Something Wild

Chapter 33 - "It Gets Easier"

"I don't know what's wrong with me," Naomi said, looking down at her hands. They ached just a little, but they didn't tremble. A tear fell onto her left palm, smearing the dirt there.

"Everything's going to be fine," Sam said. She was getting tired of hearing that, but she bit her tongue. "We'll figure this out together."


It was clear neither of them wanted to address the other elephant in the room. Not that night, anyway.

After a little while, Emily joined them outside. After taking in the atmosphere, she promptly re-entered the house and returned with a brush and a small drawstring bag.

"Do me a favor," Emily said, dropping the bag in Naomi's lap. "I bought these for crafts for my students. Can you try making something? Just want to make sure they're good quality."

Emily's intention was transparent, but she very clearly didn't care to be found out. Naomi appreciated the chance to distract herself. She settled onto the floor of the porch and spilled some of the contents of the bag to see what she had to work with. A few feathers, cords of different materials and colors, and many kinds of beads.

Emily nudged Sam so he was now sitting on the bench just behind Naomi while she took his original spot. She handed him the hairbrush in her hands and gestured with an eyebrow. A ghost of a smile passed over Sam's face before he started to run the brush over Naomi's hair, now having something to occupy him as well.

"I haven't had someone brush my hair since I was a kid," Naomi said, a soft smile on her face. "I think I let your mom do that a total of two times."

"Yeah, I heard you were pretty difficult back then," Sam said. Emily folded her legs up underneath her and smiled.

"I imagine you both had your moments," she said. "Naomi, why don't you make something for us to braid into your hair? Would you like me to do that?"

She didn't hate the idea of it. "That sounds nice." Naomi looked down and plucked two thin leather cords from the pile. She began to twist and braid them. Naomi picked up a small black feather and two silver beads, staring at them for a moment, reminded again of Paul. She began to work them into the braided cord.

"I don't get it."

Naomi nearly looked up from where she was sitting cross-legged on the porch. She paused in the thread she was braiding to address Sam. "What is it?"

She thought he was going to mention Paul's strange behavior, or her own difficulty phasing, but he didn't. His mind had wandered to other places — or maybe Emily had made some comment while her thoughts were occupied. Sam sighed and continued pulling the wide brush through her hair.

"That Bella girl," he said. "She's wrapped into this whole mess, and she's human. Whenever something happens with her and Jacob, I just keep thinking about how she's still with those Cullens with all the danger they've exposed her to — continue to expose her to. I don't understand how she doesn't see that."

"She must be lonely," Emily's voice said. She gestured for Sam to scoot over a smidge, and he did so, allowing Emily to take over on Naomi's hair. She began a braid at the crown of Naomi's head. "I can only imagine what they've given her, but I'm guessing she didn't have many friends before."

"She has Jake," Sam argued. "She does have some human friends, I think. But, it's beyond that. Look at all the things that have happened to her since she met them. You'd think after the first vampire obsessed with hunting her down, she'd get the hint. Now there's an infestation that they're, honestly, probably involved with somehow."

"Yeah, that's a lot to unpack," Naomi said. It was mildly comforting to focus on someone else's drama. She passed the woven thread, adorned with the two silver beads and black feather, to Emily so she could work it into the braid. "You know, I've heard a lot about her, but I don't think I've met her yet."

"You probably will sometime soon, knowing Jake." Naomi shrugged in response. She didn't have any strong feelings either way about the girl, though she could understand the pack's dilemma.

"How's Paul?" Emily asked, tying off the end of the braid. Sam flashed her a look.

"I'm not sure." Naomi frowned. In retrospect, her problems did seem simpler than that Bella girl's. "He's being weird, and I can't read him, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Or if I should do anything about it."

Sam didn't comment on it, and she didn't ask him to. It was becoming clear that he didn't want to discuss it when it involved two members of his own pack. Emily chimed in again instead, "I'm sure it'll be fine. He might just be a little overwhelmed right now. After all, this is brand new territory for everyone."

"If you say so," she said, hoping to put an end to that line of conversation. It was someone else's turn to be put on the spot. "How are things with Leah? Have either of you spoken to her?" Naomi's tone of voice made it clear that she was not referring to casual words exchanged in passing.

"Yes," Emily said firmly, with a hint of a smile. "Things are better."

"We've made our peace," Sam added, somewhat tentatively.

"And she and I are going up to Port Angeles to buy a new couch for Aunt Sue."

"That's great! I'm glad — wait," Naomi began, "you're telling me that Sue still hasn't replaced the sofa Leah and Seth shredded? It's been months."

