Chapter Twenty-Two, Tav
Part One: O, Death...
"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."
Pooh thought for a little. "How old shall I be then?"
Pooh nodded. "I promise," he said.
Dad's funeral was the first big event on the Rez after I started phasing. It happened 'cause I phased, you know. The shock of it all got to him, and him with a weak heart to begin with. I don't know why it was, just that it was something Mom always said since I was little, in a joking way. Like when Dad and Billy and Charlie would get together for a big game at our house and they'd be shouting and carrying on worse than us kids ever did. Mom would come in from the kitchen, where she'd be seeing to it that we kids ate something proper, unlike our fathers, or from her bedroom, where she'd be trying to read with plugs in her ears, and she'd march into the living room and be all, "Boys, don't you think you should tone it down a little? I don't think my heart can take much more excitement," and then she'd look pointedly at Dad, who'd grumble for a moment but "tone it down" until about five minutes after Mom stomped back to wherever she'd been stomping from. They'd continue this for most of the night, until about fifteen minutes before the end of the game, when Mom would come in and, in that way people put up with things that their loved ones like for their sakes, join in with them. Not because she was excited about the game and however it was ending, but because Dad was happy, and that made her happy.
That's one of the reasons Becca has given for insistence over the past thirteen years that Jake and I should get together: basically, like mother, like daughter. If Mom and Dad could have their weird arguments and love each other, then me and Jake, who I argued with, I suppose, more than anyone else in Becca's mind, had to like each other that way too. (Yes, that was Becca's argument the year I started sixth grade. The year before had something to do with cookies, and the year afterwards, in addition to the first two, involved the same soap opera Ms. Call got Embry's name from.) I guess she was right all along, but, God, she's flying in tomorrow and, unless I'm very much mistaken, doesn't know a thing about us being werewolves or her twin being "involved" with one herself. I think the story Alice told her while they were planning unspeakable wedding horrors is that I work for the Cullens in some capacity and, apparently, they're bankrolling all this 'cause they like me so much. I think. Hope to God the twins don't phase in front of their aunt the week she's here.
But, regardless of whatever Becca thought about it, I guess Dad's heart was always weak. He was and Elder, and had been once since his dad passed the year after Seth was born. I don't remember Grandpa Aaron, but he was old, and I'm pretty sure he died of a heart thing too, so I guess that's why Mom always pestered Dad about his.
Not that it worked in the end. God! He was an Elder. He knew the legends as well as anyone. Grandpa Aaron hadn't been too old when the the last of the old pack passed away, so he probably could've remembered his uncle Older Quil phasing. Probably. He might've told Dad some of those stories. And Dad, being an Elder, had to have known what was going on with Sam and Paul and the rest of the early phasers – the Levites, Emmett calls them – and didn't tell me. Didn't tell anyone. But he had to have thought Sam and Paul and Jared Uley have all phased, as have Embry Call and Quil Ateara and Jacob Black. They are all great-grandchildren of the last pack. My grandmother was Older Quil's sister. I wonder if my Seth might phase too and maybe try to warn us – or at least remind us of the old legends.
Maybe he did tell Seth something of the sort. Dad wasn't perfect. He loved me very much, I know, but he'd no reason to think I might phase. Hell, he'd probably little reason to think Seth might phase at all. But we both did, and the troubled heart his dad had given him couldn't handle the shock of it.
The funeral was terrible, the newness of phasing making it hard to control when our emotions ran rampant (and still hard; I don't think I could stay human now if I tried, but that's a stupid thought, I must-), and mine had never been too steady to begin with. It was in that old converted church where the old folks have their bingo and people like Rebecca have their fake flower arbours. And I had to sit in the front row, with Mom and Seth, and try to make sense of it all.
If the PTB wanted me to be a werewolf so bad, why'd they do it in a way that cost me Dad? What kind of God, or benevolent, Rez-saving power does that? If it was all for the Rez, why kill one of its Elders?
Why did I have to phase? No girl had ever phased before. Until Judy and Di, I had thought- well, I'd thought all sorts of things about what this meant for me.
Why did the Cullens have to come back?
Why did there have to be vampires and werewolves at all? Wasn't the world enough without our monstrosity? Without magic? How did magic and monsters help anyone anyway? Magic doesn't just come from nowhere. There has to be some sort of PTB behind it – but what kind? What kind, if death means nothing to it? If death means nothing, what does life mean?
But those arguments came later. The only thing I could feel that day was that I'd kill my daddy and I might've been legally and adult and I might've known I'd not held a knife against him, a gun to him but I'd killed him all the same.
Mom and Seth and I were in the front row, and Charlie and Billy too, as Mom and Dad's closest friends, helping Mom, 'cause (though Charlie didn't know it at the time, though it was in different ways) she'd just lost her husband and her children all in the same day and she wasn't doing too well. Behind us, 'cause they were Seth's best friends, were Quil and Embry and Jake. Mine weren't there simply 'cause I had none any more. I'd hardly spoken to Becca or Rachel since they'd moved away, and I didn't even have Emily any more, 'cause of Sam. So Quil and Embry and Jake had lumped me in with Seth, I guess, and were trying to do the best for me they could. Which was nice, 'cause I think they were all sort of a scared of me.
Still, it was awful, the funeral, and the actual lowering of the coffin- that was too much for me. I didn't cry, but I thought I could feel myself breaking down, cell by cell, inch by inch. I snuck off as soon as I found a way to.
The headstone came three weeks later, and I found myself coming back to the cemetery all that week to stare at it, flat and grey and smooth as it was with his name and vital statistics sunk into its surface and the quote
...and I Shall Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever.that seemed to mock me every time I looked at it. Why, I wanted to scream, and would've if there was anything but a field full of decaying corpses and small stone monuments to scream at, why couldn't he dwell with me for just a little longer? I was still his little girl. I still needed my dad. I needed him now more than ever. I needed Mom to stop crying, and Seth to be happy again, and everything else to be as it was, which it would be, if he wasn't dead. I couldn't even be angry at him for being dead and causing all these problems, 'cause I was the one who'd made him that way.
