Silence of the Wolves Contest

Main Players: Leah, Mike

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, Stephenie Meyer does. This story is just a flight of fancy and no copyright infringement is intended.

To see other Contest entries, please visit the Contest's FanFiction page: http:/www(.)fanfiction(.)net/u/2269000/Silence_of_the_Wolves

Thank you so much to everyone who read, reviewed or voted for my story. I am on cloud nine at getting 3rd place in the vote as I really did not expect to get anywhere. And thank you, thank you, thank you so much to the judges for giving me Judges Choice. My personal favourite was "Who Killed Jacob Black?" by DoUTrustMe.

~X~

"Bye Lee-Lee." His voice was thick with emotion. "I love you."

"I love you too, Sam." I smiled into the receiver. "I'll see you soon."

He'd been acting strange lately, angry and introverted, with no explanation as to why. I'd barely seen my boyfriend for weeks, and even when I had it had been brief. However, tonight he had rung me to say he wanted to come see me, he missed me, and just needed to see my face. My anger at his recent neglect had melted away almost instantly.

I'd invited him for tea, as Dad was making his infamous fish fry. I'd warned him that my cousin Emily was staying, because large family gatherings made Sam nervous due to his own dysfunctional upbringing. He'd accepted the invitation regardless-he must really want to see me.

Sam hadn't always seen eye-to-eye with my father, but lately I'd noticed that Dad now gave him a look of quiet respect instead of his usual over-protective scowl. A lot of the tribe elders had begun treating my beloved in this way, and I found the turnaround quite strange.

Sam now spent most of his time walking around in nothing but a pair of cut-offs or sweat pants in weather that had the rest of us layered up. He had given himself a buzz cut, and gotten a mark of the Quileute tribe tattooed onto his bicep. I was all for Sam showing off his beautiful body, but I did not see how this apparently rebellious behaviour would change the attitudes of old men in the way it had.

An idea popped into my head; I started to worry if steroids had something to do with his mood swings and sudden hugeness. Maybe the reason he was avoiding me was that he caning the gym? It would explain a lot.

I made a mental note to drag him away from my family and have a good talk at some point during the night.

I ran up to my room to get ready for our dinner guest's arrival. I didn't normally dress up, but I needed to remind Sam just how alluring I could be. Bouncing on the fold-up metal contraption squeezed between my usual bed and my wardrobe, I carefully eased my ancient drawers open. With my exotic looks and caramel skin I didn't need much in the way of cosmetics, but tonight I was taking no chances.

Emily was laid on my bed reading a book. She looked up, curious about my sudden decision to apply war paint.

"Are you expecting someone?" She grinned.

"Guess who's coming to tea tonight," I beamed back at her.

"The legendary Sam?"

"The one and only," I confirmed.

"Wow, I finally get to meet him. I get the feeling you really like this guy. Do you love him?" Emily smiled wider. She reminded me of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.

I nodded.

"And does he love you?"

The Cheshire Cat grin was contagious; I felt it spreading across my own face. "He said so." Emily squealed her approval.

"Can I be bridesmaid?" Emily bounded up behind me and started brushing my long, dark hair. She might have been my second cousin but she was also my best friend, and we were as close as sisters.

"Of course. I wouldn't want anyone else. Now what do you think I should wear?" We rummaged in my closet while we laughed and covered the room in discarded outfits. Tonight, I would have everyone I held dear here with me-my world was perfect.

~X~

Harry Clearwater's fish fry: a heart attack waiting to happen, but so delicious that it was worth the heavy dose of cholesterol. Dad liked to prepare his renowned delicacy without interruption, so Emily and Mom sat and quizzed my younger brother Seth about his day at school in the living room, while I quietly laid the table.

There was a knock at the door. We were only expecting one person, and I practically tripped over myself trying to get there.

"Hello," I drawled as I opened the door to Sam, smiling coyly and trying to appear my most alluring.

"Hi, gorgeous." He smiled but I noticed a sadness in his eyes. I ran up to him for a hug but he seemed to pull away from the contact at first, before softening and wrapping his strong arms around me. "Oh, Leah."

"Sam, what's wrong?" I asked, staring into his eyes.

"I'm so messed up right now. I just felt like I had to come see you," he murmured as he buried his head in my hair. "I've never needed to be here so much in my life as today."

"Can you tell me about it?"

"Leah, I..." he began, his face still hidden in the black silk that flowed down my back. "I would if I could but...I just can't."

I decided that it was enough, for now, to just enjoy holding him close and breathing in his musky warmth. "Then that's okay. I love you, Sam. Whatever it is it's not an issue, and you don't need to be on your own. I'm tough and I can deal with it."

He looked down at me and smiled, this time without pain. "I know you are. That's what I love about you, Leah. Now, let's go inside and have something to eat-I'm ravenous." He kissed my hair and we headed indoors. He acknowledged my father, who nodded in return, as I led him into the living room to meet my cousin.

Sam froze, his eyes grew wide, and his hands began to tremble.

"Umm...Sam," I began trying to ignore his reaction. "This is my cousin, Emily. Emily, this is Sam."

Sam was staring at Emily with an expression somewhere between horror and adoration. "Emily," was the only word that escaped his lips...

~X~

I awoke in a cold sweat, and as I began to form a scream I became aware of the sensation of twisting and expanding. My slender but toned legs bent themselves into an unnatural angle, and grey fur burst from my pores. My feet and hands shook as they morphed into paws and my nails became claws. I felt a lurch as my internal organs squeezed against my rib cage before it too changed in size. As I rolled on the bed, I felt the ripping of fabric and heard the groaning of bed springs, before I flung my head back and my beautiful human face became grotesque and hairy.

"Sam!" My scream escaped me, sounding more like a howl now my ability to form human words was lost. I found my furry form dominating the entire bedroom and for a second I was disorientated.

"Hey there, stranger!" a voice inside my own head called me. "Long time, no hear." It was Embry. Damn, I was a wolf again. My consciousness was now part of the pack mind, and I felt a rush of mortification as I wondered who else had witnessed the end of my nightmare.

"Hey, sis!"

I was aware that my brother was two miles to the North finishing his nightly patrol. The sun was coming up, although it was hidden by a veil of grey, as usual. I took a few more moments to get my bearings, and tried not to recall the subject matter of my dream while my thoughts were not my own.

"Get lost, Embry," I snapped before softening to greet my brother. "Hi, Seth. All quiet on the Western front?"

