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07 February 2015 @ 02:37 pm
Always ~ Chapter 2  
I meant to post this story in its entirety, but only ever posted the first chapter. I will try to post several chapters a week moving forward, until it is complete. Apologies, however, for any typos you may find. I can't take the time to re-edit it just now. I'm supposed to be editing for others today....

Always ~ Chapter 1

The fire was burning high by the time they got to the cliffs, an hour or two earlier than they usually started these things. It was customary to wait until full dark, but this wasn’t the usual yearly get-together for the whole tribe. This one was special, and much more exclusive. The pack had killed their first leech – and their would-be Alpha had imprinted. Jake’s mind shied away from that last part. Everyone who’d be there already knew it except the girl in question, which made it hard to feel like celebrating it. It was enough to celebrate the dead leech. And he couldn’t think about the Alpha situation yet. He could barely wrap his mind around Bella.

It was breezy on the cliffs and she was cold – would be even colder once the sun went down. Jacob looked forward to helping her with that, but first he had to make sure Billy made the trip up safely. He left her with Embry, since she’d at least met him a few times in the garage, though she didn’t seem to recognize him. “I’ll be right back. I just need to get my Dad over the rocks,” he whispered into her hair, mostly just to enjoy the feel of it on his face. He saw her shiver. “Are you cold?”

“No,” she answered, but she sounded unsure. He pulled her into a hug, unwilling to walk away while she needed something from him. “Well, now I will be as soon as you’re gone,” Bella complained, laughing. “Go and get your dad. I’ll be right here.”

“Right.” He ran back to the house as quickly as he could to fetch his father. Sam had said he’d fill him in on what had happened, so Billy was grinning at him when he came through the door. “Ready?”

“I am, are you?”

“Not really.” Jake ran a hand through his hair, startled again to find how short it was. The wistful look on Bella’s face when she’d commented about it made him wish he hadn’t cut it. But then, he’d been a real fur ball for that first transformation. Maybe he could just grow it back halfway.

Billy was in good spirits, but quiet as they made the drive up to the cliffs. Sam came to carry the chair over the worst part of the path while Jake carried Billy. He set him back down before they came in sight of the others, and wheeled him over the last bit, though it was still a little rough. Billy took it like a trooper, but Jake was sure he’d be sore by the end of the night.

Once Billy was in his place in the circle, Jake looked around to find Bella. He could hear Embry talking with her quietly. “…wanted to tell you right away, but Sam was afraid it wasn’t safe. Things didn’t go so well for him, when he was new at this.”

Jake decided to wait, and let Embry tell Bella that story.

“What happened?” Bella was asking. So Embry told her about the day Sam had lost his cool with Emily in the room.

“She’ll be here tonight, but don’t stare, alright? It gets under Sam’s skin.”

“I can imagine,” she murmured. Jake swallowed hard and went over to them, then. “So Sam’s not – he isn’t what you thought, before you changed for the first time?” He heard her ask it, but she was still looking at Embry, so he just sat down on the ground beside where they were perched on a log. He took her hand absentmindedly and let Embry answer, exchanging a glance with Sam. Sam had, of course, heard every word.

“Nah, he’s cool. I don’t know what any of us would have done without him. Except Jake, here, not one of us was able to figure out how to turn human again without DAYS of coaching.” Bella squeezed his fingers and turned to look at him. Yeah, I’m the most gifted freak here. That’s what I want her to know. Thanks Embry.

“I’ve learned a lot from Sam, too. This would all have been a lot worse without him to show us what to do,” Jake added quietly. “I feel really bad about the things I told you about him, before I knew.” He said it as much for Sam’s benefit as Bella’s.

“You couldn’t have realized,” she said immediately, her thumb rubbing circles on the back of his hand. He didn’t think she even noticed she was doing it, but it sent chills up his arm that had nothing to do with the wind. She and Embry talked a little more, about other things. Unimportant things. Jake kept quiet, just enjoying having her there. He’d have liked it a little better if he could have gathered her onto his lap the way Jared was holding Kim, but he knew better. She had to hear the whole story first, before he could expect her to decide how much of her he could have. His mouth felt dry, and he was impatient. But it really wasn’t that long before Old Quil cleared his throat and everyone quieted down. Even Paul stopped picking on Jared and Kim and settled down in the dirt to listen right away.

