TMI_kiss-closeup

The Mythical Creature's Guide to Manners and Decorum (21/22)


"In a revolution, one triumphs or dies (if it is a true revolution)."
Che Guevara in letter to Fidel Castro


Chapter Twenty-One, Sin

"Have you ever considered investing in a Bluetooth?" Kate asked me in an almost disinterested tone having just finished asked me what the weather was like (wet, what a surprise) in the exact same way.

I was running after my ex-Alpha down the streets of La Push at just-fast-enough speeds to worry any onlookers who might be on-looking, carrying a laundry basket filled with Seth's now shed-upon shirts and the twins underneath one arm and holding the phone to my ear with the other. "No, Kit-Kat, I haven't. Honestly, I see nothing detrimental about this situation at all – I mean, since when have I ever need hands for anything?"

"Just because you're frustrated, Kiwi, doesn't mean you have take it out on me. Go and find a babysitter and do something adult with Yisra'el. Hang on – let me pull the internet up on this crazy thing and see what movies are playing in Port Angeles."

"How about you call up Alice instead and tell her to head back home – why didn't she tell me she was coming? Oh, God, and what if she's brought Ness with her?"

"You're such a worry wart. And don't worry – Gilead is trying to get through to her now."

"Why do you call him that, anyway?"

"Gilead?"

"No, Bob. Of course Gilead, idiot."

"Jeremiah 8:22. 'Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?' It's long and involved, but call it a spiritual panacea. Though, I'll have you know, next time you complain about be wasting time during important things, I'm going to bring this up."

I could hear 'Gilead' in the background, protesting, "I did dial the correct extension."

"Well, it wouldn't give you the error message if you had. It's zero, one, and then the number," she told him, then, turning her attention back to me, "Considering the last time I was in Warszowa was just after Alexandre-ノdouard de Valois-Angoulême was elected the first rulerof Królestwo Polskie i Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie and told Anna Jagiellonka he wouldn't marry her, despite what the biskup Walencji of the time – what's-his-name? Jean de Montluc. Despite what Montluc had promised the lords... Anyway, considering that was back in the sixteenth century, I feel should be the one with the technophobia, not him."

"I thought the extension was zero-one-one, forty-eight, twenty-two."

Without moving her mouth away from the phone, she called back to Garrett, "That's to call Warszowa. To call from here it's just the normal zero-one."

I continued running after Sam, who was a good two blocks ahead of me, almost at the point where Hermison Road joined the one-ten, where that was a bridge that crossed the River. Unless he wanted to phase, there was no way he could ford it. He'd have to cross there if he was going to follow the road, where he might guess Alice (or whatever Cullens were involved in his believed invasion) would be coming from. If he thought they were running – id est, no roads – he'd probably phase as soon as he crossed the one-ten, not having to worry about any other major roadways people might spot a large wolf on, what with the woods as thick as they are in this part; he'd not have to cross the river until he was nearly at the one-oh-one that way, and, probably, he'd come across them long before – if they were coming that way. The simple fact of the matter was that running after anyone, especially your ex, while carrying your month-old twins (who, at least, looked a month old) in a laundry basket through the streets of town was not a good idea, especially when you were trying to hold a phone to your ear as your thousand-year-old maid-of-honour tried to explain to her boyfriend (who was a fourth of her age but looked seven, eight years older) how to call internationally from nine time zones away on the other end is not a good thing. I considered throwing the phone down, to at least be able to carry the basket with two hands, but I rather wanted to know when Garrett managed to get through to Alice and dissuade her from this (insanity proving) course, and I'd learned from previous experience that not paying attention to which contact you hit leads to time-consuming and, often, painful conversations with the leeches I tried to explain whatever I needed to. As chasing down someone who's likely create yet another Vampire-Lycan incident while carrying a basket full of bemused infants tends to be a bit distracting, I'd decided not to risk accidentally calling Emmett or, well, particularly Emmett, and having to explain this rather bizarre situation to him. Who knew what he would do if he found out – try to help or get a video camera?

