I owe an immense debt of gratitude to Mischief_Maker1 for being more than just a beta as she fixed my mistakes, held my hand and walked me through how to even get this up on FF. You are a lifesaver, bb, and I adore you more than I possibly express in any A/N.
If you haven't read SM's The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner you might not recognize a couple of the names in this chapter. It won't impact your understanding of the chapter, but if you'd like to know where they come from and how they tie into the Twilight Saga, read that novella.
"What the fuck? Overgrown dogs?"
We let out a chorus of growls as the vampire stood up from where he had been hunched over the boy. Leah whined as she realized the boy was already gone. We'd been too late to stop it. When we'd caught the trail of the leech where he crossed our patrol we had run flat out in an attempt to catch up to him.
We were lined up across the meadow, almost shoulder to shoulder, and in a move that couldn't have been more in unison if it had been choreographed, we each took one step forward. We remained tensed, ears flat against our heads, ready to lunge, with our hackles standing on end as a symphony of snarls, snaps and gnashing teeth filled the air.
The bloodsucker's crimson eyes looked down the line of angry werewolves before he pivoted and darted for the other side of the meadow.
Leah! See if you can get ahead of him!
Ha! Like that's even a challenge, Sam!
How did he get past us and the Cullens?
Jared, focus on helping us kill this leech. We'll figure out how he got here later.
Right, Sam, sorry.
Paul, Jake, I want you on my flanks! This bloodsucker has never been here before, I don't recognize his stench.
Maybe they were wrong, Sam? Maybe the Cullens didn't kill the redhead's mate after all?
Bella said they set him on fire after tearing him apart, Embry.
And we're trusting them now? As if they wouldn't lie?
Actually, Quil, what I meant was maybe the leech they killed in Phoenix wasn't her mate. Maybe this guy is.
How about you all shut up and pay attention to bringing down this killer!
The sound of our paws thudding against the bracken was the only sound as our minds pulled together to focus completely on catching the vampire who had dared to not only come into our territory but also kill an innocent. The mind of the pack was a blur of green and gray as the forest flew past us. The stench increased as we closed in on him, until eventually each of us flinched at the burn of the über sweetness in our noses.
"Oh sure, of course they need me to do something important for them! 'Diego, you're the only one we trust with this. You have more experience than any of the others.' I should have known better than to trust her!"
Wait… is he really talking to himself?
So not only is he a killer, he's crazy! Seth barked out a laugh.
"I'm sorry, Bree. I shouldn't have trusted them. I should have kept what we knew to myself like you wanted us to. Thank God I didn't tell them we both knew. They think it was just me. You should be safe."
Who's Bree? I thought Bella said the redhead was Victoria. Who's 'them'? Jake, has Bella mentioned there being more than just the redhead? What in the hell are we dealing with?
No, Sam. Bella only told me about the redhead and the leech with the dreads that we killed before the Cullens came back.
I'm around front, Sam!
Jared, Embry, take the left side! Seth, Quil pull around to the right! Jake, Paul and I have the rear!
We made our way around the panicking vampire. He began to slow as he realized there was no way out for him. The pack closed in slowly, approaching from all sides until we were within striking distance. The trapped vampire growled lowly, pulling back his lip in a menacing snarl that exposed all of his glistening, razor sharp teeth.
Careful. Don't let him get you with his teeth. Sam warned, primarily for the benefit of Seth and Leah who had never actually been involved in a fight with a vampire until now.
As the leech lowered himself into a crouch, arms out to his sides as if to balance himself, he slowly turned, perhaps evaluating the best means of escape.
Ha! There's no escape here, Bloodsucker!
When he had turned and was facing Leah, Sam lunged forward, landing with his front two paws square in the back of the leech, pinning him to the ground. Suddenly there was only the sound of teeth gnashing and the horrible sound of tearing metal as the pack went about tearing the limbs from the bloodsucker's body.
Leah waited for each of us to have a solid hold on the various limbs of the leech and in an orchestrated movement Sam moved his right front paw forward onto the head of the leech, holding his face down in the wet moss and ferns below us just as Leah came forward. The bloodsucker's face was turned to the side so he wasn't able to see as Leah leaned in, closing her powerful jaws around his neck. As she stepped back it pulled his head from his body as he let loose a screeching wail.
Great, Leah got the kill bite. She's never gonna let us hear the end of this!
Soon we had just a pile of cold, granite body parts.