Jake had heard these stories all his life, but this was the first time since he’d phased and imprinted. Bit different, looking at them from his new perspective: a perspective opposite his childish one of mingled disbelief and embarrassment. Now it was serious. Now it was life or death….and love.

Before they touched on the imprinting at all, he’d already given in to his need to be closer to her. He’d stretched his legs out to the side and let his head rest on the edge of her knee. Not very comfortable, but he needed to be nearer, and he didn’t want to have to look in her eyes when she realized. To his surprise, she reached out after a few moments and ran her fingers through the hair at his temple, almost like she’d done when he’d phased for her earlier. The same shudder ran though him, and he let his eyes fall closed.

He could feel the eyes on him, even then. Sam and Emily were watching him carefully, and his father as well. Embry was probably watching, too. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to lose it, no matter what happened when they got to the important part of the story. He was already more controlled than any of the others, except Sam. But then, Sam had had a year and a half of practice. He listened with his eyes closed and reveled in the feel of her hand in his hair, until his dad took over the story telling. Then he opened his eyes again, but he couldn’t bring himself to move, except to scoot back toward her just a bit. She didn’t seem to mind. The sun was setting. Maybe she was chilly.

“Occasionally, the transformations skip a generation or two,” Billy began quietly. “In my generation, no wolves were needed. But last year, the cold ones of my grandfather’s time returned to Forks, bringing with them the need for protectors.” Jake felt Bella’s hand go still in his hair as Billy continued, but he was careful not to move. He all but held his breath.

“Although these did not drink human blood, their arrival activated the genes hidden in the bloodlines of the original Spirit Wolves. It is necessary and right that our people never be without protectors. Our ancestors knew this, and so they gave us a way to ensure that the families never die out. Once a descendent of the Spirit Wolves makes his first transformation, it is possible he will encounter the girl he is intended to be with – his true soul mate. This imprinting allows a werewolf to know from the very beginning what choice he would have made in the end. Some are given this amazing gift right away. Others wait through many lifetimes to be united with their imprint, only then forsaking the transformation so as to grow old with their true wife. Still others never find the one.”

Billy continued on, into the story of the Third Wife. Bella’s hand had fallen away from Jake’s hair, so he sat up to look at her, unable even to swallow nervously, his throat was so dry. She looked – horrified. It felt like a slap in the face. This was his second biggest fear. That she’d hear this part and realize, and reject him anyway.

Embry reached around behind Bella’s back and smacked Jake hard on the shoulder. He’d been shaking. He calmed himself quickly. His dad’s voice never faltered. Either his old eyes couldn’t see across the fire to notice the train wreck that was his son’s life, or he was studiously ignoring the whole situation. Jake reached for Bella’s hand, but she moved suddenly, sliding off the log and inching closer to the fire, planting both elbows on the log behind her. He watched her as she leaned back to focus on the smoke curling up away from them, and tried to swallow again. Didn’t work.

Imprinting. So that will be the way I lose him. No wonder Jake wasn’t bothered that Bella couldn’t love him back. He was probably just going to imprint and then there wouldn’t be any room in his life for her. Bella was amazed at the size of the new hole that appeared in her chest at that thought. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Edward had taken most of her heart with him when he abandoned her last fall. Now Jake would take the rest away when he imprinted. It was going to be very dark in her world, once her own personal sun was gone.

She felt the tears in her eyes, and did her best to hold them back. Jake was watching her, now. He didn’t need to know she’d be lost without him. She kept her eyes trained across the fire towards Billy, but she wasn’t really looking at him. She was just staring into the flames, thinking. The tears slipped down her face without her permission. When she realized, she wiped them away as inconspicuously as she could, but Jake had already noticed. She could see him frowning at her out of the corner of her eye, and wished he’d look away.

The last time they’d been together, she’d been trying to figure out how to warn him that she couldn’t love him – let him down without losing his friendship, because she needed him so desperately. But it occurred to her for the first time that maybe that need hadn’t come about in quite the way she’d thought. Maybe she needed to be with him for more reasons than just the hole in her chest and the nightmares. Maybe the driving force behind her need for him was less about Edward’s absence, and more about Jake himself? It would figure that she’d come to the conclusion NOW, as she was learning for certain that he couldn’t be any more constant, any more permanent in her life than Edward had been.

