A/N: Oooh, lots of questions, I guess I'll start with that:
notashamedtobesoilyfan: That comment, while short, might just be my favourite feedback ever. Thanks for the chuckle!
TeamJacobYeah: To oversimplify it, yes. To unsimplify it a little bit, the spirit's bonded less to her mind, that is her sense of consciousness or psyche, and more to her being or soul or whatever you'd personally like to call it. One body, two entities basically.
Ankoku Evangeline: Ehh, not everyone is going to like everything ;) The basic structure of this plan, when it started out, was to give a reason as to why Bella went more than a little crazy in New Moon other than "she loved Edward JUST THAT MUCH," since their relationship is more than a little shallow and not really worthy of mental breakdown in my opinion. So that's what I was going for. As for it abusing her and being malicious, I would have to say that the Jacob-conscience isn't particularly malicious towards Bella, it just simply works on a non-human level of morality. It's an unaging bodiless thing that frankly doesn't see the unfairness in what it's doing. The level of damage it is incurring doesn't really register for it, because it doesn't do things on our level. It doesn't care about bodily integrity because it doesn't have a body, it doesn't care about personal space because it can go anywhere it wants to, and the fact that it just tied itself to someone without asking their opinion on the matter doesn't it bother it because from where it stands, it's in both of their best interests, and that's all that really matters at this point. It swore to help Bella's ancestors and their descendants, and that's what it's doing. We'd say that Bella isn't involved and he doesn't have a right, but we don't have a memory that stretches back a few millennia and a sense of morality which is that absolute in terms of promises. It's more ignorant of human culture than consciously malicious, which is still annoying as all hell. In Twilight, SMeyers tries to give everyone something they didn't have a choice in, and I always thought Bella's (ie, she can't help but love Edward and doesn't have a choice to stop) was really damn lame. Edward and Jake are dealing with balls of self hatred over their conditions, and Bella just gets to pout over her heart making the choice for her. Really, I just wanted to give her something that deserved whining about, and get her to realise that whining isn't going to help anything when it happens. I'm glad you gave it a chance though.
mudpuddledemon: I'm glad my nonsense is at the very least entertaining XD.
little furry cannibal: On Jake's mouthyness, interestingly enough a lot of how he talks is based on my sister. She's about the nearest thing to a teenage boy I know. I'm surprised I haven't made him use her old standby "fuck my life" yet.
Enough of that already.
Everything that means something has to hurt.
I was burning again, but this time it was safely on the ground, curled in Jake's arms. We always burned now. One connected, never-ending flame.
Everything that means something has to hurt.
The voice came again, from the tree-line. I had no desire to look up and be pulled away from my inferno, but for some reason, I looked anyways.
He was there. The strange man from before, the native with the grey eyes. He stared at us a moment, looking unsure of something. But of what, I didn't know.
"Who are you?" I asked. When he said nothing, I waved, but he didn't answer. Instead he turned and ran into the woods. Jacob dissipated in a spark of flame as I got up to run after him. "No, wait! Come back!" Again, no answer came. He just darted through the trees away from me.
My feet started to ache as the forest got increasingly more dense. I stumbled over dead branches and tree roots. "Wait for me! Where are you going? We aren't supposed to be here!"
It was true. It was cold here. Not like the beach. And the sun couldn't make it through the trees. This wasn't my place, not anymore, and it certainly wasn't his. We belonged in warmth and light. But he still didn't answer. Instead, he darted behind a redwood and out of sight.
I tried to follow, but when I got to where I last saw him, he was gone. "Please! Can't you see you're going the wrong way? We have to go back!"
There was nothing. Just an endless array of trees, slowly closing in on me, threatening to consume. I could feel the trees move, the wood crack and as the tears started to fall down my face I knew we were cut off.
"Whatever you're looking for, it's not out there! Come back!"
"Come back!" I found myself yelling as I shot up in bed. I rubbed my eyes, realising where I was, and that it was all a dream. I sighed in distaste and swung my legs off the bed, wincing as I was reminded of my sprained ankle.
"I'm fine," I mumbled aloud, for no reason in particular.
Well, you won't be if you fall.
I grumbled angrily. "Any input on what the hell that was?"
I told you Bella, I don't know everything.
"Yeah, yeah." I headed to the bathroom before getting dressed, following the voice's advice and being careful of my foot.
"So how are we going to explain this to Charlie?" I said, as I brushed my hair.
I have to admit that I'm at a lost here, Bella. It's not something that usually has to be explained.
"Yeah, well, I'm sure your last host had to explain what he was to someone."
Well yes. But that generally consisted of other supernaturals and ordinary people who fully believed in such things. Your father falls into neither of those categories.
"What did I say about having to talk like Jake if you're going to sound like him?"
He chuckled, and unlike before I felt it through my whole body. Well in that case Bells, it's all fucked up anyways, so just try to break it to him as gently as possible and make sure he's sitting down first?
I nearly grinned in spite of myself. "Sounds like a plan." I glanced at the clock and then panicked when I saw the time. "Why didn't you wake me up? It's nearly ten. It's a good thing he decided to take Friday off."
For the best really, I don't think he'd be able to go into work after this.
"You have a point." I finished dressing and trudged downstairs to face the inevitable.
I found him in the kitchen with his coffee. "Hey Dad... no work today?" No sense in doing this sooner than I had to.
"I told you I didn't when I took you out for lunch on Wednesday?"
"Oh yeah," I said with a nervous laugh. "Right."
"Good thing too. Had a hell of a night last night."
My mouth went dry. "Oh?"
"Yeah. Some sort of celebration on the Reserve, tire fires going all night, and that Call kid is lucky I was in a good mood when I caught him with that case of beer. He's only seventeen." Charlie yawned and stretch.
"Sam's gonna be pissed with him I bet."
