Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Trail ( Chapter 57 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its four sequels and the first half of Midnight Sun, all of which are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. No party other than the submitting author may alter this work in any way other than font size and other reasonable accommodations to formatting.





"Not for the first time, I wondered just how deeply Edward had buried his memories of Alice," -Bella, Chapter Forty-one




The engine gave cantankerous sputter-growl as I backed into the driveway. This car had been new sometime in the Obama administration. It still let me get the groceries out of the back seat. My mom wasn't moving so fast these days, and then what had happened last week...

The scent hit me like a knife to the nose, like a chemical burn to the inside of my head.

Vampire. Shit.

I know, I know. I should have changed right away and alerted the rest of the pack, the werewolf equivalent of calling for backup, but I didn't. I was so sick of being the runt of the litter, and I couldn't stand to have them come up and tell me that I'd overreacted to nothing. It wasn't fair. None of the other guys only had to be the youngest for more than a few weeks; then I came along and, well, I was pretty much the last one. I'd been wearing my "new guy" hat since before the Battle of Hsinchu City.

We'd been on high alert for the past two weeks. Someone kept tripping the border, and not just any border. Vamps had been running the old Cullen line, the one that the pus-eyed bloodsuckers had agreed not to cross. We'd had a game back in the day, waiting low on one side of the border to watch them hunt. Deer weren't always stupid. Some of them had figured out that if they jump a certain gorge, the shiny twinkly scary dude would pull up short and start cursing like a sailor. The big linebacker guy had had a mouth on him, but he was nothing to the blonde.

As I opened the door, the scent only got stronger. I closed my eyes and listened. I didn't think they were still here, but they could be damned quiet. The only question was why they'd give two craps about a house that didn't have any people in it. Chief Swan hadn't been home in days.


I walked around carefully, noticing where things had been touched. There were at least two distinct scents, maybe more. I couldn't tell a male from female or old from young vampire the way I could with deer and elk, but these were definitely two different bloodsuckers. One of them had stayed more or less downstairs, but the other one had taken the tour of the house. There was a thick scent around the mantelpiece, where the chief kept the family photographs. Someone had spent a lot of time over there looking at them.

Weirdest part? Kitchen. I'd been expecting to find a light layer of dust, but the whole place looked like it had been cleaned by a whole brigade of professional housekeepers. The grease spot on the wall that had been there so long that I'd thought it was part of the paint job was gone. The oven and stove looked like they'd recently been used. Weirder still, when I opened the fridge, instead of the messy but functional arrangement of old and new leftovers, the old stuff had been thrown out, the racks had been removed and cleaned so that they didn't even have a fingerprint on them, and the milk and juice and Chief Swan's medications were off to one side, leaving room for a row of plastic containers.

I pulled one open and gave a sniff. Once I got past the vampire stink, I could tell it was a vegetarian casserole with no carrots. The next one was beef stew. The next was homemade macaroni and cheese. All of Charlie's favorites (yes, even the veggie casserole; he just didn't admit it to most people).

I checked the rest of the house, clearing each room one at a time, like the boss had showed me when he first came back home. This was getting creepier by the second. Someone had emptied the hamper and done the laundry too. I walked all the way up the stairs, checking the guest-slash-sewing room and the attic. Nothing. The scent never increased. I cracked a window to let the stink out and then tried to figure out what the hell to make of all this.

Okay, so some version of vampire Snow White had come, cleaned the Seven Swan's house for him and then split. And she knew enough about him to tell what he'd want to eat. It had been a long time since a vampire had gotten that close for more than a few hours (a cheeky guy in dreadlocks had taken Embry and me on a merry chase about three years back).

I considered ditching the food, but I wasn't sure if it was drugged or poisoned, and it wasn't like anyone was going to show up and eat it. I compromised by scrawling a quick note and taping it to the fridge.

Whoever this vampire was, it had probably been stalking Chief Swan for a long time. Some of them were like that, like serial killers picking out the perfect victim or cats playing with their food. We'd come across one or two of those back in Sam's day. The only mystery was how it'd been able to watch him so closely without leaving any scent behind before now. There was always social media, but Charlie Swan had had to be dragged into the twenty-first century kicking and screaming. He'd hardly approved of an old-fashioned database for traffic violations. (Then old Billy Black had introduced him to, and he'd been updating his Troutmaster status every week.) Still, he was not taking pictures of his food for the world to see.

