Ruben sighed deeply, his tense shoulders finally relaxing the slightest bit as he slouched in his chair. I couldn't help be grimace slightly, as it was one of those high back Louis XV chairs and his position just looked plain uncomfortable. We were currently seated in his parlor room, me on the love seat and him in the chair to my right. Everything in here looked like an antique, European, or both. The room practically screamed 'Blair Livingston', and I could see why he'd be hesitant to enter here. Today I'd left him with choice, as I'd all but started hyperventilating while explaining what had happened with Rachel this morning the second I'd gotten out of my car. Ruben had done his best to direct me to the closest sitting area available, and hadn't interrupted me once. Of course, that had been nearly ten minutes ago, and he still hadn't said anything. "Well," I prompted, to which he racked his fingers through his mid-length hair in frustration.
"It isn't as easy as my mother made it sound," he finally growled out, his emerald eyes not moving from whatever it was he was staring at on the floor. "The fetus is dead, Bella-"
"Why should that make a difference?"
His eyes closed as he took in a deep breath. "When doing a normal healing," he began, leaning his head back so he was now staring at the ceiling, "the recipient is still alive. Living energy flows directly from the healer and responds to the living energy inside the one to be healed. It's a type of healing every banshee can eventually do, though it can be dangerous to the healer if they're not properly trained first. Training can take years, Bella," he explained, his intense eyes finally meeting my own, "and you've never even attempted it before."
"I know it's risky," I snapped back. "You're mother told me –"
"What? That you could die?" He jumped to his feet, his eyes narrowed as he glared down at me heatedly. "Fuck, did you really think I'd just stand back and let you?"
"Let me," I all but huffed back at him, my pride being ruffled as I stood as well, ready to defend my independence. "What right do you have to order me around?"
"Your trainer," he quipped back at first, then seemed to deflate as he flopped back down into his uncomfortable high back chair and sighed out sadly, "your friend."
"Rachel's my friend too," I said stubbornly. "I told her I'd do this-"
"You don't even know if you can," he wailed out in exasperation. "The fetus is dead, Bella. You'll need to use dead energy to bring it back. In this type of healing, the banshee is only a conduit! It's a gift, yes, but a rare one in our world."
My heart froze in my chest as I remembered Seth's accusation earlier that morning. Had I really given a grieving mother false hope? Was I so cruel? "You said we didn't know if I could," I asked cautiously. "So it's still possible that I can."
"Anything's possible," Ruben admitted sharply, "but even if you can, you'd still have to find a walking source of dead energy, and you'd still be risking your life."
A walking source of dead energy? "A vampire," I whispered, then spoke louder with more conviction. "I'd need to transfer a vampire's energy into the baby." He nodded and I hissed. "It wouldn't hurt Rachel, would it? I mean, having vamp energy in her child?"
"It shouldn't, but –"
"I could die doing it," I repeated with an eye roll. "It's dangerous and you wished I wouldn't, message received."
"You're doing it anyway," he said knowingly. Ruben waited for my nod of acknowledgement before adding. "I'm going with you."
"Why," I argued vainly.
"A- because I'm your trainer, B-because I'm your friend and I know more about this than you do, and C-because if anything does go wrong, I do know how to heal the dead."
The rest of the day, Ruben made me practice healing with living energy, which I found both disturbing and beneficial. Disturbing because I was healing him, after he sliced his arm open - repetitively. Beneficial because healing was beginning to take less time and energy to complete. "Again," my white haired instructor said with a hiss as he again sliced his left arm open with the talon claws of his opposite hand.
"Ben," I sighed out wearily while watching the dark purple blood ooze from his flesh to drip on the grass below.
"No," he snapped out harshly, though his eyes did look a little softer from the inadvertent nickname that had slipped out of my mouth, "again." I took in a deep breath, looking about the green field of knee-high grass he called a backyard before holding my hands over his arm, palm side facing the injury. I closed my eyes and focused on what his skin had looked like before – the smooth, pale, perfection it had once been. I imagined his flesh knitting itself back together as a tingling sensation began in my hands. "Perfect," he told me. "Simply perfect, Bella. I didn't think you'd actually be able to learn so fast."
"Does that mean I get a gold star, teacher," I joked lightly, opening my eyes to look at him as I attempted to fight off my exhaustion.
"It means you can take a nap," he replied, his emerald eyes filled with concern. "Come on, I'll take you to a guest room and bring you some lunch. Human food will help," he explained along the way inside and up the stairs, "but you really need to hunt if you can."
"I'm guessing you freaking out from finding my apparently lifeless corpse on the bed isn't an issue?"
