A/N not beta'd, and super late. Hope you like it, regardless. choke
[chohk] verb, choked, chok·ing, noun.
verb (used with object)
1.to stop the breath of by squeezing or obstructing the windpipe; strangle; stifle.
2.to stop by or as if by strangling or stifling: The sudden wind choked his words.
3.to stop by filling; obstruct; clog: Grease choked the drain.
4.to suppress (a feeling, emotion, etc.) (often followed by back or down ): I managed to choke back my tears.
Paul waited in the kitchen while Swan dressed. He hadn't asked her if she wanted to tag along, and wasn't so sure he felt about it, regardless of her decision. Sam could suck it; Birdie didn't need to be near those leeches. Paul wasn't a fool; he knew what the summons was about.
The Cullens wanted to talk.
She came out, still smelling faintly of leech and well-water, but mostly of Paul. It was like she'd been bathed in his scent. Showered was probably a better term for it, he thought smugly.
She'd pulled on another one of Kim's donated outfits, something Paul remembered from years before, before the phase, before imprinting, before...all of it. It was still too big for Swan, but Kim was a busty girl. There wasn't anything to be done for it. All Paul could think of was how well he knew what Swan looked like naked now.
He knew what was hiding under those baggy, borrowed clothes."For the record, that didn't count. You're still a virgin."
"Nope." Paul didn't care. That wasn't Bella Swan losing her virginity, and it certainly wasn't Paul taking it. "I wasn't even in. I was almost in, close-" so fucking close, he could practically still feel the heat of her on his dick. "It doesn't count."
Birdie shifted on her feet nervously."Alright, I guess. Whatever you say."
It didn't take an idiot to connect the dots. Rejection was a sour smell. "When we finally do get down to business", he told her, assuring her they would. That Paul wasn't denying it because he was ashamed, or...or whatever reason she'd gotten in her head. "It will fucking rock, B. I will consider myself a failure if you can still walk when we're done. I'm not calling it a night until I can't even piss straight. So no, as fun as it was, that does not count. That was...no. When we fuck, it'll be better than that."
She snorted, cheeks burning a bright and beautiful red. "Should we..." She tilted her head towards the door, as she toed on her shoes.
Paul didn't bother with shoes. He hadn't even bothered buttoning up his shorts. "Depends. Do you want to come? You don't have to. Sam can eat a dick." Paul wasn't sure why he didn't feel compelled to take her to Sam. He'd never been one to balk at the Alpha's orders when the situation was so serious.
She blinked at him, and worried the sleeve of her sweater between her teeth. "Do you know if he's back? Or is it just Jasper and his wife?"
"No one said otherwise. But..." He shrugged. Swan knew. "It's always a possibility. I could phase and ask."
"It's fine. I'm fine." Paul nodded, and watched her grab a jacket from the peg by the door. It was one of Paul's - a heavy tan Carhartt full of holes and thick with the smell of engine grease and cigarette smoke- something he wore only when it would be weird to do otherwise. "Do you have to phase?"
He should, just to catch-up with Sam and maybe gloat about getting Swan's pants off, a little. Just a little. His wolf was itching to phase, regardless, pent up with all the good kinds of tension (victory and sex). But if Swan didn't want him to, he wouldn't. "No."
She deflated, the thick lines of tension holding her shoulders taught falling away as if they'd been cut. "Good. I just...I guess I just want your hands on me. I mean...well no. I mean what I said. I just...need you there. I'm sorry. You make me feel better, like...I don't know. Having you there, I think I can do it."
It might have been the scent thing, Paul was mostly sure of it. "No need to be sorry." It was funny; her sudden clinging need for him had been one of his most prominent worries, but he didn't feel like a replacement part. It felt right for her to need him. "I..." He frowned; Paul didn't like clingy. Except. It didn't feel clingy. "It's not exactly a hardship to put my hands on you B." Paul cleared his throat, and wondered what the hell was wrong with him. Emotional attachment, he realized, was a new and foreign thing to him. He loved his mother, and he loved his pack and woah. That wasn't even a basis for comparison really. Not yet. Was it? Of course not. "The clearing isn't far. We can drive to the forest line and walk. Whatever it is, they can wait." He grabbed his keys off the counter, and held the door open for her. "I have the feeling that you're the guest of honor, anyway."
