Disclaimer: I own nothing. Anyone is welcome to my student loans if they want them.
A/N: I just want to profusely thank my amazing beta Lemon-of-the-tent for all her work with my story. It wouldn't be the same without her.
I was resting my head on my arm – my injured hand in a bowl of ice – when Seth came in sheepishly. I looked up, as I heard him enter but put my head back quickly; my hand hurt too much to worry about him. In future, I really needed to find a man with a softer head.
I immediately felt a little bad for dismissing Seth so quickly: he had disobeyed Jacob and stood between the two of us in order to protect me. Even if I really didn't need protecting.
I sighed and looked up again. He looked tense. Why in the world would he be tense? He was walking into a house full of his sworn blood enemies – why would he possibly feel any anxiety at all?
"Have a seat," I finally said. "They don't bite."
"She does," Jasper quipped, pointing to Alice. "But only if you ask nicely."
"Is that why you have so many scars?" Seth retorted.
There was a tense moment. All eyes locked onto Jasper's deadpan face before Alice began giggling. "I like him, Bella," she proclaimed. "Are either of you hungry? Esme made spaghetti for you, but it got cold while you were verbally castrating your ex. She and Carlisle are running into town for supplies."
"What kind of supplies?" Seth asked from where he was hovering awkwardly near the hall entrance.
"Medical. Bella won't go to the hospital to have her hand set." Jasper answered in explanation as he turned to help Alice.
"What? Why the Hell not?" Seth stomped across the room, pulled a chair out and sat beside me glaring at the side of my head in concern.
"I hate hospitals. And who do you think they'll call when I show up with broken bones after a fight with Jake. Seriously, Seth – how nice do you think Charlie will be as he drags Jacob off to jail?"
"So you lie about it, Bella," he explained as if were the most obvious thing in the world.
"And what, say I… I got into a bar fight? I don't need all the gossipy people in the hospital knowing I hurt myself doing, at best, something really stupid. They'll talk about it for weeks, and I just don't need that right now."
"I hate it when you're right," he sulked.
"I'll be fine. You act like I've never broken a bone before."
The microwave beeped and Alice appeared with plates of food. Seth sniffed the pasta warily before he dug in, but if there was one thing in the world that would endear Alice to Seth, it was food. He cleaned his plate and then mine.
"Esme thought you would be hungry when we got home. She's getting a little better with the portions I think. Only enough for two people this time. Well, one person and a werewolf."
Seth completely missed the comment as he ate "You can't even cook this good, Bella!" he squeaked out around mouthfuls.
Wonderful, now not only was I a whore, but I couldn't cook either.
"Bella…" Jasper sighed almost wearily. "Could I please…" he gestured vaguely.
My recurrent surges of self-loathing and rage must have been effecting him. "Whatever."I slumped down again with my head on the table again. A moment later a warm calm washed over me. The edge disappeared from my anger. It was still there, I was still aware of it, but it no longer overwhelmed my every thought.
"Better?" he asked, a vague hint of relief in his voice.
"Not particularly," I obstinately answered back. I turned back toward Seth. "Are you in any trouble with the pack?"
Seth's head spun back toward me. Alice's appearance with cupcakes had thoroughly distracted him. "What? Why would I be?"
"You disobeyed Jacob's command."
"Well yeah, but Sam's command cancels anything Jake says, and Sam told me to make sure Jacob didn't do anything he would hate himself for in the morning – I mean, he bitched at me for not stopping him before that last comment." He grumbled. "But he told me to make sure Jake didn't do anything! He never told me to shut him up." He gestured pointedly with the cupcake in his hand as he tried to defend his position.
"Yeah, because that wouldn't have been helpful at all…" I sighed. "They must all hate me after all the things I said."
"Actually" – he lounged in his chair – "since there wasn't a fight or anything, they pretty much think it was… entertaining. Jacob has got to be so mad seeing what everyone is thinking."
I noticed the look on Alice's face. "The wolves are all… mentally linked when they're phased," I explained.
"Interesting…" She seemed thoughtful. Maybe she was wondering, as I was beginning to, if that had something to do with her inability to see them in her visions.
"It blows," Seth told her. "You try having a conversation with your sister when your she knows what you fantasize about when you're all alone at night. Or seeing what your step-brother-in-law is thinking about your sister. There are no secrets. It's not like you didn't say – I mean, we all knew about your… issues."
"You tried to have children?" Alice was focusing on me again.
I knew I would have to do this eventually. "Yes. We tried – have been trying. It didn't happen. Jacob really wanted kids so we went to some doctors – they couldn't find anything wrong with me or him. Jacob blamed Edward of course: he said that sleeping with him must have messed me up."
"But you never slept with Edward."
Seth was surprised at that. "You didn't? But we all thought…"
"I know. Everyone assumed. You all thought that was why I was so upset when he left. That it was because he was my first, or because I was pregnant and he left me or something, that I… broke down. I know Charlie had the doctors run the blood tests back then… No one ever bothered to ask me. And it was easier just letting people think that. Sleeping with my boyfriend didn't make me a bad person, and it made being sad… more okay, I guess." I sighed. "Anyway, after Jake and I both tested healthy the doctors tried drugs for awhile. Those didn't work either so they told us to take a rest – they said maybe we were just trying too hard."
"Why not adopt?" Jasper took a seat beside Alice. It was so hard talking about all this conception stuff with a couple that, even though they would be great parents, never could be. Even thinking about Carlisle and Esme, it just made me sad.
