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A Matter Of Time

Summary:
A TLYDF Recommendation, Nominated for Immortal Cookie Award, Won Best Imprint in the Silent Tear Awards Two weeks and the whole world can change. Caius and Jane led an insurrection against Aro and are making a mad power grab. Renegades from the wolf pack, unhappy with the treaty with the Cullens, are attacking vampires at every opportunity. Jacob and Renesmee are struggling with the paradox of imprinting. Edward, Bella and all the Cullens must come together to protect the world they've come to love. A tale of action, deceit, intrigue and sexual awakening.


Notes:
Stephanie Meyers owns all things Twilight. My thanks to all the wonderful people at PTB who helped with this story.


17. Chapter 17 Mistakes

Rating 4/5   Word Count 3925   Review this Chapter

Leah

Damn! I hung up the phone. Shortsighted, irresponsible idiots!

I’d just gotten off the phone with Solomon Hatch. They were morons, all of them. Didn’t they understand? They wanted to continue working for Colonel Freed and Halcyon. They were working for Caius, is what they were doing. They were puppets, their strings held by vampires. They were doing Caius’ dirty work for him.

Is that really what they wanted? Were they so eager to kill somebody, anybody? That kind of thinking was just wrong and dangerous. I shook my head at my own stupidity. Why had I thought I could expect mature behavior from those hormonal, ignorant, pimply-faced puppies? I should never have gotten them involved. It was like giving guns to babies; you knew somebody was going to get hurt, just who and when was the question.

I threw some clothes in a bag. I wanted- no, I needed to get out of San Francisco for a while. Go someplace different. Someplace green and quiet. Somewhere I could process the experiences of the last few weeks and sort out some things.

I took the Bay Bridge out of the city and let the car take me north. I’d crossed the state line into Oregon before I realized I was heading to La Push. I didn’t know if I was ready to go back, but the urge to talk to my mother became overwhelming. I wanted to sit by her knees and have her stroke my hair like she used to. I’d let her listen to my story and help me make some sense of it.

I’d said some pretty mean things to her before I had left. I’d accused her of smearing my father’s memory by moving in with Charlie. I’d been upset that she hadn’t even married him, just one day she was there. Like she wasn’t entitled to her own life, her own happiness. Some part of me had wanted to see her as the loyal grieving widow forever.

She’d forgive me, though. That I knew. Just like when I was a kid, she’d let me go stomping off to my room when I was pitching a fit about one thing or the other. She knew that if I just had some time, some space, I could usually see reason.

I realized I was looking forward to seeing Seth, my younger brother. Like any younger brother, he could be a royal pain in the ass, but he was also one of the kindest, sweetest people I knew. There was an uncomplicated, easy way about him. Not like me. I was complicated, tangled. I’d been called a bitch on more than one occasion. I’d probably even deserved it. That didn’t mean it didn’t sting.

Going back meant I was probably going to see Sam again. I was just going to have to deal with all my feelings about that situation. Denial and anger had always come to me a lot easier than surrender and acceptance. Maybe, just maybe, I was finally ready to raise the white flag.

I took my time going north. I kept my cell phone off; I didn’t want to talk to anyone who had that number. On a whim, I turned off the highway and went into Newport. There was an aquarium there my family had visited when I was ten or so. As I walked around the exhibits, the memories of our family, especially my father, rattled around in my head. Sometimes I missed him so much, it ached.

I wound up spending the entire day at the aquarium, watching the families there enjoying the sights. All those happy families made my infertility weigh heavily on my soul. I sat there on the bench the whole afternoon, watching the joyful children and the cute babies. It was something I knew I could never have, and I just let the pain drip through my soul. I hoped that by the end of the day, I’d become reconciled to my fate.

I was feeling pretty humbled when I called my mom as I hit Portland, and told her I was on my way. The joy in her voice intensified the guilt I felt about how I’d been neglecting her. It was after dark when I pulled up to Charlie Swan’s house, where Mom was living now. Her silhouette showed in the window as I pulled into the driveway and a moment later she was flying out the door into my arms.

“Leah, Leah,” she said, rocking me in her hug. “I’m so glad you’re home.” She held me in her arms tightly, like she was afraid I’d disappear again. “We’re all so glad you’re here, aren’t we, Charlie?”

Charlie had come up behind her and was watching us, his hands held at his sides awkwardly. “Absolutely,” Charlie said. He stepped forward for a quick kiss on the cheek. “We’ve got a room all done up for you.”

“Thank you, Charlie,” I said, grabbing my bag from the back seat. “I promise I won’t be too much trouble.”

“You won’t be any trouble,” my mom cried, taking my arm as we walked towards the house. “No trouble at all.” She squeezed my arm, her eyes glistening.

