A/N: This fiction is for mature audiences only. Graphic brutality coats nearly every chapter soon to follow and warning will not be given ahead of time.
The scent became stronger as the rabid-appearing predators slunk through the heavily forested lands, their movement evenly paced and matched in a silent formation. Dense, roughened fur covered the bodies of the silent predators that moved eerily at ease and with precision.
Unlike a normal canine, their noses need not sniff the ground to track. Honed in on their target's location, they sped up in anticipation of the kill. A grating, trilling, metallic screech of a voice prickled the ears of these killers, these wolves, their bodies slinking lower still to the ground as they approached a kill.
An answering voice to the vampire's inquiry caused the newest wolf to halt, fear rippling down his spine as he twitched his ears higher to hear what was being said. The scent trail had not indicated anyone else, only the creature of the night. Someone was in danger.
The Alpha snuffed once and low, gaining his errant pack-member's attention. Casualties were to be avoided but the death of one could mean the saving of hundreds and it was a practice that countless leaders had to been faced with. Ears dropping back down, the worried wolf continued to follow, concentrating on the ground before him.
The wolves had the advantage, being upwind of the clearing that stood outside the camouflage of trees. The largest, a heavily bodied black male, stopped in the shadows, a clear view of his target. The creature was entirely focused on its prey, failing to notice the audience it now had or just assuming the new heart beats it had to be hearing were normal fauna indigenous to the location.
"They're around," the small woman assured the abomination. "In fact, Edward said I was to meet him this week." Her heartbeat increased even more so, a tell-tale sign of deception, but the monster didn't call her out just yet.
"Do you…know what day it is? I sometimes get them confused. At first I thought he was to be here tomorrow, but the more I think about it, the more I seem to recall he was to meet me Saturday. Which would be today, right?" The girl rambled in hopes of distracting her unexpected companion.
"My poor, sweet girl. Whether your owner is to meet you tonight or tomorrow will be of no consequence."
The ghostly figure crossed the remaining few yards distance between it and her. Lifting its stone cold appendage, the creature tilted her chin up to look him directly face-on. His own eyes fluttered closed in bliss as he inhaled of her heavenly aroma, whispering, "I'm afraid your journey will end sooner than that," the monster explained.
As the girl struggled to understand what this meant, not because she was confused but because her life wasn't to end like this, the figure opened his eyes. "There's a time to live," he said, gently placing stray locks of her hair behind her right ear. "There's a time to die," he continued, repeating the process with her left side errant curls. "And then," placing both of his hands on her hunched shoulders, "there is a time to become a meal."
His lips pulled back into an evil smile, the glittering teeth coated with venom an irrefutabble sign of death for the girl. Her eyes clamped shut in dread, feeling the icy pressure of stone lips against her pulse.
Making not a sound, the leading wolf instructed as the pack moved in synchronization. Crossing the tree barrier, they entered the clearing unknown to their prey. Fifteen feet away from target and it twisted its head sharply, intent to snarl away any type of wandering creature that would dare bother one such as he was.
The girl, Bella, still held her eyes firmly shut, waiting for the piercing of her throat that would precede the burning pain a vampire's venom inflicted. She had found the area she had been looking for, not anticipating that there would be a visitor.
The vampire's cold fingers dug into her flesh, nails slicing through the shirt as his grip tightened before he released, pushing her away as if disgusted. She stumbled to the ground, opening her eyes as she landed on bottom to look for why the vampire had cast aside.
The five wolves prowling in tandem caused Bella to falter in both, breathing and logic, her eyes searching for a reason as to why the vampire was backing away as if frightened. She too was scared of this new threat, laughing silently as she ground her teeth to keep from asking the vampire not to leave her here.
Unable to process the movement, Bella became aware of both threats suddenly vanishing before her eyes. Only the reverberating sounds of snarls attested to the fact that Bella had not hallucinated the scene. She waited until the noise disappeared completely before standing to run in the other direction, away from the monsters.
A single word slammed into the minds of the pack. Not an Alpha command, or a questioning gesture, but a single gut-wrenching answer to how the wolf felt about what had just happened.
There aren't enough blinders or self determination tactics to ignore a soul and Paul could in no way deny his own. His answer was overruled by a force greater than god and couldn't be dealt with amidst the thundering pursuit of the vampire presently being hunted.
