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08 March 2015 @ 06:21 pm
Always ~ Chapter 3  
Always ~ Chapter 1
Always ~ Chapter 2

He’d come so close to losing her before he even really knew her. How was it possible that he had not known this? Fell down a stairwell? The memory of her in that cast at Prom – beyond beautiful, even still – was firm in his mind. Prom had nearly not happened at all. If her idiot leech friends had been another minute later… He howled in anguish at the thought.

He was pacing the trees, waiting. Sam would send someone in here for him. He hoped it was Jared. Paul was too annoying and he needed Embry to look after Bella until he could pull himself together. It felt like actual pain, this thought that he might never have known her. Might never have held her against him as he’d done tonight. What had been the margin of error for the leeches that day? Half a minute? Fifteen seconds?

He heard Sam give the order and Embry appeared in his head a moment later. Give me your shorts.

Aw, Jake.

Go raid my room, but I have to get back to her. It was still a few minutes before he could manage to force himself back into human form. Embry suggested they run, so they did, but not far. He wondered what the limit was, now? How far could he get from her before it tore him apart to be so far away?

Did you see her face when Dad talked about the imprint?

Embry had seen, but he didn’t answer any further than that. Jake couldn’t blame him. What was there to say: ‘Yeah, man, sorry your imprint doesn’t want you?’

THAT thought, Embry answered. Don’t be stupid, you’ve had your hands on her all night.

That’s normal. She’s always been okay with the hand-holding.

That was a bit more than hand-holding.

Jake would have sighed, if his current form worked that way. Instead he huffed out a breath, impatient to get back to her.

Well, try again, then.

He had never had this much trouble phasing, not even the very first time. Small wonder. Losing Bella was a far more terrifying thought than exploding into a werewolf had been. This imprint thing was crap. He heard Embry laughing in his head as he phased. Then he took his best friend’s shorts. “Shut up,” he muttered, heading back toward the fire. They’d run farther than he thought. It took him a few minutes to get back.

“Werewolves often have difficulty controlling our emotions at first. Sometimes the change comes suddenly, when we’re upset. Jake left to make sure you weren’t in harm’s way when he phased.” Sam explained quietly. Bella looked over at Embry, who nodded. “Embry, go help him,” Sam said quietly.

“This happened last spring. It’s all over, now. Why would he get so upset?” Bella watched Embry as he ran off into the trees without a word. She tried not to let it bother her, the way Sam had given the order. He had helped Jake figure all this out. He’d tried to protect her from the fate of the girl at his side – the one with the mangled face that Embry had told her about earlier. And he’d hauled her ungrateful self out of the woods all those months ago. She reminded herself of all of this.

“This is the first he’s heard it, though. In light of everything that’s happened today, it probably hit a little closer to home that it might have otherwise,” Billy answered reasonably. Right, Laurent had nearly killed her. It made sense Jake might be a little shaken up over that.

“Which brings us back to today’s leech. Did it mention anything about its mate?” Sam asked after a moment.

“His mate?”

“The red-head.”

“Oh, Victoria was never Laurent’s mate. She was with James. And yeah – um – he did mention her.”

“Did he say whether she’s still nearby?”

Bella took note when Sam actually started using ‘he’ and ‘she’, the way she did when referring to vampires. He made a funny face as he said it. She stifled a laugh that probably would have come out a little hysterical.

“Yes, she’s around. He said that she’s looking for me. He was offering to kill me quickly, since she had plans to make me suffer for James’ death. She thinks, somehow, that she can punish Edward by killing me.” Bella fell silent, then. THAT admission DID make her heart ache. She wondered suddenly if that was only because Jake wasn’t right here beside her like he’d been earlier.

Everyone around the fire had gone silent. “Jared, could you go let Jake know that last bit?” Sam asked after a moment. He sounded worried. Jared got up and left with no more argument than Embry had given. “That changes things. If it’s you she’s after, we’re going to have to change our focus – there are only five of us, how are we going to watch Forks and the school and Newton’s, and still have enough to protect the res?” He was clearly talking to himself now. Bella wondered how he’d known where she worked, but didn’t ask. It seemed clear that the storytelling was over for the night as everyone remained quiet. It wasn’t strained now, though. It was more like a respectful pause, so that Sam could get his thoughts together. Then he looked toward the trees. Jake and Jared were striding back out onto the cliff. Jake’s expression was downright murderous. Bella had never seen him look so angry. Everyone seemed to stand in the same motion. He came straight to her.

“Jake, are you alright?”

He huffed out an awkward laugh. “Am I alright? I’m not the one with a big red target painted on my throat, Bells. Why didn’t you say something earlier? We’d have come straight here, started planning…”

She smiled a little. “Honestly? You sort of distracted me.”

He shook his head at her, but smiled back tightly. “We’re going to fix this. We’ll get her, okay? She won’t get anywhere near you.” He pushed her hair behind her ear, and dropped a kiss on top of her head. The rest of the stories pushed back into her consciousness abruptly. She grimaced and turned away, still thinking about the day he would imprint on someone and be lost to her.

“What’s wrong?” Jake asked. Jared and Kim were already on their way back down the path, Kim riding piggyback and laughing, and Bella’s eyes took in the sight. Kim was clearly untroubled by the imprint thing. Which meant she was probably the focus of one, already. Bella reached around inside her own head for an answer that didn’t sound needy.