The fourth day after the tombstone was installed was one of my patrol days. I'd intended to go, I really did, but I guess I just lost track of the time. About an hour after I was supposed to be gone, Sam tracked me down. He'd every right to be angry, what with the creepy she-leech making an army in Seattle at the time, but what he said, I'll always remember.
"It's our job to protect the living, Lee. Stop wasting your time with the dead."
"You didn't see me giving you such a hard time 'bout your mom," I told him, waving my hand to towards the plot three rows down where Lauren Uley was buried. It was a weeping angel, not hard to miss.
I didn't know why he got to angry then, I was already getting up to go, making my way towards the nearby tree line. "That was before," he said roughly. "We don't have the time to waste now."
"Waste? That's my dad the-"
"No. That was your dad. Unless you want the rest of the Rez to wind up like him-"
"Screw you, Uley," I'd shouted at him, stomping off towards the forest.
He caught my arm, roughly, and between our momenta I was forced to spin back to look at him. His face was steeled, his eyes carried a glint of what would become the madness in them now, but I thought nothing of it then. He'd cheated on me. Betrayed me. So what if I didn't love him? It was still hurt. Everything was still too raw for me to be able to deal with his shit. But shit he fed me. "I don't care if you're upset with me, I'm still your Alpha and when I say-"
"Upset with you!" I pulled my arm away and nearly slapped him with it, "This has nothing to do with you, Sam. Dad is dead and I'm upset about that, but don't go deluding yourself into thinking this is all some elaborate plot to get back at you, Sam. As far as I'm concerned, you're nothing." I resumed my stomp towards the woods. "Far as I'm concerned, it should be you that's dead."
Part Two: ...Where is thy sting?
Still with his eyes on the world, Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh's paw.
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I - if I'm not quite" he stopped and tried again, "Pooh,
whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?" "Understand what?"
"Oh, nothing." He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh. "Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.
A. A. Milne A House on Pooh Corner
Shortly before things went to Hell in a hand-basket, though, there was another funeral. One centred around the statue of the angel, body thrown over a weather-worn block of something that used to be white but is mostly grey now, pretty face mostly buried in thin, weak-looking arms. I 'pose if there are actually angels, they can look as weak as they want and it won't matter, but from what I know of these things, even tiny little Alice looks strong compared to this sad, weeping figure. The very idea there might be angles too in all of this makes me a little sick. There are vampires, which can live forever, though about five thousand seems to be the closest to "ever" any of these have ever come. There are us werewolves, who, for the best we know, can manage three or four lifetimes before we die – but, for what we know, they weren't inundated with as many vamps as we are, and defiantly not for as long as we probably will be (what did Rose tell me that one time? That when they were last here, before Alice and Jasper joined them, they were only here for, what? Five years? Not even that. Five years is their limit for any one place. Terra del Fuego, Ellesmere Island, a stint or three in various parts of Alaska – no matter how remote, never more than five, in case someone caught on. They were here barely three when our great-grandparents were alive. It's been almost five now, and they've no plans to leave yet. Not until their ice palace on the shores of Aishihik Lake was done, which might take a while, considering that they're building it themselves so that no human contractors will know where they live, and non of them plan on heading up there any time soon. Except for Heidi, who thinks it'll be like Sweden or Denmark or wherever the hell she's from. She wants Felix to come with, but I don't think Felix likes her quite that way- Anyway, they'll be here for a few more years, at least). Even after we leave, I like Ness and Kate, and there might be non-creepy clandestine visits... We could live for a long time.
What I guess I'm trying to get at is, most vampires bad. Werewolves exist to kill bad vampires. If angels exist, they'll probably have their own natural enemies, and demons on their best days sound like the Volturi on their worst. Maybe I'm prejudiced from all of Nessie's religious studies (God knows how), but no matter how weak and weepy and worthless the statue looks to me, it means something to people. Angels, I mean.
Does it make me a monster, I wonder, if I can only look at it and think: is this an enemy? how would I fight it? what other dangers might lurk in its wake?
It meant something to Dad, the angel. At least, I think it did. He was sorta-religious. At least, more so than the rest of us. (My cousin Adam belongs to some cult-like church with poisonous snakes and stuff, I think... but that's neither here nor there). He must've been more than just a Christmas-and-Easter Lutheran too, 'cause I'm pretty sure that he had the whole funeral planned – Dad did that kind of thing. He was happy-go-lucky most the time, like Seth (like Filips de Schone), but practical at times. That practicality extended mostly to fishing and, apparently, funeral arrangements, but still there extended – and had been the one with the bright idea of putting part of Plasm Twenty-Three on his tombstone.
Is there life after death? Is that why the PTB let Dad die? Ness says that the only reason heaven and hell were exist is because of the sublimation of the inherent apocalyptical nature of early Christianity – but that means nothing to me, even less than then the angel.
I understand the weeping, though.
The grave-marker has been there for a long time. A long, long time. On the right side, there's Levi Uley's name, and his wife. Edna, or maybe Edith. I don't remember so well. They died within a week of each other. That I do remember. He was thirty-five when they married. She was twenty-three. An imprint relationship I learned later.
And on the left, you have their son, Isaac, and his wife Nancy. Their other son, Peter, died in the war. His remains are on an island somewhere in the Pacific. Isaac was in the war too, and Old Quil says that it may have been the liver that got to him, but the war had killed him long before his body stopped moving. I take it their marriage wasn't sitcom worthy, but they're still buried next to each other. That says something. Even if there marriage was nothing more than their bodies' side-by-side interment.
There are religious things under each pair of names. I want to know how Sam's great-grandfather could believe in angels if he was like us. Or maybe he was like me, and thought: is there danger?
