Beta'd by Squeaky Zorro and Kate. Pre-read by Kitty.
Ch. 12 is closely connected to Ch. 11 concerning flashbacks. Just to remind you: italics signifiy flashback's taking place and whenever a character is reasoning with him or herself during a period of extreme stress. Keep that in mind.
I'd like to take this moment to clarify that I've taken some creative license in constructing the location where Resent takes place. Prince Rupert IS an actual place, but from what I've heard, it's population and demographic is quite different than how I've portrayed it in this fic (My mistake. Word of advice: next time you are setting your story up in a place that you've never been to, ask somone who has actually been there what it's like.).
To any Canadian readers who have been to the real Prince Rupert—sorry if my mistake offended you.
* I do not own Twilight or any of it's characters (except perhaps Tony and Miri). The credit goes to Stephenie Meyer, I'm just playing in the universe she created.
RECAP: Last chapter Edward took Bella and Reni to his home, fearing for their safety. Reni explored the Cullen mansion for a bit once she woke from her sleep, confused on where she was and where Tony was, and during her exploration met Edward. Tony had a major flashback while he was in the forest, showing just what kind of relationship he had with Nahuel. At the end of the chapter, he had his first confrontation with the wolves, severely injuring one of them, and has now gotten himself in a predicament.
Got it? Okay, on with the show:
"…Another legend of theirs says they can turn into wolves."
My brow rises. "And?"
I stare at her like she's just gone insane.
"Somewhat. Just bigger. And apparently more menacing."
His snout is inches from the bridge of my nose. I'm holding my breath, gripping the moist, cakey dirt beneath me, trying to ignore the pain in my shoulders where his paws are pinning me down. I don't know whether to push him off so that I can run or so I can start digging to see if hell is freezing over.
Seriously, what the fuck is going on?
He chooses that moment to bare his teeth at me, his growl vibrating against my chest. I bite back the urge to growl back. Especially once I hear the voices and footsteps arriving.
Someone else lets out another string of curses. Rustling of dry leaves, heavy footsteps thumping around fill the air. The wolf doesn't take his eyes off me, irises a glassy brown, contrasting with the midnight black of his fur. I spy my upside-down, wide-eyed reflection in his vicious gaze. I can't look away.
"It's okay man, you're going to be okay," someone says. I tune back into the broken gasps escaping the mouth of the wolf-man-boy I pumped full of shards just minutes before. It sounds like they're to my right. A plan is already forming in my mind. I'll have to time this just right. I summon the remaining shards not embedded in the boy's chest. They begin to slot together in the space between my body and the wolf's, forming a solid wall.
"He's losing too much blood."
"Can't you stop it?"
It will work, I tell myself, even as the wolf lets out another growl and shifts so its nails dig past the fabric of my jacket and makes contact with my skin. I'm trying to keep my breathing under control. That familiar…feeling—like the world is shrinking and I'm being swallowed whole—is coming back.
I try to focus on the shard's energy as they assemble instead. It's building between me and wolf, just as I hoped it would.
"He doesn't smell like one."
"And that other one did?" the second boy asks angrily. "We don't know what kind of tricks they have up their sleeve. We only know what the Cullens have told us."
Ready, the shards seem to say to me. I brace myself, my palms now flat on the dirt. The wolf is still glaring at me, but I don't focus on that. I focus on my reflection in his eyes: my upside down, expressionless reflection.
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying this is bullshit! Screw their terms! Why should we be negotiating with them when it's their kind that's been the reason for everything fucked-up in our lives in the first place? If Carlisle Cullen wants to keep playing peacemaker, let him. It'll make it easier to rip out his throat—"
I mentally push with all my might, grunting from the strain. The wall I've constructed between us shoots upward, smashing into the wolf and sending him straight into the air and off of me. I waste no time as I scramble to my feet and kick off into the night, my shoulders still burning from where I was pinned, muffled shouts and surprised swears fading as I escape.
I run faster than I ever have, not stopping once, breathing in breath after breath of clean air, untainted by dog breath. I feel a laugh tumble out of my mouth, shaky and exhilarated and slightly insane, no doubt a byproduct of my adrenaline rush. It's almost funny now. Almost unbelievable. The more distance I put between myself and them, the more easily I find I can make myself believe that it wasn't real. Just a dream. A short, heart-pounding nightmare, and for a time it works. All I need to do is run.
I finally stumble onto a deserted street, out of the danger of the trees and shade and shadows. I sink to my knees, the asphalt cracking from the force of my fall. Once I've gulped down enough air, I look around; I'm in the same area from before—surrounded by rundown warehouses and rotting garbage. The decrepit buildings loom over me, beaten down and hollow. Several yards ahead, streetlights blink from red, to green, to yellow. Engines purr in their metallic bodies. My fingers leave impressions in the already-crumbling excuse of a road.
Blood. Punctured flesh. Pulsing shards. They flood my vision before I can stop it. It all starts hitting me, over and over—what I felt, the knowledge of what I did. I toss a quick look behind me, at the trees, half-expecting them to barrel out of the darkness and tear me to shreds.
You did what you had to do.
Blood. So much blood… His friend said he was losing too much blood and that he couldn't stop it. We were miles away from the city. And it's not like they could throw him over the back of one of his wolf friends and run off to get help. My stomach turns.
