday, with only a handful of people ever to know how he really died, however stupid and needless it was. I know that my son was his quasi-namesake, but still, I'm sure given half the chance Matty would rather be alive and have Daniel have another middle name, like Bob or something, rather than be dead and have one. I can still remember that first meeting, after he became a werewolf, the day after Jake and I had been infected by the stupid fairy and eloped, and how small he was compared to the others...
I leaned over and pulled the first furball in arms reach out of the basket and onto my chest, wanting to cuddle something soft and fluffy before I burst into tears – which, being a hormonal werewolf, I was liable to do. I looked down, saw stripes, and was about to stare back at the ceiling when I saw Dan yawn irritatedly with a look that said, "This is what you woke me up for, Mommy? I don't know why the guy wants a dinosaur doctor any more than you do."
Obligingly, I turned down the TV. It was another commercial for hunger-reducing gum, and I dimly had time to wonder how much the pack would need to bring our food bill down to that of an average family before I realized the high pitched noise that had just started wasn't coming from the TV but from the laundry basket. Figuring it was just Di angry at being left alone, I (God help me) muted the commercials and was surprised to find it wasn't her but, rather, the cell phone sticking out from under her still sleeping form screaming out, "Hit me baby one more time," - surprised, not because of the latest in the ever-changing, always -annoying, impossible-to-stop-or-silence ringtones Kate and/or Emmett kept my iPhone supplied with (and I had tried putting it on silent, thank you very much, not that it'd worked any better than air plane mode, or vibrate – though, I must admit, I'd noticed a tendency for the songs to be rather suggestive when on vibrate only), but because Di had managed to sleep through it. And that I'd not heard it before.
Tugging it out from under the pup, I pressed talk. "Yo."
Alice, predictably, seized on this. "You should know by now that 'yo' is not an appropriate way to greet someone over the telephone."
"Whatever. I'd've thought that you would know by now that it's not a good idea to call people at," I checked the phone for the time, "eleven fifty-seven in the morning when said people were at your place 'til four that morning and, resulting, have had very little sleep. I'd like to point out that it's a worse idea when you're the person who stole Park Place from right under their nose."
"Multi-sided die," she waved this off, "are sufficiently stochastic enough that I have no way of knowing such things as you landing on Park Place mere seconds after I bought it. In fact, since you are a werewolf, it makes telling the future where you're involved endlessly tedious."
"And yet you used all your money and mortgaged off one of your other properties to be able to buy it."
"Allegedly. There were mitigating circumstances."
"I was there."
"My lawyer advices me not to talk about it."
"I've never heard of a lawyer specializing in monopoly laws, but, I'll admit, being immortal gives you guys a lot of time to specialize in the bizarre. So, did Emmett get this degree before or after his attempt at being a rabbi?"
"Jasper's the lawyer in the family – Princeton, back in the '60s. Couldn't handle the stress, though, of his classmates, so never did it again. Apparently students in the histories are much better at handling pressure. But, if I might ask, who is that in the background?"
"Oh? That? Just Sam trying to convince me of his undying love. He'll probably go away in a day or two. Why you calling anyway? I'm not feeling up to another discussion of table settings today."
"Leah, honey, I finished that ages ago. No, I'm just calling to remind you that Sonia should be stopping by your house soon to do your hair."
"It's like a week 'till the wedding," I pointed out, placing Dan back in the basket and sending a glare towards the door, where Sam was, admittedly, being only minimally annoying. I rather wished he'd do something to become a public nuisance, that way I could call Charlie and ask him to arrest Sam (again) without feeling like he was, I dunno, bringing nepotism to a whole new level. Maybe one of the neighbours had gotten angry at how loud I'd had the TV a moment ago and had already called the police, meaning Charlie was already on his way here for some sort of noise ordinance violation. Even if Sam was being quiet enough in his protestations of undying love that I could ignore him if I wanted to, which I did, maybe I could convince Charlie that Sam was the one going on about palaeontologists. Just tell him Jurassic Park was real too... "so I don't see why you want me to get my hair done now, 'cause there's no damn way in Porky Pig's country-fried ham hell that I'm sleeping with my head on a wooden block for a week like in that geisha movie, and if you for one Adderall-needing moment think I'll go through with something like that, well, you've been getting into Carlisle's coke stash again."