I don't know. All I do is that Dad is gone, and so's Levi and his wife, and their sons, and everyone else in that cemetery. Dead. Gone. No coming back.
I wonder what Dad would say if he'd live to see Di and Dan-
I wonder what Mrs. Uley would say. Her funeral was the last big thing on the Rez before we all started phasing. And, unless Sam's dad finds his way back from wherever he's gone, she'll be the last one buried at the statue of the weeping angel.
Mrs. Uley was too good a person for her husband. She and Mom were cousins and grew up together on the Makah Rez, and it was cause of her that Mom met Dad in the first place... She was a dancer, Lauren Uley, when she was young. By the time she was a teenager, she was at some fancy ballet school on the outskirts of Seattle and only came home for vacations and long weekends. But that was all it took, Easter vacation her junior year.
She always regretted not finishing school, she told me once. Said she thought it was love at first sight. Said that she thought things were fine those first five years, living on a different Rez than most her family (Jake's mom was another cousin of hers, but from a different side, but not as close, and Mom and Dad didn't get married until that December). She said that she didn't question Joshua working so many late nights up at the canary in Port Angeles, not until Sam started kindergarten and she'd time on her hands she'd not had before she began to suspect what was going on (about the same time Beth Call moved to the Rez with baby Embry). It wasn't until they diagnosed her with ovarian cancer the next year she confronted him about it. And nobody from the Rez has seen hide nor hair of him since.
Her cancer remissed twice since then. This was her third relapse. The doctors had thought her lucky to make it through the first two bouts, and there'd be no lucky third. Sam spent most of his senior year taking care of her, and people would say what a better person than his philandering father, his alcoholic granddad he was. I know he liked people to like him. Maybe that's why he's like this now. He's made mistakes and refuses to learn from them, and now no one likes him. Maybe not even the people on the Rez who don't know about our secret lives. Look at Sam Uley, they must say. It was nice of him to take care of Lauren while she was dying, but it's been years now. What is he doing with himself? Don't think he has a job, or goes to school. Just keeps strange hours and shacks up with the Makah girl, the one with the scars – except she's gone too. Must have found out what he does that keeps food on the table – if he does anything at all. It's probably drugs. He probably sells them to the kids down in Forks, or even Mount Rainer Tech. No better than his father, they probably say now. Maybe even worse. Joshua may have done wrong by his family, but at least a wondering eye doesn't kill anyone.
It's strange the things you remember. I remember Sam calling and telling me his mom had died. It was March, right before Spring Break. He was broken up over it. As broken up as Mom and Seth and I would be later, when Dad died.
I handled all the arrangements that needed arranging, but Mrs. Uley had long known this was coming, so there was very little to be done. There was no numbness, no sorrow like at Dad's funeral, just the thought repeated through my head: I saw you the day before you died, Mrs. Uley. You looked no worse. No better, but no worse. And now you're dead and never coming back. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. I did not know you well, but you are gone, and I'll never know you better.
Sam managed to hold it together throughout the funeral. He wouldn't've been Sam if he hadn't managed that. He went home as soon as it was politic to do so. I stayed. I held down the fort, what there was to hold. I watched the gravediggers pile the dirt over her coffin. Not because it was what I should've done Sam's girlfriend – I'd probably have gone with him if it was for him. No, it was for her. A woman I did not know well at all, though she'd told me things she mightn't have told her son about his father.
This is what she said to me the day before she died: "They need to be grounded, Uley men. Idealists, all of them. I see that now. Nancy said to me once that her husband thought he was fighting a black-and-white war, one where there was good and there was evil and nothing was grey. Then he saw that the 'good' guys weren't always so good, and he never recovered. They say his father was even worse, though there was no war. Joshua – well, he wanted the perfect family, I guess, or the perfect wife, or something like that. Something that kept pushing him to all those other women. But no woman was ever perfect... I'm glad Sam has you, Leah. You'll keep my son in line. Maybe even make him happy."
I visited her grave once, shortly before exams, to make sure they'd gotten the inscription right.
After running double patrol the day Sam found me in the graveyard, I went back, but not to Dad's grave. It was three, four in the morning, and the moon was beginning to set, but I what did it matter? I'd no school, no job, no anything to worry about any more.
I went to the weeping angel and, kneeling close, touched my fingers to the epitaph:
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
and said, "I'm sorry," before turning right back around and leaving.
I hadn't noticed Jake, who'd been on my second patrol with me, had followed me. "For what?" he asked, startling me as I left the cemetery.
"Fuck you, Black," was my reply as I turned for home.
"Don't tell me I scared the great Leah Clearwater."
"You didn't. So fuck off."
"You know," he continued, dogging my steps, "I think I did."
"Since you're so obviously confused, I should probably tell you that stalking is a leech habit. As is lurking about graveyards. Disgrace to werewolf kind, you are."
Loosing the cheek, "You said you were sorry."
"So I did."
"What the fuck do you care?"
"It's called sympathy, or compassion, or some other shit like that, Clearwater. You should try it sometime."
I rolled my eyes. "Go home, Jake."
"Only if you do."
"What are we, five?"
"Well, if you'd rather stay, you can deal with Sue's where-were-you-all-night speech by yourself."
"Like you'd be there for it anyway."
"Ah," he said smartly, "that's where your wrong. Dad enlisted me last night to drive him to your house this morning with vast amounts of breakfast food, as if doughnuts will speed the mourning process or something. But, if you want to go the leech route and 'lurk' in graveyards, I will conveniently forget and enjoy chocolate-covered pastry goodness all by myself."
"Fine." I paused. "There's something wrong with you, I hope you know."
He was actually quiet for a while as we walked together. For some reason this made me tell him, just before the turn-off towards our separate houses, "I promised Sam's mom I'd keep him from doing anything stupider than usual. I failed. Obviously."
"Obviously," he agreed.