"That's the thing Bella. Sam's the one who asked me to lay off, said they were just getting carried away. I'm going to have to have a word with that boy's father, he's a fine kid but he really needs to stop acting like he runs the place."
I suppressed a giggle. "What were they celebrating?"
"Beats me. I haven't seen them like this since the Cullens moved to Los Angeles. Which only makes this all weirder, because Emmett Cullen and Rosalie Hale were at the bonfires before I sent them home."
My eyebrows flew up. Whatever happened, I really hoped Dad hadn't walked into them disposing of the vampire corpses, because that just added a whole new level of weird to this. "Well... at least they're getting along?"
He looked at me for a moment, almost suspicious before nodding. "I guess there's that."
I smiled nervously. Good old, unsuspecting Charlie. Boy, was he in for a big surprise. "So Dad, I was thinking, why don't we have lunch with Ve today? She asked how you were yesterday?"
Charlie smiled. "Well that was nice of her. What did she have in mind?"
"Uhhhh, why not here? We have a full fridge, don't we? I can do sandwiches."
He went back to his paper. "Sounds good Bella."
I suddenly realised what it was to be Jacob and his brothers. Charlie was a simple guy. Not to say he was stupid, but he was as laid back as they come, provided you didn't mess with his daughter or his sports. Most of Pack's family members that I had met were like him, easy to get along with, personable, just good company to be around even if you didn't have much in common with them. And yet, one by one they had to have this explained to them. The life we lead can only make a person high strung, and it didn't seem fair to bring anyone else into it. Especially since it had killed one of them. But I guess that, in a way, he was already part of it. I sighed as I called up Ve and told her to come over before I started pulling out the lettuce and tomato.
You going to be ok?
I don't know, is it safe for your heart to beat two hundred times a minute?
The response I got was a chuckle.
Yeah, I thought grudgingly as I began chopping. That's what I thought.
Her car pulled up just as I was finishing with the mayo. I let Dad get the door.
"Good morning to you, Chief Swan."
"I told you, call me Charlie."
"If you say so."
"I think Bella was just finishing up, why don't you come in?"
I could feel my hands begin to twitch, and struggled to calm myself as Ve walked into the kitchen. "Need any help Bella?"
"What?" I jolted out of my trance. "Oh, no, I'm done. It's just sandwiches. We had some roast beef and turkey and I made some quick egg salad." I realised my hands were trembling, so I stuffed them in my pockets. "Nothing you don't like, right?"
"Nothing at all." From the look she gave me I could tell she knew I was nervous.
"Right." I busied myself with plates before I found Ve stepping in front of me to get the cups.
"Get a hold of yourself little sister, before you drop something," she whispered.
I leaned in close to whisper back. "You'll... you'll whammy me with that courage blessing thing the Council taught you, right? I mean, if I start to slip."
She raised her eyebrows at me. "Is that what you really want me to do?" she said with a lowered voice.
I bit my lip and nodded.
"Perhaps I should do most of the talking then."
"Yeah, that's probably the best way to do things."
We all took our places at the table, and ludicrously enough I was relieved to see Ve dig right in. She couldn't speak while she was eating, right?
"So how have things been with you, Ve."
"Good. Interesting, but mostly good." She grinned at Charlie. I fidgeted in my seat, but let her do the talking like we agreed.
"That's good to hear. Not hoping to leave us soon are you? I know I don't like to impress myself on family member's hospitality for too long myself, but they've told me they love having you here."
"Oh, I don't think you have to worry about me disappearing anytime soon Charlie. I don't plan to leave for quite a while."
"Good, good. Sam's been quite the role model to begin with, but Billy's told me you've been a great help in getting his son's butt in gear. Though I have to admit, his friends probably need it more than he does, Jake's always been a good kid."
"One of the best."
Charlie laughed. "Harry always said all those kids needed was a few role models their own age. What are you, twenty three? Twenty-four?"
My fork dropped as I looked over to see Ve grinning again. "A bit older."
"Really? You don't look a day older than Bella."
"Good genes." I coughed as she said that.
"Bella are you ok?"
"Just fine, Dad."
"Well slow down, no need to eat the whole thing at once." My heart stopped beating erratically as he turned back to his roast beef sandwich, but it wasn't long before he was asking questions again. "So what were you guys celebrating last night?"
"Oh, that. A victory of sorts. I'll talk to them about toning it down."
He nodded. "Nothing wrong with celebrating, but I can't have a bunch of teenage boys lugging beer across the reserve and expect me to do nothing about it."
"So what did they win? I don't remember Billy saying anything about any sports championships at the high school."
"Wasn't really that kind of victory, Dad." I said, finding my voice finally.
"Indeed," said Ve as she piled more sandwich halves onto her plate.
Charlie looked between us for a moment before speaking again. "Well?"
"Uh, well what, Dad?"
"Well, what kind of victory was it."
I gulped. "Well... uh... more the... personal kind?"
Charlie gave me a funny look. "Personal kind? Like individual instead of teams?"
I put my sandwich down and rubbed my forehead. "No, not that. It's uh... well it's hard to explain."
"More like the battle kind of victory, she means," said Ve without even looking up from her plate.
I felt a knot begin to form in my chest as Charlie's brows knit together. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well you know," I said, stuttering. "Battles, like where two sides meet on a field... of battle, I'd guess you'd call it." Try as I may, nothing was coming out simple. "And one side, err, loses."
"I see." I reached for my orange juice and took a long gulp as I could see the gears working in my father's head. "Is this some sort of... cultural activity? Like a holiday?"
"Yes!" I said, perhaps too fast. "You could definitely call it a cultural activity." It was so much easier to talk when I technically wasn't lying.
"How much do you know about Quileute culture, Charlie?" Ve said, finally piping up again.
