This oneshot was originally written as part of the compilation for JBNP 4 Autism which raised money for Autism Speaks, so all for a good cause. If you want more info on this cause go to . Anyway, I hope you all like this story, and thanks for reading.
Big thanks go to Alverdine who was a lovely pre-reader for this story and made me sit down and get it finished.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or anything to do with it to my greatest regret.
Bella Swan was the first to start cracking up.
I think deep down I have always known that she was the most fragile of us. Not that she wasn't strong in other ways, but a lifetime of caring for both her parents had isolated her growing up and so she had never the learnt the habit of letting her feelings out. Any worry or concern or sadness just made her retreat back into herself, shutting down the outside world and anyone in it.
It had happened once before with the Cullen boy, the pain of abandonment shocking her inside herself, and it was happening again with the imprint.
It would have been so much easier for us all if Jake had just imprinted on Bella. They already loved each other and her introverted nature had been countered and balanced by his carefree and friendly behaviour.
They were a good match. It was just unfortunate that the Gods didn't think so.
Instead, they had determined that Bella was destined for Paul.
I loved my brother, he was a good man if a little impatient at times, and he tried his best to make his mate happy. He loved her as best as he was able, and she did the same. But they weren't really suited for each other in the first place. They would have made great friends as they genuinely cared for one another, but as mates...
The Gods had chosen wrong. Bit by bit you could almost see the threads of their imprint begin to unravel.
With this in mind, I began to watch the other imprinted relationships in the pack, including my own.
Bella and Paul weren't the only couple straining at the bonds that held them together.
Jake and Leah liked each other, admired each other's qualities in the pack and got on well. But they also rubbed each other up the wrong way all the time. There was no give in their relationship; neither were willing to compromise, so they often fought viciously. There was also the problem that they had both been in love with other people before.
I still saw it sometimes.
Bella would flinch or wrap her arms around her waist protectively and Jacob would move to comfort her only to stop halfway or with his arm half-raised. His heart would temporarily override his imprint, but then his brain would kick in, and he would retreat back to Leah's side, apologies swimming in his eyes for both of the girls.
And I knew more than the others just how Leah still thought of Sam...and how he still thought of her.
Quil had always struggled with his child imprint, and Sam and Paul still laughed over Kim's crush on Jared and how he had never noticed her presence until he imprinted.
It was inevitable then that those two imprints would be the first to break.
Jared came rushing into the house one day, screaming for Sam.
We both ran up to him, shooting frantic glances over his body, searching for any injuries. The rest of the pack began to slowly congregate, drawn in by the noise.
"What is it? What happened?!"
The younger man began to gulp in air, shaking his head.
"Jared?!" It was practically an order.
"What's gone?" Embry frowned at him.
"The imprint. My imprint. On Kim."
Our mouths all dropped. The room was filled with stunned silence.
"I'd been feeling off for the last few days, almost like it was waning somehow. The ties between Kim and I seem to have been getting weaker lately and I woke up and tugged at them in my brain...and then they were gone!"
He laughed manically, cackling until tears started running down his face.
"My imprint is gone!" he shouted, falling to his knees.
I clasped a hand over my mouth in shock. My eyes quickly darted to Sam. He wasn't looking at me. He was looking at Leah.
A weight settled over my heart.
The pack were talking among themselves, a jumble of loud words and confusion as the implications of Jared's announcement began to hit. I could hardly keep up with any of the conversations going on around me.
"...Is this just the one imprint?..."
"...will it work for everyone? Can all of the imprints be broken this way..."
"...what does this mean for..."
"...have you told Kim yet?"
That last question from Jacob silenced the room.
In all of this we had completely forgotten about her.
All attention fell upon Jared once more. He winced.
"No," he finally admitted. "It happened and I was... I came here straight away." He spoke slowly. "I don't know what to say to her. How to explain... What do I do?"
Sam clapped him on the shoulder, offering some comfort. "What do you want to do?"
Jared frowned. "I don't..." He paused, as if he almost couldn't bear to say it. "I don't think I want her anymore. I don't think I want to be with her. I loved her so much and we shared so much, but I just don't feel anything romantic towards her anymore. Is that normal?"
We didn't have any answers to give him. There were no answers, not in this situation.
The pack split up once more, each going their separate ways, each with this new knowledge that the imprint could be broken weighing on their minds.
