Chapter 18: Clearwater
It wasn't far from La Push to the coastline. Leaving items like my cellphone that would be harmed by the saltwater onshore, I dove into the water and looked for lunch. I didn't find any killer whales, so I had a harbor seal instead. It wasn't nearly as good, but it filled me up. When I'd emerged from the water, I called Edward, told him that I expected to be away from Québec for at least a couple more days but that he shouldn't worry, and asked after Gianna.
"She's okay," he said heavily, "or at least - well, Gianna is fine, but worried about her brother. The morphine didn't do what we thought. Not long after you took off, he started screaming. Carlisle broke his spine, but it's healed now. And he was able to say that the morphine didn't help - that it interacted with the venom somehow, and paralyzed him instead of actually dulling the pain. You can imagine how horrified Gianna was, and Carlisle's decided to start keeping barbituates on hand at all times so that we can do it the way we did with you every time in the future, even on no notice."
I sucked in a breath of sea air through my teeth. "Eeesh. Yeah, good plan. Ilario's nearly done now?"
"Yes," said Edward. "Nearly. They'll keep me posted - I asked them to call my phone instead of yours when possible and let them assume that your carrier has spotty reception here. At least, I think that's what they assumed - I can't be sure from this far away. Gianna has been informed that you prefer, in spite of your control, not to be around humans when you don't need to and are out hunting most of the time, so she isn't going to let anything slip. Alice did try calling you once, and told me that your power is developing in an interesting and inconvenient way," he relayed, with some mirth.
He hadn't asked for anything about where I was at, and I was grateful. It had begun to wear on me to be away from him for so long. He could probably hear the ocean through the phone, but he could have asked for more precision about my location - or my project, or whether I was with anyone, or what I'd been using my shiny black credit card for lately - and I wouldn't have been able to resist telling him. It ached that I couldn't safely share it all. A little itchy feeling that I must be being too paranoid, that no danger was so great that it should stop me from telling Edward everything, prickled in my mind. Only the notion that Edward's own safety could be on the line if Aro got hold of the wrong information let me hold my tongue.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," I promised him, not addressing the substance of his statements. "I love you, you know."
"I love you," he murmured into the phone.
"You never say "too"," I observed. "Why not?"
"I got into the habit when you were a human," he said. "If I said "too", it would make it sound like my love and yours were comparable, when I was quite convinced that you couldn't love me as much as I loved you."
"That's... very silly, but probably not inaccurate," I said. "Humans don't have a lot of space in their heads. I love you more now than I did then."
I heard a smile in Edward's voice as he said, "Do you want me to start saying "too" now, then?"
"No, don't, it's cute this way."
"Very well," he laughed. "When you come back and when Ilario is ready to be in the same house as Gianna, what do you want to do next?"
"I'd like to meet the Denalis soon," I said. "They didn't come to our wedding, and they're extended family, aren't they?"
"We do tend to consider them so," Edward acknowledged. "I'm sure they'd be happy to have us visit."
"Great. But don't schedule anything yet. I don't have a firm timetable."
"Of course, Bella." I felt so accommodated. I'd told Aro that my coven didn't revolve around me, but in some sense, since I'd entered their sphere of attention, it had. Bella asked to see vampires doing tricks; Bella wants us to perform egg extraction surgery on her; Bella has been targeted by an unstoppable tracker; Bella needs to be picked up in Italy; Bella has rendered it necessary that we move to Norway; Bella's turning; Bella's a newborn; Bella's a special snowflake; Bella needs a test human; Bella's getting married; Bella needs a private South Atlantic island on which to honeymoon; Bella wants to rescue a human she met once; Bella wants to throw in the human's brother; and now Bella's gallivanting around without telling anybody what she's up to...
I hoped someone in my family would want me to do them a favor soon. Ideally when I wasn't up to my neck in werewolf stuff, and able to help.
"And then we can go looking in South America for half-vampires," I told Edward - he, at least, I could do something for. He'd seemed to like the idea of having children that were really ours - and I did too, if only we could expect Gianna to survive. It was worth a while prowling about the Amazon Basin or wherever hints led us.
"Whatever you like, love," Edward murmured.
I had nothing else I needed to do until regular business hours would let me reserve airline tickets for inactive Quileutes by phone.