"It hasn't been an easy few months," Emily said simply. "They had some chairs, but we thought she would appreciate a nice new sofa."

"That's really great of you guys." Emily finished with her hair, and Naomi turned to look back up at the pair. "I'm glad things are getting easier." She refrained from using the phrase big happy family, but it was a step.

"Me too. How's Allison?" Emily asked gently.

"I feel like she's extra worried and keeping a closer eye on me. That could also be my guilty conscience." Naomi frowned. "But at least she's not giving me a hard time yet, even if she is suspicious."

"I'm sorry you have to lie," Sam said.

"Don't be. You had it much worse last year. If I had to guess, it probably still comes up for you." Sam scratched the back of his neck. "Yeah, I figured."

"I meant what I said, before. It gets easier with time."

Naomi shrugged. "At least something does."

The next morning, Naomi woke up early to pass by Billy's house. Before they'd parted, Sam had suggested she go see him for guidance. She got the distinct feeling that he had no idea how to help her but didn't want to say as such.

Naomi was almost out the door when Allison stopped her. "Hey, slow down. Where are you off to this early?" Allison raised an eyebrow at her.

"Going to go chat with Billy about summer jobs on the Rez," Naomi replied. It wasn't entirely a lie. Guarding the tribe counted as a summer job, at least.

"Hmm." She feared Allison would ask her questions, but instead the woman merely got up and fetched a Tupperware container from the kitchen. "Well, you can return this while you're at it."

Trying not to breathe a sigh of relief, Naomi took the container from Allison's outstretched hand. "Got it."

Allison hung in the doorway as Naomi trotted down the path in the direction of Billy's house. She felt her surrogate mother's stare until she was a good distance away.

"It gets easier," Naomi mumbled, imitating Sam's voice. "Easy for him to say."

Naomi continued down the road until she got to Billy's house, her chest tightening with each step. Her mind swam with everything of the last few days, but she had to focus. One problem at a time. Right now, that meant figuring out what was going on with her inner wolf.

She knocked on the door of the Black house. When it opened moments later, Billy Black didn't look the least bit surprised to see her. Naomi smiled and waved the Tupperware.

"Dropping this off for Allison," she said. Billy gestured for her to come in. She followed him and closed the door after herself. Billy took the plastic container from her and wheeled over to the kitchen to deposit it. Naomi stood awkwardly in the living room, looking around at the various photographs of Jacob and his sisters, until Billy rolled back in and offered her a seat.

"You know," Billy said, hands folded over his lap, "I really wanted it to happen to me."

Naomi scrunched her nose up. "What…?"

He nodded. "When I was young...I really wanted to phase, like my grandfather did. I wanted to lead the pack against vampires and protect our people." He turned his head, almost as if looking into the past. "Never happened, though."

"For what it's worth," Naomi said, "you probably saved yourself some trouble."

Billy let out a laugh. "Yes, that I did. I would have gotten myself into too many scraps, I fear." His smile faded just a little. "Jacob's got the same headstrong attitude."

"And the same charisma, I hear." Billy chuckled, appreciating her attempt at levity.

"You flatter me," he said. Billy clapped his hands on his lap, signifying a change of topic. "So, what brings you here? It wasn't just the Tupperware, I'm guessing."

"No, it wasn't. It's just, last night...well, I can't seem to phase. Have you ever heard of something like that happening?"

Billy leaned forward, furrowing his brow. "A wolf not being able to phase again? I can't say I have. Hmm. What prompted you to phase the first time?"

Naomi's lips pressed together into a thin line. "Thinking Paul was dead. It's not a feeling I want to relive." Even saying the words made her squirm in her seat uncomfortably.

"Of course, and it wouldn't exactly be ethical to make you relive it even for a short while." He leaned back in his wheelchair and pressed his hands together in front of him. "Tell you what — give me a few days. I'll talk to Old Quil and go through some of my journals in the meantime, see if we can't find something about your situation."

"I appreciate it," Naomi said honestly. "Thank you, Billy."

"Of course."

Billy saw her to the door. Once she was on her own, Naomi pulled out her phone to call Embry. The phone rang twice before he picked up.

"Hey sis," Embry greeted. "I'm on my way to Emily's. What's up?"

"You have patrol?"

"Nah, I just needed out of the house."

"Oh. I just left Jacob's, if you wanna walk together."

"Sure. Meet you there in a sec."

