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A/N: Previously: After defeating Aurora at the Cullen House, Jacob stormed off, leaving the Pack to deal with Embry's critical condition while Quil cussed him out. Jacob did some soul-searching against the Alpha inside him fighting for control, and found solace in (hospitalised) Bella. Feeling more balanced, he went to Embry's to face the music, only to witness his best friend imprinting on Maya, his own former imprint who Embry had been in love with. Maya, feeling like she was passed around like a cheap bottle of vodka, stormed off upset, leaving Embry panicked and Jake at a loss.. until Billy revealed that she's got some fascinating heritage...
The song used in this chapter is And Darling by Tegan and Sara. (Maya/Embry)
Chapter Twenty-One: Progression
Creep up and tell me that you,
You love me more each time you,
Look into my eyes, I feel like...
I know you don't mean to be mean,
I'm sure you know the same for me,
When you creep up and tell me...
It breaks my heart each time you,
Everyone present in Embry's kitchen was left reeling from what Dad had gone on to reveal. Not only was Maya always destined to be a part of our lives, but she was a part of a legacy as old as our own.
"Well fuck me, the chick really does have super powers," Paul remarked, still soothing his battered shoulderblade. "Knew she didn't hit like a girl." He was looking to Jared and Collin for back-up, but they were both still mulling over the latest revelation. It felt nice, for once, not to be the only one having my world shaken.
I sighed. "She's not a super-hero, Paul, she's just a girl. A hurt, frightened girl who's one of the best friends I've ever had. So shut up about that before you make her even angrier."
"Fine," he snorted, "but it sure sounded that way to me."
I looked in on Embry once more before I turned to leave. Maya wouldn't get far, but the sooner this mess was cleared up, the better.
"What are you guys talking about?" he said shakily, a light shudder rippling over his muscles in response to his own pain and the instinctual need to phase and go after her. His eyes were wide, wary, and he looked at me as if I held all the answers, like I could fix all of this. I had to look away before he saw through the bravado. Embry always did.
Sorry, Buddy... leeches, I can handle. Girls are something else entirely. But I'll do my best.
I gave him a reassuring look and shook my head.
"Nothing that can't wait...I'm going after her. Is there, uh, anything you want me to say?"
He looked down to where his fists were clenched over the thin sheet covering his torso, and nodded.
"Tell... Tell her that I chose her before he ever did, and I need – no – I want her to choose me, too."
He swallowed thickly and clenched his eyes shut, finally giving in to the exhaustion that managing his pain caused, and sank his head into the pillow. I closed the door silently, leaving him with at least the illusion of some privacy – I knew how it felt to be not only rejected, but for it to play out to the full knowledge of the Pack. To this day, I didn't know if it was their pity or their smug, patronising responses which proved the most difficult to bear.
"I'm going to find Maya – I want one of you to check in on Charlie. It's been way too long since someone looked in on him – and I can't, right now."
A look was exchanged between Paul and Seth, and I stopped in my tracks. "What? What is it?" I grunted, dreading yet another bomb being dropped in my lap.
"Well, when I said Quil couldn't be here because he was patrolling, I wasn't lying. He's guarding Bella's house," Seth revealed. I frowned – why wouldn't they just tell me that? "We didn't tell you, well, because he said..." he looked uncomfortably to Paul, who rolled his eyes, folding his arms defiantly – he wasn't the least bit scared of my reaction.
"He said someone had to keep an eye on the Chief because you sure as hell wouldn't pull your head out of your ass before the guy starved to death or had a heart-attack from worry," Paul stated unapologetically. "Dude has a point, I mean, you weren't exactly Fun-Time-Barbie, last we saw of you."
I ground my teeth, angry, not at Quil, but at the fact he was completely justified in his digs – why the hell should anyone have believed I hadn't destroyed all the progress I'd made? It was only by complete good fortune that I had Bella this time round – Bella was the catalyst for my change, sure, but more than that, she sealed my future. Just by promising to love me.
I nodded, approaching the exit and I turned to them once more. "That's the reason he's my Beta," I said, letting the door swing closed behind me.
