Chapter 22: Allegiance
Hello, and thanks for sticking with me. I wasn't planning to give you a chapter of this right now (I'm sick as a dog: strep), but I wanted to thank the person who nominated this story for Best WIP of 2013 over at Rob Attack. I'll place the link on my Profile. Please vote for your favourite stories, the poll is open now. And my sincere thanks to those who love this story, who stick with me despite the huge gaps in posting. I'd love your review. Missing you all terribly!
Speaking of posting gaps, I only have enough time to either write the chapter or give a summary of what's already happened in the story. So, please forgive me for not summarizing. If you're lost, please skim past chapters. One small reminder: Dom is the term for a male coven leader. There's nothing nasty about it. Usually. LOL
This chapter corresponds to I Hunger 47, in which Ed lays down rules to Renée after she has an abusive outburst. There are a couple of surprises for you that I'm cackling about. In a few short chapters, Jazz and Lis will be moving away from Forks and their story will (mostly) veer off from Ed and Bee's. So please stay tuned.
You may find the song for this chapter on The Brandons Playlist, starting at #77. Link's on my Profile.
"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," by The Hollies
The road is long So on we go If I'm laden at all It's a long, long road He's my brother
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother...
So on we go
If I'm laden at all
It's a long, long road
He's my brother
Tuesday, September 26th, 2005:
I was not much help with the restoration of Mrs. Phibbs' house. Renée had made me a pretty apology as I folded clean linens in her laundry room, but I guess I wasn't as good at accepting it as Edward. Every time I smelled the mess caused by Renée (whether through intent or neglect) I got angry again. And that irritated all our Kwoli Ute helpers, so, I was hiding out near the pool, trying not to broadcast negativity.
Jacob padded over to sit near me. "Jasper?"
"Why didn't Edward kill Renée?"
I turned to evaluate his motive for asking, and under my stare, he shrank. I realized that he hadn't meant any disrespect by his question; his motivation in asking was simpler. Perhaps a Kwoli wouldn't have been able to keep his temper as Edward had. I radiated reassurance.
"If your father had thrown a tantrum like Renée did, would you have killed him for it?" I asked mildly.
"Not on purpose, but my brothers have lost their tempers before, and once in a while, someone important has gotten in the way and been hurt."
Edward always worried about Bella when she went to LaPush. I rested my forearm on my knee. "Had anyone kicked over a latrine bucket on me, I'd have killed them. Would-a been the last straw." Edward, in contrast, laid down the law. He told Renée how things were going to be, and she sat there and ate it even though it stuck in her craw like an old boot.
Jacob nodded vehemently. "So, how come Edward didn't hurt her?"
"Edward's stronger than most."
I gnawed my lip, trying to come up with a satisfactory answer to that. "It's not age, for I am far older than he. It may be the Victorian culture in which he was raised. They habitually reserved their emotions in accordance with decorum. It may also come from experience, although I expect I've been treated worse than he."
"Vampires mistreat each other?" Jacob broadcasted shock.
"Traditionals often do," I clarified. "We've been right fortunate to live under Carlisle and Esme's rule. In fact," I shifted to wrap my arms around both knees, "that may be how Edward manages his emotions so well. He'd soak up a ton of information from Carlisle, who is renowned for his compassionate and affectionate nature. Yeah, I bet that's where he's learned it. Edward loves Carlisle. Wants to be just like him."
Jacob's forehead wrinkled. "Don't you?"
Good question. "Frankly, I've had a hard time relating to Carlisle. Being good comes too easily to him."
"Being good doesn't come easily to you?"
"No. I did not receive the same upbringing as Edward, Emmett, Rose or Esme. The first century of my life was brutal and I did not know there was any other way to be. Alice saved my life and made me sane. And I expect…" I listened to Edward and Bella in Renée's house. They were finishing up their discussion with her. "…Edward's found my soul."
"Your soul?" Jacob couldn't have been more surprised. "How did he do that?"
