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Monster

Summary:
I'm nothing but a monster burning in a hell that only exists in my head. There's no hope left until one harmless glance chances logic and binds two eternal enemies together in a twist of fate. Can the escape from this hell be found in an infuriating dimpled grin? Or is this another dark, dirty trick of my own mind? A forbidden passion, heat, and intense anger—this is no fairytale.


Notes:
[Disclaimer: Monster is an originally plotted fic. The ideas within this fic are not to be copied in any way, shape, or form—I have not given my consent to any manner of copying. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of their respective owners. All canon concepts and characters are the property of the Twilight Saga's author, Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. Similarities are for the sole use of fan fiction, and no profit has been or will be benefited from the posting of this fic.] Emerging Swan Award 2012, nominated into Fandom Choice Awards.


41. Crash and Burn

Rating 0/5   Word Count 6088   Review this Chapter

"Timber, timber
We're falling down
Let the forest hear our sound." - Imagine Dragons.

Chapter Forty One

Crash and Burn

*Jordan*

Ugh. I'm boooooooooored. So bored, I might, like . . . chase my tail. Or chew a bone. Do wolves chase their tails? Hmm. Boy, it would probably look stupid to chew a bone. But running is so boring, ugh!

God, will Collin ever shut up?

Hey! I can hear you!

So? Wha'cha gonna do about it? Bite my—ow! Dude!

You don't have any reason to freak out on me, Brady. You asked for it!

Morning patrol isn't much to brag about. It still seems like a punishment, only this time, Sam is suffering the joys of the new wolves with me. Kind of.

Even though he tries to hide it, I catch the mistrust set deep in his mind. When he looks at me, his muscles tense, and there's a sort of anxiety that ripples through him. Now, as we all jog through the forest, he wears the scent of fear. Fear that if I'm out here alone, there will be destruction. Fear that I will cause trouble. Fear that I am trouble.

But for now, above that fear is a layer of irritation. Sam's paws scrape the ground with every step, and a low rumble of annoyance rises from his chest. He picks up his pace, distancing himself from the bickering wolves, although he says nothing to stop their bickering. Some part of him thinks that there's nothing he really can do. After all, Collin and Brady are the only two who will jump at the chance for a six o'clock patrol.

I, on the other hand, won't put up with it so easily. I push straight through the pine, heading for the two gangly wolves on the other side. I've been running parallel to them, and they're completely unaware of my presence. My dark eyes narrow, because even though my white fur is like a bright burst of neon against the late summer colors, the patrol continues on without a glance in my direction. The pine needles stab into my fur, and I growl under my breath at them as I lunge.

My body slides between the two clueless wolves. I throw my weight left, then right, knocking them both down. They both give a sharp yelp of surprise, and Sam grunts at the sudden change of thoughts, but I barely hear it. The two bodies on the ground nearly blend in, but my eyes don't have a problem picking out the shapes of their bodies against the forest floor, and my paws find their throats.

The bodies writhe in pain, but I hold them down, even as they jerk and arch up. My head lowers, my muzzle placed at a point just in between their large heads. The whites of their eyes are visible as their gazes bulge, but my paws continue to crush their airways, slowly suffocating the life out of them. Even the wolves' minds are scrambling, unable to produce anything but soundless panic.

Let's say that for some disgusting, senseless reason, I'm a leech. I begin. The pressure of the weight beneath my paws is just as heavy as the taunting in my tone.

Jordan, Sam warns. His voice has a sharp edge to it that barely penetrates into my mind. It's nothing to me anymore.

Let's say I'm a leech, and you just happen to be my prey. I've got you down, and you're about to have your throats sucked dry. Why? Mmm, it probably has something to do with the fact that instead of focusing, you're bickering like a pair of children. My paws angle forward, and I feel my claws tear at warm flesh. If you learn how to shut the hell up and focus, you'll catch the leech before it catches you.

If not? I slash my paws down toward the ground, splitting a thin line of flesh in the wolves' throats, forcing my paws to slam back into the dirt. You might as well dig your graves before even considering that. Understood?