I didn't have to look far for her – Maya and I were still enough alike for me to know how she thought, and I knew that whenever she was upset, she either needed something to fix, or to destroy. Today, it was the former.
I guess she'd seen enough destruction for the past twenty-four hours – everything about her life laid in pieces, and she couldn't make them fit. It's hard when everything you thought you were sure of gets shattered.
I crossed the threshold of the workshop and scanned it. I could hear her, but I couldn't see her anywhere. A light sob filtered out from underneath a large, black Range Rover, a modern model I'd never seen before. I didn't even know she'd brought it here, or when, but it was barely hoisted off the ground. It was then that I could scent her, laying underneath on her back, but the tell-tale toes of her sneakers weren't poking out like they usually did. I dropped to one knee, bending to see a tuft of soft, inky-black hair – on the top of her head - resting on the ground, with Maya dishevelling it frustratedly using one hand, and a wrench in the other. She blew out a breath, let the wrench drop to the ground near her face, and buried her features in her palms.
"You know, I don't think laying upside down is gonna make it look any different," I said, and Maya craned her head to look at me with doeful, despondent eyes. She wasn't surprised to see me.
"I know, but maybe if I look at it this way, I can find something fucking wrong with the damn thing."
I raised a questioning brow. "Come again? There's nothing wrong with this car?"
"No," she groaned into the undercarriage, gesturing accusingly towards it. "Not anymore anyway. The one fucking time I need to get my hands dirty, and there's nothing wrong with the goddamn car." Her tone almost sounded rueful, but I knew her better than that. This was what she sounded like when she didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but was pushing for the former.
I laid on my own back and shimmied under too, caring little about messing up Embry's shirt that I'd borrowed, and using my elbows to nudge my body further in. Way too much time had passed since I was last beneath an engine, and my hands almost trembled with unused energy. I poked my fingers at the oil-crusted metal, almost sighing in relief. I loved the smell of it under here – all rubber, gasoline and metal, swimming together to make a scent that I was convinced should be made into some sort of perfume. It was the only thing – other than Bella – that gave me that kind of comfort. I couldn't exactly carry her around over my shoulder everywhere I went, though, so it was nice that I could find it in other places.
My head lined up with hers as I turned to look at her properly, her face looking crumpled and worn from distress, even if I was looking at her upside down. I guess it probably would have looked kind of funny, my feet poking out from under the front bumper, and Maya's from the rear, but if this was where she felt most at home, then so be it.
"Come to give me a pep-talk?" she muttered, sounding frustrated with the idea already. "It's alright, you know I wouldn't let anything happen to Em – I just... I need to process this, okay? I can't be much good to him without at least a little self-worth."
I turned my head and looked into the darkness of the engine. "I know that...Maya, if all I cared about was Embry, I'd just tear you a new one and make you go take care of him."
"Yeah well, imprints are supposed to be there for you guys, make you stronger and help you deal with all the crap that comes flying your way. It's practically your job to make sure I hold up my end of the deal."
I looked at her for a long moment, wondering how best to make her see. I gave a small smile which wasn't returned and shook my head, Maya raised her brows questioningly, moving her head around to get a better look.
"What? Why do you have that look on your face?"
"Look? I don't have a look," I said innocently, still not quite eyeing her, and resting my forearm behind my head. I had her. This little trick was something I'd used on Bella time and time again when I needed her to listen to what I had to say. The women in my life were nosy as hell, sometimes.
"But I do have a story," I said. She sighed wearily.
"Jake, I've already heard all about the spirit warriors and Taha Aki, you told me when we met..."
I shook my head, interrupting "No, it's about someone you'll probably identify with, I think."
I stared into the dark oblivion, letting the familiar tale come back to me, as if I'd heard it yesterday. Maya said nothing, the curiosity was written across her face and she pressed her mouth closed.
"Many years after Taha-Aki gave up his Spirit Wolf, when he became an old man, trouble began in the north..."
She was silent throughout the story, save for one or two clarifying questions. I could sense her interest. When I got to the part of the story where the Cullens came, I trailed off. She knew the rest – she'd lived it right along with me, with all of us.
