A/N This is for you, Buffy. :^)

The Imprinted Chronicles: Book Three


The waves crashed across the rocky eastern shoreline, churning and foaming as the wind picked up. The weather would turn bad soon, there were dark clouds rolling over the horizon, and there was no one on this beach today except for one. A lone figure sat on the ground staring at the water, a cowboy hat over his eyes and a cigarette hanging out of his lips.

Head bowed and arms draped on his knees, Ricardo de Vaena smiled slightly around his cigarette.

"You know, I never did figure out how that little shit got out of the water," Rico said, turning and looking at the wolf standing behind him. He grinned and tilted his hat up so that he could see Jack better. "But at least he's dead. Hurt like hell, too, I couldn't move for a week."

"Some things are painful, old friend," Jack replied, sinking to his heels a few feet away from the vampire. "Like finding your friend has been trying to kill your Packmates. Your creation spoke your name, I was able to piece the rest together for my Pack."

The ancient wolf was silent, and Rico could feel the sadness coming off of him. The vampire sighed and stood up, brushing his hands off and flicking his cigarette.

"Well, Jackie boy, I suppose you've come to kill me," Rico sighed dramatically. "I tried to avoid it, but since ya followed me, I guess that's about that. I suppose I should say in my defense, I did warn your Beta that he and I were gonna have to have a talk one of these days. Not my fault if he didn't take me seriously."

Dark eyes regarded him solemnly, and Rico grimaced. "Aww, Jackie, don't look at me like that. I'm a vampire, this shit is what we do, you knew that." The wolf continued to watch him, and Rico scuffed his boot in the dirt. "Can we get to the killing already? I'm starting to get emotional here."

To Rico's surprise, the ancient wolf chuckled and then rose to his own feet. "I will have to kill you, Cold One," Jack admitted. "But there is something that we must do first." As the wolf explained, Rico listened, the storm building around them and causing the ocean to spray across his legs.

"Just you and me against the Volturi, huh?" the vampire finally asked, and then he spit on the ground. "Save the girl, save the day?"

"And then I'll kill you," the wolf seemed to feel the need to point out, and Rico barked out a laugh.

The ancient wolf smirked as Rico began to smile, and as the vampire raised gleaming eyes at Jack, his fangs flashed dangerously. "I've owed a lady a hello for a while now, so I think that can be arranged. Jackie boy, you always did know how to make my life more interesting."

As the pair headed down the beach, the vampire gave his friend a light shove in the arm. "You know I'm still gonna kill you first, Jackie."

"If I remember correctly, Cold One," the water could hear the wolf saying as the vampire found himself shoved right back, "Last time I had to put you back together piece by piece..."

Collin walked alone through the forest, hands stuffed in his pockets and lost in his own thoughts.

A sense of deep sadness had filled him since his fight Neel, and today especially that sadness threatened to overwhelm him. Not prone to brooding, Collin was struggling with his feelings of inexplicable guilt and frustration. He didn't know why, when he had killed the worst vampire they had ever come across, that he didn't feel proud of himself. He didn't know why he felt this overpowering sensation of being lost, of being left behind.

It was disconcerting.

It occurred to Collin that what he was feeling could be grief at the loss of a Packmate. Technically Jack was still in their Pack, but as of yesterday he was so far away that only Jake could sense him anymore, and they were all deeply worried about him. The truth was that it was very possible their Packmate would never come back, and the fact that a brother was facing such a dangerous enemy without them at his side was painful. Even Owen, their newest brother, had felt that loss, although it was hard for the young, simple-minded wolf to understand. All in all, it had been a rough time since Jack had left. No one had realized just how important he had been to the La Push Pack, how his experience and quiet wisdom had given them a sense of security.

If ever there was a time they needed his experience, it was now. They had three she-wolves, and even the Calgary Alpha had been confused over it. Tlokwali females were rare, one to every twenty or thirty males, even at the height of their numbers. There should be at least sixty wolves in Jake's Pack to make that number make sense, but there it was. Three she-wolves. And Collin had always thought they had their hands full with just Leah.

