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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.


19. Chapter 19 Something Given Something Taken

Rating 3.5/5   Word Count 4407   Review this Chapter

Leah

It was after eight in the morning when Sue finally came home. She threw her purse on the kitchen table, weariness showing in her face and her shoulders. Pouring herself a cup of coffee, she turned to where I stood watching her.

“How’s Charlie?” I asked..

“Well, they’ve taped a cracked rib. They’re holding him for a day or so, in case there’s kidney damage. He’s got a black eye like nobody’s business.”

I felt nauseous with guilt. “Mom, I am so sorry—“

She held her hand up. “Leah, I am in no mood to listen to you right now. You’re going to make this right, child, one way or the other.”

“Of course,” I said. “I just want to know how.”

She looked at me over her glasses, and then turned away. “We’ll be going to see the council at one o’clock.

“The council?” Could there be anything worse than facing that group of old men and letting them judge me?

She picked up the newspaper lying on the table and headed out of the kitchen. “You be ready at twelve thirty.”

I spent the next few hours vacillating between self-righteousness and guilt. My thoughts ran between ‘I was just doing what the whole pack should be doing’ to ‘I was used unknowingly’ and ‘If I hadn’t been such a stupid shit, Charlie wouldn’t be hurt.’

Seth showed up shortly before we were to leave and the three of us climbed in my mother’s Ford. The ride to the council was quiet. I spent it in the back seat looking out the window, wondering how this was all going to play out.

We climbed the steps to the council house. Quil and Paul were on the porch, their faces hard, watching as we walked past. Sue nodded to them, but there was no return greeting. We continued down the polished hallway, the walls littered with community announcements and committee news.

We turned into the main conference room. The chairs had been set up in a semi-circle with one set in the center. Sue, Seth and I took the chairs along the wall, under the giant stylized eagle on the wall. Gradually the council members trickled in. Sam took the seat at the head of the semicircle with Paul next to him. Neither of them looked at me as they took their seats. Quil came in with his grandfather, Old Quil, who was frailer than I remembered. He smiled at me as he sat down, and I was so grateful for this small sign of acknowledgement.

Billy Black wheeled in, and his eyes were black daggers. I swallowed the sudden lump that appeared in my throat. I heard Embry laughing as he came down the hall with Collin and Brady, but as they entered the hushed room, they ducked their heads and quieted.

At last, the seats were filled and Sam called the meeting to order. “We’re here today because of the actions of a select few. As protectors of the tribe, we have been trusted with the power of the tribe. This power has come down through our fathers and their fathers before them and their fathers before them. It is a great power to be used for the good of the tribe. However, it seems this power, and the trust it entails, has been abused. As most of you know, Carlisle Cullen called me and yesterday we met at Quillayute River. It was hard to hear what he told me. Hard.”

He pursed his lips briefly, and then looked at me. “Leah, we need to hear your story.” Sam indicated the chair in the center of the floor.

Well, this was my cue. Suddenly, I found my backbone. Damn it, I wasn’t going to be intimidated by this bunch of old ladies. I held my head up and walked to the chair Sam had indicated.

“What do you want to know?” I asked, my chin raised defiantly.

“Start at the beginning,” Old Quil suggested hoarsely.

I thought for a moment. “I’d been living in San Francisco for several months when I was given a business card that had the name of Colonel Freed on it. It said he was a security officer at Halcyon Corporation. After a very brief interview, I was hired to do secretarial work, or so I thought.”

I told them everything. Seth brought me a glass of water at one point, but they let me speak uninterrupted. The only pause had been when I was telling them about finding Jacob at the bottom of the gorge and the unwillingness of the pack to help him. Billy hissed sharply between his teeth and wheeled himself out of the room. I sat, stunned, until Sam prompted me to keep going.

Some time later, I was finishing up with the events of the previous night. “They chased me back to the house. Charlie came out to defend me and that’s when they hit him. Then Sam and the rest showed up.”

I put my hands in my lap. I was drained. There was a moment of silence while Sam silently surveyed the remaining council members. “Thank you, Leah. We’d like you to have a seat outside.”