Tentatively, I reach out again to the energy, the shards'. It's like reaching out to thousands of individual parts of…me. I feel them here. They surround me, float around me…but something's off. It feels like—
I quickly get up and start walking, heading for the sounds of the city. It's ridiculous. It can't be. The shards that were embedded in that boy's chest can't still be there. They had to have left when I did. Disappeared. They couldn't have stayed. Especially when I didn't want them to.
But did you not want them to?
I scoff out loud, getting more agitated with the string of reasoning's forming in my head: the memory of how the shards acted in the forest, of their resistance…and how they pulsed when they were inside of that boy—that hadn't happened before. And it still feels like…like a part of me is still there. That the shards are still there. Stuck in his chest.
They've never done this, never ignored me out of…out of sadism.
It's not long before I'm walking past clothing shops. The digital clocks in an electronics store on the opposite side of the street say 11:56 p.m. The lateness of the hour shows. Hardly anyone is around, and many shops are already closed up for the night. On the side I'm at, only one store still has its lights on. A man in his sixties wipes his liver-spotted forehead as he takes note of the inventory, his back to me. I catch my reflection in the store's mirror—haggard and covered in blood. The crimson splatter is still bright against the blue fabric of my t-shirt, despite time drying it and reducing it to a darker shade. I zip up my jacket and increase my stride just as the man turns in my direction. I cross another intersection, not caring if the light is the right color.
You should have finished him off. That boy's bleeding chest resurfaces. I feel sick now. This is insane. That's insane. What I did back there…that wasn't….I didn't mean to…I didn't want...
Just like you didn't want to rip apart that prick from school or mean to beat that man to a bloody pulp? the voice challenges again. It's always a mistake, isn't it? There's always an excuse. But you can't hide this time. Not through the shards. They're the only ones who are incapable of lying. You know this. You know the answer to this.
I swallow hard, the venom in my mouth still flowing. I lost control. I panicked. I was scared. A part of me probably thought that boy was going to attack if I released him, and that's why the shards wouldn't disappear. It wasn't because—
But how could he attack? He was already incapacitated. Pulling out the shards wouldn't heal him. He'd still be the same bloodied mess. Face it. Nahuel was right. He may have been a vindictive asshole, but his words still have some truth in them: half-human, half-vampire, and yet you still don't—
I can't take it anymore. I slip into an alley, narrowly avoiding overturned trashcans and other junk before leaning over one of the walls. I breathe deep, but it's as though I'm not breathing at all. Bile, hot and bitter, builds in the back of my throat. I taste just a hint of copper right before I feel it retching out of me and splattering to the floor. I rest my head on the brick of the wall as I feel another dry heave building in me.
They're the enemy, the beast continues, and the thought of ramming my head against the wall starts to feel less and less ridiculous. You felt it. In your bones. Everywhere. The shards felt it; that's why they ignored you.
"I never even knew him," I mumble aloud.
You didn't know the men you roughed up either.
Oh, but I did. My hands claw at the crumbling brick in front of me, as images of every single human I've beaten-up keeps flitting through my mind. Amidst the images, something else leaks out—a shadow of a certain feeling—something that shouldn't exist but still lingers in the darkest corners of my mind, ever since I started playing this "vigilante game." But no. I can't feel that right now. I won't. What I did to those men…wasn't the same as what I did to that wolf-boy. I never lost control when I confronted them…
Those…men. I let out a dry laugh, despite the present. You could hardly call them men. They varied—race, height, hair color—but they all had the same face. They all had the same smell. The same eyes. Most people can't tell. They don't notice the little things: the hungry spark in their pupils, the way they walk—a purposeful stride, easily mistaken for briskness—the way their eyes are locked onto their victim, watching, excited. the smell…God. My stomach twists. I feel another urge to vomit rear in me. My jaw twitches from the effort of holding back my gag.
I knew what they really were. I knew what they were planning. What they were going to do if I didn't intervene. I caught them. And when I did, I never lost control. Not like tonight…
The boy's image comes up again in my head, only now it's altered: his bloodied chest no longer moves. His eyes are unseeing…
I killed him.
Those three words repeat until it's all I can hear, over and over. I feel myself slipping, mind in a never ending free-fall. An anvil has been dropped into my stomach. My bones feel like they're about to give away and collapse. I back away from the puddle of vomit until my back hits the opposite wall of the alley, my fists clenching as though the action will keep me from falling apart. An awkward sensation creeps over the tightened flesh. I relax my hands and raise them; my fingers are still covered in dried paint and blood.
You killed him.
Something to my left catches my eye—a broken mirror propped up near the bit of wall I was leaning over seconds before. I take a step towards it. Cracked and dirty, with bits of its bronze, once-fancifully curved frame missing...but those details go over my head once I see myself.
The person staring back at me in the glass is desolate. Tired. Hungry. For what, I don't know: retribution? Peace of mind? Blood? The street lights above flicker on and off, but I still take note of every one of my features: the shape of my nose, face, the shade of my hair, but most of all, my eyes. Startling green eyes, "like emeralds," Mom used to say. Brilliant, vibrant, and absolutely opposite from the color hers were when she was human, the color Reni was blessed with. Green was "unique," she said. It was also something I knew for a fact wasn't possible in her side of the gene pool. Which left only one other place I could have gotten them from.