Both the wolves' heads nod quickly. I snarl at them, flashing my teeth. Brady slowly rises onto shaking legs, but Collin remains on the ground, frozen with shock. I huff once at him, watching him flinch. Lesson learned.

That was not an appropriate way to handle that situation, Jordan.

My gaze connects to one higher than my own. I curl my lip back at the irritation in Sam's eyes as he gazes down at me, his ears pressed flat to his head. Disapproval practically pulses from him as he glares.

Sometimes, it takes a little bit of a wake up to get the point across, Sam. And you weren't going to do it. I bow, lowering my head while keeping my eyes steady on Sam's. Consider it a favor, Alpha Almighty. No charge.

Sam's mind channels into the fright that's plagued Collin and Brady's minds. He shakes his head once. What do you think you're doing, Jordan?

Suddenly, Emmett's face is displayed in the front of my mind. I see the firm line of his jaw, the smooth white of his skin, the deep, dark hue of his short hair, and the burn of his golden eyes. Even his dimples are visible, although the image is focused in on his eyes, and the light that thrives within them.

The image twists and spins. Now, it's of the two of us, with my eyes opened just a crack to watch our lips meet, to feel that spark and watch it happen. I feel a surge of emotion charging through every inch of my body, and I feel the circle of the ring settled on my finger.

I release a breath and all of it disappears, and my thoughts are focused on the forest once more. I see my dark, angry gaze mirrored in Sam's. He happened. And I'm damn proud of him, it, whatever you want to call him. Oh, you disapprove? That's a bummer, considering he's apparently going to be my husband soon. I snort once and snap my teeth, swinging my head from side to side as I turn away. Love you too, Sam.

The shock is static in the air, but I don't pay any mind to it. My body rockets off, thundering back beneath the pines and out toward the river. The storm of thoughts is a language I can't even understand. I block it all out, my senses focusing on only one thing.

Air is weight in my lungs, but I press forward. The river sloshes around me, threatening to suck me down into its merciless current, but I move through it and up to the bank. The forest is foreign and strange, but I still jog through the grounds, straight up to the porch of the Cullen house.

My stomach lurches at the reek of leeches, but underneath them all is a scent that instantly causes all my muscles to relax, to remind my why I'm here. Emmett. I'm here for Emmett. I repeat the words to myself as I clear the steps and close my fingers around the doorknob. I stare at it for a long moment, watching the tips of my fingers quiver.

Emmett.

I wait a minute, allowing the shakes to ease before I twist the knob. As I open the door, I am immediately overcome by the sense that something is different. Something is wrong. I breathe in slowly, and as I slide through the doorway, I freeze, and my heart constricts.

*Emmett*

I amble into the house, taking my own sweet time. After all, us immortals have all of eternity. The only time we have to rush is when there's a good night for a hunt, or when there's a nice deer prancing about, waiting to be made into a meal.

Not only that, but when a hot, amazing woman is about to show up at your doorstep . . . a little hustle is great there, too.

Our family has taken numerous hunting trips just like this. The problem in Seattle is really getting to Esme, and she's starting to worry. I say we go there now, find out exactly what's going on, and have a little action along the way. But of course, nobody else agrees. If they might be coming near here anyway, why wait? I've been up around Seattle twice: once to take Jordan out to the bar, and a second time to get her a ring. There have been little hints and traces of newborns, maybe even a couple of them around. Even that isn't enough to make Carlisle and Esme get things going.

I shake my head as I open the door, stepping inside again. My thoughts are drifting over to her again. Jordan. It's so different with her, like I have a choice. I have the choice to reject her, and I have the choice to make her go. But I don't want to. I can't resist. And I doubt she can, either. I know I have an effect on her, but what can I say? I'm Emmett. It just happens.

A chuckle passes through my lips as I laugh at my own thoughts. I think of the way she slowly starts to smile, as if it's been ages since she has. I can see it in her eyes. I can see that a ghost of something is haunting her, making her shut down. But hey, I can fix that. I am sure that I can fix her, at least make her better. I don't want her to slip away again, and in order to stop it, I'm going to make her mine. She's going to be like a best friend. With a ton of benefits on the side, of course.

