So I came up with idea when I came across a picture of Michael Welch, and his baby blues took my breath away. I've discovered I have a problem when it comes to blue eyes in my fanfics, heehee. Gotta love em!

Also, I hate the way everyone puts down Mike. Geez, his only crime is being ordinary and smiley in a book about emos. Sorry he's not dark and spooky enough for you fangirls. Honest and no pretenses, yeah that is so not attractive.

And Leah, boy did she get screwed over. Stephanie Meyer answers every question and resolves every mystery (even that stupid subplot of J Jenks being afraid of Jasper in BD) but she doesn't solve Leah's problems. That is really unfair for an author who is determined to make everything a happy ending.

Okay, soap box time over! Read and review! It's good, I swear!

I wanted to think without a thousand voices listening in. Was that so much to ask? I think I was completely justified in taking mom's car for a ride.

A drive wasn't nearly as relaxing as a run through the woods, but at least it was private, and I could always roll the windows down and let the summer wind blow at my face.

So I was speeding down the highway, accidently headed in the Forks direction, while mind revolved around my options.

I had gotten my acceptance letter at the University of Iowa yesterday, and the University of Tennessee had come last week. Two years after high school and I had decided I was going to college. My original plans, the ones that had involved Sam, were dead, buried, and the dust blown away for parts unknown.

And now I was free. No longer a part of his pack, my mind link to Jacob had made existence more bearable.

But it wasn't completely tolerable. I was stuck listening to the sappy thoughts and random whimsies of imprinted males every time I was in wolf form, and seeing it first-hand when I was human. If I could just get far enough away in human form, then maybe I could actually regain a semblance of normalcy.

I didn't want a big city school, there had to be some space to escape to for midnight runs. So now I had the choice between running in corn fields or country-music-loving woods. Iowa or Tennesse?

At the last minute I slammed on the brakes at the red light in Forks, just avoiding a collision with a pedestrian in the crosswalk. My heart started slamming as I realized I had almost killed someone (in human form!) The boy threw his hands onto the hood of the car, the only self-defense a person really has in a one-sided fight with a sedan.

Angry and scared blue eyes flew up to meet my gaze behind the wheel. The adrenaline pumping through my body spiked yet again. I was waiting for the verbal flames he was about to rain down. His cursing would cause a scene and it would get back to my mom, and the boys. And then I'd never hear the end of it...

Blue eyes that pulled you under... that tilted the world off balance and made everything too scary to even think of. You just wanted to dive into blue eyes and forget all the troubles...

Mike patted the hood once and gave a small salute, a bemused smile on his cute face. Whatever panic and disbelief he had seen in my eyes must have stopped him from condemning me to hell. I must have looked just as scared and shocked as I felt.

He walked off and headed for his family's hardware store on the other side of the street. I could only watch him go, too stunned to react at all.

Mike. I knew his name was Mike. Everyone in town knew the Newtons, and I had seen him a few times in the past, but that was before my transformation.

Could it really be possible? After I had lost all hope and finally decided to cut my ties with everything related to Washington, when I was finally ready to let go and start a new life in a new place, was there a saving grace that would keep me from ripping away from the home I loved?

I couldn't have that much hope left. Just ask Jacob, the losses in my life had made me a bitter old woman at the age of twenty. Would I dare to feel even the smallest bit of hope when every expectation I had had in the last three years had gone the way of the dodo?

Idiot that I was, I must have. Because I felt the distance between life and myself increasing, and my lonely heart cried out in protest.

I turned into the parking lot of the hardware store and parked. Trying to get an awkward grip on reality, I considered a new set of options. I didn't have to go in, I could stay in the car and drive away, never knowing for certain or not.

My new life in Iowa or Tennessee was still waiting for me. I could avoid Forks for the next two weeks and then leave, and let the curiosity of what might be eat at me for the rest of my life.

But of course, I could no more not go in than I could stop breathing, (and God knew I had tried that already). I scrabbled in the glove compartment for a piece of scrap paper and pen and scribbled down a copy of the list on the refrigerator.