Paul was the first to sink his overly large lupine teeth into the cold, unwavering stone flesh as he descended on top of the vampire. Adrenalin, rage, fury, contempt and despair came forth as his jaws clamped tightly and tore.
Sam and Jared made contact as well, taking matching mouthfuls to rip away the skin of their prey, dodging the wavering blows the vampire tried to deliver in its last seconds of awareness. With five wolves at hand, the kill was swift, body parts hastily grouped together. Embry phased back into human form, untying the small bundle from around his ankle to produce a lighter. To a grotesque pyre of stoned flesh, he flicked the silver colored flint wheel, the spark instantly igniting the wick into a flame.
The young men watched and waited until the last flame burnt itself out, leaving a smoldering piece of charred, unidentifiable remains. Silently, Sam used his foot to cover the area with forest debris before indicating his pack-mates to follow him further into the forest.
Miles away, Bella Swan continued her frantic journey home, trying to ignore the events of the past hour and wondering if the wolves would come for her. When she finally made it to her truck, gunning the engine to start back home, the long distance howls of anger were ignored.
In an area far away from anyone or anything the wolves had gathered and shifted back to men. Sam eyed his group wearily, waiting to see which one would be the first to erupt in anger, first.
"What the fuck was that?" Jacob yelled to one of his fellows wolves, tying his shorts on and storming across the clearing.
"What the fuck was what?" Paul spat back, unable to ignore the penetrating and angry glare from his accuser.
Jacob stopped just feet from Paul, reeling in his physical desire to punch him. "You know exactly what I'm talking about. When we were phased, approaching to strike, you…you…" Unable to articulate the one thing he had never thought would occur, Jacob turned around to slam his fist into a nearby tree, raining pine needles all around as the trunk waivered.
The other wolves neither knew what to say nor what to do. Even if they had, this level of personal aggression from the wolf -jokingly referred to as 'Happy' - needed to run its course. Paul, with his ever present bad temperament laughed, mockingly and snidely.
"Does the happy pup finally have reason to be the not so happy pup? What's the matter, did that mean old tree tell you a dirty secret?"
Whatever control Jacob held was lost. In a rage-ridden sprint, he turned to rush the stockier man, heedless of anyone or anything else in his path.
Striding quickly to the young wolf, the Alpha gripped Jacob's shoulders tightly.
"Jacob, back off," Sam commanded, knowing this was going to be anything but pleasant. "When have we ever cursed a brother for imprinting? Paul didn't choose this and he has more of a right to be shocked and confused than you do."
Disbelief rolled off of Jacob in waves as he turned to face the man who held their leadership.
"Shocked and confused; are you out of your fucking mind? He's not shocked; his enraged beyond belief." Black's eyes stared down those of his Alpha, bare pain, anger, hurt and disbelief visible, waiting to be alleviated.
"You can fucking have her, Black!" Paul spat out disgustedly, causing Jacob to throw off Sam's hand and whip back around. "If I had to fucking imprint, I sure as hell didn't want some used piece of white-trash."
"Don't you fucking dare! You have no god damn right to call her such things, you piece of shit!" Once again the two men were face-to-face, chests pressed tightly together as each waited for the other to take the first swing.
Paul wanted the fight and he pushed with his words, hoping Jacob would lose control and lash out.
"I'll do whatever the hell I want, Black, and there isn't a fucking thing you can do about it. Isabella Swan is not one of us; she isn't tribe; she isn't native; and she's certainly been used by vamps long enough to be considered one of their own personal fang toys. Seeing as I am now stuck with her scrawny ass until the day I die, or until I can get the fuck out of this, you can shove your opinion right up your ass."
Sam jumped behind Jake, pinning his arms and pulling back while shouting to the other man. "Paul! Relax! I understand the imprint has upset you, but don't say anything you're gonna regret later. Isabella is Jacob's friend and he's just concerned for her well being."
Embry, Jared, and Quil stood off to the side, unsure of how to react, or help what was clearly a shock to them all. Jared had Kim and while he was comfortable with the imprint, he could understand Paul's concerns over the matter.
