Disclaimer: I don't own the Twilight Saga or any of its characters.

5: Intimate Matters

Gram was busy cleansing the house with sage by the time we arrived back in La Push, muttering to herself about all the apparent bad energy that was around today. With a sideways glance at Seth, I remembered the heated argument back in Forks and I could completely understand what she meant for once.

"Where's Hudson?" Seth asked my grandma as he set the grocery bags down on the counter - all at once, I might add.

"Out back," Gram said, waving the charred herbs in the direction of the back door.

Hudson was visible at the each of the yard, smoking what I could only guess was pot and grumbling animatedly to himself. It was easy to assume from his agitated posture that the Thunderbirds had lost to the Wranglers again.

"And Brady?"

"Asleep in his room,"

"Still?" I scoffed, incredulous.

"He was working late," Seth explained before ducking out of the room. Over his shoulder he continued to say, "and he'll be out late again. We have urgent council matters to attend to."

I stared after him in confusion. Urgent council matters?

"What exactly does the council have them doing all the time?" I asked Gram as I began putting away the groceries.

"Oh, you know, conservation of the land, protection of the tribe. That kind of thing, sweetpea,"

I raised an eyebrow at her, certain that she was being purposely vague.

Just as I was about to push the subject, Seth and Brady came rushing down the stairs and into the kitchen. The latter wasn't even properly dressed, but it didn't seem to faze him in the slightest as he made his way out the back door with no more than a nod in my general direction. Gram didn't even tut disapprovingly at his lack of clothing, which left me more than slightly flabbergasted.

Something weird was definitely going on.

Seth was about to follow suit, however when he looked from Gram to me and then back again he hesitated.

"Why don't you take Allie over to Emily's this evening? I'm sure she'd enjoy the company,"

"That sounds like a great idea," Gram said, offering him a grin that didn't quite reach her grey eyes. The boys were both gone a moment later and, when I didn't hear a car start up out front, I could only assume they'd taken one of the trails through the woods.

I sighed as I put the empty paper bags in the recycling can.

"I'm surprised, Gram," I told her.

She turned to face me, eye brows furrowed as she continued to rhythmically wave around the sage. "What on earth do you mean?"

"You're letting Brady stay out late two nights in a row, right before his graduation? Mom used to say that if she wasn't home by ten o'clock sharp, you'd ground her for a week, yet you're letting him get away with this?"

"Council matters are very important to the boys on the rez. You'll come to learn that,"

"More important than education?" I pressed, knowing there was something she wasn't telling me. Gram might've been liberal but she wasn't that lenient.

"Classes can be repeated, sweetpea, but other things in life cannot,"

"Like what, though?"

Gram sighed. "Allie, the council deals with a lot of intimate matters. It's not my place-"

"If you really must know," Hudson interrupted as he came through the back door, the smell of marijuana lingering heavily on him. "We've been having some problems with security on the reservation. There are some troublemakers who are banned from Quileute land and the guys deal with them when they try to come here. Now, does that satisfy your need to know everything?"

There it was again. The guys.

"Yeah," I finally mumbled, admittedly embarrassed that I'd been so insistent on something that obviously had nothing to do with me. "Sorry for being nosy."

Hudson's expression softened and he pulled me into a hug. "Don't apologize, kiddo. There are just some things that the tribe like to keep to themselves."

I nodded, mostly abashed.

"Well, why don't I take you round to Emily's in about an hour or so?" Gram interjected.

"No, thanks," I told her. "I'd rather just stay here, if that's OK with y'all."

"How about during the week then?" Gram seemed persistent so I offered her a half-hearted smile and nod. "That'll be wonderful. Emily and Kim have been dying to spend more time with you, you know,"

The mention of Kim and dying in the same sentence made me feel funny in a way I couldn't quite explain. Before I could think about it any longer, my cell phone rang and the caller ID told me that it was my mom. Having ignored her for almost ten days straight, I decided to answer it and get the argument over and done with. Seeing as I was pissing off everybody today, one more person couldn't possibly hurt.

"I don't get it," Brady complained as we walked home through the trails after work on Sunday afternoon. "Just because a girl has some obvious advantages it shouldn't mean that they get tipped excessively more than a prime specimen of the male species."

I scoffed and said, "I would hardly call fifty bucks excessive."

"Hitler wouldn't have called invading Poland excessive," he shot back and for the thousandth time I had to refrain from hitting him.