I shook my head. "Most people have preconceived notions of how things are. Immutable notions. Things like vampires being lost to God, enslaved by their lusts, or emotions in general. Edward? I'm not sure how to express this… He thinks about how things are, and if he doesn't like it, he thinks about how they should be and he makes it happen. It's as though he's looking at a piece of clay and doesn't like the shape of it, so he just picks it up and carves it into a new one. And that's how life becomes. It's sort-a magical." Jacob rubbed the back of his neck and pouted a little, and I realized he was still sore. "You oughtn't-a be jealous, Jacob. He's been odd-man-out for near on ninety years and it's time he had his reward."
"Ninety years," Jacob breathed. "He's over a hundred years old?"
"He's almost a hundred and four. And don't you go spreading that around; he's real sensitive about being an old man in a kid's body."
"A hundred years as a teenager," Jacob mused. "That has to suck."
"It i'n't that bad. We're at least attractive. Think how it would be to be a young man in an old man's body."
"I once knew a Trad who was turned when he was eighty. He hadn't found a mate in more'n 400 years."
"Ooh, that really would suck." Jacob grimaced.
"It was hard enough, waiting 105 for Lis to find me."
"It must have been hard, going without sex all that time."
I raised a brow. "You are under a misapprehension. Vampires don't have to wait for their mates to show up, to have relations, any more than Kwoli do."
The pup was very confused. "But Edward waited, didn't he?"
"That's down to personality, not biology," I laughed, getting up. "He stayed chaste for moral reasons and his bond will be all the sweeter for it. Doesn't mean he had to. But if I were you, Jacob Black, I wouldn't let on that you weren't intending to wait for your Imprint, especially if you were planning to sow your oats on someone he fancied. And if I were you, and I wanted to stay on everyone's good side, I'd keep your dungarees buttoned up good and proper until your mate shows up."
As I walked toward the house, I turned my thoughts away from the dangerous subject of Jacob's imprinting, and allowed myself to miss Carlisle. I wasn't sure how it was that I'd never fully accepted him as my Dom, even though I had finally, fully accepted him as a father. I abruptly realized it wasn't Carlisle that I looked up to the most. When Jelli told me, back in 1948, that she'd seen a coven for us, it wasn't clear that I was meant to be a permanent part of Carlisle's.
I finally understood it. I wasn't given to bowing; Maria had unwittingly turned me into steel. I needed a Dom who wouldn't insist that I bend.
Inside the house, Lissy's heart leaped for joy.
Edward stepped through the patio door, his hair and clothes tidy –obviously for Renée's benefit. He'd even trimmed his beard. "I was just coming to find you."
I dropped my eyes even as I picked up on his confusion. When I sank to one knee, his sensibilities sharpened to a pristine blue. I would serve you.
I couldn't put it into words. Perhaps I saw a bit of me in him. The vampire I might have been if I had not been twisted by Maria. I only knew that I didn't want to be a Dom ever again, and he was the only one I thought I might be able to follow without resentment. I could relate to him, so he could guide me.
Very slowly, he reached out and rested his hand on my head and I felt the warmth of the blessing in it.
"Okay," he said simply. "Just don't start kowtowing to me. I need you and Bella to keep my ego in check."
The happiness of acceptance warred with insecurity. "Yessir."
"I want you to keep this quiet," he warned. "Alice, too."
"I don't want people lining up to belong to me. I'm not ready for that, yet."
Oh. I lowered my eyes again, fearing I had mis-stepped. Why accept me, then?
"It's what you need. Maybe, what I need. Never question Providence." Edward put his hand on my shoulder and stepped behind me. I didn't move or breathe. "Warrior brothers," he growled. "Nothing changes. Promise me."
He pushed gently against my head and I exposed my neck to him. It was a symbol; that was all. Over the years, he'd nipped me many times so he didn't need to bite me to make me part of his coven. But this time, he poured a lot more venom into my veins and held me up as it burned through me. Lissy skipped out of the door in time to watch him lower me to the ground. Beaming, she held out her own wrist.
My Dom made me a promise. "I won't hurt her, Jazz."
I trust him. I trust him. He's not going to hurt his favourite sister. Regardless, I lurched to my feet with a feeble growl. Edward sank his teeth into my mate's wrist and she flinched, not at the razor-sharp bite, but at the venom's sting.
"Easy," he said gently, grasping my forearm and pulling my mate to me. "Easy, it's okay."
Lissy admired the new set of silver teeth marks on her wrist. "Crap, that stings!" She held it out to me, oozing venom.