I continue to slowly walk through the house. I'm at ease now, and nearly patient, although I can't ignore the impatience that's still there. She is coming. It's like a sixth sense. My Jordan sense. I smirk for a moment, wondering what she'd have to say about that, or maybe she has an Emmett sense as well.

Too indulged in my self-amused thoughts, I don't pay any mind to the unfamiliar scent that drifts into my nostrils. But I do pause as my peripheral vision catches a glimpse of something. A grin spreads across my face as I stop, leaning around the wall to look at the door.

"Jordan?"

Nothing.

I take a step forward, my eyes scanning the room. "C'mon, you don't gotta hide from me, babe," I say with a smirk.

There's a shuffle of movement. I know someone is there. Instinct tells me this without having to see anything. I take another step, raising my eyebrows. "Jordan?"

My eyes snap over to another sudden movement. I stare for a long moment, until finally, a figure moves out from behind the staircase. She's nothing threatening: a short body with a long wave of brown hair. I study her features, and instantly pick out the familiar crimson of her irises. There's only one period of time that I have ever seen eyes that red.

I'm not sure if it's so ironic, it's amusing that one of them is here, or if it's so random, it's suspicious. I don't take the time to mull it over as curiosity gets the better of me. My head tilts and my mouth moves quickly as I speak.

"I think you're a little lost," I say.

The woman doesn't answer. Her wide gaze is locked on me, and she stands stiffly as she stares. I fold my arms to my chest, leaning back against the wall. This seems like it might take a while.

"Don't speak English? I'm not too sharp on anything else," I tell her with a chuckle. "I bet you're looking for Carlisle Cullen, right?"

The woman's red eyes dart around before landing on me. She is restless, as if she is extremely uncomfortable with having to stand so still, but she can't do anything else. I find it strange that she still doesn't seem nervous, as if invading another's territory is completely normal. Despite the rising questions, I remain silent, waiting for the woman to answer.

It takes a few minutes, but she finally caves and speaks despite her unease, her bell-like voice flowing smoothly. "I came in search of one of you with yellow eyes," she murmurs. "One of you about whom we have been warned. I knew I should have alerted the creator, but you were out in daytime, and you weren't burning. And so I followed."

As the woman speaks, her eyes roam over my form. I pay no mind to this—I'm far too used to being sized up as a threat. I quirk an eyebrow, listening to her words carefully. They fill me with a sense of suspicion. She has come from somewhere, and the only possibility has to be Seattle. This woman must know something.

I nod. "Well, I have yet to burn after decades in the sun. That's complete bullshit," I glance down at my sleeved arms, checking to make sure it's true before I meet her stare again. "But there's nothing special here. What else do you want?"

"Hmm." The woman glides forward, her movements so fluid, it's almost as if her feet barely touch the ground. She doesn't respond to me, but her eyes remain locked on mine, piercing deep through me. It's like she can see straight through my soul as she stares, and I don't like it.

Ignoring the tiny alarms in my head, I continue to watch the woman approach. Hunting must not be enough. I raise my voice slightly this time, letting the deep sound project. "You came from Seattle. What do you know?"

The woman's gaze connects with mine again, and for a moment, I swear I see a flicker of unmistakable russet skin. But, as I blink, I can only see the slight swing of the woman's pale arm as she steps even closer. My eyes slant with suspicion. "What do you want?"

"Nothing, Emmett," she murmurs.

Now that's creepy. My brows shoot up, and I feel my biceps flex, preparing for some sort of a quarrel. The woman's crimson irises are filling me with an eerie sensation, similar to the one I get when Edward pries into my head. Once again, I shake it off, focusing more on the unnecessary lack of distance between us.

"So you know my name too, huh?"

"I know a lot about you."

I start to speak, but my words are cut off. Again, the woman disappears for the briefest instant. This time, I can fully see Jordan. Her skin, her body, and the dark yet sexy expression permanently etched onto her face. I pull in a quick breath, tasting the sharp bite of her sweet scent. And then it is gone again, and the woman's hands are reaching for my chest.