But, human of wolf, I was still the fastest, and would, with all luck, catch him before had the chance to cross the one-ten and phase. If he did that, not only would I have to worry about him calling backup (in the form of Paul, who'd be pleased; Jared, who'd be saying this really wasn't necessary; and his pups, who were really too young for this, no matter how you sliced it) but I'd have to figure out what to do with Di and Dan, who I certainly couldn't leave home alone and most defiantly wouldn't leave alone in a forest full of crazy people, no matter if I could hear their semi-coherent thoughts or not. Stupid Sam! He coulda just said outright what he wanted to say – better yet, he coulda never tried to say it at all, and left me alone like most ex's do – and be done with it. But noooo, he had to go and be all weirder than usual, and make everyone's life a living hell and try to start another war. Why? Just because he could.

Stupid men.

I listened to Kate chatter to Garrett while waiting for Alice to pick up, really wanting not to have to do this. I mean, Nessie on the Ness on the Rez was one thing, but a real-life, full-blooded vampire? I really should've paid more attention to the wedding plans, I suppose, and thought ahead to something like this, but for some strange reason I'd gotten it into my head that they were having it at the Space Needle or the zoo or some other bizarre place, not somewhere on the Rez. I mean, leeches were planning the whole thing, and half the wedding party were leeches, so why would I think the ceremony might take place on a distinctly un-leech-friendly place like the Rez? I mean, sure, Jake and I and Seth and the rest might like the Cullens and not mind them coming onto our land, but there was still the whole matter of the treaty and the fact that Sam was unhappy that we'd even moved back to the Rez in the first place, so why did everyone seem to be willing to start a war over such a silly little thing as a wedding for a marriage that was already four months and two kids old? I bet this is all Rebecca's fault. She's flying in tomorrow with Rip, her Samoan banker-cum-surfer husband, for the ceremony. Rachel had given her my number (which she'd gotten from her brother, who seemed to have conveniently forgotten Becca's thirteen-year-old insistence we were perfect for each other) and, after a long I-told-you-so session, she'd somehow ended up with the Cullens' home number and had spent several hours since talking to Alice, who shared her sisterly sympathies.

I could just imagine Ness and her father sitting down to write the chapter in their werewolf history book about this: And so the rightful Alpha's sister, being unaware that her brother and sister-in-law were werewolves, suggested to the wedding planner (whom she was unaware was, like the maid-of-honour, a vampire) have their wedding on pack land. And the vampire wedding planner, thinking that with the rightful Alpha being the rightful Alpha and all would take care of the mess, agreed, without bothering to tell the Alpha female. And thus the third great Vampire-Lycan war began... Note to self: never answer calls from Kate in front of my fucking three-brain-celled ex again. Even better idea: kill Sam and be rid of the problem forever, and have one big pack 'cause, with Sam gone, there'd be no one to try to take the Alpha from Jake, and I'd be indisputably Empress of the Rez or whatever whatever you want to call me, even if Kate never gives me one of her old crowns.

"What do you mean voicemail?" said crown-withholding vampiress in a way that made it all to clear she had a Bluetooth, "Alice always has her phone with her, except for when she's hunting. And sometimes even then- Well, leave a message then and try jej mąż, pełnoletność. He'll be able to find her- Leah? You still there? Good. We can't get hold of Alice."

One-and-a-half blocks from Sam now, and about three from the highway, "Then try Jasper," I wanted to shout into the phone, but she told me they were already doing that, and to hold on just another second, and I was resting the urge to scream and throw something so badly – but I was more confused than anything else. "Are you sure that Alice said she was coming today?"

