Disclaimer:- I don't own any of the characters, just borrowing them from Ms Meyer, although a few of my own will crop up from time to time.
As per the summary, this is rated M for language, violence and sex (slash) so don't read if you don't like. And if you do like, I value every review so don't hold back :o)
I'm writing from Seth's point of view.
My fourteenth birthday was a Saturday and when I woke up a year older and looked out of the window at the sunrise, I wasn't much happier than I had been the day before. Fourteen didn't seem any better than thirteen really. My friends were all older and I constantly felt like the baby of the group, particularly when Leah, my sister, who was already nineteen, taunted me with it which was something she did often. I loved her like crazy, of course I did, but she annoyed the hell out of me too with her teasing or over-protectiveness vying for the upper hand.
Leah was dating Sam who was also nineteen. Most of the kids in La Push looked up to him in one way or another. He was tough, but decent and would help out anyone who was in a jam. Everybody else usually flocked to his place on the weekends and hung out, eating him out of house and home and infuriating Leah because she never got him to herself.
Jared and his girlfriend Kim were usually there, along with Jake, Embry and Quil. Those three had practically been joined at the hip since they were babies, Jake and Quil being cousins and having taken Embry under their wing in a way, since he was half Makah rather than full Quileute like the rest of us and often felt like he was an outsider. All of them were sixteen, so I didn't feel at quite such a disadvantage with them around.
Jacob had been my hero since I was a little kid; he always had time to talk to me or fool around or help me with my homework and when he came out right after New Year and started dating Embry, I only admired him more. I had begun to realise I was gay around the same time, although I would never have dreamed of admitting to it then. I doubted Mom and Dad would have been happy and Leah would probably just taunt me more than usual, saying I was too young to know or something like that. So I kept it to myself and took comfort from the fact that my idol and his lover would be on my side if and when I plucked up the courage to tell them.
Quil hadn't been hugely impressed by the development between Jake and Embry, only because the trio of friends then became a couple and a spare part, leaving Quil pretty much out on a limb with everyone else paired off. He didn't mind spending time with me, but I still always got the feeling he would rather be hanging out with guys his own age. A lot of the time though Jake and Embry were still with us unless they had actually gone out together somewhere.
I had tried making friends at school, prompted by Leah telling me she was sick of having her baby brother hanging around her all the time, but it just didn't happen. I didn't fit in with the younger kids - I was too shy to talk to the girls and the boys didn't seem to want anything to do with me. There were a couple of young guys - Collin and Brady - who I got on reasonably well with, but we didn't really see each other outside of school. So I continued spending my time at Sam's and the hell with Leah.
There was one other guy, Paul, who was in some of Jake and the others' classes, who would come over occasionally and hang around, usually if Sam and Leah were cooking a barbecue. He would never say no to free food, but I wouldn't have said he was friends with any of us except maybe Jared who seemed to be able to tolerate him.
Paul was always in trouble at school - not doing his homework, turning up late, fighting with anybody and everybody, usually about nothing. He had been suspended for a week for getting a tattoo for his sixteenth birthday, but in the end the school had to take him back; it wasn't like he could have gotten rid of it and when the head complained to his father, Mr Lahote had only laughed, he being the one who had done the inking. He owned the tattoo studio in Forks, rode a huge motorcycle and was quick with his fists and he was proudly turning Paul into a younger version of himself.
Paul had always intimidated me with his aggressive behaviour, foul mouth and apparent determination to laugh at everyone's misfortune. However, there was one unfortunate aspect about him which scared me more than everything else put together. He was hotter than hell with his dark and fearsome good looks and rapidly growing muscles and I dreaded him ever catching me looking at him. He would probably kick the shit out of me and consequently when Jake warned me to stay out of his way I had no problem in agreeing at once.
I thought about all of them as I stared out of the window, wondering what was in store for me that day. I knew the guys were planning something. They seemed to think I'd be delighted to reach fourteen, when in actual fact all I wanted to do was skip a couple of years and catch them up.
I sighed heavily and chewed my lip. In addition it would be my first birthday without Dad. He had died of a heart attack just three months ago and I had been completely devastated. I adored my Dad, but with him gone I couldn't help feeling that I was supposed to step into his shoes and be the man of the house. That was pretty laughable, but I made a damned good effort to do everything I could to support Mom and Leah, all the while bottling up my own grief rather than letting myself give in to it and cry like the kid I was. I had always been happy and positive, but this last few months had been totally crap.
My lower lip trembled and I sank my teeth harder into it determinedly and leaned my forehead on the glass, squeezing my eyes shut for a moment. I wondered if Dad was watching me from somewhere and what he thought. Was he proud of me? Would he still be proud if he knew I was gay?
I seemed to be dwelling on that more and more just lately and I knew I would have to say something sooner or later. It was only two weeks ago that Leah had tried to hook me up with her friend's little sister for some outing to the movies with another couple our age. Apparently the other parents would only agree if four of us went. I went because I suppose I was influenced a lot by Sam and Jake and I liked to help people out, but I spent the entire afternoon cringeing and trying to keep my distance from the silly giggly thirteen-year-old Louisa with her strange hairstyle and coloured braces and annoying eagerness to hold my hand.
