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Paprika

Summary:
Many people dislike Paprika. They find its smell too pungent, its taste too strong. In many ways, it is like love, too fast, too deep, and too strong. Jacob finds, he actually rather likes it.


Notes:
Well, I don't own anything but the ones who are mine. Sadly only few of them are.


1. Chapter 1

Rating 0/5   Word Count 5380   Review this Chapter

Wounded

~

He’d stayed in Forks at first. He didn’t know why really, other than that it was Home. The pack, his father, all of that; was in Forks. Surprisingly, it hadn’t been hard for him to leave. Everyone had watched him go in stunned silence, Sam and the others burning holes into his back with their stares. Physically, he was twenty-five, old enough to take care of himself, to live alone; hunt alone. He hadn’t taken anything with him; her scent still lingered on most of his clothes.

Bella’s scent. Even thinking her name brought fierce pangs through Jacob’s chest, and at last he knew what she had felt when Edward had left. Or perhaps, a little more; Edward had not chosen another over her, as she had done. It had hurt her, she said, to choose. But she could not live without Edward a second time. Painful as it was, she had been right. He saw how close she came to giving up. And if she had been with him, as good as he was with fixing cars; he would not have been able to fix Bella. No matter how hard he tried, the bloodsucker had, and always would, come first.

When he’d left Forks, he’d just been running. Running from her face, her memory. For all the good it had done him, Jacob had considered turning back. Memories didn’t stay in one place, they came with you regardless of whether you wanted them to or not. He hadn’t heard anything from the pack in the three weeks he’d been gone, so he felt he could safely assume that they hadn’t changed at all since he’d left. Jacob was glad. He hadn’t wanted to be found so soon, if he wanted to be found at all.

Fat lot of good that was doing him now.

“Bella…” Jacob coughed, and smiling painfully, wiped the blood out of the corners of his mouth. The great bullet hole in his chest gaped agonizingly, and though he could feel his body healing, it wasn’t going to finish in time to save him. ‘No wonder Bella was so calm after near death experiences,’ he thought morbidly, ‘it’s so peaceful.’ He saw her face every time he closed his eyes, and he regretted not trying a little harder. It wasn’t as thought love grew on trees…

Some dry grass crackled under the weight of a stranger, and his body tensed, stressing the bullet wounds. He cried out at the unexpected jolt of pain, and the person moved closer. Jacob pretended not to notice as he let the person get closer to his outstretched palm. The figure knelt over him, and he swiped weakly at them, grinning in satisfaction when his half transformed hand sliced flesh. ‘Nobody’ll be able to say I didn’t go down fighting.’ He thought, vision growing black around the edges. He dimly heard the figure curse, in a distinctly female voice.

The ones who had attacked him had all been male. Shit.

“Fuck! Dammit, what’s in your hand, scissors?” Jacob felt his mind slipping away as he felt himself being dragged away from his attack scene. Gasping in pain as his body bumped heavily against the ground, he felt the blood from one of her arms dripping onto his bare shoulders. He briefly saw the light of the moon through the trees, and then darkness.

~

The room was too bright. The sunlight burned through Jacob’s eyelids, tattooing itself on his retinas. He groaned, and threw an arm over his eyes, and snuggled deeper into the pillows.

Wait.

The last he remembered, he’d been dying on the browned grass of some forest. There were no pillows in forests. Jacob sat up quickly, and stared around. The window was directly across from the bed on the opposite wall, and there was a dresser piled with the pictures of who he assumed was family and friends. The walls were a cheery gold, and the small bedside table was heaped with books of all sizes. A bottle of “Tylenol” was open on it, as well as a glass of water. His chest panged, and his hand shot up to try and soothe the pain. He felt cloth, and looked down; dressings.

Suddenly, an alarm went off somewhere nearby. Jacob calmed immensely after a moment, realizing that it was an alarm clock. He hunkered down in the bed, and closed his eyes, feigning sleep. He heard a muffled female voice, and a thump, and the alarm smashed against a wall. Yawning and then footsteps. He slowed his breathing just as she walked in. She tiptoed around to the bedside, and pulled back the sheet. Jacob tried not to tense.