In the last few weeks in had become clear that the females were clashing. Leah had tried to take Callie under her wing the way she had done with Sims, but Callie wanted nothing to do with Leah. In fact, she wanted nothing to do with any of them. As easily as Owen had taken to being Pack, Callie was resisting it. Realizing the secrets that the Pack had been keeping from the reservation hadn't given Callie a sense of understanding and acceptance among them. Instead it had given her a sense of personal betrayal.

Callie was locked into this secret now and felt like she was no better than Brady, and she hated the fact that she had turned on her family.

Personally, Collin didn't know why she had any loyalty to the family to begin with. Even Brady had learned some things about Callie that no one else had known, and it made them all deeply unhappy. Brady wasn't the only one that had grown up in a tough situation, and like Brady, having that spilled out for all of them to see had left Callie guarded and furious. Their newest she-wolf had still not managed to phase back, because their attempts to get close to her, to help her, had only been met with hostility and snapping teeth.

Jake had told her that he was giving her a few more days to try and adjust before he was going to force her to phase back human. It would be unpleasant, the forcing, but eventually people would start wondering where she was. Callie had run off before, but she had always found her way back home eventually. The Jennings family had been grumbling about that "fool girl" taking off again, and they would be sure to notice if she didn't show up soon.

As he walked, the scent of the-wolf in his thoughts filled Collin's nostrils. Snapping teeth aside, it was hard not to be drawn to the females of their kind, and Collin had spent too many days holed up with Paul and Cassie, relying on them. He needed to get out and do something, try to shake himself free of this melancholy, a melancholy that he knew worried his papa wolf deeply.

Something moved in the brush off to his left, and Collin caught the faintest glimpse of a grey back. When phased, Callie was almost a mirror image of Jared, something that annoyed the other wolf immensely. But Collin didn't mind Callie the way that Jared did. Collin didn't have anything personal against her and in his mind, Callie's life so far had been rough, like Brady's had. It didn't make her bad, just…hard. Collin thought that Callie could really benefit from something in life cutting her a break.

Even as he thought that, the grey she-wolf decided stalking Collin through the woods wasn't nearly as preferable as trying to hamstring him. Since he wasn't exactly sure she wouldn't do it, Collin sidestepped her attack and phased himself. The she-wolf snarled in frustration and twisted, darting at him again, and this time Collin let her. She grunted when she smacked into his side, not expecting that he would stand there like an idiot, and Collin let her weight roll him. He didn't think he was an idiot at all. He thought he was an awfully nice guy to let her beat him up like this.

Callie snarled at the insinuation that he was "letting her", and she attacked him again. Collin let his tail thump the ground lazily as she snapped at his shoulder, knowing from her thoughts that she was frustrated and figuring that today sucked enough anyways, he might as well let her chew on something tangible for a while.

Startled, Callie paused mid-bite and then slunk backwards, staring at him suspiciously. It made absolutely no sense that he would just let her bite on him.

Collin wagged his tail again and stretched out on the ground more comfortably. She was his Packmate, and she was upset. She had stayed wolf too long, and they were all worried about that. If biting Collin helped her calm down long enough to phase back, then that was okay.

The she-wolf stared at him, and then lay down herself a few yards away. She snuffed and refused to look at him, but Collin heard her thoughts flicker unhappily. She didn't want to phase human again. Then it meant going home. Then it meant having to live this lie as well. Miserably, Callie put her nose on her paws.

Collin whined, a sympathetic noise, but when he started to rise to go to her, she growled warningly. He ignored her growl, but he did stay on his belly, edging over towards her a few inches at a time. Callie wanted him to go away, but she also was tired and scared, and this whole thing had been really fucked up. Being high as hell when she phased had made it even more fucked up, and those few moments before phasing had shoved the chemicals out of her system had been the most frightening trip of her life. So when Collin edged closer, she continued to growl, but she didn't move. When he crossed the final inches and stretched out alongside her smaller wolf form, Callie's growl softened and broke off into an unhappy whine.

