facing tempests of dust, i'll fight until the end
creatures of my dreams, raise up and dance with me
Two Saturdays later, everything Jacob has been waiting for seems to happen all at once.
He feels like his mind completely whites out for a second when, after weeks and weeks of anticipation, he finally catches the redhead's putrid scent. The fresh trace she has left over the northern perimeter line is barely fifteen minutes old, the stench vulgar enough that it threatens to choke him. It's almost as if she's purposefully announced her arrival, as if she wants them to know she is here.
His shock is contagious. Embry and Quil freeze at his heels, dread and excitement rising up like storm-tossed waves in their stomachs, higher and higher until it feels like it's in their throats and they're going to drown under the force of it.
Embry recovers quickly; Quil takes a second longer. But Jacob is quicker. He is already moving, already welcoming the flames that have sparked to life from smouldering embers and now rage like an unchecked, brutal, savage living thing inside of him. The fire spreads from the pits of his stomach, to his paws, his tail, until he burns with a type of wantonness that fuels his inherited power to bring down forests, towns, cities. Vampires.
Embry and Quil sound the alarm from behind him. Their call is spine-chilling even in this form, with these ears, but it's the responding tinkle of laughter that jerks them into action. Taunting, daring them to give chase.
She's close. Closer than they thought.
Their legs move in perfect rhythm with Jacob's as they fall into the hunt, just as eager and just as focused. Nobody — nobody — moves as seamlessly as they three do together. They were best friends and brothers long before they ever became pack, and their execution is flawless.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the relief Jacob feels knowing that they are drawing the danger miles away from the reservation is not entirely his own. Relief that his girl is exactly that — safe, sound, whole — and far out of harm's reach. Embry and Quil feel it, too, and they get caught up in his pictures of Leah as they run, drawn to think of her as Jacob always does. They think of her safe in his house and in his bed (just as she always is on the weekends now, because there are no keen ears to hear them there, and because she likes his bed as much as he likes hers). They picture her either sleeping or reading one of her hefty school textbooks, cramming as much information into her brain about Biology or English or Algebra as she possibly can before her finals in six weeks. Safe. Sound. Whole.
They are almost to the treaty line when three other consciousnesses spark in their minds.
Now they are six together. The redhead doesn't stand a chance.
Wait, says Sam.
But it's not a command, not really; there's no weight to it, and Embry and Quil don't so much as falter in their sprint behind Jacob. As long as he moves, as long as Sam allows it, they will too. And if Sam drops the order — well, Jacob will carry on without them. They will understand.
She's right there, Jacob replies, insistent. He can't see the redhead, exactly, but he is so close. Close enough that he can hear the whisper of wind as she runs from them, can taste rotten fruit and bleach and death on his tongue and could be fooled into thinking that he's sunk his teeth into her already. I can hear her.
Sam huffs with exertion from five and a half miles away. Slow down.
There's no chance of that, Jacob thinks to himself, and his sentiment is silently echoed by the two wolves on his flanks. If anything, Embry actually kicks it up a notch and puts on a burst of speed.
Whilst Jacob is the strongest of them, of the whole pack, it's Embry who is the fastest. It makes the pair of them evenly matched when running. What Jacob lacks in speed, he makes up with muscle and the ability to push himself the hardest.
Wait. Wait! Paul is on Sam's left flank, suddenly on red alert. There is something else, a sense of urgency unrelated to the redhead that only he can detect. Can you smell that?
They all have their own talents, their own advantages over the other. So although Jacob has his strength, and Embry has his speed, there are times that Jared sees something, or Seth hears something, or Paul catches a scent the rest of the pack cannot.
Those are times when everyone else listens. And they listen up good.
What is it?
They all keep their pace, but their attention is diverted as they all turn their noses eastward in sync even though they are miles apart, towards where Paul is already veering off-course. He's like a moth to a flame, and Sam has bark a wordless command to yank him back into formation.
It takes an agonising second for Paul to recover and shake himself. And then, he says, More. Treaty line.
Cullens? Jared asks. He is their best strategist, long used to being Sam's faithful Second before Jacob joined the pack. How many?
Too many, Paul growls. From that stench, I'd bet all of them.