“Still healing at an amazing rate…”she muttered, not bothering to change his bandages. Unable to resist, he grabbed her hand, and she shrieked, trying to pull away. “Let go of me!”

“Where am I?”

“You’re in New York! I found you in the woods, dying!” she growled, tugging at her arm. If she didn’t stop soon, she was going to pull it right out of the socket. “I’m just trying to help you; this is the second time you’ve attacked me!” she said shrilly, and Jacob noticed that the hand he was holding was covered in bandages up to the elbow. He’d forgotten about that. He loosed his grip, and she calmed a little. “You were shot up pretty badly when I found you. But… you are…healing so quickly… all I really had to do was clean you up, keep you fed, and suture up some gashes. That’s not normal.” She said, twisting her wrist in his iron grip. He let go abruptly, and she stumbled back, cradling her hand. The bandages were turning red, and Jacob bent his head. He’d probably reopened her wounds, and now they were bleeding through the bandages. He looked up at her for what must have been the first time, and he felt his heart nearly stop.

She was tall, though not nearly his height, with long neat dred locks down to the middle of her back. Her skin was a light caramel, and her eyes were two completely different colors, a fierce jade green, and a deep black. She was obviously assessing him as well, but he couldn’t think about that right now. He wanted more than anything to make her happy, although he didn’t even know her name yet. He wanted her to smile on him always, and be with him… He wanted to claw his own heart out and lay it at her feet to step on for hurting her. What was worse, he hadn’t lost control like Sam had with Emily. He had been perfectly sane, and had taken pleasure in thinking that he had damaged her. It didn’t matter that he thought she had been another attacker, his guilt was overwhelming. Jacob wanted to hold her hand again…

He paused. This was too fast. He didn’t know her name, his general vicinity, and at the moment, he couldn’t even remember why he had been shot in the first place. Hell, every time he glanced up into her discolored eyes, he couldn’t even remember his own name.

Names… Bella. The thought stopped him cold. He’d been in the woods because of Bella. Everything came flooding back, while the girl stood five feet from his bedside, grumbling about her bruises.

He’d stayed in Forks for four years, after she’d married her bloodsucker. And when he couldn’t take it anymore, he’d simply left, looking for something new. He’d been shot in wolf-form, with a shotgun. Probably why the holes had been so large. Bella. A part of him ached for her, but a new part, ached for the woman beside him. He scowled at it, wondering why he was so attached to her. Something that he and Bella talked about came rushing back with the rest of his brain as well. Imprinting. Jacob frowned heavily; he didn’t like not having control over who he imprinted on. If he’d had any choice, it would have been Bella. But it wasn’t. It was this strange woman who’d found him dying, and had done her best to nurse him back to health. Even after she saw his strange healing abilities.

“Hello?” she said, waving her hand in front of his face slowly. He grabbed it without thinking, and put it against the side of his face. “Um…. Yeah.” She stuttered, and Jacob wondered how she was making such a deep rumbling sound in her chest. It was comforting, and vibrating through his body at a peaceful pace. When he realized that the sound was him, he dropped her hand like an iron. “You… you’re not going to try and cut my hand off are you?” she joked strenuously, backing away from him a little. “I’ve grown rather attached to it over the years, if you catch my drift.”

He noted that the bandages were almost completely soaked through with blood, and that he probably had some on his face. The scent was overpowering. She caught his intense gaze, and took another step back. He cringed. Many a truth was said in jest.

“I apologize,” he said gruffly, noticing that his voice was grating and dry from disuse. “How…how long have I been here?” she calmed some more.

“Almost two weeks. You were out like a light, but then again, you did almost die; even with that amazing healing-thing you’ve got going.”

“Where am I exactly?” he asked, trying not to unnerve her with his stare. He couldn’t help it. He wanted to tattoo her on his eyelids, so that she would be with him even in his dreams.

“You’re in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York.” She paused for a second, and then her entire face lit up. “I forgot. I’m Charla. Charla Pinkett.” He kept himself from smiling like an idiot. ‘It’s just her name.’

“Jacob Black.”

“Sorry for startling you earlier. I always come in and check on you before I do anything, to make sure that you’re….” she paused, “still with the land of the living.”

He laughed.