Before I can stop it, the fleeting image of his bronze hair, his face, and his green eyes— eyes that no longer belong to him—materializes in my mind, teasing me. Mocking me. It dances through my brain for a couple of minutes before being replaced with a memory. One I've been trying to squash for over a year now.
One I no longer try to resist.
Where am I?
Too dark. Too weird. Am I hallucinating? I'm sitting. Blood tingles in the back of my throat. I see eyes in front of me—dark brown.
A shiver runs down my spine. Everything starts to come back. His words… I feel the whoosh as my heart drops into my stomach and my blood turns to ice. I try to swallow. The taste of blood still coats my tongue, but something else, too. Something…medicinal? And why isn't my head pounding?
"…What did you…give me?" I croak, my mind like molasses.
"Something Miri has been toying with. It'll take care of your…headaches."
I try to rise out of my seat, but he stops me, pushing me back down. I watch his dark form move behind me, both hands now on my shoulders, firmly keeping me seated. His fingers claw into my flesh. I might as well be strapped down in the chair with steel restraints.
I look around. I'm in the center of the kitchen. The stove is illuminated, thanks to the moonlight streaming in from the sink window behind us.
"Let me o-out."My voice cracks. I feel my cheeks burn in humiliation and shame at my slip.
"I could have left you there…in the hallway," he says, ignoring me and not letting up his grip. "I should have. You've been nothing but a nuisance since the moment you came crashing into our lives…"
I try to move again, but he pushes me back down, harder this time. I hear the legs of the chair creak in protest.
"Such a mouth on you, I swear." His right hand claws deeper into the meat of my shoulder. I grit my teeth, trying to ignore the pain. "It almost made me forget why I came here in the first place."
The grip on my shoulders disappears. He's in front of me now, eye to eye, his hands gripping the back of my seat so I'm trapped between his arms. I flinch at his sudden appearance. We stare at each other for a bit. I count the seconds, while another part of my mind tries to put together what he's just said.
"…What are you—" I try to begin, but he cuts me off.
"You can't tell me that you're content with this—hiding in plain sight, wasting your gift… Not when you could be using it to protect them. Protect her. Oscar isn't the type to share," Nahuel says softly.
My heart skips a beat. Mentioning his name does it, is enough to take me back to that day: the helplessness, the terror. Not being able to move. I grip the edges of my seat, trying to hold onto reality. I don't want to lose it. I don't want to give him the satisfaction.
But it passes when the real meaning of his words sink in.
"Especially when he finds something that he's remotely interested in obtaining—"
I let out a hateful snarl, muscles tensing. I'm still too weak for the shards to return, but right now I can't bring myself to care. I'd rather have the satisfaction of pummeling his face with my fists.
But he's quicker; the minute I jump out of my seat to charge at him he takes several steps back, sidestepping me when I get too close. Just as I miss him, I feel the back of my shirt being violently tugged back, pulling me along. I get a brief glimpse of his face before his fist collides with the left side of my jaw, and my right cheek is meeting cold stone. I see stars…
I groan, clawing at the smooth tile of the floor, the taste of my own blood coppery and wrong. I open my eyes, disoriented. Shadows and darkness. The cold, the silence is overwhelming and unending. I feel like I'm in a vacuum of nothingness, waiting for something to end me in a flash of pain…just like before.
I can still hear Nahuel, though. That's how I know I'm not there, in the fields, waiting for them to lay their last blow. He walks around me, circling me. The sound of my labored breathing fills the air.
Reality isn't much better than the nightmare. At least, not right now.
"I'm not my father. I can't see a person's deepest desire. But I don't need it to see Oscar's. And once he gets what he wants, he'll set his sights on the rest of you, wherever you may be."
I close my eyes again, shaking my head. Maybe this is a nightmare. It's dark. Of course it's dark. Darkness is the very definition of nightmares isn't it? That's right. I'm just having a nightmare. I passed out after Nahuel said what he wanted to say, and I'm still by the stairs. Probably lying in a puddle of my own puke.
"Jennifer isn't infallible. Her protection isn't guaranteed. He'll find a way around her one way or another, and when that happens, you'll be on your own…and your mother and sister's deaths will be on your head. "
I feel him kneel beside me. My eyes pop open, meeting his dead, dark brown eyes. It's all different from before, the fear. It grips me hard, rises with each breath I take, choking me. I look away, trying to curl into myself, only to have him grab my chin and force me to look at him.
"Stop," I mumble, trying to shake myself out of his grip. The coldness in his expression doesn't change.
"You've been shielded long enough. I've seen what you can do. What Miri can do." His hand leaves my chin and moves up to the side of my head where my skull was split open.
His hand there is what does it. Suddenly it's like my senses have been magnified by the thousand. Made hyperaware—from the feeling of his hand on my scalp to the sound of the tiny drops of water leaking out of the faucet in the sink above; I see, smell, hear, and feel everything.
And it's too much.
My breathing hitches as memories mixed with Nahuel's silhouette above me hit my brain again and again—punches, kicks, bones snapping, torrents of blood. Sweet chaos that makes my world go around until it all bleeds together in a never-ending, kaleidoscope of pain and terror.
"So much fear…" he says softly. My body is strung tight, like a wire, while my eyes are unable to look away from his. "So much pain. And with no way to escape it. Battered and broken."
