A/N: I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO UPDATE FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS! Did that catch your attention? Finals is coming up for me and it's going to be a little hard to update once a week like I have been doing. However, if you leave a review - long, short, whatever - I might pull off a miracle and update on the second week while trying to study for upcoming tests. Yes, this is shameless bribery and I'm aware of that. :)

But if I don't show up somewhere between the second week and after that, feel free to bring your pitchforks.

Thanks to my consistent reviewers: d112hpfan, winstonwolfe, Mylanta56, Super Nerd Bomber, SmellTheFlowers, PrissyKyle, Ceasar-Flickerman, Coffeebean Queen, thanks to my new reviewers: Skb. xD, Maxsmomma, The all mighty and powerfulM, and wolfhappiness, and thank you to all my anonymous readers and reviewers. All this support is very much appreciated, you guys!



Chapter Three

[Be my mirror, my sword and shield]

Their mate was scared.

She didn't show it, of course. Her face remained expressionless – an unconscious and rebellious action from displaying any true emotion – as sanguine yellow started to completely camouflage the rich brownness of the human's eyes. But there was no denying the subtle spike of her heartbeat, the aura of her skin growing colder than it normally was, or the smell of illusive terror that drove both Seth and the wolf absolutely and manically crazy because their imprint had no reason to be frightened around him...them.

Lucy blinked once, only to find herself pinned to the nearest wall of the dining room. The effort of doing so had resulted in the table being slammed off to the side and the decorated chairs scraping loudly against the floor as they were forced out of the way. The wall dug into her back from behind as Seth stepped in and precisely left no space between the fronts of their compressed bodies. He as in front of her, all around her, everywhere, and she found herself rendered immobile.

But she never let that inconsequential fear leak itself onto her face. "Seth..."

"Shh," he murmured, displeased that her tone sounded wary to his ears. She could actually feel the weight of his aberrant-colored eyes landing on her bare throat before he leaned down and stuck an inquisitive nose in. "Don't be scared, mate. I won't hurt you. He won't hurt you. We won't let anything harm you. You're always going to be safe with us, so there's no need to be afraid." He sniffed her throat again, making a soft whining noise when there was no change in her scent.

Underneath the overwhelming confusion, there were still traces of uncertainty and trepidation that didn't sit too well with the wolf. His arms were painfully tight around her, suffocatingly so, yet he was starting to rub his warm hands up and down her sides in an attempt to soothe away all those unwanted feelings. Rubbing his nose at the very base of her throat, his fingers curved into her hipbones with all sheer possessiveness, his breath ghosting past the angular indentions of her collarbone.

What was more bizarre: the fact that Seth looked and sounded as though he was possessed by something else beyond this world or the fact that he kept pluralizing himself? If this wasn't the so-called supernatural shit Leah and Jacob kept talking about, Lucy didn't know what was. Seth kept his face buried in the crook of her neck, mumbling incoherent things into her skin. Throughout those undefined mutters, most of them muffled, she could make out the words 'protect' and 'safe' and 'sorry' and 'mine'. Especially mine.

"I'm not scared, Seth," Lucy told him, wondering how in the hell he figured that one out when it wasn't really prevalent in any of her expressions. Not showing fear had always been an innate intuition built inside of her. "Can you let me go?"

He inhaled her deeply, lips grazing the edge of her chin as he tilted his head. "You're lying."

"Where's Seth?" she threw back, eyebrow raising to her hairline when the male in front of her slipped a hand up her backside, sliding it up until she felt a hot palm curved against the nape of her neck. "Last I checked, Seth didn't have a multiple personality disorder on him. Who the flying fuck are you and what'd you do with Seth Clearwater?"

Right when Seth, or whoever the hell this was, began chuckling against her cheek, something blew the front door open and rushed in to tackle Seth to the ground. The minute Seth's proximity evaded her, she stumbled to her feet with uncharacteristic clumsiness, realizing then that the guy had pinned her to the wall with her feet hanging inches off the ground and Lucy hadn't even noticed. She was perturbed to hear the loud, angry snarls echoing around the house, even more disturbed to find out that the source of the animalistic noises were coming from the two men wrestling on the floor.

Large hands were cupping her face. "You okay, honey?"

Now Lucy had a hard time averting her gaze from the scene of Seth fighting off with another huge male that was around the former's body mass size, but when she finally managed, she wasn't all that surprised to find Jacob there in place. He looked over at her in utmost concern, quickly leaning in to – surprise, surprise – sniff her too. His arm wrapped tentatively around her waist, plastering her to his side.