“Thank you very much.” He took in her appearance; she was standing before him in a huge t-shirt, and men’s boxers. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail. He felt jealousy wash over him in waves. Whose shorts were those? They didn’t smell like her… Was she in a relationship already? Would she ever be with him then? She seemed to notice his hateful glance at her boxers, and she snickered.

“Yeah… I stole these from my brother. Mine would be a bit smaller….” He relaxed immensely. The relationship card wasn’t as big of a threat now.

He caught sight of her hand again, and cringed in shame. He touched in lightly, and she winced.

“Let me help you.” He said, grabbing her arm gently, and looking for a bathroom. She struggled halfheartedly, pulling her arm away.

“I’m fine. You should be lying down, Jacob Black. I can clean this,” she motioned to her hand, “all by myself. I’m a big girl. And I barely know you. I think that that warrants a little bit of pause here.” He smiled sadly.

“I’m so sorry… I never thought…”

“You thought someone had come back to finish you off. No worries. I’m from a jock-family. I deal with injuries pretty well.” She laughed, but he could see that she was obviously in a lot of pain. He shook his head.

“You took care of me. Let me take care of you.” He held his breath; this was more than just bandaging her wounds, letting him do this was the supreme act of mates, to care for one another in times of struggle. It meant so much. She stood there, staring into his eyes blankly, and then she looked away, a blush barely visible on her brown cheeks.

“Fine. The bathroom is the last door to the left.” He half carried-half dragged her down the hallway, and sat her on the closed toilet. “The washcloths and antiseptic are in that cupboard.” She pointed to one near the shower stall. He rummaged through it, grabbing two cloths, and a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide. Jacob set them down on the sink, and then balked at undoing the dressings. He didn’t really want to see the wounds he had inflicted on her, but he wanted to make them better more than anything. He peeled the bloody bandages away carefully, and tossed them into the sink.

He gaped. They weren’t as bad as he’d thought, but they were still bleeding sluggishly. He could see suture-holes where she had tried to fix it up herself, and failed. She had sewn him up well, but it seemed the pain had been too much for her.

There were four long gashes, leading from the back of her hand almost to her elbow, one, the smallest, was closing fine, but the other three were starting to look bad. He held her arm over the sink, and poured the antiseptic over her arm. She screamed.

“It burns! Oh god!” she wiped tears from her eyes, and gasped for breath.

“It’s okay,” he soothed, internally ripping himself a new one for the damage he’d caused. “Now, I’m going to put on the synthetic-skin.” He’d only used it himself once before, but it was a pretty self explanatory product. He tore off the labeling with his teeth, and layered the thin plastic over her wounds. It blended in instantly with her skin, and then he grabbed some new rolls of bandages, and wrapped her arm up gently. “You should have gone to a doctor.” He said sternly.

“Oh, yes,” she retorted, looking as though she was trying to ignore the stinging in her arm. “And I would have told them that I almost got my arm sliced off by some dying man in a forest. That wouldn’t have made me look like a suspect, oh no.” Charla snapped, cradling her burning arm.

“Yes, well, it should heal fine now. But you’ll have to get stitches.” He said smoothly, ignoring her outburst. She groaned.

“I hate stitches.”

“I can see that.” His stomach growled angrily, and she smiled, earlier frustration forgotten. She looked at her arm, before jerking her head at the door.

“Let’s get some breakfast.”

~

Jacob sat silently at the kitchen table as Charla busied herself around the kitchen. She had assessed him before setting out to cook. She sat him down, and asked if he had any allergies.

“Not that I know of.” He grinned. She flushed slightly.

“Good. I’ll make you an omelet.” She looked him up and down. “Or four.”

He could smell the pancakes that she was flipping, and the eggs that she had set on the table and instructed him not to touch were beginning to get cold. Now that Charla wasn’t facing him, Jacob could think a little clearer. He sighed. The more he was around her, the less his heart pined for Bella. He knew that he would always love her, but the part of him that still did seemed to get smaller and smaller by the minute. He ached to be in Charla’s arms at the same time he ached for Bella’s. Jacob couldn’t help the guilt that froze him every time he thought about his in-ability to save her from her bloodsucker, regardless of how much she claimed to love him. He supposed now that it was just not meant to be, but that hadn’t stopped his heart from longing. Imprinting had seemed so silly at that point, something that happened to everyone else. Something that wouldn’t happen to Jacob. But now that it had, he could see what Sam meant. Every other thought, every other moment, was filled with her smile, her face, her scent. Even the memory of Bella was beginning to hurt less and less.