Then I got out of the car door and walked into the store.

At first I didn't see him, and wandered along the side aisles aimlessly. But my mind must have known where it was going, because I was ten feet away when I saw him come out of a door marked Employees Only.

He was lifting a worker's apron over his head and tying the strings behind his back, glancing up at the clock and wincing slightly. I hoped he wasn't late; I didn't want him to be late. I didn't want him to get in trouble and feel bad for disappointing his dad.

Oh God, what was I saying? Was I actually caring for someone I didn't even know? Did I even care anymore?

He began to step away, and my heart did that little cry again. It was unbearable to see him walk away from me.

"Mike," I called out, and he turned, his blue eyes meeting mine again. Oh, they were beautiful! So mesmerizing to look at, and his face was smooth with a slight stubble on his chin. His blond hair lightly fell over his forehead, and the brown eyebrows arched up questioningly.

"Can I help you?" I didn't realize that I had been moving closer to him, but suddenly I was before him, and speechless.

"I, uh, wanted... I wanted to apologize for almost running you over." Oh, that sounded smooth.

'Yes I followed you all the way into work so you could get a look at my mug and give an accurate description to Chief Swann.'

One of his eyebrows lifted as he recognized me as the girl behind the wheel, and he chuckled. "Don't worry about it. I was running late and wasn't watching where I was going either. Besides, you looked ready to have a heart attack afterward."

I stuttered, "I-I was- you took me by surprise- no, that's not an excuse... I am so sorry-"

"Just as I thought, you are doing a better job chewing yourself out than me. And I was late." He shrugged. "Thanks for your concern, miss, and I have no intention of pressing charges, so if you will excuse me, please have a pleasant day."

He turned to walk away again.

"Wait," I called again, hating myself for the tiny tone of desperation in my voice, but then deciding that I didn't care.

He turned around with a look of confusion. The moving air as he pivoted blew his scent toward me, and it smelled wonderful. Like vanilla soap and sun-warmed grass.

"I-uh, need to purchase some things,... but I don't know where to find any of them." I lamely held up my list, praying he wouldn't hand me off to another sales' clerk.

"Oh, of course, ma'am," he said, realizing I was here as a paying customer. He took my list from me and looked it over quickly.

"I can fix you right up with everything," he said, smiling kindly at me. "If you would just follow me, ma'am."

My knees almost buckled in relief. I said a prayer of thanks to whatever gods were listening to me as he led me away. He was going to be spending the next several minutes with me! I was going to talk to him! He was going to help me!...

He kept calling me "ma'am." And the smile he had given me was between an employee and customer. I wanted the friendly reassuring smile from before; from when I had almost run him over and he had been kind enough (or in a hurry enough) to give me the benefit of the doubt.

"My name's Leah. Leah Clearwater." Could I sound anymore inane!?

"And you know I'm Mike Newton," he answered. He had grabbed a random cart from an aisle and was pushing it along. He turned onto aisle four and started looking at the shelves.

"What size nails do you need?" he asked, stopping in front of several boxes.

"Um, the medium-sized?" I asked, embarrassed. Why couldn't this just be easy? Why couldn't I just grab his arm and pull him outside and explain how different both our lives suddenly were?

He looked over and smiled at me. Reaching out for several boxes, he opened them and laid a few metal nails in his palm. "Which ones look about right?" he asked.

"Those," I said, pointing to the ones that looked like the ones Seth had in the garage.

Mike repackaged the boxes and put my choice in the cart. Then he started pushing the cart again. I was hypnotized watching the light flicker through his hair as the air-conditioner vent blew overhead.

"So are you building a bird house or patio?" he asked half-jokingly.

I didn't mind it at all. It was more like a shock of happiness. He had asked a question to start a conversation, which had to mean he didn't find me a total spaz.

"I don't really know, just some odds-and-ends my brother, Seth, needs around the house for summer projects," I replied.