For some reason, that word snaps me out of my stupor. I shake him off, disgusted, crawling away from him until I'm huddled near the kitchen counter at the far corner of the room. At the same time, I try to force away the memories he brought back. He seemingly melts into the shadows, like a magic act, and I know without a doubt he's enjoying this, no matter what the deadness in his eyes say. This is a game. It's always been a game, even if I couldn't see it before. But I recognize it now. I recognize the illusion, the game he's playing, but even the knowledge of what he's doing doesn't help.
If anything, knowing only makes it worse.
"You fear for your family…and my sister, because of my father and siblings. You fear that your mother is too broken and will never truly heal; you fear what she may do if she ever meets your father again. But most of all, you fear yourself."
His words, no, his declaration rings strongly in this small room, the energy in its meaning permeating the air. Typical, unassuming people would choke on it and eventually swallow it all in the end. Without question or fight. Like an old man at the end of his rope, finally having his first and last meeting with the reaper.
"But it doesn't have to be this way," he suddenly says softly. "I can teach you how to control it all. I can help you—"
"You've helped enough."
I sit up, leaning back against the cabinet door. Even though I can't see his face, I still have the strength to feel incredulity. And be pissed off. It all burns through me, chasing away the intoxicating fear his presence seems to excrete. It protects me: a shield the typical and unassuming don't have.
"You think I don't know what you're doing?" I ask him quietly.
He doesn't respond. With new fervor, I spit out a glob of venom and blood at my side before continuing.
"All this talk about my mother and Miri, and you think that I wouldn't catch on? You forgot one of your rules: never let your enemy know what you're capable of. And I haven't forgotten." I tap my temple with my index finger, positive he can see me even if I can't see him. "I know what you can do too."
Another dizzy spell hits. The weird blood he fed me after I fainted is wearing off. I sigh, resting the back of my head against the cabinet door.
"…You think your fears are not correct?" he finally says.
"It's just that: fear," I retort softly. I pick myself up from the floor, leaning back against the counter, fingers curling around the edges for support while the dizziness threatens to drag me back down. "It's not real. I'm just working myself up, and you're making it worse…as always."
He suddenly appears in front of me again, inches away, looking down at me, face twisted in loathing.
"Not always. Don't you know what the purpose of fear is? To warn us. It's an instinct, meant to protect. I simply see what your brain is trying to protect you from, and I must say, it's spot on. You should fear all of this. You should heed what I've been telling you. What your brain has been trying to say to you…"
Not breaking eye contact with him, I shake my head.
"You're so full of it—"
It happens in the blink of an eye. One second I'm leaning against the countertop, the next, I'm suspended in the air by the collar of my shirt, pressed against the adjacent wall. His furious breaths hit me square in the face. I grasp his wrist in what? Fear? Warning? I don't know. That crazy, dangerous look is in his eyes again.
"I know you, Anthony," he hisses. "I don't need my gift to see into your soul. We're the same, and a part of you knows it too. Just like a part of you knows that this hiding game your mother is trying to play is fruitless. I see the bloodlust in you, boy. The savagery itching to break free, burning in your eyes. The need to attack, to rip and tear, to protect what's yours—"
"W-what are you talking about?" A cold sweat has broken over my skin, making my grip on him slippery.
"Please. Enough with the denial. Your mother may pretend all she wants that she is still human, that their concepts of right and wrong still apply to her—she can afford to, her slate is technically still clean—but you?" He tilts his head. "You're far from pristine."
Anger rises in me. I swear. Curse at him with every name under the moon that I can think of, spit threats at him until even I can't understand what I'm saying, and I'm lost in my fight…until a question slips from my lips. Something that's been eating away at me and at the same time has been sleeping, undisturbed, for months. Something that maybe I knew was going to be asked, that should have been asked a long time ago. That familiar, triumphant glint in his eye is all I need to know of my choice to ask it.
"I want you, for once in your very short life, to be true to yourself." Confusion twists my face, but he's dead serious. And not finished.
"I want you to stop fighting."
I struggle harder in response. My eyes dart downwards, trying to find a way out.
"… And I want you to join us."
I freeze. I let myself go limp in his grasp. Again my labored breathing fills the hot, humid air, again he ignores it, and again I can't stand to look him in the eye.
"You are what you are. It is not a matter of choice. Not when it comes to our kind, when it's programmed into our DNA. The only thing you can do is accept it and use it to your advantage. You care for them, your mother and sister. And Miri. You think I don't understand? I do; you'd do everything in your power to protect them. You have done everything in your power to protect them, if that head injury you sustained from my dear brother wasn't proof enough—"
My knee connects with his stomach.
He grunts in pain, dropping me as he backs away. I waste no time. I push him away and barrel out of the kitchen, nearly tripping as I tumble into the hallway.
I'm a few feet from the door when I'm knocked to the ground hard. Wood splinters and cracks beneath my palms and knees. It's only seconds before he has me in another choke hold and is trying to drag me back at vamp speed. But I struggle, I kick and claw and twist and it's too much for him. I'm not sure where we are when he finally gives up and throws me against another wall. I feel the plaster crumble behind me before he grabs me and pulls me out of the wreckage and pins me against the floor. This time one hand is around my throat while his knee is on my chest. His steel grip forces me to meet his cold stare.