My wounded leg throbbed in complaint as I moved stiffly from the inactivity. I took the bench in the hallway, as the door thudded closed behind me. I sighed, letting my head fall back. It was out of my hands now. I felt lighter than I had in a long time though.

Ten minutes later, Seth came out the door. “They’re going to be a while. Why don’t you come back in an hour or so?”

I didn’t know if that was good news or bad news. “Alright,” I said slowly. Seth turned and went back inside.

Peggy Foster, the tribe’s Treasurer, passed me, clutching a sheaf of papers. Her look of disapproval was enough to chase me from the council house. I wandered into the woods surrounding it. I walked far enough into the woods that I was certain I wouldn’t be seen, and then undressed.

I phased and it felt good to start running along the pathways of the forest. Just running. Trying again not to think, just running. The cadence of my footfalls was like the beat of the drums at the tribal gatherings. Feeling the muscles and sinew pull, listening to the rhythm of my breathing while the woods around me whispered their secret song. I felt the tug of the land pull at me, like strings attached to my heart. These cool dark woods were my home; they would always be. The rocky, hard beaches and the hidden icy streams were a part of me. Humbled, I bowed my head with gratitude and love for my home.

I felt the far off shimmer of a phasing, and Sam’s voice was in my head. Please return to the council.

Of course, I responded. Then he was gone before I could catch the tenor of his thoughts.

I turned and headed back to the council house. They were standing and talking in groups as I entered the room. Seth came up to me. “They are still debating what they are going to do. They want you and me to go with them.”

“Where are we going?” I asked, surprised.

“To see Joseph Longbear.”

“Joseph Longbear? Is he still alive?”

“Apparently so. He lives with his great niece in Bogachiel.”

Joseph Longbear? He had to be over a hundred years old. I thought he was one of the original treaty-makers with the Cullens. I’d never met him, but he figured in some of the tales that Old Quil told.

Sam drove, with Old Quil up front. I sat in the back seat sandwiched uncomfortably between Seth and Paul.

Thankfully, the house was just twenty minutes away and we pulled up to a well-maintained Victorian, with a riotous flower garden out front.

Sam knocked and an older woman in her fifties met us at the door. Plump and grandmotherly looking, she greeted Old Quil with a kiss and the rest of us warmly. She told us to call her Esther and led us to the back of the house where a sunroom overlooked a huge vegetable garden. “He’s been waiting for you,” she said to Old Quil. “He’s been having a good day today.”

There, in a well-worn wing chair sat Joseph Longbear, his sparse white hair in a braid down his back. His skin was covered with crisscrossed lines, like someone had repeatedly crumbled and straightened a piece a paper. He sat frail and hunched in the chair, a flannel shirt buttoned all the way up to his neck and a crocheted afghan on his lap despite the heat. The fingers of his large hands were knotted with arthritis.

His eyes, though, were like glowing embers in his dark, wise face, the kind of face that smiles more than it frowns. He had an air of patience and serenity around him, like someone who spent a lot of time watching and thinking. He greeted Old Quil in Quileute and the two of them shook hands warmly.

I was never proficient in Quileute. There were probably less than a dozen fluent speakers of it left in the tribe. They taught it in the reservation school, but I was only catching one word in ten as Old Quil and Joseph chatted.

Old Quil was apparently making introductions, first gesturing at Sam, Paul and Seth. They each nodded in turn, and Joseph assessed each one with his bright, knowing eyes. Old Quil came to me, and Joseph smiled broadly at me before making a remark and a gesture that would have come off as rude from anyone else. I looked at him in surprise. Of course, the Quileute I best remembered were the swear words the kids taught each other, and if I wasn’t mistaken, he’d just said something about screwing me. Why, that dirty old man. Old Quil and he broke into laughter at my expression, both of them wheezing with amusement.

We took seats on the sofa and chairs in the room, with Old Quil next to Joseph and the three others on the sofa. Sam, Seth and Paul sat in exactly the same position, perched forward, their hands clasped loosely. Joseph motioned toward me and made a long speech to Old Quil. His voice wavered a bit as he spoke.