"Seth!" Leah bellowed a moment later. "Are you staying in bed all day?" She followed this up by banging her fist on the door half a dozen times and I turned away from the window reluctantly.
"Yeah, I'm up!"
"Well, get out here! We got presents!"
I pulled on my favourite brown sleeveless sweatshirt with the hood and a pair of jeans and reluctantly opened the door.
"Happy birthday!" cried Mom and Leah immediately and I glued a smile onto my face and gave them each a hug.
"I hope you got me something good!" I exclaimed, knowing it was expected.
"Cheeky brat!" Leah cuffed me around the head and punched me in the arm. Sometimes I could quite cheerfully have laid her out if only I had the strength in me to do it.
My gifts were actually pretty decent; at least they didn't treat me like a kid as they usually did. Mom gave me a card with money in it, saying she thought it was about time I chose something I really wanted and Leah gave me a couple of CDs by my favourite bands and a sleeping bag. That puzzled me at first, until she added that all the guys were planning to go camping that night and I was invited.
"Are you serious?"
Leah had been camping every other weekend throughout the summers since she was sixteen and the others all had too recently. I hadn't managed to go on one trip yet, always being deemed too young and Mom worrying that I would get in trouble or hurt myself or something else equally ridiculous.
"Yeah," Leah grinned. "You, me, Sam, Jake, Embry, Quil, Jared and Kim and a couple of Kim's friends. We're going to hike up into the hills, pitch some tents, have a campfire, cook some hotdogs, the lot."
"Yes!" I punched the air. Ok, maybe this birthday was going to turn out good after all. "When do we leave?" I demanded.
"Right after breakfast," Mom said. "Pancakes ok?"
"We're going to walk over to Sam's and he's driving some of us to the foothills in his truck. Jared will drive as well and then we'll leave the trucks there and hike up," Leah told me. "Sure you're up for it, squirt?"
"Do you have to keep calling me that?"
"Sorry, keep forgetting you're almost grown up," she smirked.
As soon as breakfast was over I went to take a shower, grabbed my backpack and shoved various things into it - spare socks, my iPod, a bag of chocolate covered pretzels, some gum, my toothbrush, a towel and a few other random items, then I pulled on jacket and boots and hovered impatiently by the door while Leah marched from one room to another with a list in her hand, collecting an impossible amount of essentials she couldn't live without for one night. Her backpack was consequently twice the size of mine and she gave me her sleeping bag to carry as we walked to Sam's.
Sam and Jared's trucks were parked side by side in front of the house when we got there, Sam's already holding a substantial stack of canvas wrapped items which I recognised as tents. People milled around, Kim and her two girlfriends, Jessica and Bethany giggling and fooling about, Jared and Quil packing more things into Jared's truck. Leah went to kiss Sam hello and Jake came over and gave me a bear hug.
"Happy birthday, little brother!"
"I got you something." He let go of me and handed me an untidily wrapped brown package. "It's from Embry too."
I ripped off the paper eagerly. Jake always gave cool gifts and this one was no exception - a game for the XBox Mom and Dad had bought me for Christmas. I had been dying to get my hands on 'Battlefield 2' since it was released in April and now I had it.
"Wow, thanks, Jake!" I cried. "I wanted this for ages!"
"I know," he grinned.
"Hey, Embry!" I bellowed, spotting the other boy stepping out of the house. I hurtled at him and almost knocked him flat in my excitement. "Thanks for the game!"
"You're welcome. Happy birthday." He grabbed me in a headlock for a minute and pretended to punch me.
More gifts followed - vouchers for the video game store from Jared and Kim, the Star Wars DVD Trilogy from Sam and a book on Quileute legends from Quil. I had always been fascinated by the old stories about where we came from and he admitted to having driven all the way to Port Angeles to fetch the book.
"Don't you have the Internet at your house, Quil?" I teased. "Thanks, man."
I stashed the gifts in Sam's house until we returned from the trip and fifteen minutes later we set off. Sam drove his truck with Leah and Bethany in the cab and me, Jake and Embry sitting in the back amongst the tents, while Jared took Kim, Jessica and Quil and the rest of the gear. It took maybe a half hour to reach the spot where we planned to leave the trucks and then everyone loaded up with baggage and we set off along a trail through the forest which gradually rose higher into the slopes of the mountains. It wasn't long before Jess and Bethany were whining about being out of breath, their bags being too heavy and their feet hurting and I couldn't resist snatching up a worm and waving it in Bethany's face as she stumbled past me.
"Getting hungry?" I giggled.
She let out an ear-splitting scream and threw her bag at me, which I somehow managed to dodge while I bent double laughing.
"Seth, for God's sake, will you grow up?" grumbled Leah. "You moan that we treat you like a kid. Now, why do you think that is?"
"Oh, shut up, Leah," I grinned. "We're supposed to be having fun here." I picked up Bethany's bag and handed it to her, throwing in a brief apology. She glared at me and marched off.
