Chapter 9:

It's possibly probable

MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2006

It was about 6AM when I finally dropped Jared off at his house. He sat in the car for an additional five minutes worrying if I was going to get home all right. I had to assure him that I was in fact a big girl and could make it the three-minute drive to my house without being killed or dying. Most likely.

I insisted that this wasn't the 1950's and that I was a woman completely capable of independence. When he stared at me, I insisted that I was completely capable of getting home. I eventually had to shove him bodily from the car, because my mother would be waking up soon and I needed a decent ten-minute window to sneak back into my house.

I was able to scramble back inside the house and plopped down onto my bed from my window just in time. It was only moments later that I heard my mother's alarm go off. I gave it another ten minutes before I'd make my appearance.

In those ten minutes, I mulled over the night's events. What had this done to my plan? My plan of cutting Jared off. I mean, sure, he'd needed me for whatever reason. A reason I wasn't letting him get away with for much longer. The only reason I didn't force it out of him in the past few hours was because I didn't want him to freak out again. I wasn't a total bitch. And if I was being honest with myself – which is a rarity – I did have fun with him after he stopped going totally crazy. He was fun and he made me laugh and he seemed mostly honest with me…

And I felt so much better now. Sure, maybe whatever I had was passing out of my system. But I felt so much better with Jared. Healthier. And I'd even eaten. For the first time in days. It was remarkable. And I'm sure that was just the endorphin-like effect of being around someone I liked but regardless, not being violently ill was really kinda cool.

Why was it I was kicking him to the curb again?

Oh… right. I'm pretty sure he was using me. Sure, it didn't seem that way when we were together, but then again if he was good at it, it should've been that way. And maybe he didn't want to hurt me, but I'm pretty sure he was just being nice as a way to keep an eye on me. To make sure I didn't spill the Pack secret. Great.

But there was no way in hell, I decided as I rolled out of bed to pretend I'd gotten a full night's sleep and was now on the road to recovery, that I was allowing Jared off the hook with whatever puzzle piece I was missing. Half dead, I crawled out of bed and across town for him. With his jerk of a Packmate. I deserved an explanation and I had enough self-respect and wherewithal to get it. Maybe.

I stretched as I stood and found that – even though I was tired – I felt better. The food Jared and I had shared seemed to be digesting quite well. I traipsed out into the kitchen. I poured my usual cup of coffee and even reached for the box of Apple Jacks. My mother paused over her morning toast and watched me until I sat down and joined her.

"Feeling better?" she asked. I nodded tentatively, really not wanting to jinx my new found fortune. "I'm glad to hear it," she smiled reaching for my forehead just to check herself.

"I guess I have to apologize, I'm sure it was something I dragged in from the hospital. I haven't heard about anything going around town."

I shrugged noncommittally as I took a bite. "Don't worry Ma; it might've even been something I ate. School food is really gross…"

"Good… Are you feeling well enough for class today?"

"I think so," I replied. "I've missed enough school for this thing. Plus, I'm getting bored."

She nodded and took a bite of her toast. "So how was your date? I didn't get to talk to you that night and you've been sick ever since."

My shoulders sagged and I rolled my eyes. "Moooom," I whined.

"Kimberly," my mother said sternly. "I'm your mother and I need to be kept somewhat abreast of what is happening in my daughter's romantic life. Now, this boy Jared – your brother says he knows him. He's a good boy?"

"Yes, Ma. Jared's a nice guy. Really polite, sweet. He and David play some sports together. He's a year older than me. We went to that nice pizza place on the edge of town."

My mother nodded slowly as I spoke, listening. "Do you think you two might go out again?" she asked as she took a sip from her tea.

I raised one shoulder. "I don't know," I admitted honestly. "I think I like us better as friends, y'know? He's nice and all, but I don't know if we really click." So that wasn't the God's honest truth… but if I couldn't tell Tab, then I wasn't ready to tell my Mom either. I'm sure my keeping relationship dysfuction from my Mom and best friend and everyone in general was really, really healthy.

"That's okay," my mother nodded sagely. "Boys can be very valuable friends. Sometimes, when the girls and their antics get overwhelming it's nice to know some people that aren't quite so drama-prone."

"Agreed," I nodded as I finished up my coffee.

"Well, if you two happen to hang out again, have him swing by the house. I'd love to meet him."

And there's the death blow… "Mooooooom!"