“He recognizes you as a wolf maiden,” Old Quil said. “He says he has seen only one other before you, and that was when he was very young.”

A wolf maiden? He must mean that he knew I was one of the pack. I had always thought I was the first female. How interesting to find out there had been another before me.

Sam asked him a question in halting Quileute, and Joseph answered in his quavering and hoarse voice. The three of them were well into a conversation when Esther came into the room to ask if we’d like some lemonade.

There was general agreement to that idea. Esther asked if I’d help her, so I followed her into the bright inviting kitchen with a large center island.

“There’s a tray in the cabinet over the sink,” she pointed out as she opened the refrigerator. “Would you get it please?”

I set it on the island counter as Esther brought over a large pitcher with condensation dripping down the sides.

“Thank you, dear.” She turned to the cabinets filled with glassware.

I turned the tray in my hands. “How old is Joseph?”

“He’ll be a hundred and three this July.” Her pride in him showed in her voice. She started pouring the lemonade.

“Do you know about…?” I was dying to ask her if she knew about the werewolf pack but didn’t know how to phrase it. How do you ask a stranger if they believe in the supernatural?

I needn’t have worried though. “The whole shape shifter thing?” she asked. I nodded. She set the pitcher down on the counter. “I know. My husband and kids think it’s all myths and legends. We know differently, don’t we, Leah?”

I was dying to know about this other female that Joseph had mentioned. “Did Joseph ever talk to you about a female werewolf?”

She smiled at me kindly. “Yes, I imagine you would want to know about her.” She picked up the pitcher and resumed pouring. “Uncle Joe did tell me the story once or twice. Kwaiya Wisatsu’upat was her name. Means Woman of the Water.

“She was a shape shifter and a fierce warrior. She was alone when she came upon a Cold One in the winter as it bent over a child. After a violent battle, she killed and burned the Cold One. Later, she fell in love, and in order to have the children of her beloved, she left the pack. You know, once you renounce the pack, you cannot return. The Cold One’s mate came, and in vengeance, killed Kwaiya’s husband and child. Kwaiya could not protect them in human form.”

I was fascinated. “What did she do?”

“She left La Push in the middle of the winter without a coat or shoes. Her tracks ended at First Beach. The legend says her spirit inhabited an orca and she swims Puget Sound, mourning.”

“She renounced the pack? And then had a child?”

“That’s right.” She picked up the tray of frosty glasses. “Would you grab the pitcher?”

We went back out to the sunroom, where Old Quil was speaking to Joseph. Sam was following the conversation intently and said nothing as Esther handed him a glass which he put down on the table in front of him. Seth and Paul took their glasses with murmured thanks.

The lemonade was delicious. I turned to Esther to tell her so, but she had already left the room.

Old Quil finished speaking and sat back in his chair. Joseph sat quietly, thinking. The rest of us sipped our lemonade and waited. Joseph spoke and the tremors I had noted in his voice before were gone. He spoke softly but with authority.

Old Quil translated. “It is a great power to be a shape shifter. You can either accept the power or walk away.”

There was another pause as Joseph spoke. Old Quil said, “If you accept it, it carries with it great responsibility. Responsibility to the tribe.”

Joseph looked at me as he spoke next. Old Quil continued. “The power is not used for the gain of one person over another. It comes from the land, and like the land, must be treated with reverence.”

I felt my face flush and I dropped my eyes. Suddenly, I was burning with shame.

Sam asked Joseph a question in Quileute and the three of them were off into a deep conversation again. Every now and then Old Quil would interpret a word or a phrase for Sam that he couldn’t catch in Quileute.

A few more minutes and then it became obvious the conversation was winding down. Sam stood up and the rest of us followed. From his seat, Joseph had one more comment for Old Quil, smiling at me while he talked.

“Joseph says that next time you are looking for a good time, you know where to find him.”

From what I could understand, the comment had been a bit smuttier than that. “Please tell him thank you, and I will remember.”

Old Quil translated back to Joseph and the two of them were wheezing with laughter again.

The ride back to the council house was quiet again. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story Esther had told me. Later she fell in love, and in order to have the children of her beloved, she left the pack. You know, once you renounce the pack, you cannot return.