"Some. Not as much as I'd like to, I'll have to admit. Don't really have the head for that kind of thing though. History was never one of my best subjects."
"Pity. Do you know the origin story of the Quileute."
"Something to do with animals becoming people or vice versa. It's not like Billy goes into great detail on our fishing trips. Is that what this 'battle' was about? Commemoration of something?" He said in between bites.
"N-no, Dad. It was more an actual fight."
Charlie swallowed his mouthful. "Just what in the hell did those boys get up to last night, and how do you know about it Bella?"
I rubbed my temple. "It's complicated."
"Did you get hurt out there? If I find out Carlisle lied to me about you falling out of a tree, I swear Bella-"
"No Dad," I said, cutting him off. "That part actually happened. I did fall out of a tree. It's just I only fell out of it because it got knocked down."
"...So those boys... knocked down a tree... in some sort of battle last night?"
I bit my bottom lip. "Mm-hmm." I watched as Charlie pursed his lips before putting down his coffee cup.
"That settles it, I'm having a talk with Billy about this as soon as we're done here, and frankly Ve, I'm surprised you let this go on."
"In my defense sir, there wasn't much of a choice."
"Bullcrap, what possible reason would you have to let those kids go out and fight in the woods?"
I moved my food around my plate as I whispered, "Vampires," under my breath.
"What was that young lady?"
"I said... I said vampires, Dad."
Charlie looked at me as if I had three eyes before laughing aloud in what some would call a 'guffaw'. "Oh Bella, I think you've been spending a little too much time listening to Old Quil's stories. Not that he isn't a valued member of the community, but his stories are more than a little outlandish." He took a drink of his coffee, chuckling.
I cleared my throat and gripped my utensils, trying to steady myself. "No Dad. They aren't outlandish." My eyes scanned the room for a moment to stall. "And how do you know about Quil Sr's stories?"
Charlie laughed. "Bella, a lot of people were mad when the Cullens moved here and started to redevelop land in the forest. They were worried about encroachment on their territory. A few of the elders went so far to compare it to their legends, but that's all it was. A bunch of stories told to children to instil some cultural pride in them. I've had this talk with Billy half a dozen times now Bella and I think he's frankly going to be disappointed in you guys for using those stories to stage some sort of war game in the woods. That's not what they're for."
"Dad... they aren't just stories, they're... histories. It might not be your best subject, but it's true."
Charlie shook his head, still laughing "I'd like to see you prove that one Bella. That would be one to see, human beings pulling on animal cloaks and fighting against, what was it? Jack Frost and his wife?"
"Would you really Charlie?" said Ve, looking deadly serious.
"Would I what?" he replied, finishing his coffee.
"Would you really like to see Bella prove what she's talking about?"
Charlie started laughing again until we didn't join him. "You... you two are serious about this, aren't you? Well why not. It's not every day I get to see the impossible."
Ve grinned wickedly. "Well that's true enough. Bella?"
I looked between them nervously before admitting defeat. "Fine, just… do it like ripping off a band-aid why don't you? But I swear Ve, if something goes wrong, I just don't know what I'll do with myself."
"You worry too much little sister, your father is made of stronger stuff."
"You bet I am," said Charlie, still thinking we were pulling one over on him. "Hang on, I'm gonna need more coffee for this."
"That's fine Dad, just meet us in the back yard." I rushed out of the house, Ve in tow. "Ve! This. Is. Insane! He's going to freak out when he sees you... sees you... you know!" I was positively panicking at this point. "He's never going to recover from this! I'm going to have to play pinochle in a loony bin with him for the rest of his natural life! And that's only if he doesn't keel over dead first! How am I going to explain this to Mom?"
"Bella, relax. You don't know that, and there's no sense worrying about it. It has to be done, one way or another, and frankly, there's no easy way to get it done."
"Fine, but if he goes round the twist over this, you're paying his therapy bills!"
Charlie chose that moment to walk out of the house. "Well girls, are we ready for this magic show?"
I groaned. "As I'll ever be."
"Well where's the magical human-animal hybrid then?"
"Right over there," I said, half-heartedly gesturing to Ve.
Charlie nearly keeled over with laugh. "Ve? Ve's going to turn into an animal? What kind of sucker do you take me for, Bella?"
"The one that's about to crap his pants," I muttered under my breath. "Well Ve, this was your bright idea, so go on. Irreparably scar my father. I mean, I only have one, so it's not like its rare or anything."
Ve smirked. "I trust you won't charge me for indecency, Chief Swan?"
"What? Oh, no, of course not, I mean it only makes sense that you have to take off your clothes to turn into an animal."
"Very well then. I suggest standing back." She moved to just inside the tree line, so the neighbours couldn't see, and turned away from us.
"Alright, you got me out here. Who's going to jump out of bushes?"
"No one, Dad." I said as I began to hyperventilate.
"No seriously, is Jake back there?"
"No, he's really not." With that Ve took off her shirt and began unbuckling her pants.
I could feel Charlie blush from beside me. He coughed nervously. "Guys, I think we've taken this far enough."
"Oh no Charlie, we haven't," Ve said as she pushed down her pants and I tried to suppress the urge to get my father out of there before his life came shattering down around his ears. "In fact, there's only one place to take it from here. The logical conclusion."
And with that, I watched as a ripple went through Ve's body and she exploded out of her skin into her giant white wolf. She turned to face us in her other form and gave a small bark, nothing like the howling claps she aimed at Emmett on the treaty line (or that would alert the neighbours for that matter), but it left an impression.
I winced and turned to face Charlie, expecting the worst. He stared dumb-founded at her, eyes wide and mouth opened as his coffee cup landed with a thud on the soft ground, spilling its contents. And he stayed frozen like that for several minutes, like a statue.