Thinking that as shitty of a time he had been having, that this girl had been having it worse, Collin leaned his weight into her and settled his nose behind her ear. Callie thought that he should get the hell off of her, and her mind paraded over all of the images of things she didn't want to do in wolf form. Amused, Collin closed his eyes and thumped his tail slowly. He didn't think those last two were even possible, in human or wolf form. She didn't think that he was very imaginative, and Collin thought she didn't understand the laws of gravity, and somewhere along the lines of sexual speculation, Callie calmed down enough to phase back.

Realizing what was happening, Collin followed suit, but he didn't move away from where he lay stretched out along side of her, letting his eyes sweep casually down her naked form.

"I hate this," Callie said harshly, and Collin nodded.

"I get it," he replied softly, starting to shift away to give her some privacy and space. "I hate this a lot of the time, too."

To his surprise Callie rolled into him, locking her arm around his neck and pulling his face down to hers. When she kissed him fiercely, as if looking for something that still was in her control, something that still made sense, Collin got that as well. He had been here, had done that, and was still doing that. As Collin threaded his hands into her hair and kissed her back hungrily, Collin stopped thinking about what he had done and why he had done it, and he simply allowed himself to feel instead. After all, sex had always tamed the wolf inside, and his wolf could be a terrible, terrible thing.

As he lost himself in the body of his Packmate, Collin decided there were worse ways to make himself forget.

Carlisle had known it was coming, even before the tall woman slipped into his office, her face still cut and bruised and her arm in a sling. She looked on the verge of tears, both guilty and sad in scores, but determination was in her eyes as she sank into the opposing chair in front of his desk. The coven leader sighed and set his pen down, gazing at his protégé sadly.

"Are you sure you need to leave?"

His words caused tears to well up in her eyes, but the young doctor wiped them away with her good hand.

"Yeah, I think I really do," Misty said after a moment taken to compose herself, trying to keep her voice steady. "Maybe it's weak, but I can't do it. I can't sit here and try to work without thinking that he's right behind me. I accepted that residency at John's Hopkins…I have learned so much from you, Carlisle, and I can still learn so much more, but think this will be a good experience for me."

"Neel is dead, Misty," Carlisle said gently, reaching over his desk to take her warm hand in his cool one. "He won't ever be able to hurt you again. But I understand that these last several years of always looking over your shoulder have been a tremendous strain. A new place, some new faces might be the best thing for you."

Misty nodded, unable to wipe her tears now that Carlisle was holding her hand, and he smiled kindly. "It would be a lie to say that I won't miss you dearly, both personally and professionally."

He released her hand and she immediately wiped her face on her sleeve, sucking in a deep steadying breath and smiling weakly. "I don't want to live my life scared to not be near your family, Carlisle. I'm so grateful, you have no idea how grateful I am for all you have done, but I need to not lean on you anymore."

Carlisle understood, so he rose and went around the desk, helping her to her feet. He pressed a light kiss to her temple and then stepped back. "I'm proud of you, Misty. You are always welcome in my home, and at this hospital too, if I have any say."

"Thank you," Misty whispered, and as she hugged him tightly around the neck, Carlisle knew that she wasn't just thanking him. Misty never had been good with goodbyes, and knowing her, she'd leave tonight. She'd get the hell out of town and once again try to leave her demons behind her. So he held on for an extra moment, knowing this was her goodbye. Then she pulled away and sniffed, laughing at herself. "I went to say goodbye to Esme, and I ended up bawling like a baby. I did better this time."

Carlisle smiled at that, and patted her on the arm before leaning back on his deck. Misty cleared her throat, her tears drying as she put back on her smile and went into professional mode. "I left most of my patients with the other doctors, but three of them will need you instead. I'll make sure the files are with your secretary before I leave. I left my notes on Nessie at your house, but I think you should look at what I found. She's got the faintest traces of a viral infection I've never seen. And please tell Alice thank you for me as well. I tried to call her, but she didn't answer her phone."

"Of course, Misty," Carlisle promised, grateful that his protégé didn't know his daughter had been taken. Misty would have been devastated.

