This one-shot was written for sparagus who bought me at The Fandom Gives Back auction in November and who's nice enough to let me post this fic here.

Thanks also go out to my lovely beta Red Summer.


His Imprint

Don't ask me why I was headed back to Forks; I could barely explain it to myself.

Or rather, I didn't want to have to explain it to myself. It might send my already fragile little world crashing to the ground.

College was over. My teaching qualifications were completed. There was nothing to stop me from turning my back on this town once and for all. But I knew I wouldn't, because if I did, I would also be turning my back on him.

Not Edward, of course, though I secretly believed that a part of me would always love him deep down inside. Older and now wiser, I finally understood the sacrifice that he had made on my behalf. He let me go because I would never have been able to. I now lived every day to the fullest in praise of him. He was right; his vampiric nature would have held me back and kept me from experiencing life as it should be.

True – I still ran with the supernatural, but only as a human, a condition I had learned to embrace.

Moving back to Forks was a sign that I was finally moving on. I just didn't know who to.

I knew who the candidates were, of course - it wasn't exactly easy to miss them. Over seven foot of pure muscle was slightly hard to avoid at the best of times. So I decided to move back and move in with the only man I'd ever fully trusted without reservation.

"Dad, I'm back." Struggling through the door with both a suitcase and a box, I noticed the fishing gear missing from the porch. Great, I was going to have to lug everything up to my room by myself. I peered over the top of the box to the stairs, which now appeared precariously steep. Maybe I would just wait until Charlie got back after all. I wasn't looking forward to my inevitable hospital trips. No need to rush into the first one after only being home for ten minutes.

Flopping onto the sofa, I debated leaving my last remaining box in my truck, before reasoning that if I got it over with now then I wouldn't have to bother later.

Huffing as I made my way out to my truck, amazingly still running after all these years, I distantly heard the sound of thumping paws growing ever closer. Sighing, I plucked the box containing kitchenware from the truck bed and made my way back to the front door.

The paws had now clicked their way across the gravel road in front of Charlie's house and I could distinctly hear the heavy panting behind me. Stopping at the door I gazed into the glass; the reflection I saw behind me would determine whether I turned around in greeting or ignored the wolf.

Small. Grey. Leah.

"Come on in," I instructed, swinging the door open. "Do you need to borrow clothes or have you got some already?"

"I'm good. I didn't know whether you'd be back yet or not, so I couldn't take the chance of flashing my ass at everybody."

I smirked at that, a look I'd picked up off her. "Well, you might wanna put them on then. I've got neighbours, you know. If they see you like that they might get the wrong impression."

Leah barked out a short laugh at that. "You only wish you could tap this."

"Every day sugar, every day." I turned around to face her, waiting for one of us to crack. Naturally I gave first, dumping my belongings on the floor before clutching my ribs as I laughed.

Leah giggled slightly at my response, not prone to hysterical fits in the same manner that I was. I personally liked my irrational laughing fits, they kept me sane. Pulling her t-shirt down over her shorts, Leah stepped forward, giving me a hug. Relaxing into it, I squeezed her tightly back before realizing that at some point today I was going to have to face reality.

"How's Seth doing?" I worried at my already chewed nails while I waited for her to reply.

"Seth's...," Leah shrugged, "...Seth, you know. He's always good, always annoyingly cheerful, always missing you."

I grimaced slightly at this reminder of our less than ideal circumstances.

"He's looking forward to seeing you tonight though."

"Tonight?" I asked panicked. "I'm seeing him tonight?" Why hadn't I been told about this in advance? Then I could have run all the way back to Seattle before anyone noticed I was here.

Leah grinned at me, enjoying my discomfort slightly too much for someone who was supposed to be my friend. "Yeah, mom's having you and Charlie over for dinner after fishing. I've come to make sure you don't try to escape between now and then."

"Thanks," I snorted. "Nice to know I can rely on you."

"What are sisters for?"

I glared at her sweetly smiling face. "We're not sisters yet, Leah."

She shrugged again, completely indifferent to my bad attitude. "We will be," she stated confidently. "Just as soon as everyone removes their heads from where the sun don't shine. I wonder who'll crack first? Mom and Charlie? Or you and Seth?"

"There is no me and Seth," I muttered, stomping over to my suitcase and dragging it up to the stairs. Right now a broken neck and trip to casualty were looking very appealing.

Leah followed me up to my room, easily balancing the two boxes I had struggled with on one arm. "God you need to redecorate in here."

"I have no idea if I'm even staying." I threw myself onto my bed, grabbing a pillow and smothering my face with it. A heavy flop in the mattress indicted that Leah had joined me.