"Oh, Kim. Don't be so dramatic. It's hardly the Spanish Inquisition. I'd just like to see the face and formally meet one of my daughter's friends. Is that such a big deal? You bring Tabitha around all the time. I'll play it cool. I can be low key."

"Fine. Low key is good. I don't know when we're hanging out though…"

Ma waved her hand dismissively as she stood and went to the sink. "Like I said, don't worry about it. He sounds like a nice boy, your brother says he's a good kid, and I'm sure I know his mother."

Wonderful.

"Okay, ma. That's fine. Next time we hang out, I'll make him come get me and you two can chat it up."

I performed my usual morning routine and back in my room I repacked my backpack and grabbed my camera. I was out in the car and on time for once. David and I should actually make it to school before the bell.

"So Mom gave you the run over on boyfriend/girlfriend etiquette, I heard?" David said pointedly over the tops of his sunglasses as we headed for Kevin's house.

"Eavesdropper," I groused.

"I'm pretty sure the walls of our house are made of paper mache; I couldn't have not heard even if I wanted to. But she gave it to you pretty easy, though. All you have to do is introduce the guy?"

"Yeah, that'll be bizarre enough, I'm sure."

"Hey, don't you remember when Ma used to make me bring girls home for dinner? I used to have to explain that my mother was big on 'family' time and that's why I had to drag some poor innocent girl to our house for a two-hour dinner circuit. You get off easy, kid."

"Well, your discretion in the type of women you date has kind of been all over the board…"

David nodded in agreement. "True. Maybe Ma has more faith in you."

"God willing."

"I'll keep Jared's moonlighting as a pimp undercover for now," David said offhandedly as we pulled up to Kevin's front lawn. I reached up to hit him with the book in my hand but he deflected it rather well.

"Glad to see you two are off to a pleasant morning," Kevin commented as he slid inside the backseat. "Feeling better Kim?"

"Kevin," I shouted. "Hit him for me!"

"I assumed so," he replied to my non-asnwer of his question. He thought about my request for a minute. "Is it for something good."

"Yes!"

Thwap!

"Ow! God, Kev… My fucking ear…"

"Now, drive," I commanded.


I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was fully bodily equipped to handle the school day. Tab had been nice and kept a running tally of the work I'd missed – which thankfully wasn't that much. And she also reported that my Chem partner was back and had nicely reciprocated my favor and done the majority of my lab reports in my absence.

I smiled, glad to hear that Jacob was calm enough to return to school. I wondered if he knew that I knew? So far, I'd only met Sam and Paul in that sort of context. But I figured that if Jared had told me about the others (okay, so I guessed), then they might've known about me. It only seemed fair.

When it came time for second period and I slid into my Chemistry stool, I saw that Tab had been right. Jacob was back in classes. Just like the others, he looked so much different. He was bulky, all his hair had been shorn off and he looked really mad. That last thing is what really threw me for a loop. I expected the bulk and the hair – it was the same as the others – but Jacob Black had always been a really happy, really upbeat person. But now, his face was stony and his expression harsh.

I actually felt a little scared sliding the stack of notes he'd missed across the lab table. He was bigger than the rest; well into the six-foot range he towered over me even more than before. He was easily a full foot taller than me.

"Thanks," he glanced towards me. "I'd have returned the favor, but I've only paid enough attention to do the assignments."

"That's okay," I nodded. "Tab said you'd been doing the lab assignments. I really appreciate it. Thanks."

He nodded and faced forward once again. I didn't know how to broach the subject of the Pack, but I felt weird not knowing where the both of us stood in the realm of information. But I figured maybe our Chemistry class was not the best place to bring it up. Especially if Jake was only recently learning to stay in control.

I just sat quietly in class, taking diligent notes. I noticed that Jake didn't once take any. That was uncharacteristic of him. He'd always been a decent student. And when our lab reports were passed back I noticed the writing was messy, haphazard and the paper was marked with small splotches. I thought about if for a moment and then realized Jake probably hadn't mastered the art of holding a pencil. The new power allowed him pick up the desk and throw it a hundred yards, but he didn't have the control to not snap a pen or pencil, yet.

That sucked.