"Always making things difficult. Look at you," he spits. I struggle harder, clawing at his grip, trying to ignore the ache of my windpipe and chest being crushed and what feels like a knife's point burrowing into my left temple. "Half-human, half-vampire, and yet you still don't know, can't accept who you are, what you are—"
A door opens. A girl's voice calls my name.
"—when the answer is so simple."
My eyes go back to my stained hands, then to the front of my jacket—still zipped up to hide the elk's blood. My senses reach out to the shards', nowhere to be seen (for now), but ever present in the form of an invisible caress that mimics a gentle breeze—my weapon, which seems to have taken a mind of its own.
What I did in the forest…wasn't something a person with control would do. It wasn't...rational. It was carnal. It was raw. It was savage.
It was everything he said I was. Everything he said I would be.
Everything he said was a lie, the reasonable side of me says. A lie, meant to sway and tether you to his side. It's not true. None of its—
But if it's not true, why did I do it?
My knees shake. Suddenly I feel pumped up, like I've just drained a couple of lions and downed a six-pack of Red Bull's. I need to walk. I can't just stand anymore. I have to move. So I do. Just as quickly as I slipped into the alley I slip out, settling into a brisk pace as I continue on home.
He couldn't have known, reason says to me. He couldn't have known that this would happen.
No. He couldn't have known that this would happen. But he knew something would. He knew it all along.
I turn a corner. The tall, immaculate apartment building that's supposed to be our home is coming into sight, just a block away now. I hear voices behind me, but take no notice of them. It's all garbled nonsense to me. There are more important matters at hand. Like how the hell I'm going to explain this to Mom. What am I supposed to say? That I'm sorry? Blurt it out? Drag it out? Not say anything at all? I told her I had control, and look what happened. Look at what I did. How do you tell someone that you're every bit of the monster they said you weren't? A gust of wind blows past my face, whipping back my hair as I walk. It whistles through the gaps in the buildings, through the alley's…
I almost miss it. The wind scatters the scent and makes it thin, while the familiar musk of rain water, wet asphalt, and rotting garbage masks it…but it's still there. Their scent is here, that wild, repugnant, animalistic odor that screams supernatural beast. I listen harder to my surroundings, and sure enough, I hear them. A couple of feet ahead. In the alley waiting for me.
"What are you, bloodsucker? Deaf?
I whirl around.
A Quileute. Tall. Definitely older than me. Worn clothing. The kind you find in Salvation Army bins: dark-colored, inconspicuous, and unwanted. His hair has been cropped short, like he's done it himself, but it's starting to grow back. He's joined by another. Behind me, the ones I heard waiting for me ahead step out of their hiding place and cut off my path.
What goes around comes around, right? Fitting. Irony is a bitch, the beast remarks.
"Remember what we talked about," a new voice reprimands his friends. I look across the street—another one is coming at me, except unlike the others, he doesn't look like he's going to rip me apart in the next ten seconds. He actually looks kind of…calm. But that doesn't really help. It doesn't change my situation.
There are two on my right, two on my left, and then the one in the street. They've sealed off any chance at escape; my back is to a closed bakery, its lights off and its doors locked shut. I swallow hard, trying to stop my hands from shaking. Briefly my eyes go up to our apartment, beyond the two on my left, a block away. Mom's probably waiting for me, and Reni's still asleep…
At least they don't know. They're safer inside.
But still, that one mercy isn't enough to placate me. My chest feels hollow. A chilling sense of déjà vu, intense and indescribably terrible, washes over me. A part of me knows I'm in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, knows that everything is playing out like it did in the lunch room…and in the Columbian forests before it. A part of me knows I'm surrounded by these wolf-men and that today, for the first time, I met my father face to face, and I tried to kill him…
But that part of me isn't working the controls anymore.
The shards blink back into my vision. Hundreds, maybe thousands of pieces dancing around their would-be targets. Unbeknownst to the wolves, I draw some of the pieces back, enough for a shield on all three fronts, but something's gone wrong again.
They won't slot together. They won't cooperate, to my increasing panic. They just float—
"Why are you here?"
My gaze goes back to the leader. He's watching me coldly now. Calculatingly. Arms crossed over his chest. I don't really understand what he's asking: why am I out at night? Why am I in their city? I start to consider his question on a deeper level. Why am I here? Why am I playing this charade in the first place—being human, hiding in plain sight—when it's obvious I don't belong here?
But better yet, why are they here?
I don't have time to ponder his question and mine, though. My eyes catch their forms approaching, closing in.
"Stay the fuck away from me."
My hissed words stop them, to my immediate relief. I back into the glass of the building behind, flashes of adrenaline jolting down my limbs. I feel the shards pulse with power, but instead of calming me, it only puts me more on edge and I almost lose it and unleash them.
"You never answered his question," someone on my right says. Our eyes lock.
"I would have if you'd back the fuck off. Just…stay away."
"Or what? You'll pull that same weird voodoo shit on me that you pulled on Jared? Send me into the air without laying a finger on me?"
"I might," I say quietly. That's the truth. All hell has practically broken loose with me, and I don't know what I'll end up doing. Why can't they see that?
Because they're arrogant, high-strung bastards full of bloodlust and retribution, the beast says wryly.
"Playing wise guy isn't going to get you out of this mess," the same guy says coldly. "You're all alike, aren't you? Even down to your smell." He starts walking towards me again, and I push the shards gently in his path, not to impale him, but just as a warning. Enough so he can feel them there.