Ruben chuckled softly at that, opening the door before us with a gentle smile on his face. "Hardly. Now, off to bed," he urged. "I honestly didn't mean to wear you out," he apologized before heading off to throw together a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup for me. I was ravenous by the time he returned, and wasted no time at all demolishing my food before laying down on the bed (having toed-off my shoes upon entering the room). Soon my spirit was floating again, eagerly seeking out the sounds of the depressed and depraved alike. So unquenchable was my appetite, I'd devoured five souls before I felt satisfied enough to return to myself and attempt to actually rest. It was nearing eleven at night when Ruben came to wake me. To say I was alarmed was putting it mildly.
"I slept for ten hours!"
He merely nodded, taking my car keys from my hand and helping me into the passenger seat of my vehicle. "You're not used to it," he replied as an explanation. "Still pissed off I'm coming?" I shook my head 'no', and he smiled smugly to himself. "Thought not," he mumbled, but it's hard to get anything past supernatural hearing, so I mock glared at him until we both ended up laughing. Ruben then drove us as far up the 101 as was possible before parking along a side road. We walked the rest of the way, getting to the symmetrically meadow in a few seconds thanks to banshee sped. "Your friend should be here in about half an hour," he said after he'd surveyed the meadow and laid a picnic blanket down in its middle. "You wait for her, I'll go see if I can't find us a volunteer."
"You mean, you're going vampire hunting," I frowned at him.
"I'll be fine, mom," he quipped before dashing off. I growled to myself, but knew he was right – I did need to wait for Rachel. The strain of carrying a dead fetus would be hard enough on her body without her worrying about anything else. I heard her heavy, human foot falls nearly twenty minutes later, her breath sounding slightly labored. My brows winkled in concern as I raced over to her, insistently picking her up and carrying her the rest of the way. "You don't want to stress yourself into labor, do you," I asked, instantly killing any protests she'd planned to make.
"How is this going to work," her voice came out meek and small as I placed her gently onto the picnic blanket – two things Rachel Black-Lahoute was not. I sat down beside her and took her hand, squeezing it lightly in an attempt to give her some form of reassurance. "I brought my instructor with me," I told her, her eyes widening at hearing there were more banshees in the world. "He's done this before, so you just relax and everything will be fine."
"He," she gasped out in surprise. "There are guy banshees too? But... I mean," she tried again after clearing her throat nervously, "what does that mean for your wolves? Can you be with them or are you supposed to be with your own kind?"
"My own kind," I repeated, one eyebrow raised. "My own kind was human, Rach, just like my boys. Beside 'Bry, Seth, and I, we're official now."
"It took then," she asked in a mumble, and I realized she was merely trying to distract herself.
"Yes, the imprint took. I still need to talk to Quil –"
"And Jake," she added, her eyes hardening at the reluctance on my face. "You can't do that to my brother," she snapped out. "You can't bond with the others and then leave him – their alpha – cursed to walk around unloved and alone for the rest of his life. He'll never see anyone but you, Bella. I know he's not perfect. Hell, he's a straight up ass some of the time, but he loves you."
"And he shows it by torturing my other mates – his pack family. Really. Jacob has abused his powers of alpha wolf when it comes to my boys. He ordered them to stay away from me, not even to speak to me. He knew how much it would hurt them – how much it would hurt me – but that selfish ass did it anyway. Honestly, Rach, I don't want to stress you out, but I'm not sure if I want to complete a bond with someone like that."
Shock filled Rachel's eyes, then anger. She nodded stiffly, her hands fisting in her lap. "Let's get this over with," she finally said, "before it starts to snow again."
"Great idea," Ruben's voice sounded as he stepped into the clearing, a large quartz crystal was glowing a deep purple as it swung freely from the hide necklace he grasped loosely in his fingers. He tossed the object to me with a tight smile. "Found our volunteer," he said, and my eyes widened as I finally recognized the purple hue as the same color of smoke that would rise from a vampire's burning flesh. I nodded quickly, turning back to Rachel and helping her lay down. "All you have to do is rest," Ruben assured her in a calm voice. "Bella is going to hold that crystal in one hand and place her other hand over your child. You might feel a warm or tingling sensation, those are both normal. If there is any discomfort – however slight – I want you to say something, alright? I've done this before, and I promise no harm will come to you or that little guy in there."
"Girl," she corrected instantly. "She's a girl." Ruben smile and shook his head 'no'. "Trust me," he insisted, "I don't care what the doc says, it's a little man in there." He closed his eyes, one hand placed lightly on her slightly protruding stomach, before his emerald orbs snapped open again quickly, his body jerking back so abruptly he was halfway acrossed the meadow in a blink of a human's eye. "A wolf," he mumbled, then looked to me in shock. "She's pregnant with a wolf," he said in an accusatory way. "You never said there were shifters here, that she was carrying one!"
"Does it make a difference," I asked my teacher, half fearful we wouldn't be able to help the Quileute now. Ruben shook his head, seeming to calm down and return to his self. "No, of course not," he forced another tight smile. "Let us begin."