Seeing the joy and the love shining on her face made me feel like I was home, though I’d never stayed at Charlie’s before. I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and kissed her hair. “I’ve missed you,” I murmured.

“Oh, I’ve missed you, too,” she replied, her eyes becoming shiny with the tears she held back. She dabbed at her eyes. “Still a sentimental fool, I guess,” she chuckled.

They took me in the house and fed me, sitting at the kitchen table while I ate leftover chicken. I gave them the sanitized version of what I’d been doing the last six months, skipping over the vampire-hunting. I stressed instead what a great place San Francisco was, the great secretarial job at Halcyon and how I was thinking about going back to school. Charlie bought it, I was pretty sure. My mother nodded politely and said all the right things, but she knew me too well.

Once Charlie had wandered out to the living room to settle into the sofa with the TV remote, she looked at me over her glasses and said, “So, what’s the real deal, Leah?”

“I don’t know, Mom,” I answered truthfully. “I guess I’m still trying to figure that out.”

Her perceptive eyes searched my face. “You’ve done something and you don’t feel good about it.”

Bingo. “It’s…complicated.” I grimaced as I rested my face in my hands.

“Life is complicated, Leah. But, figuring out the right thing to do is usually simple.” She reached out for my hand and grasped it in her strong brown fingers.

“Maybe, Mom,” I sighed. I looked at her, letting my tiredness show. “But do we have to figure it all out tonight?”

“No, no,” she assured me, “not tonight. Come on; let me show you to your bedroom.”

The bedroom at the top of the stairs looked out over the front lawn. Thankfully, there was very little vampire odor in the room, though I could tell by the high school pictures and posters that this had once been Bella’s room.

Bella, I thought, frowning as I dropped my bag on the bed. I’d always despised her choices. But I was willing to concede that maybe she had her reasons. They said true love would make you crazy. Well, she certainly had gone off the deep end. Still, I’d seen the way she and Edward looked at each other. There was something there, something rare, and it made me want to believe that there were happy endings out there somewhere.

That night, once the house was quiet, I snuck out the front door. I stashed my clothes in the bushes not far from the house and phased into my wolf form. I took off down the path, letting the cool night air rush past me.

I was thankful for the cool green forest, whipping by me. It whispered with the spattering raindrops. I was alone in my head; nobody else’s thoughts intruded on mine. That suited me just fine, as I tried to run fast enough to leave all thoughts behind me.

There was magic, healing magic, in these wet, deep forests, and I opened my soul to let it seep into me. It wasn’t until I had been gone from them that I realized how much these dark, secret places were a part of my psyche. There was no room for anger or bitterness in these trees. The time I spent in these rich verdant woods centered me, balanced me. I’d been a fool to look anywhere else.

The next morning both Mom and Charlie had to work. I wandered around the house, did a load of laundry, watched some TV. I finally got my nerve up to call Billy Black and ask him how Jacob was.

“He’s going to be fine,” Billy said. “I heard from him yesterday. He got caught in the middle of some vampire fight, but he’s pulling through. Carlisle shipped him down to some tropical island to recuperate. I guess he’s down there, doing the hula.”

I laughed weakly. “A tropical island?”

“He’s down there with that other female Cullen, you know, the big blond one? Apparently, she got hurt quite badly. Renesmee’s down there too, from what I understand.”

“Rosalie got hurt?” I hadn’t seen that. Alaska had been a fiasco all around. I cringed, silently. There would be hell to pay when the elders found out about this.

“Yes, that’s her name. But enough about them. How have you been? Your mom must have been thrilled to see you.”

“Yes, she was. I’ve missed her like crazy. Did Jacob say anything about me?”

“No, he didn’t.” Billy’s voice became curious. “Was there a reason he should?”

“No, no,” I answered quickly. “It’s just, uh, I’ve been thinking about him.” Jacob hadn’t said anything about me? They hadn’t told him I’d been there in Alaska? Or maybe he hadn’t told Billy? What was the reason for that? I was grateful, I still hadn’t figured out how to explain my activities of the last few months to people, but still, how odd.

“Well, nice talking with you, Billy. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.”

“Alright, Leah. We’re having a big bonfire at the beach on Labor Day. You’ll come?”

“I’ll be there.” We said our goodbyes and I hung up.

“Who was that?” said a deep voice behind me, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin.

I spun around. Seth was standing there with a huge grin on his face.

We threw our arms around each other. “Mom told me you were here,” he chuckled.

“Damn it’s good to see you.” And it was. He was beaming at me like a kid at Christmas. I still couldn’t get over how tall he’d gotten.

“How are you, Leah?” His eyes held concern. More than even my mom, he knew what had driven me off the reservation.

“I’m okay, how are things with you?” I got a soda from the fridge and passed one to him.

