Come straight here, Quil,Sam ordered. We've decided nothing yet.

I growled.

Jacob, I have to think about what's best for this pack. I have to choose the course that protects you all best. Times have changed since our ancestors made that treaty. I... well, I don't honestly believe that the Cullens are a danger to us. And we know that they will not be here much longer. Surely once they've told their story, they will disappear. Our lives can return to normal.

Normal?

If we challenge them, Jacob, they will defend themselves well.

Are you afraid?

Are you so ready to losea brother? He paused. Or a sister? he tacked on as an afterthought.

I'm not afraid to die.

I know that, Jacob. It's one reason I question your judgment on this.

I stared into his black eyes. Do you intend to honor our fathers' treaty or not?

I honor my pack. I do what's best for them.

Coward.

His muzzle tensed, pulling back over his teeth.

Enough, Jacob. You're overruled.Sam's mental voice changed, took on that strange double timbre that we could not disobey. The voice of the Alpha. He met the gaze of every wolf in the circle.

The pack is not attacking the Cullens without provocation. The spirit of the treaty remains. They are nota danger to our people, nor are they a danger to the people of Forks. Bella Swan made an informed choice, and we are not going to punish our former allies for her choice.

Hear, hear,Seth thought enthusiastically.

thought I told you to shut it, Seth.

Oops. Sorry, Sam.

Jacob, where do you think you're going?

I left the circle, moving toward the west so that I could turn my back on him. I'm going to tell my father goodbye. Apparently there was no purpose in me sticking around this long.

Aw, Jake - don't do that again!

Shut up, Seth,several voices thought together.

We don't want you to leave,Sam told me, his thought softer than before.

So force me to stay, Sam. Take away my will. Make me a slave.

You know I won't do that

Then there's nothing more to say.

I ran away from them, trying very hard not to think about what was next. Instead, I concentrated on my memories of the long wolf months, of letting the humanity bleed out of me until I was more animal than man. Living in the moment, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired, drinking when thirsty, and running  - running just to run. Simple desires, simple answers to those desires. Pain came in easily managed forms. The pain of hunger. The pain of cold ice under your paws. The pain of cutting claws when dinner got feisty. Each pain had a simple answer, a clear action to end that pain.

Not like being human.

Yet, as soon as I was in jogging distance of my house, I shifted back into my human body. I needed to be able to think in privacy.

I untied my shorts and yanked them on, already running for the house.

I'd done it. I'd hidden what I was thinking and now it was too late for Sam to stop me. He couldn't hear me now.

Sam had made a very clear ruling. The pack would not attack the Cullens. Okay.

He hadn't mentioned an individual acting alone.

Nope, the pack wasn't attacking anyone today.

But I was.

9. SURE AS HELL DIDN'T SEE THAT ONE COMING

I didn't really plan to say goodbye to my father.

After all, one quick call to Sam and the game would be up. They'd cut me off and push me back. Probably try to make me angry, or even hurt me - somehow force me to phase so that Sam could lay down a new law.

But Billy was expecting me, knowing I'd be in some kind of state. He was in the yard, just sitting there in his wheelchair with his eyes right on the spot where I came through the trees. I saw him judge my direction - headed straight past the house to my homemade garage.

"Got a minute, Jake?"

I skidded to a stop. I looked at him and then toward the garage.

"C'mon kid. At least help me inside."

I gritted my teeth but decided that he'd be more likely to cause trouble with Sam if I didn't lie to him for a few minutes.

"Since when do you need help, old man?"

He laughed his rumbling laugh. "My arms are tired. I pushed myself all the way here from Sue's."

"It's downhill. You coasted the whole way."

I rolled his chair up the little ramp I'd made for him and into the living room.

"Caught me. Think I got up to about thirty miles per hour. It was great."

"You're gonna wreck that chair, you know. And then you'll be dragging yourself around by your elbows."

"Not a chance. It'll be your job to carry me."

"You won't be going many places."

Billy put his hands on the wheels and steered himself to the fridge. "Any food left?"

"You got me. Paul was here all day, though, so probably not."

Billy sighed. "Have to start hiding the groceries if we're gonna avoid starvation."

"Tell Rachel to go stay at his place."

Billy's joking tone vanished, and his eyes got soft. "We've only had her home a few weeks. First time she's been here in a long time. It's hard - the girls were older than you when your mom passed. They have more trouble being in this house."

"I know."

Rebecca hadn't been home once since she got married, though she did have a good excuse. Plane tickets from Hawaii were pretty pricey. Washington State was close enough that Rachel didn't have the same defense. She'd taken classes straight through the summer semesters, working double shifts over the holidays at some cafe on campus. If it hadn't been for Paul, she probably would have taken off again real quick. Maybe that was why Billy wouldn't kick him out.

"Well, I'm going to go work on some stuff___"I started for the back door.

"Wait up, Jake. Aren't you going to tell me what happened? Do I have to call Sam for an update?"

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