"Seth Clearwater... I met him at the Cullen wedding." I thought I detected a hint of pain in his voice, but as he was staring ahead, his shoulders shrugged again.

"I don't remember seeing you there," he remarked.

"I didn't attend. I was... outta town." But what if I had swallowed my disgust of vampire smell and just gone? Would I have found Mike last spring instead of waiting a whole other year?

I didn't know who he was. How was I supposed to gamble the rest of my life on this boy who was courteous enough to make small talk, but who knew nothing of Quillete legends or myths of the supernatural?

And would I ever forgive myself if I didn't at least try to know him?

"So, bride or groom?" I asked, as if a whole year hadn't passed and we were still at the Cullen house sipping punch and watching couples dance.

"Both,... and neither," he answered a little sarcastically.

"Yeah, me too. Both and neither," I said too brightly, trying to ease his gloomy mood.

He gave me a sidelong glance, then shook his head and chuckled. I didn't realize that we had reached another aisle until he reached out to put a box of light bulbs in the cart.

I had to make more progress, I realized. I only had until the end of my shopping list to spend with him.

"I haven't even heard from Bella or Edward since the wedding, and Bella and I used to be friends, if you can believe it," he murmured.

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Oh, never mind. I'm just thinking about stuff that hasn't even crossed my mind in months. But I've been away at college, and you know how that can be a full-time job."

"Not really," I admitted, "Where do you go to school?"

"University of Sacramento," he answered absently, looking at shelves again. "Do you want the minimal or maximum?"

"Maximum," I answered, not even knowing what he was referring to.

He left the cart behind and started walking away, I dogged at his heels. Why couldn't I peal my eyes away from his back? Was I really just measuring up my future husband?

He really did have an impressive physique, for most human males anyway. I had been hanging around peeked-conditioned males for the passed two years, mountains of muscles and sex appeal. Mike's subtle appeal was really refreshing.

He didn't tower over me, and his chest wasn't completely barrel. Broad shoulders for his body, and nicely proportional. Long torso, but not so long that it made his legs look short...

Before my eyes could move down any further, he circled around a shelf ladder and looked quizzily at me. I smiled awkwardly, and he smiled back politely, then started pushing the ladder back the way we came.

I flushed deeply with embarrassment. He had gone down the aisle to retrieve the ladder and was now tracing back to the cart, and I had blindly and unnecessarily followed him the whole trip like a baby duck after its mother.

He glanced over his shoulder at me, and must have decided to take pity on my humiliation. "So what kind of dogs do you have?"

At first I thought he was making a joke, but then I realized we were in the pet aisle and he had stopped the ladder in front of the dog food. The larger bags were on the top shelves.

Stray dogs had taken to following Seth home, and the little hero couldn't send them away when he could hear the hunger in their whines. Mom didn't allow any of them in the house yet, but several were now permanent residents in our back yard.

"My little brother brings them in off the street, so they're all a bunch of mixed blo-" I had to stop talking as my breath left my lungs. Mike had climbed several steps up the ladder, and his toned butt was less than five inches away from my face. He had to lean out to reach the largest bag of dog food, and his khakis pants tightened with the movement.

No panting! I firmly told myself. Very firm-ly...

So the guy worked out. This place was mostly a sporting goods store, it only made sense he would play sports. I just didn't realize how much I would appreciate that fact. Thank you Fate for not giving me a pudgy soul mate.

He hefted the large bag over one shoulder, and his biceps bulged as he held it steady. Slowly he walked back down the steps, his burly arms gripping the bag solidly. Then he was bending over to put the bag on the bottom rack of the cart, and his pants were stretching again.

No drooling either! I added to myself.

Wait, was he talking? Focus!

"...three labs that run around our house all day. Two yellow and one black. My folks got one for each of brothers and me."

He had dogs? I already knew that, I could smell their scents on him. But even better, he liked dogs!

"I didn't know you had brothers," I said. Oh, geez; what had been the point of saying that?

