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Crossroads

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Paul’s P.O.V.

“THERE SHE BLOWS!” Becca hollers at the top of her lungs at the waves crashing on the sand. She’s drunk as fuck, but that hasn’t stopped her from dragging me down to the beach with her.

“Pass the damn bottle before you spill it all!” I shout, the laugh bubbling out of my throat. I refuse to believe I’m drunk. A tad tipsy, but not drunk. There’s a pit barreling down into my stomach, but that doesn’t mean I’m drunk.

She takes another swig and passes it. The smooth neck almost slips out her grasp, but I catch it in time. I lift the bottle to my lips and relish the bubbles racing down my throat. Yes, I am definitely not drunk. I take another drag. Nope, not at all. “Burp!”

“That was a hella of a wedding…” She sighs, her brown legs churning up wet sand. I don’t know when or how really, but at some point between the reception and now, she’s changed out of her long gown and into a shorter dress. Something designer, I guess. I don’t know. I take another swig.

“Yeah…” The waves are rushing to the shore and breaking on our legs. It’s cold as fuck, but I don’t mind the chill. I look across the water. The rain stopped a while ago and the sky is that mix of tumbled greys, extravagant oranges and hints of blue like it always is when it storms.

I down the rest of the bottle. It’s a nice ending to a great day. If only Jake was here with me. Where did he even go? He just disappeared after-

“YEAH!” She suddenly screams in my ear and knocks me out of my thoughts.

I push her away and she retaliates with a drunken stumble and an open hand smack to my chest that burns like all hell. “Oh hell no!” I She laughs and takes off running down the beach. I chase her ass down. 

“Wait, wait, wait! I was kidding, Paul, wait!” I heave her over my shoulder and dash into the water. “NO, STOP! PUT ME DOWN” She shouts hysterically.

“If you insist!” I toss her into the air. She screams and falls flat on her ass just as the waves roll in, soaking her from head to toe. Her laughter dies down to a shivering shriek instantly. “FUCK!” She hops up and splashes water as she goes. “You play too fucking much!”

“Ow, shit!” I cringe at the sudden stabbing pain. It’s like fucking icicles digging into my skin! Fuck!

“Mhm, that’s what you get, asshole” She laughs again, pushing past me and plopping down in the sand, dress be damned. She wraps her arms around her lean frame.

I shake off and drop down next to her. “Now, I know you packed at least ten more dresses” The sand is wet, but not soaked. “Don’t play me like it’s your only one”

She rolls her eyes and pulls her knees close. “FYI, Airbud, I only packed three Gucci skirts, blouses and shoes, thank you!” She says matter-a-factly with a high note.

“One step closer to being a Kardashian” I chuckle. “Fucking fiends”

Her smiles lopsides. “As if…”

We sit there for a moment as our smiles die. We’re far enough from the water’s edge so that the tides don’t lap at our feet when it comes in, but close enough to feel the freezing spray on our skin when it does. There’s a few seagulls riding the airwaves like professional surfers overhead. The air still has that humid charged feel to it, but it’s cooled down a little since earlier. Like a humid chill. I don’t know.

She stares at the cloudy skies with its bleak splashes of grey and blue, to the sun still trying to make a comeback even though it’s late in the day. It’s pretty, but…I don’t know. Something feels off about it, like it’s not as serene as it should be, like it almost is too good to be true. Maybe it just needs to be warmer. Whatever.

“Guess I’ll enjoy it while it last” I mumble and lie back. I cross my arms behind my head and rest my eyes.

Only a few seconds go by before the sand shifts beside me. “You awake?” There’s a poke in my side that jolts the shit out of me.

I crack a glaring eye. “No”

She promptly rolls her eyes and breathes sharp and quick. “You think…” She chews on her lip and brushes the hair out of her face. Her bun is long gone. “You think if I stayed here, if I would have stayed here…we could have made it?”

It knocks me completely off guard. There’s a streak of seriousness in her eyes and across her mouth. “Uhm…” It feels weird even tumbling the thought around in my head. How do I even answer that? “I…I mean, I dunno. Why’d you ask that?”

She shrugs and lays her head on her knees. “I don’t know. Just thinking” Her voice is smaller now, childlike.

I keep going. “I mean…I think we were just young then, you know? We didn’t really know what we wanted”

Her eyes find mine. “We both knew we wanted different things”

I shrug and my eyes drop to the sand. “Exactly. I wanted to stay here to take care of my dad, you…”

“I wanted New York…” She finishes. Things were rocky between us then. We argued every day about college and life after school and what would happen to us.  In the end, we both chose.

“And you got it, which is fine, you know?” I admit. “You got a full ride to NYU, internship, the apartment, everything you ever wanted…”

“Yeah…” Her eyes stray.

I chew on the inside of my cheek. “You know, I don’t think or at least I don’t remember if we’ve ever talked about this, but…I was okay with you leaving”

She turns to me. “Yeah?” Her eyes are that same shade of caramel as her brother.

I nod. “Yeah. I mean, of course it sucked for a little bit, I guess. We didn’t talk for a while, which was hard and I felt like I was stuck here, with responsibilities and shit while you spun around in Times Square, but I got over it”

She smiles briefly. “Everybody doesn’t spin around in Times Square, you know…” She turns away again. “You could have always visited. I always told you that. I had the space and food and whatnot”

“Yeah, I guess…” I close my eyes. “But Dad...I don’t want to leave him by himself…”

She’s quiet for a little while. “He wouldn’t be by himself, Paul. You can’t let that be your excuse from seeing the world…” She says.

“Don’t assume you know everything, Becca” I want to say, but I bottle it up.

A moment flies. “It’s just so weird, now. We dated and ended and now three years later, you’re with Jake, my baby brother…huh” She says. “You ever think about it that way?”

Have I… “I’ve thought about it” I admit. “When it first happened and when I saw you, it crossed my mind, but I don’t dwell on it. It’s not important,” I don’t see why Sam made it such a big deal with Leah. “It doesn’t bother me as you would think it would”

“Because of the imprint, right?”

I sigh. “Yeah” The hole in my stomach digs deeper and deeper. What the hell is wrong? A hiss tumbles from my mouth.

“You alright?” She’s looking down at me.

“Yeah” I sit up. “Stomach’s acting funny”

She looks back out on the water. “Well, the food was really…good and filling…” She trails off and sits up. She cranes her neck. “You see that?”

I look at her and see the way her eyes narrow. “What?” I follow her gaze. The waters are dark and a little rowdy, but I don’t see anything out of the ordinary.

I look back to her. “That right there” She points.

I look again. “I don’t…” Then I see it. Something’s moving on top of the water. “The hell…?”

“What is that…?” She stands to her feet.

The pit in my gut keeps tugging at me. I climb to my feet. The waves further out toss and turn something big. It doesn’t look like a shark or anything, but…what the hell…?

She gasps suddenly. “Oh my God! It’s a body!” She covers her mouth. “Oh my God!”

I narrow my gaze. “Fuck” I can see it crystal clear, now. It’s the body of a man flipped on his stomach, the waves rocking it in the water. There’s a ripped white shirt…and russet colored skin…and…

The earth freezes and Becca screams.

“JACOB?!”

Emmett’s P.O.V.

I head into the house with Alice right on my heels. “Emmett!”

I ignore her as best as I can. I need to get out of here now.

“What’s wrong? Talk to me!”

Maybe somewhere north. The Denali’s? No, that’ll be the first place everybody will look for me.