"Whoa." I gently push them back. "A little close there."

The woman ignores my push and shoves against my hands. I brace them there, holding her back. The woman doesn't even seem to mind my rejection. She bats her long lashes up at me, flashing a white smile. I want to chuckle at how ridiculous the woman looks, but the pressure of her pushing is only increasing, and her scent is causing my head to swim. I give one heave, forcing the woman back against the couch. My narrowed eyes find her gaze again, and I instantly regret my action.

Dark blue. They aren't the red I've been seeing, they're dark blue. I feel those eyes shoot deep into mine, and I am flooded with guilt. I've rejected her.

"I'm sorry," I mumble, because it's hard to think of much else to say as my head starts to spin. My arms are jelly, and the sense of limitless strength I normally feel is gone, replaced by a crushing pressure. I stare back into the eyes of her—of Jordan—as she straightens up and advances on me again, not seeming to be the slightest bit bothered. She smiles at me as she nears, showing her bright white teeth.

Instinct screams at me to force her away again, but I have been taught and trained through the decades to reject most of it. I grin at Jordan as she comes closer to me, and my eyes watch the sway of her hips. My hands meet her body, and my arms go around her waist as she comes closer. Those dark blue eyes stare up at me, and I think my dead heart starts to beat again. That is, until she giggles.

The sound causes me to pause. It's so strange to hear a giggle coming from Jordan's mouth. It's like hearing a toddler speak with the deep voice of a man. Jordan seems to sense my pause, though, and she slides her hands up my chest. The feeling doesn't bring the same spark I've always felt, but I can see her here in front of me, and I don't want to make her stop. My head leans down toward her. Slow, easy.

Our moment is quickly interrupted. There's a stream of dull light as the door swings open before colliding with the wall. The force sends a shudder through the house. My head snaps up, and my eyes narrow. A hiss spits out from a mouth that's not my own. I want to growl at the someone, or maybe something, that has found a way to interrupt us again, but I swallow it back as I stare at the woman in the door, unable to tear my eyes away.

I'm seeing double.

*Jordan*

Constricts is a bit of an understatement. In the time it takes for the hand of a clock to tick, my heart bleeds, bursts, and breaks. Despite the crippling pain that crashes through me, I am instantly in action without hesitating.

I am powered by the strength of the wolf. There is no need to think. The she-leech turns toward me, her wild eyes locking in on me. I bare my teeth at her, lunging straight for her. The leech underestimates the action, her red eyes narrowing as she throws herself forward. I plant my foot against the floor as she does, stopping short and ducking to the side. The leech extends her hands, clenching at empty air. She gives a wild shriek as the realization hits her.

And I strike. I bring her down hard, slamming her flat against the ground. My foot presses into her back. I hold her there for a moment, smirking at her useless thrashes, before my hand grabs her shoulder and twists. There's a crunch, a snap, and a pop before it breaks loose. I lift up the limb slowly, barely hearing the screeches of pain. My fingers ghost over the arm, burning against the cold skin. I pause for just a moment before I spin the arm through my fingers and drive it down hard into the back of the leech's exposed neck.

The power flowing through me is nearly too much. My body trembles with it, but I don't stop. I press the arm down and grind it into the leech's neck, watching the cracks spread. She thrashes beneath me uselessly. I take my time, slowly cracking off bit by bit of the leech's neck. I am sure I'll kill her slowly, sure she'll die painfully, but I haven't paid attention to the audience behind me until he makes himself known.

As the final piece of the leech's neck breaks and pops, Emmett comes forward. He moves swiftly, just a flash and a blur. There's a huge boom. I blink, and find myself staring down at crushed pieces of what once was the vampire's head. They lay scattered across the floor. In the middle of the pile is Emmett's cold fist, the knuckles pressed into the dents they've created in the floor. My eyes follow the scattering of the pieces before lifting, only to be met by a bright, topaz stare.