The female nodded and then gave him one last smile. She started to say something, but then nodded. "Well, I suppose that's it. I'll let you know when I get settled, and you have my number. If you need anything, anything at all for you or your family, just call me."

Carlisle returned her smile and tried not to feel sad about her loss as she headed towards the door. She started to leave, but then she paused.

"Hey, Dr. Cullen?" Misty said, swinging around in the doorway. Her face seemed younger than it had in years, as carefree as it had ever been since the first time he had noticed the tall woman in the front row of his guest lecture class. She had kept asking him questions then, questions that never failed to impress him. She was still impressing him now as she grinned at him and gave him a wink. "Thanks again for getting rid of my ex. He was kind of a jerk, but I'll make sure to pick better next time."

Carlisle chuckled and shook his head as he settled back down into his desk. "Actually, Misty, it wasn't me. Someone very young and very brave did that, but it wasn't me."

Misty blinked at that. Her memories from the time Neel had dragged her out of the window had been fuzzy at best. She opened her mouth to ask him one more question, one more question that for everyone's safety she had never asked, but then she closed it again and nodded. "Well, tell them thanks." As Carlisle went back to work, the doctor closed the door behind her quietly. Out in the hallway, Misty took a deep steadying breath, and then she exhaled heavily.

With a small smile and the realization that the world had become a much better place, Dr. Misty Foster limped away gratefully.

Hope could come in many forms, and it could be taken away in just as many. This time hope was taken away in the form of a phone call.

While understanding that Samantha had experienced a traumatic event in the loss of her mother, the scholarship review board couldn't allow her lowered GPA, her excessive tardiness, and her alleged gang activity to pass by unaccounted for. There were others who were runner's up in receiving the same scholarship Samantha had earned, and they had spotless records. The review board was sorry, but her scholarship was revoked. They had requested a favor, after all they weren't heartless, and the Stanford admissions department had agreed to still accept her if she could pay her own tuition.

Samantha whispered thank you and hung up the phone. There was simply no way.

For a moment she simply stood there in Embry's kitchen. She had known this might happen, had tried her best to prepare herself for it, but Samantha still felt like the rug had been pulled out from beneath her feet. Her hands on the countertop could have kept her from swaying, but these days even that much weakness was hard to stomach. She leaned on nothing and stayed on her feet.

The Alpha wanted to know what was wrong. Samantha pushed back against the imprint bond. Right now she needed Jake out of her head, and she needed him to stay away. Please, just stay away.

After a moment's hesitation, Samantha felt the imprint bond between herself and Jake close down as far as the Alpha could close it, giving her so much privacy that the lack of feeling him was a physical discomfort. It was only then that she allowed herself to sit down at the kitchen table, her head in her hands and silent tears rolling down her face. That scholarship had been her dream, but Samantha going to college had been her mother's dream. Samantha could still do it, she could still go to college, just somewhere closer. She'd get a job, hell she'd get several jobs, and she'd figure out a way.

Samantha wiped her tears away and as she slipped out of the house, walking towards town, she told herself in no uncertain terms that if she had to do this all over again, she'd still make the same decision. Without her strength added into the Pack, Seth could have died. No regrets. Sometimes life sucked and that was that. But Seth was okay, and she still had good enough grades to get into other, cheaper colleges. And she still had Embry.

Embry was working right now, and Samantha had stopped asking him to let her back into the dojo. When he was ready to trust her there, he'd let her back in. She was still hurt by it, but she understood that she had hurt him badly, and so Samantha had given him space. But losing her scholarship hurt, and it was instinct to go to him, to seek out his arms and his smile and his comfort.

She was different now than the person he had fallen in love with, but she knew he still loved her, he loved her deeply. Embry wouldn't turn her away.

A year and a half ago, Samantha hadn't known how to turn to someone for support, and she still wasn't very good at it. But Embry had earned her trust, and Seth and Leah had done the same. She knew that in their attempts at a truce that both she and Jake were trying, and it wasn't so much trust as it was slowly earning respect. If this had happened a year and a half ago, Samantha would have closed her eyes and stuffed it all deep down inside and never let anyone see it. Now she padded down the street, deeply grateful that she had a place to seek shelter in.