Was the barrenness I experienced just a temporary thing? If I gave up shape shifting, would I be able to have a family? Suddenly, doors I had long considered locked were being thrown open for me. An unexpected flood of options was spreading out before me. Somehow, the unforeseen possibilities scared me more than the path I thought I was trapped in ever had.

We arrived back at the council house. Sam turned to me and said, “I need to speak with the other council members. It will be a few more minutes. Seth, you can stay with your sister.” The two of us wandered over to lean against my mother’s car.

A few minutes later, Paul came down the front steps of the council house. “There will be a meeting tonight at Hacheecha Thlopuh.” This was a clearing not far from a waterfall on the Quillayute River. “Be there when the moon rises.” He looked at his watch. “That will be around nine tonight.”

“Alright,” I agreed.

“Seth, you can escort your sister, but then you’ll be running watch tonight.”

Seth nodded his assent, and Paul turned away.

“You okay?” Seth asked me.

It was the waiting around that was killing me. “I just want to get it over with, whatever’s going to happen.”

The hours passed slowly, but at last, it was time for Seth and I to start out for the clearing where the meeting would be held. We were both dressed in minimal clothing since we would phase and run there as wolves. Once in the forest, we separated to phase.

Seth, you there? I was done stripping and phasing. Seth?

I couldn’t hear him. But then he pushed through the bushes in front of me, his ears laid back along his furry head. Something deep inside of me broke, and I felt a hole in my chest. My brother and I were no longer in the same pack. I couldn’t hear him.

He whimpered and bumped me with his nose. Together we wheeled and started the run towards the meeting place. I couldn’t hear anybody else. No, wait, I had heard Sam earlier. I guessed that without a pack I could only hear other Alphas, and apparently only when they specifically addressed me.. I was okay with that. My thoughts were scrambled enough on their own without having to pick through somebody else’s.

I heard Solomon and my stomach dropped. Is that you, Leah?

Solomon, where are you?

We’re on the south side of Lonesome Creek. Do you know what this meeting’s about?

That’s fairly obvious, isn’t it?

Collin told me they wanted to hear about what we had been doing. Killing the vampires. I think they are finally willing to listen to reason.

I didn’t have to speak for him to hear the skepticism in my thoughts.

You are such a patsy, Leah. Not everyone is as squeamish as you. There’s a reason I’m an Alpha, I should have been one all along.

Solomon, the depth of your ignorance astounds me.

We’ll see.

The new moon had just risen above the horizon and was casting its pale silver light on the large field in front of us. On the north side, I could see several human figures standing together, talking in low voices. The deep woods at the edges of the field were an inky black, but as I watched, several more figures stepped into view.

Seth nudged me with his nose and I looked back at him. I licked his muzzle and the two of us touched noses. Then he turned and sped away.

I changed into the clothes I had brought and stepped out into the field. I walked barefoot across the grass, the damp stalks tickling my ankles. So far, I counted nine Quileutes, including Sam. Only those in the wolf pack, the protectors, were here.

From the south side of the field, Solomon and his pack emerged from the darkness. I noted Evan was missing. As we all walked towards the center, more figures emerged from the sides of the field. There were twenty-five of us together, all of us in human form and almost all of the werewolves, with just four missing, including Seth, Jacob and Evan.

We met at the center of the field. The weak moonlight glinted off the chests and shoulders of the powerful men surrounding me, their faces left dark and shadowed. The whole scene was monochrome in shades of grey and black, the night having washed all color from the scene.

Sam stood in the front of the loose circle that had formed around me, Solomon and the others. “It’s only the protectors of the tribe here,” he said to the circle. “This is a pack matter.”

“Your pack, maybe,” Solomon sneered. “I’ve come to tell you there is a different path you should take. One that my pack and I are walking and with great success.” He put his hands on his hips and looked around the circle. “We are making a difference in the war with the Cold Ones. We find them and destroy them. We don’t wait for them to wander into our territory and take victims from under our noses.”

I was incensed with his idiocy. “You do it by helping other vampires. You serve as pawns for the worst killer of them all.”