"Yes, and the North, South, and East, too. Go back to sleep; I'll see you when I get home."

"Yes, you can rest easy knowing we're keeping you safe," Embry jested.

"Yeah, that's real reassuring, Embry," I thought caustically and snorted out loud. "Bye, guys."

Now I was a little more in control of my emotions, I made the conscious decision to deflate back to human form. Once my legs bent the correct way and I was no longer covered in shaggy fur, I found myself sat naked with torn shorts, vest, and quilt around me. Great-more expense.

I looked at the clock and saw it was five-thirty. It was obvious that I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, so I got up and gathered the fragments of fabric together, grabbed a change of clothes, and headed to the bathroom. As the water cleansed me, I cursed out loud once or twice in frustration at my lack of control; the tremors that preceded a transformation returned before I remembered my breathing techniques. I had gone two months this time, but my nightmares had once again resulted in a nocturnal phase.

Last time it had been a dream about finding myself towering over my father in the kitchen after a petty sibling argument with Seth. I was horrified at seeing my brother transform into a sandy-coloured wolf before my eyes. The shock only amplified when I looked down and saw silver fur where my own body should have been. Dad's eyes were full of panic-his hands clutching his chest.

For all I took measures to control my natural temper during the day, all it took was a subconscious reaction to memories like the one that had manifested earlier, and my attempts to prevent phasing were in tatters. I wondered if I would ever be able to go back to just being a normal human woman. It seemed as if my damn body just wouldn't let me. Some of the guys revelled in their supernatural abilities, but I did not want this and I'd certainly never asked for it. This was one gift I'd gratefully return.

All I'd ever wanted was one particular man, a comfortable home, and a family; the freak gene in the Quileute tribe had robbed me of all those. The arrival of the Cullens in Forks had triggered the dormant potential every member of the pack carried, and as a result I'd lost everything-my lover, my best friend, my father, my femininity and my ability to reproduce.

Not only that, but as the only female werewolf I was a freak amongst freaks. I wished with every fibre of my being that vampires had never shown their faces in Forks, Washington.

After my shower, I pulled on a white vest and a pair of jeans. I went downstairs and poured myself a large bowl of cereal, made four slices of toast, a cup of coffee, then grabbed a muffin and a cold chicken leg. I found I was always more hungry after phasing. We were getting a little low on groceries I noted, as I raided the fridge. Feeding two wolves on my meagre wage was a delicate balancing act. Mom left us a food parcel in the fridge once a week, but although I missed her fussing, I was glad of the space to be my own adult now she lived with Charlie.

"Wooo!" I heard a familiar cry outside and the sound of galloping paws, followed by the thud of bare human feet padding up the wooden steps.

My teenage brother only returned to the house to sleep, eat, and dress for school. As he bounded through the door, he was so full of energy that you wouldn't think he'd spent the small hours guarding the reservation. Seth seemed comfortable with the curse that I blamed for destroying my world.

"Hey, Seth," I murmured, my mouth full of toast.

"Hey." My brother grabbed a bowl of cereal, sat at the opposite side of the table, and commenced shovelling. "So, you had a bad dream, huh?"

"Yeah, it's no big deal. Just the usual." The side of my mouth lifted a little but it didn't quite portray the nonchalance I wanted to. I envied my brother that his calm, pleasant nature came so naturally.

"I know. I kinda caught the end of it." Seth looked at me sympathetically. "It was longer this time though-two months. That must be a good sign."

I was grateful it had been only him and Embry on patrol this evening, but I felt awkward at what I'd let slip. I worked so hard to portray myself as a reformed character rather than the bitter, twisted bitch I'd been before, when my favourite pastime had been torturing the pack mind with painful memories and recollections. I tried to look intent on my breakfast and avoid any further conversation, suppressing the hope that an extra month between changes brought my dream of being normal any closer.

Seth tried to change the subject. "Hey, Jake is coming down the res later. He's got a night off from babysitting duty. We're going to have a little pack get together-do you want to come?"

He already knew my answer. The pack would find it too awkward. I was sure they preferred Leah the lone wolf, as opposed to Leah the bitch, but for a second, I contemplated going just to see Jake.

Once upon a time, I'd viewed him with contempt for his pathetic crush on Bella Swan. After Seth and I had joined his pack when he split off for the main group, I had gained a lot of respect for him. I even became his beta.

For a while, I'd hoped something romantic would spark up between us, seeing as we both suffered from broken hearts and had come second in the battle for the love of our lives, but it wasn't to be. Looking back, I was relieved; it had saved me the pain of being on the wrong side of an imprint yet again.

Jacob had imprinted on the child of his former love and his mortal enemy. Nessie Cullen was a half-vampire, half-human baby. It was kind of weird; she bit him, a lot, and it was a good thing werewolves healed rapidly. The thought of the God awful half-breed taking chunks out of him made me feel nauseated. Luckily for Jacob, he'd only have to wait a few years until she was "adult". For now, he was playing the role of pet dog and babysitter.

He could not bear to be away from his imprint, and he was her constant companion and protector. Again I found myself unable to stay in contact with a close friend, this time through choice. I didn't do vampire territory-the thought of the neighbouring vampire coven got my hackles up even now. We were natural enemies, and it was a reaction I could not overcome.

Also, I envied Bella. She'd had her choice of men, even though, ridiculously, in the end she hadn't even chosen a human. She had a loving family around her, though most of that family consisted of vampires-a family of extremely wealthy vampires.

Chief Swan, her father, seemed to have accepted his undead daughter without issue. To be fair, I strongly suspected he knew his live-in girlfriend's children were also more than a little out of the ordinary. Jake had chosen to phase in front of him a year or so back, and he'd handled it pretty well. My own father had died of shock at the sight of his children as wolves.

But these things were not what I envied her most; the most precious thing Bella had that I did not was the very thing Jacob imprinted on-a baby grown from her own body. I ached at the thought of what my lack of menstrual cycle told me about the possibility of this ever happening to me.

I thought about the connections I felt with others in my world. I could not have a baby, my lover belonged to another, and that other was my former best friend. My father had died the night he'd first seen my brother and I change, and my mother had now found love with his best friend. My brother still brightened my life in the moments we passed in the house, but that was not as often as I would like. Jake, the only other friend I had, was now bosom buddies with my mortal enemies. I felt like a ghost, going through the motions of life but with nothing real to keep me here.