That evening, I was lying in bed thinking while Sam locked up the house downstairs when I felt it. A tug. It pulled at my heart and then loosened, and when I stopped clutching at my chest, I felt the bond that linked me to Sam loosen.
It wasn't enough to break our imprint, but it was enough to make me realise that Jared wasn't the only wolf experimenting with the ties that bonded us together. Which meant I had to consider the possibility of losing Sam. When he came upstairs that night, I pretended to already be asleep, even though I knew I was fooling no-one.
The next few days were a mixture of grief and happiness.
Jared was clearly overjoyed that his imprint was broken. He confessed to us later on that he could never fathom why his wolf had chosen Kim as his imprint when she had previously meant nothing to him. When I had asked him if he still cared for her, he grew uncomfortably, but looked me plain in the eye.
"Of course, I do, Emily. We were together for three years and even though the imprint's gone it doesn't mean that I don't worry if she's doing okay or not. But at the same time, it's like I'm finally free. I can care for who I want, and do what I want and fall in love with who I want and it's..." He swallowed. "I guess it's just having my own choices back again. I mean, don't you ever miss that – not having to constantly think about someone else?"
His words struck a nerve.
I had so many plans and dreams for my life before Sam imprinted on me and the accident happened. I had wanted to travel and go to college. I wanted to study art and express myself through it. I had wanted to live somewhere sunny. I had wanted to fall in love and get married and have babies.
I had got the falling in love part, but in a way, Jared was right. It just wasn't the same if you didn't choose it yourself.
I loved Sam dearly, but both of us had sacrificed so much to the imprint that I wasn't sure if we were ever really ourselves when we were together.
Jared may have been happy with his broken imprint, but Kim certainly wasn't.
She had cried and wailed and begged him to stay with her, and then, when he refused, she had tried to have Jake and Leah place an Alpha order on Jared to make him hers again. Naturally, they refused and Leah had a few choice words to say to her about her request.
The level of Kim's obsession with Jared made me uncomfortable though.
Was that what would happen to all of us if the imprints were broken? Would all the wolves calmly resume their lives while the ex-imprints followed them, wailing at their abandonment. The thought made me shiver.
Quil's imprint was the next to break.
Unlike in Jared's case, none of us were that surprised this time. We all knew that imprinting on a three-year-old was messed up – I had practically castrated Quil for it the first time I was told – so to have it broken so easily and with minimal fuss was a relief to everyone.
Claire suffered no side effects from her sudden lack of an imprint either, and I think we all breathed a sigh of relief that Kim's behaviour was exclusive to her and not something that the rest of us would have to suffer through.
Then came the waiting between Paul and Bella and Jake and Leah.
Seth asked me about it one time. "Why are they not breaking the imprints? I know they're not all happy and that they've all tested the bindings. I don't get why none of them have made a move so far. I mean, I didn't even think that Paul and Bella liked each other in the first place." He shook his head.
I had thought about this a lot, watched the quartet of imprint move carefully around each other, all watching for any sudden movements. At first, I had been puzzled, as Seth was now, but I had worked it all out.
"They're waiting for Sam to decide what to do."
"What?" The young wolf's eyes opened wide in surprise.
I tried to keep my face impassive as I explained, not wanting Seth to think that I was blaming anyone in particular for what would happen.
I knew now how this would all turn out. There was only one way it could go. But knowing the consequences of your actions and acting on them were two entirely different things.
"Paul and Bella have grown incredibly close as imprints," I explained, "even if the desire to be together romantically isn't there. And she's so fragile right now. So very fragile," I repeated softly. "I don't think that she would cope with another abandonment if Paul left her and he knows it too. So he's waiting."
"For Jacob. Bella and Jacob love each other; anyone can see that, it's as clear as crystal. But Jake is beholden to Leah at the moment. So until Jacob breaks his imprint and is free to love Bella again like they both want, then Paul is going to stay with her. He might want to be free to do what he wants, but your brother is a good man. He would never let Bella slip back into the kind of depression she fell into when her leech left."
"So Paul's waiting for Jacob and Leah to make a choice?" Seth questioned.
He caught on quickly. "And is Jacob waiting on Sam then in the same way that Paul is waiting on him."
Bitterness rose in the back of my throat but I choked it down. There was no place for that kind of emotion here.
"Yes," I stated tersely.
"I'm so sorry, Emily." My baby cousin stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me and with his understanding I was finally able to let go of everything I had been holding in and just cry for the piteous situation we all now found ourselves in.