I kept Edward on the phone for a long time.
I had failed to arrange a rendezvous point at which Rachel would be able to find me, so I stayed put on the beach, hoping she could follow my scent. Failing that, she'd be able to dig up my phone number, as I'd called her to invite her to lunch.
No phone call proved necessary. Rachel, flanked by six of her pack in a V with three per side, found me. They walked together in a coordinated, wary-but-confident motion; Rachel, Seth, and the girl I recognized as Marilyn wore smiles but the others were serious and stone-faced. "Hey, Bella," said Rachel. "Me and these six are the best bet at convincing the people on the list I gave you to show up on the rez anytime soon. Oh, and if you want to throw money at a problem, it'd be kind of handy if you could order us thirty assorted pizzas and have them delivered to Dad's - Jake and Embry have enough of a handle on themselves to ferry 'em out to the ravine. Everybody's starving." Seth's stomach growled, backing up her statement.
"Sure. I'll take somebody grocery shopping later for a longer-term solution to sudden werewolf appetite, too, if you want," I said agreeably. "How are we doing the plane tickets thing?"
"We've got four cellphones between us - Seth, Brady, and Lynnie don't have their own - so we're going to call our respective people and let you know from what airport and at what time to buy tickets for as people get convinced," she said.
"Sounds good." The mini-pack dispersed somewhat, so they wouldn't talk over each other; I could hear the voices on the other ends as werewolves stumbled through requests for visits and haphazard prevarications about winning tickets in imaginary contests. I ordered pizza. It was a little tricky to convince the fellow who answered the phone that yes, I said thirty, yes, I meant thirty, yes, the number that was represented by a three followed by a zero. Seth was waiting for someone to loan him a phone, and listened to me try to put in my bulk order with an amused expression. Eventually I got the pizza guy to accept my credit card number and agree to bring thirty pizzas to Billy's house, although he said there would be a wait.
"How come you have so much money?" Seth asked.
"I married into a family of vampires with good investment strategies such as "be hundreds of years old" or "have precognition"," I told him.
"Is it nice being a vampire?" he asked.
"I love it," I said. "Turning into one's not fun, though. You guys have it much easier."
"Thanks for helping," he said earnestly. "Those Volturkeys sound pretty bad."
"I don't like 'em much," I agreed. "They were useful to me one time, and some law over vampires is better than none, but I think we can do better."
"You're a nice vampire," Seth informed me, as though he genuinely thought I might need to be reassured on this point. Perhaps he'd been exposed to too much popular culture in which immortality was something to be angsted about.
"Thank you, Seth," I said.
"You're welcome!" he said, and then Rachel was finished convincing Becky to fly up and handed him her phone.
"So I'm guessing she'll fly out of Honolulu?" I asked Rachel. "I wasn't paying close attention to the conversation. What's her married name? When should I book her flight for?"
"Her and her husband are both coming," Rachel said. "Rebecca and Caleb Euta. I told her I won a small lottery and I can cover her lost wages if she takes a few days off - we might actually have to promise that kind of thing to a few people, I hope it's okay. And book it for three p.m. our time, today, or as soon after as you can."
"I don't even have to warn Alice unless I want a million bucks very suddenly," I reassured Rachel. "I can cover lost wages. I can put people up in hotels. I can buy you all thirty pizzas every day."
"Okay, good," she said. "Pizza's on its way?" I nodded. "Also good. I could eat a horse."
"I'm sure if one were around, you could take it down, and probably digest it just fine in wolf form too," I pointed out. "Although you'd be more likely to find deer or something than horse."
"Point. Still, one life-changing thing at a time. I don't want to learn to turn into a wolf and then start eating raw meat less than twenty-four hours later."
"Fair enough. I'll book Becky's flight." I called a few airlines, eventually finding one that would give Becky and Caleb both seats on an upcoming flight on short notice. Oddly, I didn't have to throw a surcharge in - I supposed if they had empty seats so soon before takeoff, they'd go to considerable lengths to fly with those seats full for cheap instead of empty for nothing.
