A/N: Twilight belongs to Stephanie Meyer. I'm only making her characters do my bidding for a little while. The plot and original characters of Longing do belong to me, however. Jasper as the God of War and Peter "just knowing shit" are ideas that belong to Idreamofeddy.
Thank you to my awesome beta/pre-reader and sister, Shelljayz, my other beta, Laurie Whitlock, and my pre-readers, juliangelus and deebelle1. I love you all.
Thank you to all of you that have read, followed, favorited and reviewed. I also love you.
I really hope all of your holidays were as awesome as mine. I got to visit my aforementioned sister, brother-in-law and my niece, Charlotte Rose, who continually amazes me. I love them all and have missed them all so incredibly much and getting to see them was the most incredible gift. That I got to go to Disneyland with them and my parents—all my favorite people—for Charlotte's birthday was just the icing on the cake. I also got to see more of my family that I have also missed dreadfully and got to meet my cousin's new baby Ava for the first time. She is absolutely beautiful.
Now, some of you might not appreciate that this is another outtake instead of a chapter, but another chapter is coming soon. I will warn you though. While this outtake does contain some necessary information for future chapters, it isn't strictly necessary like all the others have been. Since the moment I decided to pair Leah and Jacob with each other, I came up with a back story I hoped I would get the opportunity to share with you. This was the opportunity I was waiting for and I couldn't resist waiting for it. As for the Paul POV, it was random inspiration I really wanted to explore and I had a lot of fun with it. I hope you enjoy both.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2080
Jacob, Paul, Seth and I had run into Bella on First Beach the day before. She was dressed in warm clothes, but her hair was dripping and her skin bore the scent of salt as a breeze blew gently in off the sea. She had obviously been swimming. It wasn't the smartest idea for a human in this chilly winter weather, but she wouldn't appreciate it if I told her that. I wouldn't have appreciated it, and we were a lot alike, so I had a decent hunch our reactions would be much the same.
Of course, by then, we were aware of why she was on the beach when she should have been at school during the last week before Forks High's Christmas break; those of us in the pack were there because we'd gotten out of school earlier than the kids both at the high school in town and on the Rez—one of a few lucky perks of being our tribe's supernatural guardians. Word spread fast in a bum-fuck shithole as small as Forks and leaked into the Rez just as quick. Some douchebag had put his hands on her, Bella had put him in the hospital and they had both paid the disciplinary price. It sucked that she'd been punished when she was the one who'd been attacked, and I was furious about it. It made me want to gather the pack and hunt the jackass down to exact revenge for his pure idiocy and doucheyness.
Bella and I talked on the phone regularly and saw each other at work often, spending our breaks together when we could, but we'd never had a chance to just hang out. Part of that was her making excuses to avoid it, which I didn't get offended by because Bella was a closed off kind of person. Another part was trying to find time that didn't conflict with my pack responsibilities. The rest of it was just run-of-the-mill life stuff that got in the way, but her early days off from school seemed like the perfect opportunity to change that. I could keep her mind off douchebags of every kind, and we could have a bonding day, so I invited her to come down to the Rez. I expected her to put up some sort of fight or make some excuse the way she usually did, but she didn't. She nodded and didn't even complain when I told her to be here at half-past six in the morning.
After I gave Bella an old wetsuit of mine, pre-wolf when I actually needed the warmth it provided and hadn't yet shot up to my gargantuan height, we started our day with a surfing lesson. Paul was the only guy with us—the girls-only part would start later—because the other wolves weren't typically early risers unless it was required for pack business. Bella caught on quick for a human, and two hours of catching waves later, we called it a day on the surfing front and headed back to my place.
Sure enough, when we got there, mom had breakfast ready. There was a whole assortment of food laid out on the table, enough to feed an army since us wolves actually ate as much as an army would—and I guess we kind of were in a way—and I went straight to it, piling my plate high. Bella did the same, and the girl impressed the hell out of me because she grabbed just as much food as I did and actually ate it all.
Paul had come with us because he was an asshole who was too lazy to slap together two dozen bagels and cream cheese at his own house for breakfast, which was probably what and how much he would have eaten after a morning of surfing if left to his own devices. He had watched her as all of us ate, trying to conceal just how interested he was, but Paul wasn't the most subtle guy. If Bella noticed how much attention he was paying her—had been paying her all morning—she gave no indication of it, which was good considering what had gone down the last time she'd been at school. I would have to say something to him about it or maybe just hit him upside the head. Either way, Paul liked her a lot. I could tell that Bella's ability to pack it down only made Paul like her that much more, or maybe it was seeing her lips wrap around a variety of silverware that had him so mesmerized. Jacob may have refused to let him apply for a job as a waiter there but he was at the diner just as much as I was, always sitting in Bella's section and pestering her for hours by ordering one thing at a time so he could talk to her as much as possible as she brought him his food.
To my surprise, talking wasn't code for flirting with her, though he did do a shitload of that as well. He would ask her how her day was or tell her a stupid joke or about something interesting he saw while he was on patrol or any number of other little things. He would persist with that kind of shit, taking whatever she threw back at him with unsettling good humor, until she cracked a smile or even laughed, which didn't always happen in a shift. When he did manage to make her smile, then he would hit her with the pick-up lines and sleazy innuendos. She would roll her eyes at him, slap him upside the head if it was warranted, and continue bringing him whatever it was he ordered next. I offered to switch sections with her once so she wouldn't have to deal with his bullshit, but she rolled her eyes at me and assured me she could handle him. And Bella could handle him, which was the problem, because that was precisely why Paul was so smitten. The only thing he didn't like about her was that she lived with the Cullens, and what was more surprising than anything else was that, even though he still wasn't crazy about it, he had gotten over it. If things were different, all of that would have been wonderful. He was still Paul—clueless jackass but loyal to a fault Paul—but he was acting more human while in man-form and less like his hot-headed wolf. The problem with it all was that Bella Crawfield was not his imprint. I knew better than most that the worst thing a wolf could do was fall in love with someone besides their imprint.