Vampires, werewolves, and imprinting had a lot to answer for. I wished the vampires would leave so I could disown my shape shifting abilities, and I did not ever want to imprint. That was something that happened to werewolves-something I didn't want to be. So far I'd not fallen in love at first sight with anyone I'd met in my day-to-day routine. I was glad the fates had not used this opportunity to remove what few choices I had left.

My life was cruel joke, and I wasn't laughing.

I snapped out of the cocoon of my own thoughts when Seth got up and yawned.

"Right, have a good day at work, Leah." He punched me on the shoulder gently. "I'm going to get some sleep!"

I smiled and punched him back-hard. "Hach hawí, little brother." (Translation: good night)

As he went upstairs, I decided to go into work early and set up. After the almost-war with the Italian vampires, I had tried various alternative treatments, including aromatherapy and massage, to try to control my temper. Forks hadn't offered anything in the way of this kind of service, and I now leased a small shop in town-'Clear Waters'. Business wasn't exactly doing a roaring trade, but it was enough to get by. The story of my life.

I picked up my bag, headed out of the door, and trudged towards my battered old car.

~X~

"Oh, that feels so good!" The middle-aged woman lying on my table moaned as I gave her a thorough rub down. "How are your hands so warm?"

I smiled to myself. "Trade secret, Mrs. Newton."

The woman went quiet-this was quite unusual as Mrs. Newton normally kept a one-sided flow of noise going throughout our sessions. I believed that this incessant chatter was more therapy for my client than all the lotions, potions, and treatments she bought off me.

"Oh, and Mike came home at the weekend. I was so glad to see him."

Ah, so she was still awake. "Yeah?"

"Mmmm..." Mrs. Newton paused as I worked on her neck. "It's so nice to have a little more help around the store again after we fired that girl we took on last time-you know she actually stole from us! I couldn't believe it."

"No!" I feigned shock; I had heard this story a couple of times already.

"Mike's so much more sophisticated now he's been away to college...and so smart. He's going to make someone a fine husband one day. He's so handsome, like a young Patrick Swayze."

"Really?" Again, this was not new information.

"But, oh, since he's been back we've had that Jessica Stanley round constantly. I used to think she was such a nice girl, but she just never shuts up. And that voice-it's so annoying!"

I smiled to myself. Right now, I could understand exactly how she felt.

"What about you, Leah? Is there a special someone down at La Push waiting for you? I hear there are some hunky young men growing up on the reservation..." She gave a dirty chuckle as she trailed off.

I felt a flutter of rage, resenting how Mrs. Newton assumed that, because I was Quileute, I would end up with a Quileute man. I took a moment to calm myself before I responded.

"No men in my life-just my brother." Mrs. Newton was getting annoying. I looked over at the clock and, thankfully, realised that time was up.

"That's such a shame for a pretty girl like you to be on her own. Oh, yes...how are your mother and Chief Swan getting on? Domestic bliss, I hope?"

"Yeah, they're just fine." I stopped kneading and reached for a towel to wipe my hands-two minutes early but my customer was getting a little too nosey for my liking. I didn't want to give her the opportunity to push me too far, because that wouldn't be good for business. "Do you want me to book you in for next week, Mrs. Newton?"

~X~

I pushed my client out of the door so quickly that I only realised later that she had left her purse on the counter. My next client had walked through the door just as I'd noticed, so I'd decided to take it by the Newton store on my lunch break.

It was my first visit to Newton's Olympic Outfitters, as werewolves didn't need a lot in the way of outdoor supplies. Judging by the money passed over to me from Mrs. Newton, business was going very well.

The bell rang as I opened the glazed door and walked up to the counter. A girl was sat behind the desk reading a magazine, and briefly looked up at me. I cleared my throat to catch her attention.

"Oh, umm, can I help you?" she said nasally. I sincerely hoped Mrs. Newton had not found a new assistant; certainly first impressions weren't good for business.

"Yeah, is Mrs. Newton around?" I scowled. Remembering the earlier conversation with Mrs. Newton, I didn't want to leave the bag with the store assistant. I didn't know her well enough to judge her honesty-or her level of intelligence, though I was beginning to form an opinion on the latter.

"No, she's like...out for the day...and so me and Mike are stuck here." She gestured around the store. "Not that I mind at all, but you know, there's a whole world out there...and we're in here,"

I grunted and tried to feign sympathy. The foreign emotion obviously didn't translate well, as she shifted nervously.

"Do you want me to go get Mike?"

"Yeah, that'd be great, thanks." I clenched my fists as I spoke.

The girl hesitated before sliding off her seat. "I'll just go and umm...get him."

"Great," I replied through gritted teeth. Could this be the legendary Jessica? I could see why Mrs. Newton would have a problem with her; the girl was like nails down a blackboard. My fists trembled a little, but then I closed my eyes and remembered to breathe deeply and slowly.

I heard footsteps coming in my direction, opened my eyes, and saw him for the first time. Mike Newton.

Mike Newton-wide, innocent-looking, blue eyes.

Mike Newton-blond, messy, gelled hair.

Mike Newton-a haze of blond stubble around his jaw.

Mike Newton-same height as me, about five foot eleven.

For a moment, nothing mattered in the universe except the man before me. I was speechless, and felt suddenly unsteady on my feet. My surroundings were a blur; all I could focus on was Mike Newton.

"Hi," the baby faced man in front of me said in his best salesman's voice. "I'm Mike Newton. You were asking for my Mom?"

I could manage nothing more than to stare open mouthed. Mike Newton looked back at me with those beautiful baby blues, waiting for my response-fidgeting and looking nervous when the response was not forthcoming.

"Mike Newton," he repeated slowly. "You asked for my Mom?"

Suddenly I remembered the reason I was in this place, and realized that I was probably coming off as less capable of coherent speech than Jessica. The girl in question was currently hanging onto Mike's sweater, and looking at me like I was from another planet.

"Yeah," I began, holding up the bag. "Mrs. Newton's purse..." I knew I should say a little more to provide evidence of brain activity. "She left it in my shop earlier. I'm just returning it." Good-that came out a little better.

Mike Newton took the purse off me. I took care that he did not touch me in the process; my body wouldn't withstand the shock.

"Thanks, I'll let her know. Should I pass on your name?"