From the ground below, Seth snapped his teeth at the one male holding him down, his eyes diverting to watching his imprint being held by someone else other than him. And when Jacob hugged Lucy tighter to himself, there was no doubt in the Alpha's mind that Seth would go incorrigibly ballistic. Seth might be one of the nicer ones in their Pack, but as Beta, his wolf was naturally territorial to the extreme.

"Get off me, Paul!" the Beta roared and Lucy swore that she felt the entire house shake from the yell. What was even more shocking was that the man named Paul removed himself completely from the other male even before Seth finished the entire command.

Jacob had to hand it to Lucy – the girl barely shook when Seth had screamed out like that. The scent of confusion that currently surrounded her was understandable, but she was taking the situation in strangely well for someone who recently had no idea that these type of things could exist nearly twenty minutes ago.

"You owe me two decent meals, Jacob," Lucy grinded her teeth together while rapidly processing everything into her brain. "This is bullshit."

"I probably owe you more than that," he responded dryly, looking as though he wholesomely agreed with her. He straightened his shoulders before gently pushing her in the direction of yet another nameless, well-built male. This one, despite being nearly Jacob's size, was older and carried on a much sterner expression. "Here, Sam, take her."

Lucky enough for her, this Sam had been dutifully holding onto her duffel bag. She reached for the bag right when Sam repeated Jacob's former movement and kept an iron arm around her, but she didn't really notice this, considering she was scavenging through her bag like a raccoon for the exact materials she wanted. Sending Leah a mental note of appreciation for the older female packing her bag, Lucy happily took a hold of the Dum Dums located deep at the bottom, placing a blueberry-flavored lollipop in her mouth before sticking a second one behind her ear.

Okay, she thought to herself as her mouth was assaulted with blueberry goodness. Everything's alright in the world again.

"Jake said your name was Sam? That's a nice name." Sam looked at her in mild amusement, the exchange lasting for a quick second, before his gaze immediately went back to his Alpha and Beta. "What's wrong with Seth?"

The older man shook his head slightly. "It's not my place to tell you."

Lucy opened her mouth to ask another question, but she didn't get the chance. This shit was really starting to freak her out and she was given the epiphany that it wasn't over just yet the moment Jacob took a hold of Seth's short hair, using it as leverage to mercilessly slam the back of the younger male's head against the ground. The sound of his head colliding with the mahogany of the floor struck Lucy more than it really should have, momentarily splintering a small part of her mindset into fragments.

"Easy," Sam murmured quietly, his arm protectively curling around her frame even more when Lucy suddenly swayed into him, feeling as though her legs were about to give out any minute now.

There was an aching pressure that was hovering somewhere around the inside of her mind, a sensation that was more unpleasant inwardly than it was on the outside. She barely felt Sam holding her up, barely feet the lollipop that was left slackened at the dip of her tongue. Holding back a small wince of her own, her eyes strayed back to where Jacob still kept Seth captive on the ground, registering in the colossal dent that now decorated the floorboards from where Seth's head had been smashed into seconds ago.

"Damn it, Jake!" Huh, when did Leah get inside here? "Did you have to do it that hard? The mind-fucking is starting to affect her."

"Must be a strong imprint bond then," Sam mused right after.

The Alpha ignored both of the other wolves. "Seth?" he ventured when the other male's eyes began to glaze over. "Come on, Seth. Get your control back."

The goldenness of the wolf's eyes was slowly turning back to their usual brown again, a silent struggle remaining deeply dormant to keep it from surfacing beyond all mentality. The spirit of the wolf was strong, but Seth was indubitably stronger. There was a point during the culmination of the onslaught when Seth gently persuaded Jacob to let go of him – he didn't necessarily need to hold the Alpha's hand anymore. You sure, Seth? I don't want you relapsing again.

A small pause, then Seth's voice. Yeah, I got this. Did you see pretty girl by the way? My imprint's pretty, huh? Shaking his head, Jacob allowed himself to spare another glance towards Lucy and he couldn't help but agree. One of these days, Jacob was going to get the full background story on why Seth had given her that particular nickname. But with Lucy practically using Sam as her own personal crutch, he felt a little guilty. Uhhh...Seth? I think I might have slammed you too hard. After all, Jacob did play a major part in making Lucy feel abruptly woozy.

No shit, Sherlock, Seth replied sarcastically. Do you know how pissed off my mom's going to be when she sees this dent? It means that I won't get any cake for dessert, you asshole.

Jacob didn't mean the way-too-noticeable dent on Sue Clearwater's floor. So maybe slamming Seth's head down like that might have extended far off into Lucy's range, and okay, maybe she was looking a little unstable at the moment, with the way her hands were all but clutching onto Sam with everything that she had and – You did WHAT? Jake, what the fuck did you do to my imprint?