By the time we were finished eating, Seth was up, Jake, Embry, Quil and Jared had arrived at our place and they were all in the process of stuffing their faces.
My next plan for the day: cliff diving. I really thought Bella would love it, and there was minimal danger to her. She would be doing it with a bunch of werewolves, after all. If, on the off chance, things went to shit, we could get her out of it in a snap, and Bella seemed truly excited by the prospect. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by that, but I still was. Most humans wouldn't have had the balls, but there she was, standing with Jake, Seth, Paul, Quil, Embry, Jared and I, poised to jump the hundred feet to the ocean below.
"I'll go first," my awesome boyfriend informed us, though his words were meant entirely for our human friend. He grinned cockily, but it was still as infectious as always and I found myself grinning back. I was always happy and smiling when he was around. "Just to show you how it's done, and you know, to ease your mind about the safety and whatever. You don't have to be scared."
Bella rolled her eyes, and I couldn't help but do the same. She said nothing to that, which I found odd, but maybe refusing to dignify that with a response was her way of telling him to stick it. I really fucking loved her for that. I loved Jacob too, but honestly, that was kind of condescending even if that wasn't his intention.
Jacob bent slightly at the knees and pushed off the rough and rocky ground with barely restrained power. With the shorts he was wearing, I could only see the defined, corded muscles of his calves flex. However, the fact that he was shirtless allowed me to admire his deliciously well-developed back. It was beautiful to watch—mesmerizing even—the sight of his body conveying just how graceful and agile a creature he was. His dive was perfect, his body a flawless arc as he torpedoed through the air and into the water. There was very little splash as the ocean swallowed him whole.
"Well, that was certainly impressive," Bella conceded, her eyes having followed his movement like a hawk.
Paul moved within her line of sight, making sure that her attention shifted to him, and smirked. "If you think that was impressive, wait 'til you get a load of me."
He had succeeded in making her crack half a smile at the breakfast table earlier, so he had now moved on to the smarmy dick part of the day. Bella met that statement with another eye roll.
Quil went next, followed by Embry, then Jared and finally Seth. All of them performed some kind of macho trick on the way down: flips, twists, shifting backwards mid-dive and other such shit. They had all made their way back up to us and offered to go again to make totally sure she got the gist of it before she attempted it herself. Paul stepped forward, having waited this long most likely so he could top all the others and truly impress her, and was about to take his turn when Bella cut him off.
"Alright," she huffed, annoyed. This was where Bella and I differed some. I liked it when Jacob treated me like a girl as long as he didn't act as though being a girl diminished me in some way, and he was an expert at that. Even before we got together, he'd always made me feel like a girl who was also one of the guys instead of one of the guys all the others forgot was a girl. Sam had been good at that too, just not quite as good as Jake. Bella's voice brought me out of my musings. "Enough with the reassurances."
She moved so her feet were positioned just at the edge of the cliff face, rising on the balls of her feet, and took a deep breath but not in trepidation. It looked more like one of concentration, like she was trying to clear her head. But then Paul, like the lovesick dumbass he was, rushed up behind her and snaked his arms around her middle. As much of an idiot as he could be, I knew he meant no harm by it. He probably thought this was his big chance to really impress Bella, that maybe she would find his hold comforting as she dove from the cliff for the first time. Whatever love spell he was under somehow made him think it was okay to ignore the obvious signals she was always giving off, which screamed that she needed no such thing.
Bella did not appreciate Paul's sudden intereference and wasted no time in letting him know it. She brought her elbow back lightning quick, jabbing him in the stomach hard. As she had taken him by surprise, she succeeded in knocking the wind out of him; then she gripped one of the arms still wrapped around her middle and turned his momentum against him, making it his undoubtable enemy, and heaved mightily. Paul whipped over her head in a perfect arc and flailed inelegantly in the air as gravity pulled him down like an anvil. He hit the surface of the ocean with what looked like a painful and gigantic splash and came up spluttering a few seconds later, water gushing from his lungs and out of his mouth in great spasms.
The only person who didn't burst out laughing hysterically at his expense was Bella, which was totally understandable. I wanted to ask if she was okay but it was impossible to stop guffawing yet. Underneath the whooping though, we all wondered how she'd done it. Paul was ten inches taller and had at least eighty pounds of solid muscle on her.
By the time we all got control of ourselves, my sides were aching so much I had to hold them, and Paul had long made it back to the top of the cliff. He took turns scowling at all of us as we tried to compose ourselves and shooting Bella looks of slight panic and contrition. Those looks were the ones that told me I was right—that he really hadn't meant any harm—but he was still a fucking dumbass.
Paul held up his hands in surrender, approaching Bella with caution, remorse in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Bella. That was dumb—"
"Yep," she agreed, interrupting him mid-apology. She hadn't stopped glowering since she'd tossed him over the cliff. "But you're no stranger to doing dumb things, are you?"
His jaw tensed but he managed not to say anything to dig his own grave any deeper. "I swear I didn't mean any harm—"
"Please," she interrupted, rolling her eyes. "I know what a flirty jackass you are and that you rarely think before you act. You might want to work on that. You would certainly come across as less of an asshole. Plus, I'm really good at reading people, so other than that, you're more bark than bite—harmless."
Paul breathed a sigh of relief and Bella really was right. Paul was a hothead but he'd rather sink his teeth into an innocent tree than an innocent person.
The glower that had begun to fade from Bella's face came back with a vengeance. "That doesn't mean I'm sorry. I'm not, and if you do it again, the cliff I throw you off next will not have water at the bottom."
Paul gave her a sheepish expression. "I won't do it again. I promise."