By the time I was finished with that, two more werewolves had finished and needed me to buy flights from Florida and Ohio. I did that, noting between calls that Marilyn was having difficulty convincing her person - apparently an elder cousin - to agree to suddenly visit. I finished the third airline booking and caught the girl's eye. "Can I help?" I mouthed to her.
"Hang on," she told her cousin, and she put her hand over the phone. "His girlfriend's in trouble with Immigration and he won't leave town. I don't think you can fix that."
"Well, don't know till I try," I said. "Where are they located?"
"Albuquerque," she said. I quizzed her for more details, mentally scanning the list of contacts licit and illicit that Edward had given me. There weren't any local to New Mexico - too sunny; we'd never live there if we could help it and wanted to go out during the day. I could probably have managed to get the authorities to leave the girl alone if I'd tried federal law enforcement, but thought it would be potentially conspicuous, depending on how watchful the Volturi were.
"I guess I can make a separate trip to visit him," I said. "But then he'd be activating all by himself... do you know if your telepathy has a range limit?" Marilyn shook her head, solemn.
I growled to myself, which caused Marilyn to phase. She whined, annoyed; Rachel had brought a few changes of clothes along, and when she noticed the strawberry-blond-furred wolf she waved her behind a rock and left the clothes there.
I picked up Marilyn's phone and handed it to Rachel. "Sorry," she said to the absent Quileute, "Marilyn had to run all of a sudden - she may call you back later." She flipped the phone closed and put it in her pocket. "Don't growl," she told me. "Even I jumped a bit when I heard it. We're all managing to override the whole "you smell like cyanide and evil, minty flowers" thing, but make it easy on us, please."
Rachel waved a hand, not particularly upset, and moved on. "If we can't get this one guy to show up, we can't get this one guy to show up. You can get him in the next wave when more people have gotten old enough. Although if you wanted to stick around until his girlfriend's situation is resolved..."
"We have no idea how long that will take. Maybe I should leave you a bottle of venom or something. If anything besides a real live vampire will trigger a transition, that should be it. But be careful with it. If it gets into a regular human's bloodstream it causes turning - I have no idea what it'd do to one of you. And it needs a glass container. It'll eat through most anything else."
"What do we do with it?"
"Smelling it might do the trick all by itself, though probably slowly - it's at least ninety percent of why you think I stink, I bet. Failing that, a drop of it on unbroken skin might be safe - but I'd want to try it on somebody's little toenail, first, so it can be chopped off smart quick if it turns out I'm wrong."
"Okay. I'll send someone to bring you a glass bottle. We'll be careful," she said.
Marilyn's cousin was the only person who absolutely couldn't be persuaded to visit La Push. I bought the rest of the plane tickets, and then simply handed Rachel all the cash I had in my wallet so she didn't need to run smaller purchases by me.
The pack devoured their thirty pizzas, and I was sent on a grocery run (alone, lest a werewolf companion phase in the middle of the store) to buy simple food in large quantities that could be stored unproblematically in the ravine and didn't need to be cooked. I went a ways afield for the trip, to reduce the risk of being recognized, and bought the store out of chips, candy, jerky, bottled juices and energy drinks, Hostess snackfoods, and similar packaged crap, as well as some fruit and bread. "Throwing a big party," I told the clerk, when he looked at me in bewilderment. I still had the horse trailer attached to my car, which made it a lot easier to fit everything.
I drove cautiously into La Push, but no one seemed to be around, so I risked unhitching the trailer and dragging it out into the woods by hand rather than trying to drive through the trees. Jacob and his friend Embry were waiting at my rock to be food ferries once again, and although they didn't phase as I passed them sacks of munchies, they didn't seem to love being around me, either. I didn't risk aggravating them by trying to strike up a conversation.
I hung out at my rock, waiting. Rachel brought me a rinsed lemonade bottle and I started collecting venom. I was able to exercise some control over the amount I generated - just concentrating on the right scent memories did it. It didn't take long to have it half-full.
Later, Rachel swung by again. "Jacob thinks, and on reflection I agree, that Dad wouldn't want to be the first older person to try activating. Leah and Seth volunteered to ask their father and they're talking to him now."
"Okay," I said.
"I want to see how it works, so I'll hang out if you don't mind."
I spat more venom between my teeth into the lemonade bottle. "I don't if you don't. Cyanide and evil minty flowers, though."