He missed her just as much… but it seemed as if, no matter how hard he fought against it that Charla was taking up residence in his heart.

And she didn’t seem to want to move any time soon.

“Pancakes are done!” she chirped, clanking the plates down in front of him. He began piling pancakes onto his plate, letting her snatch one or two in between his immense servings. She scowled at him, and shoveled some eggs onto her plate before he could demolish them completely.

“Thanks for letting me have some,” she muttered around her food. “You eat like you’ve never seen food.” He almost responded that he hadn’t, at least, not for a few days. She smirked. “Then again, I guess you haven’t.”

He nodded.

“Haven’t eaten for a while,” he agreed, ignoring the fierce spark of joy at the thought that she was taking care of him. The way a mate would. He looked down at her hand, and then back up to her face. “How did you learn to take care of people so well?” he asked, still chewing. She waved her hand dismissively.

“I told you earlier, I come from a really sporty family. They like a lot of sports, and well, people get hurt. Tripping over rocks and stuff, you have to learn how to stitch up, and patch up people. You know?”

Jacob saw the lie, and he could tell that she knew he saw it. But he didn’t say anything. He barely knew Charla; he didn’t have any right to drag secrets out of her. Yet. He nodded nonchalantly, and continued to wolf down his breakfast.

“Where are you from?” Charla piped, trying to keep the air from growing tense. “You looked like you’d come an awfully long way,” she took a gulp from a glass of water.

“I,” he paused, trying to think of what to say. “I’m from Forks, Washington.” He said slowly, wanting to gauge her reaction.

“That sounds far,” she said, beginning to clear up the dishes. “How’d you get so beat up?” she asked, running the water. “Those were bullet wounds, even if you were driving, car accidents don’t do that to a person.”

Jacob paused. Charla was onto him. Not that she knew she was, but the point was, she was onto something. She wouldn’t be able to handle the truth. Not yet.

“Did some people from Forks do it?” she questioned lightly, scrubbing the syrup off of his plate.

Jacob thought of Sam. They would come looking for him soon.

“No. It wasn’t anyone that I knew.” ‘I was in wolf form when it happened.’ “None of the people I know would do that. They don’t even carry guns.”

“So then we have a mystery shooter.” Jacob almost laughed, but stopped himself. The people who’d shot at him had seen a huge wolf, not a man. They hadn’t known that he was a person. They probably would still have shot if they had known, and regardless of how pissed he was that he’d been riddled with shotgun shells, he couldn’t tell Charla.

“I guess we do. But, it’s fine. I think they were hunting. It was a mistake.” She let the dishes clank together in the sink as she spun to face him, anger seeping out of every pore.

“A mistake? You had two bullet holes in you! Two! Once, maybe, but this isn’t Dick Cheney, they won’t get away with shooting someone in the middle of the night for no reason!” she yelled, and poked a finger into his chest, disregarding the bandages. “And you! I am getting you another pair of sweatpants, a t-shirt, and we are going to the police office, and you are going to repot this! Today!” she marched back over to the sink, and began loading the dishes into the dishwasher. Jacob grinned. She was such a spitfire.

“Charla, neither of us is in any shape to report anything today. Let’s go tomorrow.”

“No, Jacob.” She said, shaking her head. “Somebody shot you. That person could be dangerous to other people too. At least let’s go into town, okay?” she pleaded, and he knew that she hoped to sway him once they got into the town. It wouldn’t work, but she was welcome to try. “Besides, you need to get affiliated with the layout, and things. You’ll need things to do during the day; you won’t be content just sitting around here.”

He nodded at last, not telling her that whatever she said, he’d always be where ever she was.

~

Jacob heard the water running in the bathroom, and fought the urge to enter. She’d be scared out of her mind, and probably call everything off, and kick him out of her house, healing or not. Jacob hadn’t transformed in over a week, and he was itching for a run. Of course, then it was highly likely that he would hear Sam, or anyone else in the pack, and they would find him.

