A/N: I know, I know, I suck harder than Lindsay Lohan in... any movie she's ever done.

Thanks to rubiconqueen and caremarie for their beta work, prereading skills, and their seriously awesome ability to put up with my shit.

Midterms are just now over for me; let's hope that it means I get this thing out faster. It sucks, because I know exactly where I'm going with this story, but I'm so ridiculously detail-oriented that I keep sweating the small stuff and it's making me crazy.

Your reviews keep me going. Honestly, any time you feel like it's been too damn long since I updated, shoot me a review bitching about it and it will get me off my ass.

DON'T OWN! Although I turn 21 on the fifteenth, so I do own an unopened bottle of Patron and two tickets to see Panic! At the Disco in concert tomorrow.

Chapter Seven: Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

That's when I remembered that Jasper was supposed to "come to dinner", and I hadn't even asked Charlie if it was okay yet. I wracked my brain for a suitable excuse.

"Hey, Dad? Um, one of Dr. Cullen's foster kids is coming to dinner, okay? We have a, uh, project we need to outline tonight."

He shrugged complacently and gestured for me to answer the door, while the rest of the kitchen's occupants had gone quiet at the interruption.

When I swung the door open, I was surprised to find Jasper not smiling at me as I'd expected, but smirking at something he saw behind me. I turned to follow his gaze and ran straight into the chest, or should I say abs, of Jacob. Before I could blink, I was pulled backwards into Jasper's equally hard body. His arms wrapped tightly around my chest and he growled playfully, but in clear warning, as Jacob, Seth, and Leah stared at us from right inside the doorway.

"It's been two days, Major. Twodays. You said you wouldn't even make contact for at least a week. What the fuck happened that's got you here already and growling in front of her after two goddamn days?" Jacob asked in frustration.

My utter confusion went unnoticed, even though it was so pronounced it felt like the words whatthefuck? must have been plastered on my forehead, so I scowled at nothing in particular like a four year old pouting because no one's paying attention to her.

"Well, I didn't know how strongly the bond would affect her now, did I? And I know ya'll know better than anyone that something this life-changing can't be ignored," Jasper scolded them, and Jacob and Leah looked down at the floor miserably.

Seth just shook his head and wandered back into the kitchen, the rest of us following after some tense staring between Jasper and Jacob. I dragged Jasper around Sue's shocked form and stood him in front of Charlie.

"Dad, this is Jasper Whitlock; Jasper, this is my dad, Charlie," I mumbled.

Charlie looked Jasper up and down curiously, but didn't comment on his somewhat strange appearance as he shook his hand and muttered a gruff hello. It seemed like everyone but Jasper would rather be anywhere but here, for reasons that were still lost to me.

I thanked Sue and Leah for helping put my room together, but their wordless nods weren't enough to break the awkwardness permeating the room. We sat around the dining room table silently, eating and staring at our plates. Jasper shoved food around his with his fork, until he sighed in irritation, and suddenly the atmosphere was a lot lighter.

Charlie started smiling for no apparent reason, gazing at Sue with adoration in his eyes. Without words, they stood up from the table and joined hands before moving up the stairs. I watched in stupefaction as they disappeared into the upstairs hallway that led to Charlie's room, giggling like teenagers.

"Oh, come on, dude, I thought you said you wouldn't work your 'mojo' on my mom anymore," Seth whined.

"That couldn't have sounded more wrong, Seth," Jake scoffed. "God, can we please go outside so we won't have to listen to this?"

"I'm with Jake," Leah shuddered. "This is the kind of shit that scars you for life."

I'd had enough.

"Okay, what the fuck is going on?" I snapped.

Jasper grinned at me while the others stared at me in bewilderment.

"What have you told her?" Jacob asked wearily.

"Just about my family and I; she doesn't know about you, and other than my mentioning it briefly, she doesn't know about what's coming."

"Have you told her anything about what's going to happen to her?" Jacob asked in irritation.

"No, I haven't, and quit being a bastard; like you said, it's only been two days. I didn't want to overwhelm her."

I was getting dizzy from watching their bickering.

"Her is sitting right here, assholes. Show a little more respect," Leah barked.