I was thankful that Ve didn't move any closer, because if I didn't know better, I would say that Charlie's heart had stopped. He was the caricature of astonishment.
"Dad? Are you ok? Dad? Oh, please answer." I gave up trying to talk him out of his trance and tugged on his arm. "Come on Dad, say something."
His mouth moved, but no sound came out and finally he brushed a shaking hand through his hair. "She just... she just... Poof."
Poof. The understatement of the year. "Yeah Dad, I know. She 'poofed', but can you please just let me know you're ok and not mildly catatonic."
He looked between Ve and myself once more, again trying to speak before what had to have been instincts got the better of him. He pivoted sharply and turned around, marching with purpose back into the confines of the house, not having enough wits about him to pick up his coffee cup or even shut the door.
I kneeled down to get the cup for him as Ve came up behind me, pulling her clothes back on. "You broke my father!" I ground out at her.
"Nonsense. He'll be fine. He just needs a little time."
"A little time?" I said, becoming agitated.
"Yes, little sister," Ve said with her trademark smirk. "A little time, and a lot of whiskey."
I stared at her angrily before marching inside after him.
When we got back in the house, Charlie was already working on the whiskey part of Ve's equation. We found him at the kitchen table, bottle in hand. He had remembered to grab a glass, but hadn't remembered to use it. I carefully sat down across from him as Ve leaned against the kitchen counter.
It took a moment before he said anything. "She turned into a wolf."
I brushed a hand through my hair. "Yeah Dad, she did."
"Honey, I don't think you're grasping the severity of this. She turned into a wolf."
I grimaced laughter starting wringing through my head. "I saw it too Dad." And you need to stop that, you disembodied asshole.
I can't. It's just… your Dad's too funny Bells. 'She turned into a wolf!' Gods, we're so keeping him.
I chose to be nice, since it was at least making an effort to sound like Jake, even if it was deciding to sound like Jake when he's being an insufferable dick.
Charlie snorted in response before taking a large gulp. "So is this a regular occurrence for you or something? Do you know a lot of people who turn into wolves and I've just failed to notice?"
I bowed my head a bit my lip, nodding only very slightly.
Charlie had the decency to laugh. "Of course you do Bella. Of course you do. So who else?"
I swallowed, my throat suddenly going dry. "Uh… Sam."
"Sam Uley can turn into a wolf?"
"Yeah, Dad, he can."
"Like Ve can? Because that was the biggest f..fricking wolf I've ever seen."
That was a hopeful sign. Charlie had a thing about harsh swearing around women, and if he was keeping that up, he was at the very least sane. "It's a little different from Ve, but basically, yeah."
"He's, um… well he's black for starters."
"Sam's larger, and has a greater potential for strength than I do, it's a slight breed difference." Ve had finally chosen to speak up.
Charlie looked up at her, wild eyed. "You're a different breed?"
I tried to calm the situation a bit. "Well, she's not strictly Quileute, so yeah, but it's no big deal Dad, honest."
"So there are, potentially, other people, out there, somewhere, who can also turn into wolves."
"More than you'd think." I shot Ve a dirty look.
"Well at least the entire goddamn world is insane and not just Forks."
I leaned forward, covering my face with my hands. "You have no idea."
"I'm kind of starting to realise this, Bells." Charlie rubbed his eyes and, finally remembering the glass, poured himself a large drink. "So Sam and Ve… who else?"
I sat back up, slowly. "Embry Call. Quil Jr. Their friends Jared and Paul…" I nervously bit my lip. "…Jake."
"Your boyfriend can turn into a wolf?"
"Well that's just… I honestly don't know what that is Bella, what am I supposed to say to this?"
"Well uh… you could say that it's nice he's protecting people?"
"Protecting… they protect people?"
"It's our singular purpose, Mr. Swan."
"Oh for chrissakes Ve, I've seen you turn into a goddamn wolf, I think we're well past Mr. Swan."
Ve grinned. "Just checking, Charlie."
"Anyone else? Does Billy turn into a wolf, I mean my best friend's obviously been keeping some secrets from me, so why not?"
"No no, Billy doesn't. Just a good chunk of the teenage population." I put my hand on his arm, trying to be supportive.
He narrowed his eyes at me. "Can you?"
I choked. "Me? No… me, it's," I laughed nervously. "It's… more a hereditary thing, I mean… Me? That would be insane." I found my forgotten glass of orange juice and took a long swallow. "I can't turn into anything."
Strictly speaking, you know that's not true Bella...
"If it's hereditary, then what about Billy?"
"It sometimes… skips a generation." I began to pay very close attention to the table cloth.
"She means that the Quileute only spawn shapeshifters when a threat is present."
"A threat… so last night?"
"We defeated that threat."
Charlie took another drink. "Well… anything to make my job easier I guess."
"I think you have a point there Dad," I said, trying to veer the conversation as far away from me as possible. "We have to focus on the positives. The monster wolves in the forest are the good guys, and… you don't have to worry about hikers getting killed anymore."
Charlie nodded. I think he was as desperate to cling to some part of this that made sense for him as I was. "So I take it the Cullens are another breed, right? I mean, that's why they were there last night, right?"
"Oh no, Charlie, the Cullens are quite a horse of a different colour."
"Don't tell me they can turn into horses, Ve. Please don't tell me they can turn into horses."
I pushed the mental image of Edward turning into a horse out of my mind and tried to press on. "No Dad. They can't turn into horses."
"It would be better if they did," Ve said with a sneer.
"Ve, this is no time for that, please," I asked, pleading her.
"Fine, but he's going to have to know anyways."
"What do I have to know?"
"Dad… there's no real easy way to put this. So I'm just going to say it." I gulped. "The Cullens are vampires."
Charlie stared at me a moment, dumbfounded, before looking down at the bottle. "I'm going to need a bigger glass."