"Yeah. It seems to bother some of us more than others. Seth barely minds at all - and his sister's on the other end of the spectrum. I'm about middling, seems like. What do we smell like to you?" She sat a few feet away from where I was standing.
"Like wolves," I said. "But not in an earthy pleasant way."
"Have you, y'know, eaten a wolf - a regular one?"
"Yeah, but I didn't care for the flavor. Wild boars are better. And killer whales are best. But tastes vary. My husband prefers mountain lions."
"This is all pretty wild," remarked Rachel, crossing and recrossing her legs until she found a comfortable position on the forest floor. "I don't think I'd be too surprised right now if I woke up in the hospital in Spokane and found that I'd hurt my head and been having really screwed-up dreams."
"I thought you were having fun with it now that you've got wolfy company?"
"Don't get me wrong, there's good bits, and I don't want to get picked off in my sleep by an evil Italian vampire who wants to make sure my family stops existing, so I'm glad you showed up - but it's so crazy. I'm Alpha in a pack of twenty-seven - and I can magically back that up if I want, I just found that out really early this morning. Paul and Sam got into a fight while they and I were all wolves and I thought at them to stop and they stopped just like that - I have some kind of super commanding mojo going on, I could hear the order echoing funny in all our heads. They were halfway bowing to me before I told them to cut that out."
"Uh, wow," I said. "...With great power, comes great responsibility?"
Rachel snorted. "Yeah. I am going to have to be super careful about using that. I don't know yet if it works out of wolf form. But even if it doesn't - holy crow, Bella, I personally have mind-control powers over a small army of almost thirty telepathic werewolves. I'm reeling just a tiny bit."
"Your power's more interesting than mine," I volunteered. "I don't even get to decide whether to use it."
"Oh, some humans - regular ones - have a little bit of magic," I said, pinching the air to indicate the quantity. "Different powers that do random things. Those are called witches. I was one. Turning is supposed to intensify everything, especially witchiness, but so far my power's the same as it always was. I'm immune to some other witch powers - my husband's, and the mindreader Volturi's, and some of their guard."
"Freaky. Is that the deal with your psychic sister?"
"Yeah, she's a witch too, and so's her husband - he's like an empath. My parents-in-law and my other brother and sister are just your boring, everyday, bog-standard vegetarian vampires."
"Bella, dunno if you noticed, but you have a weird family," remarked Rachel.
"Yep," I laughed. "Oh, I hear Leah and Seth bringing their dad." I listened. "Um... It sounds like they're fighting."
Rachel sat bolt upright. "Fighting? They're having a fight with Mr. Clearwater?"
"Leah is; sounds like -" Before I could finish the sentence, Rachel had sprung to her feet and phased midstride to plunge into the woods towards the arguing father and daughter.
I didn't follow. I had an idea of what worried her - she thought Mr. Clearwater would anger Leah to the point where she'd phase and possibly injure him, and wanted to be on the scene to avoid that. My presence wouldn't make it any easier to keep Leah in her skin, and if she did hurt her father, I still didn't know how I'd do around fresh human blood.
And so I listened.
Rachel was taking long, swift strides. Mr. Clearwater's voice was saying, "Young lady, now you listen to me, if you -"
Leah interrupted him: "No, you listen to me! I can go wherever I want! I don't need your permission to breathe!"
"Your brother is only thirteen years old! You can't just take him out camping overnight without telling me where you're going to be! Do you have any idea how frantic I was this morning? Your mother thought I'd have a heart attack, she was worried sick herself -"
"Seth is fine! Look, he's in one piece!" The in-one-piece boy was making quiet, non-word protestations, trying to calm his family. "You used to trust me with him - you just don't like that Sam was with -"
"And there's another thing! You're too young to be engaged -"
And there was a soft, cottony floof -
And a furious snarl -
Mr. Clearwater was howling with pain. I heard Seth phasing, and then I could barely decipher the sounds - three voices barking, one or two wolves tackling a third, snapping jaws and high yelps.
The man's shouts were rapidly weakening.
I picked up my lemonade bottle, took and held a deep breath, and ran.