"Leah," I blurted out too quickly. "Leah Clearwater. I own the massage parlour-I mean alternative therapies store in town, 'Clear Waters'."

"Oh, really." Mike smiled at the correction. "So you're a masseuse."

Jessica clutched Mike closer and gave me a possessive death stare. Even in my shock, I managed a chuckle at the thought of Jessica being able to inflict any harm on me-a particularly ill-tempered werewolf.

"Alternative therapist," I corrected him. This was not going well; powerful supernatural bond or not, I needed to leave this store and quickly. "Thanks, and see you around." I sighed as I turned and strode towards the door.

"Yeah, thanks for bringing it round. Please come again soon," he yelled after me as I let the door slam shut behind me.

"Bye," the girl snapped, though my supernaturally enhanced hearing could still hear her well enough. "What was her problem? Hello! Totally incoherent!"

I made a mental note to give her a full verbal dose of Leah Clearwater if I ever came across her when I was more in control of my faculties.

"Hmmm," Mike replied. I guessed I'd left him feeling a little bemused after our first meeting. I found it hard to believe that I'd just fallen to pieces in front of a guy and not just any guy, my imprint.

Woah.

I opened the car door, slumped in my seat, and the enormity of the situation hit me.

I had imprinted.

I wasn't quite sure what I should think or feel but I had come across the man chosen for me by higher forces, and to whom I was now inextricably bound. Mike Newton.

I started up my car and decided to head back to my shop. It felt almost painful to pull out of the car park and drive away from the Newton store, as if I was stretching a piece of elastic that was threatening to contract any second, and send me hurtling back towards Mike Newton. The more I pulled away, the more he filled my thoughts. He was the one-so now what?

Once back in my shop, I realized that I'd forgotten to grab some food during my lunch break. It was understandable-my mind was elsewhere, namely Newton's Olympic Outfitters. My empty stomach did not improve my disposition any. A few times, I felt my hands begin to shake, and had to channel my thoughts and burn a little oil to soothe my jangling nerves.

Such an idiot, I thought to myself. I'd reacted like I was still in high school, except this was no silly high school crush. On another level, I was relieved. Until me, shape shifting been a purely male experience, and part of me had worried that meant I was a little more butch than I realized..

My freak wolf gene had robbed me of my reproductive cycle. I'd had to chop my long, sleek hair into a short pixie cut, which had now grown into a sharp, chin-length bob. The cut had been a heart wrenching experience-not only did I feel less of a woman, but I was very aware of how much Sam had loved my long, dark hair before he'd imprinted on my closest friend. Another trauma to endure when I was already dealing with the loss of my love, my friend, my father, and my hopes and dreams.

I consoled myself that I had dealt with a lot worse than imprinting; the fact it was on a male could only be a bonus.

I wondered how Mike would adjust to the idea of being imprinted upon. He was not Quileute, and he had no history or background knowledge to make the whole story easier to swallow. Mike had no support to help him adjust to the fact that a she-wolf just happened to have chosen him as her mate.

How on earth could I tell him?

"Hi Mike-Leah Clearwater here. Yeah that's right, the moron who couldn't speak from earlier. I was just calling to say I was a werewolf, there's a whole pack of us down at La Push you know, and that I've imprinted on you. Imprinting? Well that's how we choose our soul mates. I see you, and that's it-you're the love of my life now. Hello? Mike...are you still there?"

I laughed without humor, then picked up the nearest thing and flung it against the opposite wall. I growled in frustration just as the chime on the door rang to announce I wasn't alone. I looked up and froze.

"H-Hi," Mike Newton stammered. My display of temper hadn't done anything to reassure him that I wasn't a complete basket case. "Is this a bad time, because I could just-"

"No, no." I managed to reply, at least I felt a little more coherent this time. "Come in. It's just been a strange day."

"Err...yeah." Mike smiled. I liked it when he smiled-a lot. I noticed he was carrying a something in a plain white box in his hands; his gaze followed my own and I reminded him of his errand. "Oh, yeah. My Mom is so grateful that you brought her purse back, that she wanted to say thank you. She was sending me out to pick up a few things for dinner anyway, so she thought I should bring you a pie."

"A pie?" I looked a little confused. I wasn't used to random acts of kindness, not with my reputation.

"Yeah." Mike looked a little embarrassed. "You do like pie, don't you? It's blueberry. I could always go take it back and go get a cake, or...or something." I saw his eyes quickly assess my lean, muscular physique; he quickly looked away before seeming rude. I didn't look like a girl who ate a lot of pie.

"No, pie is good. Actually, I skipped lunch earlier and was feeling kinda hungry." My stomach growled to emphasise my point. "Do you want to have a cup of coffee with me? That looks like a lot of pie there for just me."

Mike looked surprised at my offer. "Yeah," he blurted. "That sounds...good."

I motioned for him to pull up a chair to my cash desk and I turned on the cheap, basic coffee machine in the corner. Mike Newton was here and I did not want him to leave, so I would use any excuse to keep him close by. I grabbed a plate and some cutlery that I kept handy, and served the pie while I waited for the coffee. "Milk and sugar?"

"No, thanks." Mike looked bemused again. He drank a mouthful of coffee and picked up his fork to start on his pie. His eyes grew wide when he realized that I was already nearing the end of mine,, and I scolded myself for being such a pig.

"Sorry, I'm hungry," I explained once my mouth was no longer full. I should try a little harder to win him over, right after I'd had another slice of pie. I tried my hardest to give a genuine smile; it felt a little unnatural when not backed up with a sarcastic remark.

"Yeah, I can see-fast metabolism, obviously." Mike smiled back. I loved the way his eyes twinkled and lifted at the edges. I liked the way he smelled, too-aftershave and fresh laundry. I took a deep breath to fill my lungs with him. "So, what was with the flying ornaments earlier?"

"Oh, that. I, um, have a bit of a temper. That's why I got into the whole alternative therapies thing."

"Is working for you?" Mike looked a little nervous.

"Most of the time." I cringed. I hated to think what Mike would have thought of me a year or so ago, before I found my emotional crutch. I also hated to think what he would think of me once I told him that, if I got really out of control, it would be flying fur rather than flying ornaments he would have to worry about.

We relaxed into the conversation and continued to make small talk. I laughed uncontrollably when Mike commented that I had wolfed down my pie and a second cup of coffee-he didn't seem to get the humor.

