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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.


42. Hear Me

Rating 0/5   Word Count 7194   Review this Chapter

"Don't - drive her away, no
Don't - love isn't built in a day, no
Don't - let it grow stronger
Feed in the hunger." - 10 CC.

Chapter Forty Two

Hear Me

The sun peeks through the clouds this morning. It's a rare sight, but I barely see it. The grey wall of clouds stretch over the sky, and a breath of frost lay over the ground. The treetops glisten with rain, sparkling as they catch the rays of light. It's useless, though. Soon, the sun will disappear, and the rains will beat away at any memory of the slight touch of sun.

It's already happened to me. I sit in a world of ice. This ice is nothing like gentle chill of Emmett's body so close to mine. No, this is a rawcold, so empty and blank and white. It fills my lungs with every intake of air, gnawing through every inch of me, straight down to the marrow of my bones. As it eats away at what I am, my body numbs, and I become nothing once more.

I shouldn't be reacting like this. The nasty little bitch is dead. I know she's dead—she died in my hands. But that doesn't matter, because the mere thought of another's hands on Emmett's body makes me erupt. Rage, pure and utter anger, has been bottled up inside of me for so long, and now it is flowing free, spilling out over the bottle and romping through my veins. Even as I burn alive, the imprint still tugs at the center of my very being, all but dragging me back to him. I'm strong, through. Strong enough to push it aside and tell it no. If I go back now, there's going to be more blood on my hands. I have to calm down first; I have to protect Emmett from the anger. The monster will send waves upon waves of anger back at me, trying to drown me in it, to get me to kill. The monster only wants to kill Emmett. But Jordan Uley, she doesn't. Jordan Uley, she has fallen. I have to recover her before this anger strengthens the monster and I lose myself again.

My expression has frozen in a wordless mask, giving away no sign of the conflicting feelings racing through my mind. It's not from the emptiness inside, or even the nagging voice of pointless anger. It's from the slow sink of my mind as it shuts off, unable to make any sense of the emotions inside of me.

Space. It's a misleading sort of thing. Space means separation, normally. But this isn't normal. This kind of space means safety. Safety for Emmett. He has to be safe from the monster, especially now, as the structure of my control threatens to collapse. It's as if my control is two bricks, recently built up and leaning on one another for support, and what has happened is a shake in the ground.

I exhale slowly, breathing out a stinging breath. In my peripheral vision, I can see the half-empty bottle of alcohol taunting me, sitting alone on the dusty counter. I am numb as I try to reason with myself, but my mind rejects all emotion and replaces it with another bout of crippling fury. The whir of my thoughts speeds, and I am riddled with nausea. My fingers curl, slowly, one by one. I stare straight ahead, feeling my eyes twitch as they struggle to catch a glimpse of the alcohol. The world quakes as my gaze flickers over.

I'm on my feet. I duck into the bathroom without a second thought. The burn in my throat saturates my skin. I only have to so much as lean over the toilet before all of my guts seem to come right out my mouth, washing out down into the sides of the bowl.

Even after it's over, my body still heaves. I am sick with the struggle rage inside of me. I clamp my hands down on the seat, dragging in a deep breath. It tastes of acid. I growl once, and my head spins at the sound. The monster's voice whispers in my ear. I growl once more, slamming my fist hard into my own jaw in a sudden attempt to quiet the taunting. A bone crunches and pain bursts through my mouth, but the voice still doesn't quiet. I grit my chattering teeth as I struggle to reason against it, squeezing my eyes shut.

You don't need Emmett.

Better him than alcohol.

You're fine on your own.

That explains the breakdowns, murders, and all this damn pain.

You've lived without him before. You can do that now.

Call that a life?

This is just another sign that you two aren't meant to be.

This is a test to see how far everything can go before it snaps.

He has made a mistake that has ended everything between you.

A leech has tried to touch what is mine, and she has paid her fee.

Emmett doesn't even want anything to do with a wolf.

He doesn't. But, he does want something to do with me.

I shake my head sharply and hop away from the mess. I chant nonsense to myself as I breathe in the sour stench in the room. It takes me a few minutes, but eventually, the screech of voices in my head fades away into spinning silence. Releasing a slow breath, my eyes snap open. I can feel the sense of control filling me and I know I've managed to strangle the monster back down. For now, at least.

