Don't Come Home

Summary: After Harry Clearwater's death, Billy realizes a terrible truth about the wolves. Only one painful path remains for him. *In Canon*

Set: New Moon (p 372-373 of New Moon) the day Bella jumped from the cliff

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Author's Note: Contrary to rumours, I'm not dead! LOL Sorry it's been a while since I've published. What can I say? Between being a mommy, working outside the home, caring for the rest of my family, and helping out over at the other website (twilighted), RL has taken over! Thanks for being patient with me.

In preparing the next chapter of my story "First Impressions", I asked two of my friends (BlondieakaRobin and KlutzLikeBella) whether they thought Alice could 'see' Jacob before he began phasing. This sparked a debate. Blondie felt that it was the chromosomal anomaly that protected the werewolves, meaning that Alice couldn't see them from the moment they were born (or conceived). KLB felt that Alice couldn't see them because their phasing made them so unpredictable, meaning that Alice could see them before they started to phase.

I decided to go with the idea that Alice COULD see them prior to their first phase (stand by for that chapter in First Impressions).

But the whole topic raised a lot of other questions in my mind about other aspects of the pack. This story is a direct product of those questions and the answers that I felt work for me.

Most of my stories are focused on family teasing and fun, this one is more angsty than my usual. I hope you still like it. I promise I AM working on the other chapters (First Impressions and Sibling Rivalry) and hope to have those out shortly.

A million thanks to Blondie for helping me to work this story out – both in the logic and by asking all the questions that really made me think. Blondie, you are a great teacher and friend. KLB, thank you so much for your help and for your thought provoking answers. I'm blessed to know you both.

OK, I'm shutting it now. Here's the story! :D

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Billy's POV

I stared out the side of the car, barely aware of the headlights passing us in the other lane. I was lost in my thoughts. Sam Uley drove quietly beside me with one hand on the wheel; the other was clenched in a fist, resting on his leg. He didn't talk. I was grateful. I didn't have it in me to make polite conversation and it seemed neither did he.

Harry Clearwater was dead. He had been my best friend since before we could walk. Hell, our great-grandparents had been best friends. I didn't have many memories that didn't include Harry. It cut a rip in my heart to think he wouldn't be there for me any more. The grief was a lead weight in my belly.

Worse, though, was that he died learning a horrible truth – a truth that lived on, well past my friend. A truth we'd all now have to learn to live with.

Harry's heart had always been weak. He certainly never took care of it, eating whatever he pleased, scoffing at Sue's attempts to get him to eat 'rabbit food'. Of course, no amount of diet and exercise could prepare a man to see his both children phase into werewolves right in front of him.

We'd suspected that Seth would join the pack. That bloodline ran almost as strongly in Harry's family as in mine. After Sam, Jacob's change had seemed inevitable, a matter of time. I only wish that I were younger, so that I could carry the burden of protecting our people instead of that responsibility falling to our children.

I glanced over at Sam. Ron Uley, Sam's father, had been a louse – drinking, gambling and beating his wife and his kid – a real sonofabitch. Ron had never held down a job and had nearly bled his family dry, using the little his wife earned to pay for his addictions. Eventually he'd left Sam and his mother. Or maybe Sam grew up enough to throw his father out. I never got the details of that story. Sam played his cards close to his chest about what happened that night. And the other boys in the pack weren't talking. But by that time, Ron's leaving was more of a blessing to Sam and his mother than anything else. And Sam had neatly stepped into the shoes of heading his family, young as he was.

As the tribe's elders, we should have recognized Sam's potential then, seen that he would one day lead not just his family but the entire tribe. But, in looking at him, we only saw a young teenager, not yet a man. How wrong we were. That boy would soon shoulder the responsibility of leading our people in this war. God, I wish he didn't have to. I wish none of them had to, that I could stand against the evil that threatened us and protect our children instead of hiding behind them.

But no amount of wishing could change the fact that I was an old broken man in a wheelchair, forced to watch our sons enter into this war, while they sacrificed their own futures to defend us. None of them would go to college, build a career or a life. They were forever tied to the rez now, tied to each other. Their dreams and their hopes were sacrificed in order to protect our daughters, our grandchildren, and ourselves.