"Yeah." Swan snorted. "I was afraid of that."
They drove to the tree line in silence. Birdie only let go of his hand as they climbed out of the car. He pulled her close as they crossed into the trees, dipping deeper into the forest than she was probably use too. He considered carrying her, but knew that it was better she use these moments to get herself together.
Paul's skin prickled as the scent of leech grew thicker with every step. The only thing that kept his skin from quacking was the smell of pack, overwhelmingly thick and all around him. This was their land, he reminded himself, fingers flexing in Birdies.
"No." Honesty made her lips curl up into a wry smile. "But...I'd rather have this behind me. How many are there?"
He sniffed at the air, and grimaced. "Too many scents to tell. Too many newborns, too many Cullens. I can smell four, two are Jasper and his wife. The other two, I can't be sure." "
"Right." She flashed him a sharp smile, stumbling over a branch. "Edward...you know. He can read minds. At a pretty far distance too, I think."
Devious. Petty. But, a little pettiness was probably healthy for her, at this stage. It was better than the painful, crippling longing she'd filled herself with before. It would serve to take her mind off things; levity went far in dire situations. Paul could be funny, when he wanted too, but he was better at being blunt. "Is that so?" He grinned, helping her over a fallen log. "I don't know if I like him seeing you come all over me, though."
Birdie made an aborted, half-choked noise. "Paul." She laughed, breathless and a tiny bit hysterical. Paul considered it a win, as the sour curl in her scent withered a little, replaced with something almost minty. Something just for Paul. Affection. Or possibly embarrassment. Embarrassmint?"I didn't want you to say it where everyone could hear."
"Oh B." Paul snorted, and pulled her closer. Embarrassment seemed to trump her nerves . "Secrets don't last in the pack. I didn't even bother to wash my hands." But that was mostly for Cullen's benefit. And maybe his own; Paul liked having her on him.
Bella smirked too and...it wasn't what Paul had been expecting. He'd been expecting breakdowns, shaking, crying, something. He wasn't expecting this...this Bella Swan who seemed practically put together. Paul decided that he wouldn't dwell on it; if Swan wasn't freaking out, he shouldn't either.
"I didn't bother to wipe my stomach off."
Which would explain why she smelled more or less like his ballsack, yeah. "Wow, Birdie. That's... Huh. Kind of slutty. I'm impressed."
Embarrassment smelled like limes. The mint was all for him. The combination wasn't unlike a mojito. "What? It isn't...I'm not-"
"Nope. It's totally slutty. Slutty B." He swung their hands together, ignoring the weight of too many eyes as they cut through the trees. Swan would notice them soon.
She sputtered, snorting indignantly.. "Well...you would know, wouldn't you!"
Paul barked out a laugh. At least she hadn't been truly offended, as too many girls would. Paul couldn't stand a chick who couldn't take a joke. Swan, when she wanted too, gave as good as she got. "Well, apparently I'm sticking it to one so yeah, I guess I would."
"Whatever." She rolled her eyes and elbowed him in the stomach lightly."Maybe you're just rubbing off on me."
He grinned, and threw an arm over her shoulders. "Certainly smells that way."
Through her glower, Paul could still see her little smile. It had been making an appearance more often in recent days."Dick."
"Geeze girl, we just got out of bed. It's really not the time or place, Birdie."
"Oh my god, why am I even encouraging you?" Even as she spoke, the mint scent exploded. His wolf wanted to roll in it.
"You like it."
"If you're done flirting," Sam's voice said, cutting across the thinning wood. "We all have places we'd rather be right now."
Swan tensed, but her steps never faltered. They met the wolves by the water, nothing but a river separating them from the Cullens. Just the two; no Edward. Sam stood before the wolves, naked and human.
Paul pulled her to him, pressing her back flush against his chest. "You good Birdie?"
She leaned back into him, gaze never wavering. Her wide, empty gaze reminded him of the way she use to look; haunted and broken. Paul could hear her grinding her teeth, bitter curls stinging his nose, cutting through all the lime and mint. Resentment. "They're not as pretty as I remember."
