Disclaimer: most of the characters in this story belong to Stephanie Meyer and I am merely borrowing them for my enjoyment and hopefully yours.
As mentioned in the summary, there will be SLASH in later chapters, so if you don't like that, don't read it. I rated the story 'M' for adult content later on.
I'm writing from Sam's point of view, beginning before the pack was formed.
I had always been something of a loner. My father, Josh Uley, abandoned my mother Allison and me when I was just a little kid and I grew up older than my years, taking on many of the responsibilities he should have shouldered if he hadn't run off like a coward at the thought of having to look after a wife and child. Allison spent a lot of her time socialising with other families on the reservation, but I kept to myself. I didn't get along with any of the other kids, or more accurately, I didn't try to.
It was suspected I had a half-brother, Embry Call, who also lived with only his mother. She had never divulged who Embry's father was, but most people suspected Joshua and she hadn't denied it. It wouldn't have been the first time he'd screwed around on my mother and Embry had startlingly similar eyes to both me and Josh. That made me dislike him without knowing anything about him, blood ties or not.
Most of the other kids kept out of my way so this suited me fine. I suppose I was a sullen, unapproachable teenager and I liked my own company too much for anyone to bother me. All this changed when I hit seventeen.
I had been aware of the legend of the Quileute shape-shifters for as long as I could remember. That's all I thought it was – what all the boys thought it was – just a legend. Eventually I found out different, but before that I gained a pair of initially unwelcome friends.
I was pissed. Billy Black, who was wheelchair-bound and mostly cared for by his fourteen-year-old boy, Jacob, since his wife Sarah died in a car wreck five years before, asked me to take Jacob and his best buddy off his hands occasionally. I was seen as the most mature young guy on the reservation and Billy figured that Jacob wasn't getting much fun out of life. He and his friend, Embry no less, spent most of their time in Billy's house running after him.
"Do I have to?" I grumbled. "I'm working, Billy, I don't have a lot of time."
"You have the weekends. Those kids need some other focus or they're going to start getting in trouble," Billy told me.
The last thing I wanted was Embry hanging out with me. I barely knew Jacob, but he seemed a nice enough kid, sort of quiet and maybe a bit insular; kind of like me. However, I felt like I owed it to Billy. He'd taken on something of a father figure role with me when I'd occasionally needed it. It was Billy who had the birds and the bees talk with me when I was eleven and Billy who gave me the job in the shop after school, which eventually led to me working there full time and pretty much running the place.
"Alright," I said now. "What do you want me to do with them?"
"Well, what do you and your friends do?" asked Billy.
"I don't really have friends," I pointed out. "I never had time."
"Maybe it's time you did, then. You're too isolated, Samuel. I don't know, take them fishing or something."
"Fishing?" I snorted now. "Billy, it's 2004. Aren't they into computer games and stuff like that?"
"Yes, which is why I want them out in the fresh air doing something useful, instead of cooped up in the house day in day out, thinking they have to take care of me."
"Sure, ok, I'll think of something. Where are they, anyway?" I asked. It was Friday afternoon. I'd only gone over to Billy's because a customer had left a bottle of whiskey for him. It was always quiet on Fridays so I'd just closed up the shop to run over to his house.
"School, Sam, where do you think?" Billy said with a grin. "It kicks out in about thirty minutes. You could fetch them in your truck; save Tiffany a job." He winked now.
I sighed again. "Alright. So long as you don't mind me closing up early."
"Fridays are always dead. Thanks, Sam." Billy stretched a hand up to shake and I slid mine into it. He gripped firmly and a slight frown creased his brow as he looked up at me.
"You alright?" I asked, pulling my hand back now.
"Sure, son. Go on, now." Billy watched as I turned to leave, that frown still on his face. I shrugged and put it out of my mind.
I swung by Tiffany Call's cabin in the truck and told her I was on the way over to Embry and Jacob's school. Busy with laundry and fixing dinner, she smiled gratefully.
"I appreciate that, Sam," she said. "Billy's idea, was it?"
"Yeah," I grunted uncomfortably. She had been, after all, my Dad's 'bit on the side'. One of the many.
"Not putting you out, I hope."
"No, the shop's quiet this afternoon," I told her.
"It's nice you want to spend some time with Embry."
"I…" I bit my lip before I added 'don't'. "…I guess I ought to get to know him. A bit," I mumbled.
"Maybe you'd like to have dinner with us later," Tiffany suggested.