When the bell rang, I borrowed Tabitha's Chem notes from the past few days and I made a pit stop at the library before heading to lunch. As I crossed the cafeteria, I hoped I wasn't late enough that everyone had filtered into their seats. I was in luck. Tab was sitting in our usual spot with the usual people and my target – one Jacob Black – was currently sitting at his table alone. Though Embry was fast approaching from the food line. I picked up my pace and as I passed behind Jake, I quickly dumped the photocopied pile of notes from my own absence up through today onto the table in front of him. By the time he glanced around to see what had happened, I was within range of my usual table and had sat down.

When I glanced up a few minutes later, his table had filled and the stack of notes was peeking out of his backpack on the floor. I resumed watching our own table, and listening to their chatter before I was caught staring. Oddly enough, we'd somehow acquired Quil as our newest table member. Poor guy was still stuck in friendship limbo, I guess. Though I thought it ridiculous that Jared, Embry and Jake wouldn't at least share a lunch table with the guy – even if they weren't going to let him in on the genetic secret yet.

Stupid boys…

I had been given a reprieve for gym class to work in the school's ramshackle dark room. When I say ramshackle, I mean me, the art/music teacher and another student had done the best we could in creating it. It was a closet of a room that housed the schools long defunct kiln. I'm pretty sure it had never been used but was carted here to take up space or look good. It did the former quite well. The dust had been cleared and the walls painted black, I found a hardware store that sold the right lighting, we bought most of the supplies second hand and ordered the chemicals from Port Angeles.

It was in here that I was spending my last period. Along with many shots for the yearbook, I'd also been commissioned for a mural for graduation. It was going to be interesting to say the least. I had the most fun in putting photos of people next to each other who didn't ever even want to share air space.

I was trying to pop the cap of a particularly difficult film canister – a task only made more difficult by the fact that it must be done in complete darkness – when a knock at the door startled me.

"Just a minute," I shouted through the door. I then leaned over to flick the light switch that connected to the bulb outside the door back and forth. The one indicating I was busy doing light-sensitive things. Maybe that would remind the person outside that I was busy. I assumed it was one of the art kids. The dark room did house all of the mallets and block cutting materials on its far wall.

I was able to contain the reel of film inside the light trap tank and poured in some developer before I opened the door. I was fully surprised to see Jacob on the other side.

"Oh," I said in surprise. "Hi?"

"Hi," he replied, actually smiling slightly this time as he watched me shake the small tank in my hands.

"Something I can do for you, hulk?" I asked when he spoke no further. He reached around and pulled a set of rolled up Chemistry notes from his back pocket. "Ah, yes," I nodded this time. "Why don't you step into my office?"

Jacob took a quick look around the small dark room, apparently deciding whether or not I was going to kill or jump him. He seemed to guess that I was not predatory and followed me inside. I shut the door and all the light – except for that from a small, lone, red bulb – left the room.

"This has all the makings of a horror movie," Jake mumbled looking around. I pulled some dry negatives from their hanging positions and slid them into the projector.

"The walls are hardly soundproof. I promise not to kill you. Besides, I doubt that's a battle I could win." I flipped the projector's light on and made sure the image was centered properly. I zoomed ever so slightly on the subject and adjusted for blur. "Do you mind if I turn out the light?"

"Go ahead," he replied. I flicked the last red light off and we were plunged into total darkness. "So these notes…" he began as I fished into the dark block packaging for a sheet of photo paper. I wondered if talking in the pitch black would make this conversation less or more awkward? To be determined.

"I hope they help," I contributed as I snapped the paper under the projector. I flipped the switch and set the timer. Whatever Jake wanted to get across to me, it didn't seem easy. "I know it's sometimes hard to get the meaning of something from someone else's personal notes, but I guess it's better than nothing."

"You didn't have to do that, you know?" he said pointedly.

"I know," I nodded. "But I figured I'd repay the favor – since you put the effort to do my lab reports while I was gone. I appreciate that. I can tell you had issues with the writing part…" I added the last part quietly.

"I know how to write, Kim," he said deliberately as the timer dinged. I reached to turn the projector off and slid the paper into a tray of developer.

I moved down to the end of the line of trays and pulled a few sheets out of last tray of hypo, hanging them on a line behind the door. "I know you're literate, Jacob." I amended as I hung each print carefully. "But I'm guessing you've yet to master delicacy to the point of not snapping pens in half?"

When I turned around, he just looked at me and I shook my head. He'd probably been so busy dealing with the fact that he could change into a wolf at his own will, that recent events pertaining to my discovery of the Pack hadn't reached him.