She felt awkward waiting on Billy's porch, so she walked a few paces down the street, still in the vicinity. Embry caught up to her a few minutes later. She watched him jog into view, and he didn't stop when he got closer. No, Embry barreled right into her and lifted her up into a bear hug. Naomi laughed weakly and swatted at him to put her down.

"What was that for?" Naomi asked. Embry shrugged.

"You looked sad," he said plainly. He brushed a hand through his tousled hair, which had grown out enough to spill onto his forehead. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay, I guess." Embry gave her a dubious look. "I haven't decided if I'm not okay yet."

Embry made a face, baffled. "That sounds like not okay."

Naomi huffed. She wrapped an arm around his and they began heading in the direction of Emily's.

"Did you and Sam talk?"

"Not in so many words," Naomi said. "He suggested I talk to Billy. Billy said he'd talk to Old Quil. So, basically, no one has any idea."

"Sounds about right."

"Em, how do you phase?"

He hummed thoughtfully. "Never really thought about it before. It's kind of just instinct."

Naomi sighed. "Do you think I need to get mad or something? That's what Sam and Leah implied… but if that's true, what about you? Or, wait, what about Seth? He's like a bag of happy!"

Embry scratched the back of his head with his free hand. "I dunno. As far as I can tell, the kid has never raged in his whole life."

"Do you?"

"What, Hulk out?"

Naomi smiled. "Yeah."

"When I first started changing, yeah, I would get angry. I was grumpy all the time for no reason," Embry said. "I got over it pretty quickly once I phased. Maybe a week, tops."

"I didn't really think about it until now, but most of you are pretty...chill."

"Some of us, sure. Some of us have specific triggers." Like imprints, she thought.

"What's your trigger?" Naomi asked. Embry hesitated, and she almost retracted her question.

"Probably my mom," he said simply. He didn't elaborate. "If you want to phase, maybe you could try thinking of your own triggers. It might be easier that way, at least for now."

"I don't know how to figure out what they could be," Naomi said. The only one she could think of was her loved ones being in danger, and she wasn't going to suggest that. Emily's house was coming into view as Embry considered her.

"Well, Quil should be around, so maybe he can help." He gave a secretive smile. "I've heard he's pretty good at getting on people's nerves."

"That feels like a trap." She smiled at him. "I think I'll pass for now, but give everyone my love."

Allison was still home when Naomi walked back in through the doors. The smell of spices hit her nose pleasantly, and her stomach rumbled in response.

"How's Billy?" Allison called from the kitchen.


She disappeared into her bedroom, not willing to stick around for a line of questioning. Naomi plopped down into her chair and booted up her computer, intent on checking her email. Lisa had responded to her request for a phone number, finally, with all her possible contact information in case something like this happened again. She even included where to send a carrier pigeon, should the need arise. Amused, Naomi fired off a sassy text in her direction.

There was still no reply from her professor whose final she'd missed, and she was starting to think there wouldn't be.

She clicked open a slightly older email from Jessy in an attempt to get her mind off it. Naomi was greeted with a few GIFs made out of the digital wolf drawings she'd sent to Jessy for her indie project. "Sneak preview of your doodles hard at work," she'd written. Naomi groaned as she saw the offensive Blingee edit of one image at the bottom of the email. Sparkles upon multi-colored sparkles littered the poor wolf's fur.

She typed back a quick reply. Not cool to Blingee someone's hard work, Jessy. If I see this on your MySpace page, I'm taking them all back. She added some emoticons to let her know she was (mostly) joking.

As soon as she sent it off, Allison was calling her back out for lunch.

Away from Jessy's email, Naomi couldn't help but think back to her classes. She knew it was pointless to worry when she just had to wait, but habits die hard.

Despite her earlier appetite, her thoughts and mood had taken a nosedive. Naomi was picking at her food, her mind swimming with thoughts of Paul, of her classes, and of wherever the hell her car ended up. Sam had said that it was there when they burned the vampires, but that when they went back for the car the next day, it was gone. No one had called her about it, either. Sam suspected there were more vampires and they were more organized than they appeared. Perhaps even organized enough to get rid of evidence. If that was true, there could be even more murders happening than the news knew about.

All Naomi knew was that she had to start saving up for a new car. That was the only thing she had the ability to handle thinking about right now. Maybe she really should talk to Billy about an actual job on the Rez, she thought.

"I meant to ask, but how did your finals go?" Allison's voice cut through her thoughts. "Are you taking any summer classes?"

Naomi looked up from her plate at Allison, who was smiling encouragingly. "Um, no, I'm taking the summer off."