And now I'm going to have to apologize to Mrs. Uley again. Not only can't I stop her son, it's going to have to be him they lay to rest next to her. If only I can stop him before he stops Nessie.
Part Three: O, Grave...
"Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy."
The wind was shifting, coming from Neah Bay now, bringing with it darker clouds, and the drizzly rain that was common to this, the north-westernmost corner of the continental United States, was becoming heavier, with cold drops that actually had weight to them, that plopped where they landed and puddled quickly. Sitka Spruces (tall and old even when Ephraim Black's grandfather, How-yat'l, signed the Treaty of Olympia, which made the Quinault Rez about fifty miles south of La Push to which our tribe was still refusing to move to when Ephraim was chief, until Grover Cleveland just let us stay where we were – the things you remember from sixth grade history, and when) shook like dogs, sending a flurry of droplets upon us, though their canopy was thick and green above us. The light was greying, and, had we been human, it would've been near impossible to see much farther than my nose. Everything was wet pine and slick mud and stray locks of hair plastered to the face, but, as the wind shifted, you could still catch Nessie's not-quite-human, not-quite-vampire scent of spring showers and white orchids and something fluffy, like a bunny rabbit, and even more than her voice, it was like a homing beacon. There was an übersweet scent too, but it was too faint to be of anything more than a fleeting moment of hope that someone was chasing after her, someone that could get Ness away for me or hold Sam back while I got Ness away-
Too far. Too old. Too faint. Too cold. And Sam wouldn't stop; he'd never stop. Levi Uley had wanted perfect justice and died without it, or so Laura Uley had told me. Maybe the desire for perfection was genetic, or well-taught, or something they all picked up through their own father's failings, but Sam had it too. (I know it's pointless, especially now, to wonder why the I wasn't good enough for him to imprint on me if he loved me – if he still loves me like he claims. I'm happy with Jake, God knows I am; happier than I've ever had any right to be, but I want to know why I had to go through all that pain first. I want to ask the PTB why, on top of everything else, I had to go become that numb. Why it couldn't have just let me deal with things my way. Why it couldn't have let Dad live – why it had let Rosalie's fiancé and his friends rape her to death – why it had let Alice's parents throw her into an asylum and call her dead – why it had let Esme's first husband be so cruel that she'd tried to kill herself, and this Esme of all people – why it had let Emmett be utterly senselessly attacked by that bear – why it had let Matty Mora, who shouldn't have died, who wouldn't've if I'd just been been better or stronger or faster or anything other than what I was. I wanted to know-)
Slip-sliding barefoot in the mud, Sam was already turning and fully phased by the time he was facing Nessie's direction, a large swath of already-damp black fur bounding off towards May Creek. My thoughts may have been tangled messes, but my body was working off the instincts Sam so decried: no sooner were his forepaws scrambling for purchase than my own was twisting and chasing after him, my mind too slow notice the change in feel of cold rain droplets against skin to that of thick, pelting drops falling against fur.
Before my mind cleared of funerals and promises, was lunging, and it was, for several interminable moments, two wolves fighting, everything human between us discarded. It didn't matter that Ness wasn't even human, hell, that even after Charlie and Mom married she wouldn't be related to me, not really. It was, for me, all it had ever been: that she was a child and needed to be saved. It was the same with Sam, but they weren't seeing the human in her, in any of the leeches, and his were screaming: enemy, kill.
He wasn't more than three yards ahead of me when I sprang in a running tackle, catching his right flank with my left shoulder, tumbling him more out of surprise and a bit of a slope than any strength on my part – and he knew it. One moment, then two, tangled together in the ferns that grew at the bottom of one of the larger spruces (or maybe a fir, or something else – I certainly didn't know), and I swear I could feel the tiny, scratchy spores catching my fur. Enough of a pause for my heart to slow a little, the adrenaline begin to cease, before the wind gusted against and, yes, she was closer now, and those chasing her still too far away.
He was on his paws quickly, hackles raised as he snarled at me.
I was on mine too, but, even with the advantage of the high ground, he was still the taller. The tree was at his back, yes, but I'd no certainly Paul wasn't phased and coming to his aide, or even Jared, who just wanted this all to be over with-
I wanted this all to be over with. He'd just keep coming, and coming, and coming as he had until he finally found us at some disadvantage or we made some stupid mistake, and then-
It was like the Volturi. We maybe could've talked ourselves out of trouble when they came, but they would've come back, stronger and angrier and with our excuses running thinner. He had to be stopped, and now, before he got anyone hurt, before anyone else got killed, be it me or Nessie or his cubs or mine.
Lips curling back, he growled what was, even without being on his mental frequency, clearly a, Out of my way.
I growled right back, No. Stop this. Stop this now, Sam. That's an order, hoping to God that posturing would be all that it took. Wolves fought in packs, not as single entities. We were stronger as a group. That didn't stop the fact from remaining, though, that Sam was the Alpha of the La Push pack, by size and strength and blood, and I had only married into the position. I psychically couldn't take him in a fight, and, when I had to in the past, I'd only survived by running away or my pack coming to my aide. I knew this. He – if he was still sane enough – knew this. Alpha commands had been broken in the past (when he was giving them, when Jake and Seth and I had splintered off) and could be broken again ('cause I wasn't the true Alpha: Jake was) I was sure; as much as I was a fan of the First Amendment, I think breaking it to stop infanticide was a good reason.
Maybe he he was still sane enough to fight it off, or maybe my own uncertainties had made it fail (or maybe even he was too far gone for him to even notice), but it didn't work. And, if Alpha commands wouldn't stop him-
Even if Kate was in Poland, she knew of my predicament. So did Garrett and, by the sound of it, Jasper. Garrett and Jasper were sensible vampires. They'd do something to help – unless Garrett was helping by trying to keep Kate from causing a scene, and Jasper had gone after Alice and Irina, 'cause he thought that's who Sam would be going after – unless no one knew that Nessie had left (no, there was someone chasing her; well, in that case, if no one knew what Nessie was running towards. She and Emmett could just as easily be playing vampire tag. But why, then, would she be calling my name?) - unless there was nothing they could do.