As yet, I'd not made any move to explain what I knew II would have to impart sooner rather than later. I didn't feel that now was the right time for stories about werewolves, but an idea of how to manoeuvre Mike into a more receptive environment for horror came to mind. I hesitated as I tried to form the words.

"We're having a campfire get-together down at La Push tonight," I managed. "I was wondering if you might like to come?" Leah Clearwater trying to ask a boy on a date-to say I was a little rusty was a mother-fucking understatement.

Mike looked a little stunned. Oh shit, he was going to refuse me.

My mind drifted back to earlier. Jessica had seemed pretty possessive; why hadn't it crossed my mind that he might already be attached? Considering my own imprint triangle experiences, the possibility of hurting someone in the same way actually made me feel physically sick. My pie threatened to make a reappearance.

"Are you asking me on a date?" He looked confused.

Oh crap. I supposed there was the possibility of harder questions later, so I put myself on the line and set myself up for the fall, avoiding his eyes as I spoke.

"Yes I am."

"On the rez?"

"Yes-just a bunch of the guys, and me." My heart sank as I registered the awkward expression on Mike's face. Leah, you're a freaking idiot, I told myself.

"The guys, huh?" I braced for myself for the impending let down. "Will they be okay with me coming with you?"

I stopped breathing for a second before I composed myself. Shit, he'd accepted.

"Yeah, plus ones are welcome." I could have said imprints, but I didn't feel now was the correct moment to bring the subject up.

"Then...yes." Mike smiled. "Yeah, that's great-count me in." Mike's eyes registered my obvious relief at his acceptance. "Sorry, it's just that...I didn't expect...with you being older and all-but not that old! I mean, erm, you seem a little older than I am...I didn't think that you would, you know, ask me on a date."

"I'm twenty-three. How old are you?"

"Twenty-one-only two years older, huh?" He smiled.

"Not quite cougar territory, Mike". I liked saying his name; it already felt so familiar, as if I'd been saying it for years. "Just one question, and I hope you don't mind me asking. I don't want to be treading on anyone's toes-are you and Jessica...?"

Mike sat up quickly and looked shocked. "Jessica? Oh no-I mean we've dated a couple of times but nothing really came of it. We sort of got pushed together in high school but it didn't work. She's a nice girl but we're just friends."

I smiled in relief and Mike grinned back. I gave him times and directions to my house, and my home number in case he needed me. He saved it in his cell.

I wondered how he would take his first taste of an authentic La Push werewolf gathering. Would he be receptive enough to hear what I had to say?

~X~

Once I got home, I told Seth to warn the others that I'd imprinted, and that I was coming tonight to help me break the news. I thought it only fair to give the pack warning-not out of kindness but because I knew unexpected shocks and werewolves were not a safe combination.

Seth was overjoyed at the news. I felt grateful for having such an easygoing brother. Personally, I knew I'd detest any girl my brother chose to date, imprint or not.

Mike pulled up in a shiny SUV, right on time. I heard him climb the creaky steps and knock on the door; I opened it and invited him in.

"Wow," I gasped. "Nice truck."

"Yeah, it will be all mine after another forty-eight payments." He smiled as I melted inside-I wasn't used to feeling so soft and mushy.

"Cool." I somehow managed to breathe. "Should we go?"

"Don't you need a coat or something? It's pretty cold out." Mike asked, looking at me a little puzzled.

I laughed. "No, I don't need a coat. It's a genetic thing." I held my hand out for him to check. "You may have noticed that a lot of us Quileute's dress for summer, when everyone else dresses for grey and rainy."

His eyes opened in surprise as he registered my elevated body temperature.

"You're hot!" he exclaimed. "Not that way-I mean your hand, but you are the other way too. Just...you know."

I smiled, and it hadn't escaped my notice that today I had laughed a lot more than I had in a long time.

We headed out of the door and up to the usual campfire spot. In the dark I was still very sure footed, but Mike had to take my hand as I led the way. I thrilled at the contact-such an innocent gesture was sending all kinds of electricity running through my body. It made me think of other, less innocent ways of touching him, although now wasn't the time to allow my thoughts to run away with themselves.

It had now gotten dark, and there were a number of bodies sat around the already blazing fire. Sam and Emily were missing, and I wondered if they would turn up later; my heart pounded at the prospect, and I secretly hoped they would give it a miss this once. I walked into the circle and took the seat Seth had saved me, noticing that all eyes were on me and the newcomer.

"So, who's the pale face?" Embry piped up playfully, gesturing towards Mike.

"This is Mike Newton," I announced to everyone. "His Mom and Dad run Newton's Olympic Outfitters in Forks. I hope Seth warned everyone that he was coming." My eyes pleaded for that to be the case. It would be nice to not have to explain his significance before I managed to inform Mike himself. Seth nodded.

We sat down and within a few minutes Mike's novelty had worn off. The situation became a lot more comfortable until we heard a howl from the woods. Mike visibly shivered.

"Jake's here," Quil said for the benefit of the non-wolves amongst us.

I shifted awkwardly, hoping that he would phase back before coming into view. The sudden appearance of a massive wolf would mess up my carefully orchestrated plans.

"Jake?" Mike looked confused. "That sounded like a wolf!" A snicker ran around the circle.

"Yeah, forest is full of them. Real big ones, too," Jared joked.

"Really?" Mike replied seriously as I rolled my eyes.

"Yeah, we get a lot of them around here at La Push. In fact, they're a protected species in these parts," Paul added as the snickering grew into full-on laughter.

"Enough!" I snapped. Those who remembered my legendary disposition were silenced immediately. I turned to Mike. "Don't let these guys scare you. The big, bad wolves aren't nearly as scary as they make out."

Jacob joined the group, thankfully in human form. He was barefoot and bare-chested as usual, as were quite a few of the boys despite the chill. He greeted everyone with a wide smile, but stopped when he saw my date.

"Marshmellow?" he asked with raised eyebrows. "What are you doing here?"

Mike visibly shrank; it seemed he and Jacob had met before. "I'm here with Leah," he responded nervously. I looked at Jake to confirm Mike's statement.

"Leah?" Jacob looked at me in surprise. "You have got to be kidding me! Mike Newton?" He laughed out loud at the thought.

"Where's your date tonight, Jake?" I retorted. "Past her bedtime?"

"Touché." Jake replied, and Seth visibly relaxed. He did not like the idea of his hero and his sister arguing.