Bella's nod was terse but she said nothing else.
"How did you even do that?" Jacob asked incredulously but still with humor in his voice. Then he echoed my thoughts from earlier. "Paul's got ten inches and eighty pounds on you!"
Bella rolled her eyes. "Haven't you ever heard of adrenaline? Fight or flight?"
And adrenaline was flowing through her veins. It had taken us all a long time to discern what the scents of certain chemicals that flooded the blood of humans during specific scenarios were. We could smell it on her now—the adrenaline—but her heart was beating steadily and her breathing was normal. That calm made me wonder just how many times she'd had to choose between fight or flight.
"Yeah," he replied, seemingly disturbed by her reply. I had a gut feeling it was because he was wondering the same thing I was.
"Well, then," she said, "there's your answer."
That made sense. Mass amounts of adrenaline made people capable of doing amazing, yet seemingly impossible things. Now I was wondering just how massive those amounts for those people to do those amazing things had to be because Bella's adrenaline didn't smell overpowering, so maybe all my assumptions had been wrong or maybe I was coming down with a cold or something and the adrenaline in her system was a hundred times worse than I could sense. Getting sick, though extraordinarily rare for us wolves, fucked with our sense of smell.
It was as she said those words that I felt him watching me. I always felt it. Sam. I couldn't believe he was actually here. We always invited him, but he never showed. I doubted he would come any nearer though. He didn't like being around Jacob and I, as much as we wished it was different. I turned to look at him, our eyes meeting. I shouldn't have but I never could resist. He was Sam, my first love, and things had ended so badly between us. I felt so guilty for that even though it wasn't my fault, and there were times when I looked at him and it just hit me … I still loved him. I think I would always love him in a way, but it wasn't quite the same. It was an echo, a shadow of what had been all those months ago. I had never loved Sam the way I loved Jacob. It was all so clear now. The imprint had made it clear. As much as I had loved Sam, we would have broken up eventually. Some first loves stay strong and last; others flicker and die as each person grows and matures. I had started to grow in a way that would have torn us apart even without the imprint. It was always Jacob, it would always be Jacob. We had never had a brother/sister relationship, and he had always been my best friend by far. Things between us had always been easy, even if we did butt heads and fight from time to time. As we grew and changed, we grew and changed together even if our relationship wasn't romantic. That was the way we had always been, but never the way it was with me and Sam. Jacob and I were destined as humans and as wolves. Sam had been a stepping stone for me, a learning experience. He taught me how to love so when Jacob and I inevitably came together, I knew what to do. That didn't sound fair and it did sound cruel, but it was true.
I felt another pair of eyes on us. Bella was watching Sam and I, studying us with the intensity of a mathematician trying to solve a particularly difficult equation. Then she turned and dove off the cliff. It was fluid and graceful, her body a gorgeous example of what it was to be a woman as she flew through space with nothing but the gray sky as a background, hitting the water with just as little splash as Jacob had. It was funny, but everything about her was kind of beautiful in that moment, surreal, and not just her looks or shape.
It was later in the day—two o'clock. The boys were off doing their own thing and mom and dad were at work. I was lounging on my bed while Bella was propped up against it as we watched a rerun of Person of Interest. Jim Caviezel as John Reese? Swoon. Bella seemed to agree. I had made us popcorn, a bag each, just in case her appetite was just as it had been that morning. It was and I found it strangely fascinating.
"You're starting to remind me of Emmett," she announced without turning to look at me, eyes still focused on my television.
I frowned. "How so?"
"You're watching me like you've never seen someone eat before, which is absurd after what I saw this morning with the others ... and you," she explained, still not facing me.
"Well, I never have seen someone eat the way you do," I told her. "Not a human, anyway. The guys and I are wolves. We don't count."
"Just what every girl wants to hear," she huffed, finally turning not just her head but her whole body, and leveling me with a half-grumpy expression. She folded her legs Indian-style and gave me all her annoyed attention. Even so, I knew she didn't really care. That wasn't the kind of girl she was. She wouldn't eat the way she did if she were.
"It's not a bad thing," I said, almost but not quite smug, and definitely amused that she was irritated. "It's just … do you always eat like that? And if you do, where do you put it all? And how do you manage to stay so thin and hot?"
"How do you?" she countered with an arched brow.
"I'm a wolf. We have high metabolisms, especially if we phase a lot, and we do," I answered, shifting so I was lying on my stomach across the middle of my bed, facing her. My legs were bent at the knees and dangled loosely over the backs of my thighs, elbows propped on the surface of the mattress so I could rest my chin on my hands as I looked at her.
"I have a high metabolism too," she said. "Also, I run and swim. It burns a lot of calories."
"Okay," I responded doubtfully. Yeah, swimming and running did burn a lot of calories but for the amount she ate? She'd have to run and swim all fucking day, every day, to keep her figure that awesome.
"So," she changed the subject. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," I answered immediately.
"Don't be so hasty to agree," Bella chided. "It's kind of personal. Not the type I generally ask, but I feel like I have to for the purpose of my safety … you know, in case I have to prepare for the possibility of finding myself in the middle of a bloodbath."
My eyebrows furrowed in confusion since I had no idea what she was talking about. "Go ahead. That's the kind of thing that comes along with this whole girly friendship crap I've always wanted, and I don't have to answer it if I don't want."
"Alright," she replied, watching me closely, just as she had right before she dove off the cliff. "What's up with you and Sam?"
"Right," I said. I'd had a feeling she might ask me about that. "That."
"Yes, that," she echoed. "There's history there, right?"
"Yes," I confirmed. "Sam and I dated. It didn't end well."
"I kind of picked up on that," she said, but there was no snark the way I expected there to be. "I saw the way he looked at you. There was love there but longing and bitterness too."