"What the—" His hand reaches in front of him, testing. His fingers brush against a particularly jagged piece as he swipes his hand through the air. He stares at what he can't see, jaw slightly open. The others have started murmuring amongst themselves in astonishment.
"I told you he was the one," the guy notes to the leader before glaring back at me, solid hatred set into his scowl. "Why are you in this city?"
My temper easily flares, and the shards automatically hover to where he stands. A jagged shard is inches away from the left corner of his mouth.
Just one flick of your wrist and you can split his face open…
"Why are you in this city?" I ask, at the same time willing the shards not to do anything.
"Answer the damn question: What the fuck are you doing here?"
"Jake," the leader says warningly, throwing him a sideways glance. Jake's head bows, ever so slightly in obedience, and with a scowl, he takes a small step back. Our eyes lock again, and his face re-molds back into an intimidating mask of hatred. I tear my gaze away from him to have another stare-down with the leader.
"What makes you think I needto tell you?"
"The truce applies only to the Cullens and another coven in Denali. Which means you're either a trespasser or someone the Cullens have been lying about. Either way, they've broken our agreement," the leader says. "You've got about ten seconds to explain what you're doing here."
I shake my head. "You've got it wrong. On both sides. The Cullens had no idea about us before today."
The leader scoffs. "Then explain."
I bristle under their gazes, not liking the way they're watching me one bit. I feel like I'm on display in a damn museum…or a firing squad. I swallow, eyes traveling over them as I pick my words carefully.
"We're here for the same reason the Cullens are here—for the cloud cover and the anonymity. Not that it's any of your goddamn business."
"It becomes our business when a bloodsucker attacks one of our own!" someone, I'm not sure who, bursts. The others agree, their encouraged murmurs rumbling through the air.
"He attacked first," I mutter angrily, going on the defensive, despite my previous feelings. "He was going to rip my throat out. What the hell was I supposed to do? Go ahead and let him do it?"
"He had every right to take down a bloodsucker who just had his meal," Jake snarls. I don't miss the way he appraises me, contempt written all over his face. I open my mouth angrily to respond, but his words and their meaning soak into my brain, stopping me.
A bloodsucker who just had his meal.
I look down my torso. I can still smell the scent of the elk's blood, despite my jacket covering up my shirt, but that's not what draws my attention. It's the stain running down my jacket arm and ending at my hand. The guilt, stoked by their first words, finally breaks out, catching me off guard, surprising me with its intensity. I raise my head to meet their condemning stares, panic rising in me with the understanding of what they see.
"It's not what it looks like, I didn't drain him—"
"Save it, bloodsucker."
"No! Listen to me!" I state desperately, straining to stay in my spot. I'm not blind to how they're watching me, how they're all so perfectly poised to attack, and how there is no one else on the street to witness us. My heart feels like it's about to burst out of my chest. I don't know why, but I have toget the words out, even if they won't believe me, even if there's no point now—no, there is a point. I didn't do what they think I did. I fucked up tonight, but not when it came to that.
"I just roughed him up and then let the police have him. He was going to rape this girl—"
"You attacked a human—"
"Attacked," I agree, cutting him off. "Not killed. Or drained. I don't drink human."
"Yeah, right," Jake says dispassionately, before raising his voice to the others. "First he attacks that kid at Oakdale, then he just so happens not to drain some guy while stopping an attempted rape? He's playing all of us." He directs his voice at me now. "If you really think we're going to fall for this after what you did to Paul—"
"If he hadn't tried to fucking rip my head off in the first place, he would have been fine!" I burst in my frustration.
His eyes light up in rage at my words. He starts stalking over to me and my hands clench, my breathing picks up, but his friend stops him in time. The boy backs away until he's back at his spot, unaware of the shards he nearly walked into.
Get it together…
They're all growling now. Their bodies vibrate and shake, like they're trying to stop something from bursting out of their skin. But I know what it really is. I know what they are, what they're capable of…
What about what YOU'RE capable of?
I repress a groan just as another round of arguing erupts in the wolves' ranks.
"We can't have another mistake like last time—"
"As long as he's killing humans, it's our business—"
"Who did I kill?" I snap, interrupting their conversation. I look from one face to another, feeling my own twist in sudden outrage. I let out a snarl, grabbing the zipper of my jacket and pulling it down. The mess all over my t-shirt comes into view. I relish their looks of disgust.
"What? You had so much to say before. Where are your words now?" I spit. "Tell me: who exactly did I kill?"
"You know what we're talking about, leech. Don't deny it," Jake says, eying my blood-stained hand with disgust.
"This isn't Washington. We're not in La Push; I don't answer to you," I snarl.
"Can we just get this over with?" the one next to Jake remarks exasperatedly. He's wearing a plain black t-shirt. "We already know he's the one who got Paul—"
"We need answers," the leader cuts off, annoyed. " Details. Facts. Weren't you listening earlier? Things aren't adding up and we need to know why."
"What's there to know?" Jake asks impatiently. "He's a bloodsucker—"
"Who's eyes are neither red nor gold," the leader finishes. "Who's heart still beats. Aren't you the least bit curious as to why?"
"Not really." The leader turns around and gives Jake an "are you a fucking moron?" look. Jake shrugs, slightly bristled by the look.