I flicked the red light on again and he was observing me through narrowed eyes.

"You know?" he asked cryptically.

"About your newly found lycanthropic issues? Yes."

Again with the staring… "How?"

I picked my video camera up off the shelf. "Then lens sees all, dear."

Jake glanced around the room quickly and whispered lowly. "You have pictures of us?"

I leaned in close and popped open the viewfinder; I leaned in close and imitated his whispering tone. "I have video of you."

Then he started shaking. Almost like he was shivering, he began to blur at the edges like when you leave a vibrating cell phone on the tabletop. I didn't know what that meant, but he also looked really upset. He took an unsteady step backwards and was met with wall – this was not a terribly large dark room by any stretch of the imagination.

"Jake?" I stepped forward, completely unsure as to what was happening. I placed my hand against his arm speaking quietly and trying to soothe whatever the heck was happening. "Jacob it's fine; I'm not going to do anything with it. I've already blanked out the memory. The Pack secret is safe with me."

Then he started breathing heavy like he'd just run a mile, like he couldn't control it. I could hear heavy and quick footsteps in the art room outside the door, but I was focused on whatever kind of meltdown Jacob was having. Why did these happen so often? "Jacob Black," I said sternly. He was now seriously starting to worry me and I used all the stern force I could muster. "Stop this, right now."

And then, in an instant, and like a switch – it stopped. The shaking, the labored breathing, the wild eyes, were all gone. What was wrong with these boys? Besides the obvious. Jacob now just looked at me with expression of awe, the red light in the room throwing weird shadows around. I took a step back, slightly startled and wary from whatever just happened, when the door to the dark room banged open. I shrieked in surprise and jumped back. Jared and Embry were both scrambling into the doorway. Jared pulled Jacob out of the room by the scruff of his neck and Embry came towards me slowly – as I was now hunched against the wall.

"Kim," he asked steadily. "Are you okay?"

I could hear Jared dragging Jacob out of the empty art room – classes must have ended and I didn't hear the bell. The whole way out I could hear him telling Jared in wonder. "She just pulled rank on me, man! She pulled rank on me? What the hell is going on?"

"I'm fine," I ground back. Though I didn't really appreciate being cornered by this enormous teenager and with the adrenaline pumping through my veins I was bound to do something really stupid really soon. "Now back up before I throw developer in your eyes and blind you."

Embry's posture visibly slackened; obviously my threats were an indicator of my being quite all right. He slowly backed out of the dark room. "Paul was right, you are a hellion," he muttered to himself.

I sighed in relief, took a moment to collect myself and pulled all the photos through the developer, stop and fix. When I finished I pulled my bag and camera off the shelf and stepped into the art and music room. Embry was spinning on an art stool waiting for me. He appeared to be grinning. I dropped my bag on the table next to him. "What is going on?"

He laughed lightly. "Jake's been so out of the loop. He phased just recently so he hasn't gotten entirely used to all this yet. You pulled rank on him and he wasn't really prepared for it. To be honest, though, we didn't know you could… I mean Emily's never done it before, but then again Emily's not a very assertive individual—"

"Embry!" I interrupted his babbling. What. Is. Going. On? What just happened in there?"

He nodded solemnly a few times. "Jake's a new phase – as you know. But…" he glanced out the window of the art room to where I could see Jake and Jared sitting on a school bench. Jared had his hand still around the scruff of Jake's neck. "He's still learning to control it. When we first phase, it's all about control. You have to get enough control to phase back human. And then after that, you have to learn to keep that control to stay human…"

"And anger is a loss of control," I finished, realizing how close I'd just come to dying. The dark room wasn't even big enough to hold a wolf, if Jacob was any where close to the size of Paul or Jared… I sat on the bench across from Embry and gulped, resting my head in my hands.

He just nodded. "Yeah. Any emotional extreme is a loss of control. The older we get, the easier it is to control, but Jake's too new to this. If that every happens again – and Jared's probably going to tell you this everyday until one of you dies – you need to get away. What you did in there… was pretty much amazing, but it was a long shot. Next time, just get out of the way. Fast."

"Yeah," I said quietly, still stunned. "How did I do in there? I pulled rank? What does that mean?"

"I think," Embry began slowly, glancing out the window, "that's something for Jared to explain."