The Alpha didn't think they had time to get into this right now and mildly suggested that Seth hurry up and contain that wolf of his before the pale girl passed out in Sam's arms. Bristling, Seth squashed down most of that resentment reserved for Jacob and solely directed his mind, body, and spirit into coercing the wolf back to where he belonged. Deep down, the younger Clearwater knew that his wolf had nothing but the best intentions, yet the beast caused more damage than aid. Lucy's face, still puzzled and disorientated by all of this, was enough for the wolf to give up his short reign.

A familiar smile touched Seth's lips as he took his Pack in once more at full throttle, loving his Pack as much as they loved him in return. Maybe he loved them even more, not because he was Beta, but because he was Seth Clearwater, and he always went out of his way to make sure that his loved ones were very much appreciated in his life overall.

Leah knew that her brother was back to his annoying little self again, but she was surprisingly okay with it. Paul felt the heaviness that had swarmed him whole ever since Seth imprinted a week ago being lifted away from him. Sam finally let out the breath he didn't realize he had been holding in this entire time. These silent reactions were joined by the composition of celebratory howls that could be heard from way inside the very heart of the woods.

"Welcome back, man," Jacob peered down at him with a large grin.

In response to that, Seth reached up and punched his Alpha right in the face.

And in a motion to fast for the average human eye to fully process, Seth was already up and striding across the room, coming to a halt at the pair in front of him before he gently pried Lucy away from Sam and back into his own embrace. There were no words to describe how wonderfully complete he felt to have his imprint cradled in the circle of his arms, to feel the rhythm of her heart beating against that breakable, but utterly beautiful, cage of flesh and bone.

Surprisingly enough, Lucy wasn't as short as Kim was, or even Emily for that matter. She was close to Leah in height, but Seth still had to either bend his knees a little or incline his head all the way down to fold his arms around her the way he wanted to. It didn't matter – her height was absolutely perfect. She was perfect. Even without the ways of the imprint bond, Seth was already way too deep in love with this girl that it had practically become a running joke within the Pack throughout these years.

Sam had imprinted on his girlfriend's cousin. Jared had imprinted on a girl he had basically ignored throughout his high school career. And Quil? It had taken an agonizingly long time to convince Claire's parents that he wasn't a pedophile.

Despite the traumatic and shaky beginning, imprinting had gotten it right when it came to Seth.

The former Alpha didn't fight the grin that made its way to his lips. "It feels good, doesn't it? Just holding her?"

"Yeah." Seth's fingers were getting lost in her long hair as he leaned down to kiss her forehead. "Shit, I get it now, Sam."

"Ow," came a slight mumble from beneath him, automatically eradicating Seth's attention away from the brief conversation he had been having. Lucy was waking up from the smothering obscurity she was somehow placed under, the tips of her fingers trailing upward to press lightly at her temple – a universal sign of a migraine – while she subconsciously leaned against his body. "Seth—wait, it is you, right?" she stared up at him shrewdly, moving her lollipop to the side of her mouth in order to talk to him properly.

"You tell me," Seth said softly, using a hand to tilt her face up in his direction.

And here Lucy was, thinking that more shit was going to hit the fan. She silently scrutinized his eyes, waiting for that xanthic sheen to take over, but they still remained the color of warm, jaunty mocha. The purple circles that had been under his eyes when she had first seen him were beginning to fade and his skin was losing that sickly pallor...and wow, he was really gorgeous, wasn't he? No wonder the girls at school wouldn't shut up about Seth Clearwater, since they had every reason to keep commenting on the way he looked-

"Yeah, it's you," she grumbled, her head was hurting for no apparent reason whatsoever. Lucy tried to get out of his grasp, but when that action only provoked Seth into snuggling with her even more, she gave up pretty quickly. Hand firmly pressed against her forehead, she completely missed the way Seth beamed a thousand-watt smile once she rested her cheek against the center of his chest. "Do you have any Midol or Tylenol?"

"The headache will go away soon, pretty girl."

Even in her state of mind, Lucy was shocked to find out that Seth still remembered that nickname. Instead, she retorted: "And just how do you know that will happen?"

"It will, trust me."

"Why the hell would I trust a guy whose eyes turned fucking yellow and sounded as though he was being possessed?" She blinked at the dent in the floor, then at the people in the room. "Oh, man, this was an exorcism, wasn't it?"

The sound of his bright chuckling tickled her ears, and albeit grudgingly, she wasn't above admitting the fact that she liked hearing the peals of his infectious laughter ring across her. Excluding her grandparents, it had been a long while since someone outside of her small family had given her a hug like this...it was rather nice actually. She couldn't help it when she started to get sluggishly comfortable in his arms – well, Seth was too wrapped around his imprint to notice – and she snickered at the sight of Jacob mourning over his bloody nose.