The wind was blowing towards her as she approached the dojo, a storm was building, and Samantha's sharp ears caught the sounds of voices. It was Embry, but it was also Quil. As far as she knew, this was the first time that Embry and Quil had been in the same place alone, talking, and Samantha paused, knowing that it could be a bad thing for her to interrupt. She was about twenty paces away when Samantha decided to turn around. She'd be able to talk to Embry later, and Embry missed his best friend more than he realized. This time was good for them.

As she turned around, Samantha heard Quil say in a quiet voice, "Emb, whatever it is, it can't be that bad. You're obviously not doing well, and you know I'll do my best not to let it slip."

Her boyfriend sighed heavily, and the desk chair squeaked. There was silence and then Embry growled, sounding angry. "Hell. Hell, man, what am I supposed to tell her? Every night she tries to get closer, every night she pushes for us to be together, and I'm tired of fighting her. I'm tired of fighting over her. I'm tired of fighting the Pack and I'm tired of fighting my wolf…I'm just so fucking tired of fighting."

"You're fighting your wolf?" Quil sounded deeply worried at that. "How much more than before, Embry?"

"Ever since she phased, Quil," Embry groaned, sounding angry. "Every fucking minute since she phased I've felt my control slipping more and more. How the hell am I supposed to live with someone when I'm scared to death of what I'll do when my control finally gives? Did you know that when she and Leah go out at night, I actually wish for her not to come back until I leave for work in the morning? Hell, I won't even let her in here just so I can have some peace. And she wants to know why I won't sleep with her, but what am I supposed to say? Sims, I love you, you were my white picket fucking wet dream come true, but I'm done with—"

Whatever he was done with, she couldn't hear. It was too much, it was too hard. She didn't need to hear him break her heart any more, he had made it perfectly clear. Her presence made his wolf lose control, her presence made his life too hard, and Embry was cracking under it.

As she padded back down the street, away from the dojo that had been her safe haven, her home since coming here, Samantha couldn't say she was surprised. Hurt, broken hearted, but not surprised. Embry had been trying to tell her this for months, if not in so many words. He was a good man, the best man she had ever known, and he had tried so hard not to hurt her, but she was hurting him. And Samantha knew Embry. She knew he would sit there and take it, would do his damnedest to do right by her no matter how wrong it was for him. He would protect her from this, no matter what the cost, the way he had so far.

But you see, Samantha had always, always done everything she could to protect Embry. Even when it was hard. Even when it hurt. Even when she wanted to scream and rage and hate him for it.

At least he had taken her to prom before he broke her heart. The thought rolled unbidden into her head, making Samantha smile bitterly, made her sit on their bed and cry before forcing herself to have strength.

Hope could come in many forms, and it could be taken away in just as many. This time hope was in freedom, so Samantha stuffed everything she had brought with her to La Push in her old duffle bag, wrote 'I love you' on a paper towel in the kitchen, and then she did the hardest thing she had ever done.

Samantha Carter gave Embry Call his freedom back.

The call was too strong. It was too much for Leah to take anymore.

Her Alpha had another she-wolf, two in fact. He was another male wolf strong, and he had allies that strengthened him. He didn't need her. He wanted to keep her, but he didn't need her. He cared about her, but he didn't need her. The threat of Calgary was minimized as long as Jake didn't decide to be an idiot, the threat of Neel was gone as long as vampires couldn't de-combust, and they were the safest they had been in the last couple years. Jacob Black would fight for her and die for her, but he didn't need her.

But something out there did.

This time when the call came, Leah didn't even try to fight it. She shut herself down, blocked herself as far away from her Alpha as she could as she picked the keys to her motorcycle up, pretending she was in a pissed off mood so Jake would instinctively steer clear. She knew what she was doing was reckless, was dangerous, was stupid even, but she wouldn't live her life like this. She wouldn't live in a cage, not even one of Jake's making. Gilded bars were still bars. It was time to break out, because Leah Clearwater had somewhere else to be.