Before Paul finishes his sentence, Sam has drawn on every shred of authority he has and suddenly he is howling for miles to hear — for reinforcement. For Seth, Collin, and Brady.
Jacob feels a wisp of phantom pain at the Alpha's directive, at the summon to arms, and all he can think is that Leah is going to go absolutely ballistic when she finds out the kids have been dragged into this. And yet . . . he can't find it within himself to disagree with the order — because if the Cullens are all out in full force, then the pack are duty-bound to respond in kind.
You think they're moving? Sam asks then.
Paul turns his nose to the treaty line again, except this time he wills himself to remain in formation and not give himself over to his wolf entirely. No — it smells like . . . like a cluster. Like they're waiting. I think — yeah, they're waiting for something.
Three guesses for what.
They know we're here.
Not us — her.
Those mother . . . Jake, you were right — they're using us as fucking bait!
Jacob can't even be smug about it. He had told them all about what Bella had told him during her spring break, about the bloodsuckers and their extra 'abilities': the mind-reading, the emotional manipulation, and then about that little psychic . . . Of course the leeches would be using their own strengths, too.
They know every move the redhead is going to make.
Knew she was going to try and get through us tonight, too.
Bit of warning would've been nice.
Kind of defeats the whole idea of us being bait, Quil.
Shit. You think they're listening in on us?
God, Jacob hopes that's true. He has a few choice things he'd love for that bastard to hear right now.
He steers closer towards the treaty line, and Quil and Embry follow on instinct. Sam is only two miles out now; they can hear the beat of each other's footfalls. With any luck, they'll be able to converge on one another and ambush the redhead — that is, if Jacob can herd her that far. There is no rhyme or reason to how she moves. None at all. It's almost like she has no idea where she is going.
Then Jacob hears the bells of laughter again, even closer this time. He swears he even sees a flash of her hair, of white granite reflected against the moon.
No. This bitch knows exactly what she's doing. She is goading them.
Stay on her, Sam commands, just as Seth, Collin and Brady fall in, almost all exactly at the same time. Sam doesn't even allow them a second to shake off the last shivers of their phase and shake out their fur before he is ordering them into some semblance of organisation.
Their number of nine is evenly divided now. And although Seth is ecstatic to have been given the point position between Collin and Brady, his blood is singing with the thrill of a chase he has never participated in before. He feels the same bewildering mix of dread and excitement that Jacob feels. That they all feel.
Except Seth feels fear, too, and he's unable to mask it in time before a flash of a memory surfaces, unbidden, and they all hear his sister arguing with him. Hear her words.
('It is not a game out there, Seth.' Something ferocious glimmers in her eyes, and he thinks it might be the angriest he has ever seen her in his whole entire life — and that's saying something, because Leah is angry a lot. 'It is dangerous. You are fourteen-years-old.')
Jacob has to stop himself from getting sucked into the memory before they're all seeing this from his perspective, too, before he and Seth start going round and round in circles all night and—
Jacob breathes a sigh of relief. Everyone is so close now that he can hear their breath over the sound of the nearby stream, one of the boundaries that separates the two territories. And the redheaded leech is—
The wolves move.
No words are exchanged between them, only shared vehement emotion, feeling, and the pack's wild anger and unwavering resolve has them charging through the trees and closing in as one.
The redhead comes to a skidding halt as she realises she is trapped. She whirls around, but there is no panic on her face and Jacob wouldn't be surprised if she meant for this to happen. If she meant for all of them to see her lips curve upwards into a cold-blooded smirk, calculating, confident, just so she is able to drive the point home: she is in control.
Victoria leaps into the air before nine sets of teeth can tear into her, soaring into the trees and over the stream, and before the wolves can blink she has landed noiselessly . . .
. . . on the wrong side of the treaty line.
A single shout from the Cullens' direction drives the rest of the bloodsuckers into action, and the wolves follow as closely as the treaty allows.
They were waiting for that.
She's their problem now.
Don't lose them. She might take her chances and go back to Forks.
She's going to— Jared starts to think, but before he can finish the thought the redhead jumps back over the boundary line and twirls in their line of vision just as he expected her to.