"Uh, no thanks, Ms Call, my mother's cooking," I said hastily. An hour after school with Embry and Jacob was about as much as I wanted to stomach.
"Sure, of course. Thanks, anyway, Sam." She went back inside and closed the door and a minute later I was heading over to the high-school, grumbling under my breath about annoying teenage boys and how my afternoon could be better spent.
My irritation was making me hot and I wound the window down, hanging my arm out of it as I drove one-handed, feeling the breeze ruffling the loose strands of hair which had fallen out of my ponytail. All I wanted to do was drive down to the beach and throw myself in the sea to cool off. It hadn't seemed like a particularly hot day, but I was sure hot now. Maybe I was coming down with something.
I parked up at the school gates and waited. The doors had just opened and hordes of kids of differing sizes and ages were swarming out into the yard. Embry and Jacob appeared after a minute, gazing left and right as they looked for Tiffany's yellow Beetle.
"Embry!" I yelled out of the window and leaned on the horn. His head spun around and his eyes lit on my truck. His face registered surprise and then delight as he elbowed Jacob and began to trot towards me. They reached my window seconds later.
"Your Mom's tied up," I said to Embry. "Said I'd fetch you."
"Cool! Thanks." Embry grinned widely, apparently not holding any grudge for my avoidance of him over the years.
"Well, get in then," I said.
He ran around to the other side of the truck and yanked the door open. Jacob just stood there, uncertain, tucking his long hair behind his ears and chewing his lip.
"And you," I added with a slight sneer. I couldn't help it. I didn't want to be bothered with them and I sure as hell didn't want to be responsible for them, which I now was until I dropped them home.
Jacob hurried around the truck and climbed up onto the seat. Embry scooted across to make room for him and his arm bumped against me as I put the truck in gear.
"Watch it," I muttered.
"Sorry." Embry shrank back a few inches. "You're hot, man, are you sick?"
So he'd noticed too.
"I dunno, maybe I'm getting the flu or something," I said, turning the truck back onto the road. "I'm going down to the beach for a swim; you two wanna tag along?"
"My Dad'll worry if I don't go straight home," Jacob said.
"No, he won't, it was him asked me to keep the pair of you out of his hair until dinner. I think he'd rather you do something in the fresh air than glue yourselves to the computer."
"Sure, ok, swimming sounds cool," Embry said eagerly. Jacob just nodded.
"Right." I began to drive in the direction of the beach ten miles distant, switching on the radio so I wouldn't have to talk to them. It was tuned to a country station and I left it at that, Joe Nichols crooning 'I'll Wait For You' filling the truck.
"Hell, Sam, that's just depressing," Embry said after a minute. "Can I change the station?"
"Whatever," I shrugged.
He fiddled with the dial until he found some Coldplay, then cranked up the volume. Eventually Coldplay gave way to Blink 182 and then Nickelback. I relaxed marginally. I liked Nickelback and they were way too loud to facilitate talking. I concentrated on guiding the truck down the steep track towards the pebbled beach, thinking that the hour or two I had to kill with the kids might end up not being so bad.
I parked the truck and shoved the door open, jumping down onto the gravel. The waves were rolling gently up the beach, but I knew the appearance of calm could be deceptive.
"How good are you two at swimming?" I asked as Embry and Jacob appeared beside me.
"Pretty good," Embry said. "Jake was on the swim team last year."
"Be careful, will you, there's usually an undercurrent here," I instructed, peeling my sleeveless shirt off with some relief as the cool breeze hit my hot skin. "I don't want to have to go and tell people you drowned."
"You sound like my Mom," Embry said, rolling his eyes.
"Well, I guess I'm….your brother," I said, almost choking on the words. "So do as I say. Fishing your bodies out of there isn't in my job description."
Embry turned to me and beamed from ear to ear as if I'd made his day. "Sure, Sam, anything you say," he said, completely without sarcasm.
Nodding, I left them and walked towards the water, unbuckling my belt as I went. I couldn't wait to get in the water. I was getting hotter and hotter. I kicked my boots off, dumped jeans and socks on top of them and headed into the sea in my shorts.
The water was much colder than usual for July and I felt instant relief as I plunged bodily into the waves. I didn't feel like I was getting the flu - in fact I felt unusually energetic and clear-headed – but something was certainly going on. I swam past the first line of breakers and turned, treading water as I looked for Embry and Jacob. They were waist deep, their hair still dry and blowing in the breeze.
