Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author-mama4dukes. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The dream ended abruptly but on a good note. My eyes popped open, and I scanned my surroundings wildly. I had absolutely no idea where I was. I was no longer by our meeting spot by the Gila River but in a very modern log cabin. Stained wood planks paneled the walls, and log beams supported the walls and ceilings. There was a large, rustic framed window that offered a view of an open stretch of prairie.
I was in a strange bed, and my imprint was missing. I shot up and—in a panicked cry—called, "Bella? Bella? Where are you?"
The door to the room was flung open, and my imprint came rushing inside. "You're up." She grabbed my wrist and took my pulse. "Phew. You're back to normal."
"What…" I stopped so I could catch my breath. "What happened?"
"Oh, your vitals were erratic for the last day and a half."
"Day and a half? What day is it?"
"It's Sunday afternoon. You were out all yesterday and half of today."
"That long? But it felt like minutes."
She nodded her head and wrapped her arms around me. "You're shaking."
Of course, I'm shaking. How could I not be? I had just come through the worst nightmare that I had ever experienced in my life. Except for the end bit, I liked the end.
"Where are we, Bella?"
"Right. Um, I'm not so sure how to tell you this."
"Tell me what?"
"Well, we weren't sure what was happening to you, so we needed to consult with some specialists."
"I'm not in a hospital, am I?"
She shook her head. "You're in a guest lodge in Oklahoma."
"Oklahoma?" I arched an eyebrow at her.
"Yes, we're the honored guests of the Wanagi Nation."
"Wanagi Nation?" I looked around the lodge suspiciously and then whispered, "Aren't they the vampires?"
She kissed me on the lips before replying. "Yes, they are vampires, and their hearing is about as sensitive as yours is, so don't bother whispering. Besides, there's no one in this lodge except for the two of us."
"Why don't you tell me how I wound up here?" I suggested.
"Do you remember your tattoo?"
"How can I not? It was painful, and it burned, like being pitched into the fiery embers of hell."
"Right. Apparently, you were screaming in agony, which is unlike you because you have a very high tolerance for pain. You passed out cold. After that, you didn't wake up at all. I shot awake after a few hours because I heard you calling my name. You were bellowing for me in your unconscious state and were thrashing about as if you were having a nightmare."
"I was having a nightmare."
"What was your nightmare about?"
"I don't know. It was kind of like how Ebenezer Scrooge gets taken on a journey by the three ghosts. I was observing scenes from the past—some from yours, some from mine."
"Interesting." Bella appeared to reflect on something and regarded me with a grim expression. "You passed out from the pain caused by the venom."
Venom? I'm pretty sure she said venom. "You did say venom, didn't you?" I asked, just to clarify what I heard.
"How did venom get into my system?"
"When Kwatoko sliced my hand, he took it from the one which has the scar where James had bitten me. There was still venom left in it."
"But… But venom is poisonous to me, isn't it?" I'm not going to freak out; I'm going to remain calm. I tried to assure myself as I broke out into a cold sweat.
Bella looked like she was about to say something, but the door opened just then.
"You're alive, aren't you, boy?" Jeff's great-grandfather Roy, a physician, asked as he walked inside with Josh Uley. He was in his nineties, but his mind was pinpoint sharp. I played poker with him one night and got fleeced. He still practiced medicine at the tribal clinic and was as healthy as an ox. "You've got all ten fingers, ten toes, and your balls are still attached, right?"
I patted myself just to make sure. Phew! I've still got them.
"Haha! It never fails. As soon as I mention balls, you young idiots all check yourselves." He chuckled at me. "You're fine, Paul. You're just a little worse for the wear right now, but you'll be back to your normal arrogant self in a day or two. You even have a brand new, glittering tattoo to show off for your troubles." He shook his head. "You just had to be different from the rest of us, didn't you?"
Glittering tattoo? I looked at my new ink, which was in the shape of the Gila River—except mine wasn't done in black ink; mine was… "Why is my tattoo sparkling like a vampire?" I asked horrified.
"You're a smart boy. You take a guess."