Quil, Embry, start the fire and stay to make sure every piece has burned before you head home. Leah, Seth, go home and fill the elders in on what happened. Jake, Paul, Jared, come with me. We're gonna need to get in touch with Bella and the Cullens to talk about this, but first we need to go offer our services to Chief Swan and his officers for the "hunting" party. We need to make sure they find the meadow and take that boy home to his family.
"Angela … Angela, baby, I need to talk to you."
My mom stood in the doorway to my bedroom waiting for me to look up from my Calculus book. When I finally finished writing out the differential I'd been working on I looked up and felt my chest constrict at the look on her face. My mother's usually relaxed and kind face was pale and drawn. She looked as though she had seen a ghost or had the weight of the world on her shoulders. I panicked.
"Oh my God, Mom … Isaac? Joshua? DAD?" I rattled off the names of my younger brothers and my father, fearing whatever had her so upset involved one of my loved ones.
"No, honey, Dad's downstairs working on his sermon and the boys are in the backyard. Can I come in?"
"Sure. I was just finishing up the Calculus homework that's due later this week. I'm meeting with Bella tomorrow to go over it."
Mom took a deep breath, looking as though she was bracing herself for something, and stepped into the room. As she crossed the threshold of my doorway she reached for the doorknob and softly closed the door. Two more steps and she was at my bed, sitting down and motioning for me to join her.
Feeling my stomach tighten and my heart beat faster, I stood, pushing my worn wooden desk chair under the opening of the heavy metal teacher's desk my father had excitedly brought home for me a couple years ago when the church was going to discard it. I sat on the edge of the bed, looking into the soft brown eyes that so closely mirrored my own.
"Ang, I just finished talking to Mrs. Cheney."
"Ummm … ok." I wondered what had brought on this conversation. My parents were friendly with my boyfriend, Ben's, family but didn't normally talk.
"You know Ben was meeting with the other boys today, right?"
"Yeah, they were going to hang out and maybe go into Port Angeles to watch the new sci-fi movie that's out." Ben hadn't really been looking forward to the day. He had wanted to come over and spend time with me but I had told him I really needed to get ahead on some homework and it would be good for him to spend some time with the guys. He hadn't gotten a lot of guy time lately. Not that I kept him from his friends, we just tended to get caught up in spending time together and not realize we hadn't really talked to anyone, besides each other, when we were outside of school.
"Mike called earlier in the day to let the Cheneys know Ben hadn't showed up in Port Angeles. The guys had all tried to reach him on his cell, but he wasn't picking up." I felt my stomach bottom out. That just wasn't like Ben. He's always on time and always calls to let you know if he even thinks he's going to be late. Punctuality is one of his pet peeves. "When neither of his parents were able to reach him either they contacted Chief Swan to ask for his help."
"Chief Swan?" Involving the father of Bella, one of my closest friends, could only mean that they were worried enough something had happened to Ben they felt they had no other choice. "He's been out of the station a lot lately. Bella says they've had almost every available man out looking for this bear or whatever it is that's causing all the problems lately."
"You're right, honey, he has been. They were only able to speak with the dispatcher on duty and she assured them she would have the Chief call as soon as he was back. Because it had been less than 24 hours though, and Ben is technically an adult now that he's 18, all they could really do was wait."
"I'll call Mrs. Cheney. I know where Ben likes to go when he needs some time to think or just needs some quiet time. There aren't many places. It won't take any time at all to track him down. He probably just left his phone in the Neon or forgot to charge it altogether. I know it was on low battery last night because it was driving me crazy with the constant beeping," I rattled off, standing up to reach for the phone on my desk.
A soft hand on my forearm stopped me. "Angela, Mr. & Mrs. Cheney heard back from Chief Swan a couple hours ago." A couple hours ago? He wasn't even supposed to meet the guys until 2pm. If they had waited a bit before calling, and then his parents had had to wait for Chief Swan… I looked to the window only to see my own reflection staring back at me. When had it turned dark? I hadn't realized I had lost track of time so badly. I always do that when I'm busy with homework though.
"Wait … what time is it?"
"It's close to eight o'clock."
"You said Chief Swan had already called back? What did he say? Are they going to have an officer look for him? I should let them know about the places he goes. There's this one place a ways off from the trailhead … he took me there once, but it's kind of hard to find. I don't think anyone else even knows it's there…" I'm stopped short, again, by the simple touch of my mom's hand.
"Yeah … how did you know?"