"Sam, I'm saying this from a place of love, but you are fucking crazy." Quil shook his head as he paced through Emily's living room. "There is no way in hell you're getting my father or any of the rest of the elders out there for a Leech Luncheon, what the hell is wrong with you?"
Quil was usually the laid back one, but these were not laid back times, and I couldn't help but agree with him.
"I told you Quil, it's not my idea. Ve says something's up, and she needs to discuss it with all of us."
"What the hell is that important?" The arm of the couch creaked under Paul's grip.
"She didn't say, but Jake says it's important."
I nodded. "It's important enough that she's going to tell Charlie about us."
"Does this mean he's not going to take my beer anymore?" Sam stared daggers at Embry. "Fine, sheesh, I was just asking."
"Call's idiocy aside, we're going to have to get them out there. This is as close as we're going to get to a truce with them, I bet, so it's important. Besides, Jake says there's something Ve's refused to tell us until we're all together."
"So she doesn't trust us now?"
"Oh shut up Paul, we all know that isn't it, and you being a dumbass isn't going to help us any," Leah said, laying her feet on the coffee table.
"Don't fucking thank me Sam," she said, glaring up at him. "Just because I know the truth of the situation doesn't meant I like it. I'm with Quil, this idea is just about the shittiest one I ever heard."
Sam sighed. I could tell he was gearing up for another edition of 'Inter-pack Drama With Leah.' Fuck, here we go again. "Leah, I know it sounds bad, but-"
"But fucking nothing, Alpha, it's shitty. How many of them have actually had to deal with the leeches before? Two, maybe three? I know Billy's seen them, and my Dad had to talk to them being a doctor and all, but what the fuck are a bunch of middle aged people really going to do when they come face to face with something they've feared for their entire life."
That stopped Sam in his tracks. "Leah, please."
"Begging's not going to help any of us, we all know you're asking them to go through the same sort of crap that killed my father, and guess what? We aren't happy about it. Are you really surprised?"
Sam uncharacteristically growled. "Do you honestly think she'd ask for this if it wasn't necessary?"
Leah ground her teeth, refusing to look up at him. "And how is that supposed to be anything but terrifying?"
Seth nodded. "We don't even know why it's necessary, Sam." Colin and Brady were sitting next to him, looking near to shitting themselves as is. Damn if Ve didn't know how to put us on edge.
"I know we don't Seth, and I don't want to cause anyone more pain than I have to, you know that Leah."
"Oh for fuck sakes, Sam, I know, don't get all wishy-washy on me, all I'm saying is they have a right to think you're fucking nuts."
"They do," I said, deciding to finally speak up. "But something's going on here all the same. Were any of you at Bella's around two last night?"
"You mean you weren't? Love 'em and leave 'em, eh Black?" Embry said, giving me a shit eating grin. The entire pack erupted into cat calls and whistles around me as I fired my pop can at Embry's head. "Son of a bitch, Jake!"
"You deserved that one, asshole, talk about my girlfriend in various states of undress again and I'll make sure the next one goes through your skull."
"Jake, back down. Embry, mind your manners." I felt the familiar tingle of Sam's orders go down my spine and could tell Embry was feeling the same. "Everyone else, answer him."
They all confirmed what I already knew. No one was there.
"I thought we didn't have to baby sit her anymore, anyways," Paul said, in his ever annoying ability to say the least appropriate thing at the time.
"That's beside the point," I said with a growl. "According to the little annoying one, she hasn't been able to see Bella's future since 2 am. That usually only happens when she's around one of us, and since she's wasn't something's up."
Quil sat down with a sigh. "I should have known. That girl's a shit magnet." I glared at him. "What? Jake, you know I consider Bella to be a sister, and deeply, deeply admire her skills in the kitchen." He put a hand on his chest in mock sincerity. "But trouble follows her like she owes it money."
He may have had a point, but I'll be damned if I was admitting it.
"So now that we know why this is happening how do we make it better?" asked Jared.
Leah shrugged. "Let 'em bring shotguns."
"Did you skip Vampires 101 or something, Clearwater?" said Embry, snorting. "Shotguns ain't gonna do shit."
"I know that, idiot. But it might make them feel better about it."
"If you're done sticking your foot in your mouth Embry," Sam said, clenching his fists, "yes, that's a viable option, but I don't know how the Cullens are going to take it."
"The fuck does that matter Sam? The way I see it, our mothers and fathers can't hurt the bloodsuckers, and everyone knows it, just like they all know the bloodsuckers can hurt them. The Cullens aren't the ones we need to be worrying about. If that's what they need to make it out there, then let 'em. Besides, you and me both know the only way your father is going to willingly meet a leech is with rifle in hand."
Sam gritted his teeth. "You got me there, Leah. Fine. Anyone else have any problems?"
"What about imprints?" asked Jared anxiously.
"I don't think anyone expects you to bring Kim." Jared sighed with relief. "I'm not bringing Emily."
"Are you kidding? I'm not missing this for the world."
"Emily-" Sam started.
"Sit the fuck down, Uley, I don't care if you are Alpha, if she says she's going, she's going." Leah got up and moved to Emily's side. "She got along fine with Blondie and Meathead last night, which was your idea by the way, so you're too late to go telling her not to hang out with vamps now.
"I think it's time we left," Quil said, leaning in towards Embry.
"Yep, the women are turning on us."
"Leah, I can't just-"
"If you think there's anyway you can win on this, Alpha powers or no, you're dumber than I thought Sam. If you're worried about her getting hurt, why in the hell are we letting Old Quil go out there?"
Emily nodded beside Leah and I had a strong urge to laugh, but managed to keep it under wraps. Sam didn't stand a chance, and it was clear he knew it from how he was rubbing his hand through his hair. "I don't see why she has to come anyways."