It took me only a couple of seconds to reach them. When I got there, Rachel had Leah pinned; Leah was a smaller, medium-grey wolf, cringing under presumable mental chastisement by her Alpha. Seth was in his own sandy-furred wolf form not far from them, lifting and dropping his forepaws at irregular intervals as though he wanted to run somewhere but couldn't quite understand where. And a bit beyond him was his father.
Mr. Clearwater was an absolute mess. I realized as I looked at him that when Rachel had swiped at me, that had been restrained: I was tougher than a human, sure, but this heap of barely-breathing meat had not received one swat to the face, he'd been savaged. Blood flowed in rivulets away from his body. I very, very carefully did not inhale.
His heart was still feebly, irregularly beating.
"The hospital's twenty minutes away if you floor it," I said. "He won't make it that far." And then, conserving air, I held up the bottle of venom. "Only chance."
Seth whined. Leah craned her neck from her prone position to see what I was holding, and yelped, but I couldn't discern the meaning. Rachel stared me down; I met her gaze, holding quite still. "He'll die," I said softly.
Mr. Clearwater made a gurgling sound and Seth wailed, pawing at the ground. Rachel got off of Leah, who rolled onto her front but didn't stand, instead bowing her head towards the white wolf. There was a pause that lasted entirely too long.
I considered, but rejected, the plan of saying that if I started turning him and they changed their minds, they could always kill him later. Instead, I used the last of my air to say, "I think I can save him. But it's up to you."
Rachel hesitated for another half-second. Mr. Clearwater's heart faltered, and I grimaced. Finally, her big white head dipped and rose: a nod.
I was at the man's side instantly, found a big puncture wound next to his heart, and poured the venom in. His heart thudded as though electrocuted, and one of his arms - apparently the only limb that he could still move - jerked wildly. A high keen of pain shrieked out of his mouth. I would have broken his spine, but didn't know if he could take much more punishment before even venom wouldn't save him - I didn't know what to break well enough to aim precisely. At any rate, it looked like some of his nerves were cut off anyway.
I had no breath left. I swept away a swath of forest debris and scratched in the dirt, instead: I'm out of air. I can't risk smelling his blood.
Rachel read the message; I assumed the others could see in her thoughts what I'd written. I cleared the words with a pass of my hand and wrote, It is not safe for a newborn vampire to be near humans. I need to take him to my family's friends in Alaska. Rachel read it, nodded, and I replaced the writing several more times. It will take him three days to turn and then he'll be a vampire. Did he already know about us, like your dad?
Rachel picked up a paw and wavered it in a so-so motion - so he'd probably learned all the stories but not believed them. Vampires who didn't expect to turn, or at least know it was possible, are not as self-controlled. I'm very unusual. He will probably not be able to safely come near humans for at least a year. Our friends have phone service and Internet access and you can keep in touch that way. I will need to tie him up and wrap him in a blanket so no one sees him through my windows, because he will try to thrash around and he looks awful.
Leah whined miserably at that, and Rachel shot her a look; the gray wolf hunkered even lower to the ground, ears flat against her head in submisison or guilt or both. Seth looked anxious. It's terrible, but when it's over, it's over - he'll be fine, I promised in writing. I need rope or something like it, and a path no one's looking at to my car so I can bring him to it. I spat a mouthful of venom into the emptied bottle and set it on the ground. I'll leave you this so you can activate Becky and the other out-of-towners without me here.
Rachel nodded. I didn't see anyone running to get me what I'd asked for, but she'd probably sent a mental order to another wolf or two. I wrote, It's up to you what you tell his wife, but he will probably want to contact her, which will be less of a shock to her if she knows. Text me, don't call, if you have to communicate something in the next three days. I won't want to breathe with him in the car. If your phone can't do it buy one that can; I'll send you more money as you need it. Rachel nodded again. Is there anything else I need to be here for before I get him out of here? She shook her head.
I carefully lifted Mr. Clearwater off the ground, clamping one hand over his mouth to stop his moans of pain from carrying to anyone not in the know, and ran for my car. I saw only werewolves on my way: Embry and Jacob on lookout and Marilyn waiting by the passenger door with a convenient hank of rope and a fleecy comforter. I took them from her without speaking, tied Mr. Clearwater's wrists and ankles together behind his back, rolled him up in the blanket, and put him in the backseat; he bled a little on the fleece, but I could already see his wounds getting shallower as the venom percolated through his system. I slammed the door and got into the driver's seat.