Add it to the list. "I've been getting that a lot lately."


"So which one of you Neanderthals is taking me home?" I remarked loudly as I left the school and found that David had already left without me. I glanced at Jared, Jake and Embry.

"I'll bring her home with you guys," Jake replied quietly.

"No way," Jared responded immediately.

"Aw, Jare, he's fine. For the love of God, look at him." Jake did look pretty miserable. "He's not going to eat her and you're going to be in the damn car."

"It's not safe," Jared emphasized.

"Jared Cameron," I interrupted what I'm sure was going to be a really good rant. "Unless you have any better ideas for getting me home in a timely manner, that don't involve tearing down the self-confidence of others, then it looks like Jacob is taking us home. If you take issue with that, then you can walk and I'll ride shot gun."

Jared and Embry just sort of looked at me with mouths open. I walked down to the other end of the bench and offered my arm to Jake. "Shall we?"

If there was one thing in this world I did not appreciate, it was the way people could knock each other down whole pegs without even noticing. I hate that. More than anything. I hated seeing people being made to feel bad about themselves.

Sure, Jacob could have hurt me, but he didn't. And in the end, that's the important thing. We were both fine, and I knew what to do in future circumstances. Considering we both left the dark room unharmed, I didn't think Jared's overbearing act was necessary. Firstly, I didn't need people protecting me like I was made of glass. I had a big brother and .12 for that.

Secondly, Jake was clearly having enough of a terrible time with this; he didn't need to be made to feel worse. Unfortunately, there wasn't much I could do for Quil's case – Alphadom was certainly beyond my control – but I sure as hell was not letting Jared make Jake feel like crap.

Jake looked up at me from his slouched position. "Sure," he finally said resigned, and I looped my arm through his.

I skipped to keep up with him. "I'll let you drive, but only if I get to pick the radio station. Don't give me that look, it's my right as passenger – besides, I don't even have the option of driving, since your V-Dub is probably stick and I can't drive manual unless you want me to drop the clutch halfway home in the rain. Now that sounds like a really terrible prospect compared to simply letting me chose the radio station. If anything, it's more incentive for you to drop me off first."

"Is she always like this?" Jake asked in general. Embry and Jared had gotten over their shock at my forwardness and had been following behind as I skipped and ranted all in one breath and Jake just listened.

"From what I've gathered?" Jared added. "Yes."

"That's awesome," Embry said. "She just handed you your ass on a silver platter. Verbally, of course."

"Shut up…"

I had finished by the time we reach the car and Embry and Jared folded themselves in the backseat as I flipped through the stations. Jared, I noticed, did not stop grumbling the whole time.

"I love this song!" I shouted in joy as I scrolled through the stations that came in clearly. "Tell your boyfriend, if he says he's got beef – that I'm a vegetarian and I ain't fucking scared of him!"

"Oh god help us all…" Embry muttered. Jared looked like he was being drawn and quartered as I started screaming about not trusting ho's. Jacob looked at me in horror as he pulled out of the school parking lot but then couldn't contain his laughter once I tried to start a rave in his car.

They got me home awfully quick and I hopped out of the car, taking my bag and camera with me. I leaned down and looked in through the driver side window as Embry climbed into my now vacant seat. "You get official shotgun privileges, Crazy Kim. That was the most entertaining ride I've had in a while."

"Damn straight," I smiled extending my hand for a fist bump.

"Boys," I called to the others behind and next to Jacob. "Play nice." I gave them the most solemn finger-to-eyes motion I could muster and turned around and proceeded into my house.

No semi-retarded sprinting. I was getting better at this.

TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 2006

There is sunshine in La Push. I know, right! The Olympic peninsula was thankfully being blessed with a warm spell. According to the local news, we could except unseasonable warmth and dryness through the end of the week. I was in love.

I even broke out my imitation Ray-Bans for the day. Because there was sun!

Tab, myself, Quil, a few girls from the boys and girls lacrosse team were eating lunch outside, enjoying the rarely used picnic tables. I had found that Quil was actually quite funny when he wanted to be. He was also a really big flirt. He'd hit on a table if someone threw a floral skirt on it…

A game of hacky sack had begun and the majority of my table and some others were participating. I was taking photos. Naturally. As I watched for the pitch and fall of the small bag I took some action shots and got some very special expressions caught on camera. I was fairly ensconced in my own little world.