Mike looked a little puzzled by the exchange, but did his best to avoid Jacob's eyes.

"So you've met Jacob before?" I asked quietly once the gathering had settled.

"Yeah," Mike squirmed. "We went to the pictures with Bella Swan a few years back. It didn't go so well. I thought he was going to attack me."

"Bella?" I asked. Ah, so Mike was another member of the Bella Swan fan club. I wondered how he'd like her now she was a leech and humans were her natural food source; it added a new dimension to the term 'man-eater'. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach, hoping that Mike would not be another thing that Bella Swan had that I didn't.

"I had a bit of a thing for her in high school," Mike offered, avoiding my gaze. "Nothing ever happened-she was with Edward Cullen. We were just friends." He tried to reassure me. I noticed across the circle that Jacob's ears had pricked up at the mention of Bella's name. It reminded me of other male friends Bella Swan had collected, and their definition of 'just friends'.

"So what do you think of the Cullens, Mike?" I asked suspiciously. Was Mike likely to be more Team Vampire than Team Werewolf?

"Uh, I think they're kind of creepy," Mike responded. "I mean, I always got on with Bella, but there's something about the others that really freaks me out."

"Right answer!" Collin grinned from over the flames. At the same time, my brother frowned. He was a big fan of our friendly neighbourhood bloodsuckers. Jacob also looked far from impressed, seeing as he was practically an in-law.

"So, Mike..." Jacob yelled over from where he was sitting. "Seen any good movies lately?"

Mike stiffened; I hated to think what had gone on between the two of them. I narrowed my eyes and gave Jacob a meaningful stare.

"I was just asking." The mischievous look in his eyes betrayed his intentions as far from innocent. "You know, Mike isn't a big fan of onscreen gore, are you, Marshmellow?"

"Jacob, leave it." I hissed through gritted teeth. "Or I swear-"

"I hear there's this really good horror film on at the flicks right now-an American Werewolf in Paris. You ever been to Paris, Leah? You should get Mike to take you."

The circle didn't know whether to laugh at Jake or calm the situation down. I was finding my alpha less than funny and I felt a tremor in my hands.

"Not the time or the place, Jacob,"

"I was just saying Mike doesn't like horror films. You're a bit of a horror girl yourself, aren't you, Leah?"

I growled and stood up, Quil and Jared leapt between me and Jacob.

"Stand back, Mike." Seth jumped up and pulled Mike away.

I faced Jake across the circle, my body moving in spasms, only just keeping myself in human form with the knowledge that the transformation would probably horrify Mike. This was not how I wanted him to find out, but one more word from Jacob and I would go over the edge.

"Enough!" A deep, familiar voice spoke from the shadows. The tremors stopped immediately and I turned to look at Sam. It had been a long time since I had seen him in human form and I forgot how his presence affected me. Though he was no longer my alpha, his voice still resonated within me, commanding me to comply-I didn't know whether that was down to my inner wolf or just our past.

"What's going on here?" He asked Paul.

"Jacob's just been poking a little fun at Leah's...date," Paul replied.

"Jake." Sam nodded respectfully in his fellow alpha's direction. "Please leave Leah's date alone. I expect he'll be spending a lot more time down here at La Push. We had all better get used to him."

Sam then turned to me, a blank expression on his face. "Leah, maybe it's time for you to take a walk and have a chat with Mike. Explain how a few things work down here-it might help him understand."

I nodded and Mike and I turned to leave, both walking in silence in the dark. I fumed that we had been dismissed and Jacob had gotten away so lightly. Damn alpha males.

"What was all that about back there?" Mike asked. "I mean, I know Jacob doesn't like me, but I get the feeling there's some joke I'm not aware of. And what did that guy mean, 'explain how things work'?"

"That guy is my ex-boyfriend." I couldn't disguise the pain in my voice as I spoke.

"Oh," Mike said, turning his attention to his shoes. "I noticed that you were shaking a bit back there. Is that what you have to tell me? That you have seizures? It's cool if you do."

I sniffed in half-amusement. "No, Mike, I don't have fits. I just have a problem with my temper now and again. A lot of us do-it's another one of those strange Quileute genetic quirks." I felt in no mood to sympathetically explain exactly what Mike was getting himself into right now. The encounter with Jacob and Sam had left me unsettled and upset.

"Okay." Mike looked a little downcast. This hadn't been the most romantic first date ever, but as we got closer to my house it seemed he wasn't quite ready for the evening to end just yet. Once we reached his truck I turned to him.

"Mike," I began. "I had a nice time tonight, despite other people behaving like dickwads. I hope you can ignore them and that you want to come back, because I like you. I've just have a bit of mental baggage to sort through tonight. If you come down to the shop lunchtime tomorrow, I'll tell you everything you could possibly want to know about how things work here on the rez."

Mike nodded awkwardly, and I tried to think of what I could possibly do or say to improve the situation. I moved in to kiss him, a little unsure of what I was doing.

The moment our lips touched, all the complication in my life and all my hurt was forgotten. My heart might still be broken and scarred by Sam, but my soul now belonged to Mike. It was exactly what my tortured mind needed-with time, Mike would heal me.

I gave myself completely to the moment, and it felt like we stood there in the dark, joined at the mouth, for an eternity. I didn't want the moment to stop, but eventually I pulled away. There was a moment of breathy silence while we both composed ourselves.

"Wow," Mike finally exclaimed. "You are definitely hot, in both senses of the word. Thumbs up for strange Quileute quirks."

I laughed. I liked that he had this effect on me, amongst others. "Really? Well I hope that you won't mind me letting you know about all my other strange Quileute quirks tomorrow." Like rapid healing, I thought to myself. The stubble rash he'd given me a few moments ago had now gone, and I was keen to get chafed again.

Mike climbed into his truck and drove away, looking back once or twice. Only once I saw the lights of his vehicle disappear did I go inside the house, still grinning to myself. Well, that had ended the evening on a high note, for sure-although it felt like such a wrench to allow him out of my sight. My body ached for his presence in more ways than one.

~X~

I found a new set of shorts, an old vest, and I brushed my teeth before climbing into bed. Drifting into an uneasy sleep, my mind conjured up images of the person I needed with me most. It was light and he was sat on my window ledge in a white shirt and jeans, his shirt fully open. I couldn't tear my eyes away from his pale chest; he smiled at me and the light glinted in his blue eyes and sandy hair.