He popped the top and leaned back against the counter. “I bought a ring for Kelly.” He grinned slyly at me, taking a swig of the soda. Kelly was his girlfriend of the last few years. She was a good girl, I even approved of her.

My eyes widened. “No shit! Congratulations! Have you asked her yet?”

“Not yet. Soon, though.”

“Well, you better ask her soon before she finds out what a jerk you are,” I teased him.

“Geez, thanks.” He rolled his eyes.

We both slid into the chairs at the kitchen table. “I’d heard from Debbie that you were in San Francisco,” he said.

“Yeah, we lived together for a while.”

‘That’s a sweet little Honda you’ve got sitting out in the driveway. What were you doing for work?”

I looked at him, weighing my options on how much to tell him. His clear brown eyes held nothing but affection and love. I needed to tell him everything.

I began with how I got the job at Halcyon. His jaw dropped when I told him about my initial conversation with Colonel Freed. “Jesus,” he whispered. “How did he know?”

I kept on with my story, his face getting grimmer and grimmer as I told him of each ‘mission’. I told him what Mary in Boston had said. “I heard he was picking us off, I never guessed he’d be using werewolves. You tell Caius he can go to hell.”

He began to look nauseous. “There were six of you against one of them? You just flew in like vultures and bam! You killed her?”

I nodded, my face reflecting the bad taste I had in my mouth, which was not unlike his own expression.

Suddenly, his eyes sharpened as he made the connection. “You were in Alaska, weren’t you? You were there when Jacob and the Cullens got hurt?”

I nodded, afraid of the judgment he was going to pass.

“Jesus, Leah!” He spun out of the chair and placed his hands on the counter, his back to me.

“I didn’t know! It’s only when I saw one bunch of vampires attacking others that I realized other vampires were a part of this. It didn’t hit me until then that we were being used in some kind of vampire war.”

He was slowly shaking his head back and forth. “But it was all right for you to be flying around the world on some kind of vigilante justice?”

Now I was annoyed. “Oh, come on, Seth. It’s not like they were innocent.”

He turned and looked me in the eyes. “Yes, they were. That Alaskan family is like the Cullens, they don’t kill people.”

I sat still, looking at him. Oh, it had been a mistake. It had all been a huge mistake.

*****

That night, once again, after Charlie and Mom had gone to bed, I quietly let myself out the front door and headed for the forest that bordered Charlie’s back yard. I stashed my clothes in the bushes and phased immediately. I started down the path, reveling in the rhythmic pull of muscle and sinew as I flew past the trees.

I hadn’t gone far when I felt the air nearby start to shimmer. Someone near me was phasing. Suddenly the air was full of it. Through the trees to my right, I saw a wolf, pacing me as I ran. To the left, there was another wolf.

Hello Leah. The unmistakable timbre of Solomon’s voice rang in my head. Del, Jimmy, and Perry were here as well. There was excitement and a sense of danger in their thoughts.

I thought you were headed to Ireland to do some more of the vampires’ bidding. My voice dripped with sarcasm.

Come on, Leah, Del’s voice said. Don’t be like that.

You’re the one who got us started in this, Jimmy pointed out.

Another mistake on my part. Could I just rewrite my life from the beginning, please? Well, let me be the one who tells you when it should end. As of right now.

Solomon’s voice again. It’s not that easy, Leah.

I slowed to a stop and sat back on my haunches. Gradually, the rest of them appeared in a loose semicircle around me. It’s not? Let me tell you some things. Those vampires in Alaska? The ones we helped kill? They were like the Cullens. They don’t murder people. We’re the murderers here. I could tell my words made an impact on Jimmy and Perry.

Solomon could have cared less. They were vampires. In his eyes, that was condemnation enough.

Going to be the judge, jury and executioner all in one, Solomon?

We’re doing what needs to be done. The hackles on the back of his neck were rising.

I rose off my haunches. There’s a difference between protecting the tribe and being a vigilante.

At least, we’re doing something!

Doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing!

The lips on his snout raised and a growl started deep in his throat. You will come with us.

I stared at him in shock. His voice had taken on the double timbre of an Alpha. How had that happened? I looked at the pack arrayed behind him. They were all looking to him. The pack must have an Alpha and my desertion had left them without one. In my absence apparently, the pack had chosen him.

I wouldn’t follow him and I’d lost the stomach to fight him. But could he demand my obedience? Already, I could feel the pull his command had on me. There was a part of me that longed for the safety and comfort of a pack. But I’d be damned if I joined his pack. I whirled around and started running. Alphas could command the obedience of any wolf in their pack. But I hadn’t accepted him as my Alpha yet.

Leah! Solomon’s voice in my head rang like a bell. Until I accepted him, until I bared my throat to him, I still had a choice.