My stomach is churning. I breathe in slightly and nearly gag. Without a pause, I decide to duck back out of the room. Even as I pass through the door, my feet don't stop. They continue forward, leading me out the hall and down the stairs until I am standing in the doorway to the kitchen. I brush my hand over the side of the wall as I stop in the doorway. I don't know why I've come down here, but instinct has pulled me here for some reason. My fingers twitch as I study the scene before me.

The heavy scent of grease hangs in the air. Crumbs of bacon and egg are scattered across the wooden floor. My nostrils flare, and I catch the stale musk of wolves. They've been here, earlier. But they aren't here now.

Someone clears his throat. I raise my head, meeting the bright gaze of Sam's imprint. Emily. I hadn't heard her down here over the roar of my own thoughts, but she must have been down here the whole time. A broom is clutched in one hand as if she has come in to clean up the mess. She smiles slightly, not seeming to have noticed I was here, either. The smile causes the scarred side of her face to drag down slightly, and I try not to stare. My eyes study the broom instead, evaluating the amount of threat it might pose. I decide that there's not much chance that Emily will beat me to death with it, so I lower myself over the sink, flicking on the water. I swallow down mouthfuls of the tap water.

In the corner of my eye I watch as Emily shuffles in place. Her dark gaze shifts around the room before it settles on me again. She opens her mouth hesitantly, speaking slowly. "Hello, Jordan."

I swish the water around in my mouth. It's icy, but not enough to cool me off. I spit out a bit and stand straight, moving my gaze to look down to her. "Yeah, that's my name. Because I'm a person, kinda, and I have one."

Emily's expression twists for a moment. She braces a hand against the countertop, casting her gaze down. "I . . . I'm really sorry. I don't mean to make it seem like you're not a part of—"

"Family." I drag the back of my hand over my mouth, nodding. "My family's dead. They've been dead for almost two decades."

"No," Emily insists. "No, we are your family."

She is stubborn; I'll give her that. My eyes slant as I study her. So innocent, so persistent. That won't work on me, though. My parents are dead, and that's that. There's no need to put sugar on the sour memory—nothing can sweeten its bitter flavor. I clench my jaw as Emily starts to reach her hand out to rest on my shoulder.

My hand flies out and snatches hers, clamping around it in an iron grip. In that moment, there isn't enough reason for me to realize why the action is wrong. Emily's eyes widen as she stares at our hands. She looks like prey, frozen on the spot and filled with fear. My fingers are constricting her hand, stopping the blood and straining the bones.

Heat bubbles out again, awakening the wolf inside. She is amused as she starts to take over me. I can hear her barking out a laugh, almost as if the sound is coming from my own mouth. My vision goes static. I can hear the faint sound of someone's voice, but there isn't much else. The wolf's laughing grows louder. It echoes in my ears and through my head, pushing out at the edges of my skull. The pressure continues down my neck and into my shoulders and chest. Pushing. Pushing and shoving out at my skin, trying to escape. I have to open my fingers and close them around something solid to regain myself again.

I suck in air, pulling it down my dry throat and into my burnt lungs. The laughing continues, growing quieter and quieter until finally, it stops completely. My eyes blink clear, and I stare down at the shape of my large hands closed around the faucet. I breathe for what could have been seconds, minutes, or maybe even hours before I turn my gaze back on Emily.

She stares, horrified, like a doe trapped in the headlights. Her expression speaks of pure terror, but beneath that, there's sympathy. I have always hated sympathy. I don't deserve it, and I sure as hell don't want it. But Emily still has it, in the words of her expression and in her stance. She stands close to me, only having taken a step or two back, and her copper hands are halfway outstretched to me, offering but not quite reaching.

My tongue cannot shape words. My lips remain sealed shut. I heave a breath once or twice, but I don't make any other movement. Emily is locked in place, and I don't think she can move, even if she wants to. I hold her gaze evenly, watching through narrowed eyes. I think I might start to say something, but the sound is cut off by the audible swish of the door being thrown open.

I twist around at the sound, moving to put my back to the wall and rest my hands on the counter. Emily quickly drops her hands and clears her throat just moments before Quil comes stumbling into the room. He holds a bundle of giggles in his arms.