Leah scoffed loudly. "Don't be such a pussy, Jake. You've had worse."

"I think it's an improvement on his face," Seth chirped, unwittingly pulling laughter out from all present except the one irritable victim still sprawled on the ground. He smiled even wider when he felt Lucy faintly nod in agreement against his chest.

"Fuck off," Jacob tried wiping the blood from his nose, but he only succeeded in smearing it all over his hand. "I was only trying to help, Seth, and it worked too! You didn't need to..." he trailed off, apparently not knowing what else to say. The Alpha picked himself up, jerking his head towards the door, and immediately following that notion, Sam, Paul, and Leah left the house through the front. "By the way, welcome to the Pack," he grinned wolfishly at Lucy before following the others out and shutting the door close.

Pack? What the hell did that mean?

Lucy pulled her eyebrows together. "Where are they all going?"

"Some of them going home. The rest are out patrolling." Seth idly twirled a strand of her hair around his finger.

"I really love how you act as though I already know what 'patrolling' means in this context."

He laughed again, but instead of taking the time to admire it like she did before, Lucy had the small desire to sock him in the face. Before she even blinked, she was fitted snugly back in Seth's arms once more. "I am really sorry about all this, Lucy," he whispered, voice solemn in the silence.

"Didn't we already go through this?" she asked, oddly receiving a sweet kiss to the cheek for that response. "You apologized earlier, but I still have no clue why you would apologize to begin with. And don't go dropping kisses like that, Seth. They could be potentially dangerous."

"Aww, you don't like my kisses? That's a first," came Seth's reply, his eyes sparkling when Lucy's own orbs rolled around in their own accord.

The playful Seth standing in front of her right now was entirely different from the tormented Seth she encountered when she first waltzed through the front door. In addition, both of those versions of Seth were vivid contrasts to the batshit crazy Seth that had pinned her to the wall and attacked her neck without permission. The many personalities of this male were going to wear off Lucy very soon. She needed another Dum Dum – with the way she was eating these lollipops, she might as well start calling them anxiety pops from now on.

Seth had told her that he was going to lead her to the guest room that was located on the second level of the house, but somehow, she had ended up standing in a mildly messy room with dark green walls, sleek mahogany floorboards, and a king-sized bed. A fucking king-sized bed. A gigantic bed like that was practically sleep's soul mate. The stack of school materials that were strewn haphazardly atop the desk in the corner and the clothes that loitered the floor was a grand indication that this was not the guest room.

"This isn't the guest bedroom," she pointed out in an askew manner.

"No, you're sleeping here instead," Seth threw back at her in all cheekiness. When Lucy's expression turned stoic, he frowned. "C'mon, pretty girl, look at the bed. It's nice and big. You're lucky I'm sharing it with you."

"Oh, I'm sure you've shared this bed with plenty of other girls," Lucy countered blatantly.

If Seth choked at the retort, he did a damn good job at hiding it from her. He felt it very necessary to say then: "I don't have a girlfriend."

That wasn't a necessary answer to her earlier statement, but okay. "Really?"

"I know—surprising, isn't it? I mean, look at me."

Seth suppressed a chortle of amusement when he heard her snort indignantly at the last statement. Nevertheless, it still didn't garner him the attention he wanted; Lucy simply tilted her head to the side, her attention pinpointed somewhere else other than him. He refrained from looking outwardly crestfallen at her disinterest, minor and temporary as it may be, and stared on in shock as she withdrew another lollipop that had just been sitting behind her ear. He had lost most of her attention to a damn Dum Dum pop.

"What about you?" He was so willing to forget what had just occurred in the past two minutes. "I bet a pretty girl like you isn't single."

"You're right." Not to be melodramatic or anything, but Seth was sure he heard the sound of his heart crumbling to pieces. He quickly blocked out other hindrances, so that Jacob and the Pack wouldn't know of his tumult of abrupt depression.

"Oh," he managed out, feeling as pathetic as how he must have sounded then.

The Clearwater male couldn't ever recall a time where he had been remotely envious of anything. He was known for his smiles; hell, he was, sometimes, kind to even his enemies. But even Taha Aki above couldn't help it when that ugly thing called jealousy reared its ugly head in Seth's mind. He wanted to repeatedly punch whoever the hell was lucky enough to be her boyfriend – freaking tear him to indiscernible pieces and then probably eat him for lunch – sans his friendly smile. Even someone like Seth was prone to rudimental envy.

Too busy cursing this nameless male in all the dirtiest Quileute words he knew, he failed to notice the bemused smile tugging at her lips as she wrapped her mouth around her second lollipop. "Didn't think you were so gullible, Clearwater."