They muttered their apologies, and I nodded my head towards Leah in thanks. She shrugged indifferently, but the corners of her mouth twitched, like she wanted to smile but didn't want to appear to care.

Everyone flinched as a few thumps sounded from upstairs. It finally dawned on me what was happening up there, and I was both disgusted and a bit proud of Charlie. Jasper turned to face me, raised an eyebrow and then snorted. The Quileutes jumped up and headed towards the back door in a hurry.

"Well, darlin', I think it's time you get a few more answers; what do you say?" Jasper asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Thank you," I said, uncharacteristically somber.

"You'll let me know if you're getting overwhelmed," he stated.

"I won't really have to, will I?" I teased.

"That's right," Jasper laughed. "You're catching on fast, ain't ya?"

I was a bit more at ease as we walked into the backyard. The others were sprawled out on the grass in a semi-circle, with Leah sitting in between Jacob's legs. Seth was leaned back, staring up at the sky happily.

I pulled Jasper down to sit beside me. I kept hold of his hand, unwilling to let go of the comfort his touch offered me.

Jasper seemed hesitant to begin. He was muttering indistinguishably under his breath and staring at our entwined hands uncomfortably. I should have been impatient to hear what he had to say, but all I could think about was how unsure he seemed. He was a far cry from the self-assured, confident Jasper I met in anatomy. It was hard not to feel at fault for his personality change. The last time he'd told me something important, I'd freaked out, and when he'd tried to calm me, I'd all but thrown it in his face.

Jasper clicked his tongue at me gently, with a shake of his head. "I don't know why you're feeling that way, darlin', but I doubt you deserve that kind of self-deprecation."

I shrugged him off with a small smile, and he grinned at me softly before clearing his throat.

"God, where should I start..." he muttered under his breath.

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Major; how about you start with us?" Jacob asked impatiently and turned to me. "Aren't you a bit curious as to why we know what he is?"

"I assumed it was because he toldyou," I snapped at him.

Seth barked out a laugh, and Leah was covering her mouth with her hand, no doubt to hide her smile from her man.

Jacob flipped me off with a huge grin. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and barely swung my head in time to watch as Jasper picked up a rock from the ground and hurled it at Jacob's head. It smacked him square in the middle of his forehead with enough force to knock him to his back.

I was wide-eyed with worry, but Jasper, Seth, and even Leah were cracking up. Jacob sat up with a huff and ripped his shirt off, holding it to his head to staunch the blood running down his face.

"Jasper, what the fuck were you thinking?" I exclaimed, standing. "We've got to take him to the hospital!"

"Relax, Bells, he'll be fine," Seth chuckled.

"Yeah, he's got a hard head," Leah agreed.

"That shit hurt," Jacob whined as he wiped his face off on his shirt before tossing it away in a huff.

Where there was once a gash about the size of a quarter, there was now an angry looking pink scar.

My legs became weak and I sat back down. I freaked out... for about one second, until I caught Jasper's flinch out of the corner of my eye. I breathed deeply to calm myself down

"What are you?" I questioned Jacob calmly. "I know you're not a vampire, because you're bleeding, but that blow would have knocked out a human being, and the fact that the wound looks like it's weeks, rather than minutes old, implies something supernatural."

"No, Bella, we're way cooler than vampires," Seth bragged. "We don't sparkle like they do, for one."

I wondered who he meant by we, but my attention was drawn to something else he'd said.

"What does that mean, you sparkle?" I asked Jasper with a laugh.

He rolled his eyes sheepishly. "I'll show you the next time the sun comes out," he said.

His phone beeped from his pocket, and he took it out and glanced at it. "Which should be sometime on Friday," he groaned. "And at least we don't have fleas," Jasper shot back at Seth, who shot Jasper the finger as he jokingly scratched behind his ear.

"They're werewolves," Jasper said to me softly.

"All of you?" I squeaked. "Like, under the full moon, can only be killed by silver bullets, horror movie werewolves?"

They burst out laughing.

"No, we don't need the full moon," Jacob smirked evilly. "We turn into wolves basically whenever we get pissed."

I gulped.

"Don't fret, sweet girl," Jasper soothed me, rubbing circles on the back of my hand with his thumb. "I won't ever let anything happen to you."