Sam choked on a snort, but composed himself. If the wagging tails were anything to go by, the wolves were laughing too. "The Cullen's requested your presence. They wanted to be sure you were...safe." The with us went unsaid, but Paul knew. " They refused to continue until they knew for sure that you were okay."
"I'd be better if they left," Swan said, holding Paul's hand against her chest. Her heart hammered in her chest like a humming bird. Whatever tentative strand she'd found herself holding on to, it was fraying now. Paul could smell the rising tide of anxiety on her, and held her closer. "I don't want them here."
For all that she was staring, empty and blank, she didn't speak to them directly. It was lost on no one.
Sam nodded. "Clearly, you're okay.. Sorry we...interrupted."
"You call this okay? Look at her. What have you done to her?" Paul could understand where the little leech was coming from. Swan was still thin and pale, with dark circles heavy beneath her eyes. She looked better than she had in months. Alice stepped forward, freezing only when every wolf began to growl, hackles rising.
"You're very quick to blame us," Sam said, his gaze cold and cruel. "The only thing we're guilty of is not protecting Bella from you." When Alice flinched, Paul knew what the little Seer had probably envisioned. Swan, curled up in a ball, catatonic on the forest floor, just like a druggie in withdrawal. The whole Pack remembered it with violent clarity, as if they'd witnessed it with their own eyes. After the incident with the shit under the floorboards, Paul had seen the yellow raincoat in Jared's trashcan. He never did thank him for that.
With a caveman-like urge to haul her up over his shoulder, Paul nudged at Swans back. "Come on Birdie, let's head back to the house before the rain hits. We're done here."
"Wait, Bella. Won't you just talk to us ?" Alice stood in the river, ankle deep in chilly water. Her voice was plaintive, pleading. But there was something else there too, something unnaturally demanding.
Paul snarled, feeling a shiver of loathing quake across his skin. He wouldn't phase, not with Swan this close, but God. He wanted too.
"Paul," Sam began, his voice a careful mix of cautious and supportive. Not a trace of Alpha tenor. "Step awa-"
He shook his head, rolling it over his shoulders until his neck cracked. "No. I'm good. I'm fine. We're leaving now. We never should have come."
Alice darkened eyes shifted back to Bella, the snarl on his lips melting away shamelessly. When she spoke, it was almost patronizing. " Bella, you have to understand-"
"No." Swan stepped forward, but Paul didn't let her go far. "No. You don't get to talk to me. You don't get to talk about me. You don't even get to look at me. I hate you." Alice flinched, but Swan didn't seem to care. "I can do that now, did you know? I can hate you all like I should. I didn't before. I pined for him, I...I was a mess. A zombie, Alice. Suicidal. I couldn't even be mad like a normal person. Not until Paul, not until the Pack. You don't get to ruin that. I hate you. Every single one of you. You make me sick and if I never see you again, it'll be too soon. I fucking hate you."
"That can't be true," Jasper argued, brow furrowed. Paul snarled because fuck Jasper with a goddamn cactus, Swan's was the only opinion that mattered. "I can feel a connection, a longing-"
"An addiction," Swan supplied, and Jasper didn't deny it. His face grew pinched, mouth pulling into a grim, thin line. "Like a fucking crack head, you bastard. Can you feel that? Can you? I hate you because a part of me wants to come crawling back, wants to beg you both to say, and it's sick. Standing here, thinking how easy it would be to let you lead me away, it's sick and I hate you for it. You're like an infection, the whole lot of you. Just because you left, it didn't mean you were gone and I just...I fucking hate you."
To that, Jasper Cullen had nothing to say. Paul watched him flex his hands, clenching and unclenching them at his sides. He looked inexplicably guilty. But then, he must have been feeling everything Swan did, all that hurt, and desperation. Not to mention the condemnation of the pack, echoing sevenfold. He had every right to feel guilty.
"We didn't know that could happen," Alice Cullen said, staring at Swan.
Her husband frowned, mouth pulling pinched. "I had wondered once why your emotions shifted so dramatically when with Edward. The depths of your...well. It makes sense now. We didn't know. Our kind don't usually take up with humans, and those we do...well, they don't stay humans for long."