"Huh, wha...? Oh, that's just plain mean, Lucy."

And he did actually pout this time.

She was smart enough not to look in his direction at that moment, knowing that exact look could turn out to be a lethal weapon against her.

"I completely understand why you don't have a girlfriend now," the pale girl grinned once she lifted the covers to Seth's bed, deliberately revealing the Spiderman bed sheet underneath.

"Hey." He nudged her lightly with his hip, forgetting this one time that he was way stronger than any normal teenage male was. The little bump against her backside sent her forward onto the bed, face pressed down onto the mattress. "Spiderman's the best."

Lucy languidly rolled onto her back, yawning around her fruity lollipop. "No, he's not. Iron Man is."

"Why?" She didn't even have to look at Seth to somehow know that he was offended by her choice of a superhero.

"Because I like looking at Robert Downey Jr. in his Iron Man suit." That answer prompted a small rolling of the eyes from Seth, even if Lucy missed it on his face. The mattress beneath her was insanely soft, like heaven bundled up in a large, slumbering cushion. She was really tempted to move her arms up and down and her legs side to side, making a snow angel motion without actual snow. "Can you tell me what's been going on now?"

Letting out an almost inaudible sigh, Seth fell back onto his bed without restraint, causing Lucy's body to slightly bounce along with the mattress the second his back made impact with it. "Wouldn't you rather sleep right now? Jake told me you were sleeping when Leah came and dragged you out of bed," he turned his head to face her, giving her a close profile of his comely features.

She poked at the lollipop stick that protruded from her mouth. "The sugar's keeping me awake."

The girl ended it there as though that short statement alone was enough to prove her argument. Lucy drummed her fingers atop her stomach, waiting for the explanation that would surely be peculiar to conventional circumstances, based on recent activities that deviated from the norm. Seth followed the dawdling movements with a heated gaze, taking in the way her hands played a tiny percussion along the flat planes of her midriff with special interest.

Voice shockingly somber, Seth first summoned the tale of Q'wati, almighty creator and protector of the Quileute people. He launched into a story about how one day while walking across the earth, Q'wati saw two wolves lingering on the Quileute soil without any evidence of human existence ever touching on the land. Q'wati then transformed those wolves into people and dubbed them as the Quileutes, saying: "For this reason you Quileute shall be brave, for you came from wolves."

She experienced a walk down memory lane when Seth continued onto the legends about Taha Aki and the spirit warriors that had the ability to shape-shift into wolves in order to protect the people of their tribe. These were the sacred bedtime stories she remembered her father telling her while tucking her into bed when she was just a little girl. However, the one legend about the Cold Ones was a new one to her ears, as well as this strange phenomenon called imprinting – an unusual and involuntary way of shape-shifter finding his soul mate.

"It sounds a lot better when Billy Black tells them," Seth suddenly ended with a sheepish smile, breaking the calming susceptibility that flittered through while the legends were being told. Even so, she still thought his deep timbre had been lulling to fit the mood. "What are you thinking about?" he inquired, taking note of her blank face.

"Honestly? What I'm going to eat for breakfast tomorrow." It was an outlandish answer, one that made Seth let out a noise that was mixed between a cough and a strangled laugh. "Are these legends relevant at all?"

"I'm a wolf, Lucy."

Lucy blinked at his serious expression. "Um, okay. Cool. Not sure if that's an animal in the Chinese zodiac system, but whatever. I'm a pig, by the way." Which is a little ironic, if her eating habits were anything to go by.

Seth had imprinted on the one person that was just as ridiculous as he was. Without warning, his arms snapped out to snake themselves rapidly around her waist, reeling her in until her back was pressed solidly against his chest. She made a noise and moved to wiggle her way out of this impromptu embrace – something told her that these hugs would be happening a lot more in the future – but Seth's arms remained anchored around her as dipped down to rest his forehead against her shoulder blade.

"All those legends are true," he murmured against her shoulder, the feeling potent enough to have inadvertent shivers crawling their way up and down her spine. "The Cold Ones—vampires—they exist, and because of that, we do too. I turn into a wolf on a daily basis all for the purpose of killing vampires and keeping this land safe. Those wolves you hear at night? They're us, Lucy. We patrol every perimeter of La Push and Forks to make sure vampires don't step over the borders. When they do, we have no choice but to hunt them down."

"So when your eyes turned yellow—"

His fingers unconsciously dug into her skin. "That was my wolf you were dealing with. It comes with being able to phase into a wolf at will—that I have to share this body with an animal."

This was too much to process and Lucy realized that she needed another lollipop. But she pushed forward anyway. "And imprinting?"