One of the Cullens bellows a curse, but Jacob doesn't look to see which. If they are all here, where is Bella? They wouldn't have left her unprotected, surely. Unless their psychic doesn't expect the redhead to hightail it back to Forks, not with seven bloodsuckers and nine wolves downwind. It's a risky move, for all of them to be in the same place chasing one person. What if the redheaded has friends?
Victoria keeps up her cat-and-mouse game, leaping back and forth for minutes at a time. She is always, always just a second ahead of them, always that tiny bit out of reach like there is something else guiding her. Instinct or a preternatural sense, a power, that has her evading capture.
This is fucking ridiculous, Paul snarls. There are nine of us and we can't catch one stinking leech—
You don't think she can read our minds too, do you? Because that would really—
If we could be on both sides, we could get her. Trap her. There's not enough room to move here—
Jake, Sam starts, but Jacob already knows what the Alpha is about to say.
The plan crystallises in their minds: Sam pictures Jacob and Embry going farther, pushing onwards and disappearing just before the river curves into Cullen territory completely before they risk losing the chase entirely. If they can use the advantage their fastest wolves are able to provide, even to just make her hesitate for a fraction of a second . . .
On it, he replies. Embry.
On your six.
No, take point.
Go farther south and wait there. Spread out along the line, Sam commands. All of you. I don't think she's coming back over, but we're not taking chances this time.
The pack separates, dividing back into their threes for the ambush; Quil catches up to Jacob and Embry after a few minutes and completes their formation, whilst their brothers take their posts in similar fashion, and they wait.
Frustration boils over. The redhead and the Cullens are completely obscured within the forest on their side of the line, and Jacob and his brothers strain their ears to listen to the chase they cannot join, pacing back and forth until they feel like they can't take the suspense anymore.
They're absolutely useless here. They have no idea what's going on. They're more or less sitting ducks.
Several agonising minutes later, Seth's ears twitch from half a mile down the line, between where Jacob leads from one end and Sam the other.
It sounds like . . . Seth sucks in a sharp breath through his maw as realisation dawns, and Collin and Brady paw nervously at the ground by his side. They've doubled back.
I can't hear anything.
I'm going insane! Sam, come on, if we could just cross . . .
Shut up. We're not going to be the first to break the treaty — not tonight. Not ever. Seth, are you able to—
Then Seth releases a string of violent curses that Leah would surely backhand him for. Personally, Jacob's pretty proud of the kid, but he also knows it's the pack who are entirely to blame for his new learned vocabulary. Collin and Brady are learning just as quickly.
North, says Seth. He's the only one with hearing that is sensitive enough to know. Sam, you're closest—
They all lurch again and sprint north, and although Jacob and Embry are quick and Quil strains every muscle to keep up with them, they are the farthest away. It's Sam and Jared and Paul who are leading this chase now.
Chased back onto their lands by her pursuers, Victoria is within Sam's sight — and there, just behind her on the other side of the invisible line are the Cullens. It's the closest their two groups have ever been.
Jared counts. One, two, three . . . Six. They're down one.
Looks like they've not left the leech lover that unprotected after all.
What a shame.
Shut it, Paul.
Just saying what everyone else is thinking, boss.
Sam rushes forwards, but the redhead is fast. Too fast. Sam has to remember himself and skip back six paces just to put enough distance between him and the treaty line. Between him and the Cullens.
Paul and Jared snarl from behind him. How the hell does she know?
Victoria is dancing the line, bold as brass, exactly like she knows neither party dare to even reach for her in case they breach the decades old agreement between them. She goes back and forth, skipping, dancing, laughing, jumping out of reach whenever someone gets too close, and the three wolves and the Cullens are a blur as they try to keep up with her without touching one another.
Jacob and Embry and Quil are nowhere close and can only watch through their brothers' eyes.
Goddammit, just get her already!
Paul, watch out! Sam barks, just at the exact same time five voices call out, "Emmett, no!"
The biggest Cullen, the muscly one — Emmett, presumably, though Jacob has never paid enough attention to learn and retain their names — crosses the line, the bastard, and before anyone can take their next blink Emmett and Paul are a whirl of marble and silver fur.