Emmett smiles slightly as I look up at him, as if there's nothing to worry about. It's not convincing me, though. I stare back at him, listening to the quiet sound of our breathing. I am completely still, even as Emmett moves closer, and his lips brush my own. I remain still, rooted on the spot, as he slowly reaches out, sliding his fingers through my own. His foot kicks the lifeless, broken body aside as he attempts to pull me into him.

I can feel him drawing me close, but I don't move. My fingers are limp against his, but my body is a live wire. Each and every muscle is locked in place. Set to fight.

"Jordan," Emmett whispers.

His voice is a sudden sound, and it pulls me a little further into reality. I can feel Emmett's eyes on mine as he waits for me to speak. Minutes pass, and his fingers loosen around mine, although he keeps his hold on my hand.

"Jordan, it isn't what you think."

One shoulder relaxes, but the other stays tight. I inhale slowly, pulling in Emmett's scent. I open my mouth, slowly allowing my mind to form words. "Then what is it? Having another woman all over you, innocently?"

"No, no, I didn't . . . I'm not like that. I was seeing your face, hearing you, and I wasn't gonna resist you," Emmett says quickly. His hand grips mine a little tighter.

No matter how much I want to speak, I can't. Some part of me is urging my lips to move, to voice my understanding, but the anger that is ground in me has already started to take control. All other emotion has been programmed out, but the anger—the source of the monster—is still there. I breathe it, I taste it, I feel it, I am it. Soon, I will be the wolf, and I can't stop it.

Emmett's eyes search mine, a hopeful gleam bright and clear in them. "Jordan?"

I have to tear my gaze away from his before I'm persuaded to stay. My feet crunch over tiny pieces of leech. I hear no sound, as if I am submerged underwater, but I can feel my body moving as I force myself to leave. I must leave—I must space myself from Emmett before the wolf takes me.

Right as I reach the door, a cold hand catches my wrist my wrist. I am turned gently and forced to face him. Forced to stare at his guilty eyes. Forced to inhale his sweet scent and know that he has only told the truth, and there is no reason to be spacing myself. My wolf isn't going to be giving me a choice, though.

"Wait . . . please, just . . . stay," Emmett pleads. His voice his strained again, as if he can feel the same breaking sensation in his own chest.

I hurt. Hurt for Emmett, hurt because I know I am the reason for the hurt. All I can do is nod, because I'm unable to speak as the shakes start to set in. Instinct is overriding my common sense, and the wolf is stretching. I feel myself shaking, so hard it hurts, but Emmett's hand still holds mine. He is innocent. He doesn't understand why I'm leaving, but I have forgotten how to speak. I can't explain to Emmett, and I can't let him know that I understand. All I can do is leave, even though my body aches. All I can do is leave before the wolf does even more damage.

Emmett drops my hand, moving to wrap his arms around my burning, shaking body. That is my chance. I know I only have half a second to act, and I don't waste any of it. The instant his fingers brush over my skin, I throw my body forward, lurching away from him. My heart seems to tear, but I don't stop. My shoulders hunch, and a familiar heat whispers through my body. I crash straight through the door, continuing down the stairs until I meet the ground, landing on paws instead of feet.

"No! Jordan, wait!"

I force myself to continue forward, but I can still see him in the corner of my eye. Emmett pushes through the mass of crumpled wall, shoving away the broken material. He shouts my name, and when he finds nothing, his eyes turn to the forest. I'm already too deep in the shadows for him to see me, although for a moment, I swear his eyes find mine. He pauses for a moment, just a moment, before turning his head to the ground. Emmett curses loudly, spitting venom on the ground as he raises his arm to his mouth and scrubs frantically.

I need to go back to him, but I can't. My paws move against my will, and my heart hammers in my ears. He doesn't know what I'm doing. I don't even completely understand what I'm doing, but I do know that there are only a few seconds of time to gather myself before the wolf takes over. I have to do this. There is no choice.

Sucking in a deep breath, I rocket forward, charging into the shadows as the countdown begins.

3...