"Oh please. If your latest werewolf fantasy is going to make us into drug dealers, you could at least have us selling something interesting. I mean, everyone who's addicted to anything these days does cocaine. Can't you at least pretend to have us sell something interesting, like GHB or-?"
"You know," I said with complete honesty, "for a while I thought Emmett and Kate were the really messed up ones in your little coven/extended family thing. And then I realized, no, they're just a little eccentric. In a few hundred years of living, I'm sure you're bound to pick up some odd hobbies. You, though – you're the crazy one, and I don't just say that for the whole asylum thing 'cause, hey, it turns out you could actually see the future. No. You're genuinely crazy."
Not sounding it, "That hurts, mutt, it deeply hurts."
"Only a crazy person would have a monopoly lawyer – the Parker Brothers kind, that is. Y'know, I bet that when you say you're on the phone to your stockbrokers, you're really dealing drugs or something. I'd say GHB, but that was probably just to throw me off track. You probably get Carlisle to write tonnes of Oxycodone scripts and yell the pills on the black market. That's how you guys are so rich, isn't it? I always suspected you were drug lords. Where do you keep your fedoras? I've never seen them – though I suppose you go for a more Parisian look. Matching berets then? I've always wanted a raspberry beret. If I join your web of illicit narcotics smuggling, can I get a raspberry beret?"
"I can't even begin to think of how to answer that. So I'll answer your first question by explaining that you don't cut your hair the day of a wedding, you do it before hand so it has time to look 'normal' by the ceremony, though if you'd just grow it out..." she sighed dramatically here, "I suppose it's for the best. After all, vacuuming up your shed wolf hair is not how I want to spend my eternity."
"Well, spending eternity on the run from the DEA isn't how I'd want to spend my eternity either, but to each their own."
"I'm beginning to appreciate how much Kate kept you from driving the rest of us crazy."
I missed Kate. A lot. Not that I'd admit it to anyone. But still, "Any news on when she'll be back?"
"Oh, yes, that's the other reason I was calling. She'll be calling to tell us in twenty-three minutes that she's on her way home and will be leaving from Okęcie International in an hour. The upshot of this is she'll be back for the ceremony." I didn't know whether to be happy or afraid. Really, I didn't.
"And The Deathly Duo? They plotting the imminent destruction of life as we know it?"
"No," well, that was good. "From what I've gathered, I think they're taking everything of interest from Voltera before destroying the castle."
"So the must old books and old clothes and bits of the Maestà were just thanks-for-helping-us-kill-our-archnemes
"Leah, Leah, Leah, honey, I'm just trying to invigorate the local economy."
"When'd you say Sonia would be here?"
"Twelve minutes or so."
"In that case, should probably get the twins to go human then. Don't want to have to have that conversation."
"You would probably love to have that conversation, actually," the vampire on the other end said. "The rest of it you couldn't take."
"Knowing my luck, one of the TICs would imprint on her, and they're all like, years younger than me, and she's Rachel's age..."
"The Idiot Children. That's what I'm calling the Gammas now. Though I suppose The TICs is a little redundant but, y'know, but they are going to suck us dry, I can just tell..."
"You only have ten minutes and forty-two seconds now."
I hung up in disgust. Stupid vampires. Oh well. At least Kate was coming back. Things had seemed entirely too weird without her around. I mean, I'd expected her to be there to make snide comments about the various bridal gown people with, and to tease Alice with, and to make funny faces at Emmett with during his sunrise service on Easter (just don't ask), and whatnot. I didn't want to think of what this might portend (me actually missing her when she and the rest moved up to the Ice-Palace-in-Progress up north for one), but I knew it couldn't be good.
Still. With the TV quite quiet now and me left to my own devices (well, there were the twins, but they didn't count as far as conversation, back ups in a potential battle, et cetera went, not yet, at least), I was all too well aware of the open door and the figure beyond it.
