A/N: This is a direct sequel to Growing Pains, which was the sequel of a sequel, sort of. But this first chapter should help catch everyone up with the characters in this story. I hope.
I thought about not even posting this story because I know the updates are going to be a lot slower than I would like. But the other story didn't end properly so...I'll get there eventually. I just have to ask for your patience on this one.
Turning eighteen wasn't really a big deal for me. I could vote, sure, but I knew I'd probably just end up forgetting to show up when I was supposed to. I could enlist, I guess, but I had sort of already been drafted.
There were a lot of cool things about being a werewolf (the muscles, the speed, the claws) but it really did suck the fun out of being eighteen.
Or maybe that was just my grandmother.
"What's wrong with my mother?" On good days my mother was scary. On days when I insulted the woman who gave birth to her she was terrifying.
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I just...I was hoping to do something a little more fun than visit her. That's all."
"You don't like sitting around while Sue calls you a failure?" Dad asked. We shared a small grin of solidarity.
"She does not," Mom said. "Not unless you're acting stupid."
Which was probably fair, but it was my birthday and I didn't want to be fair.
"Maybe she'll have made you a birthday cake," my little sister said.
We weren't sure where Judy got the optimism from. I said she was a changeling; Dinah said she was just adopted. She couldn't be related to the rest of us. The thought of cake had her smiling like a loon (well, we were all looking forward to the food, but we tried to downplay the way the thought of food made us forget everything else existed).
"The faster we go the faster we can leave," my big sister reminded me. Dinah was the pragmatist.
"You're going to leave?" Mom complained.
I was quick to defend my poor sibling. "Of course not. Though I did promise Will—"
"Your cousin can wait."
"If you have plans already..." Dad began but shut up when my mother glared. My father was the Alpha wolf, the leader of the La Push pack, head of a group of dangerous vampire-killing machines. My mother always got her way. "...we're going to head out now. And you will have a good time."
"I hope Charlie comes home in time," Judy said (cheerfully, of course; if Judy was talking, it was cheerfully). "Last time he let me play with his gun."
Since we were werewolves, Judy and I were indestructible. Mom didn't see it that way; she said we could leave as soon as dinner was finished. She wanted to have a conversation with Charlie Swan.
Grandma did make me cake for my birthday, so I was a bit sorry to leave. A bit. Not really. I had places to go. Sure, I had to pile into a car with my sisters (why did Dinah get to drive? But even though it was my birthday she didn't let me take the wheel) but I still planned to have a good time.
There was a time (a time not that long ago, actually, before I became a superfreak) when spending time with my family would have been my idea of hell. I adored the girls, don't get me wrong, even if I hated the way I always gave in when they pouted. I just hated spending time with them. Now...now we were sort of stuck together. And to my surprise, it was pretty awesome.
Even if Dinah had crappy taste in music.
"I drive, I get to pick the music," she informed me when I tried to change the radio.
"It's my birthday."
"Last week. All birthday privileges are already null and void."
We had delayed my birthday by a week because Judy had been stuck as a four-legged mythical creature last week and we didn't want her to miss out. Still, I needed a better older sister.
"That's a stupid rule."
"Just be happy that I'm going to get you there alive."
"Tomorrow, but alive."
"I'm going the speed limit."
"I could get out and run faster than this."
"So could I," Judy chirped from the back. "Di timed me and everything. Tell him how fast I can go now."
Since she had just phased a little over a week ago, Judy was still excited about the whole thing. She should be; she was damn good at being a werewolf (the fact she could control her temper was a big advantage over most of the rest of us). Plus, she hadn't gotten her ass kicked by our mother yet. It was hard to get too excited about running quickly when your ancient mother could go twice as fast.
I let Jubes brag though. It was good to get the werewolf attitude down while she could.
"What do you know?" Dinah asked as we parked by the beach. "It's today and we're here and we're alive."
"You must have superpowers, Di."
Then I hopped out of the car and headed down to the beach, towards the too-familiar figure sitting on the rocks. Will was both the bane of my existence and my other half (in a totally not-gay way). It was good to see him again. He must have agreed because he actually stood up to say hello.