"Of course you're staying." The pillow was yanked away from me. "Where else would you go?"

I stuck my tongue out at her, the childish action making me feel a tiny bit better.

"Bella?" I turned slightly to see Leah watching me seriously. "I know that you still haven't made any decisions, and I'm not pressurizing you, you know I wouldn't do that. Not after the whole thing with...with the others. But just... go easy on him, yeah? He's really missed you."

"I've missed him too," I found myself saying. Leah smiled quickly before pulling me into another hug.

"So we've got two hours before dinner starts – want help unpacking? I'm good with laundry."

"Sure," I laughed. "If you're gonna stick around I might as well put you to work."


An hour and a half later my room and the rest of the house were immaculately sparkling and the last load of washing was slowly droning through the spin cycle. Leah and I had both showered and redressed – me in one of my nicer pairs of jeans and a red top, and Leah in some of the spare clothes she left at the house for emergencies.

Climbing into my truck, we began to make our way to the Clearwater's house on the reservation. The closer we got, the more frequently we saw flashes of fur darting in and out of the forest. We rode in silence, the tension growing the closer we got.

"Paul imprinted since you visited last." Leah's voice cut through the quiet like a knife. "You know Rachel, right?"

"Jacob's sister?" I frowned.

"Yep," she confirmed. "She's got him so tightly whipped that he's absolutely petrified of pissing anyone off now in case it gets back to her."

"So naturally you're now annoying him more than ever to try and get him to crack."

"We all are," she giggled. Wow! Two giggles from Leah in one day – something must be up. She was never normally this cheerful, or gossipy, hardly ever delivering information unless asked for it.

"Alright, what's going on?" I demanded, pulling the truck to the side of the road and cutting the engine.

"I don't..."

"Leah!"

"Jacob's going to be at dinner too."

"What?" I shrieked.

Leah winced at the sound, before sighing heavily. "Yeah, I wasn't too thrilled with the idea either, but Billy's coming, so Jake wrangled an invite too."

Oh god, this was horrible. I'd only just come home and was already having to deal with both Seth and Jake.

"If it's any consolation," Leah began, "Sam and Emily are going to be there as well." I glanced at her, noting that while her voice conveyed indifference, her expression was one of stoic pain and betrayal.

"We'll have to protect each other," I joked, trying to lighten the mood and earning myself a small smile.

"Okay. Let's go." Mentally bracing myself, I restarted the engine and turned off towards the Clearwater's, arriving at the house ten minutes later. Climbing out of the cab, I turned to find Sue standing on the porch, a welcoming smile gracing her face. Leah walked past us into the house as I stopped to gently hug her mom.

Sue pulled back slightly, cradling my face in her hands as she inspected my appearance. "You look too skinny dear," she commented. I smiled at that; Sue always proclaimed that I looked skinny, whilst I always defended myself saying that of course I would look tiny compared to the rest of the freakishly large tribe. "Never mind. The boys will be back with the fish soon enough and then we'll fatten you up."

"Stop it, mom. She looks perfect." The voice came from behind me and I yelped in surprise even as a tiny part of me rejoiced at the appearance of him.

Seth. My werewolf.

I knew technically that I shouldn't be calling him mine, even in my head, but I also knew that he wouldn't mind. He would love to be called mine. As much as he would love me to be called his. Out loud anyway.

Privately, everyone had already accepted what I was to him. Well, except me. And possibly Jake.

His imprint.

It had been a cold and windy day down at First Beach when it had happened. Jake and I had been huddled down amongst the roots of our gnarled, white-washed tree. Jake had been talking to me about anything and everything, trying desperately to fill the silence. I was sat quietly, staring into space and contemplating what I had learned about the wolves.

It had been two weeks since Quil had imprinted on Claire and though I still thought the whole thing was a bit creepy, I understood that the imprinting urge was more about devotion and love, rather than merely a sexual urge.

Jake had been bringing up the subject of imprinting more and more lately. I was never entirely sure what he was expecting my reaction to be. He spoke of Sam, Jared and Quil's situations so passionately, almost jealously, that I couldn't help but get the sneaking suspicion that he was hoping that one day he would wake up, look at me and BOOM, we would ride off happily into the sunset.

I could already tell him it was never going to happen.

Jacob was like my own personal sunshine, the brother I had never had. I would never be able to love him as anything other than that. It had already caused several arguments between us. He would never understand why I was incapable of letting go of 'those filthy bloodsuckers'.