He wasn’t ready to go back to Forks.

Jacob heard the water go off, and he kept his door closed as Charla padded into her room.

“I’m out!”

Jacob grabbed the towel she’d left for him on his bed, and jogged to the bathroom, which was still filled with steam. In a childish impulse, he drew a smiley face on the fogged u mirror, and then turned to the shower. The faucet was still dripping when he turned it on, but the water came out hot. Showering quickly, he hopped out, and looked at a note on the sink.

“Jacob; here’s an extra toothbrush.” It was a post-it, attached to a mint green toothbrush. Jacob tore the post-it off, and proceeded to brush his teeth. They weren’t too grimy, which meant that Charla really had been doing her best to take care of him.

When he entered his room with a towel wrapped around his waist, he found sweatpants, a pair of boxers, and a t-shirt. She hadn’t been kidding when she said that they were going into town. He pulled the clothes on, hoping that they wouldn’t tear from his size. They didn’t. They fit well; although the shirt was a little too snug for his liking.

He emerged from his room while finger combing his hair, to find Charla standing by the hall table.

“Let’s go,” she said, and Jacob smirked, knowing that she had perused his body in the clothes that she’d picked out for him. They walked down the stairs in silence, and he noticed Charla grabbing her keys, and heading down the way opposite the kitchen. It was a straight shot to the front door. She opened it up, and stepped outside. It was a beautiful day, roughly eighty degrees. Jacob’s skin itched to grow fur, but he squashed the longing. He needed to solidify things as they were first, then he could tell her.

“This way, iron-giant,” she teased, sauntering down the gravel driveway, and onto the street. Jacob studiously tried to ignore the way her hips swayed in front of him. And how perfectly she fit the Bermuda shorts she was wearing. Or how with each step, her breasts seemed to be begging for his attention…

No.

He desperately pulled himself back, and breathed heavily; hoping Charla hadn’t noticed anything was amiss.

She hadn’t. She was still making her way down the road, and turning into a park.

“This is the easiest way into town,” she said, nudging his elbow. “It’s pretty much a straight shot. Since it’s around four, we’ll just be visiting the doctors’, and the mall, to find some stuff for you.”

“It’s fine, I don’t need anything.”

“You can’t just wear old sweatpants every day, Jacob.”

“I can too.” He replied resolutely, crossing his arms.

“We’ll see.” She said, dropping it for the moment. As they walked, their surroundings steadily became more and more urban. This wasn’t a town! It was more like a city! A small city though.

Much like Forks.

He sighed again, and this time, Charla noticed. Placing a hand on his arm, she turned him to face her.

“Is something wrong, Jacob? You keep… sighing.”

Sparks shot straight to his loins, and Jacob shuddered.

“I’m fine,” he lied. “Just fine.”

He missed Forks; it was true; it was his home. But hopefully, if things went as he assumed they would (as of course, at this point, there was no way he could just let Charla go,), they could return back, and she would become a permanent fixture in his life. If he could, in fact, get rid of the annoyingly loyal part of his heart that still ached for Bella’s arms, Bella’s touch, and Bella’s kiss. It had only been a day, and he was feeling like this… Sam had said that it would be this way though, for any of them who imprinted. He’d said that it would be fast, powerful… and permanent. He wouldn’t be able to be with Bella, even if she did change her mind, which was as likely as an alien coming down at that very moment, and patting on the head for being such a good little doggie.

“I said we’re here,” Charla snapped, breaking him out of his thoughts. The Hospital loomed in front of them, and Charla stepped inside, dragging him behind her. He didn’t resist. She asked quickly for a doctor, and seeing the bandages on her hand, a nurse responded momentarily. Two doctors came strolling down the hallway, and took them each separate ways.

“I’ll see you in a second,” she said nervously, anticipating the pain of her stitches. Jacob, on the other hand, was escorted to a different room, where the doctors poked and prodded his mostly-healed wounds.

“How long ago were you shot?” he asked, pulling out a clipboard. Jacob stiffened.

“Seven months ago.” As opposed to a week and a half ago.