I had no idea where in Alaska one would find Denali, nor where in Denali the coven lived. I texted Edward for directions (telling him to direct me there from Seattle) as I hurtled southeast to route around Puget Sound. He replied in installments, and asked if I wanted him to warn the Denali family that I was en route; I said that I'd appreciate it and told him to also warn them that I was bringing another newborn.
Edward said he'd let the necessary border crossing agents know that I wasn't to be troubled, through suitably convincing channels. I hadn't even thought of the difficulty of getting a mid-turning Mr. Clearwater into Canada and then from Canada into Alaska and experienced a surge of gratitude for my husband's support.
He also asked if I wanted him to meet me there. Gianna can't go, I wrote back. David would try to eat her. You shouldn't leave her unattended. He replied with his acquiescence and asked if there was anything else I needed, which there was not. I love you, I concluded my last message. He wrote back in kind, and then my phone went into my pocket.
I had to stop for gas after only forty miles. Luckily, the gas station was under heavy clouds and almost deserted. I closed the door behind me as quickly as I could after getting out, and took a few breaths of fume-scented air. Only the barest whiff of blood, from dried drops clinging to my sleeves where I'd picked Mr. Clearwater up, heated the air: it was tolerable. I filled up the tank and hoped the other patron of the station thought I was splattered with paint. It was fortunate that my shirt was dark brown: it looked damp, but not necessarily bloodstained.
I got back in the car and used my lungful of air to talk to Mr. Clearwater. "I'm Bella, Charlie Swan's daughter," I told him. "I'm a vampire. You're turning into one. Your children are werewolves. Leah lost her temper and hurt you. This was the only way to save you. I can't talk much because if I smell your blood I may also hurt you." Mr. Clearwater made a confused wailing noise, but I had no more words.
A few hours later, I decided to try opening my window, sticking my head out, and getting a breath of bloodless air that way. It worked. With clean air in my lungs, I said, "Mr. Clearwater, I'm taking you to Alaska. Some vampires my family is friends with live there and they will take care of you. Being a new vampire is hard, especially if you aren't prepared for it, and you will need help." I stuck my head out the window again, and kept talking. I gave him the rundown of vampire ins and outs, and got him up to speed on the status of the werewolf pack.
My car was waved through the border when they read the license plate and I continued through British Columbia. I continued talking to Mr. Clearwater with outside air, trying to keep his mind off the pain as much as possible. "Please don't tell my friends that you are from a tribe of werewolves," I told him. "It's safest if they don't know." I explained Aro, then repeated myself in case he hadn't been able to follow the entire justification for secrecy through the burning. "Tell them that you're from Forks, that I know you through Charlie, that I ran into you in Seattle while you were there bringing your thirteen-year-old to the Space Needle - don't give them Seth's name unless you can't avoid it - and I tagged along, that you were hit by a car, and that I turned you to save you from your injuries."
It took only two days to get as far as Fairbanks, and Mr. Clearwater wasn't done turning. I didn't want David to kill him, so instead of continuing directly to the coven's home, I parked on the edge of the Denali National Park to wait.
Nobody was liable to interrupt us, so I unwrapped his blanket and untied his ropes. His eyes were scrunched shut. His clothes were still torn and covered in blood, but his wounds were all smoothed over, not even pinkish. The color was mostly drained from his skin - melanin dissolving, blood converting to vampire fuel. He was slightly ecru, that was all. I pulled up a misty memory of the olive-like hue to Laurent's skin, and wondered if the off-white tinge was because Mr. Clearwater was not finished turning or because he was Native American. I looked completely bleached, but I'd started out pale and Caucasian.
By my estimation, Mr. Clearwater was in his late forties or early fifties, but the transformation was rearranging his features and smoothing out his complexion: it took at least a decade off his apparent age, an effect that I hadn't noticed so much with vampires who'd been turned young or at unknown ages. I could actually see him becoming more symmetrical. A time-lapse movie of his face would have shown his nose tilting out of its crookedness, his left eye drifting south to match the right, puckers and lines in his skin fading into flush smoothness with the surrounding skin.