"What? There's plenty about them that we don't know about. The eye and heart thing could be two of them."
"The legends say—"
"Those were legends. Based on isolated incidents and witnessed by an already superstitious people."
"Are vampires," someone on the left says softly. He's shorter than the others, compared to his friends. They're all pretty much on the tall scale, but he's looks like the youngest. He definitely acts like it, with the way he fidgets under the spotlight. But he still keeps going, still keeps talking, and despite his obvious vulnerabilities, his words only serve to piss me off even more.
"…They're still our mortal and destined enemy. Their loyalty is to their own kind. In the grand scheme of things, the treaty, this truce, means nothing." He looks straight at me this time, trying to be bold, trying to look defiant. "We have no reason to trust anything that comes out of his mouth. His coven promised us peace—"
"They're not my coven."
"—and what do they bring instead? Reinforcements. More bodies so they can take us out, he even smells like—"
A string of swears leave my mouth before I can stop it. His brave front falters.
"How many times do I have to fucking tell you? They're. Not. My. Coven. And I am NOT a human drinker—"
"He was probably just covering his tracks: draining some animals to make it look like he's a vegetarian," the short one's companion says, continuing where his friend left off. He's definitely older, about the same age as the leader. He wears a dark grey sweater with the sleeves cut off.
"…Cannot fucking believe this," I mutter to myself, combing back my hair with my hand.
"Back alleys are a weird place to go hunting for bears, wouldn't you say? Especially with all those cop cars hanging around…" sweater guy continues darkly.
"Like you can talk," I retort, shooting him with a glare. "Check the news lately? You've been giving Animal Control a scare. I'm surprised they haven't caught any of you morons on video yet, with how close you've been hanging around the city…"
"You shut the fuck up—"
"Or what? You'll mind fuck with me with your investigative prowess? Serve me with evidence you don't have? Jesus fucking Christ, do you even do any frickin' detective work other than following your nose?"
My words spark more outrage. They all start swearing at once. Several take a few steps towards me, but the leader always ends up reining them in, just with his words. They're perturbed by what I've said. Embarrassed. No doubt I've struck a nerve. Which raises the question: how many times have they screwed up, because of their mad detective skills?
"You don't know what the hell you're doing, do you?" I suddenly ask them, feeling reckless. That riles them up even more, but I don't care. "All you've got is smoke and mist."
"And what the hell do you know?" the leader spits, finally losing his cool. "You don't know us. You don't know anything, bloodsucker."
"Apparently neither do you, wolf."
He stares at me for a bit, his expression blank, but eventually lets out an impatient growl and shakes his head, turning back to his friends. I try to tune out what they're saying. I don't want to hear any more of it, but inevitably some of it trickles back to me, and it only causes my blood to boil. I didn't plan this. I didn't want this…but they don't care. The doubt I've just planted in their minds is subtle, yet strong, and in any other circumstance, it would be enough to satisfy me. But the more I listen and mull over their words, the more I understand and see, maybe more than I ever have today.
It's the same subject: what to do next, where to go, how they should deal with me… It's pointless arguing with them. They've already made up their minds. I'm not what they think I am, but they won't understand. Why would they? I'm just another bloodsucker to them, even if my eyes are green and my heart still beats. No difference, in their eyes, as long as I'm drinking blood. Doesn't matter if it's human or animal.
I look around me. They're all still arguing, the streets are deserted, no one is around but us. And yet indecision is what's keeping me rooted to the spot. Not for the first time tonight, I want to scream. This should be the simplest decision in the world: stay or go. What the hell is wrong with me?
Yes, what is wrong with you? They judged you. They decided your fate without any hesitation. The shards got it right. And they call themselves protectors. They're nothing like the grandiose, innocent, honor-bound warriors Mom alluded to in her stories about Grandpa Charlie's Quileute friend. Nothing at all…just a bunch of pissed off, self-righteous, testosterone-filled assholes who think that just because they have the ability to kill vamps means that they're the good guys—the ones on top, the golden boys. They believe that what they are justifies everything they do.
They're no better than the vamps they kill.
I find myself agreeing. In a night full of uncertainty and confusion, this makes sense. I may have…killed that wolf-boy. But it wasn't without provocation. I reacted. They, on the other hand, planned. That boy in the forest…
…was going to kill you, the beast says. And he would have, if you hadn't defended yourself. In the end, that's all you were doing. Why should you feel shame for practicing self preservation? It's what Mom always got in your case about, anyway.
And my control, I remind myself. My control, which I fucking lost tonight…
Do you honestly think she would have wanted you to let them rip your head off and toss it into the flames in order for you to keep your precious control?
She said our control was everything. She said it was what separated us from true monsters. That it was what made us human, in an inhuman body.
Having control would have gotten you killed tonight.
Not having it almost got me killed anyway.
That was over a year ago. And a completely different situation. You had no choice. You could have lost one of them if you hadn't. You had to protect them…and now you have to do it again.
And there it is. The destination my mind has been trying to locate since I walked into their trap—the conclusion that was already written, but just waiting for me to find it. And there's no denying the dread that blossoms in me at the discovery.
Look at them bicker, the beast sneers to me, despite my growing fear and panic. Like old wives around a sewing circle. Look how un-unified they are. Volatile. You think they'll leave you alone?
