Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or any of the characters so memorably brought to life by Stephanie Meyer. I'm just borrowing them for a little while for my own enjoyment.
"Where's Jake?" I asked Embry.
"I called his place just before I left to meet up. Billy said he was still sleeping. Mentioned something about a really late night."
"Huh." I grunted. I had to wonder about that. Jake hadn't been on patrol last night, so why had he been up so late that he was still sleeping this late in the morning?
"Let's go," Sam told us. "We'll wake him up and take a run through the woods. See if that leech has come back."
We'd chased a red-headed female bloodsucker away from Forks just a couple days earlier--chased her all the way to Canada. We weren't sure why she was coming around; Sam thought that the leech with dreadlocks that we'd run down and killed a couple weeks ago had been her mate and that she was trying to find out what had happened to him. Thoughts of that day led me to think about the reason we'd killed that vampire. When we'd found him in that forest clearing, he'd been standing over Bella Swan, clearly about to kill her.
Remembering her, and the fact that we were walking toward Jake's house, had me stop in my tracks for a second. A crazy thought flashed through my mind, only to be instantly dismissed. Jake couldn't have been with Bella last night. Sam had told him he needed to stay away from her; and Jake couldn't defy the Alpha's gag order anyway.
Getting myself back into gear, I jogged a little to make up ground, catching up just as we broke into the open ground near the Blacks' house. Embry let out a wolf-like call to let Jake know we were coming. A few moments later, the screen door impacted the side of the house with a crack, but it wasn't Jake coming toward us. Storming across the yard, a look of fury on her face, was Bella Swan.
"What did you do to him?" she demanded of Sam, as soon as she got close to us.
"What did we do? What did you do?" Paul snapped, before Sam could answer her.
"He didn't want this!"
"What did he tell you?!" Paul was getting really worked up. This had the potential of heading south real fast. Paul was still losing it the battle with his temper on a regular basis, and this looked like another repeat in the making.
"He told me nothing. He's afraid of you." Where had she gotten an idea like that? Jake, afraid of his brothers? We couldn't help it, and started laughing. Apparently, that wasn't the wisest thing we could've done; she hauled off and slapped Paul across the face. I winced. Paul never had good control of his temper at the best of times, and getting slapped was going to set him off as sure as the sun rose in the east every day. Sure enough, he instantly started shaking uncontrollably.
"Paul, calm down," Sam ordered. Then, "Get back, Bella." She started to obey, clearly a bit alarmed by Paul's convulsions. As she did, her eyes tracked over the rest of us. As soon as her eyes locked on mine, it was as if the earth ceased spinning and time stopped. All I could focus on was her: brown eyes the color of cocoa, brown hair the exact shade of mahogany, pale skin, pink lips. In that eternal instant, she became the sum and total of my existence. I'd never experienced this before, but from sharing the pack mind with Sam, I knew what had to have happened: I'd imprinted on Bella.
My awareness of this was immediately followed by a loud snarl from Paul. He'd lost the battle for control and had phased into his wolf form. He was crouching low to the ground, attention focused on Bella's retreating form. Oh, no, he wasn't... I vaguely heard Jake shout Bella's name as I moved forward and also phased. Paul wasn't getting anywhere near my imprint.
Bella turned and began to run, but stumbled and fell only a few steps later. Jake kept running toward us, leaping over Bella, and phasing in mid-air. He landed between her and us.
What the hell is going on? Jake was thinking.
She slapped him and he phased, I answered. I'll take care of him; you keep her out of the way.
Like hell you will! Paul's thoughts roared. I wasn't sure if he was meant me or Jake. As he started to lunge forward, I leaped and sank my teeth into his shoulder, pulling him away from Bella. I focused all of my attention on getting him as far away from her as I could. I registered a wave of pain as Paul's claws raked along my side, opening several gashes in my skin. I pushed into him and we rolled across the ground, snarling, biting, jumping, and kicking. We crashed clean through the Blacks' rowboat, which had been resting on a pair of sawhorses, and tumbled into the woods that ringed the edge of the clearing. At that moment, I honestly didn't see Paul as my brother, only as a threat to my imprint.
Imprint? Two thought-voices echoed me, stunned. Paul froze underneath me, and I could feel Sam come up beside us.
Jared, are you sure? Sam asked me.
Yes. I answered simply, resisting the brief urge to roll my eyes. I'd never been more sure of anything in my life. I let my thoughts flow back to my first clear view of Bella a few minutes earlier.
Well. Sam said finally. Congratulations. I could also sense a bit of relief from him, just like I had the first time I'd phased, that he wasn't alone in something—I now had an imprint too.
Sorry, bro. Paul apologized. Mind letting me up?
Just watch it around Bella, ok? I asked, as I backed off him.