"I think..." Alice's face crumpled. "I think Edward might have known. Or suspected. Your reaction to the incident on your birthday Bella...it wasn't normal. We were all worried."
"For good reason," Sam said darkly. He could never shake the broken image of Swan alone in the forest from his mind. It haunted him, and the rest of the pack. "If that's all?"
"We'll gather the rest of the newborns," Jasper announced. "There are only three left, from what Alice has seen, and she's confirmed we'll capture all of them by the end of the week without any further incident. They won't stray near the Reservation, not knowing that their Maker was slain here. We'll let you know when the situation has been dealt with. One week."
"I'll keep Wolves on the border for the remainder of the week," Sam said, clearly doubting the skills. "I would ask also that you take word back to your matriarch. The Cullen Clan is no longer welcome here."
"You're absolving the treaty?" Alice's eyes widened. "We broke no law."
"You endangered my people, both of La Push and Forks, by unwittingly welcoming innumerable vampires into the area and then leaving without so much as a word." Sam never wavered, even when his gaze shifted to Swan. "Bella was right; your presence is an infection. Children, barely past puberty, are phasing. The treaty was lodged before we understood the full effects of your being here, and the connotations behind them.
Your being here, it's like a beacon to those of your kind. But not all Vampires feed as you do, and we can't allow your continued stay to welcome them into our fold. This is your warning; he next time we see you, we'll consider your presence hostile and act accordingly. My loyalties are not to a treaty I had no say in; my oath is sworn to my people, my pack, and those loyal to me. The ancestors were mistaken to ever welcome your kind here."
A light sprinkle began to fall, filtered through the dense trees. "Come on Bella," Paul said, pulling her along.
"Bella!" Alice's voice rang out like a bell, beautiful and clear, but it still sent the birds above fluttering from their trees. Predator. "Bella, we're sorry-"
"You don't speak for your whole family," Birdie said, staring at the ground. Her heart had began to race, so Paul pulled her closer, and wrapped himself around her. "Just like Edward didn't before. It isn't fair to anyone. Not them. Not me."
"They will be though," Alice promised. "I can already see it. Edward, he-"
"No." Paul's voice was firm, pouring out in a hard, body-shaking growl. "Absolutely not. No. You heard her, you don't speak for anyone but yourself. You don't get to say he's sorry, and then go home feeling better. He doesn't deserve the absolution. He wouldn't deserve it if he were here himself. He's a dick, you're a dick, you're whole damn family is a bunch of undead dicks. Didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with your food?"
"We've never-" Jasper growled, cutting of his wife. Alice cleared her throat. "I've never hurt a human."
"That's a lie." Paul stared her down, daring her to deny it. His mouth formed the words before he could really think on them. Before he could notice he wasn't only speaking for Swan. "Hurt goes farther than bruises, bones, and blood. You're dead now, but you were alive once. You have to know. If it were just a scar...well, that's easier to heal. Because once the blood is gone, and the skin's closed up, all that's left is a mark. And even over time, that will fade too.. But sometimes, it's the memory that hurts. And memories might fade, but the feelings never do. You can shove them back, keep shoving them back, you can forgive, but you never forget."
"We didn't know-"
"Stop lying!" Paul pushed Swan behind him, feeling his bones creak and twist and want. He wouldn't phase. He wouldn't. "You leeches disgust me. You're worse than the red-eyed kind. You've spent so long playing human, it's like you've forgotten that you're not! That's what makes you dangerous! Not your fucking teeth. You've bought your own lies. Bella told me what your brother said. That everything about you is alluring. Addicting. You know what you do to humans, whether you mean to or not. And still, you welcomed her into your world like it couldn't hurt her. You knew."
"Alice," Jasper said, silencing her before she could speak. "Go tell them not to come."
Alice nodded, eyes lingering over Swan. "Of course." And with that, Alice Cullen left, in a blur of white.