He was a werewolf. Even un-phased our strength was several times more than what it should have been, and, unless Alice had had some contractors in that I didn't know about, the chain keeping the door from opening further was nothing. A quick push-
If I took the twins upstairs to my old room, I knew what I would see. Not the new, bright colours Alice had made it without ever seeing the room – swaths of "Hep Green" and "Reflecting Pool" with almost blindingly white baseboards and dado rails, details which I knew in far too many particulars for my mental well-being – but the old, buttery yellow walls, with the Lands End bed against the wall where the bunk-beds now stood and the battered old desk across from the window, where I moved it junior year 'cause I kept on getting distracted when I was trying to memorize the prologue of The Canterbury Tales, staring out at the yard where Seth, Jake, Embry, and Quil were trying (if I remember correctly) to make an airboat out of Styrofoam, duct tape, and parts salvaged from the junk-yard after seeing something similar done on TV. It didn't work, of course, but was hilarious to watch.
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote, the droghte of march hath perced to the roote, and bathed every veyne in swich licour, of which vertu engendred is the flour...
Judy, having threatening to start calling me Mom if I don't let her, crashes there most nights now. The twin's cribs are in there too and, since even with the addition of oversized bunks in Seth's room and the fold-out I'm now sitting on, Zack's usually in there too. I make terrible fun of her for it, though God knows Zack's as oblivious as any thirteen-year-old boy. It's their room now, not mine, not since Alice's French Canadians with "Sequin" and "Sturdy Brown" redid Mom's room, making it mine and Jake's... but if I go there to put them in bed, like I probably should if Sonia's coming, with Sam at my door, saying these things, I know what I'll see: the desk piled high with open books, the US one in front of me, where I'm trying to make sense of the Tet Offensive, and my much-abused English anthology at my elbow...
...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand...
...And I remember him coming in, though he'd been gone for days – he'd just phased the first time, not that I'd known it; not that I really cared he'd been gone (looking back, it is so easy to see the level of indifference I had in our relationship, and it makes me wonder how we lasted as long as we did). I don't want to remember that emptiness, but already that lingering question, Is this it? echoes through my thoughts...
...The dew of the morning sunk chill on my brow — it felt like the warning of what I feel now. Thy vows are all broken, and light is thy fame: I hear thy name spoken, and share in its shame. They name thee before me, a knell to mine ear; a shudder comes o'er me — why wert thou so dear? They know not I knew thee, who knew thee too well: — long, long shall I rue thee, too deeply to tell...
...And, with it, comes the haunting feeling of failure, of letting Matty down, of the fact that, in the cemetery not even five minutes away there's a boy in the ground who didn't reach his fourteenth birthday 'cause I dragged him into a war he shouldn't've been involved in, 'cause I couldn't protect him well enough. The Volturi may be re-dead, and the mythical world safe enough from the likes of the Brothers Godot for the moment, but, God knows that something will happen and we'll be at war again, and there'll be more pups I can't protect, more pups who shouldn't die but will because I'm not strong enough, will never be strong enough, 'cause all the power in the world can't stop death and, sometimes, these stupid things just happen for no adequately explained reasons. Logs fall on people and make them die hours later. People turn into werewolves unexpectedly and give their parents heart attacks. Drunks insist on driving and hit the cars of innocent, grocery-getting home-makers.
I've given the idiot to reason to believe I love him. That I've ever loved him. So why is he here? Why, the mother-fucking, giraffe-humping, penguin-pumping piece of rhino shit here?
I got the twins to phase out, dressing them in clothes still warm from the laundry rather than going upstairs to that room, that curséd room, and gave them a look that said, "Behave, or I shall sic Kate on you," and tried to figure out why Sam's presence on the other side of that door discombobulated me so. It's not like I loved him. Not now, not ever. It's not like I actually even liked him. But, God above, I just wanted him to go so I-
So I could what, I dunno. I was remembering things and I didn't want to remember and-
And I snapped.
I went to the door and broke the chain myself as I pulled it open, getting a quick glance of a surprised and slightly steaming (rain plus hundred-five body temp, though he did look a touch angry as well) Sam before letting into him. "What the flipping grease-monkey fuck do you want from me, Sam? 'Cause I don't fucking get it. Is it the whole Alpha thing?" Even I'd noticed my scent, now that mating season was over, was going back to normal, or at least, wasn't what it had been then. "Is this your weird, twisted way of trying to get Emily back? Are you just plain ol' crazy? 'Cause, if you are, I'm sure we can find a nice mental institution to put you in. But your passive-aggressive weirdness is about to send me to an institution, so, unless that's your grand plan, will you save me the stress and tell me what the fuck is going on here?"