Two if by Heart
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. This is an amateur, non-profit work.
A/N: This story is a spin-off of A Forest Fire. It's not strictly necessary to read AFF to understand this story, but it'd certainly help. Also, there will be several AFF spoilers. This is going to be a short one: just two or three chapters. The next chapter should be up in about a week. Thanks for reading!
Beautiful, but smelly. Not the first impression Garrett expected to have of his alleged soul mate, but there it was. In the smoky, venom-soaked aftermath of battle, she stared at him, unblinking. Heat sneaked up his spine, tingled down his arms. Someone gasped — Jasper, Edward, maybe both. Given what he learned later of the thoughts and emotions coursing through the girl at that moment, he couldn't blame them.
"Hey, is she in shock?" Garrett asked. When his friends remained as still and open-mouthed as the wounded girl, he added, "Are you, for that matter?"
"No," Edward said, turning his attention back to the bite on the girl's arm. "She's fine. Um. Yes. Just fine."
Garrett tried to laugh, but it came out more like a snort. "Convincing."
"Unbelievable," the girl said. Falling back against the grass, she shook her head. "Just fucking great. Billions of human men on the planet, but no. I couldn't imprint on one of them."
"Imprint?" Garrett said.
Jasper sprinted away, disappearing into the forest. Garrett almost followed him. His friendship with Jasper and Alice had spanned decades. For a few years, they'd been almost like a coven. And now, Alice's ashes lay across the field, the remnants of her scent swirling up in dusty plumes. Even so, something kept Garrett rooted next to the strange girl who couldn't stop looking at him.
"I don't think it's my place to explain it you," Edward said, tapping his long fingers against his knee.
"Damn straight it isn't," the girl said.
Garrett took a chance and kneeled at her side. Not the wisest choice when surrounded by wolves who were designed to destroy his kind, perhaps, but he didn't think she would try to hurt him.
"Is it your place, then?" he said.
"No. No, it has to be some sort of false alarm. I mean, it's not like what I've seen through... It's impossible. Has to be."
"Hmm. Are you trying to convince me or yourself?"
Before she could answer with more than a roll of her eyes, a black wolf stalked toward them. The stench of wet dog overpowered the woodsier scent of the girl, made Garrett grimace and cover his nose. The black wolf was bigger than the others, with a growl to match. Fur bristling, his eyes locked onto Garrett's.
"Get back," the girl said, pushing Garrett toward the trees with a burning touch of his forearm. She offered Edward no similar warning before her bones shifted and she morphed into a small, gray wolf. Crouching in front of Garrett, she snapped her teeth and snarled.
The other wolf took a few stumbling steps back and fell into a sitting position. In growls and barks and weighty silences, the two of them argued until, eyes narrowed, the larger one retreated.
"Hold on," Edward said to the girl. His fingers went to work on the row of buttons down the middle of his torso, unfastening them to reveal a pale stripe of skin.
"What the hell are you doing?" Garrett said.
Edward nodded at the shreds of fabric that had once been the girl's shorts and tank top. In her panic, she hadn't removed them before phasing.
"She's decided it's not a false alarm. She wants to talk to you."
Oh. Had he known her longer than five minutes, Garrett might have teased her before offering her his own shirt. Instead, he turned his face to the trees to offer her some privacy.
"Okay," she said after a quick rustle of fabric. "I'm decent... ish."
She was tall — only a few inches shorter than Garrett. The hem of Edward's shirt hit mid-thigh on her long legs. She wore it without an ounce of embarrassment, as though she didn't realize or care that she was one strong breeze away from flashing a crowd of vampires. With her chin tilted up, she extended a hand to him.
The Cullens' house had never been so quiet. Without Alice, voices hushed, laughter fizzled out before it could really start. Unable to sit still, Garrett paced the halls.
Stay with them, Alice's letter had said — the one that'd arrived in the sweaty hands of a nervous, portly little man. Smile and take them on adventures and help them through this, since I can't. Your future is so fuzzy, but I know you. I know you'll be good at it. Just be yourself.
Nothing about imprinting. No mention of Leah, either. Knowing the future took the thrill out of it. He'd always told Alice as much, but in this case, a hint would've been welcome. Helping the Cullens was a given. That was never in question. But this imprinting business... he couldn't get his head around it.
How could he be the mate of his natural enemy? Was he bound to her, as she was bound to him? She'd vanished before he could voice any of his questions, leaving him alone to think over the scant information she'd revealed.
The rattle of Leah's car interrupted his thoughts. She'd come for Alice's funeral, Seth and Jacob in tow, clutching an offering of flowers. When Garrett rushed to open the door before she could knock, her pulse somersaulted into double-time.
Well. If he was indeed linked to her, it would certainly be an adventure.
Only the whisper of their breaths — already in time with each other — and the thud of Leah's heart cut through the silence of the forest. No rustling in the undergrowth, no songs trilling from the branches overhead. Animals fled where Garrett walked, birds migrated to safety.
"It's not like love at first sight," Leah said. "At least, it wasn't for me. Not for Quil, either, but I always figured that was because his imprint is a toddler."
Garrett's eyebrows shot up. "She is?"
"Yep. Sick, huh? Sam, though... yeah. For him, it was instant love. Like he was..." She swallowed hard and let out a bitter laugh. "Like he was suddenly complete."
"But you don't feel that way about me."
"Do you want me to?"
Remembering what she'd told him about the impulse among wolves to make their imprints happy, no matter the cost, he shook his head. "I hardly know you, and I'd rather you not be forced to feel anything against your will."
"You and me both." Picking up a fallen twig, she drew curlicues in the dirt around a cluster of roots. "I guess I sort of feel like Quil does. There's this draw that I can't ignore, and I want to protect you, which is so messed up. Hey, how old are you, anyway? Quil's going to give me hell if you're my grandfather's age or something. He's already made a few jokes about diapers. Which I probably had coming, to be honest, given what I've said about his imprint."
Ducking his head, Garrett only half-succeeded in disguising his chuckle as an unnecessary cough. "I'm not sure you'll like my answer."
"Damn. Under a hundred?"
"Not quite. I was born in 1755."
"1755?" Had any creatures remained nearby, they would've scattered at the piercing volume of her voice. "Are you kidding me?"
He grinned. "Changed during the Revolutionary War." After letting her hide her face in her hands and half-laugh, half-groan for a few moments, he added, "What does this imprint mean, in the long run?"
"Well, for me, it means I'll be drawn to you for the rest of my life. By all accounts, I won't be able to even consider being with anyone else. For you, it means whatever you want it to mean. It's not a two-way bond. You can—" she drew in a shaky breath, "—you can walk away. I wouldn't chase you, if that was your decision. I can take no for an answer."
"And you get no choice? You're chained to me, like it or not?"
"Yeah, but it could be worse." With an almost-smile, she shrugged one shoulder. "I could be chained to Edward."
His laugh was genuine, but short-lived. Another question sprang to his lips. "Your pack kills human-drinkers. Will they try—"
"No. Well, yes, they do that. They protect humans, but they won't hurt you. They can't. Imprints are off-limits."
"That's good to know." In one swift movement, he leaped to his feet. "Well, are you going to join me?"
"For my first drink of deer. I've heard it's quite the experience." Bending down, he offered her his hand. "I'll probably make a face. You wouldn't want to miss that."