AN: I know I've said this before, but as a head's up – Paul's got a foul mouth and a temper. He's not mature (although this story is about him growing and maturing). He likes to curse a lot. You've been warned.
Paul had been unfocused the entire patrol, jumping at random noises and running off, only to come back. He was even more irritable than normal, and everyone else avoided him, other than Jared. Even Quil, who'd attempted to be sympathetic over the whole imprinting situation, had been run off by his temper.
Paul could tell that Sam was disappointed and frustrated, but he didn't care. He knew he'd be seeing Holly later, and his stomach was in knots over the whole thing. He wanted to see her, but he also didn't. Over the urges of imprinting – the desire to find her, to protect her – he was angry. She was pregnant. She was some white girl from Ohio. There was no way in hell she'd believe this situation, and Paul didn't think she'd understand.
Even though the other guys had given him space, this train of thought caused Sam to interrupt. "It is curious that she is from Ohio. We'd thought that imprinting was to help the tribe. Everyone else has imprinted on people who were related to the old wolves."
"Some sort of genetic survival of the fittest bullshit," Jared agreed.
"Yeah, even the Makah girls have some Quileute in them," Jacob added.
Everyone could hear Embry's mental snicker at that.
"Pigs," Leah decided to chime in, but it was without heat. "I already knew that imprinting doesn't give a fuck about blood and genetics and whatever the fuck else is involved in passing on this wonderful gift," she snarled. "You were wrong, Sam."
At that, Paul phased out of being a wolf. He didn't want to deal with their bullshit on top of everything else. Jared paused, and then phased back himself. "Leah's a bitch. Don't let her get to you, man."
Paul let out a frustrated sigh. In truth, he thought Leah had the right of it. Imprinting was fucked up. He loved Emily – she was his cousin, after all – but if the imprinting shit was all about passing on the wolf genes, well, Leah had more of that anyway. Whatever mystical bullshit was at work with imprinting, it didn't give a fuck what people felt.
Jesus. Holly was pregnant. If, for some reason, she decided she did believe this bullshit and was cool with him, he'd be playing daddy. And he sure as hell didn't want to deal with that. He couldn't even stop phasing with his fucking friends. He didn't even have a dad. How the fuck was he supposed to handle a kid?
He pulled on a pair of cutoff shorts. "I need to get some decent shit to wear if we're going to Em's for dinner," he said to Jared.
Jared shrugged and let Paul take the lead back to his grandmother's place. "Think they've managed to get her whole life story yet?" he joked, although the joke fell a little flat.
Paul shrugged, fishing his cigarettes out of his pocket and lit up. He inhaled once, then cursed and stubbed it out.
"Not supposed to smoke around kids. Probably not pregnant women either. Shit," Paul muttered.
Jared shrugged. "Probably not."
They ambled back towards Paul's grandmother's house, taking their time since they weren't due back at Emily's yet. "Hey, Gran," Paul called, letting the door bang shut behind him. "Just grabbing some clothes."
He could hear her saying something to Jared as he ran upstairs to grab a shirt. He had debated whether to get a nicer pair of shorts, but ultimately decided to keep the cut offs. He didn't want to ruin a nice pair if he needed to leave quickly. Besides, this was who he was. He wasn't going to pretend something he wasn't, imprint or not.
Gran was in the kitchen talking to Jared when he came back down, and Paul threw an arm around her. "Eating at Em's tonight. Probably patrolling again afterwards," he told her, dropping a kiss on her cheek. "Remember, if anything's bothering you, call Emily and Sam's and we'll send someone over."
"Sure, sure," she said with a laugh, patting his cheek. She reached out to do the same to Jared. "Take care of yourselves boys."
"Be back later, Gran," Paul said over his shoulder, letting Jared follow again. He'd been awfully quiet, and it was the only reason Paul was putting up with him. They'd been friends long enough that Jared knew when Paul couldn't handle any more bullshit.
"What do you think Emily's made?" Jared asked.
"Dunno," Paul said with a shrug.
Jared sighed, and it was evident he was frustrated. "Damn, man. I'm trying here, but you're not giving me much to work with."
Paul clenched his fists, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. He was not going to phase. Not over this. "Maybe I don't feel like talking. Ever think of that?"
"Yeah, well, Quil wouldn't shut up about it when he had his shit to deal with. Besides, it's me. You're going to have to talk sometime, or you know Leah's going to be bringing up your shit as soon as she's PMSing. You know how she is."
"Fuck off," Paul told him, but it was without heat. "I'm not cut out for this shit."
"All of it," Paul growled. "Girls, white girls, fucking pregnant white girls."
"What, you're telling me you're gay?" Jared said flippantly, trying to lighten the mood.
Paul glared. "S'not funny. I can't even keep my shit together around you guys. She's gonna end up like Em or worse – if she even believes this shit. She's not from here. She don't know us. This is a fucking disaster."
Jared's protests fell silent. "Yeah, I guess it is," he agreed.
Paul tried not to scowl as he pulled open the door to Emily and Sam's place. This was it. He was going to have to face her again.
He felt like he was going to throw up.