"Isn't it clear? She wants to get a good look at the red-headed freak Bella used to date."
I rolled my eyes. "What's to see, he has weird hair, he talks like he's got a stick up his ass and he's probably going to say something really stupid concerning safety and werewolves that's only going to make you a thousand times angrier with Emily there." I could feel Sam's icy glare from across the room. "You know I ain't saying nothing that isn't true Sam."
"I'm sure he knows his manners," Emily said.
Leah rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure we'll all be really good friends with rainbows and kittens and shit. Dream on, Em. Rosalie and Emmett, much as I hate to admit it, are alright folk. But him and the dwarf are assholes, plain and simple, and meddling assholes at that. I still got aches from that night I had to play Bella's goalie."
"Oh, you do not-"
"Shut up Call." Embry backed down as Sam stared at him. "I still don't understand what part of 'this is not a democracy' you don't get Leah, but fine. Emily can come. But if you so much as smirk at me for that I'm running you on double patrols for a month."
"Wouldn't dream of it, Boss." Leah some how managed to keep her mouth straight, but I could tell from the look in her eyes that she had won tonight's pissing contest. "So can we go get this catastrophe over with now?"
Sam nodded. "Jake and I will figure out how we're going to get everyone there, the rest of you go inform the Elder's what we have to do. Everyone got that?"
"Yep," Quil said, hopping off the couch. "Go cause moral panic to the masses, got it."
"And be polite." Sam growled out the last word.
"Are we anything but?" Embry said with a smirk, until I threw Paul's soda can at his head.
"You deserved that one too."
Sam finally found it in him to smile. "He's right. You did. Now get going."
Charlie stared down at the empty glass, his expression unreadable. "So, you mean to tell me that, not only are all kinds of monsters real, one of them is in my daughter's head? Because of me?"
I sighed. "Dad, it's not like that. It's not your fault. It's not like you chose your parents, or who their parents were. And it's not like you asked our…" I took a gulp of my orange juice to steady my nerves. "Ancestral guardian spirits to come here and take up residence in my brain. And, in all honesty, compared to the numerous death threats and attempted murders, it's not the worst thing to happen to me this year." I tried to smile but I could tell it was coming off as awkward.
Charlie stared at me a moment, and then poured himself another drink.
I rubbed my forehead. "Yeah, maybe that wasn't the best way of putting things."
"No kidding." Charlie motioned for Ve to sit back down. She walked over and stood behind her chair. "So why now? I mean, you seem to have been getting off scot-free in all this, why tell me about this now? This vampire war-thing is over, you've worked things out with the Cullens, and while I don't like what happened to Bella, she's not too worse for wear. Why now?" I began to observe my glass closely as Ve spoke.
"Because that wasn't the war. That was a battle. The war's yet to come."
Charlie looked Ve over. "I think it's about time you tell me why you're really here Ve."
"We told you of Edward's foolishness in Italy, yes?" Charlie gripped his glass tighter and nodded. "Well, he got into more foolishness then we originally said."
I could see Charlie's throat tighten from here. "Go on."
"You have to understand Charlie, vampires are territorial. Habitually untrustworthy, aside from a few select individuals, so they usually travel in small packs. There is no 'Grand Vampire Parliament,' nothing like the Great Council. However, the Volturi, like we said, likes to at least think it holds power over the rest of the vampire world. For the most part, it's true. They are one of the most powerful covens in the world, and have convinced most of the others that they're the most powerful. As for the covens that may challenge the Volturi in terms of power, they are hiding, fearing being hunted down. Because if nothing else, the Volturi are good at what they do, and what they do is take power. They have killed countless members of their own kind to ensure their supremacy. Two millennia ago they nearly wiped out the neighbouring coven, save for two members. This is their method, kill off the 'unnecessaries' and try to force the remaining to be ingratiated to them for letting them live. It didn't work with the Romanian coven, they've been informing against the Volturi to Council operatives for generations, though they don't quite know who they're informing to." She gave me a wink. "I've seen it happen time and time again. Three hundred and fifty years ago, I was part of an operation to take out a coven in southern Germany. They had been warring with the Volturi for near on a century, and were weakened. Easy pickings."
Something was wrong with the look that was in Ve's eyes. They always looked ancient to me, but I had never seen them contain such… fire. I had seen her angry before, but this was something more. If I didn't know better I would say she almost looked lost.
"Go on," my father prompted after a beat of silence.
"When we broke through their defences, one of their members betrayed the coven to the Volturi. The Volturi in turn thought it would be easy pickings, they would let us kill off the more threatening members of the coven, and then they would swoop in and save the rest. New allies for them, and a chance to kill off some shapeshifters and other 'undesirables' for their… trouble."
I tensed. "I don't like where this is going."
"With good reason little sister. What was supposed to be a lightning strike turned into a massacre. We lost a lot of good soldiers that day..." Her gaze wavered. For only a moment, the habitual fire in her eyes, the essence that with a look could terrify or calm, was gone. "A lot of good..." She gripped the chair before finally sitting down.
I don't think I had ever seen Ve look that... vulnerable? No, that wasn't the right word. Approachable maybe. Or defenceless. Ve made a practice of using the mystique we put around her to her advantage, making us all sure that we knew who was the boss. Now she looked almost like one of us. No older than me, in fact. She must have stopped aging in her late teens or early twenties. Her tacit invincibility drifted away as I suddenly realised what she was talking about.
"Your son. You lost your son in that battle. That's why you want to take down the Volturi so bad. They took your son."
She took a long swallow of juice before talking again. "They took my Ragni, yes. He... and so much more." I moved to touch her arm, to give her some sort of comfort, but, before I could she got up again, walking to the other side of the kitchen. When she turned back around, her mask had fallen into place again.