"Yeah," I agreed sadly. "We would still be together if not for …"
And we would still be together. Even if I knew in my heart that—wolf or not—I was meant for Jacob, I knew with just as much certainty that my love for Sam wouldn't yet have run its course had I not imprinted.
"If not for what?" Bella asked, her curiosity plain. If anyone else had been asking, I would have been annoyed.
"Imprinting," I replied.
"Imprinting?" she questioned, yet more curiosity flooding her.
I thought for a few minutes, trying to think how to explain imprinting to someone who would never experience the phenomenon for themselves … well, maybe Bella would, but it was unlikely. Still, there was a chance. Two more vampires lived in Forks now. That meant more of the tribe would make the transition from mere man to wolf, and it would probably happen soon. I still just had a feeling that she wasn't meant for a member of the pack, as cool as that would be. If she was, it seemed like she would have found us instead of the Cullens when she stumbled into Forks. Did that mean she was meant for one of them or just a vampire in general? I didn't know nor did I know how I felt about that possibility.
"It's a wolf thing," I started out, still uncertain of how to go about this. "And it's hard to explain, even to the wolves who haven't experienced it firsthand, and they see quite a bit of it and what it does through our telepathy."
"Give it a shot anyway," she encouraged. "If you want."
I bit my lip, something I rarely did, as I thought again. "I guess I should start at the beginning."
"The beginning is usually always the best place to start."
"True," I said hesitantly. My sordid history with Sam and Jacob was something I'd never discussed with anyone. I had never had to. Everyone just knew with our wolf telepathy thing, and everyone else on the Rez knew enough and assumed the rest. That wasn't something that had ever bothered me because there was nothing I could do about it. No normal person could know about the supernatural aspects of my love life or life in general, so their opinions meant nothing. As ill at ease as the idea of actually putting what had happened in to words, I had to admit that telling someone, especially someone with no connection to the pack or tribe, was appealing. It was also kind of a relief. Maybe Bella could offer some sort of insight or comfort no one else could.
"I already told you before that I never really meshed with the other girls on the Rez and that all my friends growing up were guys," I began. "There were two groups of them: Sam, Paul and Jared, and Jake, Quil and Embry. The common denominators between both groups were me, Jake and Sam. The three of us were the closest, even though Jake and Sam had slightly different core groups of friends. Despite that, because the three of us were so close, all of us—both groups—were good friends. There was even a bit of a division between the three of us."
I spoke my next words quietly, hesitantly, as if I was saying something sacrilege. In a way, I was. "Sam, Jacob and I were all best friends, but Jacob and I were knit the tightest. It might be because my dad and his are best friends and we were, and are, around each other more—I don't know. It doesn't really matter why, I guess.
"Some best friend relationships take on a brother/sister quality, but that was never the case with the three of us. Jake and I were the closest but still found each other attractive when we got to the age where that kind of thing matters. He and I never considered going there though," I said, my tone taking on a disbelieving quality. I didn't understand that now, why we hadn't. I didn't know why it was Sam I'd been drawn to at first. I could hardly remember the period in my life when anyone but Jacob was even a flicker of a possibility. "Even though Sam and I weren't as close, tension had been building between us for years and no one questioned if we would ever get together but when. It finally happened my freshman year of high school. He was a year older and a sophomore, and one night, at one of the tribal bonfires, he just kissed me and that was that."
I sighed at the memory of that kiss. Even with everything that had happened since, with how messy things had gotten, it still stood out starkly in my brain. It was my first one after all, and his lips had been warm and soft. It was a nice first kiss … my first kiss with Jacob had been better.
"I was already half in love with him by then, and it didn't take long for me to fall completely head over heels. He had always made it clear he felt the same, but as much as I loved Sam, Jacob was still my best friend with Sam a close second. Jake was the one I went to before anyone else when I had exciting or awful news. His was the first shoulder I cried on. I never thought about going to anyone else before him because I never had, but he and I never talked about it in front of Sam. We didn't see it as wrong but we also knew he wouldn't take it well. That I went to Jake first didn't change that I loved Sam more than anything, that he was it for me, or so I thought."
The guilt I felt over that now was immense.
"It was the July before my junior year and Sam and I were going strong. As far as I was concerned, our relationship was perfect and everyone else thought so too—my parents, my friends, the tribal council. All of them thought we couldn't have found a better match in anyone else, but then things got complicated."
I couldn't help the sigh that escaped, how I sucked my lip between my teeth or the way my eyes shut as I prepared to continue on to the most painful part of the story.
"My mother is only half Quileute—her father is pure-blooded. Her mother is Makah and held a powerful position in their tribe's council. When my grandparents decided to marry, my grandfather had to move to the Makah reservation so my grandmother could carry on on the council. When my mother met my father, she didn't have to stay with the Makahs though. She wasn't an only child, and my father is even more powerful with our tribe than her family is with theirs. It was acceptable. But my mother's only sister died a decade ago and grandma was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five years after that. Her health truly started to go to shit that July and she needed someone to care for her around the clock. We Native Americans look after each other, but my mom knew better how to handle her disease than anyone else and so did I, so she and I moved to the Makah reservation," I said, the sadness over the need for us to move for my grandmother's sake making my heart twist in my chest. She had died nearly a year ago and it hurt just as much now as it had the day she passed.
"I did independent study so I could be home as much as possible when school started," I told her miserably. "It was six months before she lost the battle."
The tears that gathered in the corners of my eyes as I whispered this weren't something I could fight against, but I didn't feel embarrassed or angry over it. If it had been anyone other than Jake or Bella, who wasn't regarding me with pity, I would have been. Bella had this way about her. If she wanted to make you uncomfortable, she damn well did, but if she didn't? She made you feel totally at ease.