"An adopted kid wouldn't have the wolf genes," Seth answered for me.
They both nodded in understanding.
"I always thought it was just another sign that he didn't actually imprint." I said.
"So did the rest of us." Seth looked down. A moment later his head lifted back up quickly. He snapped his fingers. "Oh, yeah, there is one good thing. I think Leah might actually like you now."
"I doubt that seriously."
"Oh, no. You just said what she has been thinking at him for years. The alpha thing – she's been giving Jacob shit about it for… well, since the beginning, really."
"That's just because she still wants to see Sam hurt."
"Yeah. But only partially. Taking orders from Sam just feels… wrong. Following Jake, even though he's second to Sam, just feels… I don't know how to describe it… better, maybe."
"What do you mean?" Jasper was studying him.
"Jacob is Ephraim Black's grandson," Seth began. "The last time the pack… ran, he was the chief, the pack alpha. Since Jake is his direct descendant, he should be the alpha. But… Sam was the first of us to change. He…well, he took the lead because Jacob couldn't. Then when Jake changed… it's hard, at the beginning, to control everything, but… from the beginning he had more control than Sam."
"In the beginning… Sam got upset…"
The pack's dirty little secret. I hated to think about Emily that way but, over the years, I began to see that that was how a lot of them saw her. A lie that must be told, a cautionary tale.
"He phased, nearly killed his fiancé. They told the police and doctors she was out in the woods and a bear got her. She'll always have the scars. But Jake never lost control with you…" He turned to me. "And you did try damn hard to piss him off."
I couldn't help but smile a bit at the memories. Those days when I was coming out of my stupor were so clear in my mind even now.
Seth shook his head. "We all know Sam isn't supposed to be in charge. Like I said, Jake's orders just feel right – like he's supposed to be giving them."
"Which he is." Jasper leaned back in his chair, processing this information.
"But he won't accept it. I don't know why – none of us do."
Of course Seth was leaving out a lot of technical details. He gave me a sideways glance acknowledging that he was thinking the same thing I was. Sam's power had come from a fluke – a quirk of being older than everyone else, and, some of them thought, the only gift his bastard father and naive mother had given him. If Jacob took his place as he should, Seth would be the beta. Sam was supposed to be no one. The beta was meant to be the Alpha's most trusted pack member, and everyone knew for Jake that would never be Sam. Even if Seth had to fight Sam for the position, everyone knew Seth would win.
Beside me, Seth tensed suddenly.
"They're back." Alice announced as she swept out of the room toward the foyer; Esme and Carlisle followed her back in, a moment later. Within a few moments, Carlisle was carefully examining my injured hand. The ice had left it vaguely numb, though the manipulation was decidedly uncomfortable.
"You have 6 broken bones, Bella." He regarded me. "The 4 broken metacarpals are clean breaks but they're displaced. I really wish you would go to the hospital."
"Can't you fix it here? You were always able to patch me up before." I was becoming a little irrationally terrified of the idea of walking into that antiseptic viper's nest in town.
Carlisle sighed. "I am able to set your hand, Bella – that's not the issue. I would simply feel much more comfortable being able to actually see the x-ray of the breaks. And… the supplies here are somewhat limited."
Seth was at my other side glaring at me in what I could only interpret as agreement.
"If there is no other option, fine. But I really, really don't want to."
He sighed again and went back to his bag on the counter. "I can set them and put your hand in a cast. This is going to hurt, though." He handed me two pills – I quickly swallowed them down with the water Esme had suddenly provided. He pulled out a syringe and pulled a dose of something from a phial.
"What is that?" Seth shifted from the semi-comfortable mood he had seemed to be in moments before to outright suspicion. I felt him move closer to me.
"It's morphine. It will make this easier on her."
"At least I'm not bleeding." I supplied, trying to break the tension and distract them.
The assembled vampires rolled their eyes and went about preparing to bandage my hand. I looked away as Carlisle moved the needle closer to my arm. There was a tiny poke when I was injected and I simply sat and waited for the while the medication took effect. The passage of time became fuzzy as the pain killers began their work in my body. When the doctor settled back in front of me, my entire world seemed fluffy and soft.
"Jasper," Carlisle called him over. "Get behind Bella and hold her wrist."
"Oh, hang on. What are you doing?" Seth interrupted.
"I need him to hold her still while I manipulate the bones back into place."
"I'll do it."
"Seth, you are her brother. This is going to be very painful for her. I need someone who can keep her still."
"You think I can't handle that?" his voice had an insulted tone.
Carlisle shook his head. "I think you love her and, even subconsciously, can't be involved in a procedure that will cause her pain. Even when you know it's something that must be done. Do you really think you can hold her down?"
"Yes, I do." He stared into the doctor's eyes fiercely.
"One try. One. If you let her move at all Jasper takes your place. Reach around her and grasp her wrist with both hands." Seth moved closer did as he was told. "Just like that. Do not let her arm move." The doctor's attention turned back toward me. "This will still hurt, Bella, quite a lot, I'm afraid." he warned. I noticed the slight nod of preparation to Seth and a moment later I cried out in pain as the first bone was pulled back into alignment.
The pain skewed the passage of time as the subsequent bones were manipulated. Finally, I slumped back against Seth, my breath coming in heavy pants as the overwhelming, shooting pains settled in to a constant ache in the background of my now fuzzy world.
Sleep began to take hold of me. There was a vague awareness of my hand being bandaged. In my next moment of consciousness I was being carried across my bedroom and placed in bed, then the world disappeared.