"The venom?" I replied like a little schoolboy.
"That's right, the venom."
"But… I don't understand how I'm still alive."
"It's the magic. Your DNA has somehow evolved," Roy explained. "The coyotes have always been immune to vampire venom. I believe that somehow your DNA has taken on some of the characteristics of the Wa-Ya pack. Keep in mind; we've always been brothers with the Wanagi."
"Well, is there a way to test the theory out?" Bella questioned.
Is my wife insane? "Bella, if we test the theory out, and I wind up dead, then what?"
She rolled her eyes and simply replied, "Then I die with you."
I decided to change the subject since possible death was not an option that I was willing to entertain. "Bella, what exactly happened while you were unconscious?"
She grimaced. "I went on a journey."
"Yes, yes, a journey, Paul." She didn't explain any further. "Why don't you try standing up?" She held her hand out to assist, but I didn't budge. Bella had a habit of skirting uncomfortable subjects, and clearly, the topic of this journey was unpleasant for her.
"What kind of a journey?" I insisted.
"Yes, Isabella. What kind of a journey did you go on? I'm rather curious myself," Josh asked. Thank you for backing me up.
She sat down next to me on the bed and sucked in her lower lip nervously. "Hmm… It was a clarifying journey."
"A clarifying journey?" I nodded, motioning to her to elaborate.
"Yes, it clarified many things about key events in my life and Paul's. For example, did you know that when the vampire bit me in Phoenix, Paul was going through some mysterious trauma of his own in La Push? You were there with him, Josh. You were the one holding him while he was in distress."
"Wait a second. That happened to Paul while the vampire was attacking you?" Josh asked.
"Yes." Bella nodded her head in confirmation. "It appears we've always had a spiritual connection."
"Interesting." I nodded my head and began explaining my dream. "After what felt like hours upon hours of burning pain, I suddenly started dreaming. No, it was more like visions of the past. I was there but unable to reach out. I was merely an observer. The nightmare part consisted mainly of your bad experiences with the Cullens and with Jake. It ended with my mother's suicide." I turned to Josh. "Did you know my mother killed herself?"
"No, of course not. You read the official coroner's report. It listed her death as organ failure caused by alcohol poisoning."
"She ended her own life," Bella confirmed. "I watched the whole scene play out during my journey, too." Her expression turned to a loving one as she stroked my arm softly. "She loved you, Paul. Your mother loved you. And she was beautiful. You get your good looks from her."
"Oh, she was. Even after she became addicted to alcohol and drugs, Paulie—as we used to call her—was still gorgeous," Josh agreed. "I know she was far from an ideal mother, Paul, but she loved you. In her own strange way, she loved you."
He smiled fondly at me and replied, "You're welcome."
"How did your journey end, Paul?" Bella asked.
"It ended with me imprinting on you."
"That's how my journey ended, too. It was the best way to end it, too. I needed a happy ending after the traumatic ride I went on."
She's not kidding. That spirit journey was traumatic as all hell. Roy approached and started taking my vitals. "I would say Bella and you went on the same spiritual journey, Paul. It seems your futures were destined to be intertwined."
"That actually makes a great deal of sense, especially after what I witnessed during the journey. Bella, did you feel the intense heat I did, too?"
"I didn't. I just went on the spirit journey in my unconscious state. I didn't feel any physical pain at all." Her countenance was one of concern.
"Weird. I was in serious pain—and the heat was intense."
"Kind of like when James bit me…"
"James—is that the asshole's name?"
"Yes, his name was James." She stared at her wrist as if reliving the bad memories. After witnessing what I did, I would do anything to take that trauma away from her. It was horrific how that leech beat her for his own pleasure.
I changed the subject so she could focus on something else. My stomach started rumbling. "Hey, can I get something to eat?"
In response, Roy placed a thermometer under my tongue and told me to shut up before turning to my wife, "Bella, would you draw a blood sample from Paul?" I need a full panel—CMB, CPC… Why don't you just test him for everything."
"Oh, good. I want to run a lipid panel on Paul because he eats so much steak."