Charlie gulped. "Ve, that's just... losing a child is a type of horrible I thankfully haven't had to experience, so I hope you won't find it insensitive when I point out that you still haven't answered my question. I can see why you want to get those Italian bastards, but why here? And what does it have to do with Edward going to Italy?"
"Like I said, he got into more foolishness than was originally thought. I suppose his sister Alice is just as much to blame, since she brought Bella there, but he was the core reason. The effects of your bloodline were in Bella even before she became a Mind Weaver. Certain vampiric abilities fail on her, and that is a most treasured gift to have, especially for a mortal. She is a curiosity to them. A... potential new ally. And, once exposed to them, the Volturi wanted to collect her. Or at the very least, see her become a vampire.
Charlie stopped moving completely, appearing to have even stopped breathing for a moment. "They... they were going to kill her. Make her one of... Oh God." He got up, finding it his turn to pace around the kitchen.
"Dad..." I cautioned, watching him become suddenly enraged as he circled the floor.
"They are to never come here again, do you hear me? I don't want to see them again. I don't even want you to be around them."
"Dad, they never meant to-"
"I don't care what they meant, Isabella Swan, they almost got you killed!"
I felt tears scorch down my cheeks. "It's not like that Dad, I... I wanted to... I wanted them to." The last of my words faded into a whisper.
"I wanted them to."
"You wanted... you wanted? You fucking wanted them to..." I sat up straight with shock with Charlie's word choice, feeling my gut wrench with guilt. "What is wrong with you? What in the hell did we ever... how could you ever be that selfish? Did you even think for a moment what that would do to you mother? To me? You were honestly going to choose them over us? Choose wanting to kill people and never growing up over your own parents? How long?" I winced. He was shouting now. "How long was it going to be until you had to fake your death, or go missing or whatever bullshit plan they put you up to? How long until you broke your mother's heart?"
I felt fear, real fear shoot down my spine as I looked into his eyes, seeing the beginning of tears. "I-I don't know. I didn't think-"
"It's obvious you didn't think Bella, or you might have thought about how torn up we would have been about this."
"I'm sorry!" I said, choking back a sob.
"Sorry can't even begin to cut it. You tell them to get the hell out of your life, I swear if I ever see one of them again-"
"Charlie, that is not a wise course of action," Ve interjected.
"They were going to kill my only daughter!" he said, turning on her.
"And I assure you, if one of them ever steps a foot out of line, I will make sure that you, personally, get to set the bonfire that ends their existence. But they've offered to kill their own kind to make up for their mistakes, and they have a pre-existing treaty with the Quileute."
"Besides Dad, you're being unfair-"
Ve's head snapped towards me and I knew immediately to stop talking. "Oh no, Bella. He's not being unfair. I know you have only ever seen the good side of the Cullens, and continue to insist that they only have one side to them, but with my centuries of experience, all I can tell you is that you are wrong. Even about them. This is what vampires do. They cause strife. They worm their way into situations that favour them. They seduce, and then, they destroy. This is just the first time you're getting to see that from them. It's clear enough that your departure would have destroyed your father. It is a lesser destruction than Cold Ones usually leave in their wake, but it is destruction all the same."
Her eyes softened. "I hate them. Is that what you want to hear? I have an unreasonable hatred of vampires, I will admit it. But I will temper that admittance with the fact that they have killed or maimed countless numbers of my people, my own children and very possibly my husband included." I again found myself speechless. Luka. She had refused to discuss him further before, and I found the possibility that she didn't know how, or even where, he was hearbreaking. "And I will even admit that the Cullens are possibly the finest, most upstanding example of vampires I have ever seen, but that still only sets them first among torturers, murderers, and harbingers of genocide. Seven good examples of their kind do not make up for any of the killings. And it doesn't make up for any of their own, personal wrongs. I'm still not entirely convinced Alice didn't take you to Italy to make it necessary that they turn you. It is common place for vampires to take on human help. Humans can move through places they cannot, be it air ports with heat scanners or convincing others into their lair in broad daylight. They are often not turned unless they show some promise. Once Alice delivered you to Aro, your fate was sealed. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, and she was only trying to save her brother, but it was a fairly convenient way to force his hand. Either way, your father has every reason to be upset at them. Even to hate them."
My throat went dry. "I just... don't want him to become you." My hand flew to my mouth, the words escaping without meaning to.
Ve smiled, a sad light to her eyes. "No, little sister. It is alright. It was well said. Do not be ashamed. Believe it or not, I don't want him to become like me either. Being consumed by hate is hard enough to deal with personally; you don't tend to wish it on other people. Which is why, Charlie-" she turned to him, "you will rely on your own experiences with them, and judge for yourself. I know Edward does not seem a prize right now, but even I can see that his father is a good man for saving lives." Charlie's shoulder's fell as he accepted what she said. "But I ask you, Bella," she turned back to me, "to accept that I have to refer to my own experiences in judging them. And they are near uniformly abysmal."
I nodded, grudgingly.
"Now that everything's been laid out, can you agree to back us up Charlie?"
Charlie nodded. "So long as you get the bastards who are after my daughter."
Ve smiled. "That's exactly what I intend to do. And I have an idea as to how you can help us. But we'll get to that later. We have a meeting to attend. Are you capable of attending Charlie, or would you prefer to be filled in later?"
Charlie finally sat back down. "I honestly don't know if I can look at the Cullens right now, knowing what I know."
"Well, we do not have to go just yet. Why don't you go walk some of that whiskey off, Bella and I will wash up."
"Ve, I know when I'm drunk-"
"Then walk some of that emotion off. What I'm saying, Chief, is take a walk."
Charlie ground his teeth at being told what to do by someone who looked half his age, but he nodded and left the kitchen. I began to gather up dishes as Ve pushed the chairs in. I watched her, searching for something to say.