Sure. Sorry about the claws, Jared. I shrugged it off. With our phasing abilities, the cuts he'd given me would only last a few minutes, and wouldn't scar either. To keep Bella safe, I'd gladly take those cuts and more.
Hey, how'd she take it, Sam? queried Paul, switching topics easily as he surged to his feet and gave a brisk shake to dislodge the twigs and leaves that had become embedded in his fur.
Not sure. She was just sitting there when I came after you two. No screaming or anything, though, he told us.
Jake did say she was good with weird, didn't he? Might end up ok, after all. Paul snorted. Then, Oh, man! he howled. Jake is gonna freak.
Both Sam and I sat back on our haunches and winced. Paul might be an ass a lot of the time, but he wasn't totally clueless, and we both knew he was right about this. Jake had been pissed off enough as it was when Sam had told him to stay away from Bella; who knew how bad it might get when he found out I'd imprinted on her.
"What do you mean, I can't see her?" Jacob snarled. He'd managed to phase back to human, and was in the middle of the "Life as a Wolf" briefing from Sam and the rest of the pack. His relief at finally knowing what was going on, and being reunited with Embry, had been cut short by Sam's edict.
"It's not safe, Jacob. You're a new wolf. For a while, the slightest thing might set you off, and if you phased around Bella, she could get hurt." The rest of his sentence "...like Emily did…" went unsaid though not un-thought.
"I won't hurt her," he insisted, "not by being with her. It's my not being there that will hurt her, don't you understand? I promised her that I would never hurt her like he did, and you'll make me break my promise if I do this." Jacob was almost begging. Sam's expression was pained.
"She can handle this, I know she can. Think about who she was hanging with for half the year. Bella can handle weird." he promised.
I am sorry, Jacob," Sam said, finally. "But Bella's safety is more important. Emotional wounds can heal, physical one's don't."
"Yeah, right," Jacob scoffed. "You haven't seen her every day the way I have. It's been more than 6 months, and those emotional wounds are barely scabbed over. This will rip them all wide open again."
"You will stay away from Bella Swan, Jacob." Sam's voice throbbed with the Alpha's command. He would have no choice now but to obey the order.
Jacob will have to accept this too, Paul. Sam was thinking. It may take time, but he'll eventually see that Jared is good for Bella. And it isn't like he can't still be friends with her--she just won't need him the way she did before.
I shot up, instantly on edge. Where are they? Crap, does he know? How could I have forgotten that Jacob had phased just after me?
Calm down. I don't think he knows...yet. Sam chuckled briefly. I told him to phase back and for him and Embry to take Bella over to Emily's. You will have to tell him, and her, soon, though Jared.
I know, I responded. And hopefully I'd survive both encounters.
Let's go home, Sam said. Paul and I fell in at his flanks, and we started trotting in the direction of his and Emily's cabin.
Hey, Sam? I asked.
Did it seem like Bella was taking it a little too calmly? I hadn't realized until I said so, but something about Bella's reaction to everything had caught my attention somehow.
What's that supposed to mean? Paul butted in. I kept my attention focused on Sam. He was waiting patiently for me to elaborate on my question.
It just struck me, when she was storming out of the house, that she somehow knew and was mad about it. Remember, Jake was still asleep when we headed over. What if his late night was because he was over at Bella's? Could he have found some way around the gag?
I don't see how he could have told her, Sam decided. Maybe he was just right about her being good with weird.
Maybe, I allowed. But what about at the end? I mean, come on, all of us had more of a reaction to becoming wolves than she did, and we're the ones who grew up with the stories.
Sam rolled his head slightly in a wolfish shrug. I don't know, Jared. Perhaps that's something she'll be willing to share later on.
Just think, Paul added, You'll be able to skip all the "werewolves really do exist" speeches.
Paul… I warned softly. He was so annoying at times.
As the trees began to thin out, we moved away from each other. Just because we were now used to the lack of privacy and modesty that came with being wolves, didn't mean we didn't prefer privacy when we could get it. There came the indescribable shimmering twisting of phasing back. I froze as I realized that I had a problem, one which Paul and Jacob were also sharing today: shredded clothes. "Crap," I muttered. A moment later, a pair of drawstring shorts sailed through the air to land on my head. "Thanks, Sam," I called, as I dragged them on. Breaking out of the trees, Sam, Paul and I headed for the cabin's open door, through which wafted the amazing smell of Emily's giant muffins. As we rounded the corner of the cabin, I saw Bella's rusty red-orange truck parked in front.I felt nervous anticipation ripple through me. I was about to truly meet my imprint for the first time.
AN: I used to be quite the relationship purist, but have recently discovered the enjoyment of exploring alternative pairings like this one. I've been writing fanfiction just for myself for a while now, but this is the first I've put out for others to see. I would welcome constructive commentary.