“Emmett!”

I run upstairs and his scent rocks me to the core. I pause at the door and close off my senses in order to maintain my sanity. I go in and rummage through the closet and pack a duffel. Maybe a week or two, I’m not sure.

“Emmet-” She stops at the door and I can almost feel her face cohort in disgust. “Oh my…what-what happened, and Jesus, what is that smell?”

I resist the urge to throw a glare her way as I maneuver around the room. I snatch on some clothes, despite the dirt and grime on my skin. She’s holding my bag when I turn back to it. I reach for it and she holds it out my reach.

“Alice, I am not in the mood for this!” I make a grab for it, but she snatches it out of the way.

She looks on boldly. “Tell me what’s going on with you, now” Her tone is stern.

“…love you, to…Paul…” Fucking stop!

I open my mouth to speak and nothing comes out. I lean against the far wall and rub my eyes to avoid looking at her. “I just…I need to go. I can’t stay here anymore”

“Why? What happened?” Her voice softens and she moves closer. “Just talk to me. What happened with you and R-”

I breathe through my nose. “I’m not talking about that. I just, I need to leave now” I stand. “Give me my bag, please” I’m begging her.

“Does this have something to do with Jacob?” She asks abruptly.

His name breaks something inside of me that I just…I want to go look for him and cradle him in my arms and tell him I’m so- I reach for the bag and resist the pain in my gut. “Alice, give me my bag!” I feel it growing stronger, tugging on my soul.

“Not until you talk to me” She replies. “Emmett”

My jaw clenches. “Alice-”

“No!” She shakes her head. “No. Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you or why you’re suddenly acting like this. I’ve tried to see what’s going to happen, but I can’t and I don’t know why!” Her eyes shimmer. “And now you and Rosalie are fighting like got damned animals and you and Jake-”

 “Just…” I drop my gaze and hold out my hand. “…give me my bag” I grind my teeth together.

“Emmett, I-”

“JUST GIVE ME MY…” I stop myself short. I look her in the eyes and for the first time, I see hurt looking back at me. It strikes shame in my heart.

She looks down at the bag after a moment and hands it over. “Where will you go?”

I take it from her hands. “I don’t know, but I don’t want you following me” I sling it on my back. “Please” I’m not asking.

She nods and then watches me glance around before heading to the door. I’m not going to miss anything.

“Emmett, wait” I stop in the doorway and she throws her arms around me. She breathes and clears her throat. “Just call me and let me know that you’re okay when you get there, wherever you go, alright?”

I pull away from her. “I will” I swallow. She looks helpless and small and it hurts, but I don’t have the time to deal with this right now. I head downstairs and out the door. The gravel turns down the driveway and here Esme’s car followed closely behind by Carlisle.

I can’t face neither one of them, not like this. I look up to the destroyed steps and up to the house one last time to see Alice watching me. She nods me on with concealed sadness.

I manage a wave back, but it doesn’t amount to much. Behind me, a breeze sifts through the woods and out steps Jasper. “You alright?” He stares at me.

“I’m fine” I muster.

He analyzes my every move with sharp raised brows. “You’re leaving” He concludes, dropping his gaze to my bag.

“I just…I need some time to myself” It barely scratches the surface, but it’s all I can say without explaining anything.

Understanding crosses his features and he nods in reply. “Alright. Be safe”

I turn and walk away. I don’t want to run. I need this time to think about what to do next.

“EMMETT? EMMETT!” It’s Edward. “WHERE IS HE? EMMETT!”

I don’t falter in my stride. I don’t want to face him, either, but before I know it, his feet are flying over the dirt and he’s in my face with wild eyes.

“WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO?!” He shoves me back with all his strength. “WHAT DID YOU DO?!”

“Don’t fucking touch me, alright?” I try to maintain my composure. “I’m not talking a-”

He groans. “I don’t give a flying fuck about what you don’t want to talk about! Jacob is…” The fire dies from his eyes. He takes a step back from me and runs a hand over his face. “Fuck!”

His words drop an uneasy feeling in my stomach. “What, what are you talking about?

He drops his hand and chuckles darkly in one rough huff of air. “You don’t even…” He turns away from me.

“What happened?” Something’s wrong. The feeling sinks into my bones. “Tell me what the fuck happened!” I spin him around.

The look he gives me is hard and deep. “He’s…” He breathes. “It’s bad, it’s really bad…He’s…”

The world goes quiet. There’s acid building in my throat, but I fight through the tremors rocking my body. “What?”

He hesitantly shakes his head and before he opens his mouth, I’m running.

Please be okay, please be okay, please be okay, please be okay.

“Where is he?!” I shout. Edward’s wary glance doesn’t reassure me.

Please, please, please be okay.

I rip through the streets to his house.

Please be okay, Jake. Please.

I see the red of his house, but I don’t hear anybody. There’s no heart beats sounding off, no voices. I turn to him. “Where the hell is he? Edward!” But he doesn’t stop at the house. He keeps running into the trees and I follow him as close as I can.

Please, please Jake…

We hit the beach and there’s a crowd of people hovering over something on the ground. The smell of blood hits me hard. My breath hitches in my throat.

Please…

I rush out there and shove through the crowd and…

And…

It’s him in the sand. H-his father and his sisters are sitting next to him. Bella and…Seth and his pack are trembling around him. There’s a raw scream that burst from the bottom of someone’s belly. Sam is…pumping his chest, but…but…

He isn’t moving. His heart isn’t beating. There’s no blood pumping through his veins. He’s not breathing.

I fall to my knees in the blood caked sand.

He isn’t breathing…he’s so blue and there’s so much blood and so many…gashes and…and…

“J…” I reach out to him. This isn’t happening. I wait for everyone around me to cut the joke and for him to pop up with a grin, but the excruciating pain in my gut is too hard to ignore.

A hard hand grips my shoulder. “Don’t you dare…”

I shove it off. “GET OFF OF ME!” It’s his father. He doesn’t fall back or scramble away, but he looks at me hard with the same intense look of fear and panic as…as… I turn back and just hold his hand. God, he’s so cold, he’s colder than me. He’s so blue…

“C’mon, c’mon!” Sam pumps and pumps. He puts his lips on his and breaths in air, but…it’s not working. My heart quakes. It’s not working. “Please, Jacob…c’mon, please…”

It’s too much to handle. I reach out and stop his arm and look him in his eyes. Sam swallows and looks down to him and falls back and cries.

I look down at his dark legs, once warm and now wracked by cuts and bruises. “I’m…” I can barely get it out. “I…” There’s another hand on my shoulder and I turn to meet Edward’s broken eyes. He squeezes gently.

I look back with blurring eyes to the frozen body of the boy I loved and broke into two. To the people who loved and cared for him unconditionally. To the boy who loved him as equally as me.

I hold his hand and my heartbreak tears me apart. There’s no words to be said. No apologies to utter. No final says to present.

He’s gone. Jacob Black is gone and he is never coming back.

I look up to his pale face outlined in wet matted black hair. There’s a cut on his blue lips and a slice on the side of his face that stretches across his nose. There’s blood oozing from his head onto the sand. Everything is just…wrong.

I lean in and plant a kiss on his cheek that I wish scorched me, but I know better. I know death and it is not fair, not one bit. “I love you” I say into his ear and I rise to my feet and walk.

“Emmett…” I wave Edward away when he takes a step towards me.