It occurred to me that I didn't remember his first name. He was one of Charlie's friends, and I had to have heard it before, but I'd always referred to him as "Mr. Clearwater" in writing and couldn't conjure up a human memory of learning his full name. Presumably that wouldn't be something he'd forget, though, and he could tell me when he finished turning.
He was surprisingly quiet. I'd screamed more than he had even with my abbreviated consciousness. He didn't talk, either. Just occasionally whimpered.
I could still hear his heart beating, so he wasn't dead and didn't have to die. I waited, not breathing.
As dawn broke on the last day of Mr. Clearwater's turning, I got a series of texts from Rachel: all of the far-flung werewolves except Marilyn's cousin had arrived, and droplets of venom on unbroken skin "hurt a little but didn't injure them and now they're all floofed". She reported that Becky was black, "like Sam - so far I'm the only white one, although Nina's kind of pale yellow".
The twins didn't seem to share the Alpha power. It remained with Rachel. They were considering trying to somehow deliberately split the pack in two so as to make it more manageable. Becky's husband Caleb had been brought into the loop with considerable astonishment, but since I was willing to cover lost wages, his main protests about staying at La Push for a time involved the inferior surfing opportunities, which no one, even Becky, took very seriously. (I did have to confirm that it was fine with me if I had to go on covering his surfing instruction money for a bit longer than expected in case he lost clients.)
Sue Clearwater, Leah and Seth's mother, had been told about her husband's situation and was reacting as though he'd died - that didn't bode well for a later happy reunion.
It occurred to me to wonder whether there was any reason that Mr. Clearwater would, as a vampire, find that his wife was also his supernatural mate. There didn't seem to be any strong reason why he would. It was only charitable to assume that they loved each other, but it would be in an entirely human way - and I knew human things dissolved quickly when the mind was barraged by even a few seconds of ultra-clear vampire sensation. I knew human love could evaporate under lesser pressures than that, and could occur more than once in a lifetime.
Neither of the elder Clearwaters had, so far as I knew, the unusual beauty or witchcraft that seemed to correlate with being turned under the traditional way of things. That meant that if my hypothesis about what created vampire mating bonds was in the right ballpark, it would be extremely unlikely for Mr. Clearwater to be drawn to Mrs. Clearwater the way Edward had been drawn to me.
I was half tempted to say to myself, "But if Sue really loves him, she'll just be glad he's alive!" But according to Rachel, she was acting like he wasn't, as though a heartbeat or being above room temperature were somehow more important than the ability to move around and think and talk. And anyway, even if she'd been willing to consider her vampire husband a living creature, it was all too common that real love wasn't as selfless as the fictional kind.
Even Edward, the sincerity of whose affection I had no cause whatever to doubt, had been driven to what was, on reflection, fairly rash behavior in order to be around my human self. Had Alice simply saved me from Tyler's errant van and then evaporated from my life with her family, then I, untouched by magically enhanced emotion, could have finished high school, gone to college, married some arbitary human when I was at an age more pleasing to my parents - perhaps without even remembering that Edward existed. I might have been happy, in the way that humans could be happy. But Edward had wanted to be with me, could not but panic at the notion that I might do without him. And so he'd braved my singer's blood, swallowing flames with every breath for the privilege of talking to me.
I tried to think about the situation in reverse, and my imagination failed me. I couldn't imagine Edward as a human, wayward and fickle. Couldn't imagine him willing and able to forget about me. In the entire time I'd known him, it was so core to his personality that I was his top priority. I didn't know how to construct a mental image of him with some other motive driving him. He'd been human, once, had spent many years managing reasonably well without my having even been born. But I failed to picture it. And he framed it, when he spoke of those times, as if his life prior to meeting me had just been a drawn-out and unusually elaborate waiting period. Like I was his reason to exist in the first place, and I'd just taken my sweet time getting there.
Somewhere in the world, I expected with sadness, was Mr. Clearwater's reason to exist -
And she probably wasn't Sue.
I could only hope that he'd still love his children the way he should. I had better hopes for this - I hadn't stopped caring about my parents, after all. They weren't as strongly featured in my thoughts anymore, but I didn't think that their reduced centrality in my life needed further explanation beyond my international change of residence, assorted globetrotting, and new marriage.