Quil and Embry -Jacob's friends since grade-school- knew of Bella and Jake's love of her. Both boys thought she was an okay person and Paul could have done worse for an imprint. But neither had imprinted themselves and lacked the ability to help Paul muddle through his mental confusion dealing with the new-found feelings.
Jacob had stopped struggling in Sam's grasp, but still held visages of morphing at any second. Painful howls and sounds of distress escaping from his throat uninvited.
Paul ignored it all, his focus now on his Alpha.
"Is that what this is about? You concerned with what happens when that sorry excuse for a human comes face to face with her big bad wolf? You think I'm gonna hurt her?"
"Yes, I do," Sam answered sadly, hoping Paul would rethink the scenario once he had cooled off from the shock.
"Good!" Paul spat out angrily, watching as the pack reflexively recoiled at his blunt intentions.
"As long as we, her and I, are both miserable you might as well join in for the ride." The challenge was back, Paul hoping Sam would be surprised enough to engage in a physical altercation.
"You don't even know her, Lahote," Sam growled, his wolf-spirit coming forth to subdue his pack-mate. He took the steps necessary to place himself in front of Paul, waiting for a sign of subservience.
Paul had brought the situation to hand, wanting to lash out and fight until his outside felt as bloody and torn as his inside. He tried to back his words, his own wolf trembling beneath the surface to be released. Sam reacted in kind, the power of an Alpha-leader flaring outwards; causing Paul's to shrink back beneath the skin.
It took time, but Paul knew he wouldn't be able to win this as wolf. Instead, he defaulted to his human side to best his Alpha. With all the hate he possessed he answered Sam. "And I don't plan to get to know her."
Sam took a reflexive step back, shocked at the conviction Paul had used to answer him.
"You can't ignore an imprint, Paul. The ties that bind won't allow it."
Paul gave another condescending laugh.
"Watch me, Uley. For seventeen years, I've done whatever the hell I damned well pleased and some fruity fucking imprint isn't about to change it." Spitting on the ground in the general direction of Jacob, he backed away before disappearing into the shadows of the forest, Jared several yards behind to bring him back.
"Let him go, Jared," Sam called out. "Once he's calmed down and thought about it, he'll realize he can't ignore her forever. It's best if we just give him some space and let him figure out what he needs to make this work."
Turning back to Jacob, who was whispering angrily to Embry, Sam put on a face of hopefulness. "He won't hurt her, Jake, you know that. Paul just needs to calm down and realize this is actually a blessing. In a week or two, we'll have the Swan girl up to the reservation and explain it to her."
Jacob wasn't convinced, still angry that Sam hadn't had better control over the comments Paul had made.
"Can I go now, Alpha?" He asked rudely. "I'd like to make sure Bella arrived home safely."
With the grace instilled into him from being one of the few 'chosen' from his tribe, Sam kept his composer. "Quil, go with Jake and make sure she arrived home. Then make a perimeter run before heading home for the night."
Wordlessly, everyone left, lost in thoughts that worried for what the immediate future may hold.
The bartender, Tom, wiped a glass carefully, keeping a well trained eye on the man sitting at the end of the bar. For the last hour, he had gone through five pitchers of beer, alone. Tom had been in the business long enough to know that the man was on the verge of exploding into rage. With every swallow of beer, his customer's hands trembled.
Paul sat in the shithole, drinking piss-ass warm beer, torturing himself with the acrid and bitter flavor of the liquid he was consuming. He didn't want to go home, a place where nothing of distraction was. His mom had split some four or five months ago without so much as a goodbye. His dad had been gone long before that too, only leaving Paul his last name to claim and nothing else.
The council knew, but due to his circumstances they couldn't step in for public assistance and none of the elders felt comfortable enough taking in such a volatile teen. Once a week, Quil Sr. or Henry Clearwater would drop to inspect the house and make sure the power was still on and there was some food in the fridge. Other than Sam, interference was to a minimum.
Waving the attendant, Paul indicated for a new pitcher to replace the now empty one sitting in front of him. Frowning, the bartender walked over slowly, hesitant to startle Paul.
"Gimme another," Paul demanded, pushing the pitcher forward.
"I think you've had enough, buddy. Why don't I call you a cab and you can go home to sleep it off?" Leaning forward, Tom made to grab the empty pitcher, stopping when the young man gripped his wrist tightly.