But cloudstalker or snailstalker, if the vamp knew what Charlie liked to eat, then it probably knew where he was right now.

Now I called for backup, but I did it the old-fashioned way, with a non-implant iContact VII like a normal person. Not that I looked it, but I was old enough that I still thought of it as "speed dial."

I drummed my fingers against my dashboard. The Alpha Boss Dude was out of touch, but Embry was ready. He met me at the edge of Forks with his usual classic rock musical set of whining.

"So the connection must have timed out again. I thought you said you sniffed vampire stink in your stepdad's house," said Embry, rubbing his hand over one eye.

"I did," I filled him in on my vampire stalker theory. "I think we better go check on him."

Charlie Swan might have been the world's lamest stepfather but at least by the time he'd actually gotten around to marrying my mom, I'd been old enough that we didn't really need to go through the motions of any father-son stuff. He'd asked me to come fishing with him a few times, but after seeing that I was bored out of my gourd, he let the matter drop. I'd probably been messing up the epic bromance that he had going on between him and Jacob's dad anyway. I swear, that was some Emily Bronte Heathcliff shit up in there, but with two straight guys. (Upside of being runt of the litter: The other guys give you the easy shifts so that you can actually stay awake in school. I was the only one who'd gotten his diploma on time.)

"Up all night again?" I asked as he fumbled with the passenger-side seat belt. Mr. family man would risk his neck hunting down bloodsuckers but damn you would not catch him unclicked.

"Don't get me started. I swear, it was adorable when Claire did it. I didn't even mind." He rolled his bloodshot eyes. The new one had colic. "Eli needs braces, my boss at the plant won't give me any more overtime and now this. I tell you, Seth, the minute Claire hits the big three-oh, I'm out."

"Boss's not going to like that," I said.

"Our full-of-himself Alpha can go chew on a rawhide if he doesn't like it. Nope, that was the deal. Your wife turns thirty and you get to quit the pack."

"If it's that big of a hassle, then why not just quit now?" I asked. "You never got as much of a kick out of it as I did."

Embry shrugged. "Then it'd just be a two-man pack, though," he said.

"So? We've had small packs before. Heck, the tribe has had no pack before."

"And the 'death by exposure' rate went way up."

"Guess so," I said.

Embry shook his head. "I'll quit on schedule. I feel like I'm read y to let it all go now, but I don't think..." he yawned. "I wish imprinting made my kids seem extra cute to me so that I could get through this easier. I swear, the whole thing only holds together long enough for us to get our next generation out and running around. After that, you're on your own."

"I dunno," I said. It was one of the topics that kept coming up. When your life gets derailed by a supernatural birthright that literally chews up your bones and leaves you butt-assed naked in the woods twenty times a week, you tend to wonder how the darn thing actually works. Embry thought we imprinted to make new, little wolves. Sam thought so too. My sister Leah... she'd had her own opinions about that. If imprinting kicked in when we subconsciously sniffed out a nice genetically wolfy proto-mate, then why hadn't anyone imprinted on the actual, non-honorary wolf girl? At the time, I'd brought it up to Jacob back in the day, but he hadn't wanted to hear it, all gearing up to go find himself or whatever.

Embry's gig at the manufacturing plant was a new thing. He'd worked a few years at the Costco in Silverdale (not the best use of his talents but a good health plan) before this whole industrial revival. A bunch of new factories had opened up across the west coast. The closest ones were down in Aberdeen. They'd redone the harbor and everything. First the upswing in piracy around Asia had made it ever so slightly less profitable to buy cheap goods from China than to make them at home, then the magnetization of the freight system made it a lot cheaper to move stuff over land than over water, then the war started in China. They'd started out making cell phones, then nonimplantables, and now...

Things had gotten a lot clearer during the not-war around Taiwan, when they'd started prepping the economy. Factories got built (jobs, hooray! Oh, you're a wolf guy and you can't leave the woods to get one? Less hooray), and there was talk of rationing. As in rationing. One look at a ration book and I suddenly got it.

It wasn't about kids. It was about food. Even after the growth spurt, we ate five times as much as normal guys. That was a big enough deal under normal conditions.