Mike dusted off his hands and looked up from where he was still crouching after loading the dog food. "Really? They would have gone to high school when you did. You're around the same age as the Adonis twins."

He chuckled at the joke, but there was definitely pain in his voice this time. Suddenly, I wanted a go at his brothers, just let me find out their location.

"How old are they?" I forced myself to ask.

"Twenty-eight and twenty-six. I'm surprised you don't remember them, almost everyone knew of their perfect exploits and accomplishments." He tried to look non-chalant as he spoke, but it made me want to rip his older brothers to pieces even more.

"Wait, how old do you think I am?" I asked his suspiciously.

He looked startled at me for a moment, then burst out laughing. It was good to hear him laugh.

"I'm not dumb enough to answer that," he chuckled, shaking his head and turning back to push the cart.

"I'm twenty," I told him.

"You are not twenty."

"You don't believe me?" I felt a small spark of irritation, a piece of the old Leah, but this was also fun, sparring with him. Oh boy, I had completely caught the Imprinting Bug.

He finally turned to look at me, and really look at me for the first time. He searched my gaze and my face, then swept his eyes down my body. Anyone else who regarded me this way would be lucky if I stopped at a black eye, but it had been so long since any male had shown interest.

It felt right, I had to admit it. And then it felt so much more than just 'right.'

The feminine attraction, combined with the new imprinting sensation, and the long dry spell I had endured, were thrown together in a potent mixture and... Bam!

I was never letting Mike go.

"I was sure you had just gotten back from graduating with a PHD or something, straight A's and all. You've really never been to college?" he said.

"Well, I'm going this fall," I said.

He smiled, and this time, it was a personal smile for me. "Oh yeah, where to?"

And just like that, the awkwardness between us vanished. Learning my age must have convinced him that I was worth a second glance. And now he was interested.

"I'm trying to decide between two schools. Or maybe someplace else will send an acceptance letter; it's kinda up in the air still."

"What are you planning to study?" he asked, making eye contact and everything now. Inside, I was doing cartwheels of joy.

"I have no idea. Maybe something with animals, or maybe dancing." If I was stuck as a werewolf, I might as well take advantage of the benefits.

"Those are pretty far apart," he remarked, "but I know what you mean. Picking a major is terrible; almost all my friends switched their majors in the first semester, so it's good you have several back-up plans."

He was thoughtful for a moment, a dent forming between his brows as he concentrated. It was so adorable. I heard him murmur under his breath, "Clearwater" and then his eyes widened with some realization.

"What is it?" I asked him.

"Huh? What?"

"What were you thinking about?"

"Oh, nothing. So were you thinking of being a vet or working in an animal shelter?" he asked brightly.

I looked curiously at him, wondering what could have happened, but he was suddenly avoiding my eyes again. I tried to not let that hurt as much as it did.

"I was thinking rescue work, but my little brother is the one who connects to animals more. I might just have to go with dancing."

"Hey, just cause your brother does something better than you doesn't mean you can't do it too," he said encouragingly, and I again felt the pain in his voice.

"So what kind of dancing?" he went on.

"Modern, I suppose," I said, wishing I could ask him about whatever pain his brothers had caused him.

"Like the dancing in that new movie?" He seemed genuinely interested again.

"I guess, but not so much break dancing. Actually, I don't know, I haven't seen it yet."

"I bet you're really good at dancing." My heart leapt at the compliment and I looked at him with a gracious smile. He was the one blushing this time, and I was glad I wasn't the only embarrassed one anymore.

All too quickly we were at the check-out counters. He looked down the line of checkers, cringing at all of them. Sighing, he pushed the cart to the lane with a middle-aged woman.

"Mikey, there you are. Have you been bothering this young lady the whole time?" said the woman.

We both answered at the same time.

"Of course not, mom."

"I asked for his help."

We both looked at one another and blushed, but I was suddenly feeling very happy.

"I was actually hoping Mike could help me carry this stuff out to my car," I told his mom.