"Are you really comparing me to Adolf Hitler?"

"You're like the culinary Hitler," he chuckled as he jumped effortlessly over a tree root. "But with boobs and a redneck attitude."

"Sometimes I wonder why Hudson and Gram choose to put up with you,"

"I'm very loveable. Like a cute, little puppy,"

I laughed at this comparison, knowing full well that at least half of the reservation would describe him as the exact opposite.

"Speaking of puppies," he continued, quirking his eyebrows at me suggestively. "Have you noticed how my best friend follows you around like one? It's kinda sickening - actually, it's really sickening,"

As soon as I felt my cheeks begin to flush, I turned my attention to the evergreen trees surrounding us and tried to pretend that the forest was the most interesting example of nature that I'd ever come across.

The truth was, Seth seemed to be the most interesting example of boy-kind that I'd ever come across and it annoyed the hell out of me that Brady was joking about it. Did he really feel the need to tease about my obvious crush on him? Or was he being serious about the idea that Seth seemed to reciprocate it?

"I have no idea what you're talking about," I told him nonchalantly.

Brady scoffed at this. "Like hell you don't, Allie. The guy's crazy about you! It's completely killing our bromance."

"He's crazy about me?" I repeated slowly.

"Why do you sound like that's so hard to believe?"

"Brady, I'm basically an annoying dwarf and we both know it," I told him, earning a laugh in response. "I find it hard to believe that any sane guy, especially Seth, would be interested in me,"

"So you admit that you like him then?"

I frowned at him. "I didn't admit to anything. Stop being nosy."

"You never stop being nosy so why should I?"

Oh, dear Lord. I was really going to hit him soon and I was going to hit him hard.

"OK. Stop being childish then,"

"I'm not childish," Brady said, eyebrows knitted together in insult as we neared the edge of the yard. I could already smell Gram's countless flowers from the path and it inadvertently made me walk faster as I realized it had really begun to become to smell of home.

"If you're not childish then I'm not Caucasian," I retorted.

"Don't lie, Allie. You're like the whitest white girl in this town,"

"That's hardly fair," said a voice from the lawn as we broke through the line of trees. Seth smiled up at me from where he was helping Hudson repair a fishing rod, continuing to say, "She's in the ethnic minority so she can't really help it."

"You guys should come down to Georgia sometime and see just how white a white girl can be,"

"Oh, God. Don't tell me they drink Starbucks and drive pink convertibles," Brady whined as he clambered up the porch steps. Instead of following him, I hovered by the charred remains of Gram's trellis and met Seth's unwavering smile with one of my own.

"It gets worse than that," I replied. "They have tiny pet dogs and try to rebel against their parents by refusing to pay their credit card bills."

"Let me guess, that was your life in a nut shell?" Hudson interjected as he lit a cigarette, apparently taking a break from the repairs to his rod.

"No," I laughed. "I rebelled by following your advice and coming here."

"Oh, so I'm the instigator? Good to know, kiddo," he said, winking at me as he followed Brady inside.

I turned, laughing still, to find Seth striding towards me and I was once again taken aback by his sheer height and build. He and Brady really could have been mistaken body builders, which was strange as I never saw them doing any form of exercise.

"Do you miss it back in Atlanta?" He asked me.

"Surprisingly, I don't," I told him. "Not at all, actually."

"I'm glad," he murmured, grinning now. "So I thought I'd let you know that my mom's invited you all over for dinner this week to celebrate Brady's graduation. She thought it was only fair, seeing as I'm round here all the time."

"That's really kind of her. Have you told Gram?"

"Yeah, she was going to tell you later but I sorta wanted to do it myself," I couldn't help but wonder if he was actually blushing again or if I was simply going mad because of what Brady had said. "And plus, my mom wanted to me to make sure you weren't allergic to anything."

"I have hay-fever but no food allergies," I told him and he nodded to himself.

"I used to get hay-fever, too," he said. "And asthma but all of it has more or less cleared up now."

"A girl at my high school died of an asthma attack in tenth grade," I bluttered out and then mentally smacked myself. Of all the replies I could have thought of to say, I had to mention poor Ellen Carmichael? I was such an awkward mess at times.

Seth frowned but finally said, "I'm sorry to hear that. Was it awful?"