“I see. Good recovery. You are a lucky young man. If Miss Pinkett hadn’t found you, you’d probably be dead.” That piqued his curiosity.

“And why is that?”

“Because, young man, she’s been in a work study program here for a year, ever since she finished high-school. If she hadn’t stumbled along, none of us would have found you.”

‘Now hat was interesting,’ thought Jacob as he pulled back on his shirt. ‘If I stayed in Forks for four years, legally I’m twenty, so that makes her nineteen. She didn’t go to college.’ He shrugged. It wasn’t like he had gone either. His options had been a little shot when Bella left. He had almost failed out of school before he got his act together. The time he’d spent from sixteen until now was a little hazy. When Jacob left, his depression had been lifting, but he’d wanted something to take his mind off of things. So he’d headed east.

Jacob sat in the waiting room as he waited for Charla. He wanted to be with her, dammit! What could be taking so long? Finally, after what seemed like hours, she stumbled out of the office, and collapsed on the chair beside him.

“God, I hate stitches,” she muttered, cradling her arm. “They gave me some anesthetic, but it wore off by the time they were almost done. I was crying like a baby,” she joked, her face red as a testament to her admittance.

“It’s okay. Stitches hurt. That’s nothing to be a shamed of,” he said, patting her arm. She looked at her watch, and then at him expectantly. “It’s five o’clock, let’s get out of here.” Just as they were about to exit, Jacob’s doctor came rushing toward them.

“One moment, Miss Charla. Please remember to come in next week, and let us check those gouges, hmm? One must never be too careful when animals are involved.” The doctor said imperiously, and strode away.

Jacob said nothing as she flushed, and lead him outside. They passed a convenience store, when Jacob caught a familiar scent. One that had been similar to the night of his “accident.” He stopped walking with Charla, and started towards the store.

“Jacob! You’ve been acting odd ever since you woke up, today. What’s the matter with you?” she panted, catching up to his long stride.

Before he could approach any of the men standing outside, one of them walked over to Charla. He suppressed his growl of jealousy automatically.

“Well, if it isn’t Charla.”

“Hey, Rob. Don’t be a butt in front of my friend.” She pointed to Jacob, who nodded stiffly.

“Well,” said Rob, “My dad and I were just telling everybody about our Hunting trip last week,” he finished proudly, jutting out his chest a little. This time holding in the growl was harder. He was trying to impress Charla with a measly thing like a hunting story? If she was impressed by that, then he could top the boy tenfold! The older man, Rob’s father, seemed to be more respectful, and inclined his head to Jacob.

“As I was saying, we were out in the middle of the forest, when out of nowhere; we hear this sound, right? This growling. My dad grabs his gun, and I grab mine, and we start tracking this thing. It’s huge, I think it was a bear or something, but it was big. Probably mean too.” Jacob had a feeling where this was going, and it was hard to stop the hatred rising like bile in his throat. “So finally, we catch up to it, and it’s friggin’ huge! Like a monster! So we nailed it!” he said excitedly. “It let out this groan, right, and sped off. We were too slow to catch it, so we gave up. But it was brown, and huge, so we think it might have been some sort of over-grown bear. Nothing we couldn’t handle though.” Rob patted himself on the back, and Jacob nearly gagged in disgust. This was who had shot him? This poor excuse for a hunter, who took pleasure in brutally slaughtering animals whose lives had more value than three of his, this was what had nearly killed him?

Some of the people who had gathered around to hear his account were awed by his description of the “creature”, but others still looked bored. Jacob smirked. It was best they didn’t believe him.

“So where’s the body?” Rob’s face turned purple at the accusation, and he whirled on the accuser.

“Dead in the woods somewhere, of course,” he snarled. “I told you, it ran off to die someplace. Why don’t you go look for it?” he snapped.

Jacob tugged Charla’s arm; who was also looking a little green. As they walked away, Charla shuddered.

“Rob can be really nice sometimes, but I hate his hunting stories. I think I hate hunting period,” she whispered, sticking her tongue out. Jacob breathed deeply in and out. Another shot to the apex of his thighs. “He’s a family friend. I kind of have to be nice to him,” she admitted. “Otherwise, I’d never be subjected to his fairytale hunting stories.”

‘You have no idea.’