Today was a good day. The smile seemed genuine. Ever since his imprint (his girlfriend, his soul mate, the reason for his pathetic excuse for an existence) died only a few months ago, most of the time watching him pretend to smile was just painful.
I hated seeing him miserable like that (though my whole life he had been miserable, just in different ways that we had learned to handle), but there was nothing I could do. He couldn't not think about Marlena Call, even if thinking about her reminded him how he missed her terribly. At least he was taking losing his imprint better than Sam Uley had.
"Took you long enough." Will laughed. "Sue get on your case again?"
"You're lucky you're not related to her. She'd have scared you straight a long time ago."
"Don't I know it."
"Where are the others?"
He gestured to the water—I guess it wasn't as cold as it looked. Will's younger brother was playing with the Uleys, all billion of them. It was helpful to think of the six Uley siblings as two groups, the boys and the twins. The boys were a mess of adolescent hormones and teenage angst and werewolf violence (even if they were mostly not werewolves; only the oldest of the horde, Baxter, had phased and we wanted to keep it that way). The twins were Brian and Francine, the oldest of them all.
Brian was also a member of our pack, the one of us who could keep a cool head no matter what. Brian was so mellow he managed to date my sister—and he was so in love with her I had to let him. Plus, Dinah never would have listened to me anyway.
His sister was my imprint.
But enough about Francine.
Judy and Dinah raced past us to greet the people in the water. Dinah had to do things with Brian that I hated thinking about and Judy had to say hello to the boys.
And if she asked about Bertie (who was going to come by later that night), I pretended not to hear. I didn't want to have to kill anyone on my birthday.
That wasn't to say Bertrand Call wasn't a good kid. I liked him just fine, even if he was a little too quiet to be a werewolf. He was the most recent member of our pack (he had just learned to phase back a few days ago) and he had just lost his big sister, so I should have been protective of the guy. But my little sister had an enormous crush on him and even though he could read her mind now all he had done was mutter something about them being better off as friends.
How could he not be into her?
I couldn't even yell at him. Yelling was Will's job and since Bertie was the closest he was going to get to Marlena any more, Will would do anything for the kid. That included protecting him from me.
"This everyone?" I asked.
"Only people I invited." Will shrugged. Before we phased we had more friends than this group of relatives suggested. But they hadn't exactly been nice friends; Will kept in touch just in case one day he decided we needed the money that came from doing things that were only quasi-legal. I stopped talking to them.
That didn't mean Will hadn't forgotten someone.
"You didn't invite—"
"Relax, Levi. I didn't invite her because she doesn't talk to me. I told Di to do it, though. She'll show up."
"She doesn't talk to you because—"
"Don't call my girlfriend chicken."
"She still hasn't a spoken a word to me."
My girlfriend wasn't a coward; Will was just scary when you didn't know him very well (and sometimes when you did). Add that to the fact he was very open about how much he didn't like her and that she had once seen him lose control in a way that she thought could have killed me and it was no wonder she was a little bit afraid of talking in front of him (his girlfriend had just died so I had to cut him some slack but one day I was going to get tired of making excuses for him. Maybe).
"Who'd want to have a conversation with you?"
"Only rejects like you."
"Hey Levi!" Brian was coming out of the water, smiling like the fool he was when Dinah was around. "Happy birthday."
His sister echoed the greeting as she got out of the water.
Francine Uley had always been beautiful but she was something else when she was all wet. Her jean shorts showed off just how long her legs were (best body part on the rez, her legs were) and her t-shirt clung to her chest. It wasn't my fault I couldn't stop staring. She was tossing her long, dark hair behind her as she came towards us, tiny water droplets clinging to her perfect face.
She had been off at school for the past year; I was still getting used to having her around.
"Thanks," I muttered as I was surrounded by the mess of Uley boys. It was impossible to greet them all separately, so I just thanked them as a group and gave them a single cuff to send them on their way.
"Anyone up for volleyball?" Francy asked. "Brian's got the net in the car."
"It's Levi's birthday," Dinah said. "He should set up the net."