Jasper didn't speak again until the sounds of her feet were lost to the Olympic Forest. "I knew," he said, nodding. "Specifically, I wasn't aware of the side-effects, as the humans I witnessed were...turned, or killed. But I did know that a human could be...drugged, for a lack of a better word, by our presence alone. I hadn't considered this could be done unintentionally, as I know my brother acted. I was never comfortable with his affiliations, but I wasn't allowed to voice those opinions due to my...violent history." He shrugged. "I've hurt many humans, Bella Swan included. I don't like the way the Cullens live, with their masks and lies. It's hard for me, to carry their charade. But." His eyes trailed the way Alice had come. "I love them. I assume Bella has told you of our abilities? My ability?" Paul and Sam nodded, wordless and wary. "The Cullens loved Bella. It doesn't make things right, it isn't an apology, but it is the truth. I don't know if it helps. I would just...I would rather you know that, Bella."
Swan was still for a long moment, before peering around Paul. He threw an arm over her, and pulled her close again. "I never doubted it." Hadn't she just said that believing as much made it easier to bear?
Jasper hesitated, mouth pulling into a line-less frown as he stared at the pair of them, and then to the wolves. "Are you one pack?"
"What?" Sam's eyes narrowed. "Yes."
"I meant no offense. You're wolves feel different." Jasper pointed to Jared and Jake, and then to Paul and Sam. "You four...are different." He made a face, uncomfortable, but knowing. "You feel mated."
Sam's mouth twitched into a half snarl. "That's not your business."
Jasper nodded, taking a respectful step back. "It isn't. Only...well. Considering the world Bella was lead into...I'd feel better knowing she was mated to one of yours, if not one of mine. Knowing she's safe."
"Her safety isn't your concern." Sam crossed his arms over his chest. "Go now."
"On the border," Jasper said, trudging up the muddy river bank. "One week. At..."
"Sunrise." Sam tipped his head. "Two of mine will meet two of yours. After that, the treaty is done."
"You're not eating enough." He held her hair as she dry heaved, head hanging over his toilet. She was naked, and soapy from her unfinished shower. Rain poured outside, enough to blur the world into a wash of gray and muddy green. The roads were already beginning to flood.
Rinsing her mouth with water straight from the tap, Swan leveled him with a mean glare. "Shut up."
Paul leaned against the counter, frowning. "Is this like a...stomach flu puking, a stress puking or..." He knew the alternatives. "Come on B, talk to me."
"I was just showering." She sighed, and ran her hands through her damp hair. "I was rinsing off when I just...my stomach started hurting. Like cramps, sort of but...I got shaky, kind of dizzy. That's when I called for you."
He threw a towel over her shoulders, and lead her out of the bathroom. "Come on," he grumbled, leading her down the hall. "I've got a TV in my room. I'll make you a grilled cheese. We can hang out until the storm blows over. I don't think Sam needs me right now anyway."
If he did, he'd have called Paul by now. He watched her dry off and slip naked between his sheets. "You need a bucket?" He didn't want to wash the sheets yet, not when they smelled so heavily of her.
Birdie snorted, burying her face in his pillow. "I'm good now. Thanks."
It didn't occur to him what had happen until he'd eaten two sandwiches, and was plating hers. "You don't smell like me anymore," he announced, setting her plate on the bedside table. "I mean, you didn't. In the shower. That's why you spazzed out."
"Wolf-stink is like the anti-leech smell. Or something. I don't know. It curbs the cravings. I've figured that was the case by now. You're always more mellow when we're close."
She picked up the sandwich, shredding the crust from the edges methodically. "So I'm addicted to you instead?" She looked green at the thought.
"Not essentially, no. I think it's more like a methadone-effect." Paul had done his research, long before he ever met Swan. "I don't get you high like they did."
"I never felt high with them." Swan scrunched up her nose, and frowned. "At least, I don't think I did. When I found all that stuff in the floorboards, that was...different." She took a bite, chewing slowly, and Paul guessed that she didn't want to talk anymore.
But...tough shit. "That's because you hadn't had a hit in a while. When I'm not with you, how do you feel?"
"Like crap," she answered, embarrassed."I miss you. But..not like I missed Jake. When he left, I felt sick. It was like missing Edward, but on a different level I guess. But when you're not around...I don't know. I just miss you. Shut up, stop making that face. We don't actually spend all that much time apart."