Quil wears a large, bright grin. He's completely ecstatic, bright and bursting with energy. He laughs with the small girl in his arms, setting her down by his bare, muddy feet. The girl smiles up at him, clapping her hands before she turns around to face the other two people in the room. Her chocolate eyes meet mine, and she studies my face for a moment. The innocence in them is untouched, bright and alive in her gaze alone. I can tell by her scent where she's come from, but it doesn't make any sense why she's here. The girl smiles at me, completely unbothered by my suspicious glare. She looks over at Quil before looking back over at Emily. There's a moment of silence as she peers up at her before she breaks into another fit of giggles, and she hurries over to Emily on wobbly legs, her braids flopping over her back.

"Unt Emwy!" she squeals.

Emily laughs in return. She crouches down and lifts the nearly hysterical girl into her arms before smoothing her hair back. "Why hello, Claire," she answers lightly. "Have fun with Quil?"

The girl—Claire—nods her head. "Oh, yef! Lots of gween!"

"Is that so?" Emily smiles again. Her gaze grazes over me, settling on Quil. "Must have been a lot of fun for you to be running so late."

Quil chuckles. "Sorry we're late, Em. She was begging me to take her to the beach."

"It work too!" Claire adds on.

"Fun, fun." Emily smiles down at Claire before she looks up at Quil again, seeming to avoid making eye contact with me. "Well, don't keep Sam waiting too long. They were headed toward that little clearing, he said."

"Gotcha." Quil nods to Emily and gives Claire another grin. "Be right back, kiddo."

Claire's eyes widen. She looks away from Emily, gluing her gaze onto Quil. Her bottom lip pushes out. "No!" she cries. "Qwil stay! He stay with us, Unt Emwy!"

As I watch, I feel jagged pieces of me—of Jordan—piercing the side of my ribs. It's like a tiny piece of bone that's slicing straight through me from the inside, searching escape. My eyes flicker from the tiny hands of the young girl, to the boy who still wears a grin even though his pained expression shows how much it kills him to leave. He can't leave her, even for a little while.

I let out a sound, somewhere in between animal and human. I know it's not natural, and I know it's only my body's way of warning me. My teeth grind at the points and I duck back around. I nearly break off the knob as I move outside. I'm hit by a blast of biting, humid air. I pull in the clean scents of the forest as I head out. Even the claw of the thick brush isn't felt as it tugs away at the surface of my skin.

My arms are stiff to my side as I go. I stare straight ahead, my bare feet brushing the ground as I go. I barely leave a single print in the mud, and I am careful to keep my body swerving and twisting to avoid brushing against any of the shrubs. I don't want to leave any bit of me here in the world—I want to make myself less and less real.

Quil is following me. I hear the crunch and snap of the leaves and twigs beneath his feet, and I can nearly feel the pulse of heat from his body even though he is trailing behind. The nearly inaudible swish of quickly moving air suggests that he's pumping his arms as if he's actually trying to catch up with me.

Just moments later, Quil falls in step beside me. He is much more careless, marching through the forest without a single thought of where his feet are being placed or how his arm leaves a strong scent on every tree it rubs against. I don't glance over at him, but now that he's in my line of view, I study him.

Young. He's still young. Rain is trapped in his small curls and the smooth, gentle skin on his hands shows signs of little labor. The two dark eyes are bright, even though his lips are curved down. He isn't upset, but he isn't exactly happy either. He is content.

Quil is one of those wolves that goes absolutely off the wall after phasing. Of course, the first few minutes are always a shock, but Quil likes it. He likes what he's doing, only because he's blind to the curse of the wolf. As if the blindness isn't enough of a set back, he's now doomed to the control of imprinting. There is no turning back.

I've never heard of it happening, but I don't need words to know exactly what has happened. Just the way his face lights up, and the way the young girl extends her hands out to him once taken away, is enough. It's something that has to be cringed at. Another strange will of fate itself matching two in such odd circumstances. But even that doesn't matter. Both of them are so happy, so blind to the downside, that not even time itself will be able to tear them apart.