I can’t take this. I run my hands through my hair. I can’t. On top of everything – the denial, the acceptance, the heartbreak, and now this - this is too much to bear. I… I need this nightmare to end. I need-

“It was you…” A voice says.

I turn and face the boy who loved him. Paul’s eyes are bloodshot and gushing and distinctly narrowed on me. The people behind him have turned half of their focus on him.

“Paul, don’t!” Seth shouts.

My teeth grind together. “Don’t you fucking dare blame me…” I take one step to him. “Don’t”

His chest heaves and he takes one step towards me. “It was you…” Somebody moves out in front of him and he shoves them aside. “I told him, did I not fucking tell him?” He glances around to the people around us. Sam rises from his place in the sand. “I told him that hanging with you fucking leeches was fucking suicide!” He screams. “AND LOOK WHERE THAT GOT HIM!” He breathes shakily and he starts to quake. “HE’S FUCKING DEAD! DEAD!”

Everybody flinches away from him. Edward dives for me, but I’m too quick. I snatch him up by his throat and hold my thumb over his windpipe. He fights my hold as his body full on shakes.

“LET ME GO!” He roars weakly. His hands rake at my arm and face, his nails now claws digging into my skin.

“Emmett, enough” Edward’s at my back. “Let him go”

This has to be said. “I LOVED HIM WITH EVERYTHING IN ME, YOU FUCKING ANIMAL” I say into his face. “HOW DARE YOU BLAME HIS DEATH ON ME!”

“LET ME GO!” He growls. His face begins to blur and the flesh beneath my hands shifts into fur. Before the hair spreads across his body, I toss him away from me. I don’t care where he goes, but I hear the splash of water when he hits it.

I meet Sam’s eyes and the glaring eyes of the pack and his family and the onlookers and Edward.

The deep growl that reverberates across the beach causes me to look to the big drenched grey wolf standing where he hit the water. His teeth are bared and his bloodshot eyes are now screaming for my murder.

I hold my ground as the people around us scatter. He lunges, teeth ready.

And then suddenly, there’s a gut wrenching gasp of air that silences everything.

“Oh my-HE’S BREATHING! HE’S BREATHING! JACOB’S BREATHING! HE’S ALIVE”

“What?” I run back to him. The sand beside me splashes as the wolf phases. He’s alive! His eyes are clenched shut, but he lurches to his side and vomits water and bile into the sand. He’s alive!

“Jake…” I reach for him, but he jerks away entirely from my touch.

The water keeps gurgling from his mouth until it runs red and then he opens his eyes and screams. Everybody rushes around him, trying to lift him and cater to him, but his face scrunches in pain and his body convulses.

“CARLISLE!” I scream. “GET CARLISLE!”

Paul’s P.O.V.

His screams don’t stop for a long time. Even after we get him to the house, they grow shriller and more bloodcurdling.

“Clear the table!” Sam orders. Jared knocks everything off and we lay him down on top carefully. He twists and turns and screams. It hurts so bad to see him hurting.

“Where’s Carlisle?” The fucking leach shouts. Sam’s eyes follow them.

Edward tries to calm him down. “He should be here any minute, okay. Be calm, stay strong” He encourages and he just turns and watches.

Rachel stands on the other side of the table, one shaky hand on Jake’s head and the other on her chest. “Okay, okay, we-we need some towels and some hot water. Becca, Emily, move!” She shouts over his screams. They go to gather the supplies.

“Seth, help me open the windows” Bella says and she and Seth break out around the room.

There’s a knock on the door and in steps the blond haired leach in his doctors coat. Carlisle meets Sam’s eyes and Sam nods. He breezes over to the table and gives Jacob one look before he breaks out his satchel.

“What are you going to do to him?” I ask.

His golden eyes flash to mine momentarily. “I need to sedate him in order to decrease his pain and further examine his injuries” He says, plunging a syringe into a vial of clear liquid. “I’m going to need the three of you to hold him still for me” He says, looking to me, Sam, and the leach.

Sam moves without question and takes his legs again. The other leach holds him at his chest and I secure his waist. He struggles and fights against our hold, his screams of pain raw and deafening, but we hold him to the best of our ability.

Carlisle sticks the syringe in his arm and just as quick as he supplied it, it’s away and out of Jake’s skin. His screams ring on for a few more moments before they grow weaker and spaced apart and then ultimately stop. Jacob goes still again. He relaxes some, but I can still see the pain etched in his face.

I look to Sam then to Carlisle. “How long will he be out?” The leach asks. I don’t look his way. Not right now and not here.

Carlisle looks to him and then to everyone around the table. “Approximately four hours” He looks behind me. “Edward, would you contact the hospital and let them know I’ll be out for the rest of the day” Fingers slide across a phone behind me and Edward steps out the house. “Also, to fully understand his condition, I’ll need the room” He shrugs out of his coat.

“What the fuck? No! Hell no!” Embry starts. Everyone who followed us in stirs in controversy.

“Guys, listen-” Seth tries to say, but nobody listens.

“The fuck we look like leaving him alone with you!?” Jared barks from across the room.

“We don’t even know if you’re a-” Leah begins.

“It is NOT up for discussion!” Sam says over everybody and the room falls silent once again. Jared and Embry roll their eyes while Quill shifts in his stance. “Everyone out, now!”

They mumble and grumble, but file out the house. Sam watches them go and then with a heavy exhale, looks to me.

I shake my head. “No. No. I am not leaving his side again” I can feel the tears welling up. Sam steps over and wraps his arms around me.

He holds me tight for a few moments. “Let him do his job, okay? He knows what he’s doing” He says in my ear. It doesn’t sit well with me, but I don’t argue any more than anyone else does. I take Jake’s hand in my own and squeeze gently before I go out and sit on the porch. Billy is the only one who doesn’t leave.

The door shuts behind us and echoes in the silence of the yard. Now we wait.

I sit down on the steps. What happened to you, Jake? Why did you do this? The step beside me creaks and Becca sits and wraps her arms around me. We sit like that for a long while.

“He’ll be okay…” Sam mutters from the other side of the porch. “He’s strong. He’ll be okay”

“Please…” The leach murmurs from behind me.

Part of me wants to believe that so bad, even though he’s awake and breathing, that he’ll be okay. I want to, but…Jesus, Jake…

The seconds turn into hours and then pretty soon, the door opens and Carlisle steps out. Sam rises from his spot between Emily’s knees. I bolt from my space and so does the leach and Bella.

“Well?” The leach blurts out. “How is he?”

Carlisle sighs. “He’s in critical condition, but he’s stable. I stitched up his wounds and reset his broken bones in order to give his healing factor an advantage whenever it kicks in” A collective sigh goes around. “He’ll be bed ridden for a few weeks, so he’ll get a lot of rest” He meets Sam’s eyes.

Somebody breathes behind me. “Thank God…”

“Thank you” Sam says graciously. He reaches out his hand and Carlisle takes it without any hesitation.

“Your welcome” He flashes a supporting smile. “I also gave him another dose of the sedative to help him sleep. Don’t panic if he sleeps off the next few days. It’s normal for this type of trauma” He glances back into the house. “His bandages do have to be replaced every three hours, though. Perhaps-”

“I’ll do it” I say automatically.  

Sam looks at me. “We’ll take turns” His eyes flicker beside me. “You, Bella, and I”

I barely look at her out of the corner of my eye.