He wanted me as much as I wanted him, he would never go away, and he would never imprint on another woman, leaving me lonely and broken. We were two souls who had been unlucky in love and somehow found each other. I didn't have to be bitter anymore, and there was no reason why we couldn't be together.

My golden boy walked over to the bed and climbed in next to me, his light fingers caressing my caramel cheek. I found myself moving in to touch my lips to his, and to curl my legs around his own...

Then I woke, missing my hallucination as soon as it had disappeared. I turned over, laughing at myself silently. How long had it been since I'd fantasised about anyone? Certainly my subconscious mind had blocked out Sam with the exception of the occasional nightmare. I remembered that, once upon a time, my passionate temperament had extended to more than just anger. It was nice to have pleasant dreams for a change; they'd been missing from my life for too long.

The frustration, however, was not quite as welcome. I tossed and turned, and whenever I closed my eyes, I could see nothing but Mike Newton behind my eyelids. He was imprinted on my brain. When I wasn't thinking about him here in the room with me, I was going over different ways to say, "Hey, I'm a werewolf."

It was clear I would get very little sleep tonight, and with the early morning that I'd already had, I felt physically exhausted.

Eventually, I convinced myself to get up and out of bed. The clock said one thirty, Seth had come home, and I could hear gentle snores from the next room. I went to my drawers and found a pair of cut-offs, a vest, and the old Velcro pouch I had used when phasing had been a regular part of my life. I couldn't sleep away from Mike, so I would take myself a little closer to him. I did not like the thought of sleeping outdoors any more than I liked the thought of eating like a wolf, but it would be worth it for a few hours of putting my mind at rest.

I ran downstairs, and waited until I was on the porch before removing my clothing and strapping the oversized Velcro strap around my forearm. With conscious effort, I then felt the familiar twisting sensation and burst out into my larger, hairier, animal shape.

In the dark, it was more than just myself that was a shade of silver. Where before night had seemed empty and black, now I could register many different shades of grey.

It was amazing what a little bit of love could do for your perception of the world. I'd thought that I'd never feel it again after I'd been broken apart, but to my surprise the cracks were beginning to seal themselves, and I was once more in full working order. My thoughts automatically turned to Mike Newton.

"Urgh," a voice in my head interrupted me. "Leah, jeez! You're making me sick!"

"Jacob," another more familiar voice spoke, but this time it was more of an echo. "I could do with a few moments to chat alone with Leah." I realized that I was hearing Sam's voice through Jacob's alpha hotline.

I remained silent while I judged Sam's intentions. Jacob acquiesced, and I was aware that he was trying to allow the message to pass through while trying not to think too hard beyond what Sam was saying.

"You're off to see...is it Mike? Do you mind if I run with you part of the way to Forks?"

"Yeah, it's Mike," I confirmed. "Okay then, part of the way." My pulse raced a little at the thought of an extended period of time in the presence of my ex-lover.

"I'll be with you in a few moments." I smelt a too familiar scent and heard the pounding of Sam's feet before the large black wolf came into view, dwarfing me as he rang alongside me through the trees.

"Fuck, no. I don't want to hear this," I heard Jacob thinking.

"So you've imprinted...I'm really pleased for you." I noticed a slight wince of pain, but the sentiment was genuine.

"Yeah," I replied. The conversation was making me feel a little raw, and I wondered where it was heading. "Are you sure you want to talk about this? I'm not sure I do."

"I know I don't want you to talk about it." Jacob piped up again, and then began singing to himself. Some theme tune from a TV programme he'd watched with Nessie earlier. I tried to ignore him.

"I think I need to get it out," Sam thought. "Leah, I know how bad things have been between me and you, and I know you've had to deal with a lot lately..." I could hear stabs of mental pain behind every word-he was reliving that fateful day when he'd first met Emily. The memory was agony for both of us.

"Sam--" I began, but I was interrupted.

"I was just hoping you understand now it's happened to you, too." The black wolf looked down at me as we ran, making me feel even smaller. "Leah, I love you. I never, ever stopped loving you-not for a second...even now. It's just that there's no denying the imprint. You can't even bear to be away from that person-that's why you are running there now, isn't it? You can't sleep, you can't eat-it takes over everything, Leah, I know. But it never erases what is underneath."

"Sam--" I started again but was cut off once more.

"I'm so sorry, Leah," Sam spoke as if he was wrenching each word from his chest. "Words will never explain exactly how sorry I am for what I did. I remember how you used to be, and I feel so responsible for crushing that loving, trusting girl, and twisting you the way that I did."

I felt a little stunned; I'd never have expected such an admission.

"I stilllove you too, Sam," I replied. "You know that. I was never very good at keeping it too myself when we shared the pack mind. I'm so sorry for things I've done in the past that haven't exactly made it easy for everyone. I didn't react very well, and I was hurting badly. But yes, I get a different perspective of things now I know how it feels. There was no choice in the matter-nothing I could have done could have stopped the effect he had on me today. It's okay, Sam. I understand better than I ever have. I had already forgiven you, but I think now I can really be happy for you and Emily, and for me, too."

"It hurts," Sam responded, "to know that you love someone else, but I really wanted this for you, Leah. All the trouble before, it doesn't matter. I know we've avoided each other as much as we can, but I do miss you and I know Emily does, too. Please don't stay away anymore. I'd really love for you to be back in our lives...as a friend."

My heart bled to hear his words, but I recognised his pain and need as my own. "I would like that, Sam. I've really missed Emily. Just give me a little time to get used to the idea, to get to know Mike, and once I adjust I promise I will give it a try. If it doesn't hurt too much, I can be your friend...and Emily's."

"I hope you can, Leah. Have a nice evening and I hope you can sleep. It's nice to know we can get along in each other heads finally. Take care."

"Thanks, Sam." I was truly grateful. "Really." Sam had lifted years of baggage from my shoulders with just one conversation. As we parted company, I wondered could it be possible that finally things were going right for me, and that finally I could be happy.

"That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Jacob added, and I told him to shut the fuck up.

Mike's parent's home was a nice, detached stone and wood house, set back from the road and overlooked by thick forest. I had run by there a few times patrol during the vampire almost-war. I remembered a comfortable, mossy patch just within the tree line where I planned to settle down to sleep. Looking back, something about this place had always drawn me in-now I knew that it was fate.

As I continued on towards my destination, I tried to suppress the memories of my earlier conversation with Sam.