"So, why are you telling me this? I mean, are you saying that I have a heroic suicide to look forward to? I gotta tell ya, Jake, the thought doesn't exactly have me doing the Macarena..."
I turned to her then, and smiled. "I know, but don't you see some similarities? I mean, if you hadn't lit that leech up like a bonfire, I would never have been able to phase."
She thought about this for a moment, and nodded. "Yeah, I guess I can see that. But what does any of this have to do with me and Embry?"
"It's got more to do with you than anything," I said shifting around to relieve the pressure on my back muscles. Although I was used to laying like this, I usually moved around a lot more. "You see, there was one part left out of that story all the times my father told it to me – The Third Wife didn't just have a son. She had a daughter, too. Many times, the girls are left out of these stories, some ancient misogynistic crap, I don't know," I dismissed.
Cracking my knuckles, I could see her rapt interest, even in the dim light.
"Now this daughter, she wasn't just an ordinary human – she'd inherited a special type of spirit, an ingrained trait that The Third Wife had displayed, and that was her legacy. The daughter was stolen away after her parents were gone, for her own protection. She was just a kid, after all. The safest place they could bring her was to another Reservation, and she lived there for the rest of her days, falling in love, having children, making a life there. It went on like that, each generation bringing a new daughter, one who held this spark inside her that gave her bravery beyond any human. They never knew about their ancestor, famous to the Quileutes, but unknown elsewhere."
Maya was studying me now, drawing her own conclusions. "You mean, I'm..."
I nodded, letting the proud smile come full force. She really was amazing, and it wasn't just Maya – she'd come from a long line of powerful, strong, independent women who passed on the traits which made her who she was.
"My dad did some digging, after we met – it's just his old, paranoid ways.. but he found some undiscovered accounts detailing what happened to the unnamed daughter. It was written down around the time most of the old stories were recorded, but nobody thought it was of much importance."
"So... somewhere in my bloodline, way back, I'm Quileute?" she asked, almost disbelievingly.
"Seems that way... sorry," I joked. She smiled for what felt the first time in days.
"No, it's good.. I mean," she sighed. "After my Mom and Dad died, I guess I always felt like the last of a dying breed – I don't know my other family, and I always kind of felt like I belonged here. I guess it makes sense now," she mused, a soft smile decorating her lips.
"It's not just that, Maya," I said, bracing her for more. "The Third Wife wasn't just anyone – her father was the tribe's Spiritual Healer, seemingly the last of the really powerful Medicine Men... he was a big deal."
She raised her brow again. "Really? So am I like... magic or something?" she quipped, fully expecting me to laugh along with her.
"Actually..." I said awkwardly – this was the part I wasn't sure she'd like so much. Maya had taken our imprint in her stride, but otherwise she was normal, and she classified herself that way. "Billy had some theories.. it's nothing for sure, but it'd explain some of what's going on, if he's right."
"I am not some spooky Sabrina-type," she warned adamantly. She slid her body out from under the Range Rover, stomping around the workshop and throwing tools into drawers.
"I'm just me, Jake – why does everything around here have to be all mystical and shit? I just want to lay in my bed, eat popcorn and watch Titanic," she grumbled, stopping to glare at me.
"Just hear me out, okay?" I asked, but she wasn't slowing down, instead shaking her head and banging the lid of her own toolbox closed. I grabbed her shoulders, turning her towards me and looked into her eyes. She stopped, snapping out of her rage as she looked at the shirt I was wearing. It was a classic, faded, Led Zeppelin 1977 design, and Embry had had it since high school. It was now more grey than the original black, and we used to tease him that he'd be buried in the thing, he wore it so damn much.
She pressed her lips together to hide the trembling, and promptly parked her butt on the edge of the workbench."Okay," she said, her voice hollow.
"Look, I know you don't want to hear that you've somehow caught mystic-fever from the rest of us, but this is something that's in your genes, and it's never really been needed until now." I moved to pace, wondering how best to start explaining things.