“Good. When he does wake, give me a call. I’ll come out and check on him myself. I also moved him from the table to his bedroom for a more comfortable arrangement, if you don’t mind”

Sam and I nod. I swallow thickly. “Can…I see him?” I almost expect someone to protest. I glance around behind me to see everyone attentive and listening. Becca and Rachel nod me on. I pass them a small nod. They understand.

Carlisle nods and steps aside. “Sure” I step inside, Sam right behind me. “Emmett, may I have a word with you?” Carlisle says as we pass.

“Not now” He says and then he’s walking in behind Sam. I almost turn on him, but Sam places his hands firmly on my shoulders and steers me to the bedroom.

The door is open. Billy is sitting in his chair in front of his bed. My eyes trail over to where he lies and my hand finds Billy’s shoulder.

He’s asleep, but there’s bandages covering most of his lower body and chest. There’s five over his ribcage and one over his collarbone and more on his hips and thighs and down his legs. There’s a wrap around his head, too, right over his eyebrows and a gauze strip across his nose and cheek. There’s already red splotches piercing through the bandages. His face is resting at ease, his chest moving in even rises and falls, but his body…

I breathe and squeeze Billy’s shoulder. After a moment, his hand finds mine and holds on tight. Tears prick my eyes.

“Fuck, Jake…” The leach sighs.

What the fuck did he do to you?

Chapter Text

Paul’s P.O.V.

Billy sighs into the still air. His hand drops away and I reel back off his shoulder. The moment passes in a huff of air.

“Did Carlisle tell you that he’ll be bed ridden for a few weeks?” His voice sounds far away, like he’s sitting on the other side of the block and whispering to us through a straw. I know this is hard for me, but for him…I can’t even imagine.

“Yeah…” I say with a wary glance at Sam. He looks at me quickly, but doesn’t comment.

“He said…that a lot of his bones were broken from the fall...” He swallows. “His uhm…” His voice wavers. “Several of his ribs, ankle, his arms in a few places….” He doesn’t go on and I’m thankful for it.

“Yeah” The Leach says after a moment. My eyes briefly flicker to him, but Sam steps in my line of sight on purpose. I clench my teeth.

Billy sits up straight in his seat, the wooden chair creaking, and fully turns around to look at him for the first time since we walked in. When he speaks this time, his voice is up close and personal. “I don’t know your name and I don’t care. You tell me right now and I mean it…what is your relationship with my son?”

He blinks once and then again like it’s some extremely hard question, but is it?

I LOVED HIM WITH EVERYTHING IN ME, YOU FUCKING ANIMAL! Wait…what the…?

He looks at Sam and then his eyes fall to Jake. He shakes his head slightly and inhales fake air. “I uhm…” He meets Billy’s eyes once again and holds them. “I…I’m his imprint or whatever it’s called” He doesn’t look away.

I lunge on autopilot. “THAT’S FUCKING BULLSHIT!” Sam’s arms lock around me and slam me against the wall. “YOU’RE A FUCKING LIAR! YOU DID THIS TO HIM!”

“STOP IT!” Sam grits through his teeth. “Paul, PAUL! Look at me! Look at me! STOP!”

The fucking Leach stares down at Jake and I fight harder against his hold. “GET THE FUCK OFF ME! GET OFF!” I push and shove, but he doesn’t break.

Sam’s hand closes over my mouth and it takes every righteous thing in me to not bite his hand off. “Stop it!” His handshakes over my mouth. “Stop it!”

I see the fight breaking out. I hunger for it. I want to dive across the room and rip his lifeless body to shreds with my teeth until he’s nothing but dust.

Sam forces me to look him in his eyes and I feel his authority wash over me. I drop my gaze and he takes his hands away and a step back, but he hovers closer than before.

Billy is the only one who hasn’t spoken. “Get the hell out of my house” He says and turns back to Jake. “Now, before I let him tear you apart”

Sam stands firmly in front of me.

“What, you think I’m-” He glares so immensely and grinds his jaw to pieces. “You don’t believe me…” He huffs.

Sam shifts. “Maybe you sh-”

“Oh, for fucks sake, don’t act like you don’t know!” He aims his glare right at Sam. “He told you, I know he did…”

Sam looks on with his eyebrows creased up in thought. Billy looks at him long and hard before he draws his eyes back the Leach.

“Get the fuck outta here” I spit. “There’s no fucking way Jacob could. He’s my imprint, you fucking lifeless dead-”

“It’s true” Sam mumbles.

I look to him incredulously and he meets my eyes with a strange look. It’s so ridiculous, I have to laugh. “Fuck outta here”

He face softens and he takes hold of my arm. “Paul, listen…” The seriousness in his face and the tenseness in his grip is unreal. The realization rolls over my skin like water. The blood in my veins runs cold. “I-” He begins.

I snatch away from him. “Wh-what? Ngh, no. No!” It doesn’t make fucking sense. “It doesn’t make any fucking sense! How the fuck could he imprint on him when I imprinted on him, Sam? Just…what!? No…” He reaches for me again. “NO! WHAT THE FUCK, SAM!”

He sighs and runs his hands through his hair. “It wasn’t something I could tell you, Paul, honestly, I…” His voice fails him. His lies fail him. I can see the guilt hiding behind his irises.

I look the Leech’s dead in his eyes. His glare is too much to bear. I can’t breathe in here. I need to get out.

I push pass Sam and he turns to follow me out. “DON’T!” I raises my hands away from him. “Just…leave me the fuck alone!” He doesn’t motion after me this time and I get the fuck out of there.

What the fuck?!

The air hits me as soon as I swing the front door open. This shit can’t be happening right now, it can’t. Everybody stares and I could care fucking less.

“What the fuck? WHAT THE FUCK!” This isn’t real. It’s a joke, I know it is. All of this, the damn Leach and Sam, they’re both joking, right? Right. It makes my head spin.

There’s a hand on my shoulder. “Paul, how-” I spin and swing so fast that I don’t have time to register who it is.

My fist connects with rock hard bone and everything turns red.

Somebody screams. “Hey!”

When my vision clears, I’m standing over a trembling Seth and there are more hands at my back pulling me away from him.

I shake them off and back away from him. Seth puts his hand to the dark red bruise forming on his cheek and scrambles away from me. Emily swoops in to help him and Leah steps in my face.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? He didn’t do shit to you!” She screams.

“Get the fuck away from me” I step away from her, but she’s there every time I move like a fucking nat.

“No, who the hell do you-”

“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME, LEAH!” She stands down. My heart pounds in my chest and my knuckles ache. Sam runs out the house and stops dead in his tracks when his eyes lock on me. Anger and regret flashes in his eyes and that’s all I need from him.

I turn and walk away from them and dive within myself and bring the wolf out. It bursts through my skin and I take off running into the night.

I can’t cope with this shit.

Emmett’s P.O.V.

He doesn’t stop staring at me. Not when Paul leaves and not when Sam follows him. His gaze makes me uncomfortable, like his entire body has frozen just by my words.

Finally, he looks away from me. A breath I didn’t know I was holding leaves my chest. “Get out of my house” His eyes settle back on Jake. “I do not want to repeat myself again”

“Wow” The look on his face says it all. “You don’t want to believe me”

His eyes flash and I can see the words about to tumble from his lips again.

I contemplate arguing, but it’s not even worth it. He doesn’t believe me.

Without a word, I step around him and place a kiss on Jacob’s forehead. His warming skin makes my lips tingle, but I don’t dwell on it. “I’ll be back” I whisper into his damp hair.  

His father doesn’t look at me when I turn around, but his nostrils flare.