Hackles raised, his skin crawling, Paul is enraged, beyond coherent thought as he tries to beat the vampire back over his own side of the line, and Emmett responds . . . well, he seems to respond as any mortal enemy in the universe would. It's all Paul can do to hold onto the last scraps of his willpower and not kill the big vampire outright for the transgression.
A Cullen is on their land.
Jacob nearly bowls over his own paws as he and Embry overtake the three youngest wolves, sprinting harder, faster than they ever have before to catch up. Because if Paul is getting a chunk out of a bloodsucker, then Jacob wants one too. Embry just wants to make sure that he doesn't die doing it.
They watch through Sam's eyes as Paul finally gains enough leeway to push Emmett off him and scrabble to his feet. He prepares to spring . . .
. . . and misses.
He roars into their heads as he crouches low once more and takes aim for his next shot at Emmett, who quickly darts back onto the right side of the line.
He was on our turf!
When Jacob reaches his brother, he comes to a skidding halt just as the Cullens are dipping into defensive crouches of their own.
For a moment all can be heard is the chilling snarls of vampires and wolves alike. The blonde female snarls loudest of them all, arms splayed wide before Emmett — her mate, they think.
"Back off, dog."
Jacob and Sam take up position on either side of Paul's flanks as he pointedly snaps his jaw at her. He's beyond verbal threats. He'll show her what he's going to do to her, he'll make her watch as he does the same to the big one, he'll burn every piece and—
It's hard not to get drawn into Paul's torrent of silent abuse, into the imagery he easily provides. Jacob feels himself tensing as if he's the one about to attack, because though he hates Paul he will gladly follow him into battle. Pack. Brother.
Sam knows it, too. Knows that all nine of them would die if it meant there were seven less leeches on the planet.
Seth, he says. Stay out of sight. Keep Collin and Brady with you.
No. Stay back, he commands the three of them who are within earshot. They are still racing to the scene, but their pace slows. I don't want them knowing our numbers. Keep quiet.
Even Seth can't argue with that. And Jacob, damn him, feels grateful.
The big leech draws them all back into the present. "Rose, babe, calm down—"
"Shut up, Emmett," she snarls wildly.
"He's right, Rosalie." An older-looking bloodsucker — although not by much; he looks hardly a few years older than Sam — steps forward with another blonde male at his heels, his hands raised and spread wide. But not to defend himself or a mate like the blonde female, but to . . . to placate them. "We mean no harm," he says to the rest of them. "We're all here for the same reason."
Sam bares his teeth. Watch the line.
They can't hear you, dude.
Paul growls even louder. What about now? You think the douchebags heard that?
"Please," the bloodsucker says, and Jacob finally recognises him for who he is. The leader. The doctor. "Calm down."
And they do.
Paul is the first to stop snarling, and his limbs turn lax. And then Jacob, and then Sam, and all the wolves behind them. Jacob would even go as far to say that he feels . . . warm . . . serene, almost, as if the atmosphere around him has turned from violent to tranquil within seconds, has turned them all into—
('Jasper could . . . sort of control the emotions of the people around him. Not in a bad way, just to calm someone down, that kind of thing.' Bella fidgets as she divulges her secrets. 'It would probably help Paul a lot,' she adds, trying and failing to tease him.)
Instead of growling as they would at the memory that bleeds into their consciousness, the wolves whine.
"Thank you, Jasper," says the doctor with relief from the other side of the treaty line, and he trains his molten eyes on them again. Looking for something. Someone. "We wish to avoid conflict; my son is merely protecting his brother, as you are protecting yours."
The wolves try to spit their fury, but the doctor is either unaffected or they have failed to convey their feeling underneath the calming lull of Jasper's influence.
"Might I speak to Sam Uley?"
Sam lifts his head, willing his legs to straighten underneath the soothing lull that pulses at the edges of their shared thoughts, dulling their mingled fury and resent at being . . . being caged like animals. At the knowledge that these bloodsuckers know their names — that Bella has undoubtedly given away their secrets.
Guess I'm not surprised.
Leech lover through and through.
She was never on our side.
They want to be angry about it, desperately so, but it's impossible. They might as well be considering the weather.
A frustrated sound comes from the back of the head bloodsucker's group, and the tiny leech Jacob has met before — the psychic — darts to stand between the doctor and the blonde male who is tampering with their emotions. Their real emotions.