"Look, for whatever reason, you and I were meant to meet – our imprint wasn't an accident, and it wasn't just the spirits messing things up. A chain of events set in motion your being here, at the right time, in order to help me. I think – I don't know, maybe the imprint was to keep you around until you were needed, maybe it was to try and keep me from killing everyone around me when I went all darkside, but you and I were meant to find each other, Maya, and we're supposed to be friends."
She watched me pace dumbly, absorbing all the new information with a confused frown. "So you imprinted on me, so I could help you?" she asked, sounding a little more open to the whole thing. I nodded.
"Yes. Dad said your – spirit – or whatever, it was drawn back here, because you're vital to the Pack, and everyone has said that the only time I was even halfway human was when we were together – you were exactly what I needed, Maya."
"And you gave me a family, when I lost mine... I guess you were what I needed, too," she thought aloud. I smiled at her, happy that she'd gotten at least something out of being with me. So much of the time, it felt like the wolf took and took and left nothing but devastation in its path - the rubble was all over my life.
"Well, without the imprint, I may have scared you off, and you would have left, and you wouldn't have been here to help us," I explained. "But now, well, your purpose has been fulfilled – the imprint wasn't needed, because I forgot how to be angry. On top of that, you helped save us all when we could have lost everything to that vamp.. so..."
"So, Billy thinks that now, because you've done all that was required of you, and because Embry's wolf's back in action again, the spirits are giving you a reward."
I nodded. "Embry. He's your reward for helping us, for preserving my sanity, taking out the vamp... because he was your choice, and because you wanted him before they made you bound to me, you get Embry."
She was smiling again, and the look of pure love in her eyes spread a warmth throughout my body.
"So it's like, I imprinted on him?" she asked, a laugh threatening her voice, as if the entire concept was preposterous. I scrunched up my face – that didn't seem correct, and I had a hunch I knew the answer, somehow.
"Not completely... I think you guys were always meant to be, I just think whatever power was inside of you, from the Third Wife's Father, finally allowed his wolf to recognise your soul as his choice - because you'd fulfilled your duty. I think you would always have belonged to each other. You just have the insurance that nobody else will take him away from you now," I said. I wasn't even sure that made sense, but it did in my head.
I drew in a nervous breath. "So no, Maya, I'm not just here 'making sure you're holding up your end of the deal', because you never agreed to anything, and I don't force anyone's hand. It's completely your choice, but Embry made his, before the wolf ever did...he just wants to know if you've made yours."
Maya was silent for a long moment, studying the toes of her sneakers like they held the answers to all the world's debates.
Without a word, she got up, wound her arms around my middle and pressed me into a hug. She was still really freakin' small. "Thanks, Jake," she whispered.
"Um, you're welcome?" I said unsurely. Maya just gave me that smile like she knew me right down to my bones, and walked towards the door. "Where are you going?" I called, unable to keep from grinning that she was actually getting her happy ending.
She looked around at me like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"I've got a somebody who's wounded and in bad need of a sponge bath, and he's not going to take care of himself," she said, smiling. She reached into her pocket and tossed me a set of keys. "And by the way, so do you. Take my car, go grovel to Quil, and then go to the damn hospital. Your girl has waited long enough."
I didn't see the sense in arguing.
You slip your hands inside my pockets,
Tell me nothing else would do,
Without me, you can't live and,
You slip your heart into my chest,
They both become one of the strongest pairs,
When strangers come, and Darling...
A/N: Uh, Hi? Remember me? Remember this story? Probably not, it's been a while. I'm sorry for the gap, really, but you know why – Butterflies and Hurricanes has taken over my muse right now.
I want to thank everyone who voted for Maya in the JBNP Awards! She won second place Best Original Character (My homegirl Alex from Not Your Type won first, so I'm seriously okay with that...) It was a huge surprise, a major compliment, and I love you all.
Any questions about this chapter, and Maya's badassery, leave them in the reviews.
This story is nearing the end, I'm afraid... :(
This chapter is for niamhg, who gave me that little nudge to get back into this story, so thank her if you liked this ;)