"Go ahead. Just make sure you take a few extra vials of blood just in case we need to do additional testing." He took the thermometer out and murmured, "Interesting," as he read the temperature and noted it on my chart.
"What? What's interesting?" I asked.
"Your base temperature has gone down."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"Dunno yet." It probably has something to do with the venom."
Meanwhile, Bella pulled up a lab cart to my bedside. She wrapped a tourniquet around my arm and told me to make a fist as she searched for a viable vein.
"This should work."
"Ow!" I yelped as she inserted a needle into my vein.
"Sorry, phlebotomy was my worst subject during college," she admitted sheepishly. "In actuality, I haven't drawn blood much since my internship. I usually send my patients to a lab."
"Bella, isn't that a lot of blood?" I asked as she attached the tenth tube.
"No, not really. If you were donating blood, we'd be taking a lot more."
She looked as if she was wrapping things up, but Roy told her he needed a few more tubes. After about the twentieth tube of blood. She removed the needle and placed a bandage on me.
"Is that Star Wars?" I asked, taking a look at my new badge of honor.
She broke out into a sweet smile. "I thought you'd prefer it to the standard beige." I was so caught up in my imprint's beautiful smile that I didn't notice what she did next until I felt a pinch.
"Ouch!" I cried.
"Sorry, I just gave you a tetanus booster."
"Why? I'm a wolf!"
"It's no reason to ignore your vaccinations, boy," Roy stated. This time, he placed the bandage on me.
I took a peek at it and exclaimed, "Barbie?"
"Yeah, you're being a big baby about tiny needles. Besides, it matches that garage of yours. I didn't realize you swung that way." He wagged his eyebrows at me.
I rolled my eyes. "That garage was done over by my wife!"
"Paul, it's all a matter of giving and taking," Josh stated with a smile.
"You said you liked the garage." Bella pouted with a hurt expression in her eyes.
Aww…man! I can't stand it when she gets that look. "I love the garage, honey," I lied to smooth things over and reached out to hug my wife. I sighed. I was never going to live down that garage, but Bella loved it so much. I decided to change subjects. "So, what exactly did you need all those tubes of blood for?"
"In addition to the physicians on this reservation, I will consult with a colleague who is familiar with the supernatural to figure out what exactly happened to your DNA."
"And who exactly is this colleague who knows of our existence?"
Roy donned a sly smile on his face before replying, "A friend of mine." The door opened, and in walked someone I thought I'd never encounter again. "Paul, meet my colleague and close friend, "Dr. Carlisle Cullen."
Bella, who looked just as shocked as I felt, turned to Roy incensed. "Really? You couldn't give me any warning whatsoever that you were consulting with Carlisle?"
"I knew you'd protest, girl. Remember, I'm older and wiser than you are. We need help, and Carlisle is the only one who can assist because he's the only vampire doctor I know who has experience with the Quileute wolves. There are other doctors here, but I think Carlisle's knowledge will be more apropos."
"I suppose what you're saying makes sense. How do you know Carlisle?"
"He and I attended medical school together. He was, of course, just there to brush up on his skills. He immediately detected that I was supernatural and confronted me. We became close friends. He sighed and looked into Bella's eyes. "Knowing what I do about your history with the Cullens, I debated whether or not to call him, but Paul's needs outweighed yours. The Wanagi physicians are just as stumped as I am."
"You did the right thing. I trust Carlisle as a physician."
"Wait a minute! Exactly what is wrong with me?" I demanded they tell me because this was my health they were discussing.
"Clearly, we have no idea!" Roy exclaimed. "All I know is that you were unconscious for almost two days, and we need to figure out why. I've already informed Carlisle about the circumstances. He is going to assist us with finding answers."
"Seriously? Vampires are our mortal enemies."
"Boy, as soon as our packs combined, they ceased being your mortal enemy. The Wa-Ya have always had friendly relations with the Wanagi Nation, and I have been friends with Carlisle for more years than you've been on this earth."