"I don't need a cab," Paul snarled, jerking slightly on the bartender's wrist before letting go and sitting back. "I want some more of that piss you call beer."
Rubbing his wrist, Tom internally debated before trying another approach. Maybe, if the guy thought the cops might be called, he'd leave peacefully. "Look, if you want to drive while drunk, that's your business. But as an owner here, I'm not about to let you get behind the wheel of a car."
"Lucky for you, I walked. Now if you don't mind…" Nudging the pitcher again, Paul waited for the man to shut the hell up and leave him alone.
"Obviously you can hold your liquor; I'm still not going to give you anymore. Why don't you go home and sleep it off. Come back tomorrow and you can start drinking all over again if you want."
Paul sensed the man's nervousness as his eyes slid quickly to beneath the bar before returning Paul's stare. He knew the guy was about to either pull a gun or call the cops and Paul had no desire to deal with either. With an impatient sigh, he stood up, dropping some crumpled bills on the counter and walking out.
He ran, not for long, and not far enough away to leave his problems behind. The wrenching in his soul guided the struggling wolf to the border of Forks where he paused to study the land. He didn't need to be told an address or given directions; his connection led the way to the two-story clapboard house nestled at the edge of the forest.
Paul couldn't help his eyes as they strayed to an upstairs window where a lone figure sat. Neither made to move, the girl lost her own feelings, and the wolf trapped to his hellish own. Folding his legs underneath, Paul sat to watch and wait, cursing every minute of his new life.
After fixing dinner and assuring Charlie she was okay, Bella had retired to her room for the night, unable to stop playing the events of earlier from in the field. Without pause, she was able to recollect each and every detail, from the first approach of Laurent to the sudden appearance of the five wolves and what it had meant.
There had been one minute, so brief it was the only thing Bella held doubts about, when the dark grey wolf of the group had caught her eye. For a fraction of time, she thought it had almost looked human; a trapped soul in the body of an animal. The animals had vanished quickly and with her body's instinct to move to safety, she had almost shrugged it off.
Here, in her room, when she could replay the scene without disturbances, Bella pondered why her pain and agony of Edward's abandonment suddenly didn't consume her completely as it had earlier in the meadow.
It was a long night before Bella finally sought out her bed, never once noticing the glowing yellow eyes that had been observing her from below.
He woke up outside, still in the form of a wolf immune to the cold and too damn aware of the muddy slush sluicing underneath his form. The rain was heavier than usual and visibility was poor. To most, the time would've been hard to decipher, but Paul knew it was close dawn from the beginning twittering of nearby birds.
Fluidly he stood up to shake out his pelt, cursing for having fallen asleep in the first place. He looked towards the house again, noting the stillness before retreating. His wolf had had his fun and now Paul was firmly back in control. His frame brushed against several mature saplings—not yet trees— as he gained speed to run home and wash away his filth and disgust.
Bella heard her father call for her to get up. Blearily, she crawled from her bed, wondering if yesterday's outing had worn her out, or if it had been the worry of wondering if her attacker would seek her out in her home.
"Did you have another nightmare last night, Bella?" Charlie asked some time later as the two sat to have breakfast.
Wordlessly she looked up, wondering what an appropriate answer would be.
"You were crying out early this morning. It wasn't like the normal and you quieted back down as soon as it started."
"Oh," Bella answered, pushing her eggs across the plate.
This type of exchange was customary and Bella's lack-luster attention didn't overly concern Charlie. He let the silence continue as he finished eating, dropping his plate in the sink before mentioning he had to go to work and would be back later.
The rain held a constant pattern of drumming, beating against the roof as Bella felt herself fall into a monotonous haze. She didn't remember dreaming last night and that wasn't normal.
Most of Bella's dreams were detailed in color, pain and scent. She could always smell Edward's scent as he held her one last time, coaxing his fingers across her collar bone before turning around and uttering those hateful untruths.
She had followed that undescribable scent of his when he left her in the forest, a trail of aroma that promised her things she couldn't find elsewhere. Even in her dreams, she tried to follow the scent, always succumbing to physical tragedy before attaining her goal.
Focusing with her heart, she tried to recapture the feelings of bliss she had always experienced when Edward had been nearby, her memories now jagged shards that brought more pain than pleasure.