The perk of being the head of the younger generation of werewolves was that I was an excellent delegator. Judy and Baxter were the youngest, newest members of the pack; it was almost like volunteering.
"You going to come in?" Brian asked those of us who were dry. "It's nice, today."
Then he wrapped his arms around Di, who shrieked. Not that she minded; it was sickening. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
"You up for a race?" Will asked as he shrugged off his shirt. Brian may have been pussy whipped, but he was also a werewolf. He had already taken off.
"Boys," Dinah rolled her eyes and took Francy's arm. "You coming, Levi?"
I hesitated; Francy figured me out. She hadn't been home for a year, I had imprinted on her two weeks ago and already she knew me too well.
"I think he's waiting for a girl."
"Aww..." Dinah teased as they headed into the water, splashing and giggling like they were five and not almost twenty.
What did I care? Kara finally showed up just then so I headed up the beach to meet her.
Kara was adorable, even if she was far too short to be hanging out with a giant like me. It meant I had to pick her up when we got close. She would be tired from walking over from her work. I wasn't going to complain about getting to hold my girlfriend.
"Happy birthday," she said as she leaned her head on my shoulder.
"You just get off work?"
"Yeah. Sorry I'm late."
"I'm glad you came. We're going to play volleyball after."
"Sports? Tall people sports?"
"Well, you might be a little short to spike, but it's not like any of us are competitive."
Talking to Kara was just...nice. Fun. There was no stress or worrying about trying to impress. We just got to talk. We were still just teasing each other when the others finally got tired of the water.
"You two playing or not?" Baxter called over to us.
Kara was shaking her head, but I volunteered us both. Then Dinah made the teams because we didn't want people arguing.
Hey, as long as it worked.
When it got dark we built a bonfire, something huge that everyone could see for miles. Kara snuggled against my chest and Will and his brother tossed marshmallows into the flames as Dinah and Brian failed to hide the way they were feeding each other. After she had finished supervising her younger brothers' marshmallow roasting activities, Francy sat down beside me, now dressed in a sweater. I tried not to be disappointed.
"When are you going to come back again?" Kara asked. They were trying to be friends even though Francy made her nervous. It wasn't just that Francy was my imprint and I had once told Kara it was a soul mate thing. When I explained it didn't have to be, I think she got it. But I think Francy would have made her nervous anyway. Hell, Dinah made Kara nervous and there was no way she was jealous of my sister. I hoped not; that would just be weird. Dinah and I weren't even that close.
"Probably not until Christmas. I think. Maybe for Thanksgiving."
"Unless one of her brothers gets sick again," I said.
Dinah didn't appreciate the reminder of how she had finally gotten her best friend to come back to the rez, if the way she tossed her crackers at me was any indication. Too bad. It was funny, Francy had gotten over it, and a little teasing never hurt anyone.
"Who got sick, Francy?" Tommy asked.
"How didn't you notice how lovesick Brian is?" Will wasn't one for letting the opportunity to mock Brian pass, even if he wasn't giving it his full attention (thank goodness), trying to stop his brother from eating the marshmallows. My little cousin was a sweet kid until he ingested sugar. Then Benji could have powered the continental US with his over-abundance of energy.
"Disgusting," I agreed. It wasn't hard to pretend to mean it, either.
"It's hard for him since Dinah and I probably won't be able to get back for a while," Francy explained to her youngest brother. He looked so disappointed at the thought of losing her that Brian set about distracting him with a football. As the Uley boys and Benji raced off to test Baxter's new strength against Brian's, the conversation returned to where it had started.
"You should come up to visit us," Francy said to Kara. Dinah didn't look thrilled at the thought and Kara just looked scared. "You and Levi. Just for a weekend. I'd be working half the time so the two of you could do your own thing during the day, but we could hang out at night. It would be fun."
"I don't think my mom would approve."
Thank you, Kim. Hell, I'm sure Jared was turning over in his grave at the thought of his only child spending the weekend with her boyfriend.
"We could get her to change her mind, eventually, I'm sure. Only if you wanted, of course. But Seattle is amazing and I think you'd love it."