"Well, that's easy for you to say! I became a wolf because of his family's presence in Forks! A vampire bit my wife because Carlisle's son became involved with her and exposed her to other vampires."
Josh steadied me by putting his hands on my shoulders. His eyes bore into mine as he asked, "Is being a wolf so bad, son? Because as far as I'm concerned, being a wolf empowered you enough to dig yourself out of the miserable circumstances you grew up in. It also brought your imprint to you."
I thought about what he said and let out a long sigh. He was correct, of course. I was proud that I was a wolf, and I couldn't really blame Carlisle Cullen for the genetic anomaly I was born with. But what about Bella? How was she taking all of this? I glanced over at my wife, our eyes met, and she had nothing but concern for me in her countenance.
"Bella, how do you feel about all of this?"
"Paul, the Cullens aren't monsters—even Edward. He just tends to become selfish and manipulative."
"Oh, I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion, Isabella," Carlisle chimed in, nodding his head.
We all turned to him with varying expressions of shock.
"Uh, keep that thought in mind. We'll delve deeper into that statement later," Bella told him and then focused her attention on me again. "The point is, the Cullens are part of the supernatural world of which you belong. Just because someone is supernatural does not make him or her a monster. People like Tony Fuller and Angela Weber are monsters. They may be human, but it doesn't change the fact that they're monsters. Carlisle didn't ask to be a vampire; somebody simply turned him into one without any warning. He made the best of the circumstances he was dealt—just like you, Paul. Believe it or not, the two of you have many similarities, and I think you will get along well with him if only you'd give him a chance."
She was correct, of course. My wife had clearly thought the situation through, and she knew best about the Cullens. "Damn it! I hate it when you're right!" I kissed Bella full on the lips for being so wise. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Paul."
I faced Carlisle Cullen. "You have permission to examine me, but you need to keep your son Edward away from us—that part is non-negotiable."
"Oh, it won't be a problem. Edward is no longer with us. Jasper executed him roughly six years ago."
Bella's eyes snapped to the vampire. "What the ever-loving-fuck did you just say?"
Carlisle regarded her casually and shrugged his shoulders. "Jasper executed Edward. He went a bit insane."
"Exactly what did he do to warrant his execution? Edward could be a manipulative, selfish, and uptight, but I never thought he was necessarily evil."
"He almost exposed us to the outside world. Do you recall him telling you about when he became a vigilante in the late 1920s?"
"I do." My wife nodded. "He said he'd only take out the vilest members of society."
"Yes, well, society changed since then, while Edward's moral compass did not. We parted ways for a while after he broke up with you. He traveled around the world to try to take his mind off of things. I know for a fact he was in Brazil at one point. It was fine for almost five years until I started hearing rumors of strange deaths in Chicago through the medical network. Bodies were being found devoid of all blood. We heard the Volturi had become aware of his transgressions and dispatched two of their own to stop the perpetrator through word of mouth.
I had an odd feeling in my gut that Edward was responsible for the killings, so I traveled there with Jasper, hoping it wasn't him. Sure enough, he had resumed his vigilante ways; only this time, he had gone on a rampage. He was killing people for having what he deemed immoral thoughts or women for dressing inappropriately."
"What would cause him to go over the edge like that?" Bella shook her head in disbelief. "Whenever he read the students' minds at Forks High School, he'd become agitated at what he'd read. I suspect most of what he read would be considered normal thoughts in teenagers, but he considered them vile and disgusting. Perhaps he was unable to cope with all the generational changes."
"The truth is, we'll never know, but I do have a theory. I believe Edward has always had issues with depression for which he never sought help," Carlisle hypothesized.
"How could he as a vampire?" I questioned. "Can a vampire suffer from depression, and if so, how would he seek help?"
"Rosalie, Emmett's wife, sought help for her personal problems without mentioning she was a vampire. For Edward, though, seeking help would have been tantamount to admitting a weakness."
"And he could never admit to being anything but perfect," Bella finished for him.
"You are absolutely correct there. I believe Edward's act was a cry for help. He knew killing was wrong, yet he continued to do it in the hopes someone would stop him. He wanted to die but couldn't do it himself. When Jasper beheaded him, he said the emotion he felt from Edward was not evil or malice, but relief."