Mrs. Newton peered at me until her face split in recognition. "You're Susan's girl, right? Leah."

"Yes, I am," I said politely, helping Mike put my purchases on the small conveyor belt for Mrs. Newton to scan.

"How is Sue doing?"

"Just fine. I think she might be coming up one of these days to purchase her perennials. You have any specials coming up?" I asked.

Mike's mother slid right into my palm. It was incredibly easy. Huh, I would never have guessed that I would be good at the "meet the parents" stuff.

"Don't take too long, Mike. You're dad needs your help in beach supplies," Mrs. Newton said once Mike had finished bagging the things he had picked out for me.

I couldn't help my huge grin as I picked up a few bags. By letting Mike walk me to the car, she had all but given her approval. All that was left was to get Mike alone later and explain everything.

"I'm sorry about that, Leah. Mom still sees me as her baby to boss around," Mike commented as we left the store. He held the door open for me, even though his hands were completely filled.

He had finally called my by my first name. I had to stop myself from squealing in delight.

"It's alright, I liked her. And it's not like all mothers don't have problems accepting their kids are grown-up. How old are you?"

"I'll be nineteen in two weeks."

I almost dropped the bags I was carrying. Too young. Way too young to be acceptable to ordinary humans. I had been wrong before, there was no way his mom had approved of us walking out together, she probably just thought I was worth more attention for being related to my mother.

"But you just finished your freshman year of college," I somehow managed to say without sounding panicked.

Mike shrugged, "I got started a year early. That's the trouble with summer birthdays, never know where the kids belong."

I watched him load the sacks into the back of my mom's sedan, feeling the seconds until departure counting down. Young boy or not, it was going to be hard to leave him.

Then I remembered something that would prolong our conversation.

"Mike, what were you thinking about when you said my last name in the store?"

He had just picked up the last sack and paused to look at me. He looked nervous, like he had been caught stealing cookies. "It really wasn't anything important, and I really don't want to say anything that would spoil your answer to my next question."

"Shoot," I said, willing to do anything he wanted.

"Would you want to catch that dance movie on Friday night?"

My heart leaped into overdrive, and I was sure I couldn't have heard him right. "Are you asking me out?" I didn't squeak, at least I don't think I did.

But Mike was blushing again and putting the last bag into the trunk. He shut the lid, but then had nothing else to do to avoid my question.

"Well, I thought I might as well ask, but you probably have plans already," he said sheepishly.

All my weekends were suddenly wide open. "No, free as a bird," I answered.

He looked stunned. "R-Really? You sure?"

"Yes, of course. I wouldn't have agreed otherwise," I said a little snapishly. Immediately I regretted that.

"I'm sorry, but I'm trying to reconcile the idea. An older, pretty woman wants to go on a date with a dweeb like me?"

People called him a dweeb? Who would dare?! I wanted names!

He called me pretty!

"What time?" I asked.

"Say six? I can pick you up at your place," he offered politely.

I froze in fear. That's just what I needed, amo for Seth and the others to tease me relentlessly.

"Or I could pick you up at the gas station in La Push," Mike interrupted my thoughts, interpretting my panicked expression correctly. I looked at him like he had just offered a cupcake instead of cauliflower.

He chuckled at the relief on my face; I was really starting to like that chuckle. "Family issues? I know exactly what that's like. Jessica's dad never did trust me."

Who was Jessica? And why did I suddenly want her pounded into dust? And her dad too for not thinking Mike was respectful?

"So Friday at six, it's a date," said Mike, smiling again, his blue eyes twinkling.

"A date," I agreed, smiling back. "You better get back inside before you get into trouble."

"Oh, yikes. I gotta go, but I'll see you later, Leah." And with a little wave, he was gone.

Somehow I managed to get into the car and drive back towards La Push. But just outside the territory line, I pulled over and shut off the car. Getting out, I leaned against the door and looked at the scenery before me.

A small field of wild grasses in front of the treeline, but I really wasn't seeing the view. My mind was racing with all the events of the last hour. Random thoughts kept popping up in no order at all. My head felt dizzy with the way they were swirling.