“We’re reducing the ranks of murderers! Isn’t a temporary alliance worth it if we can save people’s lives?”

Sam spoke calmly. “What people, Solomon? There are no Quileutes in Atlanta or Boston or in Alaska. There had been one, but you turned your back on him.”

“You mean Jacob?” Solomon scoffed. “That Cullen ass-kisser? He’s not a Quileute”

“He’s more of a Quileute than you’ll ever be!” I shouted.

“And Charlie Swan?” Sam asked. “You were protecting him?” He raised an eyebrow, sarcasm touching his voice.

“He was interfering where he shouldn’t have been.” Solomon retorted.

“It was his land you were on,” Sam pointed out. “We are not the world’s saviors. The power we are given is from the tribe and for the tribe. You disrespect it when you use it for vigilante justice or for your own gain.”

“Is this drivel what you brought me to hear?” Solomon scowled at Sam. “We are killing vampires— that is what the power is for!”

“No,” said Sam. “It is not for killing; it is for protecting, and there is a world of difference.”

“Surely not everyone here is a coward. Who will join me and leave these sheep dressed in wolves’ clothing?” Solomon glared around the circle.

The silence stretched, broken only by the hoot of an owl in the distance. Standing by Sam, Paul turned and faced outward from the circle, leaving him with his back to us. Quil and Embry were next to turn. Gradually, in twos and threes, the rest of the circle turned so their backs were to us. Only Sam remained facing Solomon, Jimmy, Perry, Del and I in the middle of the circle.

Sam regarded me and said, “You are less culpable than them, Leah. The choice is yours. Do you want to stand in judgment or do you wish to rejoin us?”

I looked at Solomon whose face was lined with disgust. Jimmy, Perry and Del were wide-eyed with uncertainty. The knowledge that it was I who had led them into this weighed on my heart. Even if I had tried to stop them later, it had been me who brought them into Halcyon. Surely, some of the deaths we had dealt could be laid at my feet.

“No,” I told Sam. “It’s right that I’m here.”

Sam nodded and then turned his back to us as well. The night seemed suddenly static and tense. In the silence, the owl hooted three times.

Solomon threw back his head with a forced laugh. “This is it? We’re ignored by you? Come on, guys, let’s leave these rabbits to themselves.” He pushed his way between the backs of those standing on the south side of the circle as the others followed. He turned and looked back at me through the path he had made. “You coming, Leah?”

“Not a chance, dunce.”

He shrugged. “Hey, it’s your funeral.” Followed by his pack mates, they strode back to the line of trees. I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before the Forks Police Department began asking them questions about the assault on Charlie.

Gradually, the rest of the circle started to break up, as Sam’s pack headed for the trees as well. There was no discussion among them, and they faded into the forest like ghosts. In the space of seconds, I found myself alone, hugging my arms to my chest in the moonlight, wondering what had happened.

I heard Seth’s howl in the distance. It was a long, drawn out cry, and he sounded heartbroken. I turned for the trees and found a secluded spot there. I wrapped my clothes around my ankle and tried to phase.

Nothing happened. I pulled the heat into me and tried to start the shimmering that signaled a phase. Nothing. A third time I tried, but there was none of the tingling that preceded a change. This was it, then; the judgment of the tribe. The magic had been taken back and left me just a woman.

This had been the significance of the circle. I heard yelling in the forest and assumed that Solomon and the others were experiencing the same lack of power.

I pulled my clothes back on and began the trek back to Charlie’s house. As I walked, I could hear an escort of wolves pacing me. I was grateful for their protection, but even more grateful that they kept their distance. I was not entirely successful in keeping my tears at bay. Some part of me that I hadn’t even paid attention to had been torn out of me, and I felt its loss like a missing limb. To never again run with the pack, to dance on four legs along the paths of the forests, or to bay joyfully at the moon in chorus was a huge loss, and grief swallowed me up.

The way home took much longer in human form and it was past midnight before I saw the lights of the house.

I let myself in the dark house and headed upstairs to the shower. There I was greeted by a sight I had not seen in over seven years. I was menstruating.