The rest of the pack started after me. I was fast, but was I fast enough? The only way to get away from them for sure would be to phase back to human form. I wasn’t going to do that out here in the middle of the woods. I’d have to circle back to Charlie’s. I tried to keep plans of escape from my mind and concentrated on the sheer physical necessity for speed.

Jimmy and Solomon would be the fastest. Not far behind me, I could hear the panting and footfalls of several wolves. I could hear their thoughts as they raced after me. They felt they had to catch me. They were afraid I’d be breaking up their good thing with Halcyon by refusing to participate in any more of their missions.

I ran like I’ve never run before. The trees flashed by me like the slats on a picket fence, blurring together. My feet barely touched the ground. I felt like I had become the embodiment of speed, nothing existed but the rushing by of the forest. Gradually, I started pulling to the left. I couldn’t hear the others’ thoughts now. Perhaps they had given up.

My circle started coming around and I was nearing Charlie’s neighborhood. Suddenly, I felt phasing all around me. Damn! They’d surrounded me while out of phase and now were resuming wolf form. I felt the circle tighten. I pressed through the bushes and Solomon and Del sprang in front of me. I tried to veer past them but Solomon caught me and bowled me over to the ground. His muzzle closed around my leg before I twisted around and snapped at his eyes and nose. Del caught me on the shoulder and ripped away a mouthful of fur. We snarled and growled viciously at each other.

Jimmy and Perry growled as they approached me from the sides. Jimmy was the weakest, so I attacked him snarling ferociously, and with a snap at him, made a break out of their circle. I raced through the few remaining yards of forest and into Charlie’s yard. I phased as I ran, and made the last few steps to the porch on two feet. I tripped up the porch stairs and landed with a hard and painful thud on the top steps.

The porch light came on and the door to the house opened. Charlie stood there. “What in sam hell is going on out here?” He saw me sprawled on the porch, breathing heavily, naked and bleeding. “Leah!” he cried in shock.

He opened the screen door and came to kneel by me. “Leah, what happened? Where are you hurt?”

I heard steps on the lawn and still sprawled on the porch, looked behind me. The four wolves had phased to human and slowly their forms materialized out of the darkness. The porch light barely illuminated their menacing faces. Charlie took a look at me and then at the four of them. He straightened up over my naked body and said in a stern voice, “Somebody better tell me what’s going on out here.”

Solomon stepped forward, his arms crossed over his bare chest, a simple pair of sweat pants covering him. “Stay out of this, Charlie. It’s none of your business.”

Charlie stepped down off the porch and approached him. “I think it most certainly is my business.”

Solomon took a step closer. He towered over Charlie. “This is Quileute business. Get back in the house, old man. She’s the one we’re after.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” Charlie scoffed. “You can get the hell off my—“

Solomon pushed him in the chest and Charlie fell backward onto the ground. He huffed loudly as he hit the ground hard. Del stepped up and gave him a sharp kick to the back. The loud thump as flesh hit flesh made me cringe. Perry sprang forward and took a shot at Charlie’s face with his fist. Charlie’s head shot back like a rag doll. Perry grabbed the front of Charlie’s shirt and was cocking his fist for another blow, when a loud explosive sound stopped them all.

The sudden silence that followed was broken by the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked. Sue stood on the front porch, a rifle raised to her shoulder. The gun was still smoking from the warning shot she’d fired over their heads.

Perry let go of Charlie’s shirt and Charlie slumped to the ground.

“You boys better get the hell out of here,” Sue demanded, the rifle holding steady in her hands.

The four of them looked at her, calculating the odds of finishing what they’d come for.

Sue saw their hesitation. “I may not be able to kill you,” she said as she pointed the gun very obviously at their crotch level, “but by God, I’ll make it hurt like hell.”

They took a step back. The crickets seemed insanely loud in the tense silence.

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” a voice came out of the night. Sam Uley took shape out of the darkness. He was followed by a phalanx of others. I recognized Jared, Quil and Paul, there were more behind them. They formed a loose semicircle around Solomon and the others.

Sue pulled the gun off her shoulder. “I’d be grateful, Sam, if you’d get this trash off my lawn.”

Sam stepped next to Solomon. “I think it’s best if you leave now,” Sam muttered to Solomon, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Solomon’s face was a study of conflicting emotions. Rebellion, fear, anger all crossed his face in quick progression. Finally, defeat took hold. With a glance of murderous hatred at me, he finally turned.

The two groups melted into the night quietly. In seconds, only Charlie was left in a heap on the lawn.

Sue ripped off her bathrobe, her pale nightgown fluttering in the breeze. She threw it over my shoulders. “Can you stand?”

I pulled the robe around my shoulders as I struggled to get my feet under me. “I think so.”

She grabbed my elbow and helped me. “Get in the house and call 911.”

I nodded and turned as she flew down the steps to Charlie.