I move past him without a word. His sisters look up at me once I enter the Living Room, but they don’t say anything, their faces just as stone solid as their father. They go in behind me and I keep walking.

The scene outside the door is more or less the same, except now everybody is surrounding Seth including Sam. Bella stands uncomfortably on the porch, the porch light casting shadows across her face.

She perks up when she sees me and floats over. “How is he?” She rubs her hands on the thighs of her jeans.

I just stare at her. “He’s fine” I grit through my teeth.

She nods and glances around me to the door. “Is it-”

“Where is he?” I ask her.

She meets my eyes again and inhales. “He went home. He said for you to meet him there. Didn’t want to stay here for too long without permission” Her eyes sing a supportive song, but I know it’s not sincere. She knew about everything and didn’t say a word. That’s not support, that’s fucking lying.

I almost call her out on it, but I hold it in. Wrong place, wrong time.

I listen for his steady heart beat and the uneven breath of his lungs. It reassures me, but it doesn’t veer me off course.

I head on home.

I can’t think about any of it right now. My mindset isn’t sturdy enough to process everything that just happened.

I turn up the moonlit driveway to see Edward’s sitting atop the boulders circling the mailbox with his arms crossed. He doesn’t move and neither do I.

The silence stretches on for a beat that feels infinite before he speaks. “How is he doing?”

Part of me doesn’t want to answer him, but there’s a vibe of candor in his voice. “He’s banged up pretty bad, but he’ll be fine …” I hope, but I bury that deep within.

He nods and shifts his legs. His forehead creases as he lulls his head. “Emmett, listen…”

I don’t give him the chance. “You knew about Paul…didn’t you?” The way he averts his eyes tells me everything I need to know. “You let me get involved with him knowing damn well there was somebody else in the picture…”

He inhales and rubs a hand over his face. “It wasn’t my place, Emmett. It wasn’t something I could come right out and say”

“Your place? That’s fucking bullshit!” I let the anger take over. “You’re supposed to be my fucking brother, you’re supposed to look out for me and have my best interest in mind! That’s your damn place!” Never in my life would I have thought I would say this, but it flows right out of me as fluid as breathing.

He sits up at the thought. “I do have your best interest in mind!” He fires back, sliding off the rocks and stepping to me. “This doesn’t sway that”

“Then what the fuck was this, Edward?” This shit hurts my chest. “Huh? You and Bella pushed me to be with him, to accept this imprinting shit and I fucking did. I fell so deep into it, it’s to the point now where I can’t even think straight unless I know he’s breathing!” It’s too much to bear.

He stares at me intently, but doesn’t say another word.

“You kept something so important, so colossal from me because you felt like it wasn’t your place.” The words leave a bitter taste on my tongue.

He drops his eyes for a moment and seeks me out. I hide my thoughts from him and he sighs. “I’m sorry, truly. If I could take it back, I would, but…” He tries to find the right words, I can see the gears shifting and turning behind his eyes. “I can’t”

It’s not good enough. “Whatever” I brush past him. “Some brother you are…”

“Emmett-”

I take off to the house. “Fuck you” I stop just outside the garage doors and see Esme’s staring down at the remains of the cobblestone steps with her arms crossed.

Fuck, I completely forgot.

She looks directly at me with hard eyes before I come close to her. She almost looks like she’s about to comment on me and Edward, but she doesn’t. She looks angry because she’s not smiling, but I know she’s not. She’s more disappointed in me than anything and that look is rare.

“I…” I begin to say, but the way she looks at me tells me she’s not in the mood for an explanation.

She opens her mouth and looks back to the debris. “Please fix this” She sounds sad. If it’s one thing she prides herself on, it was the house, especially the steps. “It’s the first impression of your home before your guest step inside” She said once when she first put them down. She was so bubbly and warm then compared to this moment. I’ve at least managed to smash three sets of those steps since then and each time, her ‘no problem’ smile has dimmed more and more. It’s completely obliterated, now.

I simply give her a nod. She looks at me once again, the frown evident on her face, and then she swiftly turns and goes inside. The door shuts with a quiet click behind her.

Great. How can I fix this when my own life is a crumbling mess? I breathe. I rip off my shirt and go in the garage for supplies.

I take my time cleaning up all the shattered rocks and particles and laying the new steps down. Maybe it’s because I want to make it the way it was before so I don’t have to meet that disappointing look anymore. Or maybe it’s because I’m stalling and avoiding going inside. Perhaps it’s both, but I’m not entirely sure.

Once I finish and everything is back in place, I go on in. Carlisle is in his office and Esme’s in her study. I can see the pages of their books flipping and the pen stroking the page better than I can hear them. Besides that, it’s quiet.

I toss my shirt in the trash and take the stairs one by one. No matter how slow I walk, it still doesn’t elongate time enough.

I ignore the mess of my room with its mingling scents and shattered remains and head straight into the bathroom. I snatch off my clothes, turn on the water, and step into the shower.

My head hurts. I don’t think I’ve ever been this mentally drained in my entire existence. It’s maddening.

I can still hear him screaming his lungs out like he was dying. It’s ringing in my ears, drowning out the patter of the water on my skin. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of his pain. Never.

I don’t even want to think about it, but it’s all I can think about and suddenly, the ache is there again, bubbling out of my chest and spilling out of my body. It never left. The tears running down my face mix in with the water and I rest my head on the wall and just breathe as best as I can.

He almost died today. Because of me, because I told him to fuck off for keeping his secret from me.

He almost died…

It’s all my fault. All of it. But it’s not, a part of me says. It’s not my fault.

I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to do now. I don’t know how to get through this. I don’t know what happens next with me and him, with everything. I just don’t know.

I stand there for a long while until the water runs cold. I run my hands down my face.

I inhale deep and long and let the humid air out of my lungs. I watch the steam swirl into the air around me. I let whatever I’m feeling pass.

I take my time washing up and when I finish, I turn the water off and stand in front of the mirror on the wall.

I literally look like hell. The bruises under my eyes are almost a rich plum and my irises are an endless black void staring back at me. My appearance has never changed since I was turned, but I can see the tiredness and fatigue becoming apparent in my face. Every inch of my skin throbs with tension.

I go about brushing my teeth and dry off completely.

There’s a soft knock on the door. “Emmett?” It’s Carlisle.

I ignore it. Wrong frame of mind. I slip on an old worn hoodie, so worn it’s soft to the touch, boxers, shorts, and shoes.  

The door opens anyway. “It’s important” He says, his eyes serious and bright.

I turn to him. “Not right now it isn’t,” and then I leap from the shattered remains of the window to the ground below. I feel his eyes on me from the doorway as I move into the night.

I don’t want to talk about it with him. It’s too much explaining that I’m not prepared for.

My throat itches now, the first time in days. I move quickly through the trees. There’s a buck and his calf straying along in the faint moonlight. My senses kick in on overdrive and I succumb to the thirst. I take both of them out with a snap of the neck and drain them dry until their empty shells slump in the dirt. I leave them be.

I wipe my mouth and make my way down the shady lit streets and onto the winding road of the Reservation.

Nobody is outside his house when I walk down his street. The lights are all out, even though I hear the television going. I knock calmly and wait.

A light in the Living Room flicks on and the door swings open a few seconds later. His sister blinks when she sees me, but she doesn’t move aside.

All the fight from earlier is gone from me as I look in her chocolate eyes. She looks so much like Jake. “Hi...uhm. Can I come in? Please?”