"Sam was only able to come visit me a couple of times," I continued, my voice stronger now. "He had responsibilities he couldn't walk away from. His dad left when he was little, and it had fallen on him to pick up the slack. Jacob came to visit me more than Sam did initially but that was okay. I understood why Sam couldn't make it out as often, but when he did, things were a little strained between us. Watching my grandmother suffer made me bitchy and short with him—which aren't exactly personality traits I don't already have—and as much as he loved me, he didn't know how to comfort me, not the way Jacob did. That's why it hurt so much more when Jake stopped visiting all of a sudden."
I had always felt guilty about that. The knowledge that it wasn't my boyfriend's distance that broke my heart just seemed so wrong. At the time, I had tried desperately to make myself switch the two, but it had never worked.
"He wouldn't answer my phone calls or respond to my texts or emails, and I toyed with the idea of storming down to La Push to call him out on being such a heartless, lying jackass. He had promised he would always be there for me, but he lied. I felt betrayed. Sam replaced him as my rock then, even though I did occasionally treat him like shit and he didn't always try to understand the way Jacob did. It wasn't the same. He wasn't as good as Jake, as much of a bitch as that makes me for saying."
And I knew it did.
"After my grandma died, mom and I moved back to La Push of course, and everything was different. I already knew Jacob was. He had made that pretty fucking clear when he cut me out of his life, but other things had changed too. Paul had abandoned Sam and Jared in favor of Jacob's company, and Jacob no longer hung out with Quil and Embry. Our group had splintered apart and Jacob and Paul weren't acting like the boys I had grown up with and loved. Open and boisterous to the point of annoying sometimes, they were quiet and secretive, keeping to themselves and hardly ever around. When I left, Jacob was six feet tall and one hundred sixty pounds, but when I got back, he had shot up seven inches and gained probably sixty pounds of muscle. Paul had a similar growth spurt, and they cut off their hair. Jacob had always prized his long, shiny black hair. He was such a girl about it, and I always teased him. Seeing it gone made me sadder than it should have, but I've grown to like it short and it's more practical anyway."
Bella raised her eyebrows in question.
"The longer our hair is in human form, the shaggier our coat is when we're in our wolf one," I explained. "It's a pain in the ass."
She nodded and waited for me to pick up where I left off.
"Those weren't the only things that had changed though. The second day after mom and I got home, I felt someone looking at me. It was Jacob, and it was the first time he and I had seen each other in three months. He had never, ever looked at me that way before. It was his eyes that were different," I told her thoughtfully, not bothering to suppress the shiver that memory caused. I wouldn't have been successful anyway. "They held an intensity I had never seen, an intensity that penetrated me right through to my bones, to my soul. I didn't understand the change or the feeling it brought and I didn't see the point because he also seemed angry and I didn't know why. Since he had cut me out of his life, I assumed he was angry with me for some unknown reason, and since he took special care to avoid me, it only made me believe I was right, even though Billy swore I wasn't. You have no idea how much that hurt. Suspecting something and being proven right are two different things, you know?"
Bella nodded again.
"Things went back to normal between Sam and I. We picked up our relationship as though I had never gone and worked through the shit I hadn't meant to cause between us but did anyway, though things were different there too. Sam didn't understand Jacob's distance either, or Paul's for that matter. It hurt him. He had also noticed the way Jake looked at me, the change from how he used to. See, Jake didn't just look at me differently. He watched me too—just as differently—and as much as I tried to ignore that, it got more difficult the longer it went on. I thought about it, about him, more and more. Sam noticed I was distracted and that I had started to watch Jake almost as much as he watched me, but I couldn't help it, and he didn't like it. We got in to fights over it."
Those fights had been awful. Absolutely nasty.
"The look in Jake's eyes grew more intense and other emotions started to appear: longing, sadness, frustration, exhaustion. He just seemed so much older, too old, and I missed him so much. I wanted to fix how my feelings for him were changing, not to care, not to miss him when I had a perfectly loving boyfriend. I really did. I knew if I could just do that that the fights with Sam would stop. I just didn't know how because I also wanted to fix the pain my former best friend was in, and even though I didn't want to admit it to myself, that urge was stronger. Jacob was underneath my skin, in it. I felt so fucking awful and guilty about that. Sam deserved better."
Bella's expression was unchanged, merely intent and patient. She wasn't salivating for more of the drama that was obviously still to come. I loved her for that.
"It was a month before I finally did something about it. I couldn't stand the distance between Jacob and I anymore. It was driving me crazy and I had started to feel ... things whenever our eyes met, things that lingered long after he ran away from me when we bumped in to each other, things I had no business feeling when I was in a relationship with Sam. I was drawn to him and I had to confront him. I had to know why he had disappeared from my life. I thought that maybe if I knew that, that all those feelings would go away. I wanted to believe that they were just a result of losing him and missing him, and that if I got my best friend back, I could go back to loving Sam with no complications. Simple."
And part of me really had believed that, but a deeper, more primal part of me had known it was bullshit.
"I was on Jacob's doorstep when it happened the first time, when I went to force him to talk to me. I'd been feeling like death warmed over for days but I wasn't about to let that stop me from getting to the bottom of whatever the hell was going on with him. I phased, right there, right after I knocked on his front door.
"The first time it happens is scary as fuck. Hell, the first few times are. I mean we all grow up knowing the stories—of the Cold Ones and the shapeshifters, but that is all we're told they are ... stories. No one is supposed to know they're real unless you become one of the 'legends.' But Jacob was there. He'd heard and he phased too. He explained what had happened to me, what I was and what he was, but as scared as all that made me, it took a back seat the second I laid eyes on him because I finally understood. One look at him and the whole world shifted. I had imprinted and he was all that mattered."
The utter focus on him had been disorienting in a way, but it wasn't unfamiliar. He had slowly but surely become my only focus over the weeks before. Still, it was so much more powerful. It practically stole my breath. It was almost like I was seeing him for the first time.