God, hopefully Sonia had listened. Hopefully the twins were with Charlie and safe. He might even get what was going on out of the hair dresser and try calling the Cullens himself. Or he mightn't get anything out of her and try calling the house to figure out why she'd brought my infant children to him and, when that failed, call the school to get Jake. Or call Billy, 'cause Jake was in school, and Billy'd call Jake, or maybe he'd just call Mom and Mom would probably take them home or to Charlie's and then it could be ages before anyone realized-
I am a werewolf. I know how to fight. I'm not saying that I don't. Only that Nessie his heading this way and, without another pair of paws, she'll get here before I can stop Sam all on my lonesome, and, when she does, he'll go after her. there will be more than a good chance that he'll mange to hurt her before I can stop him then. If I can stop him.
We stay like that for a moment, snarling at each other.
I know the leeches are coming, he seems to say. We must kill them before they kill us.
Growling back, The only one they're going to kill here is you if you don't stop. I say stop in my best Alpha tone, thinking as hard I can what I want him to do. It's still not working.
If you're not with me, you're with them.
They're not the enemies here!
Then who? he seems to ask, as if he might've gotten the just of what I was saying. Werewolves exist only to protect La Push from the Cold Ones. If we can't do that – if we don't do that, what are we for?
We're still protecting the Rez – from the non-veggies, from European werewolves the Volturi tried to kill off, from, I dunno, the bogeyman and demons and were-rabbits. There are tonnes of terrible things out there, and we can stop them when they come, but we can't do that if we kill our allies!
This last growl is louder, almost mocking. Allies! I think it means. For all I know he could've been shouting Death! or Grilled Cheese!, but it seemed to fit the conversation I was having on my side. It doesn't much matter, though, for as he shouted it, he charged forward.
I staggered back, half having expected it, and raised myself onto my hind legs as his forepaws slashed at where my neck had been. Howling in anger, I slashed right back-
My claws raked him, but it was nothing but fur as he pulled back before I could rip out his guts. For a suicide risk, you're making it awfully hard for me to kill you, y'know, I told him rather angrily, slipping a little as my paws slammed into the mud. It traitorously twisted my body just enough so that, as I raised my head to butt him backwards, to make him go belly up through force if he'd not take commands, he was able to get his teeth in me. Hard.
The only thing I can say is that, at least, it wasn't my neck. No, it was the spot between my shoulder blades, which was almost worse, but did have the advantage of being a place he couldn't easily paralyse me from. At least, probably can't. Who knows what crucial nerve mass that place might be when I'm human? I was running with the won't-be-paralysed idea and tried shaking myself like wet dogs do, to see if that might throw him off, you know? No luck. Though I could move my head, I couldn't get it anywhere near close enough to do him bodily harm in return, and ditto for the paws. I was wearing the "dog tag" Jake had gotten me for Christmas, so I suppose if I shook hard enough I might be able to hit him with the pendant, but I'm pretty sure shaking hard enough to manage that would likely lead to serious brain damage. Like Quil-level damage. This so totally sucks. If it wasn't for the fact he wants to die so badly, I'd kill him for this.
So, what do I do? Teeth are a no go, so are claws, and I can seem to shake Sam loose... If there were any of the rest of my pack here, this wouldn't be happening. One them could just-
-just what? I'm not sure, and it kinda hurts to think when someone seems intent on paralysing you. I know I shouldn't really complain, but if he's so stupid he doesn't realize he's not really doing anything but being a pain in my... back, he would've won a Darwin Award long before this. I mean, he's fought things and lived, things that were a lot stronger than me. He's lived so far, so he must know how to fight things. Which means he's not really trying to do me (significant) bodily harm. Which means I'm currently on the loosing side of a fight he's not even giving his all too, which is just pathetic, and I'll never live it down (unless he decides it'll be more fun to kill me than die himself, which, since he's crazy, remains a possibility) if the pack finds out about this.
Obviously, the only way to live this down is for it never to happen, and, for it never to happen, I need to win here. So how to win? More specifically, how to get Sam to release me so I can maul him in turn? Ideas, ideas, ideas...
The wind was blowing in darker clouds, and there was so little light that the greenness of the forest had faded into shadow and, though I knew there were trees all around me, I could only clearly make out the one Sam and I were fighting beneath, and, even then, the details weren't so clear. The rain, if possible, started to fall harder, until it was like sharp spears where it met my fur, and, almost louder than our growls, it was starting to thunder – a real storm, not just the perpetual drizzle of the Pacific Northwest. Even without the occasional flashes of lightening, I cold still make out all that I needed to – Sam, things I could run into if I moved – but werewolves weren't all about seeing. Hearing helped some, every shudder of the ferns underfoot, the splatter of rainwater as Sam shook in attempt to either kill me or dry off, but smell... Smell was the shizzle of werewolf senses, even if it did mean the leeches were more repugnant than they had to be.
God, I just used the word shizzle. He must be cutting blood off to my brain. That has to be it. My wiggling probably hasn't helped.
Okay, step one, stop wiggling.