She looks at me hard and thoroughly and then crosses her arms and backs away. I step past her and into the room. Her twin is sitting on the couch with a pillow hugged tight against her chest and her eyes on me. The television is turned down low, but now it’s forgotten.

The door shuts behind me and the girl sighs into the air. “I’m Becca, by the way. His sister”

I turn back and meet her eyes. “Emmett” I look to the other twin.

Her smile is barely above a twitch of her lips, but it’s there. “Rachel” She says.

I nod and my eyes flicker to his room. I look back at them to ask, but Rachel beats me to it. “Go ahead”

I pass her a small nod and head on back. The door across the hall is cracked, but dark. When I enter into his bedroom, the space where his father sat earlier is empty. The chair is placed against the wall across from his bed. There’s a lamp on his night stand that illuminates the space and a bowl of iced water with a cloth soaking inside.

He’s still in the same position from earlier. His bandages are fresh, but I can see where tiny dots of blood pierce through them in some places. He’s sweating and I’m not sure if it’s because the room is warmer or his own internal heat. There’s a thin sheet that somebody cast over him, but now it’s bunched up around his waist. I check to at least make sure he has boxers on and then I pull the sheet off his body completely and open his window and turn off the light.

I breathe evenly and ring the cloth out and wipe it across his face, careful not graze the thin bandage across his nose. Drops of water get caught in the edges of his hair and eyebrows. I dab at his chest and neck and then put the cloth back in the bowl and sit down in the chair. I watch his chest rise and fall for a long time.

His sister appears in the doorway, her silhouette breaking the peaceful moonlight from the window.

I look at her from the corner of my eye and then fully. Becca watches him for a moment and then her eyes fall to me. Neither one of us say anything and after a while, her eyes drop away and she bows out of the doorway.

The light in the Living Room goes dark and the television cuts off.

“He’ll be alright” One of them whispers into the air.

The other inhales shakily. “Hopefully”

I turn my eyes back to him.

Hopefully. 

Chapter Text

Sam’s P.O.V.

You know, I’ve never understood what I like about the early morning.

Maybe it’s because the sun hasn’t risen just yet so there’s a faint blue light peering through the window panes of the house. Maybe it’s because everything is so still and quiet, even the birds. Everyone on the Reservation is still asleep, the shops and things on the outskirts dark, the roads clear and untouched. Even the bucks that graze in the yard are somewhere snuggled together. There’s no noise, no strange smells, no nonsense. The air is still and windless. Everything is at peace.

Nature is exactly the way God made it. Perfect.

I look down to the most beautiful woman sound asleep beside me.

Mrs. Emily Anabelle Uley…

The air around is humid, but I pull the thin sheet over her bare shoulders some more. Her hair in all its perfection is splayed along her neck. The scar on her cheek glimmers in the faint light. Her parted lips take in the warm air in silent huffs. Even though half of her body is bathed in the shadows, she radiates so much life and beauty.

I wipe a stray hair caught in her eyelashes and plant a kiss on her forehead. “I love you” I whisper across her skin and glance to the red digits of the clock staring back at me. It’s 6:24. I click the alarm off before it sounds.

I run a gentle hand down the smooth curve of her back and finally get out of bed reluctantly. I take a quick shower and dress in a shirt and shorts and head into the kitchen. I open all the curtains and windows just the way she likes them and put a pot of water on the stove to boil. I set aside two mugs and tea bags and lean back against the counter top. A heavy gust of leaves my lungs.

Jacob tried to commit suicide. That alone breaks my heart because I know how he feels and nobody should go through that. Whatever happened with Emmett, whatever he did led him to jump off that cliff and almost lose his life. And now Paul and Emmett are at each other’s throats. Who imprinted on who, who loves who. It’s a lot to take in. That’ll have to be addressed soon before it boils over into some catastrophic.

The pot begins to whistle. I turn to get it, but her cool hands slide over my shoulder as she takes over. She’s dressed in a soft pink satin robe, the one she was to take on our honeymoon, a surprise trip to Niagara Falls that nobody but Jake knew about. We had to cancel it last night once I sent everybody home.

Of course she understands the weight of everything going on. I can’t leave my pack now of all times, but it makes my heart ache that I can’t give her better days away from all this.

She plants a gentle kiss on my lips. “Morning” She says, pulling me from my thoughts.

“Good morning” I wrap my arms around her waist. Just be a married couple for a moment, Samuel.

She pecks my lips one more time with a smile and slips out of my grasp to pour the water and honey into the mugs. I pluck one of the cranberry muffins from the basket on the counter into the microwave for a quick second. When it dings, I cut it in half and we bring our little breakfast to the table.

She sits down next to me. “Our first breakfast as newlyweds” Her smile couldn’t be brighter.

I can’t help but smile back. “It’s a little lighter than the ordinary, Mrs. Uley”

She blushes. “Well, you’ll have to blame my husband for that, you know Mr. Uley isn’t too skilled in the kitchen these days” Her smile broadens into a grin and she leans over and we kiss again. 

When she pulls back, I brush my fingers along her cheek. “I love you”

She leans into my touch. “I love you, too”

It lingers for a moment before we go back to eating and sipping our tea. Soon enough, the morning light slips in through the windows in heavier doses until I can feel the heat roasting my back. I scoot my chair away.

“What time are you going to see Jacob?” She asks. The light reflects the brown in her eyes.

It doesn’t knock me off guard, but it dampers the mood some. “In a bit” I say after a sip of tea. Suddenly it tastes stale. I set it down.

She nods. “Did you want me to come with you?” The look in her eyes is earnest.

I shake my head. “No. He’ll more than likely be in the same shape he was yesterday” I say with a sigh.

She nods and sip’s quietly. “You think he’ll be alright, with everything going on?” She’s not just referring to his health, but the situation with Paul and Emmett, too. Everybody on the beach witnessed them almost kill each other.

“I hope so…” I say.

She takes my hand in hers and squeezes gently. “Yeah…” She twists the wedding band on my finger.

I watch her mood droop. “Have any plans to catch up with your mother and sister while their still in town?” I ask, trying to swing it another way.

Her eyes go wide. “Oh my- I completely forgot they were here!” She groans, hiding her face in her hands. “Am I a bad person, yet?”

A chuckle flows from my chest as I lean in to kiss her hands and stand. “Not in the slightest” She follows me and wraps her arms around my waist. I hold her cool frame against mine as she buries her face in my chest.

“Well, what are we supposed to do all day while you’re gone?” She mumbles. I can tell by the way her lips are pressed against my chest that she’s pouting. “I mean, their your family, too”

I glance around and lock in on the couches and tables. “Well, for starters, you all can start to go through the mass of wedding gifts we’ve accumulated” She turns back to look at them. There has to at least be a good hundred tumbling over on the couches, tables and the fireplace. “Maybe Hannah can help you start on your thank you notes?” I add for good measure.

She snaps back up at me with a sharp expression. “There is no way you’re getting out of that one, Samuel Uley. Don’t even try it”

I play a poker face, but she raises her eyebrows and it fails. “We’ll tackle them together later, I promise” I press another kiss to her fine lips and then look up at the clock. It’s already seven. “I have to go, get the pack together”

I wrap my arms around her one more time and we stand still for what seems like hours. Just me and my wife…

She inhales after a moment and places another kiss on my lips. “Alright, get out of here before something else breaks out” She pushes me away softly.

I smile and together, we clean up what’s left of our breakfast and kiss some more.