As elders and as fathers, we were resigned to the loss of our sons' futures, and possibly their lives, to this war with the leeches, but there was at least a small a comfort in knowing that our boys would look out for each other and that their sacrifice served a purpose.

Last night, Harry had seen the truth – that this war would not just claim our sons. It would demand our daughters as well. Leah had phased along with her brother.

Our self-delusional platitudes that "at least our daughters were safe" evaporated in one horrifying moment. None of our children were safe from the war.

Harry died from the shock, from the knowledge that his daughter was lost as well.

I was grateful that at least Seth and Leah hadn't seen their father fall. Seth's first phase had triggered Leah's first as well, though she was older than he was. Panicking, they had both fled from the house before Harry collapsed.

Sue had called 911 and the ambulance's noisy arrival had drawn their neighbors to help. Quil and I had stayed with Sue. Sam and the pack had raced to comfort Leah and Seth. My heart broke for those kids. I wish – damn how I wished - that they didn't know what caused their father's heart to fail . . . but there were no secrets in the pack. And Sam immediately realized that it could be no coincidence that Harry suffered a cardiac on the same night that the Clearwater children first phased. It was unstoppable, Harry's children knew the truth.

More wounds that might never heal. More pain in the name of this war.

I knew Sam was working with Leah and Seth, to try to help them see that they weren't responsible. Seth gladly turned to Sam, leaning on him like a big brother. But Leah's rage at Sam for leaving her for Emily was making this even harder on her. She refused to listen to anything Sam said. Her pain was eating her alive. The sweet, cheerful girl I had known three years ago was dying, dissolving before my eyes, turning into a hard, bitter woman.

Maybe she'd listen to Jake if she refused to hear Sam. I'd talk with him later, ask him to be patient with her . . .

I vowed again to do everything I could to help Harry's kids, to offer them the comfort that I knew Harry would have given Jake and my girls if it were me that died.

My attention snapped back to the present, as Sam pulled into the car to a stop in front of my home. The house was dark and quiet. Jacob was probably out patrolling, trying to catch the redheaded leech's trail. Every time the pack would get close to her, she'd slip away. The male bloodsucker had been easy for the wolves to find and deal with. But this female was proving a challenge for our boys – boys and girl, I corrected myself grimly.

I was tired, bone tired, right down to my soul. Sam knew. He didn't offer any empty words, meant to reassure but vacant of truth. There was nothing to say. He respected my need to be alone in my thoughts for just a little while longer. He was a good kid – he always had been, even when he was a punky little brat teasing the hell out of my Becky and Rachel. My girls.

Before worry swallowed me up, Sam came around to my side of the car and lifted me into my wheelchair by himself, as if I were the little kid. Then he quietly pushed my wheelchair towards the house. In a quiet voice, I thanked him for driving me home.

As we entered the front door, I reached up to flick on the lights and was surprised to see Jake jump to his feet from the living room floor. Bella Swan lay on my couch, blinking in the sudden light. My thoughts were still fuzzy with grief, but I registered that she looked like hell. Maybe Charlie had already called her? Did she and Jake know about Harry's death?

I struggled for words and said the first thing that came to my mind. "Sorry. Did we wake you?" I asked, though it was obvious we had.

I couldn't look at Jacob right now, knowing I couldn't hold my grief inside if I looked into my son's eyes. So I focused on Bella instead. She returned my gaze for a moment, her expression blank.

It reminded me of the way she looked when she first started coming here to see Jake, like she was already dead on the inside. What made her look like that again tonight? Hell, what had those bloodsuckers done to her to make her look like that last fall?

I should have stopped her when I first found out they wanted her. . . told Charlie . . . something. . . I should have tried harder to make her see the monsters for what they were, to keep her away from them. But she'd refused. She'd claimed to know more about them than I did. I didn't understand it then and I understood it even less now.

I supposed what the bloodsuckers were - what they did, feeding off humans, killing people - didn't bother her. How she justified that to herself I couldn't imagine.