Yeah, I got no ideas either. Except this playing dead thing. I mean, it certainly hurts me less not to wiggle, and he doesn't seem to be doing anything other than trying to paralyse me, which-
Wait – is he beginning to let go? That didn't take long (not that I'd expect anything else from him). Ooh, he thinks he's hurt me or something (like Leah Clearwater would go down with all her limbs still attached). Yep, he's definitely easing up. Hopefully he's not going to get all emotional or something thinking he killed me. He did claim to still love me after all, the groin-sucking duck-raping douche-bagging puss-eater. Unless he really is broken up over "hurting" me (which, this being Sam, he might very well be) he'll probably go straight after Ness. Can't let him do that. Plan, plan, need a plan. Why aren't you working brain? You can come up with multi-phrasal insults, but not-
-but I got nothing, so, when he let me go, I, still having no plan, continued to play dead, which I'm pretty sure isn't normally in the wolf repertoire when it comes to killing and/or mauling things. I do my best to go limp, to land in the mud without care for where my limbs go (my right forepaw is twisted rather painfully beneath me, but I can't change that without giving it away; God, my heartbeat alone would give it alone, and I swear from the way it was thrumming the game was already given way, but, as I kept telling myself, I'd never studied war. I'd fought – and survived – because I did what instincts told me to do. But they didn't control me. We weren't completely like wolves; we leaned enough towards humanity to retain our conscious thoughts when phased, to think when we were phased. We may've been created or evolved or manufactured to be vampire-destroying machines, but we don't have to be that way. We can make treaties with them. We can be friends with them, even the stupid sleep-stalking, mind-raping cunt if we wanted to. Knowing Ed-weird, there's no way I'd ever want to be, but the fact of the matter is I can hate him because he's a sexually-repressed, thought-invading, stupidity-rewarding, idiotic vampire, not just 'cause he's a vampire. Which, I think, is infinitely better. Which is why we weren't animals or the machines he claimed. Because we can fight against ourselves), to act like I'm dead.
Maybe it works, and he thinks I am, but he could just as well think he managed to paralyse me worse than he wanted – I don't know – but, whatever the reason, he doesn't run off the moment I'm down. No, he circles me instead, as if trying to figure out what happened – why, perhaps, I'm "dead" and not him, which is feeding into his mammoth superiority complex – and, after a moment or two of this, during which I swear so much fear is running through my veins it's amazing I'm not shaking from the strength of it, he kneels in front of me – I can smell him, the salty scent of his pack that has no business mingling in with werewolf scent giving his position away. We're almost muzzle-to-muzzle. Slowly, I sensed him grow closer, and every nerve in me screamed that he'd seen through it and was going for my throat.
He went for my shoulder instead, almost concernedly nudging me, and I inextricably thought of children getting carried away at recess, not meaning to hurt the other, not meaning it at all, and not knowing what to do...
When I didn't do anything, he tried it again, a nudging the space slightly below and behind one of my ears. My veins were singing with adrenaline, but still I played dead, even when he made a sad almost-whimper that would've torn my heart if this was a made-for-TV movie and I was still pregnant. I might've even given something away now, surprised to hear actual concern for another human being coming from Sam, but the rain was sneaking in larger and larger groups under the spruce canopy, and I was too cold to give even a quarter-damn about my ex and his messed-up feelings.
Sam pulled back, not far, but enough that I wondered if Ness had snuck up on us, her small, quiet sounds lost to the thunder snarling above us. Surely she could smell us too? Half-human she may be, the half-vampire in her was more than enough for her to play tracker. She had to know that it wasn't just me here. She had to smell Sam, or got close enough to see with sharp eyes to learn what was going on (she'd seen him in wolf form before; she had to know there weren't any other black wolves, that this wasn't play-fighting...) and run for help...
But no. Whatever caused him to pull back, I'll never know, 'cause half-a-moment later he'd moved close then before and licked my muzzle.
It was all I could do not to vomit. I'd been thinking of keeping up this game until whoever was following Nessie showed up, or until he made some blatant move to kill someone, but this was just... this was just too much. And with the cadence of his every movement (made all the more lamenting by the endless fall of rain, which was doing a good job of freezing my hundred-something Fahrenheit ass) assuring me he was thinking something pansy-assed about how he "loved me too much to let me die" that I'm sure Emily would love to hear – him say it to me that is, that way she could walk out on him again. God knows if Jake tried to pull that card on me, he'd be singing soprano for the rest of his life.
My eyes snapped open of their own accord. It was dark, but I didn't need to see for my claws to strike out of their own accord as, loudly, I snapped, enraged at his daring, his stupidity; his gall: How dare you! I felt my claws rake across his face as I pulled myself to my paws, seeing red (or was that blood?). How dare you! There went the other paw, drawing blood down the left side of his face. And again, and again, and again, paws alternating, tearing at whatever they could reach in a way I wasn't consciously controlling, but did nonetheless.
Surprise had caught Sam, shock that I was "alive" or that I mightn't appreciate his advances, or maybe he was just completely crazy, 'cause he didn't react – not at first – to my attack. His eyes still held that manic I-don't-care look from before, but it wasn't the same, not exactly. Before, it was only emptiness. Now... I don't know what it was now. Nor do I care. I was too angry to care. You can't keep doing this! I don't love you. I've never loved you!But, God, why do you insist on ripping open that hole in my heart you gave me every time you see me? I'm not sure he knew either, but that didn't matter, 'cause he was backing up, towards the dark presence that was probably the trunk of the spruce that towered over us the way the rain lightened as we neared it, until he at last realized I wasn't giving in and struck back, until we were grappling, standing on our hind legs as we went for each other's throats with claws and teeth.
I don't want to kill you, he seems to say to me as our mêlée continues, but I will if I have to.
There's blood streaming down his muzzle, though, and his movements slowed, not from desire to end our tussle, but pain – dimly, in the back of my mind, like I would if it was a member of my pack that was hurt, I noticed that I'd more than grazed his fur this time; there were deep lacerations on his shoulders and withers too, and, from one fall or the other, at least one of ribs was fractured – but didn't stop. Do you ever pause to consider the things that come out of your mouth? (Nevermind the fact that this conversation wasn't even real, that I couldn't actually here what he was saying, if he was saying anything at all.) What do you think killing Ness might accomplish? You think the Cullens'll forgive you that one? That Emily'll come running back to you once you've proved how macho you are by killing a kid? Yeah, I'm sure that'll work, you brain-dead piece of week-old gorilla-shit.