"Yes, yes," she said absently. "It was quite clear: she was having some sort of local woman go to your place to do your hair, and she was making sure that somehow or another she was going to frost it, or highlight it, or something odd – I tell you, cosmetology just isn't what it used to be. Why, when Tanya, Irina, and I were in Wien with Margarita Theresa von Spanien when she was married to her mother's brother, Leopold I, things were so much different. We were playing at being Lieselotte, Ermengarde, and Carlandra Abendroth from Drježdźany then, and that was when we were still rough about the edges with our dii and, well, we'd been planning on going to her brother's court. Her brother was Carlos II, who I've told you about, the Spanish king whose mother was also his first cousin and was descended eleven ways from Juana la Loca, and his mother had just become regent, so I suppose we would've met Carmen and Eleazzar then if we had, but we'd been clean for almost four years when we came across the real Abendroths and we couldn't just pass up an opportunity like the Holy Roman Emperor, especially when-"

Warningly, "Kate..."

"Oh, right," she seemed to catch the hint, which she never did, which only reiterated the seriousness of the matter. "Alice said she was having a local woman doing something to your hair and was making sure of it, and she had to go, 'cause she didn't See me calling as early as I did and that she wouldn't wait much longer for her."

"'She' wouldn't wait? Sonia?" I wasn't aware anyone outside of our semi-mortal clique where the Cullens lived. Or that the Cullens wanted any possibly food-worthy humans that they could possibly avoid knowing where they lived. The long driveway to their house was so full of switchbacks and dips and narrow passes that the humans who'd had to drive it before didn't like taking it at more than twenty or so miles an hour, and, if that was the case, there was defiantly no way that the hairdresser could have made it to the house from there in the time Alice said she would, and even if for some reason Alice was driving, they usually tended to go the speed limit when humans were with them in the car. "Are you sure the she Alice was talking about was her? Not Ness or Rose or Esme or someone?"

Huffily, "Well, at the time it struck me as anaphoric, but English can be very vague about those things. I've always felt língua portuguesa had a much better grasp on pronome, myself, considering-"

Just a block now from Sam, I took the time as I was crossing the road at the place where Hermison and the highway did a kinda loop-back thing about a half-mile from the bridge to pause misstep and ask Kate (very calmly give the circumstances, I might add), "Are you telling me that we just started a war because of poor grammar?"

"Vague grammar and precipitated, but yes."

Mind racing (how, pray tell, do you convince your ex, who is probably insane and was possibly only looking for an excuse to maul something, that the phone conversation he overheard that led to this desire was precipitatedby misconstrued pronouns and have him believe you?), it took me a moment to realize I'd stopped running, and an moment after that to realize that the thing I'd just about run into was a car that'd stopped in front of me.

I blinked, saw Sonia, who I only dimly recognized, the girl-who-was-probably-wondering-why-I-was-fleeing-on-foot-when-she-was-supposed-to-be-doing-something-even-Kate-thought-odd having been in Sam's year in school, and, without thinking, pulled open the back seat of her car and stuffed the twins' with their laundry basket into the back, and started to run around it.

"Leah!" she said with enough of a drawl that I remembered having wondered once if she was intentionally trying to sound southern or it was her actual accent, "What on earth are you-?"

I ran on, but she seemed to have enough sense to climb back into her battered, old red Ciera (too much time around Jake, I know, but I actually noticed this, and was slightly annoyed at my brain for taking the cells to realize this, rather than think of ways to catch and destroy Sam Uley, which it should be doing) and, bringing it about quickly, tried to drive along side me.

"-what do you mean Jasper says she's not there?" I could hear Kate asking Garrett as I still held the phone to my ear, mentally berating myself for having fallen back another block from my target.

"'Cause she's not. She went out."

"Did he say where?"

"I-"

Sonia rolled down her window and, trying to keep her car on the road, shouted at me, "What on earth is going on? Why did you-?"

Lowering the phone for just a minute, "Look, just go- just take the twins and go to Charlie, I mean, Chief Swan. He'll be at the station, or something like that. Take Di and Dan and just go-" With the twins safe, I could considerate on stopping Sam without worrying about their safety. Granted, I'd hardly call Sonia a close friend, but she was better than God knew what I was getting myself into. I had to keep the twins safe. I don't know what I would do if something happened to them.