It had happened, it had finally happened. I had, by some incredible twist of fate, imprinted!

Mike was funny and smiley, someone who found humor in everyday life. I wasn't like that all, or maybe I was, I couldn't remember the girl I had been too well. Back when I was happy with Sam.

Sam... for the first time in a very long time, the memories of our relationship didn't spark hurt. I had known this would happen if I ever imprinted, but thinking it and feeling it were completely different things.

Oh goodness, Mike! He was nothing like the other werewolves, and I loved it so much. He was sunshine and laughter, a little naive maybe, but there was also hidden pain within him. I wanted to make that pain go away.

And he was polite and kind and considerate. His mother raised him right. Maybe, with him, I could regain my niceness.

Eighteen! My common sense screamed. Oh, who cared! I had nothing on Jacob and Quil.

But I knew that wouldn't matter to the guys. I might as well walk around wearing a sign that said: Bring on the Cougar Jokes.

As annoyed and frustrated I was with all the upcoming mockery, I couldn't help but feel light-headedly happy. I had a reason to stay in La Push now, for the rest of the summer anyway.

That is, considering I didn't blow it on Friday. Oh, Fate must really hate me. I was happy, but I was going to have my work cut out for me, easing Mike into the werewolf world.

Should I tell him on Friday? No, certainly not. Not on the first date.

Today was Wednesday, how was I going to last until Friday?

I started giggling, and scared myself. I hadn't giggled in years, the sound was rusty, but I couldn't stop. Wrapping my arms around myself, I spun in a circle, still trying to remember how to giggle properly.

I wanted to run and jump, fall onto the wildflowers on the side of the road and roll. I wanted to phase and run through the woods. I should find Jake and challenge him to a race, I might even let him win.

Oh, it was a beautiful day! I had to get home and tell...

Who? Oh, who could I tell?

My mom? She would tell Seth, and Seth would tell everyone else. And then the jokes would start.

I knew I couldn't keep it secret forever, but could I have this happiness to myself for a while? I didn't want to face them all yet. I could barely get used to it as it was. I still wanted to go running.

But I couldn't run, I realized. They would all know the truth right away when I shifted.

Now I wanted to howl in frustration. I couldn't shift, I couldn't see Mike, and I had to keep a secret from my pack.

Saturday. Saturday I would decide what would happen, depending on how Friday night went. I would have to tell Jake by then, and my mom would want to know the details of my date, but I could keep it inside until then.

A secret like this might give me an aneurism though, at the very least an ulcer.

And then I thought of Mike's blue eyes, and anything seemed bearable. I would survive to Friday. I had to.

When I got back home, I was humming the song that had been on the car's radio. I unloaded the car in the garage, because most of stuff was stored there anyway, then took a few select things inside.

My mom and Seth were waiting for me in the kitchen. Mom looked concerned, Seth looked frightened.

"What? What happened?" I asked, fearful that there might have been another vampire attack. Could I get to town and get Mike to safety before I had to go fight?

"You're singing, Leah," said Seth in a hollow voice. "I could hear you in the garage."

"You mean, that's it? You're worried 'cause I'm having a good day?" I rolled my eyes and started unpacking my shopping bags. "Geez, Seth, you need help."

"And you got my list of supplies?!" he gasped, taking several steps backward. "Who are you and what have you done with Leah?"

I considered flipping him off, which I normally would've done without hesitation, but I just wasn't feeling it. I put away the light bulbs, blissfully thinking that Mike's hand had touched this very box three times. First into the cart, then onto the belt, then into the bag. I could even still faintly smell his scent on it.

I heard Seth leave and my mom take a seat at the table. "So how was your day good, Leah?" she asked.

I had to give her something, and I couldn't lie to her. "I gotta date," I said, and the goofy smile on my face as I said it must have distracted her from whatever else she might have asked.

I will have the next chapter up in a few days. I'm really liking this drabble.