Anyway, Jake had been beginning another one of his rants about the leeches that made their way into the wolves' territory, when Seth had appeared to call him away on pack business. Jake was just making sure that I would be able to get back to my truck okay – behaviour I rolled my eyes over – when Seth finally caught up with us.

And stopped. And stared.

At the time I didn't realize what had just happened; I only knew that I was being stared at uncomfortably by a boy with a massive goofy grin stretching across his face.

Hugging Jake goodbye, we were interrupted mid-embrace by the snarls that were beginning to rip out of Seth's chest. He was no longer staring at me, but was now glaring murderously at Jake, whose gaze flickered between the two of us before shaking his head in denial. "Oh hell no!"

Still not understanding what was going on, I was shocked when Jake shoved me behind him, swearing frantically. "Bella, why don't you go home and I'll see you later." Worded like a question, but voiced like command, I nodded hesitantly before turning my back on both wolves and complying.

Scrambling back up the rocks leading down to the beach, I suddenly heard a pained yelp followed by a growl. Raising my hand to shade my eyes, I was horrified to the two wolves attacking each other. No good would have come of me staying though and I knew the rest of the pack would probably arrive soon, so I hurried faster back to my truck. I had seen all too well the damage the wolves could do if you got in their way.

From then on things had been weird. Jake avoided me whenever I tried to see him, once yelling at me that I was supposed to be his; and whenever I drove down to the reservation I was always greeted with knowing looks and a grinning Seth, who magically appeared wherever I went.

It was Leah who finally caved and explained to me what was going on. Seth had imprinted on me, but due to Jake's temper and the stories he had heard about me and Edward, he had decided to wait before telling me. This was the one thing I alternated between loving and hating about Seth – he was just too nice, just too good and kind and self-sacrificing. As long as I allowed him in my life, Seth was perfectly content to be whatever I wanted him to be, no pressure.

Apparently all of the pack had expected that with his revelation I would fall head over heels for him, straight into love, and a relationship, and everything else that I wasn't equipped to deal with. The fact that I didn't, being busy mourning the loss of my failed relationship, and he didn't, not wanting me to feel like I had to feel a certain way, was a source of great confusion and amusement amongst them.

At one point Jared had joked that Seth should simply kidnap me and refuse to let me go until he had made me love him, but he would never want to hurt me like that.

The imprinting was exactly as Jake had unknowingly explained to me, all that time before. I was Seth's perfect soulmate, made for him, and in return he was mine. He was specifically designed to be whatever I needed him to be. Regardless of his feelings.

I had requested time and friendship, and that was what I got.

I never felt like I was being pushed with Seth. He only ever wanted to make me happy. Of course, the fact that he was now nineteen to my twenty-three soothed my conscience slightly; I had felt a bit like a child-molester ever since the fifteen year-old Seth had imprinted upon me.

Spending time at their house had led to my friendship with Leah. She was cold and bitter, hurt and betrayed, and so was I. It was a friendship forged out of the very pits of hell and suffering. Here was someone who could understand why I couldn't just jump straight from one serious committed relationship to another. Why I couldn't just get over it and move on.

Leah supported me in my decision to hold Seth at arm's length. However, while she was proud of me for honouring the memory of Edward, she had gradually become more and more disillusioned over Sam and Emily's relationship.

She could understand the imprinting urge, having seen it in half the pack's mind, and now knew that the compulsion Sam was held in was unbreakable. Emily though... Leah had sat by my side for four years watching as I overcame the growing imprinting urge to have Seth by my side forever and never let him go. Emily had resisted Sam's interest for all of three weeks. It seriously threw into question her belief that she and her cousin had shared a close sisterly relationship, if Emily could hurt her deliberately so easily.

My resistance wasn't strong anymore though and my relationship with Seth was definitely going to end romantically. I could feel it. I took comfort in the fact that it wasn't an impulsive relationship. Seth and I had been dancing around the romantic nature of our connection for the best part of eighteen months now, in addition to our friendship before that.

Romantic ever since It had happened. It was so momentous that it deserved capital letters even when spoken aloud. It had happened the summer before my teaching course had started, after one of the beach barbecues that half the tribe attended. I was invited both as Seth's imprint and Leah's friend. Towards the end of the evening Seth took it upon himself to drive me home, given that I was practically falling asleep after having drunk two beers, making me way past my tipsy limit. I know, I'm a cheap date.

Parking outside my house, Seth didn't even bother trying to get me inside under my own steam, choosing instead to scoop me up, cradling me to his warm chest and taking me up to my room, where he gently placed me on the bed, took off my shoes and tucked me in.

What happened next I later blamed on both my tiredness and the alcohol I'd consumed. Seth had been about to leave the room when I called him back, refusing to let go of his arm.