"Jacob noticed the change in me, he heard it in my mind, and explained what imprinting was too. Our imprint is our soul mate, but it goes so much deeper than that. When you find them, it's like gravity is no longer holding you to Earth, tying you to this world, your imprint is. You would do anything for them, be anything, whatever they need. It isn't love at first sight, not really, but once I made the transition and saw Jacob for the first time through my wolf eyes, that's what it was for me. I think it's because we were friends for so long, that we had never seen each other as brother and sister, that he was always the one I went to first. The seeds were there, for all our lives, preparing us for what was to come because he and I were always meant to be wolves. With Jacob's lineage, he was always going to be an Alpha male someday, and despite my mother's Makah heritage, she also had Quileute blood, very pure Quileute blood, in her family tree as well. As for my dad's family, the Clearwaters, they are one of the purest bloodlines left in the tribe, and hardly any of the other families with the purest genetic ties to the tribe had daughters. That meant I was destined to be a wolf just as Jacob was, and not only that but the Alpha female. Since we're next in line that automatically makes us the Betas of the pack, second-in-command. It isn't a done deal for the Alpha male and female to imprint on each other, but things run smoother in the pack when they do."
That's how it was for Billy and Talise, but as far as we knew, there had only been a handful of Alphas who imprinted on each other. When it did happen, it seemed to always end up messy. Like Jake and I, Billy had been with someone else—with Rachel, Rebecca and Jake's mom, Sarah—when Talise came back to La Push after graduate school. Talise had been married as well—to the father of Jake's step-sister, Jocelyn. Also, like Jake and I, Billy and Talise had known each other all their lives and been close. They'd even dated as teenagers, before Billy had phased. They were each other's first love, which made me think they had been just as fated as humans as Jake and I as well. Predictably, nasty divorces ensued and Sarah died a few months later. She didn't take any of it well. She'd been drinking that night and wrapped her car around a tree. The guilt Billy and Talise felt over that was agonizing. Jake's and my situation with Sam was miserable, but at least no one had died because of it.
"Jacob and I were just always meant to be together even if we didn't see it as humans. In an instant, I loved him, wholeheartedly, irrevocably and unquestionably. But I realized that underneath it all, beneath the love I had for Sam—as deep as it had been—I had always unknowingly been in love with Jacob too, and it was the same for him. He didn't realize any of it either, that he was already in love with me, before he phased and imprinted after seeing me for the first time when I got back. It was why he looked at me the way he did, why he stayed away. He knew if he spent time with me that he wouldn't be able to stop himself from telling me how he felt and he didn't want to lose the friendship he had with me or with Sam. He wouldn't have lost me the way he feared. We would have worked through it somehow even if he couldn't tell me about the imprinting part of it because it would have been impossible, but he was right about losing Sam. But after I phased, hurting Sam, losing him, couldn't be helped. Jacob and I couldn't not be together, and being with Sam when I was so ridiculously in love with someone else wouldn't have been fair to any of us, so I left him for Jake and neither of us could explain to him why."
Traitorous tears gathered in my eyes, but I blinked them back. It was easier to tell Bella all of this than I had thought it would be, but I didn't want her to see me cry.
"Things were so fucking messy. Jake, Sam and I had been best friends all our lives, and in an instant, all that was gone. Sam hated us. It was two months before he himself phased and finally found out what happened, that Jake and I had imprinted on each other and that our relationship ending really didn't have anything to do with him or that I didn't love him. It helped ease things between the three of us, but not much. No matter the reason, his best friend still stole his girlfriend and his girlfriend still let him. The situation was and still is awkward, and there's still hurt there. Sam isn't a jerk but he still feels betrayed. He still loves me, and sometimes, it hits me that I still love him—he knows that through our wolf telepathy. When something like that ends so abruptly, there are unresolved feelings, but what he has never understood is that it was always Jake. It always would have been Jake whether we became wolves or not. Things between Sam and I would have ended at some point, our love would have run its course, and Jake and I would have come together, but Sam doesn't believe that. He never has. He's bitter and stubborn, and there's nothing any of us can do to change his mind because he believes what he wants to. Jake and I can't fix it because Sam has a right to be bitter and feel betrayed, to feel cheated, but we miss our friend. We want to fix it. We just ... can't. It's impossible for me not to love Jake, for him not to love me. We need to be together. Without Jake, I would never be happy … ever … and neither would he. Though it hurts Sam, who has been such a vital part of our lives for so long, Jake and I belong together."
"That's intense," Bella finally said after a minute, "and sucky."
"Yep," I agreed.
"Imprinting reminds me of vampire mating," she told me next.
I frowned, confused. I hadn't realized vampires had anything like that, even if some of the legends told of the wrath of a vampire seeking revenge on our tribe for the death of her lover.
"You didn't know," Bella guessed correctly.
"No," I replied. "As far as I know, none of us did."
"Well, it's similar," she reiterated matter-of-factly. "I don't know about the gravity thing, but the rest sounds just about dead on. Forgive the pun."
"Interesting," I mused. Maybe vampires were more like us than I thought. Not the bloodsucking, of course, but in other things. It was a surprising, nearly disturbing idea, even if I was growing to like the Cullens now that I knew they had saved Jacob's great-great-great to the nth degree grandfather, Ephraim's, wife and children and killed others of their kind for our sake. If they hadn't done that, Jacob wouldn't exist. I couldn't not be grateful.
"Yes, it is. Never thought you could have anything in common with a vampire, did you?" Bella so accurately echoed my thoughts that it kind of creeped me out, but it was oddly also a relief. She understood, so I didn't have to explain myself.
"Never in a million years," I confirmed. "The idea isn't as bad as I imagined it would be, but it's still kind of unsettling."