We continue on like this in silence. The green of the forest passes by without any significance. The scents are fresh and new, but I have already memorized them all. Our feet follow the lead of the trail, winding around trees and boulders and the occasional rotting carcass, until finally, we find the pack gathered in a slab of open land.

They've formed a loose circle. There's space between each wolf, and most lean their weight to one foot with their large hands jammed into their pockets, their eyes lazily traveling over the forest. Impatience rises off them like smoke out of a chimney.

"What's up?" Quil asks while jogging over to stand between Jacob and Embry.

"Just a meeting, bro," Embry replies quietly. He clears his throat and winces, as if he really doesn't want to draw attention to himself by speaking. His eyes drop to the ground and he shuffles to the side without another word, making room for his friend.

The pack follows, making room for one new addition to the circle, even though there are two of us that have just arrived. I hook my thumbs through the loop of my shorts and lift a brow. The movement earns a few glances but nothing else.

I wait another moment before exhaling sharply and moving forward toward the circle without invitation. The pack is grouped off, even in the circle, with Sam at the head, and Jared and Nicole at his shoulders. Paul stands next to Jared, and Jacob has planted himself a few feet away with Embry and Quil both nearby. The newer wolves all stand in a straight line, while Seth and Leah lean away from the restless Collin and Brady. I slip into place in the space between the newbies and Leah, not bothering to check their expressions for any signs of emotion.

I am tensed and burning, stiff as a board. A very tall, very stiff board. On fire. But I suck it up for the time being and hold myself with confidence as Sam beings to speak.

"We're here because of a threat," he beings. His eyes meet the gaze of every wolf in the circle, demanding the attention of each and every individual. His voice is loud with authority, but beneath it is an indirect sort of shake. I ignore it as Sam continues without so much as a small breath.

"A threat that we can all feel. A threat that is not yet among us, but is coming. We can feel it in us—we can feel that there is something out there that we are meant to take care of. Be it the Cold Woman we have been after, or a new threat, we have to be ready."

Sam nods once as he finishes. The pack remains silent as Sam finishes, as if expecting more. A breeze ruffles the leaves high in the trees. Birds squawk and scuffle away from them in the far distance. A whole minute passes before anyone speaks.

"We don't even know what this is, Sam," Jacob points out.

I glance over at him as he speaks. His hair is longer than it should be, falling down by his ears. It's clear he hasn't slept much, and he's slouching slightly. Even though Jacob looks like he's at the brink of exhaustion, he stands with his shoulders squared and his hands bunched up in his pockets. I can see them shaking, even through the thick fabric of his clothing.

"Doesn't matter," Jared says lowly. "There are too many leeches around as it is."

"How 'bout them Cullens?" Brady grumbles while kicking his foot into the dirt. "They stink the place up too much."

Take out the Cullens. What has been my ultimate goal now sounds like betrayal. Traitor, traitor. I'll be nothing more than a traitor if I even consider this. I focus my gaze on Sam as he takes in the words, and for a moment, I swear I see consideration crossing his features.

"We can't hurt them, Sam," I say. My voice sounds strange, and at first I think it's just because of the thrum of my pulse in my ears. But as I search the circle, I watch Jacob's mouth move as well, forming the same words that have just left my lips.

Our gazes connect as Jacob realizes this too. His jaw pops out, and the shakes travel up his muscled arms. The maturity in his face shouldn't take me by surprise—all the other boys have transformed into the bodies of men just as quickly as they've made the shift from human to shape shifter. But it does anyway, as I still see the boyish gleam somewhere in his dark, frustrated eyes, hidden below all the crushing emotions inside him. He must see something too, because after a long moment, his head nods once, and he looks back over at Sam expectantly.

"Well?"

"It's not worth it, Jake," Paul barks. I notice how his chest heaves with every breath, and how he glares pointedly at Jacob. "They don't deserve a third chance."

"What the hell do you suggest we do, Paul?" Jacob's tone is short and clipped as he meets Paul's glare. "Solve our problems with a fight to the death?"

Paul shakes his head sharply. "It's not worth letting them stick around just to make our lives miserable. It's not worth having all the humans in danger either. Besides, if we go to war, maybe Bella will finally consider you."