The hardest of all explanations.

"I've explained to you what that was," he reminded her gently as he rubbed his nose along the curve of her neck. Seth had wanted to see her reaction to all this very badly, but there was a reason why he hid himself behind her back during the process. "Remember when you walked in on me at that party last week?" He held back an imperceptible wince at the memory. "That's when I imprinted on you."

Silence. Awful, awful silence. And then:

"So you imprinted on me while balls deep inside that other chick?"

His arms had slackened to the sound of her remark, allowing Lucy to roll away from him until she was finally facing him again. Seth's expression was bleak as he mentally relived that night and the disastrous repercussions that followed it. The wolf whined out its sincere apology, despite the fact that she couldn't hear it at all. Seth apologized too. He still couldn't quite bear to look at her face at this point, so he shifted onto his back, eyes lifted towards the ceiling.

"No matter what, you always have a choice in this. I'm not going to force you to be with me just because some wolf magic says that we belong together." Even though I want you to choose me, pretty girl. "Regardless of what you choose, I'm always going to be there for you. It means that if anyone ever fucks with you, I'll kill them. If you need me, I'll put you above everyone else, even the Pack. You can hate me, although I really rather you don't, and you can hate this entire imprinting process, but I sure as hell will protect you at any cost, no exceptions."

"I wouldn't hate you," Lucy returned truthfully, her nose wrinkling at the thought. "Why would I hate you for something you can't even control?" He opened his mouth to respond, probably to argue with her on the last part, but she beat him to it. "Besides, I'm not all that spectacular at relationships, Seth. I'd be a terrible girlfriend."

Seth chewed the inside of his cheek. "I know that's not true, Lucy."

He seemed to deflate right before her eyes, an unfathomable look crossing his features. There was a small semblance of heartbreak in his expression, but he made sure Lucy wouldn't be able to read it off of his face. He had said that he wasn't going to force her to be with him, and he had meant some of that, really, but being completely genuine about it was all bullshit. Of course he wanted her to love him, of course he desperately wanted her to accept this imprint as more than just an ambience that traveled beyond free will.

Fine, so Lucy didn't know him too well. Leah was the Clearwater she had always associated with during their childhood years, not him. But he knew her and Seth was more than ready to love Lucy – even if she was far from it.

"If it's any consolation," Seth murmured, sitting up in place, "I had a little crush on you when we were younger."

Infatuation probably fit the title a whole lot better, but he wasn't going to tell her that.

He liked her years ago? What the hell?

"A crush," she repeated, though it sounded a little stupid though her own ears. Instead of asking why he never told her this, preferably before she moved to Ohio, she blurted out, "But that was a long time ago, wasn't it?"

"I never said I stopped liking you," Seth admitted in a soft tone, catching Lucy by surprise both by that admission and the way he lowered his head to kiss the crown of her tresses. "Goodnight, pretty girl."

Lucy concluded that Seth had to be a shape-shifting wolf in order to walk out of his bedroom that quickly. She almost didn't see him moving away until the door to his bedroom clicked close, locking him on the other side of the door.

Yeah, the shit was so hitting the fan right now.

That night, three people residing in the Clearwater household had trouble sleeping.

A girl obsessed with lollipops and food was too busy listening for the howls that would surely crack through the night, the Beta was too preoccupied with the melody of hearing his mate's steady breathing and ensuring himself that she was alive and well, and a lonely she-wolf glared daggers into the ceiling, wondering why she had to lose everything to this wolf shit. Sue Clearwater was the only person able to get a decent night's sleep, but that was only because she didn't get a chance to see the dent on her floorboards yet.

None of them really noticed the crimson-eyed creature with marble skin wandering around the silent streets of Forks.

Seth decided that Lucy should wear a cat's bell around her neck from now on. He subconsciously considered buying her one, even if she wasn't ever going to string the thing around her neck. Why you ask? He didn't even know when or how, but Lucy had somehow managed to creep into the guest room – the room he was currently sleeping in when Seth offered her his own bedroom – early in the morning without alerting him of her newfound presence.

He smelled her natural scent first, making his mouth terribly mouthwatering, as well as the scent of artificial root beer. The bed in this room wasn't as large as the one he had, and it really made it uncomfortable to sleep for someone of his stature, but Lucy was sitting against the headboard with a contemplate look drawn on her alabaster-tainted face, a Dum Dum taking temporary shelter in her mouth as predicted.

"Morning, Fido," Lucy said blithely while Seth stared her down with his sleep-deprived eyes.