"You what?" Allison tried so hard not to drop her smile, but Naomi could sense her faltering. "If it's transportation, you can borrow my car. School's out so I won't need it."

"No, it's fine. I'm — I'm helping Billy with something. Council internship." If she were smarter, she would've come up with a better lie. A simpler lie, even, like just really wanting a break like many students did. But she was new to lying.

"An...internship?" Allison's eyebrows flew up. "Here?"

Naomi suddenly found her appetite. Food was a good enough excuse not to elaborate, right?

Allison hesitated, clearly wanting to push the issue. There was an awkward silence that didn't seem to let up. Naomi was halfway through her plate before Allison relented and switched gears.

"Your friend passed by while you were out, by the way," she said.

Naomi's brows furrowed. She was sure she'd never heard Allison refer to anyone as her friend. Sam's friends, maybe, but Allison used names for Naomi's friends. After all, she didn't have too many. Jessy. Leah. Embry. Emily and Kim.

Allison sensed her confusion and a teasing smile tugged at the very corner of her mouth. "The one that helped with your birthday party. Sam's friend." There it is. "What was his name again?"

Naomi was thankful she didn't have anything to choke on. She took a sip of water to give herself room to look like she was actually trying to remember. "Hmm. Are you maybe talking about Paul?"

"Yes, Paul. He came by earlier. I don't know if he knocked. I only saw him leave."

"He was probably looking for Sam." Naomi smiled tightly.

Allison hummed in that way she did to express her doubt. Naomi was hearing it more and more lately. "I remember a time when you used to be better at knowing when boys liked you."

She snorted in disbelief. "Really? Please, remind me, because I don't."


"No. I think the last time boys had crushes on me was in elementary school, before I got taller than most of them." Naomi shook her head. "And I guess that one guy in high school, but he was weird."

"Well, then you've definitely forgotten what it looks like, if you ever knew." Allison raised her hands as Naomi began to protest. "Sorry, sorry. I won't tease you about that boy's crush on you."

Naomi tried to smile as she excused herself to her bedroom. She was eager to run far away from this conversation.

It wasn't hard to tell that Paul cared about her, but the phrasing of it as a crush was mildly uncomfortable. The word reminded her of schoolboys and all those novels of young love. It made her want to gag.

It also made Naomi's mind wander to places she hadn't dared to go before. What did Paul feel on his end of the imprint? She didn't want to dare to imagine he'd fallen in love with her, but she knew the possibility was there. Paul didn't seem like the kind of guy to crush on someone — that kind of thing usually meant nervousness and some degree of insecurity. He was all smooth moves and made himself at home everywhere he went with her. Belatedly, she realized he was probably at least somewhat attracted to her, but she didn't want to follow wherever that train of thoughts would lead.

Naomi sat down at her desk, trying to distract herself with her sketchbook. Unfortunately, it was the one she'd used to practice drawings of wolves for Jessy's game. She shut it and looked for the other sketchbook on her nightstand. When she picked it up, she uncovered a necklace that had been lying beneath it. The silhouette of a wolf was carved into a smooth, round pendant of wood, hanging on a leather cord. The gift Paul had made for her birthday. She couldn't escape him, even in her own room.

Despite herself, she pulled it over her head and pivoted back to her desk with the new sketchbook. Perhaps, Naomi thought, she should just lean in and doodle some wolves. A wolf pack, even. Maybe it would help.

There were a few pieces of evidence that reminded her she was still a wolf, even if she couldn't phase on command yet. Chief among these reasons was that her hearing was incredibly sensitive. Naomi didn't need to be in the kitchen with Allison to feel like she was right next to her. As soon as she began to draw and her mind went quiet, Naomi could hear Allison making a call from the kitchen. She couldn't hear the responses on the phone, but they weren't terribly difficult to piece together.

"Hello, Billy.

"No, everything is fine. I was hoping you could tell me a little more about what internships the council is starting?

"Yes, that's right. Naomi mentioned that she was going to be doing some intern work for the council. Can you tell me more about that?

"What do you mean?

"Yes, I would like you to keep me updated."

Naomi sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Yeah, it definitely gets easier, Sam.

Hi hi. Life is hard. Also, tell me how I have a little over 20,000 words (not counting this chapter) written for this story and that doesn't even count the scenes yet to be written that go in between... Like next chapter, I know more or less what needs to happen, and I need to write it. But what have I been doing? Writing for several chapters ahead! Ah well. It'll be smooth sailing when we get there.

Thank you guys for your support and reviews. I really appreciate them, and the follows, and all of the stuffs. Ok goodnight now. :)