"But-"

Unencumbered now by the basket, I went faster and brought the phone back to my ear, "Kate?"

"No. Garrett. Kate's talking to Jasper."

"Any news?"

"He says she went hunting. He doesn't know where, only that Irina-"

"Irina!" What did Irina have the fuck to do with anything?

"Yes. Apparently she wanted to try hunting for herself, or something like, before Kate came back. Something psychological about wanting to show her older sister she wasn't insane – he's trying to explain to her right now."

"Damn."

"You're telling me," and, perhaps realizing wars were best fought without wireless distraction, hung up. Which just goes to show you that while Kate may have lived in every royal court known to man and wolf, Garrett at least recognizes that Cullens are not one of them, and, no matter how rich anyone is, a long call from a cell phone in Warsaw to one in Washington is going to put a dent in somebody's wallet.

He was almost at the highway. I was little more than a block behind him, and Sonia's Ciera was going God knew what impossible human speed to keep up with me. I slowed just enough to toss the phone through her open window and begged her, "Just go to the station and, whatever you do, don't listen to a word Kate might say if she calls back."

She was about to say something – I dunno what – but even human eyes could make out Sam crossing the one-ten and phasing before he was even halfway in the woods. Instead, her words came out a muffled scream as she stomped her foot on the breaks.

"Shit," was my only explanation as I allowed the quivering anger to overtake me, until I too was phasing mid-step, glad there were no other cars on the road as I crossed the highway and chased after him. Mother-fucking, penguin-pinching, Santa-slaying sheep-shit and the like kept racing through my head. I may have been the fastest of the wolves, but at the disadvantage trying to follow his path through the forest he'd regularly patrolled in the last year and I, well, hadn't, and, knowing our luck, Sam had probably changed the patrol routes after Colin and Brady had gone, I dunno, whatever the appropriate parallel is, so it was no use trying to follow those, even if I could remember right now.

I couldn't hear anyone else, which was good in a way 'cause the rest of the pack was supposed to be at school and probably very bad 'cause, though Jimmy and John and what's-his-face, the third one, Tim probably had no more desire to fight me than I had to fight them, Sam would make them fight if he'd managed to call them out of school, where they should be, though God knew what insanity he might've cooked up if he was claiming to still love me. And Jared, well, I thought he wanted to defect a la pretty much any movie that I can think of off the top my head, but who knew for sure? Paul, though, would probably be happy to try and fight me no matter what the reason for kicking him in the groin that one time when I was six. I forget why I did that...

Back on track... back on track... Oh, God, this place was littered with their odd sand and surf and mowed grass and things that were far too calm and tame and normal for a mythical creature. Nothing like the heavy scent of pine and earth and musk (whatever the hell musk was anyway) that was normal and good and not something you might expect to find on a toddler after a day on the shore... So what was Sam doing, where, exactly, was he going, if even he knew, and why couldn't he make life easy on her? All she wanted was to hunt him down and stop a grammatically-caused war. Was that so hard?

There we are. His scent had gotten tangled – had he gone north-east, along the river, presumably to cross Goodman Mainline where it was closest to the water, where he'd not have to worry about houses and yards and pet dogs until he got to Anderson Ridge, if he bent south – no, that path was a patrol route, since it came closest to the border, and would bring us to places I knew better, the east side of Goodman Mainline being leech territory – he'd gone south, where there were more houses, where he could take advantage of shortcuts I'd long forgotten between tracts of land and, in one place (though God help me, I couldn't remember where) where you could go through a drainage ditch right through-

But, if he went south, he couldn't go much past Brady's dad's place, on the south end of Strawberry Bay, before he would have to turn east, if the Cullens' was his ultimate destination. Meaning he'd have to go through that woody triangle of land between Maxfield Creek, the one-oh-one, and May Creek, where the land was too rough for people but perfect for wolves and, when they were in need of a quick snack, vampires. There was little chance that Alice would be there if she had ended up taking Irina hunting, since it was too close to humans in case Irina had gone feral or whatnot in her two-odd months hiding in the attic, but, still, heading off Sam before he brought the great Pronoun Incident to painful fruition was good. Very good. And it was on our side of the Goodman Mainline, so he'd not know there was this great high spot where you could catch scents from miles away, one we'd always been sure to run our patrols through for that very reason, even if it was closer to human habitation than we liked to be when we patrolled...