"I can't see," she protests. "I can't even see around them. We need to go. Now, Carlisle, before they mess up the future so bad that I lose her!"
She's mad, thinks Paul. Practically certifiable. He means to be disparaging, but his mental tone is far more deferential to the point that he could be mistaken for not really giving a damn either way. Like this little leech is not a threat.
"It would help if we could talk," their leader says, gentle yet with an insistent air. "We need to act quickly. I'd rather Jasper not impede your senses for too long lest we lose momentum."
They're not serious.
No choice, he says, the air already shimmering around him.
Sam rises on two feet. Whether it's because of how he has been influenced or because he agrees with the leech, Jacob still can't tell. But he doesn't like it. He just can't be mad about it.
"Oh, please," groans the tiny leech, pointedly looking away from the sudden display of nudity. She's so small that she's almost at eye-level with Sam's crotch.
"Thank you," says Carlisle.
He is met with silence. There's an absent look about Sam, like there's something missing. No hostility. Nothing.
And then, Sam says, "I will kill you for this."
Despite the threat, he sounds quite amiable, almost like he's delivering good news.
"A little less, I think, Jasper," the doctor hums.
The effect is instantaneous. Sam shakes himself, and the hint of a frown appears. Enough to know that he is displeased, but not enough that he is able to lash out.
Jacob shudders. He feels it, too. His anger and his anxiety to get moving is no longer extinguished, rather it's blurred around the edges. He can feel it, see it, but he can't grasp and hold onto it.
Carlisle dips his head. "I apologise for the infraction."
Sam cocks his head at the doctor, his eyes still a little too glassy for his pack's liking. Paul gives another uneasy whine as Sam asks, frightfully detached, "Which one?"
Carlisle does not answer. "Sam Uley. I must say, the resemblance to your ancestor is rather striking."
"You're wasting time, bloodsucker," Sam spits as forcefully as he is able, but the slur rolls right off his tongue like an endearment might, like Jacob says honey and Embry says sweetheart. "We had her."
"And lost her," the blonde female snarls.
Sam doesn't even blink. His hands don't shake. Can't shake, not with the spell he is under. "Give us the line, and I might forgive you for that."
"Give us the line," he repeats. It's as much of a demand as he can give under Jasper's control.
Carlisle extends a hand, as if to motion for the pack to lead the way. "But of course, it's yours."
"Glad we're in agreement."
"Don't push it," the blonde hisses at Sam.
Ordinarily, the pack might have rallied just for that alone. As it is, they can stand to do nothing until the air shimmers around Sam again and he falls back on four paws, giving them the command for them all to move out. Even Seth, Collin and Brady who are still leashed and hidden within the treeline are given the order to pick up the redhead's trail again.
Jacob looks back over the treaty line before he follows, but the Cullens have already disappeared and are giving chase.
The wolves' senses return to them the farther they run, all the way north, and they feel in complete control of themselves once again by the time they reach Makah country. They teeter over the edge of the cliff, their breath coming hard as they watch the shadow of the redhead underneath the coastal waters as she dives, and dives, and dives.
They've missed her by a hairsbreadth.
Jacob, Embry and Paul are the first to prepare to follow her, all coiling to make the leap off the rocks, fuelled by anger that has returned to them, that will propel them—
Sam barks a decree. No.
They blink their disbelief, too stunned to protest. No?
No, he repeats. His head whips around to where the Cullens are gathered in the distance, the six of them lining the edge of the moonlit water and evidently wanting to do the exact same and follow the redhead, except they're trapped by the constraints of the treaty.
"Will you grant us permission?" Carlisle calls.
Sam's growl carries on the wind, his ears flat against his head. No.
"What about two of us? Emmett and Jasper, perhaps?"
The two bloodsuckers have barely put a foot forward when the pack reach unspoken agreement and unleash the fury they were previously denied. Not even Sam seems to care that the Cullens are able to finally see their full number and can hear every single one of the nine wolves who refuse them passage, barking and snapping at the night air as if to show what they will do if the treaty is broken a second time.
They don't stop. Not until the Cullens give up and leave, and they know their warning has been heard.