There was a long moment where they just gazed at each other, confusion and bemusement colliding all in one setting, before Seth unhesitatingly rolled over until his head was pillowed atop her lap, his arms lazily wrapping themselves around her small waist. The girl slightly shook at the reaction, her body vibrating in small chuckles, and Seth verily grinned against her thigh.

"Are you always going to hug me?" she asked with a dry hint to her tone.

"We wolves are touchy-feely people," Seth mumbled, the residues of sleep still clinging onto him with everything they had. "You're going to have to get used to it, pretty girl. Collin's a big-time cuddler."

Lucy flicked his nose with her thumb and forefinger. "Don't even mention that idiot. Did you know he nearly had a meltdown when I got a paper cut? He was slowly working himself into having a coronary." Not to mention Brady's overreaction as well.

"That was partially my fault. He was only listening to my orders." At her vacant expression, Seth specified another explanation. "In the Pack, we have ranks among each other. It doesn't matter how big or fast you are, but more on how dominant you can be. The more dominant you are, the higher rank you naturally have. I'm Beta, which makes me pretty damn high on the pecking order," he smirked then, making an indignant noise when Lucy flicked him again.

"Tell me more about the Pack."

Seth rubbed his nose, sending her a mock-wounded look. Of course it didn't hurt, but he found that he liked teasing with her. "Jake's the Alpha, and as of right now, Sam's Third, followed by Paul, Jared, Embry, Quil, Brady, and Collin. Leah—"

"Leah's a wolf too?" Lucy cut in, her eyes brimming with excitement and pride. "Nice."

He didn't know whether to be offended that Lucy was more interested in Leah turning into a wolf than he was.

Biting back the urge to give a resenting pout, he hid his face further into her thigh. "Leah's the first female ever to phase into a wolf—or at least, we think she is. I think there's a handful more scattered around the world, but because she-wolves are so rare, they don't really have a rank. Leah's standing ranges beyond our ranking system...it doesn't mean that she isn't important though. Far from it. She can hold her own, but there are times where we have to be really careful with her."


"Because our Pack isn't the only one that exists." That statement brought tiny, imperceptible chills to Lucy, and she couldn't decipher if they were good or bad. "There are other packs out there that want Leah just because of what she is," Seth added darkly, maybe because the idea of his older sister getting snatched away by other Alphas didn't sit too well with him.

"Are there other imprints in our Pack?" Lucy changed the subject quickly, realizing that this wasn't really a subject they should linger on.

And Seth brightened once more. "Claire, Kim, and Emily. I swear, we'd all be lost without Emily—she's a culinary goddess."

"Really?" Lucy leaned forward in interest. "Culinary goddess you say? Cause I'd like to meet her...you know..."

"No, you'd like to meet her food," he uttered back mockingly, although the smile on his face was clear as the day. "I'm only afraid that once you meet her, you'd start to fall deeply in love with her."

"She's that good of a cook? Well, damn, I just might fall in love with her. Sorry, Seth, you're on your own," Lucy smirked down at him with a tilt of her head. "It's okay though. I'm sure that Spiderman plushie I found near your bed will take you when no one else will."

"That plushie was not near my bed when I left my room! You snooped!" he suddenly exclaimed with a comically theatrical flair, pointing a finger right to her face.

Lucy let out a hearty laugh at that one and Seth nearly swooned at the sound of this type of laughter. "I didn't snoop around—that'd just be rude of me. I also didn't know you actually had a Spiderman doll hiding around your room. Honestly, I just said that to throw you off, hoping you'd deny having any dolls to begin with, but you've confirmed it, so..." she trailed off, letting an indulgent grin grace her face.

No. No. No.

Seth huffed petulantly and Lucy wasn't going to admit aloud that it looked and sounded pretty damn adorable. "You are the meanest—"

"I'm your imprint, Seth. Deal with it."

They both froze the moment the words left her mouth.

Hell, even Lucy was shocked that she had actually said that without hesitation. So much that Seth jerked in an upright position, his face a couple inches away from hers as he willingly let himself be consumed by the burnished umbers that were her eyes. There were only two outcomes to this: either she slipped up with her words or that she voluntarily identified herself as his imprint. If it was the later outcome – he hoped, he desired, he prayed that it was – then it must have meant that she accepted the imprint bond, ergo accepting him.

Her eyes widened ever so slightly and there was this desolate moment where Seth was beginning to believe that her last statement merely just slipped out by accident. That she didn't at all mean it. She didn't want to be tied down by all this shit. But he...he would still stand by his honest word – he would still shower her with unrequited love, even it meant that he would be broken and battered to pieces by this dreary, one-sided love affair he was going to embark on. Fate had chosen the right girl for him, but there was deplorable chance that he might not be the right man for her. And if that was the case then-

"Seth?" Her voice gave him salvation to his morbid thoughts, a modulation he clung onto immediately. "You okay?" Hesitant, probably more quiet than usual. But her tone lacked the regret he had expected to hear.