Nevermind that I have no idea how to stop him. Talking, we've long since discovered, doesn't work with him. He doesn't listen. He hears only what he wants to hear. He still loves me, for God's sake. Reason doesn't work on idiots like him.

Which means we have to fight, and, as much as fighting Sam would do wonders for my misapplied anger issues, the fact still remains he is a large, Alpha-esque wolf, and whereas I'm, well, not. Most fights I've been in with Sam have had me mostly holding my own for a while, then either having Jake swoop in and save my ass or me making a less-than-graceful retreat. Oh, and I remembered the whole Alpha command thing, but that would only stop him so long as I, a) found him and b) knew what it was I was trying to stop. He mightn't be trying to kill anyone for all I knew. He might just want to "talk" with Alice too. I suppose it was still worth a shot, but...

Stupid vampires and their ambiguous use of pronouns.

Still, I took off running, leaving Sam to try his own strange way of getting there while I took the fastest route I could remember. I couldn't even begin to understand how this was happening. Well, I could see how he'd try and get rid of the leeches any chance he got, but-

-a noise. Rustling. Glimpse of movement. Sam?

No, that was only a deer moving up ahead. No need to get excited. Even if my heart was thundering in my chest and there was a sour tightness in my throat that I attributed to fear, it was only a deer. It was only Sam. Sam by himself couldn't do much damage, and- and who was I kidding? Some guy exactly like Sam was probability responsible for the fall of Troy. With machine guns and bombs and stuff like that, Sam could probably do much worse. Not that I thought Sam would be machine-gunning the Cullens. Mostly 'cause I'd no idea where one got machine guns.

Now there was a thought. Machine guns. I doubted they'd be of any use in fighting the magical forces of evil unless you filled the mag with shredder rounds and then set fire to what remained. Or incendiaries. Those might work. I'll have to keep that in mind in case Stefan and Vladimir go Volturi crazy.

Oh God! I'm sounding like Kate when she talks about how exciting it would have been if Maria Anna of Spain had been alive when her son Leopold married, she'd have been maternal grandmother, paternal aunt, and mother-in-law to Margarita Theresa- No! It's worse than that. I'm becoming Kate! Oh, God, kill me now! This is just entirely-

-another rustle. Another flash of movement. That deer is making far too much noise to be a deer, and what little flash of colour I'd seen was far too dark to be anything cervine-

Sam.

A burst of speed, a change of course that put the May Creek directly ahead, and then-

Sam! I called though I knew he could not hear me, feeling sluggish as leapt after him. Must find his secret shortcut. There's no way he could have out ran me, even if I'm a bit out of practice, what with the twins and all occupying most my time now. Still, I manage to catch his flank, causing him to loose his step on the slick mud and turn, growling, on me.

Seeing it's me, though, he backs off just a bit and, more surprisingly still, phases out. It's raining still, and instead of a rain-soaked wolf there's a naked, rain-soaked human male in front of me. "You heard them," he shouted at me as I got to my paws, shaking my head furiously. His eyes, normally hazel, were wild and dark in the greying light, giving me a better look than I'd ever have wanted as to what somebody escaped from Bellevue would look like. There was something wild there – nothing animal, not that kind of wild – like there was something wrong with him.