"Are you sure you wouldn't mind?" Kara asked eventually.
"We'd love it."
"Especially," Will said, "If you pay them for babysitting you."
Kara was less than two years younger than me, for the record. Also for the record, Will never liked the girls I liked. Also, Will was a dick.
"If you can't say something nice, Will, shut up," Dinah snapped. A little too harshly, actually. She better not have thought she'd have to babysit me if I came to visit.
"But then I'd never talk."
"Somehow we would survive without your wit."
"You'd miss me. Who else could you bully all the time?"
He cracked himself up; and Di, though she tried not to show it.
"Anyway," Francy said, ignoring them both, "Think it over and call me whenever is good for you."
As fun as that sounded...but Kara was nodding seriously. Oh well. I'd be able to talk her out of it.
Eventually, the night started to wind down. Brian wanted to get his brothers to bed and Francy and Dinah wanted to gossip. I wanted Kara alone, but unfortunately that didn't seem like it was going to happen any time soon. Her mother would be home. But there was a mansion in the middle of the forest and the only person who ever visited there was my Uncle Seth. I was trying to remember where my mother's brother was staying when Bertie finally approached us.
"Took you long enough," Will said. He abandoned me in a heartbeat, but I didn't mind (I had already given him a bruise on his arm that might get him to think twice about insulting my girlfriend). At least when he was smothering Bert he was doing something. And Bert never seemed to mind; he was a good kid that way. He just had lousy taste in girls (not that I wouldn't have killed him if he tried going out with my kid sister, but that was beside the point).
"I forgot," he admitted. "I got to level thirty, though."
Will rolled his eyes at me, but he was smiling. "We had smores."
"You save any chocolate for me?"
I laughed at his mournful tone, resting my chin on Kara's head as Will turned to ask Di where the chocolate was. Since Francy had her brothers cleaning up, my sister came over to us carrying the bag.
"They ate most of it," my sister warned him. "But I think there might be a piece in there somewhere."
The kid almost dropped the bag she tossed to him. He hadn't adapted that well to the werewolf changes. The superpowers just made him more awkward and he had never been that suave to begin with.
"Sorry," he muttered. "Thanks."
"Hey Bert." Judy practically sang as she came up beside Will. "Did you just get here now?"
Like she hadn't been waiting for him to show up this entire time. My little sister did not know how to play it cool. At all.
"Uh, yeah," he mumbled, staring at his shoes.
"We can stay a little longer," Will said to me. "Unless you've got someplace to go?"
Seth was staying at the Cullens tonight, I remembered. Damn. That meant I didn't have any place else to be.
"Yeah, come on," I said, pulling Bertie towards the fire. "We've got to plan your first patrol, anyway."
Francy offered to take the boys back home so Brian could stay with us. After she had promised Will that she would hand Benji directly over to my Aunt Rachel, she was allowed to leave with the boys, Dinah and Kara making sure no one tried for a jailbreak. Brian and I watched the girls go reluctantly, but it was an important moment in Bert's life. We had to stay with him.
It was weird not making jokes about his first time, though. Having Judy around at pack meetings meant everyone tried to keep things PG (well, PG-13). Having to watch my language when my parents weren't around was kind of weird. As was seeing my little sister naked, but I didn't think about that. My poor brain couldn't handle it.
"So when are we going?" Judy asked.
"Now," I announced. So we went.
We headed to the forest then. Judy disappeared into the trees first and we all waited until the tiny white wolf came to greet us before we could go in ourselves.
"Just do what feels natural," Brian said to Bert.
"As long as you don't make anyone cry afterwards, you're good," Will added.
"They're going to shut up," I promised Bert.
Baxter said, "No. They never do."
A bark from the woods told us Judy was ready for us. Good. "Come on, kid."
Still, he hesitated.
"We're not going to let anything happen to you," Will promised.
When Bert stared at me, I echoed my cousin. Then: "Now get your ass moving."
We stripped down in the forest, folded up our clothes (okay, so not really) and then phased. It was only then that I realized Bert's nervousness might not have had anything to do with running a patrol.
You imprinted on my big SISTER?