It's not about Emily, or me, even you. It's not even about The Spawn.
Then who? If not us, then who, you purple-panda-punching, rabid-rodent-raping piss-hat of a tongue-chewing bastard's son?
I was yelling, essentially, at myself I knew, but it didn't feel that way. It was almost, but not quite, like arguing with a pack-member when we were phased. Like, maybe, I wasn't making it up, though I knew I had to be. It didn't matter, though, cause still I swiped at Sam, not daring to stop, not wanting to stop, though God knew I that giving him something he wanted was never my style.
And I continued to argue with "him". If I kill one, the rest will leave and will never come back. Not after something like that. Then La Push will be safe from leeches, forever. And then there will be no need for werewolves, and no one else will ever have to go through this again. No more packs. No more pain.
I think the part of my brain thinking up "Sam's" answers is on something. I'm sure that's what our ancestors said. And yet, here we are. Claws dug into his muzzle. Blood was everywhere, and not all of it his. A deep cut ran down my right foreleg, though it was healing. All our wounds were healing, but Sam still kept getting slower, and I kept attacking.
I imagined a harrumph. God! You can be such a pain in the ass, LeeLee! If the Cul- But even in my imaginings Sam never called me "LeeLee."
I paused for just a second, long enough to scramble back half-a-step and feel my forepaws hit the ground, as much blood (or so it smelled) in the mud as water. Sam back-peddled too, wearily sinking into the ferns beneath the giant spruce. When the lightening struck, I thought I saw a smile crossing his muzzle.
What are you doing fucking around in my head, Uley? I spat, falling back onto my own haunches.
Dying, he said blithely, head resting on paws. He never said anything blithely...
That was a distinct chuckle. For all you talked about killing me for what I did to you, I never thought you'd actually do it. I always thought-
I snorted, but pulled myself to my paws again. Thought what? That I still loved you? That I was too weak to fight against such a "strong and virile" Alpha? Nessie's smell was strong now, even over the mud and blood, but I couldn't hear any movement. Was she hiding? And where was her follower? The smell was stronger now, all freesia and rosemary and lavender, but with that spicy undertone that said Sargent Pepper had been the one following Ness. Maybe it was the rain diluting the scent, or the wind, and he was waiting in the wings to see what happened, or maybe he'd picked up his niece and run, but I couldn't tell where the empath or his lonely hearts club band were. I snorted again. I take this means you've given up? No more of this fake Alpha business?
He didn't answer any of my questions. I always thought it would be Jacob that got me in the end. An echo thought, one he didn't mean to send, followed: He's stolen everything else. Flickers of images I'd never seen before – of being watched through my bedroom window, the room dark and X&Y in the CD player, and my brother coming in and telling me to stop moping – of being listened-in on through a different window, this one at Uncle Eric's place in Neah Bay, and the words floating down mine, telling her how I was trying to think up a way to break up with him – danced in and out of my mind, leaving quickly but staying long enough for me to know that Sam was a stupid, stalking, deluded dirt-bag in addition to his many other wonderful traits. Even softer still, I've tried so hard to do right.
I closed the distance between us and growled at him, my bottom lip only stinging a little from where it'd been sliced open earlier. So you're just going to give up, are you? Well, that's just rich. The rain was cold, and Sam looked like someone I'd never seen crouched there, a useless blob of black-fur-covered flesh that wanted to die rather than face anything hard or painful or difficult. I was close enough to finish him off, and it took all the strength in me not to give him what he wanted. No, I was going to make him live and have to deal with it all. That's the biggest load of-
Maybe he'd seen him. Maybe he'd just been lucky enough to catch his scent. Maybe he was merely hoping against all hope. I don't know. Maybe I'll never know. All I do is that I wasn't the only one close enough to finish our battle, and Sam leapt at me with strength he must have hidden, and, though I was able to fling myself backwards (breaking all the ribs on my right side, I'm sure, and quite possibly my hip), I wasn't able to stop his madness, which I could not understand.
I'd been right, you see, and Jasper was hidden away in the darkness that surrounded us, and it was Jasper who, seeing Sam was not given up, collided with him mid-jump and twisted his neck before turning and asking me if I was well enough to phase back.
Part Four: ...Where is thy victory?
"...grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned..."
It took me a moment, but I managed, though I lay in the sludge of earth and blood for a long moment before I could manage to stand.
"He was fixin' to kill you," he said, seeming quite detached, as we watched the rent corpse of the black wolf shake and convulse back into Sam naked, rent body. There was no question it was a voluntary phasing: neither of us could hear a third heartbeat, could mark the rise and fall of his lungs. After a moment, he shrugged off the beat-up duster he'd on over his name-brand clothes and handed it to me before kneeling down to turn the body face up.
I tied the coat around me closely, hugging my arms to myself as I shuddered from something decidedly other than the cold. "He overheard me on the phone to Kate; thought Alice was coming onto the Rez." As numb as I felt, even I could see him tense at this. "Managed to convince him otherwise, but he didn't care. He wanted to kill someone, anyone, and heard Ness..."
Nessie's voice from beside me almost made me jump out of my skin – I'd not noticed her approach. "Your face is bleeding, Aunt Leah."
"I'll heal," I said softly, feeling weak and dazed. "I... I've got to..."
"I'll take care of it," Jasper said, sounding about as numb as I felt inside... He was an empath, I remembered. He'd probably felt Sam die... Sam had been in my head when he died... Was this what it was like, death? The sudden feeling of cold, the catch of breath, the- "disguise this as an animal attack. Hikers come this way, occasionally. Someone will find him in a day or two." He stood and looked at me, "You should get home; the shock's already settin' in."
"I-" I swallowed, trying not to be sick at the thought of what I'd helped do. "I did this. Let me-"
"You can't be connected with this. Trust me," he gave a wane smile, "I've practice with this sort of thing." When I didn't immediately leave, "I'll make sure Ness stays in sight. Nothing'll happen to her."