"Seal it," Edward ordered. "And Alice, you seal his."
I felt uneasy. But that will confuse the scent.
"That's what I want. It will make you less of a target to my enemies. We'll discuss this when we're alone."
Nodding, I picked up my mate's wrist and licked it, closing the punctures. Immediately, they began to fade.
"I'd like to go hunting before we get stuck on Eleazar's aircraft with a bunch of humans," Edward said casually, sticking his hands in his pockets as though I wasn't presently licking my mate in front of him.
"Jazzy will drive us, won't you?"
Edward raised a brow. "Twenty minutes?"
I nodded. "I'll be ready." I took Lissy's hand and led her back to Mrs. Phibbs' house. It was blessedly clean and restored to order. The Kwoli were gone. My mate took me into the upstairs bathroom and carefully divested me of clothing.
"I wondered when that would happen," she confided. "You've made a very wise decision."
Doubt was my long-time companion. "He has no leadership experience."
She canted her head to the side. "How long did it take you to learn to ride after she handed you the reins?"
I shook my head. "It was ride or die."
Jelli steadied herself on my arm to remove her shoes. "Exactly, and you know how quickly he adapts. It's all good. I'm proud of you."
"I know, but I'm not sure I understand why."
"You seek goodness."
I lifted her t-shirt dress over her head. "I've found it."
Her tongue rasped over me, dulling the throb of Edward's venom and provoking throbbing somewhere else. Gently, I lifted her into position and did my best to make her feel my love without doing any damage to the shower stall. My brief exercise in self-discipline made me feel pretty smug, I must say.
Fifteen minutes later, the sky opened and doused Jacksonville in acrid rain.
"I'll be glad to be home," my mate admitted as she pulled on her dress.
A few minutes later, the four of us piled into the car. Lissy and I took the front and Edward and Bella scrooched up in the back. Dang newlyweds. Couldn't they ever get enough? Emmett used to be bad, right? And Edward loved it that he was annoying me. Are you trying to push my buttons on purpose just to rub in your dominance?
Bugger nodded. Then, he snickered at me. "We good?"
"Yessir." I turned to my mate. "Where we going, Lissy?"
"Take this road to Chaffee St South, past the Chamber Lakes. We should be able to find a spot to put the car, and go to the Jennings National Forest. It's only about 10 miles south-east of Jacksonville."
"Should I bother with the GPS?"
"No, it's too easy. You only turn once before we hit the lakes."
"All right." In the back seat, things were heating up to an uncomfortable degree. I thought nothing was supposed to change. I eyed my Dom in the rear view mirror. "Edward! Would you kindly contain the ardour until we can get out of the car?" He continued to lick his mate, undeterred. "Edward!"
I felt his light-hearted mischief and knew I was being teased. "Mm-hmm? You got a problem Jasper?" he mumbled against Bella's mouth, then deepened the kiss. Lis stifled a snort as my body responded to their pheromones.
Two can play at that game!
"You're gonna have a problem in a minute or two, Brother, if you don't cut that out. Unless you are suddenly into sharing." I didn't think he was into using sex to dominate his subordinates, but the best ideals could be compromised by a moment's carelessness. "In case you have been too busy to notice, the sun has come out. Not like there's any way we can get out of the car, here. No place to hide." I will take my mate right in front of you and let the cards fall where they may. I pushed down my Johnson. "You keep it up? This is going to become a shared activity."
Edward sat up so fast the air whooshed around him. "Jeez Louise! Ew. Not my bag." He rearranged himself and Bella into a properly-formal position, scratched his head, and blushed silver all over. I had made my point.
I laughed at him silently in the rear view mirror. "Thank you, most sincerely, for being repulsed." In my experience, polyamory destroys covens. I'm not sure any of us would survive if one were to touch another's mate.
"Likewise, I'm sure," Edward said woodenly. It reassured me that I'd exasperated him. Remember what a hard time you've given Carlisle with your joshing? Payback's a bitch. Your brother is going to be just like you.
Edward surreptitiously scratched his temple with his middle finger. I aimed my affection Bella's way. You're so much more fun since you found her… Are you dreaming about slapping me upside the head?
His hand twitched. Swear.
"Oh!" Alice squeaked.
"What do you See, Lissy?"