"We won't ever hurt you, Bella," Seth said softly. "We Quileute wolves are on your side, and we're pretty certain we're the only ones."

I breathed out slowly in relief. But I was still monumentally frustrated with the utter lack of information I was getting.

"What exactly do you mean, you're on our side? Our side of what?"

Jacob, Leah, and Seth looked to Jasper to answer, so I did the same.

"Now, telling you that is something that actually does have to wait until after your birthday," he said apologetically.

I pondered how I felt about that for a moment, before I decided I was okay with it. I could be patient.

Jasper smiled in relief. "Thanks, darlin', for understanding."

"Well, what can you tell me?" I asked him.

He thought for a moment.

"Well, I can tell you about our furry friends here," he said with a laugh, ignoring the warning growls he received from said friends. "And I can tell you about myself... and my family."

"About what you are? Or who you are?" I questioned softly.

"Both," he murmured sweetly.

The moment was ruined by Seth jumping up from the ground gleefully. I looked to him, but he just laughed as he continued undressing. I turned quizzically to his sister and Jacob, mostly because I wanted to know what the hell he was doing, but also because I had no interest in seeing him sans clothing. They were no help; Jacob sat and snickered while Leah rolled her averted eyes in exasperation.

Jasper sensed my discomfort and squeezed my hand gently, smirking. Suddenly I heard a rather loud thumping noise, and when I looked, I realized Seth was on the ground, with his eyes half-closed, staring at the brick siding of my house, which really wasn't all that fascinating.

"Jasper, man, why'd you do that?" Jacob snapped. "He was just showing your girl here what we are."

"First of all, watch your temper, pup; we don't want anything getting out of hand so close to the ladies." Jasper replied calmly.

Jacob cringed before squeezing Leah more tightly to his chest. She placed a soothing hand on his arm.

"Second of all, a little bit of explanation would be nice. Bella here has been through a lot the last couple of days, and now all of a sudden a pubescent werewolf is stripping down to his unmentionables right in front of her, without so much as a 'by your leave'," Jasper continued. "All I'm doing is slowing his roll long enough for me to explain to my sweet girl here what the fuck he thinks he's doing."

I tried hard to hide my smile behind my hand, worried that I would offend the werewolves, who I absolutely didn't want angry, but Jasper wasn't having that. Before I knew it, my amusement had multiplied tenfold and we were all rolling on the ground laughing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that even Seth had shaken out of his stupor and joined in, no worse for wear, although he seemed a bit confused. I chalked it up to the fact that he was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe about something he hadn't even been cognizant for, and that's when I realized that Jasper was the source of our newfound hilarity.

Through my laughter, I managed to smack him on the back of the arm. Just as quickly as the amplified mirth came, it went, leaving behind smiles on all of our faces, and my slightly smarting hand. I shook it out gently, amazed that such a small slap could hurt at all, even against Jasper's rock hard body.

Jasper grasped my hand and folded it between both of his. The chill of his skin took the edge off the pain, and I smiled at him gratefully. He winked at me before he turned to Seth. He was sitting there in nothing but his boxers, and while a grin still ghosted across his face, he was holding his clothes in his hands and pondering them hard.

"For God's sake, Seth, don't hurt yourself," Jacob said, and I snorted. "Jasper knocked you stupid for a minute so he could tell Bella that rather than practicing for a lustrous career as a Chippendale's dancer, you were attempting to show her your tail."

I giggled as Seth rolled his eyes, standing back up slowly.

"May I phase now, oh mighty Major Whitlock?" Seth asked exasperatedly.

Jasper stood before pulling me up to stand behind him. He guided me backwards a few steps, towards the house, placing my body mostly behind him, but wrapping an arm around my shoulder so that I could see. Unable to help myself, I wrapped my arms around his waist and squeezed. He squeezed me gently back for a moment before taking a deep breath and nodding sharply at Seth. Seth made to take off his boxers.

"I'll buy you a new pair of boxers, Seth, just for the love of Christ, keep them on. I'm already scarred for life, but we can still save Bella from the sight of your twig and berries," Leah huffed in irritation.

And just like that the tension had abated. I hadn't laughed this much in ages.