My heart starts beating too fast. My hearing has gone completely haywire, only random bursts of sound, muffled, make it to my eardrums—like static from a broken radio. All I can really ascertain is the blood pounding in my ears. And what I feel. What I remember of those feelings…and the horrible similarities to then and now.
I start to move towards the ones on my left, try to move past them, but they band together, cutting off my path. My action catches everyone's attention, cutting off their conversations. I feel their eyes on me now. I feel…exposed.
"Where do you think you're going?" the leader asks from behind.
"Get out of my way."
My words come out as a whisper. A request disguised as a threat. A threat that goes unheeded. The ones in front of me don't react the same way the humans do. They stand their ground, and I know, without having to look them square in the face, that they are not afraid.
"You're not going anywhere. You're coming with us."
"No, I'm not," I mutter, trying to chase out the images that are once again forcing their way into my vision. Images of bright sunshine and fists. They're trying to bleed into reality, like before, in the lunchroom, when that prick went off about Mom, and in the kitchen in Columbia.
And unlike before, they succeed.
I struggle harder, but their weight is too much. They're too strong. I roar. Someone punches me in the jaw. The taste of copper fills my mouth, but I continue to thrash, refusing to give in, until someone's hand grabs me by the hair and smashes the left side of my face into the grass.
As I'm held in place, Grey Eyes kneels in front of me, leaning down so our eyes can meet. His hand curls around my neck. I struggle harder, our eyes still locked.
"We gotta hurry. They'll be here soon," someone him me says. "Just finish him off. Father wants Miriam, not him."
"Alexander and the others are handling it. We still have time." Grey Eyes looks at me for a couple more seconds, his other hand rubbing a fresh, curiously shaped cut on his chin.
"You gave me this, you know," he suddenly says to me. Confusion briefly causes me to stop struggling. He continues, "This cut. Not even five minutes ago."
"I'm not going anywhere with you."
"In case you haven't noticed, there are five of us and only one you," one of the guys in front of me says.
"I have noticed," I say in a voice that sounds dead, even to me.
It doesn't have to be like how it was in Columbia. It won't be. You already know what you have to do. You've known since the minute they started opening their damn mouths, and unlike back then, you have the shards. You're not going into this with nothing.
No, I'm going into this with fucked up emotions and an even more fucked up grasp on my ability. In a damn, populated area, with no clue on how I'm going to get out alive.
The very definition of a battle. Stop being afraid, you've done this before.
Knowing doesn't make it any better. Knowing can't stop how I feel. The only thing it does is make it worse…
"Who the hell do you think you are, leech?" sweater guy asks. "You think you can just waltz in here, harm one of our own, drink your next meal and go on your merry way? Fuck no."
You can't afford to sink right now, no matter how much you want to. This isn't about you anymore. Look at them, the beast instructs me. I do. I look, but I still see the same thing I've been staring at this whole time, and my frustration and confusion only grow.
You already know that they won't leave you alone. And if they won't leave you alone, what makes you think they'll leave Reni and Mom alone?
"He was fucking terrified," he says a bit louder to his friends, "You should have seen his face when I got him away from Paul. I thought he was going to cry."
You'd leave your family to mercy of madmen because you're afraid?
A growl escapes my throat before I can stop it. It mingles with their laughter.
Because you don't have your shit together? You panic about your lack of control, your slip up with these wolves' friend, but don't you see? This is your chance to take it back.
"Fucking arrogant leech."
Take it all back.
"He had no idea who he was messing with—"
Take back control.
"No… I didn't," I say quietly to them, finally making my decision.
My comment drains the humor right out of the air. I let the quiet drone on for a bit. It's like the word has become smaller. Simpler. Uncomplicated. Everything is clearer. It's Monday. I was supposed to come home from school, do my homework, and count the days until I turn seven. It was just supposed to be the three of us. Not four. Never four. Not with Cullen or any other male, not with his fucking family waiting in the wings, and definitely not with any goddamn wolves at our throats.
"You're right," I continue, walking back to my previous spot. "I had no idea what I was up against… But then again, I didn't expect much from someone who reeked of puke and wet dog. What's wrong? Did Fido get sick when he saw your ugly mugs?"
My eyes catch the way the vein on the leader's left temple pulses dangerously, how all of their faces have transformed back into masks of murderous fury. I scan the area one last time, trying to find a weak spot, a weak link, and trying not to think about how truly easy this is. I find the weak link in the form of the two wolf-boys on my right: Jake and black shirt guy. They've stupidly allowed themselves to be more unevenly spread apart than the rest.
"What the hell did you just say, leech?"
Don't do this, a voice in the back of my head whispers to me. But it's pointless. It's too late. It might as well have said nothing. It's all gone to shit. I started this mess. I fucked up...because I couldn't hold it together...because I didn't know which part of me to holdon to.
But I know now.
Yes, you do, the beast agrees.
"You heard me, dog," I answer quietly. I feel a shard materialize in my right hand, its energy vibrant and strong. Another one materializes in my left. I grip them both as the wolves start to advance, an air full of shards' waiting for them.
I'm a huge My Chemical Romance fan. It's my go-to music whenever I'm writing Resent. It also happens to be the source for some of my chapter titles. Not exactly the song's names, per se, but snippets of the lyrics. V-formation is a reference to their song Na Na Na.
Can you figure out which chapter title refers to which song? ;)