Everyone's been waiting for this. For the break in the strange, happy story. But hell, there's no way I'll give anybody the satisfaction of seeing it all crumble down over something like this. I can feel myself crashing, but I catch myself, forcing my legs to hold me up. Some bit of me wants to sink down into that dark nothing, but I've come too far to allow myself to be dragged down to the depths. I huff at the thought and push my legs faster, channeling my thoughts on the feeling of my body together, in one piece.

2...

Trees whip past with every stride, air raking through every inch of my skin. Each breath is heaved, a ragged intake of air. My hands have become weapons, deadly claws that are ready to make the change into a killer.

1...

I am not the wolf. She is apart of me, but she is not who I am. Jordan Uley. I have to hang onto the piece of her inside, even though my body is quaking and falling to pieces. The final flares shoot off inside my body, and I let out a final breath as I collapse into another form.

0.

I combust on the spot. A stranger's scream bursts through my lips, angry and strangled. My body rips apart in a matter of a few violent seconds, inside and out. My vision blurs as it is washed red. The wolf takes over, and the scream morphs into howl with a ferocity that comes from deep inside the pits of fury boiling inside. The sound pierces the still night before being drowned out by a long stream of snarls.

My legs pull me forward in a dead sprint. I run, snapping and snarling and spitting. Running just to run out the heat. Running just to let it all out.

Thoughts bombard my mind in a senseless, swirling mass. I picture the expression on the lifeless leech's face a million times over, as if I'm trying to convince myself that she's dead. Dead, gone, slaughtered, non-existent. She's dead due to her own mistake. Her mistake, not Emmett's.

My thoughts are on high volume as I fly through the dark forest. It's better to project them than the looming pain that stretches in the darkest corners of my mind. Even now, as I slam down the cap on my control, bottling the monster in, there's barely any reasoning. The monster only has a desire for disaster and death.

She wants to kill. Not the monster, but the wolf that lives inside of me. The wolf whose pure white fur is a lie. She is not pure, clean, or soft. She is a killer, carrying the fury and instinct of a monster and the mind of one who has long since lost herself. I am her now, as we share a body. I can feel my wolf's body tensing and heating up, preparing to kill, and I know I must escape. I have let her out along with my anger, but I have to pull it all back in, before it becomes too much.

There isn't any time to think. I draw everything in at once, feeling my body fall back into its human form. I land on my knees, and I have to plant my shaking hands on the ground to keep myself from falling over. My mouth is open, and I breathe loudly as if I am still an animal. The world spins at a dizzying pace as I try to calm the storm raging in my mind.

I have crashed, and I have burned, but this time, it's different. It's different in the sense that I still know who I am. Jordan Uley. I have a name, I have a reason. The light sensation of the ring that rubs against my finger is keeping me here. It's keeping me as Jordan, because Jordan has found something to hang on to. Jordan, she can hang onto Emmett, and she can combine her rebellious determination with Emmett's strengthening smiles, and she can fight the monster. Emmett, he is real. He is real, and Jordan is real, but the monster is not. The monster is only the anger.

What the hell are you doing? Get your ass up and go back to him.

I want to break free of the control, to listen to that suffocated voice as it grows louder and stronger each day. I still have to battle the monster, as it is restless. I am tainted by the crushing emotions inside me, the emotions that are pumping through my veins, causing my heart to gallop and my blood to blaze. I am still on my hands and knees, pressed against the sodden ground as the drizzle continues from above.

The struggle drags on, second by second, minute by minute. My vision is static, flickering on and off, but I swear that I can see something coming toward me. Rain drips over my eyes as I raise my head, wheezing out another breath as I watch.

Shapes. I can make out undefined shapes. They waver, probably due to the shaking of my body, but I know that they are the shapes of bodies. Very toned, very tan bodies. I can only see the torsos, ripped muscle and naked skin. I should know exactly who the shapes are, but my mind is playing games with me again, and the memory dances out of reach.

"Jordan. . ."