"More like my supersized meat and two veg, but whatever," Seth grumbled.

Without warning, Seth...exploded,scattering miniscule pieces of blue cotton all over my backyard. That's the only word I could use to describe it. It was completely unlike all the horror movie characterizations of a man turning into a wolf, with breaking bones and screams of pain. If I had blinked, I would have missed it. So instead of marveling over the change that had just occurred, all I could do was stare in shock at the sheer size of this...creature. He looked like a wolf, but there's no way I could call him that with a straight face, because he was the size of a horse.

He took a step forward, and I instinctively took a step back; I had no idea how aware he was, or if his mind was that of an animal and he'd attack me at any given moment, out of fear, or rage, or just plain hunger.

"Don't be scared, darlin'," Jasper soothed me. "He's still just a normal guy in his head; Edward swears their thoughts are completely human unless they choose to follow their animal instincts-"

"Which we only do when we're hunting, or fighting, and even then we rule with our heads first and foremost," Jacob interrupted.

"And even still, I'll always be there to protect you," Jasper finished, staring at me heatedly, ignoring the presence of the wolves completely.

"And if you're not there?" I asked him softly.

"I'll always be there, Bella," he repeated. He grasped my shoulders and leaned down until his forehead was against mine. "Even if you don't choose me, even if you decide to turn your back on the bond; which you can, by the way, although it's been said that it is indescribably painful; even if you never wish to see me again, I'll always be there, protecting you from the shadows, and waiting in the wings just in case you ever change your mind."

I closed my eyes before he could see them well up, but a few tears escaped of their own volition, so I buried my head into his chest.

"Oh, my sweet girl," Jasper crooned in my ear. "Don't be sad; if that's what you decide, then I'll understand. There are worse things in life than to follow a pretty girl around for eternity," he said jokingly.

It wasn't funny, but I think he knew that. We were brought out of the tenderness of the moment by a loud snuffling sound near our feet. I almost let out a shriek when I looked down to see Seth's snout nosing about in the grass between us. I laughed instead, a bit out of amusement, but mostly out of hysteria. Seth brought his head up so that his eyes were level with mine, and my laughter died in my throat.

Even with Jasper next to me and the Quileute's protestations that I was safe in their presence, I still couldn't stop the chill that ran down my spine at the shrewd intelligence in his gaze. Before I could let my fear get the best of me and send me running, Seth's giant tongue poked out of his mouth and he licked me from the base of my chin to my hairline. The roughness of his tongue was made worse by the fact that it was as wide as my wrist, and although his slobber didn't smell like doggy-breath, it was still someone else's spit, and I was grossed out beyond comprehension.

I squealed in outrage, making Leah and Jacob crack up at the completely nonthreatening sound. My indignation knew no bounds, so without thinking, I clenched my fist, cocked my arm back, and punched Seth square in his furry snout. He yelped in surprise before jumping back, and I was forced to shake my hand out for the second time in less than an hour.

Jasper couldn't hold it in. He roared with laughter, scaring a flock of birds from the trees of the surrounding forest. He clutched his knees in a valiant attempt to stay upright, but his fit of laughter sent his easy grace out the window, and he couldn't manage it for longer than a few seconds. He fell to the ground, and at the moment of impact, he brought the rest of us down with him by releasing his hilarity once again, although this time it seemed much stronger.

It was at the point when my stomach ached and I couldn't breathe that Jasper finally released us from our unwilling laughter. I breathed deeply for the first time in what felt like hours, lying on my back staring up at the darkening sky. While I was recovering, I watched as Seth hooked his clothes with his teeth and trotted into the forest at the back of the property. He came back moments later, shaking his head in residual amusement, before plopping himself back down on the ground where he'd sat for the better part of the afternoon.

I sat up and sighed.

"I'm sorry for punching you, Seth. I'll never do it again, so long as you keep your tongue in your mouth and your hands to yourself," I told him.

"I second that," Jasper grumbled, pulling me back to lean against his chest.

"Deal," Seth snickered. "By the way, mean right hook you got there; if I didn't have miraculous regenerative powers, and I wasn't a giant wolf at the time, I'd probably have at least a black eye. Who taught you how to hit like that?"

"My daddy did," I replied sweetly.