And they didn't, not recently. Or maybe the last two days just felt like an eternity. "I think..and I mean, I'm just pulling this stuff out of my ass so I could be wrong, but I think that Jake was your original methadone." Paul slipped into bed behind her, tucking his chin up over her shoulder. "He's what curbed your original...cravings. And then you were cut off cold turkey, and it was like jonesing all over again. And then me."
"So, you don't think I'm addicted to you," Swan said, mouth pulling into a frown. "I still need you though. I mean, not like that. Although, I guess. It doesn't hurt. But...I don't know. I don't know when this happened." She shrugged against him, lacing her fingers with his where they laid over her stomach. "But, I feel like me again. Not even just when I'm with you, but...since I've met you. I feel better, awake. Something. Maybe not happy, maybe not yet. But...I feel like I could belong here, on the Rez, with you and the Pack." She laughed, curling over into him. " Slapping you in the face might have been the smartest thing I've ever done."
The memory of that day sparked something in his mind, vague and fuzzy. It hurt, almost, to think about. That in itself made Paul want to pick at it. So he did. He picked at it, but he found that he couldn't. Couldn't remember anything but the heat of her palm on his face and Sam's voice in the back of his head, buzzing loud and angry. Couldn't remember anything but the steely gaze of her wide brown eyes. Couldn't remember anything but the sound of Swan's feet as the pack lead her away. Couldn't remember anything but the way the wolf had howled, victorious even before he'd landed a blow on Jacob. Couldn't remember anything but...but that was everything, wasn't it? Then why did it feel like something was missing, like a piece of the puzzle hadn't yet to fall in place?
He wasn't sure. He couldn't remember.
Instead, he thought what had happened afterward. Little by little, Paul had worked his way into her life. What had began as a self-serving, grudgingly offered promise had somehow stumbled out of control, spinning until it was this, a tangled web of arms and legs, twisted between Paul's sheets and the inexplicable sense of rightness. He couldn't figure out where it had happen, where the road had forked and he'd chosen this path. Except, maybe there had never been a fork. Maybe this had always been the path.
Maybe it was just meant to be.
The wolf snarled, tearing a tremor right through him. Yes. Remember it.
"Hey, you're shaking." Birdie rolled over, and looked up at him, those eyes of her wide as ever except now...well. Now Paul couldn't look away. How could he, now when she had those big brown eyes on him? How could he look away when he felt like this? How could he...breathe. How could he think? How could he function with her hands on him? How had he gotten here? How couldn't he have known? How could he look away, when he felt like he was being gutted and re-filled with sharp little shards of broken glass and pain. " Paul? What's wrong? Say something. You're scaring me."
Mine, the wolf said, with vicious satisfaction. Mine forever. Don't forget.
Paul was pretty sure imprinting shouldn't hurt so bad.
"I have to go," hechoked, rolling out of the bed. He could taste blood in his mouth, acrid and hot. "I...I have to go. Stay inside. Stay in bed. Sam...I need to talk to Sam. Stay inside."
"Paul!" Swan struggled to free herself from the sheets, sitting up in a state of perfect ruin. Her hair was a mess, and her skin was pale, and peppered with bruises and cuts. She was still too damn thin. Paul was fairly sure the sight of her shouldn't break his heart and fill him with light all at once. He felt sick.
"I'll be back," he told Bella. Bella Swan, his imprint. Bella Swan, his. His, a thousand times over. And... He shook his head, a migraine brewing behind his eyes. Something was missing. Something..."Please just...I..."
"Go," Bella said, brows pulled together in confusion, in hurt. "Just...come back, okay?"
"I..." God. How could he leave her? But it hurt to look at her, almost like he shouldn't. Like he wasn't aloud. "Of course. Always."
It hurt to look at her. Why?
He phased, but found no comfort in the way the wolf wrapped around him and took over. All he could see was Bella, the smell of her etched deep within his skin. Bella Swan. Bella Swan, his forever. Remember. Don't forget.
The last thing he saw was black.
A/N So, this happened. Honestly this wasn't how I planned it, but I kind of like it.