Having no other choice, I did just that, running human all the way, though my right side hurt like hell, though I was soaked to the bone by the time I made it back to the home, where the TV was still playing (muted) the same movie, where the laundry was still in baskets on the floor, and walked straight up the stairs and into the master bath, dropping the coat on the way. I didn't wait for the water to warm, just stood there, trying to wake up whatever was inside of me, so I could go get Di and Dan, so I could put away the laundry, so I could-
But nothing came, and I just stood there, just as long as I could, and could think of nothing other than the fact that someone else was dead because of me, and that I didn't know how to feel about that.
"That's weird," came a voice untold ages later, carrying from downstairs. "Aunt Leah left the door hanging open. You think-"
"Zack! Don't change the subject! We need to talk about this, and we need to talk about this now." Judy. That was defiantly Judy's voice. Matty's little sister. Only she'd grow up, and Matty never would, all 'cause-
"'Cause the rest the pack is all at Quil's and Aunt Leah doesn't seem to be around-"
The sound of the door closing. "She could just be upstairs."
"Probably sleeping. No better time. It's a simple question. I just want to know the answer."
"We've been best friends since kindergarten, Judy; of course I love you." The voices were coming nearer, his words seeming strained. I smiled – briefly and smally – at their banter. It was warm and familiar, and said said home.
"You know that's not what I meant."
"Just numbers! They don't mean anything. Between the Volturi and everything else, I feel so old..."
"I-" they paused, their voices echoing up the stairwell. "God, Judy, you know I like you, but-"
"What if we imprint? On other people, I mean. You 'member what Aunt Leah was like, before. I wouldn't want that to happen if-"
"And what if we die tomorrow?"
I felt a sob escape me. I didn't want to think, not about that, about anything but that. Just an hour, maybe two more without having to remember that we're going to have to have another funeral- "You hear something?"
"Just listen for a second Zack! The world just seems to get crazier and crazier the more time we spend in it, and our chances of getting out of it alive keep getting slimmer. And I don't want to die without knowing if you-"
"Judy, I don't want to do this, not if it's just because you're afraid of-"
"I love you, Zack. I think I've been in love with you since I met you, and I think that, if you feel the same way, I don't want to spend another moment without you."
I think he flung up his hands from the sound of it. And I continued to listen, for no other reason than Judy and Zack were there, and alive, and two of the only good things I'd ever done. "We spend all our time together as it is, Judy. We're in the same back, we share the same room – God, we're in each other's heads half the time. I don't know what more you want."
"Alright, yes I do, but, like I said, but what if one of us imprints? What if it just doesn't work out? I like what we have now, Judy. I don't want to loose that."
"But what if-"
"I'd rather try and know than not and always wonder."
I took the sounds that came afterwards to be her answer, and I smiled at the thought of it.
But I couldn't stay in here and listen to them forever, however much easier it might be, and the sound of the water cutting off caught their attention, sending them both rushing up the stairs, feigning innocence. "Hey, Aunt Leah, we just- what the hell happened to you?"
And so I told them. And the others, when Judy had the sense of mind to call them home. And to Charlie, when Jake and I drove to the station, to pick up Di and Dan, who were, thank God, safe and sound. And to the Cullens, when we went there afterwards, to make sure Jasper had taken care of everything. And his old pack, when we found them, one at a time, all through the evening. And we pretended around Becca and her husband, around my Makah relatives, even Emily, that nothing was wrong in the time it took to find him.
I think Emily knew, though. I think she had to know what he was going to try. She didn't come to his funeral, thrown together in the thirty-six hours after his body was found and identified, though she was in town. It was the day before the wedding Jake and I didn't need. After everyone else had left, though, I saw her, standing at the edge of the cemetery, watching me as I stared at the weeping angel we buried our mutual ex beneath. Sam... Sam I could feel sorry for – if I tried. In so many ways he didn't have a choice, or didn't think he did. But Emily had choices. She could've said no to Sam, at least 'til we were broken up. She could've left him long ago. She could've told me what he was planning, if she knew. But she didn't, and either she was too ashamed of that to come closer, or...
She'd left by the time Jake had come back with the Rabbit.
This wasn't the way he'd wanted to resolve the two packs issue. As much as it might've been nice to be rid of Sam, we'd never really wanted him dead, and a sense of "never again" had settled over all of us.
Coming up to me, where I stood, staring not at the names, but at the stupid, weak, weeping angel, "We're going to be late to the Cullens'."
"They're immortal. Time means like nothing to them. They'll get over it."
"There was nothing else you could've done, Leah."
"Then why do I feel like week-old horse-shit about it?"
Kissing the top my head – the only convenient place he could reach, "Because it should've had to end this way, and you know it. You tried reasoning with him, you tried fighting him, you tried everything, but, in the end, the only thing he wanted that you could give him was this."
"Let's go. Emmett claims to have bought all the vodka in fifty miles for our experiment, and you know he and Embry will start without us if we don't get there soon. Last I heard, the pot is up to $3,520, and favourite is that it'll take three bottles before Emmett realizes the vampires can't get drunk and twice that before he gives up entirely."
"And what're the odds for the rest of us?"
"Seven-to-four that it'll be five bottles before we feel anything, three-to-one that Seth'll pass out first, and Kate has good money that Carlisle will break it up before we manage to get any sort of useful drunk at all." He put an arm around my shoulders and started to lead me to the Rabbit. "Jasper even got Paul to lay down fifty that we'll be drunk enough for everyone to know it at the wedding tomorrow, even though Rachel said that if he dared play our 'little game' that she'd lock him out of the house for a week."
A burst of laughter escaped me, "He'll be sleeping on her front porch the whole time."
"Jasper has a pool on that too. That pot's past 5K."
"Well then, let's go have some fun."
"...it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
St. Francis of Assisi