Bella just grinned at me and I couldn't help but grin back. It seemed a strange reaction to my revelation, but I was okay with it anyway.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2080
I was a jackass. I knew this. It wasn't anything new and my awareness of it did nothing to change my behavior. Today was the perfect example of it. It was who I was and I didn't care enough to try to change it. I said and did things without thinking and some of those things made me come across as a dick, but if you were my friend, you accepted that and dealt with it because you knew it wasn't personal and that if I cared about you, I had your back. Period. No matter what came out of my mouth. The difference about today was that I was actually sorry.
I was rarely ever sorry for being a jackass. I never did anything so horrible because of it that I really had to be. It wasn't that I didn't give a shit about hurting people's feelings, though I guess mostly I didn't. I just didn't believe in unnecessary apologies. Apologizing for every little thing made doing it for something really important less meaningful and it gave me a decent excuse to get out of groveling for stupid shit with every girl I dated.
Every relationship I had ever been in, and I use that term loosely, started out the same. The girls that caught my attention were all hot and seemed feisty and devil-may-care at first. That was more true of some than others, but ultimately, none of those girls could handle me. I never gave anyone false hopes. I didn't play games. Other than the wolf thing, what you saw was what you got with me, and I made sure they saw the jackass before I even suggested anything more than eye fucking from across the room. Those girls knew I stuck my foot in my mouth and wasn't bothered by the taste of it, they knew I didn't always show up when I said I would but never did it to prove any points or to be a dick on purpose. If I wanted to be a dick on purpose, I would come up with something far more direct and to the point than being late or saying something they might not want to hear. I also made sure they knew that my eyes did plenty of roaming but that if I was with her, I was only with her ... until I got bored. Unfortunately, I got bored fairly easily. I was restless; I always had been, even before I'd phased. Once that boredom inevitably set in, I left no doubts as to where we stood and moved on to someone else. That was where all the feisty girls proved they weren't very feisty at all because I made sure they knew all that, I prepared them, and not one of them had lasted a whole month before all the drama started. The "I can't believe you said that to me's," the "how could you do that's?" and the "don't you care if you hurt me at all's?"
And those are all dumb fucking statements and questions, the responses and answers to which no one ever liked:
Really, you can't believe I said that to you? or Have you not paid attention to a single thing I've said the whole time we've known each other? and my personal favorite, Haven't you figured out that I have no brain to mouth filter and even less tact?
"How can I do that?" I don't know ... I'm a guy? I might like her but that didn't mean every little thing I did and thought revolved around her. That meant I might occasionally forget to call or that it was her birthday or that her best friend loved unicorns and I shouldn't make jokes about wolves—which is to say me—slaughtering them. I mean, come on! They don't fucking exist! It's not my fault the chick has an unreasonable infatuation with an imaginary creature. Maybe that made me a jerk, but it's the truth, and like I'd already said, I'm a jackass. It is what it is. Will it change? Doubtful.
"And don't you care if you hurt me?" Yes, I do care if I hurt you but I have my limits. You see, when that hurt involves the fact that I refuse to coddle her by complimenting her awful cooking or lie when she asks me if her ass looks fat and it does or because I took off right after we had sex like it's the only reason I came to see her—and newsflash, sometimes it is—because of pack stuff, whose existence she was forbidden from knowing about ... well, then I don't care because that's small stuff that doesn't count. As far as the sex thing, I'm a fucking guy. How many times did I have to remind her of that before it penetrates her thick skull? Sensitivity is not my strong suit, and it isn't a trait that would do me any favors as a wolf. If I have to take off right after sex, I always make sure those are times I don't forget to call later. If a girl wants to be hurt over something, she should get all bent out of shape if I sneak out in the middle of the night and she wakes up all by herself. I prefer to fuck up the small things and get the big stuff right. The thing is, I hadn't ever met a girl I wanted to actually get to any of the big stuff with, and I suppose that's what I was doing. Waiting for someone to come along who made me give a shit about all of it, who made me want to be less of a jackass. So far, no one in La Push or Forks appeared to have that ability.
But then a certain ridiculously hot brunette walked in to Black's Auto Repair & Restoration and verbally handed me my ass when I mouthed off to her. She wasn't afraid of me at all and most people—not from the tribe … mostly—were. Just like with the leeches, people could sense that we were different, that we were dangerous, even if humans weren't our choice of prey.
At first I thought Bella Crawfield was one of those people whose fight or flight instincts were broken from the moment they were conceived, and it pissed me off in the worst way. The little lamb had caged herself in with a bunch of bloodsucking lions on purpose and didn't even know she was in danger; then she had the gall to call me an idiot and defend those lions, who would probably eat her, as though she was honor-bound to. She was a dumb little lamb but she had balls, and I liked it; but that was as far as it went.
Bella would be just like all the others. Despite her impressive and self-righteous temper tantrum at the auto shop, she would only appear to be the kind of feisty I required. After a few more run-ins, she would show her true colors—that she couldn't handle me—and lose most of her appeal, revert into the kind of girl I relegated solely to my spank bank because she was gorgeous but nothing else I desired. Only that didn't happen.
I saw her again and again, sometimes in person and others through wolf telepathy, mostly through Leah. It didn't help when Jacob pulled Beta rank, which he could get away with since he was second-in-command and next in line to be Alpha, to prevent me from being the one to get a job at the diner to keep an eye on her. It only made her more unattainable and me more curious and attracted. All those future times that were supposed to reveal Bella as nothing more than the weak, whiny drama queen she was underneath that fiery façade didn't happen the way I thought they would because there wasn't much, if anything, about Bella Crawfield that was fake. She didn't talk about herself much but she didn't put on airs either. Unlike me, however, she seemed to give more of a shit about hurting people's feelings, unless you gave her a real reason not to.