Jordan. My name. I don't know where the sound comes from, and I can't distinguish the voice either, but that is my name. I suck in another trembling breath, allowing the damp air to fill my lungs. I grasp the thought, squeezing it tight. That's my name. I know this, and I know I have to reply. I force my lips open, feeling the world tilt as I start to slip again. I shake my head sharply, forcing my voice to form the only word I'm able to speak.

"Emmett," I breathe.

My skull fractures with the strain. The avalanche of anger only grows, even as every part of me stands against it. I can feel this, and I throw myself forward in a sudden attempt at escape, but I only meet empty air.

"Jordan."

I am full of adrenaline. Even as the struggle saps my strength, my attempts only become stronger. I push myself up into a crouch, and nearly manage to get on my feet, but my body gives in under the weight of the pressure and I fall again. The shapes still waver in front of me, and I think my veins are full of fire. The ground is solid yet slick beneath my knees. I steady myself before slashing a hand through the empty air. I need to feel him, feel the cold that can extinguish the rising hell.

But he isn't here.

A puff of rage breaks loose from the jar that I have bottled it in. It's just a sliver, a small injection, but it's just enough to rock my body. My body curls in on itself, as if it's trying to hang on to the feeling of being human, but there is no choice. I feel my head jerk back and my eyes roll as my form twists and changes once more.

I am able to stand now. The wolf gives me a replenished supply of strength, and I use it to feed my struggle. My thoughts slow as my wheezing turns to panting, slowing and calming. The world rights itself again, and I can hear my own voice in my head.

Jordan Uley. I am Jordan Uley.

As I calm, I remember that I'm not alone. The shapes are still there, but only for an instant. The aftershock caused by my phasing ripples out, and the shapes all drop down, one by one, until three pairs of paws stand before my own. I watch as a small drip of blood slides in between the space of ones toes. After that, I am blinded by the wave of others' minds that all push into my own.

A wolf stalks forward, his teeth bared. He's standing behind a figure, a man, tall and white. There's a pause, and then the wolf lunges, sinking his teeth into the figure's throat. His head pulls back, and he looks down on Emmett's face, frozen and lifeless.

I snarl out as the thought hits me, and I throw my weight around to stop it. My vision clears, and I stare down the grey wolf, ignoring the two behind him. The wolf's ears press flat as I turn on him, his dark eyes meeting mine.

You can't trust a leech, Jordan! Paul's voice roars. I told you! I told you not to!

Enough of the shit, Paul. Go to hell.

The grey wolf shifts his weight as he glares at me. His shoulders twitch. Paul's mind reflects an image of my wolf—white and tall and dangerous, but then it all disappears, and he whips the memory of Emmett and the she-leech back at me, replaying it all in fast-forward.

Damn you! I launch myself forward, and the grey wolf mirrors the action, but our bodies never collide. Sam and Jacob, both flanking Paul, move forward. Sam silently takes the impact of my lunge right against his shoulder, while Jacob rams his head into my side, forcing me back before I really do cause damage. I land hard on my paws, tearing through the ground below as I stare up at the black and russet wolf.

Each mind buzzes with thoughts, but none are ever completed. Everything is still, until Paul shoves Sam and Jacob away from him, shaking his head with a huff. Jacob glances at him, and then at me, his eyes narrowed as he reads my empty thoughts. I can feel the stack of insults building in his mind, preparing to fling toward me, and taste the hostility in his mind.

Sam catches this too, and he sighs deeply as he steps forward. He appears to be wary again, as he glances over at me before each step, eventually picking up his pace and heading back toward the forest. His head hangs with disappointment, but he doesn't voice it.

Paul, Jacob. Let's go. We still have a patrol to finish. There's a brief pause. You too, Jordan. I'd better get you home.

I stand still, watching Jacob raise his russet head again before taking off after Sam. Paul hesitates for a moment, mentally grumbling to himself, but reluctantly follows as well. I stay for a few moments longer, allowing them to distance themselves from me before I set off at a steady jog. I know I'm leaving Emmett behind only to give him space. Not a guilt trip, just space to forget. The distance between us is a little farther with every step, and as my heart pounds in a strange, broken rhythm, I know I've left a part of me with him.