Jasper clutched me tighter and burrowed his face into the hair at my shoulder and groaned.

"That's kinda hot," Seth smirked.

Jasper growled lowly, and the vibrations resounded through my chest.

"And on that note, I think we'll get outta here," Leah said.

We stood up and I stretched, grateful to get off of the hard ground. Jasper let out another growl, and Seth averted his eyes from me quickly, although I had no idea what he had been looking at until Jasper pulled my shirt back down to hide the skin above my jeans. I blushed hotly.

The Quileutes said their goodbyes, thanking me for dinner and for not freaking out, which I thought was hilarious, before exiting the backyard through the side gate, leaving Jasper and I alone for the first time in hours. I turned to him and smiled tiredly, before taking his hand in mine and pulling him back into the house and up to my room. The house was silent now, and at this point I was too exhausted to care why that was.

I stared at my bed longingly before letting go of Jasper and making my way to my dresser to pull out pajamas.

"I have to shower; will you stay?" I asked him sleepily, aware that even though I hadn't made a decision about him yet, there was no way that I could fall asleep without him near.

"I'll stay until you fall asleep; after that, I'll need to go hunting, and I know you could use some time to yourself," he answered softly, with no resentment. "I'll stay nearby so that you can still sleep, but I'll leave you be until you're ready to talk."

"Thank you," I replied simply, before shutting myself into my bathroom.

I showered and got ready for bed robotically, not bothering to do anything with my hair. I had absolutely no desire to go to school tomorrow, and I decided that I wouldn't unless Charlie insisted upon it. It was the first week of school; I wouldn't miss anything, and I could really use some time to think and unwind.

As I exited the bathroom, I realized two things; one, unless Jasper lied down in my bed with me, he would have to sit in my uncomfortable office chair until I fell asleep; and two, I sort of wanted him to lie down in my bed with me, but I didn't want to give him false hope until I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be with him.

I was wracking my brain for a way to invite him to bed with me without sounding suggestive, when I decided screwit, and just grabbed his hand and pulled him behind me. I climbed under the covers and gestured for him to get in behind me. He stared at me intensely for a moment, most likely checking my emotional climate, before shaking his head ruefully and giving in. He touched my face, hesitantly but reverently, before I turned onto my side and pulled his arms around me.

I was asleep within seconds.

-xxxx-

When I awoke, I was alone. My alarm clock read 9:45, and I sighed happily that Charlie was apparently okay with me playing hooky, and I didn't have to go to school. As I pondered what I would do with my day, my phone rang from my nightstand beside me, and I sent a silent thanks to Jasper for remembering to put it on the charger for me, because I had forgotten about it completely last night. I put it to my ear.

"Hello?"

"Hey, little girl, how are you feeling?" Charlie asked me. "Sue said she heard you getting sick last night, and to leave you be and let you rest. Was it something you ate, do you think?"

I sent another silent thanks, this time to Sue, for giving my father this fake excuse so I could have some time to reflect.

"Uh, yeah, Dad, I think maybe the school's mystery meat was a bad choice," I joked weakly, feeling guilty for lying to him once again.

"Alright, well you get some rest; I hope you feel better."

"Thanks, Dad."

After hanging up, I sat up on the side of my bed. My yoga mat was calling to me, but so was breakfast, and I needed to do laundry and check my email, maybe call my mom to check up on her. I had a bit of homework as well, and so I reluctantly jumped out of bed to start my day.

A/N: I'm going to start to try harder to reply to every review I get… It's no less than what ya'll deserve.

I'm heading into a three hour long chemistry lecture in about an hour. FIRST PERSON TO MAKE ME BURST OUT IN INAPPROPRIATE LAUGHTER IN THE MIDDLE OF CLASS WINS A TEASER!

Sorry, but this class couldn't be more boring.

So, a tiny bit shorter than the last couple of chapters, but my son is going through a phase right now where he is CONSTANTLY up my butt, so I'm shooting this thing off a few sentences at a time during the day and late at night while he's asleep and I'm halfway there.

You people and your reviews are what keep me motivated to write this thing, so thank you, and a big HELLO DARLIN' to all my new readers that came over from twilighted just to read this thing.