"Seth, please, don't annoy people," Leah said.
"Alright, keep your shirt on."
I charged ahead and caught up with Jake and Embry who were always in much better humour than Leah, even if I did my best to wind them up. We continued up the path for maybe ninety minutes until the ground levelled out and the trees parted to form a large clearing on the edge of a creek.
"Are we camping here?" I asked as Jake dumped the tent he was carrying on the ground.
"Yeah, this is the usual spot," Embry said, shooting Jake a sly smile.
I wondered how many times they had been up here without the others and guessed it was quite a few. I smirked and offloaded my backpack and the other bag of equipment I was carrying.
"Hell of a lot of gear for one night," I commented. "No one ever think of sleeping rough?"
"I think some people would prefer to be under canvas," Sam said. "You can always sleep out here if you want, Seth."
I glanced up at the sky which was typically overcast. "Nah. Maybe not."
Sam laughed. "Why don't you help me start putting this tent up?"
It took a couple of hours to get the camp site set up. Leah pitched in as usual and Kim unpacked bed rolls and sleeping bags and collected stones to place in a circle to surround a camp fire, but the other two girls stood watching and complaining about the damp, the strange forest noises, the wild animals and the lack of a bathroom. Why they had even agreed to come on this trip, I couldn't guess - except maybe for the fact that Bethany couldn't seem to take her eyes off Quil's butt when he was bent over hammering in tent pegs. I grinned to myself and wondered if I could use this observation to embarrass her later.
Finally everything was set up and Kim filled a pan from the creek to heat over the fire Jared was lighting in order to make coffee or chocolate for whoever wanted it. I was allocated a space in the tent which was also to be occupied by Quil and Jared. Leah and Sam shared one, Jake and Embry had another and Kim and her two friends took the last one. I pulled my boots off, sprawled on my sleeping bag and sipped chocolate, thinking that so far it was probably the best birthday I'd had in years. I could even put up with those two dumb girls squealing over everything that crawled, scurried or flew.
We all ate some snacks and then I went off exploring with Jake, Embry and Quil, leaving the others at the campsite. We climbed higher into the mountains, laughing and fooling about until eventually a combination of the colder altitude and hunger drove us back to the others. Sam and Jared had already started cooking weiners over the fire while the girls split bread rolls and dug out ketchup and mustard and a surprising number of bottles of coke and beer. Needless to say they wouldn't let me have beer, which kind of sucked since all of them were under the legal drinking age but thought it was ok for them to do it. Still, I wasn't going to let it spoil my day. I was having too much of a good time to worry about whether I could drink beer or not.
We were just finishing the food when we heard footsteps approaching and several of us turned to look at the newcomers.
"Oh, no," I heard Leah mutter. "What are they doing here?"
I looked over my shoulder as Paul Lahote and two guys I didn't know strolled into the clearing, all carrying camping gear. Paul was wearing tight black jeans, a thin sweater that only emphasised the muscles in his arms and hiking boots. I glanced up at his face and was surprised to see a grin upon it. I don't think I'd ever seen him smile. It lit his whole face up and he had perfect teeth. I bit my lip and turned away again, studying the bottle of coke in my hand and hoping no one had noticed me looking at him. Sam and Jared got up and went to speak to him and I heard him introduce his two friends as Jason and Steve. They had planned to camp overnight too and went to set up on the opposite side of the clearing. The one named Jason kept looking over at the girls and after a few minutes Kim, Jessica and Bethany all retreated into their tent. The rest of us piled more wood on the fire and sat around it on various pieces of fallen tree we had managed to collect, ignoring the other guys as much as possible. Paul and his friends had apparently brought a good supply of beer with them and proceeded to work their way through it, gradually become louder and more obnoxious as time went on and darkness fell.
"Ignore them," Embry said to me. "Don't let them spoil things."
"Oh, they're not bothering me," I shrugged.
They were bothering me. Or at least Paul was, if only because I had to force myself not to keep looking over there to see what he was doing. Why I had to go and like someone like that was beyond me. He was trouble, he was intimidating and he was straight so if I had any sense I would just put him out of my head. But that was impossible.
We all jumped as the drunken yell came from the other side of the clearing and the three figures who were now barely visible in the dim light offered by a sliver of moon lurched to their feet. More shouting, a lot of it unintelligble, and the sound of fists hitting flesh.
"What the hell?" Jared said, getting to his feet. Jake and Sam got up too.
"Those dickheads, I might have known they'd cause trouble," Leah grumbled. "Seth, get in the tent."
"No, I want to see what's happening," I protested.
"Do as you're told, will you? For once!"
"Fuck off, Leah, you're still out here and you're a girl," I growled.
"And a damn sight tougher than you!" she spat, jerking me to my feet.
"Get off me!" I yanked my arm free and backed away. "You always treat me like a fucking baby!"
"You behave like one! And stop swearing!"
"Leah, will you calm down?" Sam put a hand on her shoulder and Embry came over to me. I watched in alarm as Jake, my hero, strode across the clearing towards the fight and disappeared into the darkness.