But, she was Charlie's daughter; she was family in the only ways that mattered. And she'd been so hurt by them, torn up emotionally. They'd screwed up her mind, confused her so she didn't know right from wrong. They'd played some sick game with her, twisting her thoughts and loyalties all around. She'd lied to Charlie. She'd run away to Phoenix. Had she been running from them? The injuries she'd come home with should have told us how they treated her. Then the lies about her falling down the stairs - "falling down the stairs" my ass. The lies about what the "Cullens" were, what they did. She'd lied for them over and over, she still covered for them, even after they left her broken.

I wondered if I would ever find out how they'd done it to her, how they'd gotten into her head like that. Maybe I didn't want to know. There had to be a limit to how much hate one man could hold. I didn't think I could hate the bloodsuckers anymore than I already did.

I wondered if they ever thought of her, ever wondered what they'd left behind. Probably not. She was just another victim, sucked dry and thrown away. One victim they left still alive, if the mess she was could be called living. The light in her eyes had been snuffed out, just like Harry's life had been. One more goddamned victim!

Harry . . . God help me . . . Harry was gone . . .

Suddenly Bella's expression cleared. She understood that Harry was dead.

"Oh, no, Billy!" she gasped.

I nodded slowly, concentrating on not breaking down. But I couldn't hide my pain from my son. Jake always saw right through me. I had tried to protect him, to let him be the kid in our relationship. But he was far older than his years, had been ever since his mother died. And I wasn't strong enough to be the adult for him – not before and certainly not today. Jake rushed towards me and took my hand in his.

"I'm so sorry," Bella whispered.

I nodded. What was there to say? "It's gonna be hard all around." I was thinking of the pack and their grief. And of Sue, newly widowed and alone. And of Leah and Seth, who would bear guilt over this for the rest of their lives.

"Where's Charlie?" she asked.

She was right to be worried. Charlie was taking it hard. He was trying to be strong, but Harry was his best friend, too, and his pain was as intense as mine. "Your dad is still at the hospital with Sue. There are a lot of . . . arrangements to be made."

She gulped and looked down at her hands.

Sam moved to the door and mumbled, "I'd better get back there." Sam felt responsible. He shouldn't but he did. It wasn't his fault that Leah and Seth had phased right in front of Harry. Sam was too young for this responsibility, too young to be a leader of our people. Yet as the Alpha, it was him that everyone looked to for leadership. Sam should be at college on the scholarship he had been so proud to win. He should be planning his life with Emily - not leading a war against the undead. It wasn't fair. It all wasn't fair.

When he left, I couldn't bear my son's and Bella's sympathy. I took my hand from Jake's and rolled to my room.

I sat staring at the phone on my desk, thinking about the call I knew I had to make. But I was unable to pick up the receiver. My grief over losing Harry was still too raw to let me cut away another piece of my heart. I'd lost my best friend, my wife was gone, I watched my son take his life into his hands everyday . . . I couldn't take any more loss . ..

Dimly, I heard Jake leave to take Bella home. I felt some comfort as I realized at least Charlie's daughter was safe. The pack would see to that. At least there was one person in this whole mess that we could protect. The Cullens had left her for dead. Now that those monsters had left her alone, she had a chance to heal, to become herself again. They'd never touch her again.

I smiled grimly to myself. One victory, I counted. One tiny victory.

I sighed, knowing I couldn't put this off any more. I needed to protect my family, as much as it would hurt me to do this – as much as it would hurt my daughters. It had to be done.

I never thought I'd be happy that Rebecca was married to an impoverished surfer, living an ocean away. At least in Hawaii, she would be safe. And she didn't have the money to come home any time soon.

It was Rachel I needed to call. I reached for the phone and dialed the number to her Washington State dorm room.