Imprinting wasn't about letting us make new wolves. It was about getting us to stop eating the tribe out of house and home. Taka-Ahi had given up wolfing out when he'd imprinted on his third wife. He'd gotten old like a normal dude, and the legends didn't specifically say, but he'd probably only eaten as much as a normal old dude. That's what'd happened with Paul and the other exes, anyway. That might even be why so much of the pack had gotten their imprint on when it was supposed to be so darn rare: There had been a lot of us, too many for a pre-McDonalds-and-IHOP tribe to keep fed. The genes hadn't known about Paul's megastash of instant Ramen, so they'd triggered a lot of us to imprint up and eventually go offline.

Probably the best thing for a tribe that didn't have a lot of vampires around was to have lots and lots of guys who could go wolf if one of the rock-assed jerks showed their stinking faces, but nobody who actually was.

By the time I pulled into the hospital parking lot, I realized that I'd managed to tune out most of Embry's ranting. Great. Whatever let him vent. I hopped out of the car and Embry came in with me. I didn't see my mom's car in the lot, which was probably good; she sometimes crashed at Mrs. Smith's place if she needed to sleep. The receptionist gave me an upnod. At this point, I didn't even have to say who I was or sign in.

I wasn't sure what the procedure was for this. We'd never encountered a vampire inside a large building before. I guessed that I could wolf out in the middle of the hallway if nobody was coming, but I'd have to change back pretty quick, and this wasn't an ideal streaking venue.

"Whoa," Embry muttered under his breath. It was all I could do to keep from holding my nose like a kid. This was intense. Both of the vampires from the house had been here, and they'd stayed for a while.

I walked into the room where they were keeping Chief Swan. Sure enough, there was the scent right in the visitor's chair. The chief's hand was laid out straight on the blankets, as if someone had been holding it.

"I always thought he'd get shot. Or get killed by one of them," Embry muttered under his breath, because he was the king of tactlessness. Claire wasn't any better. God their kids were going to be dumb. "What? It's not like he can hear me."

"Come on, they couldn't have been gone long," I said in a loud whisper. The scent was too strong. They'd been here, they were probably still in the building.

You can't actually sniff out an animal's scent on the air anyplace that's well-ventilated, not unless it's a skunk or something and then you'd pass out from the stench before you got close. To really track a scent, you have to sniff the ground, and I was not going to do that in the middle of Forks Hospital's new Whitlock wing, whoever the heck the Whitlocks were; probably some Wall Street jerk who'd get to hide another million on the Bahamas if he made a big enough donation.

But still, there were only a few ways out of the building. I headed for the back stairs. They'd been redone too, all wide and safety-like with windows below the security cameras. Embry scampered along behind me. Poor sap was probably too sleep-deprived to realize that the omega dog was leading the pack today.

There was a flutter of movement in the parking lot below us. I recognized most of the cars in the lot, the shiny new-ish ones that the doctors drove and everyone else's. But there was one that didn't look right. Out of state plates. And there were two people walking toward it, way too gracefully to be anything human. Usually they faked it better than that, pretended to trip or something.

"Wait," muttered Embry, following my gaze out the window. "The tall one, the dude. Is that..."

I didn't care. Embry wasn't very insightful these days. The two figures in the parking lot paused. The female had dark hair, and she was holding one hand against her face. The guy she was with put his arm around her and she pressed her head against him, shoulders shaking as if she were crying.

What the fuck did girlvamp have to be upset about, the way we kept running out of AB negative?

The doctors had been telling Charlie to eat better for years—oh, and to actually take the cholesterol meds they gave him. Now he'd gone and gotten himself a blood clot during his goddamned double bypass. I swear, when I'm a geezer, if the doctor tells me I have to lay off the greasy food so that my wife and stepkid don't have to pull their hair out worrying, I'm just going to do it. But Charlie didn't listen to them, didn't listen to me, didn't listen to my mom. The only person to who'd ever gotten Chief Swan to do anything at all about his health in his whole life had been...

Had been...

I watched the two vampires pile into their not-local car and drive away.

"The dude she's with," Embry's brain finally got the message to his mouth. "I think that might be that one Cullen guy. Which means that the chick is—"

I made a funny noise, a funny and not remotely manly noise.

"I know who she is," I said at last.

Jacob was going to shit a brick.




Wrote this one years ago, finally getting to post it, wha-hey!

drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu