She walked right up to the stranger and put her hand on his shoulder. He looked down at her and gave her a piercing look that she felt all the way to her bones before crushing his lips to hers.
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“Imprinting? You mean like birds?” He asked, obviously puzzled. Her eyes were beginning to hurt from rolling them so much, but she couldn’t help it as she glanced upward.It was going to be a long day.
“Yes, Alex, just like birds. We all, everyone in the pack, or flock, turn into gigantic birds. We just don’t fly, have wings, eat seeds, lay eggs, or grow feathers. But other than that, yeah just like birds,” she said sarcastically.
“Hey! No need to be rude or treat me like I’m stupid,” He said, properly offended.
“No stupid questions, no stupid answers,” she replied snidely.
He eyed her, then hmphed quietly to himself, letting her comment pass. Kim giggled into her hands, and even Jared was grinning.
“What!” Leah snapped.
“It’s just, you two are so cute. You fit together perfectly,” Kim explained, still giggling. Leah and Alex looked at each other- and began laughing.
“As to your earlier question, not only birds imprint. In fact, almost all mammals do, to a certain degree. Even humans. Wolves actually imprint strongly for mammals. Imprinting in the wild is a survival instinct, which is an ongoing process between a mother wolf and her pups. A wolf pup won’t fully imprint on its mother for up to 12 days. After that, it won’t recognize any other female wolf as its mother. Imprinting just means that the wolf pup will form such a bond with it’s mother, it won’t want to leave her side, ever. And when it’s hurt, it will go to its mother. It will look to its mother to learn everything it needs to know, from howling to hunting. However, a wolf can imprint on something other than its biological mother, if it’s in constant contact with the person before the 12 days,” Alex, Jared, and Leah all stared at Kim, making her blush.
“What? I looked it up online when Jared told me about imprinting,” Kim explained.
“How can you remember that from high school?” Leah asked, slightly awed.
“It’s not something you tend to forget,” Kim said softly, and Jared reached over and rubbed her arm.
“Wait, I still don’t understand. I defiantly don’t think of Leah as my mother,” Alex said, confused, again.
“There are few similarities between wolf imprinting, and werewolf imprinting,” Kim started, getting into her lecture/teacher mood. They all looked at each other and rolled their eyes before settling down into a more comfortable position. “Wolf imprinting is between a mother and pup, and as I said before, it’s a survival mechanism, making sure a pup will learn everything and not wander off. Werewolf imprinting is between soul mates. As far as I can tell, the only similarities between the two imprinting patterns, is that in both, there is an extremely strong bond- the need to be close to your imprint and the desire to please them. That’s where the similarities end. Werewolf imprinting goes so much further than that,” Here Kim stopped and looked at Jared, before smiling evilly.
“Jared, everything I know about werewolf imprinting is what you’ve told me. Why don’t you tell them in your own words what it’s like,” Jared glowered at her before turning to face Alex and Leah. He made a face, but continued Kim’s train of thought.
“Imprinting goes so far beyond what you’ve ever felt before. When you see her, or him in this case, there is no other thought more important than that person. You need to protect her, to be with her, to cherish her, and to love her. You’re only concerned with making her happy,” Jared groaned. “I’m not explaining this very well am I?” I nodded to him, conveying that he was doing a great job. He misinterpreted the nod. “Alright, I’ll use Jacob’s words, since they so neatly tie everything up. When you see your imprint she becomes your sun, the center you your universe. You’re nothing but a moon pulled into orbit. She is like gravity, and you’re always pulled closer to her. She’s everything, no matter what,” Jared finished and heaved a great sigh. Leah stared at him and Kim, afraid to look at Alex, afraid to see what he really thought of that.
Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore, and she looked up. She was slightly surprised that Jared and Kim had left. She hadn’t seen them leave, even though she had been staring at them the entire time. It was a testament of her anxiety that she didn’t notice anything around her. Leah was generally a very detailed person. Out of the corner of her eye she could just make out Alex, sitting there. She heaved a sigh and gathered her courage and looked over. Sitting there, he stared out her window, obviously somewhere else, lost in his own thoughts.
“Hello, earth to Alex,” she called teasingly. He didn’t respond. “Hello… Alex, you there?” she tried again, to no avail.
“ALEX!” she yelled right in his ear, and he jumped.
“Sheesh woman, what is your problem?!” he demanded.
“I called you name like a bazillion times! You didn’t respond, so I had to resort to something drastic,” She replied acidly. He quirked an eyebrow at her.
“Bazillion?” He questioned. She blushed but met his gaze.
“Yeah, a bazillion, do you have a problem with that?” she challenged.
“No, none at all,” he said, then mumbled something under his breath.
“What did you say?” she asked caustically, folding her hands over her chest.
“Well, I was just saying how I didn’t think ‘bazillion’ was a word,” he answered smugly, thinking he had won. She looked at him, her mouth agape.
“Are you for serious?” she demanded, looking for some sign of a joke.
“Well, it’s not a word,” he replied candidly, shrugging.
“Oh yes it most certainly is,” she retorted, snorting.
“No it’s not,”
“Yes, it is!”
“No, it’s not!”
“I’ll prove it.” With that Leah tried to jump up to get her dictionary, momentarily forgetting that she was critically injured.
“Ahh!” she cried, falling back onto the bed. Instantly, Alex was there, holding her hand, making sure everything was all right.
“Shut up and just get my dictionary,” She ordered through gritted teeth. Alex stared at her in shock before grinning and shaking his head, but getting up to get the dictionary nevertheless. She flipped through the crisp white pages before getting to the ‘B’s.
“Ha, told you so,” she said, smirking, while Alex looked murderous.
“Whatever,” he said darkly.
“Aw, don’t be such a bad sport. I won fair and square!” she returned. Alex quirked an eyebrow at her.
“I wasn’t aware we were playing a game,” He said evenly. Leah stared at him before shrugging.
“Last time I checked we were. Didn’t you get the memo,” she responded cheekily. Alex sighed in exasperation before throwing his hands up in the air.
“Fine you win,” Here he paused, giving her the once over, “But next time I’ll be sure to win.” Leah blushed beneath his gaze.
“I always win at English!” she muttered, trying to pretend she didn’t understand what he meant. That made him lose his concentration and he smiled.
“Always?” He asked amused.
“Yeah, always. Actually, before the whole werewolf thing, I wanted to be an English teacher,” she told him. He looked at her, shocked.
“You… a teacher?” he asked incredulously.
“Why do you find that so hard to believe?” she demanded, stung by the unspoken accusation.
“Well, your patience isn’t quite… up to par for dealing with kids,” he said frankly.
“I’ll have you know that I was very sweet, and patient, and good with kids before S-” Here Leah cut herself off, cursing herself for her loose tongue.
“Before what?” Alex asked, curious. Leah sighed, realizing she’d have to tell him the story sometime.
“Before what Leah?” Alex demanded again after a few moments. Leah glared at him for a moment.
“Just hold your hackles. This is a long story. I need to collect myself,” Leah snapped. He folded his hands and leaned back in his chair, watching her expectantly. Leah also leaned back against her pillow, and closed her eyes, remembering.
“Before Sam Uley broke my heart,” she whispered, hating what came next.
“Sam?!” Alex started in surprise, sitting up.
“Don’t interrupt me,” Leah ground out, cracking one eye open. He eyed her warily, but leaned back in his chair anyways, without saying anything. She almost smiled.
“I was a senior in high school. Eighteen, beautiful, happy, carefree, and very much in love. Sam was fresh out of high school, taking a year off from college. Sam and I had been dating since the end of my sophomore year, his junior. We were the ‘it’ couple. It was assumed that we would get married one day. We were with each other constantly, and we enjoyed every second of it.”
“Enter Emily. She’s my second cousin you know. We were best friends. Always over at each others houses, we told each other everything. In fact, we had been discussing Sam proposing to me. She thought he’d do something big and fancy. I thought he’d do something small and simple.”
“Then he disappeared. Everyone was frantic to find him, but especially me. I didn’t sleep at all, those two weeks. Every day and night I was doing something for the search effort. I refused to accept that he was dead. Then he came back. At first I was ecstatic. I wanted nothing more than to be with him. But he- he was different. Not just physically, though that would’ve been enough, but emotionally. He was distant, and every time I’d touch him, he’d flinch away. I didn’t know what to do, how to help. Emily was good at dealing with me dealing with Sam. I decided to ask her to come over and help.”
“Sam was at my house when Emily came over. Instantly, his eyes were drawn to her, he watched her every move. I noticed, but Emily was oblivious. I thought it was something little, so I just ignored it. A week later, he took me for a walk through the forest. I thought he was going to propose.” Alex felt himself getting sick, watching Leah’s pain grow in her eyes. He listened to the story in horror, knowing how it ended.
“We stopped only a little distance from the house. He opened his mouth to say something, but I jumped the gun. I told him yes and jumped on him. He pushed me away, looking tortured. He looked me in the eyes and said slowly, ‘Leah, I think we should brake up.’ I was crushed. I became bitter and sarcastic. If I couldn’t be happy, then nobody could be happy. I forgot how to smile.”
“Emily was on my side… at first, furious with Sam. He continued to pursue her. Then there was the accident, and she couldn’t refuse him any longer. I understood, but it didn’t matter, it still hurt.”
“Remember, at this time, I didn’t know anything about werewolves or imprinting. To me, he was just a heartless bastard. Then I phased. It was terrible, to feel the love Sam feels for Emily, knowing how close I was to that same thing. That first year I made the whole pack miserable. Eventually I got over it, and the rest is, well… history,” she finished, shrugging.
“Is it okay that I want to tear Sam’s face off for hurting you?” Alex asked, half jokingly, half serious.
“Yes,” Leah said simply. The both grinned at each other. Leah was glad that she got that over with, and strangely enough, she felt relieved she had told Alex. It was like a weight was lifted off her chest.
“So, any past loves you’d like to tell me about?” Leah asked, trying to act nonchalant.
“Why?” Alex teased.
“No reason,” Leah replied quickly. Too quickly.
“Ah Leah, you flatter me with your jealousy,” Alex said, still teasing.
“Just answer the question,” Leah grumbled. Alex chortled.
“I’ve had girlfriends before, but I’ve never been in love,” he told her gently. Leah sighed in obvious relief, making Alex chuckle. Leah looked around the room, smoothing her blankets and wish she were in her own room.
“Alex… will you take me home?” she asked. Alex looked at her in surprise.
“I thought you lived here?” He asked, confused. She stared at him wondering if he was being funny or serious. One look on his face told her he was being serious.
“You think I live with my brother and his wife at 22?’ she asked incredulous. Alex just gave her a look that said, ‘yeah, what’s the problem with that?’ It was her turn to laugh.
“Alex, I live in my own house. Granted, Seth lives with me, but we thought it would be safer for mom that way,” she told him.
“Seth lives with you? Why?” he asked suspiciously.
“Seth is my brother you dork,” she said, laughing at him once again. “ Alex, you’ve made me laugh more in three days than I have in a year, so I thank you,” she told him lightly. Alex glared at her.
“Most defiantly not on purpose,” he moped. “So, how’re we going to get you home?”
“I have a car at my house, but let’s just borrow Jacob’s,” she decided. “His keys are in the desk by the refrigerator. Go get the car started, and I’ll be down shortly,” she directed him. Alex rolled his eyes at her commanding attitude but obliged anyway.
As soon as Alex left, Leah began through examination of herself. First, she felt for any unknown injuries. Finding none she moved on to test her ribs and legs, both of which had been broken. Though still sore, they were no longer broken, just fragile. A benefit of being a werewolf. She then went over her mental inventory, finding herself lacking. There had been to much going on too quickly, and she frowned at how she had dealt with it all. Leah decided that later she would need a long bubble bath, classical music, dark chocolate and a big journal. Right now however, she needed to concentrate on remembering how to walk.
Okay Leah, you can do this. First things first, sit up. Leah proceeded to follow her own advice, and she sat up slowly. Nothing too traumatic happened. Now then, swing your legs over the side of the bed. Again, everything went without a hitch. Now put weight on both feet equally and raise yourself off the bed. Leah managed to raise herself off the bed and put weight on her legs for all of about… three seconds before she collapsed on the ground.
She swore softly and herself before crawling to painfully to the dresser where her clothes lay. The only problem was getting the clothes down. As much as she stretched and strained, she was just too short on her knees to reach the top. Leah sat down with a huff and closed her eyes annoyed with herself. After all, Jacob had been running after three days of his accident, and she still couldn’t stand. So here she was sitting in the middle of a guest bedroom with only a bra and underwear on, moping.
Leah, you’re losing your touch, she thought, annoyed. She closed her eyes and waited for Alex to come back.
She didn’t have to wait long.
“What the hell Leah? What’re you doing?” Alex snapped, startled to find her on the floor. Leah took a breath and counted to ten before responding.
“I was trying to get my clothes on. Obviously it didn’t work,” she replied evenly, trying to keep her cool for once. Alex huffed.
“Why didn’t you wait for me? What if you had hurt yourself!” Alex replied, still aggravated.
“Alex… shut up and calm down,” Leah barked, the counting trick not working anymore.
“Seriously Leah, you need to act more responsible! Sometimes I wonder if you care about yourself at all!” Alex retorted. Leah saw red.
“Oh-my- god! I can’t believe you just said that! ‘You need to act more responsible,’ come on a get a grip! I tried to put my clothes on, not fly off three story building!” Leah shot back. Alex glared, and recognizing that he wasn’t going to win this one, he tried to appease her.
“It’s just, Leah, I don’t want to see you hurt,” Alex said softly. Leah sniffed, not going to be lured in this time.
“Whatever, just take me home,” she said. Alex sighed and handed Leah her clothes. She put them on and looked up at him expectantly. He stared back, confused. She rolled her eyes.
“What? Did you need something?” Alex asked stupidly.
“There was a reason I couldn’t get my own clothes. There is also a reason that I’m still on the floor. What is it?” she asked sarcastically. After moment of thinking, Alex finally got it and he bent down and picked her up under the knees.
“This is so humiliating,” Leah muttered. Alex chuckled.
“I rather like this, having you dependent on me. Perfection would be if I could figure out a way to shut you up sometimes,” he told her, carefully not looking down at her as he descended the steps. Leah smacked him lightly on the back of the head.
He settled her in the front seat and buckled her in, much to Leah’s amusement. He then got into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition.
“Are we ready to go home?” he asked, backing out of Jacob’s driveway. “Which way?”
Leah responded mechanically, her mind far away, thinking of home.
Our home, I like the sound of that.