Not masochistic by nature, Bella craved the agony. As long as she could still feel at all meant her relationship with Edward hadn't been a dream.
Nightmare, whispered her conscious. Dreams are of pleasure, not pain. Every moment you spent with him was filled with angst…
Angrily she sat up, fighting away the haziness of her mind. Edward may have been her savior on more than one occasion, but even if he hadn't, she still would have loved him; did love him.
Frustrated with her unproductive morning, Bella got up in preparation to leave the house. She needed a different form of distraction.
"Billy, are you home?" Bella called out, rapping lightly on the old wooden screen attached to the even older wooden red house. She had called before coming over, hoping to hear Jake's happy voice, or at the very least Billy's tired one. No one answered though and Bella decided that maybe a surprise visit would help open up the door of friendship she had once had with the Blacks.
After fifteen minutes of total silence save for her questioning if anyone was home, Bella slumped her shoulders, walking back to her truck with no closer to seeing or hearing from Jacob. Halfway there, the hairs on the back of her neck rippled in eerie foreboding. Glancing around, she couldn't see anyone or anything unusual to cause such a sensation and her steps hurried a bit eager to claim the sanctuary of her truck once again.
Another wasted trip to La Push, trying to demand answers from her missing best friend and the horror of what was still taking place around Northwestern Washington.
"Don't!" Paul hissed as he watched Jacob from across the clearing. With every exhalation Bella took, standing in front of Black's house, Jake was one inch closer to appearing in front of her.
Both men were phased, situated across the yard from each other, each waiting to see what the other would do with this unexpected guest. Jake shifted his hind quarters slightly on the forest floor, not understanding why Paul was waiting to approach her.
"Damn it, Paul. She needs her best friend right now. I need to see her, give her a shoulder to cry on," Jake informed the stubborn wolf.
Watching, always watching, they witnessed the look of expectance on Bella's face transform into disappointment and then despair.
"She is no longer your concern, Black," Paul stated as Bella climbed back into her truck. "On our lands, she is mine and I decide what will and will not be done."
"Then do it! Stop being a fucking coward and approach her. Let her know she isn't alone anymore. Tell her our –your—secret, so that she can feel whole again."
"No," Paul answered, still shifting from his spot as he watched the dilapidated truck pull out of the driveway and onto the road.
"Why not? Are you that worried? Are you afraid that she'll turn you away, tell you what an impossible asshole you are and aren't worth the spit it takes to say your name?"
"I don't need some little girl telling me what I am or aren't worth."
"Then do it for me!" Jake screamed in his head, his anger exploding into a cloud of aching melancholy.
"I need her back in my life," he whispered, wishing for the past to return. A past filled with warm sodas, senseless conversations and overall feelings of being perfect.
Paul was not unaffected by the bludgeoning of sensations he experienced through Jake.
A group of kids at the beach, laughing as they chased each other in an uncensored game of tag, the pale skin of one little girl amidst the bronzed tones of the rest and the shining, admiring eyes that watched her …
A dark room, people all around as a screen illuminated the faces of those watching a movie, the eerie music radiating a tension in the audience followed by a jolt as the villain jumped out and adrenaline rushed through everyone's system, leaving a boy clinging to a slightly older girl's hand, thankful that while she still trembled, he could hold steady and comfort her…
Pride, unleashed in waves, as the girl stood next to him on a bank, both figures holding fishing poles. The air was damp and cool, the area around them holding a scent of fish and tackle. Her pole jerked again and the girl squealed, the boy laughing and reaching out to help her reel in the first catch of the morning…
Secrets, waiting to be spilled by both parties.
Responsibility holding each other's tongue hostage as they danced around half-truths, half-lies and full-caring that the other would not get hurt.
'We could run away,' Jake's voice suggested in an errant memory of a young woman looking at him with the feelings of a soul mate…
Paul snapped his head, willing away the traitorous thoughts and betrayals those types of images inflicted.
"Haven't you learned yet, Black?" He asked the melancholy young man. "I don't ask of, nor grant, favors to anyone. You'd do well to remember that."
One fluid motion and the silvered creature was gone, leaving in his wake an equal sized creature of russet who possessed enough sentiment to drown them all.