"Edward was unhappy as a vampire and told me so many times. I'm more concerned about Jasper's emotions. How is he doing?"
"You know, I believe Jasper is content. Why? Because without Edward being nearby, he is no longer affected by his constant bloodlust and brooding."
"I always liked Jasper, and I've always thought your family undervalued him. After all, he has the most powerful gift of all. It's impossible to hide your emotions from him. Instead, you and Esme put Edward and Alice up on a pedestal because their gifts were more impressionable on the surface."
"You make some excellent points, Bella. In any case, Esme is no longer with us."
"Isn't Esme your mate?" I asked, horrified because the thought of losing Bella would devastate me. Carlisle Cullen didn't look bothered by the fact his mate was not with him anymore."
"After I had Edward executed, Esme snapped along with our mating bond."
"What did you say? About your mating bond snapping." Roy interrupted, briefly glancing at me. I was thinking along the same lines as him regarding Jacob's mating bond abruptly breaking.
"Ah, Esme and my mating bond snapped. It was the oddest feeling. One moment, she was more important to me than my life, and the next, I couldn't care less whether she lived or died."
"Can you tell me how and in what circumstances it occurred? I'm asking because one of our wolves experienced the same phenomenon you did. We have no explanation for it. In fact, his now ex-wife is now pregnant with another man's child. An imprint cannot, as we understood it, transfer her affections to another—nor can she carry the man's child," I explained.
"But after the breaking of the bond, anything goes," Carlisle replied.
"What can cause a bond to break? I was under the impression mating bonds were absolute."
"Not where there is a severe disparity in goals without any shared ones. In my case, I never really wanted to masquerade as a family. It was always Esme's idea. She put all her love into her adopted vampire children, but the truth was, no one needed a mother. Even though they were changed in their teens, they were adults, and she had difficulty understanding the fact.
"When Jasper and I returned from Chicago with news that we had to end Edward's life, she became angry and hysterical. I had never seen her so unhinged. She became almost feral and attempted to attack me. It was during that episode when my bond snapped. I believe it had been weakening throughout the years, but the incident completely cut any ties which bound us. I was not attracted to her anymore. It was that simple. Am I making any sense to you?"
"If we hadn't witnessed the bond-breaking happening to Jacob, I doubt we would have been able to make heads or tail of your story," Bella admitted honestly. "Now, I can understand why the bond snapped. I don't think any force—supernatural or otherwise—can hold a bond together, which is already weakened due to inherent differences, especially when one half of the party commits an affront the other sees as personally egregious.
"Consider Jacob, for example. His bond with Angela snapped when he witnessed her hitting their daughter. By then, though, their bond was already weakened to the point where Angela could have an affair with another man. Perhaps her bond had already snapped, or maybe it was held together by a thread so thin that it was practically non-existent."
Carlisle nodded. "Bella's theory is valid. My bond with Esme was already fragile. I was utterly bored with her and honestly had no desire to even mate with her anymore. Her interests were focused on mothering and mothering alone. The primary recipient of her maternal nurturing was Edward, and when he left, she fell into a deep depression. Gradually, when other coven members dispersed to live independently, she became despondent and obsessed with hanging onto the members who were still with us.
"I believe when, instead of returning with Edward, we came home with news of having had to execute him, it was the final straw. I had committed an unforgivable sin in her eyes by ordering the death of her son, and the bond snapped."
"What happened to Esme?" Roy asked.
"She built a pyre in the backyard and climbed into it. I couldn't save her." And then Carlisle Cullen turned to everyone with haunted eyes. "I didn't want to save her."
My wife approached Carlisle and opened her arms to him. Why? Why does she do things to endanger herself—like hugging vampires? She's so damned caring! The vampire dropped into her arms and allowed her to hold him and give him comfort. Eventually, she drew apart from him and turned his chin so he was facing her.