"Ve," I said, finally "about Luka-"
She raised her hand to stop me. "Not now little sister. Later...sometime soon I promise. But just not right now."
I nodded and got back to cleaning.
"Did I just hear a car pull up?"
Ve nodded, not bothering to look up from the news paper she started reading as we finished the dishes. Sam had called earlier, letting us know that he was sending Jake to pick us up. I busied myself getting my purse. Charlie still wasn't home yet, so I penned a quick note and stuck it to the fridge, being sure to mention where the treaty line actually was.
I looked out the living room window and groaned. "Why is Edward with him?"
Ve got up and was by my side in a heartbeat. "I do not know. But I do not think it was a good idea."
"At least he's waiting by the car." Ve walked back to the kitchen to gather her things. I smiled as Jake knocked on the door.
"Hey beautiful." I felt myself relax as I opened the door and slid my hands around Jake's waist, kissing him gently.
"Hey. Sam told us you were coming, but he didn't mention Edward."
Jake rolled his eyes. "It's the pixie. She's working herself into a fit over her power or whatever not working, and as a show of good faith, Sam told me to bring one of them with me to get you so she would stop pitching a fit. And there was no way in hell I was taking her small ass, so Edward volunteered."
I sighed. "I had hoped things would have gotten better after you guys had to work together."
He hugged me tighter. "I know honey, I know."
"What's wrong with her powers anyways?"
Jake shrugged. "She hasn't been able to see your future since this morning and she's freaking out over it. Ve confirmed none of us were here at the time, so I don't know what's going on. What I do know is that Ve knows something she's not letting on. You don't happen to know anything about this, do you?"
I gulped. Well, it's not like I could particularly keep it a secret, the meeting today was entirely about me. "Yeah, sorta."
Jake raised an eyebrow. "Sorta."
"More like completely. It's kind of hard to explain just now. Maybe we should wait for this whole meeting…thing."
Jake sat down and swept a hand through his hair. "Bella…"
"Well it's not like you told me right away about the whole… werewolf thing."
"Bells, you knew I couldn't."
I bit my thumb. "I know, I know. I'm just kind of hoping it all goes away."
I'm not going anywhere, Bells.
Before I could stop myself I growled at the Jacobconscience.
Jake laughed. "Geez, am I rubbing off on you or something? Quil was right, you are a shit magnet."
I balked. "A shit magnet?"
"Yep. For some reason or another, any sort of trouble always finds its way to you."
"You have no idea how right you are." He grinned at me and I smacked him lightly. "Why are you laughing, this isn't funny?"
He chuckled again. "Oh yes, it is. So what's managed to find you this time?"
"You're taking this way too lightly."
"Oh come on, don't pout. I just figure after running into vampires and werewolves, you'd be used to this by now."
I grumbled. "It's a little more complicated this time."
Suddenly, Ve rushed into the room. "Where is Edward?"
Jake answered. "By the car. What's wrong?"
"Charlie is home." To punctuate her answer, I heard shouting come from outside.
I turned to look out the window to see the stand off happen. Edward got up from leaning against the car as Charlie stopped at the end of the sidewalk. I didn't like where this was going. They were just staring at each other, not moving. "Oh, crap." I ran for the door, somehow managing to be the first one out.
They were both silent as I made my way between them. "Ok Dad, I think it's time we go." I put a hand to my mouth, stopping the nervous giggle that what threatening to get out.
"Why is he here?"
"There was a… an issue, and Sam thought Jake might need back up."
Charlie gave me an unbelieving look. "An issue."
"You know… an issue… last night… with me…" I rocked back on my heels, "and my bedroom."
"Your bedroom?" Edward interjected. "What happened?"
"Not now, Edward," I said through gritted teeth.
"Oh… That. Well I guess, just… get him out of here. Now."
"Right, guys," I called to Ve and Jake on the porch. "Let's go. Like now."
"You mean before your Dad tries to beat up your ex-boyfriend." Jake's shit-eating grin was firmly in place.
"Yes, that would be the reason."
"Fine, we're coming, we're coming," he said, sensing my annoyance. "Rough day Charlie?"
"You could say that. But then, you know all about those, now I'm hearing."
"You could say that." The grin never left his face even as he got into the car.
I rolled my eyes and headed over to Charlie. "I shouldn't be gone too long. I mean, we're just explaining the whole… thing." I don't know when I was going to get used to being what I was, but now wasn't the time.
He nodded. "I'd say be safe, but it doesn't seem like that's really an option right now."
Not knowing what to say, I just hugged him awkwardly.
"Oh come on don't be like that kiddo. I'm sure it'll turn out ok, won't it? It's nearly Ve's profession, and you've been through worse."
"It's not the meeting Dad. It's everything else."
Charlie sighed. "Yeah, well. Life deals you a hand and you just gotta play it. Have to say I'd prefer to be dealt no vampires for the immediate future."
"I'll tell them."
"Thanks. Now get going. Standing here and staring is about as civil as I can be right now."
I said my goodbyes and got in the front seat of the car, leaving Edward and Ve to squeeze in the back. Jake waved as he headed out.
It took some minutes before the silence of the ride was broken by Edward.
"Isabella, I do not mean to intrude or over step my boundaries, but why in God's name was Charlie thinking about you being on the ceiling last night?"
The car screeched to a halt and Jake whipped his head around. "She WHAT?"
I rolled my eyes and sighed. This was going to be a long ride.
A/N: So glad to get this one done. Big thanks to majestamoniet for helping me with a Charlie kerfluffle.
For some actual news, we're really coming to the end here. Yes, there is going to be a sequel, but after this one, we've got maybe one more chapter (two if we're lucky), and then an epilogue and then we're done. Come on, you knew it was coming after that huge battle.
So drop a review if you like, and I hope you enjoyed this one, because it gave me some problems, let me tell you.