"Sorry, we need to use a different route. Instead of going south on Chaffee, we should stay on the Interstate and pass the top perimeter of the park. The Forestry Commission is doing a planned burn on the upper east side today, and farther to the south-east there are way too many humans. If we stick to the middle portion of the park, on the west side, we're going to find lunch right away."
"Sounds like a plan."
Soon, we arrived at one of the entrances to the park, and as we waited in line, Alice pulled one of our props –a white knit bandage normally used under a splint- up my left arm. She wrapped it in two layers, from my fingertips to elbow. I used the bandaged hand to place the admission fee in the booth operator's hand, and gingerly accepted the proffered map. All of us breathed a sigh of relief when the window rolled shut, leaving us in shadow.
Excited humans overran the parking lots. Bella's breath came shallow and fast.
"Now, Bella," Edward said. "We're going to park at the edge of the lot, near the trees. When Jazz says 'go', open your door and run full-tilt for the forest. The humans won't be able to see you, don't worry. Do not unleash your senses."
She bit her lip. "Okay." Edward pulled it out of her teeth with a cocky grin. She remained nervous as I parked the car as closely as possible to a large group of trees. Normal, right? I asked Edward mentally, and he nodded as he removed his shoes. To Bella's shock, Alice peeled off her dress and pumps as Edward and I shed our shirts. All Lis had on was a black bra and thong. In the interest of keeping things normal, I ignored her.
"You'll want to take off your shirt, Bella. Hunting big game can get messy," Lissy said. Wordlessly, Edward's mate struggled out of her shirt, trying not to die of embarrassment. Nobody paid her state of undress any mind. Normal. We all scooted close to our respective doors.
"Bella? Calm down," I ordered. "We do this all the time."
"Okay." Pushing away her fear, she put her hand around the door handle, semi-crouching on the seat.
"Three, two, one, go!" I barked. As I met Lis in the brush, Edward caught Bella in his arms, laughing.
"Don't break the trees, Madam, this is a protected area."
"Sorry," she panted.
"You can stop shaking now, Minx. We're in. Where we going, Titch?"
" 'Bout fifty yards in," Lissy pointed. "Bella, you don't even need to look for the scent. Edward will do it for all of us. We're going to trip right over the pigs. Please don't be startled, because there are some American Woodcocks on the way and they're going to scatter when we run through."
Edward said, "Jazz and I will herd the pigs toward you. Just vault onto one's back and break its neck. It will go down like a freight train, don't worry."
Alice grabbed Baby's hand and ran, which forced her to keep up with everyone. As Edward and I fanned out to the sides, the woodcocks surged into the air and Baby jumped with fright and stumbled after Alice.
The pigs didn't know what hit them. Flashing evil grins, Edward and I ganged up, split the herd and sent five bristly-haired animals thundering toward our mates. Alice crouched and Bella stiffened her knees in terror as the buggers ran at them point blank. Lissy nicely demonstrated how to take one down, swinging herself onto its back effortlessly. Edward and I pounced onto a pair at the rear, pulling them down with ferocious snarls.
Baby Bee, to everyone's surprise, panicked.
Edward and I took one black-eyed look at each other and streaked to the rescue, but Bella's mood swung abruptly. She was mad as blazes. Hissing and baring her teeth, she vaulted onto its back. The pig squealed like a mofo, transformed into a bucking bronco and ran lickety-split into the forest with Bee clinging to its back.
Edward and I stood and gawped at one another.
"You reckon she understood instructions?"
We fired ourselves like machine artillery after Baby Bee.
No sooner did Edward's pregnant mate come into view than the pig's front legs collapsed. Bella put her bare feet on its front haunches and rode it like a pro. The pig's body was sliding so fast through the slippery moss, its passage left a rut in the ground behind them. That's when Hybridella decided she was having fun.
"Oh, fuck," Edward moaned. A gigantic fallen log lay directly in the path of Bella and the pig.
"Jump!" all of us urged, yelling and gesticulating like that would make a difference as we ran to help. I gave my sister-in-law a mega dose of emotional courage. The pig's skull crashed wetly into the log just as Baby let go, and she went sailing through the air, flipped upside down, and hit a tree. Hard.
"Shit," I muttered.