"You can't blame yourself for her suicide, which is exactly what Esme committed. Think back, Carlisle, to her beginnings. She tried to kill herself after her son's death in her human life before you saved her and turned her. It's proof she has always tended towards depression. She had a mental illness, hit a low point, and this time was unable to snap out of it."
"But if I hadn't asked Jasper to execute Edward…"
"You did the right thing. Edward needed to die. You were his maker, and it must have devastated you to have to order his execution, but you acted correctly. He took innocent lives." She gave a hollow laugh. "He was always selfish. Even in death, after committing all those heinous murders, he was selfish enough not to take responsibility for his life. He made Jasper, and you decide to end his life for him."
Carlisle considered her statement for a moment and then turned to her with a grateful smile. "Oh, Bella, you've grown to be such a wise, mature woman."
"Mature woman? Carlisle! That statement just makes me feel old!"
"I'm going to tell you something, Bella. When I first met you, I had a feeling you would be the mate to the Great Protector, who would bring unity and stability to the supernatural world. And now I have proof. Just speaking to you has calmed my troubled soul. You are, indeed, a healer."
Every single jaw in the cabin dropped, and we all gawped at Carlisle as he disclosed his knowledge of our tribal secrets. Bella, Josh, and Roy then turned to me with perplexed expressions on their faces, as if I had the answers.
Still in shock, I climbed out of bed and confronted him. "Alright, who the hell popped off our trade secrets to you? And what more can you tell us about them?"
"Honey, at least put some underwear on while you're speaking to our guests," Bella advised. "You don't want to catch a cold."
I realized I was completed naked, and to tell the truth, a little cold. "Where are my clothes, honey? And hurry because it's a little chilly."
"Well, now, isn't that interesting?" Carlisle noted. "A chilly wolf. Roy, can we get his temperature again?"
"Do I look like a nurse to you? Ask the healer over there; she has a couple of those degrees," Roy quipped and turned to Bella with a wink. "Get the rectal thermometer!"
Rectal? I backed away several steps covering my rear. No one was going to violate my ass!
Both doctors started cackling, giving each other high-fives in the process. "It always gets them!" Carlisle laughed. "Good one, Roy!"
I know! Did you see how quickly he retreated backward?"
"I did see it! He almost tripped over his own feet. Now that would have been hilarious!"
"Are you two done laughing at my expense?" I turned to my wife. "Bella, can you find something for me to wear?"
She approached me, looking sheepish, and holding out a hospital gown. "Put this on for now. I'll run to the store and grab some clothes for you. I didn't have time to buy any."
"Why do you have clothes?"
"I always have scrubs in both the car and the truck, remember? It's all I have. I need to run out in a few minutes to pick clothes and food up for all four of us anyway."
"You're going to leave me here alone?" She shoved a thermometer in my mouth for the second time.
"Yes, she's going to leave you here alone. We have all sorts of tests to run to figure out what's going on with you. In fact, she's going to bring Josh with her. The poor guy needs a break. He's been here the entire time, worried sick about you."
I acknowledged Josh with a look of thanks. He smiled and nodded at me.
"98.6 degrees," Bella announced. "He has a normal human temperature."
"Bella, when you go out, would you pick up some sweats and sneakers for your husband?" Carlisle asked. "I want to run a stress test on him."
"Sure, not a problem. Anything else?"
"No, we should have everything set up in the clinic next door."
"Why would you need a clinic?" I asked. "Isn't this a vampire reservation?"
"Paul, the Wanagi Nation run a clinic for the needy in the area," my wife explained. "They are very concerned about the lack of accessible health care in these parts."
"In exchange for their salvation, they have dedicated their lives to helping those less fortunate than they are," Roy explained.
"I'm looking forward to learning more about the Wanagi Nation." What else could I say? I was at the mercy of this tribe of vampires for the sake of my health. I didn't like it, but I needed answers now because this sparkling tattoo was even worse for my ego than Bella's damned Malibu Barbie garage. My thigh looked like the bright lights of Vegas came alive on it.
Besides, I needed answers from Carlisle Cullen. He clearly knew about the ancient Quileute prophecy.