Now Jacob's chest is heaving too, puffing out each angry breath at an impossible rate. His knuckles are pale and the veins on his neck are popping out as he steps forward. It's clear just by the look in his eyes that he's about to really snap, but none of the pack moves to stop it. There's only a deep, unsettling silence and a sense of indecision, and the sound of the two men's heavy breathing.

Even Sam is silent. He shakes his head slowly, watching Jacob begin his advance. For a long moment, it seems like he's not planning on doing anything, but then he sighs and breaks the circle to move forward and stand between Paul and Jacob. Paul gives a frustrated grunt and leans away, but Jacob doesn't stop. He pauses for a moment and stares at Sam; stares down at him. I can't see Sam's expression, but I can only imagine. Another eternity of silence stretches on before it's broken.

"We'll just have to keep our guard up," Sam says slowly. He takes a hesitant step backward. "Until we can be sure of . . . whatever this is. Double patrols, extra focus, no slacking or setbacks. Fair enough?"

Each head nods curtly.

"Good," Sam sighs in relief. He turns his head back toward Jacob. "That means we'll be going with what we had planned. You know what to do."

Jacob remains locked in place. He studies Sam before finally nodding. He raises one hand and waves it in the air, twisting around to jog toward the forest. In nearly the same second, Paul, Embry and Quil step out of place and head after him. Embry and Quil are silent for once as Paul trudges behind them, and the four disappear without another word. The pack doesn't seem bothered by this, other than Seth, who frowns after the group with a longing look on his face.

"What's next, boss?"

Sam rubs his head, turning to face Jared. "Patrol. We need patrols. Take out Seth, Leah, Collin." Sam's eyes skim over the remaining wolves, passing right over me before settling on another. "And Nicole, you and Brady should be able to run through the route again after they're finished."

The constricted flame inside of me stirs. I narrow my eyes as I stare at Sam evenly, waiting for him to turn to me and assign me my own work. Only, he doesn't. Instead, he shoots a look my way. I can nearly read the words 'morning patrol' in his eyes as he holds my gaze. He then turns away again without a single word, the muscles in his back stiff and set.

I have no choice but to stand there as the pack splits up. The guys push and shove at each other jokingly as they spread out to drop their clothes in the privacy of the forest and fall into their other forms. Leah seems more reluctant, slowly stepping across the squishy ground. She pauses at the edge, and I feel her eyes dart over to the back of my head. There's a moment where I can feel her staring, and then she is gone, leaving only a slight stir of dirt and grass behind her.

Once the clearing has emptied, I listen to the sounds of footsteps fading off into the distantly, waiting for all of them to head out before I turn to head into the forest, going deeper into it and away from the house. My jaw is set tightly, and I hold it there before heading out through the forest. I've lived in these forests as a child, and I know them like the back of my hand. My feet move over the ground without a sound. I focus straight ahead, only turning my gaze once to glimpse my reflection in the murky surface of a puddle.

I look as if I'm walking through hell. It's fitting, I suppose. My cheap shirt hangs in tatters over my form, and my shorts cling loosely to my hips, limp strings falling off the edges. Stains of mud and blood cover me, skin, clothes and all. I look like a villager who has lost their last box to live in. Gone is the seductive woman. In the mess of things, she's been replaced with the ugly, broken something, not someone. My eyes glint as the monster peers through them, hovering just behind the walls of my skull. The monster might outwardly still be there, in my rough, grimy appearance. But on the inside, it has gotten a grip, hanging onto the jittery feeling caused by just the thought of one person.

Emmett's scent lingers in my nostrils as I go. He's not near, but he's out there somewhere, and that's enough for me. I nearly smile to myself, knowing for sure that he feels the same way. It's then, in one ferocious moment, that I feel a tiny bit of myself break free of the monster's grasp, roaring back to life. In that same moment, I shed the layer of ice, and I smile, a real smile, just because I have enough reason to.

The weight of the world might drag me down, but I won't let gravity get the better of me. Even if I'm ordered to kill, I won't give in just for a moment of peace. The monster might have a tight grip on me, but Jordan Uley is still there. And now, I'm starting to find her in the feeling of newly born love Jordan Uley holds for Emmett.