Her mother was at the store and wouldn't understand, and Sue would be both hurt and angry. Her brother was dick-deep in a fucking Emily/Sam repeat, and if he ever came up for air long enough to notice, he'd be pissed. Leah planned on being far enough away at that point for him to not be able to drag her back kicking and screaming. Knowing that Jake would never let her leave if he had any clue what she was up to, Leah didn't even let herself grab anything besides her father's old wallet, which she stuck in her back pocket.

Supposedly Leah had gotten her motorcycle "fixed" after Seth's accident. She'd sell it on the road if need be.

Taking a deep breath and forcing herself not to bolt like she had ever other time, Leah opened the door normally and came face to face with Sims. The other she-wolf looked like hell. Her eyes were hard as agates and dark underneath, and she was trembling like a crack addict. Although to be honest, except for the duffle bag on her shoulder and the red splotches from crying on her face, Sims didn't really look any different than her standard these days.

Sims looked at Leah. Leah looked at Sims. Both she-wolves frowned simultaneously.

"You're really going to do that shit to Embry?" Leah asked, tilting her head, and Sims narrowed her eyes.

"It's what he needs from me," Sims replied softly. "You're really going to do this shit to Jake?"

Leah grunted and glanced over Sims's head at the reservation that had been her only home, her only world. "It's what I need from me," she said simply, her eyes once more locking on Sims's.

Sims looked at Leah. Leah looked at Sims. Then suddenly Sims grinned, a fierce, vicious grin, tossing her bag inside the house behind Leah. Leah knew what that meant, that Sims was planning on coming with her, but that she was also planning on coming back one day. That duffle bag was her fucking emotional security blanket. As for Leah, well…she would have to see.

The older woman smirked, saying, "Invite yourself along, why don't you?"

Sims grinned as Leah shut the door behind her. "This is really gonna piss them off, you know that?" Sims mentioned, not looking particularly worried about it. Leah knew that Embry had been Sims' strongest tie to them, and if she thought Embry needed her gone, leaving wasn't that hard of a thing.

Leah raised an eyebrow at Sims and then returned the grin. "That's never bothered you before," Leah decided. "No reason to start now."

The taller she-wolf could feel her Alpha stirring, curious how the rush of annoyance had turned to excitement in Leah's veins. Leah hadn't been afraid to go by herself, but this was better. So much better. Leah started up the bike, her Alpha's imprint sliding on the seat behind her, and Leah smirked at Sims from over her shoulder. "Hey baby, wanna ride?"

"Depends what's between your legs," Sims shot back, not bothering with a helmet this time as she gripped the seat beneath her lightly. This time she was as indestructible as Leah was. "If Jake figures out we're about to bail, it'll get messy. You better have a plan, Leah."

The older she-wolf barked out a laugh and revved the engine, peeling out as she gunned the bike down the street. "Plans are for pussies."

The pull southward hit Leah so strongly that she nearly cried out from the relief that she was running, and this time she was going to make sure no one stopped her. When the Yamaha YZF-R1 hit 180 outside of La Push, and Brady lifted his muzzle to the sky in warning, neither one of them looked back.

The world was not an ideal place.

If the world had been an ideal place, Jacob Black would have been fixing a bike in his garage right now, human and normal and talking to his two best friends. Embry would be pissed because his girlfriend had left him, and Quil would be grumbling about Embry at least having someone for as long as he did. Jake would call them both losers and be daydreaming about a clumsy girl that wore her shorts nice and short, so short that he always got a pleasant look at her thighs every time she stumbled and bent over to catch her balance. Instead the Alpha was walking into a place as far away from his furious Pack as he could safely risk.

The world was far from ideal, and it weighed heavily on the Alpha's shoulders as he strode across the floor at Barney's and slumped down into the barstool closest to the grill. His wolf had run that grill. Jake missed him.