"Seth?"

"Yes, Bella?" Sitting on the edge of my bed, Seth gently brushed my hair out of my face.

"Seth," I repeated. "Do you really love me? I mean, would you love me if you didn't have to?" Tears were beginning to fill my eyes at the thought that without the power of mystical imprinting I might be completely unlovable.

"God Bella, of course I'd love you anyway. How could I not?" Moving back to the bed, Seth had lay down beside me to gather me in his arms. "I'll always love you. You're the centre of my world and for that I'm glad because you're so beautiful to me. I'm so incredibly grateful for any time we spend together. I love you so much, Bella Swan. Please don't ever believe that I don't. I can't bear that you think I might not love you."

See what I mean? There's no way anyone could resist someone so heartfelt and good for so long, and the fact that I was keeping him at a distance was beginning to hurt me too.

Snuffling softly in a bid to vanquish my tears, I shuffled up the bed until my face was level with his. I leaned forward very carefully and brushed my lips lightly against Seth's. I didn't know what to expect; I'd only ever kissed Edward before. His lips scorched mine in a delightfully pleasant way and I pressed them against his once more, eager to experience the sensation again.

What began as a light exploratory kiss quickly turned more desperate as Seth and I devoured each other, clutching ourselves together tightly so as to maximise our contact. His hands clutched my back; my hands grabbed and pulled at his hair.

My need for air caused us to break apart, both of us panting as if we had just run a marathon. Seth rested his forehead against mine with his eyes closed and a tiny but genuine smile spreading across his face.

I felt immediately guilty. Here he was, at my beck and call every day, and I was leading him on, demanding declarations of love when I had no way of returning them. Closing my eyes, I was grateful when sleep took me almost immediately. When I woke up Seth was gone, and later on in the day so was I.

Naturally, being a coward, I had run away to college and Seattle without seeing him before I left, but Leah was right; sooner or later I was going to have to drag my head out of my ass and face up to the fact that I was in love with Seth. She had already informed me repeatedly that Seth still loved me, bore no grudges against the manner in which I'd left and even called my name as he masturbated in the shower. I hadn't needed to know that last part.

That time was now upon me.

I was back in Forks permanently and sooner or later I was going to have to drag Seth away for a heart to heart. God, I hate exposing my feelings publically.

Which brings me back to standing on the porch at the Clearwater's engaged in a staring contest with Seth, me feeling overwhelmed and terrified and him looking like he'd just won the lottery.

"Come on, you two, stop mooning at each other and get inside."

Flushing heavily at Leah's screaming I glanced around, noticing that Sue had already retreated back to the kitchen. "Shall we?" I said, motioning towards the house.

Seth beamed up at me, "Whatever you want."

For some reason this annoyed me. I mean, I know that when the werewolves imprinted they would then do whatever their mates wanted, but I didn't want Seth to do what I wanted anymore. I wanted to know what he wanted. I wanted us to do things that we both wanted from now on. Which meant, once again, that we needed to talk. "You don't have to do that," I whispered softly, wringing my hands in front of me.

Seth frowned at my agitation, immediately concerned. "Do what?" he asked. "What is it, Bella? What's wrong?"

"I just..." I hesitated, unsure how to begin. "Can we not always do 'whatever I want'." I indicated the quotation marks with my fingers and Seth appeared amused by this. "Can we just... What do you want to do?"

Seth appeared completely gobsmacked and I immediately felt even guiltier that he had obviously never considered his own needs. "You want... You want me to choose something to do?" The words were spoken quietly, but the awe and worship in them carried over to where I was standing.

"Yes," I confirmed. "What do you want, Seth? Please tell me and I'll try to..." My words faltered as Seth took two long strides to stand directly in front of me. Craning my head back to meet his eyes I abstractly noticed how well developed Seth had become, my long absence throwing the developments of his body into sharp focus.

"Bella," he mumbled, leaning forward towards me. My eyes flickered between his gaze and his lips, already yearning to feel them on mine again. Only for him to stop a hair's breadth away from me.

His shoulders sagged. "Can we continue this later?" I didn't understand the question or his hesitation until I heard the rumble of a truck heading towards the house. Charlie, Billy and Jacob were coming.

Seth continued to look towards me dispiritedly and it suddenly hit me what was going on. Jacob was here and Seth had no idea about my true feeling towards him. The imprint only worked one-way. As far as Seth knew I was perfectly capable of bestowing my affections upon Jacob and abandoning him to his unrequited devotion if I chose to.