I am finding hope. I, the 'lost cause,' 'bitch,' 'mindless freak,' and the 'insane. heartless killer' am finding hope. How the hell can I not smile at that?

*Meanwhile*

Do da do da do, do da do da do, do da do. . .

About done?

Nah, I'm just getting started!

You call that warming up?

Like you could do better.

Wanna go, man?

Maybe after a nap or two so I can sleep off the effect of your lame, not-very-threatening challenges.

Hilarious, really. Ten points for you.

You know you love it.

The large grey wolf pads through the forest, his shoulders rolling and his ears pricked. He is focused; he is ready for a challenge. There is nothing more exciting than the pure power of the wolf's body that he runs in. Except that moment when his stride crosses over the boundary and into the forbidden land. He is a live wire—buzzing, hot, and ready to go.

But, the others haven't realized what they're doing. They're nearly as clueless as the two bickering pups. Sure, they might be out for a mission without action. But, they are still on the enemy land. Anything can change at any time.

A feeling of smugness flourishes up through the wolf. He's going to get out toward one of the main sources of all the current problems on the rez, and he will have a chance to end it. Sam has allowed him to head out and perform the duty without anyone to force him to back down. No Sam breathing down his neck, and no Jordan struggling to not tear it out. Just him and the 'sucker, one on one. The challenge still is a thrill, even though the leech doesn't stand a chance. He's already dead.

Suddenly, a burst of images interrupts Paul's quiet plans. The face of a girl, pale with wide dark eyes and a thick mess of hair. Bella. Her figure is reflected through the eye of a wolf—a big, russet one—as she gapes, open-mouthed and all, in utter shock. A rain of anxiety and anger pours down around the image, washing away Paul's thoughts and drowning out his focus.

Ooo, Jakey-Poo is fantasizing again.

Paul growls once at the jibing tone, but it is ignored. The chocolate wolf trots forward, speeding ahead of Paul. He attempts to speed by the russet wolf, but there isn't a chance. With a snap of teeth and a sudden lunge, the russet wolf takes the lead once more before falling back into his easy lope.

Oh, so that's what Bella Swan is calling her pet now? Precious, darling Jakey-Poo. A spotted wolf slips past Paul. He hurries to catch up with the other wolves, running shoulder-to-shoulder with the chocolate wolf.

Guys, I've already told you twice. That's enough.

The two smaller wolves turn their heads to look at each other before staring back at the russet wolf. They toss their heads back as they bark rough laughs. Neither of them take the irritation in Jacob's mental tone seriously.

But Jacob! All she wanted was a phone call! Quil's voice whines.

And please, don't hang up on me! Again! Embry adds on.

Oh, but if you do, only leave one voicemail. And don't worry, I don't mind if you don't rehearse!

The snickering wolves ram their shoulders together. Jacob shakes his head again and picks up the pace, starting to slowly increase the distance between him and the others. Paul huffs as he extends his stride to keep up, until he is all but stepping on Embry and Quil's heels.

Neither wolf notices the other behind them. They continue to bump shoulders, snickering at their own jokes as they do. Paul's eyes narrow as he runs, feeling his claws brush the fur on their heels. His teeth bare slightly, and his irritation wells up in his mind. Just as he's about to project it outwards, Quil ducks away from Embry's shove, causing Embry to lose his balance and crash down on his side.

Paul snarls out as the wolf blocks his path. Instinct works faster, forcing his legs to spring up and launch him over the body of the wolf. He lands down hard and skids in the mud before finally stopping himself. The moment he's balanced again, he spins around and snarls directly at Embry, who has already managed to stand up and shake the mud from his coat.

Watch where you're going, damn it! Paul flashes his teeth for emphasis, his eyes darting between the two wolves as his temper burns within him.

Embry lowers his head, shrinking away from Paul's fury. Sorry, I really didn't mean it.

Yeah? Paul slinks forward, growling deep in his chest. Sorry doesn't mean anything.

Hey, c'mon now. Quil shuffles over the ground nervously. He said he didn't mean it.

Embry takes an uncertain step backwards. He hesitantly tears his gaze away from the advancing wolf and shakes his head at Quil. It's just not worth it. Paul's got a bark and a bite.

Oh, shut up, Embry. Quil heaves a sigh and looks behind Paul. Now Jake's pissed too.