As I waited for someone to pick up, I recalled how Harry and Quil had advised against letting anyone into our secret if they weren't directly involved. But how could I not tell my daughters about our family's legacy, about our curse, when one day, their own sons might be sacrificed to protect our people? I'd told them shortly after Jake first started phasing. They had a right to know. They didn't believe me at first, couldn't accept that our tribal stories were true. Like the younger generations in all cultures, they preferred to believe our ancient stories were allegories. My girls believed that our tribe's protectors taking on the shape of a wolf was a comment about the warriors' state of mind or their surrender to their more primal nature. It had taken considerable time for me to convince them that "phasing into a werewolf" meant exactly that – teeth, fur, everything. Finally, after a lot of effort and patience on my part, they'd come around to the truth.

Thank God, I had convinced them. It was the only thing that made this call possible now.

Rachel's roommate answered the phone and told me Rachel was studying in the lounge. I asked her to get her for me. As I waited, I thought about the best way to tell her. There was only one way – directly. It would be easiest on her if I didn't draw this out. I needed to make this conversation quick and pointed. It would hurt her less that way. At least I hoped it would.

I heard her breathing hard as she approached the phone. She'd apparently run. She snatched the receiver noisily from the table.

"Dad? Is everything ok? Why are you calling on a Thursday? What's wrong? Has something happened to Jake?" Her questions tumbled out so quickly, she didn't give me time to answer them.

"Jacob's fine," I reassured her. Of course, she'd think something happened to her brother. She knew what they were hunting. "Rachel, Harry Clearwater died today."

She was silent, but I could picture the look on her face. She was torn between gratitude that it wasn't her brother who was dead, and sorrow about Harry. After a few breaths, she said, "I'm sorry, Dad. I'm so sorry. Was it his heart?"

Harry's heart had been in bad shape for years. Rachel, like the rest of our family, was well aware of his cardiac condition and of the lack of effort Harry put into caring for it.

"Yeah. It was." Here it was. We'd arrived at the hard part of the call. "Do you remember when I told you about Jake? About him and the other boys?"

Of course she remembered. I could almost see her frowning as she tried to figure what this had to do with Harry.

"Leah phased today, too." My statement hung in the air for a long moment.

Then she gasped and started arguing frantically, as if there was some mistake. "But Dad . . . it's just the boys who phase. You said! The stories always said . . ."

"The stories were wrong!" I cut her off sharply, then continued more softly, "I was wrong." You can't argue with the truth. There was no point. I needed to make her understand, to keep her safe. "Rachel, listen to me. You've got the bloodline on both sides – from my family and from your mother's. If you get near these leeches, there is no question - you will change too. Just like Jake, you don't have a chance. Now, I tell you this because I love you . . . Don't come home."

She was quiet for a moment. Then I could hear her crying – trying to hide it from me. She wanted to be strong. And she was. But she wasn't strong enough to fight what was in our bloodline.

I'd sacrificed one child's future to this war, and maybe his life as well. Maybe I was old and crippled and selfish, but I wouldn't lose my daughters too. Rachel was worried that she wasn't strong, but the truth was that it was me who was weak. I wasn't strong enough to let my daughter join this fight.

I needed her to go on. She would finish college, get a good job, marry and live off this reservation – some place where there was room for her to grow, to be whatever she wanted to be.

"Don't come home, Rachel." I told her softly again. "Please." She had to understand.

"I love you, Dad," she cried.

"I love you too, Rach. Stay away. Stay safe."

I hung up the phone and tried to take stock of what I had left. The list wasn't short…it was empty. I'd lost it all. No, they'd taken it all. The phone flew across the room and hit the wall with a clang.

Damn those leeches to the blackest hell. It was their fault Harry was dead. It was their fault our sons – my son – were trapped in a generation of sacrifice. It was their fault I might never see my daughters again. Damn every last one of them.

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End Notes: So what did you think of this story? Like it? Hate it?

What are your thoughts on the whole "can Alice see werewolves before they start to phase" question?

Also, the other question that Blondie and I have been discussing is whether or not Seth and Leah know that it was their phase that triggered Harry's heart attack. SM said (in an interview) that this was the cause of Harry's attack, but do you think Seth and Leah know?

Leave me a review and give me your thoughts. I'd love to hear them! :o)

OK I'm going back to work on my other chapters now . . . really! LOL