Briiiiing-Briiiiing!

She ducks from beneath my arms and reaches for the phone. “Hello?” Surprise crosses her face. “Hi, Mom!” She looks at me and shrugs. I laugh and plant a kiss on her cheek before grabbing my phone off the nightstand and heading to the front door.

“Yeah, we’re up…Well actually, he’s leaving out right now…Yeah, I know…Okay, Mom says ‘good morning to her new son-in-law!’” She says in passing.

I flash a grin. “Morning, Mom” I’ve dreaded saying those two words together for so long, but it flows naturally without any negative consequences. Emily just smiles at me as she talks on.

“I’ll call you” I say walking out the door. She nods and waves before spinning off into the house.

I leave the car for her and walk down the path in the trees. The sun hovers in the air like a football that will never come down. The woods are already lit up like its noon.  

It’s still a peaceful start to a Sunday, but like always, there’s always something. So I’m not surprised when I see Seth leaning against a tree where all our paths intersect.

He perks up and smiles when I approach. “Morning!” He bounces off the tree.

“Morning” We bump elbows and he falls in alongside me. “Should I even ask why you were waiting here?”

He looks up at me and shrugs. “Well, you and Em are newlyweds, uhm, so that requires a huge level of privacy and what not. Besides, I knew you were going to see Jake and I didn’t want to go by myself, so…yeah” He concludes, bright eyed and bushy tail. He has too much energy for his age.

I suppose it’s a logical explanation, even though he has his pack brothers and Leah. “You been back to see him?”

He shakes his head distantly. “Nah. I called this morning and Rachel said he was still unconscious. Emmett’s there, though, so hopefully everything’s okay” He shrugs.

He would be there. I see the faint blush of a bruise on his cheek. He looks up to see me looking and rubs his face to conceal it. “Its better, the bruise is pretty much gone” He mumbles, but his hand lingers.

“I’m sorry that happened and that I wasn’t able to…” I sigh. “The fact of the matter is that I was there and didn’t stop it. I’m sorry. Paul, he was pretty up-”

“Upset, I know” He finishes. His eyes have narrowed. “It’s whatever. That was yesterday”

I look at him, but he doesn’t say anything else.

We step out onto the road in front Jake’s house and cross the street. Bella’s rusty red ford and Jake’s rabbit are parked out front.

“Must’ve be here to change his bandages” He mumbles.

I knock on the door and Rachel answers a second later. “Hey” She says and turns back inside. She returns back to her place on the couch. Emmett’s sitting on the opposite sofa staring blankly at the TV. He looks up when the door shuts, but doesn’t meet my eyes.

Becca’s leans out from the kitchen. “Hey, guys” She goes back to whatever’s she’s cooking. Smells like bacon and eggs.

“Hey” Seth says and then he plops down on the third couch across from Emmett. “Hey there”

Emmett’s eyes glaze over him. “Hey, man” His voice is displaced, like he’s not really there. Then he looks back to the TV without a glance at me.

I don’t think I expected anything more. I look down the hall to see Bella leaning in on Jake’s doorway. She looks over to me and passes along a suppressed smile. I reply with a nod.

“Alright” Becca says, spinning out of the kitchen with two heaping plates of scrambled eggs, bacon and toasted English muffins. “Breakfast” She hands one to Rachel and begins to hand the other to Emmett before she rethinks it and spins on her foot. “Bella, breakfast!” She sets the plate on the table. “You guys want anything?” She asks.

“No, thanks” I say. I sit down next to Rachel who eats at a graceful pace. She’s still shaken, I can tell by her spaced out expression.

“Deff!” Seth adds eagerly and meets my gaze. “What, I’m hungry” He shrugs.

I shake my head. Becca comes back with two more plates and hands one to Seth before passing Bella in the hallway to Jake’s room. “Dad? Breakfast”

“I told you I’m not hungry” He says after a long moment. His words rush out like he’s tired.

“I know, but you have to eat something, otherwise you’ll make yourself sick” She says, walking back out of the room. She’s strong enough for the entire house.

Bella sits on the couch next to Seth, both of their forks clinking against the porcelain plates.

“You sure I can’t get you anything, Sam?” Becca says, bringing her own plate, a stack of cups and orange juice to the table and sitting next to Emmett. “There’s some extra bacon and eggs if you want?”

I glance to the dining room table that everyone promptly avoids and shake my head. “Nah, I’m fine. Em and I had a light breakfast earlier” My stomach disagrees with me, but I hold fast.

She stops chewing and gives me a blank look like she heard the growl. “Alright” She sets her plate on the table, gets up and comes back with another plate. She presents it to me. “You’re eating” She says with finality.

I take the plate with a sigh. No point of arguing. Smells good, looks good. We all eat and drink in silence for a while. The TV goes on, some random cartoon that everybody looks at dully.

Seth finishes first and sits his plate on his lap. He looks around and opens his mouth to speak several times before he actually does it. “So…how is he doing?”

Rachel gets up to put her plate in the sink without a word. Becca’s eyes follow her and drop back to Seth’s then down to her plate. Emmett stares off.

“He’s, uhm, doing better” Bella says, sliding her plate along the table and folding her arms around her. “The bleedings eased up some, but it’s still coming through his bandages” She cast a wary glance around at each of us to see if she’s overstepped any boundaries.

Rachel crosses her arms and leans against the kitchen wall. Becca lets out a breath.

“Whew” Seth says, leaning back into the couch.

“How you guys holding up?” I ask.

Rachel shrugs with one shoulder. Becca blinks a few times and follows the same reaction. “Not really sure, you know?” Bella runs a hand through her hair with an understanding smile.

I nod and look directly at Emmett. “How about you?”

He looks up from the floor and meets my eyes. “I’m fine” And that’s all he says.

The plate touches down on a surface in the other room. Becca moves to get up, but Rachel starts walking first. “I got it”

There’s a brisk knock at the door and then it swings open before any of us have the chance to open it.

“Oh! Hey, guys…” Quill starts but then his words die down in his throat when his eyes lock on Emmett. Jared, Embry, and Leah move around him into the room. I wait for Paul to bust in, but the door shuts behind them.

“Dude, what the fuck are you still doing here?” Jared spits, rolling his eyes. Emmett trains his eyes, now a glaring gold, on him.

“Don’t you start” I am not for this shit today.

“Why don’t you guys fucking quit it?” Seth blurts out. “He’s been here all fucking night, don’t you think something would have happened by now? Jesus!”

“And that fucking means what, Seth?” Quill crosses his arms. “That he’s harmless as dumbo?”

“What did I say?” I raise my voice.

“That we’re still fucking breathing, dumbass” Becca adds, getting up.

“Yeah, but for how long?” Leah says, looking at Seth.

“You know what…” Emmett rises to his feet in a blur.

“Hey! Don’t come in her starting no shit!” Rachel raises her voice and extends her hands, one in front of Emmett and the other at a moving Embry. “It was peaceful before you bust in and it’s going to stay that way!”

“Hey!” Every eye snaps to me.

“YOU ARE NOT GOING TO COME IN THIS HOUSE WITH THIS GODFORSAKEN NONSENSE!” Billy shouts and everybody turns to see him rolling in from the hallway.

Everybody freezes and look at each other around the room, but we don’t says a word.

Billy’s eyes are sharp and focus on each and every one of us in rage. He looks disheveled and tired and he’s in the same soggy blood stained clothes from yesterday.