The Beta swallowed his parched throat. "You said—"

"Yeah, I know," she interrupted before he had the chance, glancing at him with minor culpability of not letting him finish before she pressed onward. She took the lollipop stick out of her mouth and threw it neatly into the trashcan a few feet away. "The way I see it, imprinting is basically your inner wolf figuring it out that I'm your soul mate. I still don't understand what purpose this serves, and frankly, this imprinting thing kind of sounds a lot like Stockholm Syndrome to me, but if this bond is as abiding as it sounds, I'm not going to mess with it." Short pause. "Do you have a choice in this?"

He was struck with the thought of Quil and Claire above all the other bonds.

Do you have a choice in this?

"No," Seth answered honestly because that was what Lucy deserved, despite the fact that the word tasted like bile in his mouth. "But it's not like any of the other guys wanted to fight it. I don't want to fight it either and I'm not going to." He wasn't going to go against something that felt naturally right to him, no matter how bizarre the prospects were.

Lucy mulled on his response for five minutes. It felt like five years to Seth. Indolently, she twiddled her thumbs together. "If you're willing...then it's only fair that I meet you halfway." His heart gridlocked in place, his chest squeezing inward. "To tell you the truth, I was going to reject the bond, if that was even possible, but I didn't really like the idea after a while. But you have to promise that we're going to go at a slow pace—like snail slow, understand? Tiny baby steps."

"What made you change your mind?" Seth bit down his lip from grinning like an idiot.

"Well, I figured I shouldn't automatically shoot something down without giving it a chance first," Lucy supplied, the corner of her lips tipping upward in the beginnings of a small, sure smile in return. "I'm going to find out why wolves imprint in the first place, you know."

"No one's ever been able to do that, pretty girl. We all have our theories."

"Fine, challenge accepted."

That was the point that Seth had lost most of his control. He pounced on Lucy with the dexterity of a cat and somehow managed not to completely throw the pair of them both off the edge of the bed. Funny how one single night had the ability to change everything. There used to be a time where the only interaction between Seth Clearwater and Lucy Weisz had been faint blushes from him and curious glances from her. Not to mention Leah would come storming in and snatching Lucy away before the boy had a chance to talk to her.

They had gone from absolutely no contact to hugging so many times in under twelve hours.

"Baby steps," she reminded lightly as Seth rested his face against her neck.

"Thank you," Seth said in the barest of whispers, the tenor of his voice trickling warmth across her throat. His hand fisted the shirt at her back while the other tugged at the ends of her hair. "Lucy, thank you. We'll go at any pace you want. I promise."

"Why are you thanking me?"

"For not running away." The Beta could breathe normally, the worst of his fears over for now. The wolf wagged his tail in contented happiness, loudly yipping out its pleasure. "For not screaming at me that you never want to see me again. For not to moving back to Ohio and threatening never to come here again..." For not telling me you hate me-

"Alright, alright," she stopped him there, returning his embrace with a gentle squeeze of her own. Lucy hugged him back not because she had to, not because she was told to, but because she wanted to.

And it felt so fucking good.

It lasted another fantastic minute before Lucy perked up, disentangling her arms from his body. "Do you smell that?" Her cute nose wrinkled one time while it was tipped towards the ceiling, taking a curious sniff at the air. It looked so wolf-like that Seth couldn't help but silently gape at her. A delightful expression took a hold of her face. "It smells French toast and—holy fuck, is your mother making honest to god hash browns?

Seth did smell the homemade French toast his mother was currently concocting, and yes, he also caught a whiff of the so-called hash browns that Lucy managed to pick up. He smelled the delicious cream cheese that was being stuffed into the French toasts, as well as the sweet and warm glazed strawberries that topped the bread as a whole. Normally, his mother didn't go through all this trouble into making such a grand breakfast, which most likely meant that she just found out that Lucy was spending the weekend here.

"You sure you're not a wolf too?" Seth took a leaf from her book and raised an eyebrow at her.

"Are you kidding me?" Lucy jumped from the bed, the movement looking almost giddy to his eyes. "This nose was practically trained to know what kind of food's being cooked in the kitchen, Clearwater."

The Beta grinned, following his imprint as she ambled straight into the kitchen without another word.

A/N: So Jacob and Seth have this telepathy thing going on between them without having to phase into their wolf forms - just because they're Alpha and Beta. They can do this with the other pack members as well, with Jacob being stronger at it, of course, but the other pack members can't do it with someone that isn't the Alpha or Beta. Just thought I'd explained this if things got too confusing.