Standing in front of me, begging for a chance for me to hear him out, Seth had never looked so vulnerable to me. Unheeding of the audience which had just pulled up, I reached up to cup Seth's face in my hands. Stroking his cheeks with my thumbs, I raised myself onto my tiptoes, tugging slightly on him to get him to lean down. When he complied I kissed him, lightly sucking his bottom lip between mine. "Of course, we'll continue this later. I promise," I vowed as I pulled away.

His blinding smile was back on his face, warming my soul as he directed it towards me. My face began to unconsciously stretch into the same action, leaving us both looking slightly manic as we grinned at each other.

"I should go and say hello to my dad." I broke our cocoon to focus on reality.

"OK. I'll wait for you." My saviour, always making sacrifices for me. I could already tell that this meeting with Jake had the potential to get nasty quickly.

Turning to face Charlie I saw that he and Jacob had already unloaded Billy from the truck. All three men were staring at me, each with a different expression on their face, and I blushed at the realization that I had just thrown myself at Seth in front of them all. Charlie looked smugly satisfied. After finding out about the wolves and Seth's imprinting on me, he had been weirdly supportive of any relationship between the two of us, reasoning with me that I would never find anyone else who would care about me so devotedly. Once Jacob's staunchest supporter, my father had quickly switched allegiance. Billy looked strangely resigned as though he had realised that this was going to happen all along, but had hoped for better for Jake. His hand was braced on one of his son's arms, simultaneously consoling and restraining him.

Jake... Well, Jake looked absolutely furious. Trembling with rage he was glaring venomously at both Seth and I. I knew that he had seen my rejection of Seth's advances in the past as an encouraging sign.

Stepping forward, I moved into Charlie's open arms giving him a tight hug. "Hi Dad. How's the fishing today?"

Charlie laughed. "Good to have you back kid. We got a good catch, the fish were all biting. Looks like you've been busy today too." He raised his eyebrow at me and just like that everything was fine. Apart from Seth and Edward, Charlie was the only other person in the world to love me unreservedly and without condition. "Should we get them cooking then? I'm getting hungry." Charlie laughed again and turned to unload the truck bed.

Taking a deep breath, I turned to face Jacob and his father. "Hi there, Billy. It's good to see you." I smiled tentatively at the older Black.

"Bella." He nodded. "You look like you're keeping well." He rolled forward and I bent down to kiss him on the cheek.

"I am, thank you." Now for the tricky greeting. "Hello Jacob." Instead of answering he just huffed at me, causing his father to shoot him a warning frown.

Seth came to stand by my side then, his eyes never leaving Jacob's. As they faced off I felt the back of his hand graze against mine and needing the comfort, I moved my fingers to entwine with his. Squeezing lightly, I placed an unconvincing smile on my face. "Shall we go inside? Sue's probably waiting for us all."

Squeezing my palm equally as lightly back, Seth guided me back towards the house in front of him, placing his body between mine and Jacob's. Leah now stood in the doorway watching anxiously, but winked at me when she noticed the hand-holding.

"That's new," she smirked.

I stuck my tongue out at her again, while Seth groaned. "Aww, way to go, Leah. Don't ruin this for me ok?"

I had predicted that dinner would be awkward and I was right, especially after Sam and Emily arrived. Sue and Charlie were the only ones to speak with any degree of composure and neither of them were particularly verbose, so most of the meal was spent in silence.

After dessert was placed in front of us, Emily decided to try and lighten up the atmosphere in Sue's kitchen. "So Bella, you've just finished your teacher training? Any idea what you'll do next? Are you staying here from now on to work?" They were innocent enough questions, but I could see the potential minefield answering them would force me to navigate.

In the end I didn't have to; Jake spoke up for me. "Don't be stupid, Emily," he sneered, causing Sam to bristle in his seat. "Of course she's not staying. Are you, Bells?" The vitriol in his voice punched a hole through my chest. "You never do. Besides it's not like you have any responsibilities here like the rest of us. You can just swan around doing whatever the hell you please, while the rest of us suffer."

"Now look here, son," Charlie began, but Jake interrupted him.

"You've never cared about the damage you've caused, have you? Of course, you haven't. Too busy mooning over your beloved vampire to give a shit about the rest of us." Tears were streaming down my face from his attack by this point. I mean, I knew I'd been selfish, but for a while I'd needed to be. I'd needed to not worry about anything or anyone else. Leah and Seth had now stood up on either side of me, as if that could protect from any further verbal attack.

"C'mon Jake, let's not do this, man," Seth protested.

"I don't know why you even bother, Seth..."

"Jake," Sam's rumble was a warning that wasn't listened to.