It was a look of a man on the edge of surrender to fate, of relinquishing all control over his actions to that thing screaming in his head what he had to do – but, whereas that instinctual voice had ordered me to fly back from Soul when Bella wanted me to save her daughter, to fight Alec's power of paralysis when he'd thrown it upon me during the battle, to keep the twins safe no matter what, his deliberately led down only one path: self-harm.

I got it now. I think it truly got it now. Whether what he'd said about loving me was actually true or not, whether he actually thought Alice and the Cullens were invading the Rez or not, he had given up. He'd been Somebody in high school, had been the darling of the Rez, had been the first to phase, the Alpha of that original pack. And now what did he have? An ex who'd taken up with the rightful Alpha, stolen the better part of his pack, colluded with his enemies, and was, despite it all, the one that was succeeding. The Elders wanted him to give up his pack to Jake, he'd lost Emily 'cause he'd never (or so he'd claimed) gotten over loosing me, and now it had to be all too clear to him that he was fighting a loosing battle. Jared, his very own Beta, would turn on him if able. His pups were only superficially attached to him. Paul only stuck with him, probably, 'cause he hated Jake more. He saw no recourse.

No recourse. Meaning that, when he'd told me he'd still loved me, he'd wanted me to angry at him. He'd wanted me to phase. When that seemed unlikely to happen, he'd been willing to pick a fight with the leeches to get what he wanted.

What did he want? A good mauling? The sympathy of being attacked? Was he going Münchhausen on us? - No. Sam had never wanted sympathy. Power was all he knew. Strength. Something one of the Cullens with doctorates would identify as superiority complex. He knew his cause was lost.

He wanted to be a martyr.

He was starting to make Bella look the picture of mental health.

I phased out, only some mud from where I'd landed after tackling him providing me with any modesty at all (which, I must point out, is little, especially when it's raining). With a forced calm, "Yeah, I heard them. I heard both sides of the conversation, actually. The "she" Alice had meant was Irina-"

"The one who sold you out to the Volturi?" Was that satisfaction lighting his eyes as he began to turn heel? Satisfaction that he'd been proven right? Satisfaction that he'd probably get his death wish, seeing as how Irina had consorted with red-eyed murderers? I did not know this man any more. I don't know if I ever really knew him, even when we were dating. He just happened to be there and we seemed to have had entirely different ideas about what it meant. I guess I just didn't want to be alone. And Sam? I guess he thought it meant something. Still, it severed only to make him look crazier.

"Well, she wouldn't've, you know, if you hadn't been your idiotic, snake-sucking self and let us stop her."

"She didn't know it was Rez land!"

"That's no excuse-"

"Oh, come off it, Sam. Emergencies know no boundaries and all that shit. But yeah, Kate had Garrett call and check with Jasper and Alice is out hunting. Probably to the east, where there're less people, and certainly not anywhere near La Push. So just stop trying to start a war here and go back home. Get cleaned up and find Emily. Tell her you're over this foolishness. Tell her that you'll try and go back to being the person she fell in love with, not this angry, obsessive – idiotic – person you've changed into."

He snorted, still not half looking at me, seeming somehow drab and lifeless, like the only thing alive about him were his eyes, his angry, obsessive, idiotic eyes that were seeing something that I could not see. Then, shaking his chest, came a grim laugh, not manic, but certainly uncontrolled. He laughed for several moments, while I stayed half-crouched, looking more Tarzan than anything human, I'm sure, before he said, "Change?" There might've been tears of laughter leaking from those crazed hazel eyes, but it might just've been rainwater. "There is no change. You may have forgotten, but I haven't. We're werewolves."

