You headed back to the bloodsuckers?Leah asked.

Maybe.

It's hard for you to be there, but hard to stay away, too. I know how that feels.

You know, Leah, you might want to think a little bit about the future, about what you really want to do. My head is not going to be the happiest place on earth. And you'll have to suffer right along with me.

She thought about how to answer me. Wow, this is going to sound bad. But, honestly, it will be easier to deal with your pain than face mine.

Fair enough.

I know it's going to be bad for you, Jacob. I understand that - maybe better than you think. I don't like her, but... she's your Sam. She's everything you want and everything you can't have.

I couldn't answer.

know it's worse for you. At least Sam is happy. At least he's alive and well. I love him enough that I want that. I want him to have what's best for him. She sighed. I just don't want to stick around to watch.

Do we need to talk about this?

I think we do. Because I want you to know that I won't make it worse for you. Hell, maybe I'll even help. I wasn'tborn a compassionless shrew. I used to be sort of nice, you know.

My memory doesn't go that far back.

We both laughed once.

I'm sorry about this, Jacob. I'm sorry you're in pain. I'm sorry it's getting worse and not better

Thanks, Leah.

She thought about the things that were worse, the black pictures in my head, while I tried to tune her out without much success. She was able to look at them with some distance, some perspective, and I had to admit that this was helpful. I could imagine that maybe I would be able to see it that way, too, in a few years.

She saw the funny side of the daily irritations that came from hanging out around vampires. She liked my ragging on Rosalie, chuckling internally and even running through a few blonde jokes in her mind that I might be able

to work in. But then her thoughts turned serious, lingering on Rosalie's face in a way that confused me.

You know what's crazy?she asked.

Well, almost everything is crazy right now. But what do you mean?

That blond vampire you hate so much - totally get her perspective.

For a second I thought she was making a joke that was in very poor taste. And then, when I realized she was serious, the fury that ripped through me was hard to control. It was a good thing we'd spread out to run our watch. If she'd been within biting distance...

Hold up! Let me explain!

Don't want to hear it I'm outta here.

Wait! Wait!she pleaded as I tried to calm myself enough to phase back. C'mon, Jake!

Leah, this isn't really the best way to convince me that I want to spend more time with you in the future.

Yeesh! What an overreaction. You don't even know what I'm talking about

So whatare you talking about?

And then she was suddenly the pain-hardened Leah from before. I'm talking about being a genetic dead end, Jacob.

The vicious edge to her words left me floundering. I hadn't expected to have my anger trumped.

I don't understand.

Youwould, if you weren't just like the rest of them. If my "female sfu/T - she thought the words with a hard, sarcastic tone - didn't send you running for cover just like any stupid male, so you could actually pay attention to what it all means.

Oh.

Yeah, so none of us like to think about that stuff with her. Who would? Of course I remembered Leah's panic that first month after she joined the pack - and I remembered cringing away from it just like everyone else. Because she couldn't be pregnant - not unless there was some really freaky religious immaculate crap going on. She hadn't been with anyone since Sam. And then, when the weeks dragged on and nothing turned into more nothing, she'd realized that her body wasn't following the normal patterns anymore. The horror - what was she now? Had her body changed because she'd become a werewolf? Or had she become a werewolf because her body was wrong? The only female werewolf in the history of forever. Was that because she wasn't as female as she should be?

None of us had wanted to deal with that breakdown. Obviously, it wasn't like we could empathize.

You know why Sam thinks we imprint,she thought, calmer now.

Sure. To carry on the line.

Right. To make a bunch of new little werewolves. Survival of the species, genetic override. You're drawn to the person who gives you the best chance to pass on the wolf gene.

I waited for her to tell me where she was qoinq with this.

If I was any good for that, Sam would have been drawn tome.

Her pain was enough that I broke stride under it.

But I'm not There's something wrong with me. I don't have the ability to pass on the gene, apparently, despite my stellar bloodlines. So I become a freak - the girlie-wolf - good for nothing else. I'm a genetic dead end and we both know it.

We do not,I argued with her. That's just Sam's theory. Imprinting happens, but we don't know why. Billy thinks it's something else.

I know, I know. He thinks you're imprinting to makestronger wolves. Because you and Sam are such humongous monsters - bigger than our fathers. But either way, I'm still not a candidate. I'm... I'm menopausal. I'm twenty years old and I'm menopausal.

Ugh. I so didn't want to have this conversation. You don't know that, Leah. It's probably just the whole frozen-in-time thing. When you quit your wolf and start getting older again, I'm sure things will... er... pick right back up.

might think that - except that no one's imprinting onme, notwithstanding my impressive pedigree. You know, she added thoughtfully, if you weren't around, Seth would probably have the best claim to being Alpha - through his blood, at least. Of course, no one would ever consider me....

You reallywant to imprint, or be imprinted on, or whichever? I demanded. What's wrong with going out and falling in love like a normal person, Leah? Imprinting is just another way of getting your choices taken away from you.

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