"...after all, she's never gonna stick around long enough for you to get anywhere with her..."

A ringing had started in my ears, deafening me to the rest of his rant. How dare he? I mean I knew that I had flaked out and run last year, but he had no right to speak about my relationship with Seth in any capacity.

"I've come home permanently," I stated baldly, stopping the argument that had broken out in its tracks. "I'm here to stay now. I've been offered a job at Forks High School that I'm taking. As for everything else," I reached forward to blindly grab at Seth's hand and held on tightly, "it's none of your business."

Jacob surged up out of his chair and banged his hands down upon the table in front of him, causing a hairline fracture to appear in the wood. Seth immediately drew me into him, wrapping his arm around my waist and keeping his body between me and the volatile Jacob. Leah was crouched slightly in front of us, prepared for attack and Sam stood to one side of Jake ready to block him from us.

"So what," Jacob spat, "now you're suddenly in love with him? How convenient." He slammed his hands down again and the table shattered beneath his palms. Sue and Emily shrieked in surprise and Sam took the opportunity to wrestle Jake out of the house with Leah's help. I followed, needing to see this through. I had to make Jake understand that 'us', as a couple, was never going to happen, with or without Seth in the picture.

Jake was fighting back against Sam and Leah, kicking and punching at them. I knew it was only a matter of time before he phased and the really brutal fighting began.

"Stop it!" I screamed. Tears streaming down my face once more. "Just stop it, Jake. What are you doing?"

"You were supposed to be mine," he bellowed. "If you were someone's imprint, it was supposed to be mine! You were supposed to be with me! I waited for you to see that. I waited for you, but you never even noticed." Jacob's ire seemed to wane slightly, before he began yelling again. "And then he imprinted on you. Him! And now all of a sudden you're over your heartbreak. So what, you love him now?"

"Yes," I confirmed quietly, earning myself several gasps of shock, including one from Seth. "Yes, I love him." Saying the words out loud was strangely freeing, like the pressure that had weighted down my chest before had suddenly been lifted. "But that's none of your business. That's between me and Seth, but..." This was going to be the hard part to say. "You never stood a chance Jake. You were never that person for me. You never stood a chance because you were never in the running. You were my friend, nothing more, nothing less. In fact I don't even think you're that any more. It's never been you Jacob." It was harsh, but it needed to be said. This had to end.

I watched, horrified, as my old best friend crumpled into a heap in front of us, defeated at last. My own knees felt weak and I was grateful for Seth's supporting arm holding me up. Jake emitted a low pained whine before suddenly phasing from his crouched position. Sam and Seth immediately changed in response, Seth so close to me that I could feel the moment his human skin changed to fur.

Jake didn't attack, however, merely whining once more before suddenly taking off in a reddish-brown blur, leaving huge muddy clumps in Sue's lawn from the impact of his paws. Sam barked once at Seth before following Jake into the forest. At this point I couldn't even see properly from the salty tears which flooded my eyes, blurring my sight.

Leah who had positioned herself between us and Jake and Sam now turned to me. "I think that you two really need to talk. I'll let the others know where you've gone." She gestured towards the house and I saw that everyone inside was staring at us through the kitchen window.

As she passed us Leah gave me a quick hug and smile before patting Seth on the head, something she did a lot when he was human as well. "Hang on a sec," she commanded. Running into the house she returned with a pair of pants and handed them to me. "I've got the feeling that this isn't the type of conversation you want to have while my brother's naked."

I blushed, unable to meet her knowing eyes, and snatched the pants out of her hands. Taking a deep breath I looked into Seth's now smiling doggy face, his eyes dancing as his tongue took a swipe at my hand. "Maybe we should go for a walk, get away from all the prying eyes?" I suggested.

Seth immediately clacked down the porch steps before turning to wait for me. I glanced back towards the kitchen window again, noting that Charlie was staring worriedly at me. I smiled weakly, which probably looked more like a grimace, and waved to indicate that I was alright and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly as he nodded towards me, indicating to go ahead.

Turning back to Seth, I stumbled towards him before running my hand over his elongated snout and head and gripping the fur at the nape of his neck. We comfortably made our way down the drive and through a trail in the woods towards the beach. I'm sure we would have made quite a sight if anyone saw us: a human girl walking side by side with a giant wolf taller than her on all four paws.

Upon reaching the beach I made my way over to a conveniently placed boulder and sat down, hugging my knees to my chest. Seth lay down next to me, snuffling his head forward onto my lap. He was so warm that I hugged him to me, enjoying his closeness.