"How could I possibly forget that?" I asked, straightening a little. "There's werewolves and vampires and God knows what else out there – but we've seen it. The magic and the madness and the whatnot in the world. We've fought wars over it! Matthew Mora died because of it! But that doesn't mean we can't try to make it work!" I'd heard the leeches arguing political philosophy for the last few months. You'd've thought something would've stuck with me, but I couldn't remember any fancy words or arguments to convince him that just because we turned into monsters didn't mean we had to become them. "The Cullens aren't are enemies-"

His laugh was raking, dog-like. "No, you don't get it. We're werewolves. Not humans. Not even animals. We're something other. We don't get to be human. We don't get things like choice and change and peace. The only purpose our lives have is to fight vampires-"

"But the Cullens aren't normal vampires! If, as you say, we're not human, not animal, but something else, surely they're the closest thing to us there is. And they've managed to change. A little, at least. They don't drink from humans, the Cullens and the Denalis. And they've gotten others, since the battle, others that are trying to be like them-"

"And they'll always try. They can't change. Like we can never change. We are what we are – we have these instincts and these ideas in our heads and we can't fight them, not for long. We can love someone else but we can't be with them 'cause the magic or the madness or the whatever you call it in us won't let us. We can try to give the leeches chances, we can try to think they'll follow the rules, but they you know that they don't, that they won't, and you know that sooner or later they'll slip up, or you'll slip up-"

The only times I wanted to kill any of the leeches in recent memory was over enforced girl-time. Can't say I had the desire myself to go around killing the Cullens 'cause one of them might get it into their heads to kill us first. Preventive measures. "You're barking mad."

"I'm the only one who sees it-"

"So what, you going to go after them yourselves, when they're not even here, and kill them for no reason? Sounds like perfect sanity to me."

"You-"

"Look, you may be an idiotic, but even you have to know you'll get yourself killed if you try-"

"I have to try."

"You don't have to do this. You don't have to be a martyr."

"This isn't about martyrdom-"

"So you just want to fucking off yourself then 'cause Emily left you?"

"You don't understand-"

"Then make me!" I yelled. Angry tears welling in my eyes. I hated Sam, yes, and had thought fondly of killing him many a time, but that was when he'd distinctly had not wanted to die. Killing someone when they wanted to die was just- It was just wrong. There was death and there was murder and there were even mercy killings, but this was just, this was just something inhuman – immoral – unwerewolf, whatever you want to call it – and made me feel ill. I couldn't've felt sicker if he'd been on his knees before me, begging me to kill him. "Make me understand, Sam. That's what you've been fucking trying to do all afternoon!"

"You can't get it – not until the instincts are telling you to do something you don't want to do, to hurt someone you-"

"Those aren't instincts you mother-fucking retard, that's insanity. Stop this nonsense and we can go – right now – and get your head looked at."

Sharp laugh; fake, sour laugh. I think I heard a man on TV laugh like that once when he was told his enemies would pardon him after he'd already snuck the poison. I didn't think Sam was that desperate, but... "You say think that, but it's not true – even if you actually thought the lot of us wouldn't be locked up the first time they found out about any of this," he waved his hand, as if to say, werewolves, vampires, and other assorted magics. "It's not so bad now, but before, it was so hard-" He stopped himself.

"What was so hard?"

He shook his head, biting his lip nervously. After a moment, "Did you marry Jake because you love him?"

"That's none of your God-damn business."

"Isn't it? Did you marry him 'cause you love him, or did the hormones and the pheromones and the instincts get to you, and you got caught up in the passion? Does Jared love Kim for all the reasons I'm sure he has to love her – or is everything that was once him, once human silent, and he has no choice about it? What about Quil, hmm? Does he ever pause to think about how stupid and ridiculous and vile it is he's fixated on a four-year-old girl? I know for my part that I love Emily because I have no choice and, sometimes, when it's been a while between when I've phased, or when I'm the only one on patrol, I still find myself thinking I love Emily, but she's nothing like Leah and I want her to be like you. Or I want you to be her. Or something like that. It doesn't make sense but that's the truth of the matter. So how can you expect us to live like this? This isn't living. We're not even animals any more. We're machines-"

He paused.

I began to retort, but then I heard it, what he'd caught before I did, what had made him pause, and break off running, phasing as he went, me but two steps behind him: my name, called out by a sharp, bell-like voice from just ahead.

Chapter Twenty-Two