“I’m just worried. Victoria’s a lot more dangerous than Laurent. The thought of all of you out there watching for her -” She didn’t look up to see his reaction, but she let him take her hand. He only held it for a moment, though.

“ ’Laurent’ was a piece of cake, Bells. Don’t worry about us. Listen, I need you to stay here with Sam while I get Dad home, okay? I’ll just be a couple of minutes. I want to drive you home, will you wait for me?” He said it all so fast she could barely follow.

“Yeah, I’ll be here.”

Jake gave her one last, long look, as if he was trying to gauge her reliability, then went to help Billy. She watched him push his father’s chair towards the path. The darkness swallowed them up before he’d taken three paces. She took a few steps toward the fire and waited.

Sam and Emily were talking with Old Quil, but he only stayed a few moments before following slowly after Jake and Billy. Paul was still sitting sullenly in front of the fire – much farther back than she was. Bella guessed he was probably perpetually over-heated, too. At least, if the haircut and bulging, exposed pecs were anything to go by. She rolled her eyes. If the clothes didn’t phase with them, she guessed none of them were going to be wearing much. At least she’d always be able to tell who Jake’s pack-brothers were. The thought gave her pause. Brothers. Family. Sam had said something about her being the newest addition to the family…

She didn’t have time to consider it. Sam and Emily headed over to her as soon as Old Quil was out of sight. There was an awkward pause and Bella could only think of one thing to say, so she said it. “Sam, I should probably have said something a long time ago. Thanks. For – for September, you know?”

“You’re welcome, Bella.”

“I guess I know, now, how you found me. I thought I’d hallucinated those eyes.”

Sam looked uncomfortable for a second, but Emily laughed. “I’ll bet,” she said quietly, poking Sam in the ribs. They exchanged the kind of glance that made heartbroken people everywhere want to cry, and Bella looked away. Them, too, she was sure of it. Two out of five werewolves had imprinted before they hit twenty years of age. It was alarming.

“So, imprinting? That’s new. Jake didn’t mention it. Did it happen to you?” She tried to sound casual, but she had to know. How else could they be so content, though?

“Yes,” Sam said shortly. Bella felt a bit alarmed when his expression went completely blank. None of the mushy yearning she’d watched them exchange just a few seconds before. No emotion of any kind. Emily, however, looked very uncomfortable.

“Is congratulations the right sentiment?” Bella asked after another awkward moment. Only then did Emily smile, putting her arms around Sam’s waist and squeezing. It didn’t seem to have any affect. Sam just looked at Bella and nodded.

“Yes, thanks,” Emily replied for them both. Her tone, at least, was warm. But her eyes seemed sad in the firelight.

“How does it work?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“Jacob can explain it to you best,” Sam said, in that same emotionless tone of voice. Bella looked away into the fire, then, waiting out the rest of Jake’s absence in silence.

Jacob was back on the cliff inside of fifteen minutes, but that was apparently a bit too long. Paul was tossing sand on the fire. He’d probably heard Jake running up the path and decided he wanted out of there. Jake could understand why. Sam, Emily and Bella were standing together silently, and it didn’t look like a particularly friendly kind of quiet. He instantly wondered what had been said. He caught Sam’s eye first – Sam having the best night vision – and saw him grimace. For the first time ever, Jacob wished they could hear one another’s thoughts while they were human.

Bella looked up at him when he arrived, and he immediately put both hands on her arms and rubbed away the goose bumps. “Ready to go?” he asked lightly, as if he hadn’t just endured a painful conversation with his father about how NOT to make his imprint cry. Turned out Billy’s eyes were great, and he’d seen everything. Jake tried to put it out of his mind.

“Yeah,” Bella said quietly. Then, “It was nice meeting you, Emily. Sam, thank you again.” Jake narrowed his eyes at Sam. What had he told her, that she was thanking him for? And why did she sound so sad?

As he turned with her, away from the others, Sam put his hand to Jake’s shoulder just for a second. “Tell her the rest.” Sam whispered. Jake didn’t break stride, and Bella didn’t look up, thankfully. She probably hadn’t heard. He HOPED she hadn’t.

He held her hand as they walked back down the cliff path to the road where he’d parked her truck earlier. Every time she stumbled he caught her, just like always. But she was quiet. It wasn’t like all the times they’d walked the path between his house and garage, when she laughed at herself for the missteps and he could put his arm around her and grin because she was finally able to laugh…

He still had her keys, but she went to the driver’s door anyway. She patted her pockets and then held out her hand. He shook his head, smiling. “Jake, I have to get home. Charlie freaks out when I’m gone longer than he expects.”

“I told you I’ll drive you.”

“And you’ll get home how?”

Jacob smirked. She knew he’d run down a vampire, but she couldn’t imagine how he was going to make the fifteen mile trip from her place to the res? But, of course, he wasn’t coming back to his place tonight anyway.

Always ~ Chapter 4
: frustratedfrustrated
: My Little Pony Theme Song
Daintress: Fall Down?daintress on March 22nd, 2015 04:44 pm (UTC)
I'm sure it was quite unpleasant for Jake. Billy was probably laughing inside the whole time, though. ;)