"I don't really know. The funeral was bad, though. Her mom brought in all these bouquets of sunflowers and it made my hay-fever go off the charts. My eyes started watering so bad that one of the girl's uncles thought I was genuinely heartbroken because we'd been close or something. Then her family made me give a speech at the reception about how fondly I remembered her and I had to lie my way through the whole thing,"

Stop, Allie. Please just stop talking!

"Lying at a funeral? You are definitely going to hell," he said, shaking his head at me incredulously.

"Hell would be a walk in the park compared to that day," I grumbled. "I must sound like a total bitch, right? God. Sorry. I don't even know why I started talking about her. I just always say the wrong thing."

"No, you don't," Seth laughed. "In fact, I think it's sweet that you choose to lie rather than admit to the whole allergy thing, like you didn't want to hurt her family any more than they already had been."

"I guess when you put it that way I don't sound so bad,"

"No," he said thoughtfully, then added with a wink, "but still totally hell-worthy."

"Are you guys coming in to eat or not?" Gram suddenly called through the open window, dragging my attention away from Seth and wiping my mind clean of any witty reply I could have thought of.

"Sure," he called back and then made his way towards the porch.

I sighed, knowing my chance to talk to him alone was over for today. Once indoors there was no chance of finding out if what Brady had been saying was true, however as Seth paused, turning to offer my his open palm, I realized that maybe I didn't need to.

I took it willingly, knowing that if Ellen Carmichael's funeral had been hell then I was surely closer to heaven now.

I woke up in cold sweats in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Expecting to roll over in my bed, I let out an audible gasp at finding myself sprawled underneath one of Gram's rose bushes instead. How on earth had I ended up out in the yard in the middle of the night?

If it wasn't for the fact that it was freezing and there were several thorns digging into my thigh then I would have been sure it was just a dream. But unfortunately for me it wasn't, considering that in theory you couldn't feel the cold or pain in your dreams. This was real, and I was awake. Worst of all, I was freaking stuck.

"So what did the Elders say?"

I froze in the middle of trying in vain to squirm my way out from under the bush.

"We think you should at least consider it, man," said a second person a moment later.

The male voices were coming from the forest and they were quickly approaching the house. I lay as still as possible, knowing that if I could hear their footfalls then they would sure as hell be able hear me struggling to get out of Gram's garden. Not only did I not want to have to explain to some stranger that I'd been unknowingly sleepwalking, but I also kind of wanted to know what they were talking about.

"Everyone keeps telling me to," a familiar voice answered and I felt myself frown. Seth. "It's a big responsibility, though. And what do we do if the ritual doesn't work anyway? They said there's no written proof that anyone's even tried it."

Ritual? What the hell were the guys up to?

"There's a first time for everything," Brady added thoughtfully.

"A first time for everything to go terribly wrong, you mean," Seth shot back.

"Everything's already going terribly wrong," the first voice said. "Sam's not going to change his mind and Jared can't be in charge, not with his family growing,"

"What happens when I have a family, though? I have an imprint now, Collin. An imprint," Seth replied, and I could hear the frustration in his voice. "I can't just decide to take on something this huge without her input."

Her input. It implied that Seth had a significant other. A girlfriend. A fiancee, maybe.

A small, admittedly pathetic, part of me hoped that there was a chance he was talking about, well, me.

But what the hell was an "imprint"?

I'd been so caught up in this revelation that I didn't hear the rest of the conversation, I just lay there instead in heartache. A few minutes passed and I heard the back door shut, letting me know that Brady had finally gone inside. The other voice dissipated as they rounded the house and then I was finally alone to wonder further.

Could it be possible? I mean, Brady had pretty much outright said that Seth liked me, too, but Brady being Brady meant that there was a very high possibility that he was simply messing with me. But Seth had held my hand for at least two minutes and forty-six seconds straight the other day, which had to mean something, didn't it? Did it mean that I was the her that he was referring to?

I must have wallowed there in the flowers and the drizzle for a good five minutes before I finally dragged myself out from the rose bush, my pajama trousers only ripping slightly on a couple of thorns as I wiggled free.

As I got to my knees, I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder and let out a small shriek.

I dropped forward, twisting around in the mud to find myself staring up at a shirtless Quileute guy I hadn't met before. He was looking at me, amusement clear on his dark features as he held his hands up innocently.

"You must be Allie," the guy said finally, a hint of a smile pulling at his lips. "Now, tell me, don't you know that curiosity killed the cat?"