Big whoop. Enough distractionsthe sooner this is done with, the better. Paul growls at the wolves again, shaking his head as he jogs up after Jacob.

It takes a few seconds of sprinting for Paul to catch up. He keeps space between himself and the russet wolf, noticing how his lip has raised. Quil and Embry bound back into place shortly after, and the patrol continues forward without another word. Each mind is focused on the forest. Paul's eyes skim over the unfamiliar area. It's exactly the same, yet so different. Paul swallows a large breath, tasting the scents of the warm life on the ground below and the clear rain in the sky above. It is almost the same as it is at home. Almost, but not entirely, because here the air is tainted with an unmistakable stench.

Paul gags as the scent of vampire enters his lungs. It chokes him, constricting his throat and causing his stomach to roll. Impulse urges him to attack, but the idea is quickly put down by a growl from Jacob. He continues forward, his eyes watering and burning as he goes.

How the hell did Jord put up with this?

Quil coughs beside Paul, shaking his head wildly as if to rid the scent from his nostrils. I dunno. Her sniffer's gotta be broken.

Paul wolf-smirks at the comment. Funny. He breathes out sharply through stinging nostrils. Too bad mine isn't.

We'll be needing it. Jacob mutters. We're out here to get a scent.

And Sam couldn't have done this himself? Paul shakes his head. Damn lazy lately. Lets the rest of us suffer while he sits back.

If we don't, it might get out to the rez.

Jacob huffs at Embry's thought. Look. If there's gonna be another threat, we gotta take it out before it can do any damage. Especially while Bella's so vulnerable.

There's no hope, man. Quil turns his head to glance up at Jacob. She's surrounded by a whole clan of them. It's a miracle her neck's still even there.

But it won't be much longer. Paul grumbles.

She won't let it happen. Jacob insists. She . . . we have to get this over with.

Jacob's paws churn through the dirt, spitting up mud at the wolves behind him. He rockets forward, forcing the others to speed up. Paul keeps his strides easy, but stretches them out again in order to keep up. His muzzle wrinkles as the scents start to grow stronger, pounding hard into his nose. Paul feels as if he might actually be sick, and his body is shaking as he exits the shade of the forest and finds himself standing in the small lawn before the biggest, whitest house he's ever seen.

It might have been funny in any other situation. Paul briefly considers how many coffins might fit in a single room. The humor doesn't last, though. Paul's eyes rake over the house before remembering exactly what lives in it. And who else might be there, if she has gone against Sam's wishes again.

The wolves all stand in an order-less formation, with Jacob at the front, Paul behind him, and Embry and Quil hesitating at the tree line. Paul's muscles ache as they tighten, and his nose is on fire. The scents of the leeches swim in his head, intoxicating. It's absolutely disgusting, and he might not bear it for much longer.

Yeah, we're here now. . . Uh, anybody home? Jacob thinks. His head raises, and his eyes stare at the shut door.

There's a moment of stillness. Then, the door creaks open, and first one Cullen, then another, steps out onto the porch. Their eyes are golden, and Paul imagines the corpses of animals that have probably been left to rot, lying limp with two holes pierced in the neck. The first one, an older, more relaxed Cullen, nearly smiles at the wolves as he spots them. Paul bares his teeth, hoping the Cullen extends his hand. Just a little closer. . .

"Welcome," the Cullen greets. His tone is too perfect, too calm and smooth. Paul knows the Cullen has to be aware of the threat the wolves pose, but the Cullen shows no sign. Instead of fear, his tone holds warmth. Embry and Quil exchange a look at his voice while Paul's eyes squint in suspicion.

We just need the scent, and then we'll go. Sam has already, er, spoken to you before. That's all he wants.

As the thought forms in Jacob's mind, the second Cullen moves his eyes down to look at Jacob. Jacob stands tall, sure of himself, but his pricked ears are a clear sign that he is just as uncomfortable as his pack mates. Paul growls once as the Cullen's eyes focus, and he runs a hand through his bronze hair.

"We just need the scent, and then we'll go. Sam has already spoken with you, and this is all he wants."

Paul shifts his weight uneasily. His eyes skim over the Cullen as he speaks, and his hackles rise as his words nearly match Jacob's thoughts.