But it would be clear soon enough what changes beyond the obvious I had wrought. The sun crept higher in the sky.
Mr. Clearwater's heart was beating faster.
I opened all of the windows in the car: his blood had long since dried, and wasn't even as interesting as a live unbleeding human, but it was still better to get fresh air into the enclosed space where he was about to wake up.
I reviewed what Jasper had said on the subject of handling newborns. Don't let them get their arms around you, don't go for the obvious strikes because that's all they expect, let their own momentum wrench off an arm and they'll be distracted enough by pain that you can pin them -
I was a newborn too, and would therefore have some advantage over most wranglers thereof, but having some strategy was rarely amiss.
Mr. Clearwater curled up in the fetal position, moving slowly to clutch at his heart, but only a quiet moan betrayed the enfolding pain in sound. Why wasn't he screaming? Was it because he was old, did he just have a stoic personality, was there some interaction with the werewolf gene -
His eyes flew open, blazing red, and his body unfolded and propelled itself through, not an open window, but through the door itself. He left a ragged hole. The door didn't cling to him, but it was pulled from its frame and clattered to the ground; Mr. Clearwater ran headlong into the woods.
He was, of course, vampire-fast, but he wasn't making good use of his strength to get the most distance out of each stride. I caught up to him and kept pace rather than trying to tackle him and risk provoking him into fighting me. "Mr. Clearwater!" I yelled. "Hey!"
He looked around, grimacing, and then faced forward again and kept running.
"Mr. Clearwater, please stop," I said. "I can help you." He didn't slow down. "There might be humans in the park, if you run into one you could hurt them," I pleaded.
He scrambled up a tree, and I followed. "You can't outrun me," I said. "If you don't hold still -" He flung himself thirty feet to the next branch and I kept chasing him. "Mr. Clearwater! Stop!" Was this normal newborn behavior? Had something gone wrong? A drop of lemonade in the venom, a reaction to the werewolf gene...?
When I heard non-animal-like rustling, I didn't have time to indulge his flight any further. That could be a hiker he might run across and kill. I propelled myself directly at him, knocking him out of the air between trees and to the ground. I used a branch to swing away immediately after impact, not wanting to trigger any instinct he might have to grab me and squeeze. I dropped to the ground beside him.
"Mr. Clearwater," I began one more time, and then he was off again. I had no patience left: I sprang at him, pushing off from the ground with all the power I had, and tackled him. I managed to get my arms around him, and although I had no intention of crushing him to powder, I could hold on more than tightly enough to hold him still. I managed to sort of fold him up, his knees to his chin, so I could prevent him from kicking me or trying to push me over. He wasn't going anywhere. "Mr. Clearwater," I repeated. "Please say something so I know I didn't find a way to turn you while somehow leaving your brain behind."
He stared up at me out of confused vermilion eyes. "...Bella?" he managed. His voice was a smoother, lower version of the one I'd heard chastising Leah.
"That's me. How do you feel? Are you okay?" I asked encouragingly, slightly relaxing my hold as he'd shown a sign of sanity - and then he twisted suddenly, springing his shoulders away from his legs like a backwards bear trap and catapulting himself away. He took off at a run again, in the direction of the rustling. I couldn't smell a human, but we were upwind of the area - I chased him, trying to circle around and drive him the opposite way. "HEY!" I yelled at the top of my lungs, hoping the hiker or whoever it was would hear me, "I saw a bear, if anybody can hear me run, I think it's mad!" Not that it'd help a human much to run from a vampire. I should have driven the rest of the way to the Denali's house as soon as I heard his heart speeding up! I chastised myself. I managed to circle to Mr. Clearwater's left and drive him away from where I'd heard the sound.
It wasn't until I knocked him down again and was struggling to get him into another bear hug without being deprived of a limb that I noticed the rustling was following us.
I felt a hand clap me on the back, not hard enough to hurt but enough to tell me that it was no human hand, and I saw bright sparks running over Mr. Clearwater's skin. He convulsed as if Tasered, breaking my grip but making no further attempt to run. He cringed on the ground and looked up. I risked taking my eyes off him to see who'd joined us.