I rolled onto my back and floated, staring up at the bright blue sky, small white clouds scudding rapidly ahead of the wind. I never did this; never took time for myself to just relax and enjoy something. The last few years had been too full of me trying to step into my useless father's shoes.
Every so often I righted myself and glanced back towards the beach, making sure I could still see the boys. They had finally got into the deeper water and I caught sight of their dark heads bobbing on the surface. The next time I looked they were wading back up to the beach, rubbing their arms as if they were cold. I stayed another ten minutes and then swam back, reluctantly leaving the cool water. I could have stayed in there for the rest of the day.
Embry and Jacob were already dressed again, sitting on the ground as they laced their boots, staring at me as if I'd come from Mars.
"Aren't you cold?" Embry said. "It's fucking freezing in there!"
"Don't say 'fuck'," I told him, thinking I probably sounded really old and boring.
"Well, it is fucking freezing," he repeated, ignoring me.
"You're just a pair of sissies," I scoffed. "It's not that cold." I picked up my jeans and dragged them up my damp legs somewhat reluctantly, knowing full well I'd be too hot again within minutes. I thrust my feet into my boots and gathered up my shirt on the way back to the truck, shoving it into a pocket in the dash rather than put it back on. At least the top half of me would stay reasonably cool.
By the time the truck had lurched its way back up the track to the road, I was hot again and becoming irritated, especially when Embry asked to stop at the snack cart in the lay-by to get cokes.
"Aw, come on, guys, I'm not buying you stuff," I muttered.
"We've got our own money," Jacob said.
I glanced past Embry at him. He had one eyebrow raised quirkily and a hopeful grin on his face.
"Alright." I halted the truck again and shifted it out of gear. "Hurry up."
They piled out and ran to the snack-stop, returning moments later with three bottles of coke and a burger each.
"You'll spoil your dinner," I grunted.
"Don't be such a grouch, you need to chill and act your age. We got you a coke." Embry shoved one of the bottles into my hand. "To say thanks."
My eyes widened in surprise. "Thanks, Embry," I said, gripping the bottle between my thighs while I got the truck back on the road. Once we were going straight, I picked up the bottle again, wrenched the cap off with my teeth and spat it out of the window. I took a long drink and then realised Embry and Jacob were both staring at me in astonishment again.
"What?" I said.
They glanced at each other and then just shrugged. I took another drink and ran my tongue around my teeth curiously. How had I done that? It was a wonder the metal hadn't damaged my mouth, but it had been easy; too easy. I became lost in my own thoughts as I drove back to the reservation, going over and over in my mind the changes I had noticed in myself in the last week or two and wondering what was happening to me. I had always been strong and well-defined, but my muscles seemed to have grown bigger almost overnight and I'd just ripped off a metal bottle cap with my teeth. I was burning up with some strange fever and I was filled with a sense of something about to happen; something about to happen to me.
"Hey, you drove right by Jake's place," Embry said suddenly and I jerked back to reality and slammed my foot down on the brake, making the truck lurch and skid on the smooth tarmac.
"Sorry." I waited while Jacob jumped out, shouted thanks at me and slammed the door. Then I gunned the engine again and dropped off Embry at his house just a short distance away.
"Thanks, Sam, I mean it," he gushed before he got out. "Maybe we can hang out again some time soon? I can always ditch Jacob if you'd rather."
I frowned slightly. I didn't exactly relish the thought of spending time with just Embry, especially with him being like this, all excited and chatty. If Jacob was around too at least I wouldn't have to talk to him all the time. I found I didn't really dislike him so much as not have any idea of what to say to him. It had always been just me and I didn't know how to treat a kid brother. However, I'd come to realise I couldn't really blame Embry for my father's antics, he was just a by-product of one of them. Part of me did want to get to know him.
"Yeah, maybe," I agreed absently. "I don't mind your friend hanging around though, he seems cool."
"What about the bonfire on Sunday?" Embry asked.
"What about it?"
"Are you going?"
"Well, maybe you could take us along. I mean, Mom'll never let me go and Mr Black won't let Jacob either, especially as it's on a school night. They might if you say you'll keep us out of trouble."
I sighed heavily. "Look, I'll talk to Billy, ok?" I said eventually. "If he says it's ok, then I'll think about it, but you're gonna have to convince your Mom."
"Awesome! Thanks!" Embry threw himself out of the truck now and banged the door closed, then dragged it open again and thrust his arm inside to rescue his forgotten backpack. To my surprise, I found myself grinning as I drove away.