The Alpha's seat was on the far side from where the Saturday night regulars were gathering, and as busy as the bar already was becoming, it was doubtful that anyone was coming all the way down here to get him a drink. Jake didn't care, it was enough to have a moment to himself, a moment alone. His Pack had to obey him, but they were livid that he had ordered them to not give chase after the two she-wolves. They were terrified that in letting them go, Jake had made a terrible mistake. Seth and Jake had come to blows for the first time in their lives when Jake refused to let Seth follow his sister, and Paul had made it clear in no uncertain terms that in every way that Jake had managed to fuck, this was his biggest mistake.

Embry currently wasn't speaking to anyone.

"You look like you need a drink. Any particular reason?"

Jake looked up at the bartender, a petite brunette with long hair pulled back into a ponytail and knowing smile playing about her lips. She leaned against the bar casually, her toned arms bared beneath the dimmed lights and covered in a faint sheen. Despite her smile, Jake could see that she was tired. She was the only bartender there at the moment, and he couldn't believe she had left the masses to come get his order. Her nametag read "Hi my name is Buffy", but she had written in black marker beneath it, "Ask me about vampires and I'll stake you."

The Alpha couldn't help but laugh.

The bartender arched an eyebrow at him and then plopped down a shot glass, filling it full of an amber liquid before sauntering away. Jake chuckled and shook his head before tossing back the shot. He grimaced at the taste of whiskey but enjoyed the warm tingling of the alcohol as it went down his throat. He supposed in a far from ideal world, where the only Packmate that wouldn't hate him for his decisions was the one he had just sent off to their death in Europe, at least Jake could pass for twenty-one.

A couple minutes later the bartender was back. She refilled his shot glass and this time she leaned further across the bar, taking his shot and tossing it back herself, leaving him with an empty glass. Jake couldn't stop the grin from coming to his face, and so he stood up and scooted down a few seats, closer to where she was at so she wouldn't have to walk as far. This time Buffy poured a double shot and drank half of it before sliding the other half his way. She was testing him, Jake could tell, and Jake wasn't the kind to back down. So he finished the shot, and then gave her a smile.

"Sorry, I wasn't laughing at you," he told her in his low rumbling voice. "Just the vampire thing, it's more ironic than you realize."

Buffy poured him another shot and then set a beer down in front of him, smirking. "You know there are worse things out there than vampires. Taking whatever the bartender feels like serving you is one of them."

The Alpha chuckled and lifted the shot, rolling the glass between his fingers. "We'll have to agree to disagree on that one. I think they are the fucking worst thing invented. And thanks for the drinks."

Buffy nodded and winked at him before going back to the other end of the bar. She stayed down there for a while, long enough for Jake to stare at his phone and wish that Jack would call, or Leah would call, or hell even his imprint would call. When he looked up, the bartender was back. This time she poured a shot for herself and only for herself.

"I needed a drink," she informed him teasingly and Jake grinned, tipping his beer towards her politely. Hell if she didn't take a swig of it too before passing it back. Buffy leaned in again and gave him a smile. "So I'll ask it again and then you're on your own, big guy. You look like you need a drink. Any particular reason?"

Jake thought about it, his thoughts causing his grin to slip from his face. He glanced at the bartender, and then Jake exhaled heavily. "You know that shit about if you let something free, it'll come back to you? I think sometimes when you let something free, it just leaves. But who knows? Maybe I'll just sit here and wait to find out how badly I fucked this one up. I'm fucking tired of trying to anticipate everything."

"You lost a girl today," Buffy acknowledged, pouring him one last shot, and Jake shrugged, his face twisting in a sardonic smile as he pulled out a couple bills and set them on the table.

"Two actually," he admitted ruefully, shaking his head. "And I don't think they were ever mine to lose."

"Dumped twice in one day?"

The Alpha growled and tossed back his shot. "Yeah, something like that," he muttered. "Apparently I'm a fucking cage. I suppose it's stupid to let someone get hurt just to prove a point, but yeah. I don't know anymore. I let them leave."

The bartender listened but said nothing, and Jake glanced down at his phone. It was vibrating with a text message from Paul. It would probably involve curse words and something about Seth making everyone miserable. He sure as hell had been making Jake miserable, the Beta hadn't stopped snarling in Jake's head all day.