Billy fell silent, and Sam began the tail of Laurent’s demise. She remembered Sam, finally. He was the one who’d carried her (a good eight miles, she’d heard) through the woods after she’d so stupidly chased after Edward. As she thought it, she realized how many times Edward’s name had featured in her thoughts so far tonight. And she wasn’t clutching herself like she was afraid something was going to fall out. She smiled a little, through the tears that were still slipping down her cheeks silently, and shivered when the wind gusted across her wet face. She closed her eyes and listened. Sam was as good a story teller as Old Quil, if not quite as good as Billy.

As soon as her eyes fell shut, she heard Jake shift. He scooted around behind her – there was room between her and Embry’s log because she’d been inching toward the fire all evening. He pulled her back against his chest, and she felt warm immediately. What was with the heat? She figured she’d better ask soon, while he still had time for her – before some faceless woman was gifted his love without ever earning it. The tears doubled, but she didn’t wipe them away. At least he wasn’t able to watch her face anymore. She wondered if he knew why she was crying. She wondered if she was selfish enough to tell him.

“Now that the male is dead, we know to expect the female’s wrath,” Sam was finishing up. “In order to plan for this, I’d like to invite the newest addition to our family to share her part of the story.” To Bella’s horror, he was looking at HER. “Bella? You spoke to it quite a bit. Would you fill us in?”

Jake had gone entirely tense behind her – all his muscles tightening against her back. It was distracting, so she sat forward quickly.

“Um – sure. Last time I saw Laurent, he was planning on going to live in Denali with the others there who don’t – um – hunt humans.” She’d almost said ‘eat people’. She was going to have to watch the horror flick talk. It wouldn’t do to sound too blasé about this sort of thing in present company.

“So you did know him?” Jared asked interestedly.

“Yeah, he and J-James and Victoria showed up while I was watching the Cullens play baseball one night, and -”

“Baseball?” Paul cut her off incredulously.

“They have to play during thunderstorms, to drown it out when they hit,” she explained quickly. “Anyway James was a tracker, it was sort of his supernatural talent, and he was really good. Always looking for a challenge. So, they caught my scent there with the Cullens and realized I was human. Then Laurent asked why they’d brought a snack -” she had to pause again, as half the circle had hissed angrily, and Jake had started to shake. She reached for his hand, taking it from where it was fisted on his knee, and he calmed down. She waited until their fingers were completely entwined before continuing.

“And that set Edward on the defensive. Edward thought that’s what made James want to track me – the challenge of separating me from seven vampires who wanted to protect me.” She shrugged, meeting Billy’s wide eyes across the fire. “You probably heard what happened from there. I staged a huge fight with Cha – my dad, and Alice and Jasper took me to hide in Phoenix.

“But James figured it out. He followed us there. Victoria had raided the school records for him and given him my home address. He went through all our home movies from when I was a kid and found one where my mom was calling to me – and played it into the phone to convince me that he had her hostage. He said he’d let her go, if I could just get away from Alice and Jasper and come to him.”

“So you went?” Jake whispered hoarsely in Bella’s ear. It made her shiver again, his lips so close to her ear, and again he noticed. He snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her back against him tightly.

“I knew the airport better than they did. I got away, and met him where he said. But he didn’t have my mom.” A wave of gratitude for that swept over her again as if she was back there. Her mother hadn’t had to fear the supernatural. Only the usual Bella-typical clumsiness had caused her any worry at all.

Every pair of eyes around the fire was turned toward her, and she suddenly felt as self-conscious as she had when she first started speaking. “He – um – wanted to make sure Edward wouldn’t let it go, once I was dead, so he made a video – broke my leg in three places, fractured some ribs, that sort of thing. But I made him angry because I wouldn’t beg Edward to avenge me, and he threw me backwards, into a mirror. Once there was blood, he lost it.” She held up her free hand, with the crescent-shaped scar around her thumb. Jake was shaking again. She put her hand back down on his knee instead of into her lap and it lessened, but didn’t go away entirely. He couldn’t possibly be cold.

“I’m okay, though – no effect. Edward was able to remove the venom so I wasn’t changed.” She was surprised how easy it was to say it, all of a sudden. She was also surprised when, as soon as she fell silent, Jake was pushing her forward. He stood abruptly and ran for the trees. After two steps, she couldn’t see him anymore – he was outside the circle of firelight. “What -”

She didn’t even get to ask before an agonized howl rang out over the cliff, echoing back from the water eerily. “What just happened?” she whispered, training her eyes on Sam.

Always ~ Chapter 3