Much to my surprise, Jared plopped down next to me.

"You're avoiding me," he said apropos of nothing.

"Scathing observation, Mr. Cameron," I said as I hid behind my camera lens. "What will you come up with next?"

"Why?" he asked. His tone gave me pause for my snarky comment. He looked genuinely hurt. I swallowed my bite of pasta and steeled my resolve. Don't waver, Kim. Stand firm.

"I don't know what to make of you, Jared," I said, busying myself with getting a picture of Quil mid-jump. "I get the whole Pack thing. I know you must be worried about me going crazy or blabbing or letting something slip, but I won't. I really won't. I'm a trustworthy person and there's no reason for me to sell any of you out, anyways. Besides, who would believe me if I did? I already erased the footage I had of you and Paul. You can chill."

"I know you're trustworthy, Kim. I have faith in you," he said it like it should have been obvious. To him, apparently, it was.

"Okay," I began slowly, pulling the camera from my face and putting it on my lap. "Well, then you can stop this charade. Whatever this is that you're doing. Why you've suddenly taken to hanging around. I'm letting you off the hook. You don't have to pretend you like me just to keep an eye on me. My word is good."

Jared just stared and blinked at me. Then he stood up and extended his hand. "Kim, can I talk to you?"

"What about?" I asked warily.

"To try and convince you I'm not a totally lying, underhanded dirt bag."

"Fine," I stood up and took his hand, glancing back at Tabitha as she played hacky sack. She waved at me and winked knowingly. I hated that look.

Jared led me out to the school parking lot, out of sight of the cafe and the student body. We had some privacy in the school lot. He stopped at my car and leaned against the hood, gently tugging me along until I stood between his knees. The tiny car's hood dropped him so low we were at eye level.

"So let me get this straight. You think I'm only pretending to like you as a way to stay close to you and keep you from ratting the Pack out. Is that about right?"

I nodded, my camera's weight bobbing around my neck.

"How long have you been thinking that?" he asked sounding concerned.

"Since a few hours after our date. I was up all night."

"No wonder you ended up sick," he said in a concerned voice as one of his hands came up to brush at the dark circles that still remained under my eyes.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," I remarked as his touch burnt into my skin with more than just temperature. "You're very good at weakening my resolve."

"Am I?" he grinned impishly. I nodded and reached down for my camera. I clicked a few shots and he looked surprised. "Although I do love that face."

"Oh, Kim..." and then - without warning - he pulled me against his chest in a firm and all encompassing hug. My camera clipped his shoulder as I held onto it in my right hand. "I guess it's time to tell you the truth then. Especially if I've fucked it up so bad that you think I'm playing you."

I carefully pulled out of Jared's embrace and took a seat on the hood next to him. I turned to face him, but fiddled with the camera's settings. "Is this what you've been holding out on me? Is this what's going to help everything make sense. Why you're suddenly interested in me, why you lost control the other night, why Jake was rambling about stuff I had no idea about? All of it."

"Yes. All of the above."

"Okay, then. Shoot."

"So this wolfpack I'm a part of... It's kinda weird. We adopt a lot of animalistic traits. We hunt in packs, we have shows of dominance and submission, the ranking, that kinda thing."

"Is that why Jacob's walking around with his face to the ground? Why you were gripping him like a wet cat the other day?"

"Yes. Partly because I was mad he almost phased right in front of you, and partly to keep him in line. Having a dominant wolf tell you to do something - to order you - is almost inescapable. You ordered Jake to calm down the other day in the dark room, didn't you?"

I thought back, trying to remember those few moments of anxiety. At first I'd tried to calm Jacob down, but it didn't work and I panicked. Jacob Black, stop this. Right now. I nodded.

"You 'pulled rank' on him and forced him to submit to your order. Because - in theory - you outrank Jake."

"But I'm not Pack," I reminded Jared.

"You're not a phase," he corrected.

"I know about the Pack?" I asked, wondering if my discovery made me part of the club.

"That makes you in the know," he corrected again.

"So how am I Pack?" I was really confused and not really sure if Jared knew where he was going with this.

"One of the many other traits that we adopt is imprinting," he paused here, waiting for my reaction.

"Like... baby geese?" I replied, using my only source of memory for the word. I'm pretty sure, somewhere in the recesses of my childhood, there existed a movie with a bunch of baby geese and a young girl. I'm also pretty sure she flew south for the winter with them.