We sat in silence for at least an hour just revelling in being with each other. An intense feeling of peace had swept through me, strong enough to rival anything Jasper had ever projected. My hand rhythmically stroked over Seth's head and I marvelled at the softness of his fur. Seth was growling softly under his breath and if I didn't know better I would have said he was purring.

Gathering my courage, I patted him gently to gain his attention. "Maybe you should go and put some clothes on. I'd like to be able to speak to you properly for this," I suggested, nudging him off me gently before holding out the pants Leah had given me.

Seth gently grasped the pants in his teeth before galloping off into the woods. I hadn't waited for long before he was back, now half-dressed, striding quickly across the sand towards me. I took the opportunity to stare at him. In the past I had been convinced that Edward was the most beautiful person I had ever seen, but I now believed that Seth was the more attractive of the two. His beauty was earthy and rough, not polished and smooth, and as a result was more wonderful for its approachability. Although, I have to say I did appreciate the rippling muscles that defined his torso as well.

I squealed when upon reaching me Seth swung me up into the air before sitting down where I had previously been and placing me gently across his lap. His arms twisted around my waist, drawing me closer to him, and in return mine curled around his neck, embracing him back.

"Bella," Seth whispered, his husky voice sending shivers down my spine. "I know that you were pretty angry when you yelled at Jacob, but can you please just..." He hesitated and I drew back slightly to look him in the eyes. I had ducked and dived around our issues for as long as I could, I now owed it to him to face him head on. "... just tell me...did you mean it? What you said to Jacob... Do you really..."

I didn't give him a chance to finish, placing my fingers over his lips. Moving my hand to cup his face, I placed my forehead against his, keeping eye contact the entire time. Although it would have been a completely inappropriate reaction, I nearly wept to see Seth gazing so reverently back at me.

"Yes, I meant it. I love you, Seth." In that moment, I couldn't remember why I'd been so afraid. Telling Seth I loved him was completely liberating and I couldn't stop my lips from curving up into a joyous grin. "I love you so much."

The look of delight that crossed Seth's face was breathtaking and lasted two seconds before his mouth slammed onto mine. I gasped, then groaned, as his kiss left my toes curling in my sneakers.

Our lips began to slow against each other, until they were barely brushing against each other and when we finally broke apart we were both panting. "I love you, Seth," I repeated. "I'm so sorry that it took so long for me to say it... and I'm really sorry that I ran away last year, I just got so scared and I couldn't make myself stay even though I knew it would hurt you... and I..."

Seth's lips stopped me mid-sentence and I threw myself into the moment once more. I don't know how long we kissed for, but every moment was pure bliss and I mentally kicked myself for holding back from this for so long. It was official, I was an idiot. Despite the weather turning bitingly cold, I remained warm wrapped snugly in Seth's arms. For the first time in over four years I felt completely content. I buried my face into Seth's neck as he tightened his arms around me.

We sat quietly, before Seth suddenly broke the silence that had enveloped us. "So... you love me?"

Although I had already repeated it several times, I didn't mind saying it again. I would repeat it to him a million times over if I had to. "Yes, I love you."

"And you're staying?"

"Yes."

"You know," he began hesitantly, "when my dad died he left me some money in his will that my mom invested for me."

I drew my head back to look at him. He was staring steadfastly down at his hands where they grasped at my shirt.

"I was thinking I could maybe think about getting a house of my own... you know, still on the reservation, but away from my mum and Leah so they don't cramp my style."

I giggled at that. Seth loved his family so much that I couldn't ever see him feeling that they were 'cramping his style' – if he even had any.

"I thought that if I had a place of my own you could maybe visit me... but only if you wanted to," he interjected quickly, perhaps fearing that I was about to run away screaming at the prospect of us having that kind of a relationship. Admittedly, a year ago I might have, but not now. Definitely not now.

"I would love to visit you at your non-existent house," I reassured him. "In fact I would love to visit you at the house you live at with your mom and bratty sister. I would love to just visit you, anytime, anywhere." I nuzzled my nose against his, earning myself a peck on the lips in return. "I'm not going to run away anymore, Seth. I'm definitely here to stay... with you."

Suddenly my face and neck were covered with kisses. Laughing I attempted to push Seth back off me only for him to playfully lick my cheek, a move he was prone to make in wolf-form.

"Come on," Seth announced suddenly, scooping me up so he was carrying me bridal style. "Let's get you home and get something warm to drink and eat. I hardly had anything at dinner, I was too afraid that Jacob was going to hurt you and now I'm starving."

With Seth carrying me, the walk back was a lot shorter than it had taken for us to get to the beach in the first place. I admit it, I'm slow.