Another week of uncertainty went by.
Everyone in the pack knew what the remaining imprinting couples were waiting for; it was now up to Sam and I to make the first move. Neither of us did though. We knew it would happen eventually but fear of the unknown kept up both tied to each other. I knew that Sam was looking to break away from me soon though. He still confessed to having feelings for me, but at the same time his testing of the imprint bond was becoming more regular.
"Why are we doing this?" I eventually asked him.
"What?" He looked up from the plate of food he was devouring.
I sighed and crossed over so that I could sit next to him at the table. Reaching out, I clasped his hands in mine.
"This, Sam. Our imprint. Why are still pretending that everything's fine and that we're going to stay together?"
He tried to bluff his way out of the topic. "Aren't we?"
"Sam," I chided him.
He looked down and then pushed his food aside with one hand.
"I know you've been testing the imprint bond," I told him. "I can feel it when you do it."
Surprise washed over his face, followed quickly by guilt. "I'm sorry," he apologised. "I didn't realise."
I squeezed his hand.
"I don't blame you for trying, Sam. It's only natural."
He frowned. "Why are you so okay with all this?"
I swallowed hard, and the decided to tell the truth. "I'm not, not really. A part of me wishes that we'd never discovered that the imprints could be broken, but the other part of me can sense the inevitability of it."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you love me, Sam?" I finally gained the courage to ask. "Like, truly, madly deeply love me? I know you care for me, and I care very much for you, but I don't know that it's enough, or if it ever has been."
He glanced away, just for a second, but I saw it. I squeezed his hand.
"Yes, I love you," he finally answered.
"But are you in love with me?"
This time he couldn't hold my gaze at all.
I had my answer, and I knew how I felt as well.
"I don't think I'm in love with you anymore, Sam," I confessed, voicing the words I had never thought I would say.
His head jerked up his eyes were wide.
"I think that I still love you, but I'm not in love with you. And I think you feel the same way."
He lowered his head and nodded slowly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to have doubts and I didn't mean to test the imprint in the way that I have, but I don't think that either of us are very happy together anymore." He licked his lips nervously. "I promised to never leave you. Do you remember that? It was right after the...accident. I've wanted so badly to keep that promise for you, to be the kind of man my father never was."
I remembered that moment clearly. It had been in the hospital, right after the doctor took my bandages off and I had seen my ruined face for the first time. In a state of panic, I had used the power of the imprint to cling to Sam, to force him to stay with me, even though I knew he had wanted to just throw himself off a cliff at that point. I had gripped his arm tightly and made him swear to never leave me, to stay with me forever, and he had promised faithfully, even though it was the last thing he wanted to do.
Despite that we had grown to care for each other, the beginning of our relationship and our betrayal of Leah had always left a cloud hanging over the both of us.
I had allowed my fear to tie him to me and now I needed to let him go. For both our sakes.
"You need to try again, Sam." I squeezed his hand in comfort. "Try the imprint now."
"Emily!" he protested, shaking his head.
"Please," I pleaded.
He stared at me for a minute and then reached out and gripped my waist, pulling me over towards him so I was sitting on his lap. He wrapped his arms tightly around me, hugging me to him, and I slid my arms across his shoulders and buried my face in his neck.
We clung to each other and both closed our eyes.
There was a swirling feeling in the pit of my stomach and then a sharp tug in my chest. I gasped and then...
It was gone.
I sucked in a sharp breath and when I exhaled it felt different, freer.
Tears spilled down my cheeks, and from the wetness on my shoulder I knew that Sam was crying too. Putting my fingers on his chin, I encouraged him to lift his face and look at me. Leaning forward, I captured his lips in one last bittersweet kiss.
And that was it. Over.
I smiled softly at him. "Thank you."
He smiled back, his mouth trembling. He brushed my hair back from my face and pressed his lips to my scars for the very last time. "Thank you," he whispered back.
I slapped his shoulder gently. "Go and find Leah and Jacob."
"Emily?" he protested.
"Go. Now," I ordered.
With a glance to make sure I was serious, Sam grinned and then lifted me up and set me back down on the empty chair.
"Thank you," he said again and then ran from the house to track down the Alpha pair.
I stayed sat where he left in our empty house for a good hour before getting up to pack up my belongings. I was scared, but I was hopeful too.
This was a new start and I was going to make every single choice I now had count.
The possibilities were endless.