Before Bella could fall to the ground, our Dom caught her. His black eyes raked over his mate, in a face white as rice paper. "Bella!"
Jelli and I hovered over her. The Baby was wryly amused at the thought that she was going to have to calm us down. "I'm okay, I think." She touched the back of her head and brought away a hand covered in blood. Didn't smell like blood, though; didn't smell like food at all.
"Oh, Jesus," Edward said weakly, collapsing onto the forest floor with The Baby on top of him. He was having kittens and she was merely bemused.
"Are you truly all right, Bella?" I realized I was panicking everyone and shot a dose of calm everywhere.
"She's all right. Head wounds always bleed more than other injuries," Alice shrugged with a smile. Our incredulous eyes focused on her. "What!" she demanded. "She and Ren are fine, Edward."
Bella's temper flared. "Did you See that coming, Alice?"
"Of course not. You didn't decide to ride the damn pig until the last possible second. That was really funny, by the way. I wish I could have gotten it on camera."
"Why the hell didn't you guys tell me the damn things were so big?"
"They're not that big," Edward said.
"They're almost the size of rhinos!"
Edward alone had the sense not to roll his eyes.
Lissy shook her head. "They aren't nearly that big, Bella. And had I told you, you would have been too afraid to attack it and it would have bitten you."
"Good thing nothing serious happened, or I'd have introduced you to Bella's chipper shredder." Edward probed at the back of her head. "It's just a cut. Your skull's fine. Spit."
Bella drooled into his hand and he massaged venom into the back of her scalp. "Does your head hurt?"
"Um, it's not bad."
I pushed her shoulders back against Edward's knees and put my head on her belly, searching for Renesmee's heartbeat.
"They're okay, Jasper," Edward said, patting me on the head. I sat up.
"You done scared the Sam Hill outta me, Baby Bee."
"I'm okay, Jazz. Just a little scared, that's all." She wouldn't meet my eyes. "Actually, I was having a blast until I saw the log."
"You were supposed to let go, Bella," Lissy whined, eyes rolling.
"And how was I supposed to know that, exactly?"
"Sorry. We didn't think to warn you. Please remember next time," Edward said, running a muddy hand through his hair.
"Okay," she smiled.
"So are we gonna eat before lunch gets cold?" Alice grinned, sharp teeth flashing.
Oh, yes! Edward and I dragged our booty under the trees. I started feeding. With persistent tugging, Bella was able to bring her victim closer to the group.
"Three males down, and one female," Edward said smugly. "Better to kill the males than the females, because then they can't breed."
"Good haul then," The Baby said, rearing to bite.
"Hold it! You don't want to bite it, Minx. You'll get its hair stuck in your teeth." Edward used his nail to slit his pig's jugular, bending to catch the blood in his mouth.
"Oh," she purred, libido kicking in. However, she took the opportunity to eat rather than pounce on her man. Bella positioned her prey's head comfortably in her lap and slid her nail along its carotid. Nothing happened.
"Here, Bella." Alice did it for her. "I guess your nails aren't tough enough for a hide this thick, yet."
"Thanks." She bent to lap at the running blood before any could go to waste and joined in our obsessive enjoyment of feeding. I slapped my pig upside down, and drank with its legs sticking up in the air. Lissy cuddled hers around the neck, her shimmering legs wrapped around its middle. I finished feeding and picked up her pig by the hind end, allowing the last of the blood to drain into her mouth.
Bellies full, Edward and I spit four ragged chunks of pig throat onto the ground, so it would appear the animals were wounded by mountain lions.
Alice lifted her hair off her neck with both hands, legs spread, purring. Yeah, you all know where my mind went. And my talent sent Edward's feelings caroming in the same direction. Time to separate with our mates.
"Fifteen minutes," Lissy chimed.
"Fifteen minutes, Alice? Is that all?" Edward objected.
"Unless you want Bubbles to be sick all over the new carpet tonight," she warned.
Aw, hell no.
"Shit," Edward hoisted Bella into his arms and disappeared into thin air. Lissy turned to me.
"It's nice that he's fast," she remarked, twirling hair around her finger.
"It is, huh?"
"Mm. Can you be fast?"
I popped the catch on her bra. "I prefer to be slow, but in this case I can make an exception."