The first Cullen nods his head, appearing to be oblivious to the unease of the wolves. "Ah, yes. That we have. If you'll just come this way. . ." The Cullen heads down the porch at a human pace, disappearing around the side of the house. Jacob pauses for a moment, casting a glance in the other Cullen's way before following.

Paul, Embry and Quil are left to stand there. Embry and Quil are whispering thoughts back and worth to each other, leaning back into the forest. Paul stands in the open, completely exposed. He doesn't want to show any sign of fear - he knows he can take out any of them without a problem. His eyes are set on the Cullen. He doesn't like how he stands motionlessly, his blank stare refusing to acknowledge Paul, who is only a few feet away.

The Cullens aren't alive. They're only leeches to Paul. The mind reader's dead eyes study the wolves calmly, and he stands perfectly still. No pulse hums in his veins and no breaths are pulled to his lungs. He stands there, staring straight through the wolves as if they aren't there. Paul feels his paws scrape through the ground, eager to slash toward the unblinking gaze. He thinks he might have the chance to do it, but something else catches his eye before he can make the decision.

There's a movement from inside. Paul's eyes move over toward the door as it opens again, and another Cullen slips out. Paul is struck with another wave of unease, his shoulders quivering as he takes in the appearance of this Cullen. His lips curl as the burly Cullen's eyes rush over the wolves. Just the hopeful shine in the Cullen's eyes makes Paul sick. As if the leech actually cares if she's here or not. As if the leech is even able to care.

As the Cullen's eyes land on the empty forest, the shine disappears. Paul watches his head shake in disappointment. The Cullen rocks back on his heels and folds his arms over his chest. This angers Paul. Does he really expect Jordan to come back? The Cullen looks like he's expecting the white wolf to slip through the brush and move toward him, to come back to him.

Before Paul can even plan an attack, Jacob cuts him off. He trots back over to the wolves without a word, his shoulders set tight. His dark eyes flicker into Paul's own, just for a moment. The command is wordless, but it is clear. He must not attack. Paul's paws scrape through the grass, ripping it out by the roots. He still doesn't turn as Jacob brushes past him, signaling for the wolves to follow with a flick of his ears.

Embry and Quil both ease back into the forest, following after Jacob. Their minds are hushed, their thoughts nearly concealed. Paul's is loud, roaring with the instinct to attack. He wants to, so badly. He craves the feel of tearing through the marble skin of the leech; craves the triumph in the sight of a beheaded body limp on the ground beneath him.

His mind flashes with fantasizing images. The large Cullen, burning down to a pile of ash. Jordan, standing by that fire, the flames flickering in her pupils. The relief of the pack as the Cullen is dead. A smile on Jordan's face as she breaks free of the curse of imprinting. Jordan's body pressed close to Paul's own, enjoying the taste of his breath, his lips, his tongue, pushing him down onto a mattress instead of the rough fall of the stairs.

The volume of his thoughts blasts into the minds of others. He doesn't control them. Paul stands in a wolf's body, staring through the wolf's eyes and onto the face of an obstacle. The Cullen is only a challenge; a test to prove just how far Paul will go to make Jordan stay with him.

We're leaving, Paul.

Jacob's voice is pushed into Paul's mind. His thoughts are instantly quieted. Paul can feel the embarrassment surging through the others. He snorts at this. As if they haven't ever heard any of it from Sam and Jared. Either way, Paul knows he can't stay here and control himself much longer. He is sticky, as if the strain of his tensed muscles is causing a sweat to break out beneath his coat. Under the pressuring stares of the silent Cullens, it won't be much longer before Paul lashes out.

Paul rolls his eyes at Jacob's voice. Relax. I'm coming.

With that, Paul starts after the backs of the wolves ahead of him. Just before he disappears, he risks a glance over his shoulder, scanning the line of vampires. The highest pair of yellow eyes meet his for just a moment. They bore into Paul's own, narrowing with recognition. A final snarl slips through Paul's bared teeth and his ears go flat. The vampire looks as if he has something to say, but Paul knows better than to stick around to hear it. The Cullen can only glare after the form of the large grey wolf as he disappears into the shadows without a sound.