I wasted no time laying Rachel completely down and making sure she was as relaxed as possible before kneeling down by her stomach, crystal in my left hand with my right hand settled over the woman's womb. Closing my eyes, I focused just like I had earlier with Ruben. He'd warned me dead energy was more stubborn because it didn't directly come from me and it didn't want to help the living. Soon enough I felt it, the telltale sign of tingling coursing up one arm, through my chest, down the other arm, and out my hand into the fetus below. I smiled softly in my concentrated state at my mentors encouraging words. I could feel the pride radiating off of him towards me with every, 'that's my girl,' and 'keep going' he'd whisper. I also knew it was too soft for Rachel to hear, and therefore wouldn't make the woman nervous from my lack of experience.
(3rd person POV)
Everything was going wonderfully well, though Bella was feeling the strain of being a conduit. Then, just as the crystal was nearly drained, something unexpected happened – the unborn child began rejecting the energy which was sustaining him, healing him. "Fuck," Ruben growled under his breath, racing over quickly and linking his fingers with Bella's so that both of his palms touched the upper side of her hands. Together they focused on the healing, forcing the crystal's energy through both of their bodies and into the stubborn wolf-cub inside Rachel. 'Must take after Paul,' Bella thought with a soft grin to herself as she tried to ignore the feeling of Ruben's energy flowing inside her. Her mentor groaned softly then, his chest pushing against her back until there was no space left between them. "Focus, Bella," he whispered into her ear, his voice deep and breathy from their joint effort at holding the vampire's energy inside the cub's body, "focus."
Then she felt it; the dizzying, terrifying sensation of herself –her energy – being absorbed into the unborn wolf below. It was an angry, snarling energy that wrapped around her and drew her down against her will. Bella fought, tightening her hands, her fingers around her mentor's in hopes he'd realize what was happening without alerting Rachel. Though she really shouldn't have worried, as a mere five seconds later, the Quileute's water broke. Rachel Black-Lahote was in labor. The surprise over what was happening – that her friend was going into labor so early in her pregnancy – caused Bella to momentarily stop fighting against the wolf that was eagerly lapping at her energy, and those few seconds were all it took for the unborn child to suck her dry and for her body to fall limply against Ruben's chest.
"Shit," the male-banshee hissed out, glaring hatefully at the unborn whelp growing in the Native American's womb. The woman was in labor and needed medical attention – no doubt from her tribesmen's doctors – and his pupil needed him as well. "Shit, shit, shit," he hissed a few more times, his mind racing with one plan of action after another. At that second in time, Ruben Livingston hated his mother for even mentioning this ability to Bella Swan. He no longer cared what the legends said or what he was fated to be – what they were supposedly fated to be. Ruben just wanted this nightmare to be over, for his pupil, his friend – his Bella – to be alright again. He closed his eyes, knowing what needed to be done and that she might possibly hate him for it, he sighed to himself before gathering Rachel Lahoute – wrapped securely in the picnic blanket – in his arms before carrying her to the car and laying her in the backseat. "Hold on," he told her. "Keep breathing. I'll get Bella and then get you to the hospital."
"It's too early," she rushed out in a panic. "It's too early."
"It's a wolf," he told her, trying to soothe the burning disgust that built in his stomach over that one fact. "It's strong," he assured her, "and it's alive. Your child is alive." Rachel's eyes teared up at those words, and Ruben was certain if it wasn't for the pain of labor, she'd have laughed with overwhelming joy. He raced back to Bella's unconscious form then, quickly placing her in the passenger seat and buckling her seat belt to keep her body safe during the trip to the hospital. After a few quick questions ("Where is the reservation hospital? What is the number there? Who is your doctor?"), Ruben was seeping along the roads at 240mph, hoping to whatever higher power that no suicidal animals would jump out in front of them.
Two nurses were waiting with a stretcher outside the emergency entrance when Ruben pulled up. He helped them gather Rachel out of the car and onto the piece of hospital equipment, assuring one of the nurses ('Nosy bitch,' he thought to himself) that Bella was merely sleeping and didn't need medical attention as well. "I'll call her father," the other nurse assured the banshee before rolling the screaming woman inside. Ruben glanced back towards Bella, and took in a deep breath. His nose wrinkled at the strong scent of wolf that assaulted him. 'Shifters,' he mentally moaned. 'Why did it have to be shifters.' Ruben took in one more deep breath before hopping back into Bella's car and drove it back to the Clearwater residence. Straining his ears, he made certain the home was empty, and then carried her quickly into her room. Laying her gentle onto her bed, he looked about hurriedly. Taking a green scarf from her sock drawer, Ruben laid down beside her and tied his left wrist to Bella's right one in such a way that their palms were touching.
"I am so sorry, B," he whispered while sitting up and staring down at her unconscious form. "You gotta come back to me. Hear me, Bella? You can't die yet…" He could feel tears building in his eyes, which he promptly closed as he laid down fully beside her, tightening his hold on her hand. "Please don't die…"