Jared's hand came up as he clapped his face. "No, Kim... Not like baby geese. Okay," he seemed to be talking himself through this as much as me. "How do I say this? Sam is so much better at explanations... All right... So the wolves do this thing called imprinting. And it faciliates finding the perfect mate. A soul mate. When a wolf sees their imprint, everything changes; the wolf exists only for the imprint. To make them happy, to love them as best they can."

"You imprinted on a bunch of baby geese?"

Jared appeared even more frustrated than before. But instead of speaking he slid off the hood and stood before me. Moving ever so carefully he reached up and held my face in his hands. I knew his strength, and the lightness with which his hands lay on my skin was astounding. He ducked down and his lips met mine. I was startled and before I could react, he pulled away ever so slightly. When I didn't object he kissed me again, and again. His lips were burning against my own, but soft and undemanding - content with the feather light touches upon my mouth. I could feel his thumbs smooth a gentle rhythm over my cheeks.

I reached up, dropping my camera and letting the strap catch it, as my hands found his neck, pulling him closer to me. He submitted to the force and his face crashed ungracefully into my own, our lips mashed together as I pulled him towards me. Self control had never been my strong suit. He tugged gently against my parted lips, but ignored the bait, keeping his caresses light, slow and savory.

He pulled back ever so slightly, but held on to my face. "No... Kim? I imprinted on you. I love you," he sighed in exasperation, clearly not believing any of this was getting through to me. But, boy, was it ever.

For a moment, I just stared at him - eyes wide. And then my mouth began to move but no words came out. "Kim, please say something. Anything?" Jared pleaded with me.

Then I just lunged at him. I think I surprised him, because I forced his body backwards and he held onto me as I launched myself off the hood of the car. It was a moment before he reciprocated the hug. "I'm your baby goose! Oh my god! And... And Jake... He had to listen because I ordered him and you outrank him, and you and I... we're... Oh my God!"

At this point I was crying like the ridiculous teenage girl that I am and Jared was holding onto me for all he was worth. "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry. I mean... I've liked you for so long but I just never had the courage to say or do anything and then you actually liked me back and I just panicked. I didn't think it could be real."

"What?" Jared asked. "For how long?"

"I don't know," I shrugged against his shoulder. "Seventh grade?"

"Three years?" Jared said in surprise. "You've liked me for three years and you never said a word?"

"Nope," I shook my head. "Talk about issues, huh?" I pulled back slightly, wiping my eyes and hoping my mascara wasn't running.

"That's probably why you've been sick," Jared said thoughtfully.

"Because I like you?"

He nodded and deposited me carefully back on the hood of my car. "Yeah... Y'see, imprinting only happens on my end, it doesn't happen to the subject of the imprint. The physiological mechanism is a one way street. If you reject the imprint, I continue to care about you regardless and you just... Do what comes naturally. There's not much escaping it for me. But if you accept the imprint, we're sort of bonded. Mentally and emotionally. When we're separated or the bond is stressed it wreaks havoc on the pair."

"And even though I liked you, I tried turning you away. Which is stress. And then we were separated for days."

"Which caused me to lose control of my phasing."

"And made me sicker. We both got better once Paul came to get me."

"A smart one, I've got here," he grinned. "Yes, sounds about right to me. And that's the only thing an Alpha bond cannot damage. The imprint bond. Not that he ever would - but Sam can't order me to do something that we know would jeopardize your well being. And it would be pretty hard for him to get me to do something that would make you unhappy. That's why you know. You catching us on film was a convenient excuse at the time, but I was able to tell you because you're an imprint."

"All this talk about me and my happiness... What about you? Don't you get a say in this?" I asked, thinking this was a serious breach of free will. No matter how awesome it proved for me.

Jared shrugged in response. "The way I see it, the wolf wouldn't pick someone that we wouldn't both love and care about and truly appreciate as a human being. And, I mean, I don't feel any different. I thought it was like mind control when it happened to Sam, but maybe not. I was happy before I imprinted - well moderately so, phasing kind of threw a monkey wrench in to my life plan - but I wasn't unhappy. And, I've never disliked you, Kim. You've just always been so quiet and shy around me, I never knew you. I think the imprint just gave me the chance to actually see past your total silence."

"If you're happy, I'm happy," I insisted.

"Ditto."