"Hey, thanks for listening and thanks again for the drinks. I need to get back." As much fun as it would be to sit here and drown the overwhelming feeling of abandonment he had under a steady stream of liquor, Jake knew he needed to go back home. He might be tired, but it was his job to anticipate everything.

Buffy shrugged and went to get his change. When she came back, Buffy waggled a couple dollars before sticking them in her pocket and handing him the rest of his change back. "I earned this," she told him with a smirk. "I have good listening skills."

Jake grinned again and tossed an extra bill down on the bar. "Yeah, you do." The bartender pulled out her black marker and to his surprise, she took Jake's hand, writing something across his wrist. Then she winked at him as he glanced at her in surprise, his gaze turning speculative.

Buffy pocketed the extra dollar and went back to work, and as the Alpha headed out of the bar, he thought about the words she had written. When he went to start his bike, Jake made sure to turn the volume of his phone up, so that he could make sure he heard it over his motorcycle's engine. At any time he might get a call. At any time, he could start being really right and Leah could start being really wrong, and she might need him. And like a fucking punk, he'd be waiting for it.

As he was pressing the volume button, the Alpha looked down at his wrist and read the bartender's words again.

When you get tired of waiting, let me know.

Was he tired of waiting? Yeah, Jake was pretty sure that he was. He had been waiting for too many people for too long. They had made it exactly clear where they stood, and Jake was ready for once to be on the better end of all of this.

With a smile on his face, the Alpha cut the engine, pocketed his keys, and turned his phone back to vibrate. Then he went back in.

Deep in the Andes Mountains, a Pack crept towards a cave.

It loomed in front of the wolves, dark and menacing and impossible for even their eyes to penetrate. At their leaders' backs, the wolves shifted nervously. There were fewer and fewer of themselves these days. And the frightening part was that as they looked into the cave where their enemy was sheltered, every wolf knew that there were even more of them.

Their Alpha, Kalísoliyáť, slunk forward first, his movements silent even to their ears as he edged towards the cave. It didn't matter if they were outnumbered, they had something to kill. Knowing their fate, the Pack followed, halting only when their youngest leader paused and looked to the north. Taye raised his golden muzzle and stared, shifting as if being pulled by something that he couldn't see. There was something…His Alpha wanted his attention back to the task at hand, and Taye showed his teeth to Kalísoliyáť angrily before turning away. Angry or not, they were here to fight and Taye was ready.

Ignoring what may or may not be coming, the young wolf was the first to follow Kalísoliyáť into the darkness to face what lay waiting within.













Well, there you have it! Welcome to halfway through TIC! The series will be six stories long, and we've gotten through the first three. If you hadn't guessed already, I'll go ahead and announce it: B4 is Leah's story. For those of you that wanted more of Cassie and Paul's wedding, I'm planning on writing a one-shot for them eventually. Just a head's up, I'm taking a much needed break between this story and B4, so expect B4 to go up no sooner than mid-July. I know that's a while, but I need to recharge my brain.

Thanks for everyone who read and reviewed this fic, and a MASSIVE thanks to both my amazing beta TheNotoriousLIP and the lj Packgirls. You all are so wonderful, and your support is so often my inspiration. And for those who took a risk on reading a Renesmee/OC child imprint fic, thank you. I know it was uncomfortable at times, and your sticking it out means a lot to me. Also, anyone who's interested in the research material I used to write B3 and the backstory of the Tlokwali, I'll provide the list after this.

Last but not least, the awesome people over at my live journal have posted some Brady one-shots for my Brady One-shot Challenge. Go check them out, I promise you won't be disappointed!


Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest, by Ella E. Clark

Native Peoples Of The Olympic Peninsula, Edited by Jacilee Wray

The Ceremonial Societies of the Quileute Indians, by Leo Joachim Frachtenberg (This is AWESOME, btw)

www (dot) quileutenation (dot) org

www (dot) native-languages (dot) org/

h t t p : / / content (dot) lib (dot) washington (dot) edu/cmpweb/index (dot) html

www (dot) nuuchahnulth (dot) org/index (dot) html