She made me curious in a way I had never been about a girl before—about anyone—so I made sure never to give her one. That way I could stick around and try to figure out why she was different than all the others and why she could handle me and everything I could dish out. So I went to the diner as often as I could whenever I knew she was working, and I always knew when she was working either through Leah or their boss, Laurie. The diner was the only place I could see her given her living arrangements, so I sat in her section and asked her questions.
She rarely ever answered those questions, and when she did, they were never ones that were all that revealing. I didn't really care though because I had gotten her talking to me, even if she smacked me upside the head half the time for some of the things I said in response. The questions weren't all I pestered her with. I also told her things. Most of it was random shit that wasn't meant to make her fall to her knees before me, though that was an image I conjured up of her quite often. I liked telling her little snippets about my day, sometimes even about me, or trying to make her laugh because she didn't smile or laugh enough, and once I experienced both of those things, I decided she should do them all the time.
I had already had a crush before Bella found out the truth about the Cullens and then about us. Reliving Leah's initial encounter with her over it and then the true revelation at the treaty line with Jacob and Emmett, who I wouldn't call a leech to his face if I ever had to talk to him for the sole reason that she bitched Jake out for it, clinched my feelings for her. Because that's when I learned the truth about Bella Crawfield.
The truth was there was nothing wrong with her. Her fight or flight instincts weren't broken. She knew exactly what she was doing when she hung around us supernatural beings, neither fighting nor fleeing. She valued her life as much as any sane person did, and she was always poised to engage in one or the other in any situation whether with words, avoidance or physicality. The difference was that she wasn't afraid, and I suspected it was because she knew how and when to pick her battles. She could recognize the situations that needed to be fought and the ones that could be left for another day or not at all, and when she fought, she did it with passion, conviction, fire and loyalty. In short, she wasn't afraid to fuck up the small things as long as she got the big stuff right. Like me.
And that was what made her different. I saw in her a lot of the same traits that made me more than just the hot-headed wolf of the pack. I was passionate. I had conviction and fire. I was loyal. My loyalty was a blood oath given to my brother and sister wolves as a sign that I would gladly die with them—for them—and do it proudly, not because it was my duty, even though it was; no, I would do it because I was a jackass who had no proper idea how to show my brothers and sister how I felt about them other than giving them that vow. So Bella and I were similar, but at the same time, we were cut from cloth so different that no one in their right mind would put us together. She had many of the qualities that would temper just how much of a jackass I was. Apparently, what I needed in a woman was a combination of everything I was and everything I wasn't. That was just speculation on my part though.
I knew falling for her was dumb, but she intrigued me, so much that I couldn't shake my desire to know her better or just my plain old desire for her. Acting on those feelings was even dumber, which was essentially what I had done at the cliff earlier. I knew that too—every wolf knew that. Falling in love with someone who wasn't your imprint was always a fucking disaster. There were always casualties and collateral damage. I didn't want that for Bella, though I doubted she would ever like me back.
Now I was waiting outside the Clearwater house, hours after the cliff diving debacle, propped against a thick Redwood tree. It was early evening and I knew from what I'd heard from inside that Bella was headed home. I had to see her before she did. I didn't know when I would see her again after this. Avoiding the diner for a little while was probably a good idea.
I needed to apologize to her once more. Sure, I didn't believe in offering them up in excess but this wasn't for something small. I had been my usual jackass self and hadn't thought before I acted. I did something stupid—put my foot in my mouth with actions instead of words—and this time, I very much minded the taste. This was a big thing I'd fucked up. Since that was the shit I preferred to get right, that meant I had to make this right.
"Paul, hi," she said when she caught sight of me. "What are you doing here? I'm not particularly fond of lurkers."
I grinned. Of course she wasn't. My smile only held for a second before I settled back into seriousness. "I just wanted to apologize again."
Her face remained neutral. When she spoke, her voice was too, "That isn't necessary. I already know you're sorry."
"But it is," I insisted. "I like you, Bella, and I did a stupid thing."
"Yes, you did," she responded evenly. "And I know you do, but Paul … you and I … you know that isn't going to happen, right?"
I let out a heavy sigh before I could stop myself. "Yeah, I suppose. Do you mind if I ask why? Is it because I'm such a jackass?"
I needed to know. I wasn't sure why I did, but I did all the same. It didn't matter that we could never be together.
"No," she assured me soundly. "It has nothing to do with that. I don't mind that you're a jackass. You can be kind of cool sometimes, sweet even—"
Sweet? That was certainly a word that had never been used to describe me before. It kind of threw me for a loop.
"—I just don't feel that way for you," Bella continued. "I don't really feel that way for anyone."
It didn't escape my notice that she qualified that statement. There was a difference between, "I don't feel that way for anyone," and "I don't really feel that way for anyone." It hurt a little.
"Dating isn't something I do, anyway," she said. "Besides, Leah told me about imprinting and everything that happened with her, Jake and Sam."
"She did?" I shouldn't be surprised by that. Gossiping was part of all that girly shit she'd always wanted, but it still did shock me.
"Yes," she replied. "And even if I did feel something for you, I know I'm not your imprint, and I'm not going to be with someone who's meant for someone else."
I gave her a half-smile. It was one of understanding and honesty. She was right. I was meant for someone else and being with her the way I wanted to be—to get to the big stuff with her—wouldn't be fair to either of us. I really did know that.
I closed the distance between us but didn't crowd her. "Don't worry about it. I'll get over it." And that was true. Then I held out my hand. "Friends?"
Bella stared at it for a moment before she took it and shook firmly. "Something like that."
I didn't know what that meant, but I would take it. At least now I knew that someday, when I did find my imprint, at least now I knew I would be capable of treating her right ... or that I could figure it out.
A/N: Well, there you go ... the story of Leah, Jacob and Sam. As far as Sam goes, never fear! He will get his happy ending and so will Paul.
Check out Person of Interest if you haven't. You won't be disappointed.
Next time we will be back to our regularly scheduled programming. :)
Take care all!