Charlie's car was missing from the drive when we got there so I assumed that he and Billy had gone home already. What I wasn't expecting was that everyone else had disappeared as well.

Seth immediately made for the kitchen to heat up some leftovers for us while I flopped down onto the sofa in the lounge to wait for him. Just as I sat I caught a glimpse of white out the corner of my eye. A folded piece of paper with my name on it had been placed on top of the fireplace. Hearing that Seth was still rattling around in the kitchen, I opened it curiously.

Bella

Mom's gone back to your place with Charlie and I've got patrolling duty this evening so the house is yours and Seth's. We figured you two might want privacy so that you can 'talk'.

Your loving sister

Leah

(You can thank me later, but I don't want details)

Blushing furiously at Leah's inference, I didn't notice that Seth had entered the room behind me.

"What's this?" He plucked the letter from my numb hands and began reading, leaving me to scurry back to the sofa, eyes firmly fixed on my feet.

Of course I had thought about it. I mean, I wouldn't have been human if I hadn't. From Leah's pointed comments I also knew that Seth had definitely thought about it too... But to have the next step spelled out to us in a letter...

I loved Seth. I loved kissing Seth, I loved everything about him and I knew that we had been circling around each other for so long that if we did... it wouldn't be too soon.

I was terrified.

Between loving Edward and falling in love with Seth I had never actually got around to losing my virginity. I had always wanted it to be special, to be with someone I loved, rather than a quick two minutes with some random guy. But actually taking that step... Taking that step with Seth... Yes, it was terrifying. At least I had the advantage of knowing that unless Seth had become sexually aware at a very young age, he was in exactly the same position as I was.

And yes, I wanted it... but I didn't have the slightest clue how to be seductive. I decided to settle for directness instead.

Finally meeting Seth's gaze I noticed that he too was blushing. Shifting from foot to foot he nervously scratched the back of his neck with one hand, the other still grasping the note.

"Look Bella, Leah's just kidding around. I promise you I'm not expecting an..."

I flung myself at him. His mouth instantly met mine and letting the paper drop to the floor he wrapped his arms around my waist and hoisted me up to meet him. Instinctively, I hooked my legs over his hips, crossing my ankles behind his back and pushing my body closer to his.

Seth immediately tore his lips away from mine. "Bella," he panted, "are you sure this is what you want?"

Gasping for breath, I found my courage. "Yes, I'm sure. Make love to me, Seth?"

In reply he began kissing, licking and nipping at my neck and I threw my head back to give him better access with a groan. I barely felt myself being jostled as Seth stumbled down the hall towards his room with me wrapped around him.

He turned as he collapsed onto the bed, making sure I landed of top of him. Brushing my hair off my face, Seth asked me one last time. "Bella, are you sure this is what you want? I don't... please don't change your mind later."

Grasping his face with my hands, I repeated the truth for him with as much conviction as I could summon. "Yes Seth, I want this. I want you. Forever and always. I love you so much and I'll quite happily tell you that as often as you like. I truly am sorry for the pain I've caused you in the past, but I love you and I'm here to stay." I stroked my fingers over his forehead, trying to sooth the worry lines that had appeared here.

Seth beamed back at me, his smile lighting up his entire face. "I love you too, you know," he stated conversationally, as he began to casually unbutton my shirt. "So I'm actually really glad that you love me back." I squealed with laughter as he attacked the rest of my clothes.

I would love to say that the whole experience was sickeningly perfect. That we undressed each other with care and grace. That we knew exactly what it would take to work each other to the very peak of physical pleasure. That the sex itself was the height of eroticism and romance.

It really wasn't.

It was awkward and ridiculous. We fumbled around like the virgins we were. Trying to have sex with a fully-grown werewolf on a tiny single bed was physically impossible. After falling over the side for the second time, Seth just grabbed me and pulled me down onto the floor with him. We snorted and bickered as we tried to find a position that worked for the both of us and we had tears of laughter rolling down our faces when Seth did something to the clasp on the back of my bra that meant even I couldn't get it undone.

It was the most perfect thing I had ever experienced. And it was Seth who made it perfect.

Separated, we were hopeless without each other. Together, we were still pretty hopeless, but at least we had each other.

Later on that night, I lay bare, sprawled across Seth's chest as he slept. There was no need for covers when in close proximity to my werewolf. I inwardly screamed with joy at the thought. My werewolf. And I was finally now his imprint.

At long last I took a deep breath and let Edward go completely, before snuggling deep into Seth's arms, hugging him close and drifting off peacefully to sleep.