"Mrs. Cheney told me. Chief Swan told her. He went to their house to speak with them. He got the message from dispatch saying they wanted to speak with him about Ben, but he was already on his way to the Cheney's house so he didn't call. He just went over instead. Chief and a few of the others in the group that are out looking for this animal found the meadow late this afternoon. They found Ben there."
"Oh! Thank God! Mom, don't do that to me! You had me terrified. Ben's parents must be furious he had them so worried. I won't be seeing him except at school for a while after this. What was he thin-"
My mother's formerly soft grip on my arm tightened enough to get my attention and stop me as my as my mother's voice plead, "Angela, stop. Sit down, please. I need to tell you this."
"Tell me? I thought you did."
"Yes, Chief Swan and the others found Ben in the meadow. He had…" She closed her eyes and took another deep breath, as though willing her lungs to fill and allow her to push the remaining words past her lips. "He had been attacked by the animal everyone's looking for."
"What? Where's he at? Did they take him to the hospital? I need to go, Mom. Will you drive me?" The ashen look on Mom's face when she first stood in my doorway made sense now and the fear of Ben lying in a hospital room in pain and scared shot through me as my mind raced.
"Sweetheart, Ben isn't in the hospital."
Confusion wound its way through me. She wasn't making sense. "I thought you said he was attacked. They stopped the attack, right? What happened?"
Another deep breath and she proceeded. "It was too late when they found him, baby. He had lost too much blood and they couldn't revive him. He's gone, sweetheart."
It was like she was speaking in riddles. Ben and I had plans tomorrow. We were going to address our graduation invitations. I had planned to ask Bella to help me because of how many my parents are planning to send, but Ben had volunteered to help, saying he has better handwriting than Bella anyway. He was coming over after services. We were going to service with my family since Ben's parents aren't particularly religious and then coming here to see how many invitations we could get through before I had to leave to meet Bella to review our Calculus homework.
"I don't understand. But he … we were … but … no. Nooo!"
"Mr. & Mrs. Cheney are going to call us as soon as arrangements have been made to give us the details."
Warm arms wrapped around me, but all I could feel was the darkness that seemed to pour in from the windows of my bedroom, surrounding me. I was stunned. This didn't make sense. I've been to that meadow. It's quiet, peaceful, almost magical. Nothing like this could happen there.
I pulled back from my mother's embrace and nodded. "Ok." I had nothing else to offer. I leaned to the side and laid my head on my pillows, pulling my knees to my chest and curling in on myself.
My mom ran her hand along my side, trembling slightly as she did. "Angela, baby, I know this…"
"Mom I really just want to go to sleep. I'm fine."
She hesitated, but stood and leaning over to kiss my temple and whispered, "I love you, my angel. You'll get through this. We all will." She softly walked to the door, opened it and slipped out, closing it again behind her.
Alone again in my room I repeated the conversation in my head. I couldn't make sense of the information that she had given me. For possibly the first time ever, my mind simply wouldn't connect the data points provided into a logical answer.
Animal attack. Bled out. Dead.
The words tumbled in my mind but they didn't take root. This had to be a mistake. Someone had made a horrible mistake. Ben was going to call at any moment and tell me he'd forgotten to charge his phone and then had gotten wrapped up in his newest comic book- I'm sorry, graphic novel- in a back corner of the library and just lost track of time.
I needed to go to sleep. I would get in bed, pull the covers over my head, and keep out the darkness that wanted to invade my life. I would wake up in the morning to light and my usual morning routine. My phone would vibrate at 8am sharp letting me know Ben had thought of me first thing after waking, as he always does.
Good morning my sunshine. I love you. See you soon. ~Ben
Every morning- like clockwork; 7am during the school week and 8am on the weekends. It would be here in the morning and everything would return to normal. It had to. There was no other way I would make it.
A/N This story is a first for me. Would you like me to continue it? Please let me know.
I need to thank all the people who have encouraged me while I finally got these characters out of my head and brought them to life. There are many more than this, but these are the ones who have put up with me over and over again. Shaelove and tellingmelies – thank you for all the time in gchats letting me bounce ideas off you and helping me find the right direction for this story. Idreamofec17 – thank you for always believing in me and trying to convince me there is nothing I can't do. Fiberkitty – You let me beta for you and convinced me that my own words were worth reading. And of course, Mischief_Maker1 – you put so much time into helping me get this chapter just right. I'd have never posted this if you hadn't offered to help me through it. I love you all. Thank you.