"Leah." Jacob addressed me directly. "I wasn't expecting to catch you out here tonight. I was just getting a little fresh air to avoid overhearing—well, vampire married couple stuff." He caught an errant thought from both Sam, apparently. Again, I heard the echo in Jacob's mind as he registered what Sam was thinking. "I guess the whole imprinting thing has changed things a little. Okay then, more than a little."

"Jacob," Sam scolded. "You've caused enough trouble tonight. Please don't wind Leah up; she's had a hard day."

"I won't. I'm sorry, Leah. It's just Mike and I have a little history, that's all," Jacob sounded genuinely apologetic. This was the Jacob I respected, not the jumped up meathead who had goaded Mike around the camp fire. "So you really imprinted on him. I have to admit I'm shocked-he's just such a girl. You do know he actually vomited at 'Face Punch'? It was a little pathetic."

I snarled as I ran, my irritation echoing through the empty forest. That had been a little louder than I realised.

"He's good for me," I responded. "I don't care what you think about him, and I don't care what he did or didn't do in the past. All I care about is how he makes me feel now. Let's face it, I'm hardly going to win any personality of the year awards. I'm hoping for the most improved werewolf award, Jake, so cut us both a bit of slack."

"Yeah, yeah," Jake drawled. "I know. It just surprised me. I couldn't have put two less likely people together, but he makes you smile, huh?"

"Yes, he does." I softened a little.

"Truce?"

"Yeah, Jake," I grinned, my wolf tongue lolling out of my mouth as I ran along the tree line. "Just lay off the Mike bashing next time or I'll kick your ass."

"Pah!" Jake laughed. "You might be faster but I could alpha command your ass, sister, if I wanted"

So we parted on friendly terms again; I was glad-right now nothing could knock me down from the cloud I was floating on. I didn't want to argue with Jacob.

With every bound I got closer to the person who was now the centre of my world. I could curl up and sleep knowing he'd only be feet away, and tomorrow I could tell him everything about...

Crack...searing pain tore through my flank and knocked my back legs from under me.

"What the fuck? That hurt; what the hell was that?"

I yelped as I looked around and saw a pale figure near the house. Mike? Mike with a shotgun-which was still aimed in my direction.

"Leah!" two voices cried in unison.

"Are you alright?" An echoey Sam panicked.

"Get the hell out of there, Leah!" Jacob begged me.

My wound was already starting to knit together. Getting back on my feet, I howled in pain as I tried to use my healing leg muscles.

Crack...

This time the pain burst through my chest and the force knocked me backwards.

"Leah, I'm coming!" It was Sam.

"I'm going to rip him apart." Jacob this time.

"No, Jacob-get Dr. Cullen," Sam begged. "Quickly."

I could feel blood in my lungs and I coughed. An itching burn that told me that I was mending, but the irregular thud of my heart told me that something wasn't quite right inside of me. As the seconds passed, I felt a prickling blackness start to descend upon me and I began to panic.

Through the fuzziness, I heard footsteps and the snapping of twigs. Mike was here, I could smell him. Why had he shot me?

I panicked in case he was about to put an end to my misery out of pity. I had to let him see who I was-immediately. Forcing myself to morph back into human form, I squealed in agony at the feeling of tugging on barely healed internal organs as they shrank. My heart skipped a couple of beats before settling back into an irregular rhythm, and I got a fresh taste of blood.

"Leah? What the..." I heard him exclaim. By now I couldn't quite focus and the floor I laid on started to spin.

"Mike..." I managed to respond, gagging at the blood that had pooled at the back of my throat. "It's me, I..."

"You were a..." I heard him drop to his knees by me, and I smiled once I could make him out through the fog. "Oh, my God. What have I done?"

"It's okay, Mike," I slurred. "I heal. They're bringing the vamp doc. I'll be okay."

"The vamp doc?" Mike questioned. "I'm so sorry, if I'd known...I mean, jeez, you were a wolf! I couldn't sleep and after the talk earlier...I thought I heard...oh, shit."

"Is o-kay, Mi..." I gurgled. "Jus' hold me..." My frantic fluttering heart stuttered a little as he complied with my request. I could barely feel his touch as pins and needles began in my extremities and blackness seemed to creep in towards my torso.

"Leah..." I could hear a lump in his throat, his voice now the only clear thing I was aware of. "I-"

"Mike," I said. "I wuv... you. You're my imprint. Glad I..." I was stopped by a gasp as the slowly encroaching numbness from my limbs became a silent burn in my chest.

"Leah, I love you, too. It's crazy-I don't even know you, but as soon I saw you I knew you were special. I never even dreamed that you might take an interest in me. That you might ask me on a date, that you might kiss me, or that you might love me too. No-one I've ever wanted has ever felt the same way, and I go and fucking shoot you."

Mike looked directly at my eyes just in time to see them glazing over.

"Leah?" he cried. "Aw no, Leah. Don't leave me. I can't lose you-I only just found you."

As I looked down on my blood spattered, naked body, there was nothing I could do to respond. I saw him break down and pull my lifeless form closer to him as the sounds of his sobs grew fainter. A large, black wolf bounded out of the trees before it transformed into Sam. The two men I loved fussed and despaired over my corpse as the spirit that that had once been Leah Clearwater drifted further and further away, floating on the breeze.

A few moments later, a reddish-brown wolf joined the panic, accompanied by the blonde doctor and two of the vampire females. I felt a rush of emotion when they had to peel Mike away to allow Dr. Cullen close enough to examine my body, now devoid of its essence. I guessed by the swift diagnosis that the vampires had recognised that my physical form was spent. They had a nose for these things.

I'd been shot through the heart apparently-how ironic.

I turned and looked up at the stars and felt at peace. How many times had I wondered what happened after death, and now I knew. I felt calm and at one with the world.

I couldn't be angry at Mike-if I had taken the opportunities presented to me earlier today this wouldn't have happened. He'd made my last day so much more pleasurable than I had known in a long while, and I'd finally gained some closure and made amends with Sam. I wasn't lonely anymore; I was happy, and felt loved. There was no more pain or bitterness-I'd had my chance to heal.

~X~

The End.

~X~

We can never go home,
We no longer have one.
I'll help you carry the load,
I'll carry you in my arms.

The kiss of the snow,
The crescent moon above us,
Our blood is cold and we're alone,
But I'm alone with you.

No Sound But The Wind, The Editors