Rachel runs a hand through her hair and moves over to him. He closes his eyes as she rubs her hand on his shoulder and hugs him. “It’s alright, Dad...”

He shakes his head slightly, but he doesn’t pull away from her. “If you’re coming to see him, go see him. If not, leave my house” He opens his eyes and looks at everybody again and lingers on Emmett who drops his gaze.

Billy breathes. “Just…two at a time, alright?” He looks at the floor. “Give him some space. Please”

Quill and Embry look at Billy then to me. I’m not sure if I nod them on or not but they side step around him and go down the hallway. Billy deflates into Rachel’s arms some and Jared sits on the couch. Seth removes himself automatically. Leah leans against the wall. The door swings open and Emmett slips out.

I smack Jared aside his head. “We’ve already talked about this” He looks up, but doesn’t test me.

Becca goes to put her plate in the sink. Bella takes hers, mine and Seth’s and follows. The water starts to run.

“I got it” Bella says.

Becca exhales, a hand on Bella’s shoulder. “Thanks” She comes back in the room and rubs her hands on her thighs before looking at me. “Uhm, I need to go the store for lunch. Wanna drive?”

The look on her face tells me she needs some air quick. “Yeah, that’s fine” I say.

Seth turns to go without a word. Becca grabs her keys and phone off the table and puts on her shoes. She turns to Rachel and they share a nod and then Rachel’s turning Billy back down to the hall. “C’mon, Dad. Let’s get you cleaned up”

We walk outside and Emmett’s sitting on the porch. The sun hits his skin and shards of color shoot in every direction like a diamond.

Becca squints down at him. “Hey, we’re uh going to the store. Did you wanna…?”

He glances up at her and shakes his head. “No, I’m good. Thanks” It’s not rude or anything, just a solid no.

She nods and inhales before walking over to Jake’s car. Seth rubs his shoulder as we pass. She tosses me the keys and they climb in.

I go to open the door, but I see Paul walking down the street and pause. His eyes dart to me and then to Emmett who stands to his feet as if he’s about to go back inside, but he doesn’t move. Paul takes a heavy breath before continuing on and walking right past him without so much as an acknowledgement of his presence or mine. Emmett looks at the door and then up to me before taking off in the blink of an eye.

I swallow the built anticipation and get in the car.

“Those two are something else” Seth sighs once we pull off.

Becca stares out the window the entire time.

“You alright?” I ask.

She looks at me in a delayed notion. “Yeah, just tired”

I remember how hard it was for them to lose Sarah when she died. They were only six, her and Rachel, and Jake was a baby, but it was hard for Billy, for all of them. And even then, Becca stood firm in her grief to make sure everybody else stayed afloat and when things got too hard, she broke. She’s not there yet, but I can see the cracks forming.

We pull up into the market parking lot and she sits up with an exhale. “Alright, I need some turkey breast, mozzarella and swiss cheese, lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, chicken strips, bread, and peppers” She turns back to Seth. “You’re on cheese and noodle duty”

“Got it” He replies. We get out and walk on in, the bell dinging as we pass through the door.

Seth skips away and she pulls a cart by my side as we walk down the bread aisle. The store’s fairly empty aside from an elderly couple on scooters and the cashiers.

“You know, he means well” Becca says, reaching for a loaf on the third shelf.

I look at her. “Who?

She cuts her eyes. “Emmett”

A snort comes out. “You’ve only known him for a night, don’t be so quick to judge”

She looks down at the cart. “Well, he seems like he genuinely care” She shrugs. “Not that Paul doesn’t…” She adds after a moment. “Both of them definitely have an interest, but I just think he’s nice”

“Because he stayed over?” I ask, reaching for the green peppers. “That doesn’t say anything about his personality and who and what he is”

She reaches past me to the red peppers. “He came back and stayed by his side until Billy told him to leave, and even then he didn’t go anywhere” She meets my eyes. “I don’t know much about imprints or what he is, but that said something about him”

I chew on the inside of my lip. It does speak a volume to their relationship, but it doesn’t explain anything.

She looks away at my silence. “I’ll grab the turkey. Grab some sauce, something that compliments Italian food” She walks away. “Seth?” She calls.

I turn the cart around and browse through the pasta aisle for a decent sauce. “Something that compliments Italian?” I know all sauces don’t work well, but what does? I skim past the labels, reading ingredients when the air suddenly changes.

“Sam?”

I look up to see the lean smiling face of Elder Reynold Chee, my uncle on my mother’s side.

“Uncle Chee? Hey, how are you?” I start to reach out my hand, but he comes close and hugs me. He smells like roses and cigarettes smoke and it’s almost appealing to inhale. Almost.

“I’m doing well, can’t complain, nephew” He reels back. “Listen, I apologize for missing the wedding yesterday. My flight from New Hampshire was delayed a few hours, so I didn’t get home till late last night” He says, eyeing my wedding band. “Heard it was the wedding of the century”

I wave it off. “Yeah, I understand. Dad said you were tied up somewhere. No worries” He’s runs the law firm on the reservation and a few other locations across the country. “It was wonderful, sorry you missed out”

“Yeah, well even though I didn’t make it, I still believe in tradition” He says with a smile and pulls a crisp and thick white envelope from his jacket. “Just something to start you both off as a married couple” He adds after noticing the hesitation in my eyes and hands it to me.

It has a bit of a weight to it. I almost hand it back to him, but it is a gift and Em and I can actually use this. “Well, thank you. Appreciate it” I palm it for a second before pushing it down in my pocket.

“Yeah, anything, nephew” His smile broadens some. “Speaking of newlywed, where’s my lovely niece?” His eyes do a quick flit around me. “Haven’t seen her in weeks” He’s dressed in a pale green button down, khaki’s and brown top-siders. A man who actually dresses like he’s in his early forties.

“Oh, she’s taking it easy today. You know, Hannah and Haley are in town, so she’s spending some time with them before they go” I lean against the cart.

“Ah, okay” He nods. “The in-laws” He smiles a smile doesn’t look all that real. “That’s good, that’s good”

“Yeah…” I put on a smile. I don’t know what else is there to talk about. Uncle Chee has never been a man of good conversation, for me at least. For his clientele, business partners and friends, yes, but not for me. I’ve always found him kind of stale. Brilliant and a great lawyer, but uninteresting.

He inhales. “So how is everyone else doing, your pack members and what not?” He slips his hands into his pockets and rocks back on his heels.

I shrug. “Everyone’s good. We’ve slacked off on patrols around the perimeter as of late, but we’ll get back on it” He’s a stickler for work. It’s always about protecting the Reservation with him. “Besides that, everyone’s doing well”

“Good” His eyes drop to the cart as he nods. “And how’s Jacob?”

It only causes me to pause for a moment. “He’s uh…he’s alright” I knew there was something. “Why him in particular?”

He looks up at me and the fake smile is back. “Well, I heard there was an incident that occurred down at the beach last night and that he and few other parties were mentioned to have been involved or something like that?” He tightens his eyes up like he’s skeptical of what he heard. “Any word on that?”

I flex my eyebrows on autopilot. “Well yeah, there was an accident last night. The guys were down there joking around and Jake got injured pretty badly”

A flash of fake sympathy rises above his façade. “Oh? What happened?” His eyebrows crease.

“They were down there fooling around by the rocks. We were just finishing up the reception when we got the call” I admit. “I do know he’s pretty bruised up. I’m actually on my way over there in a bit”

The sympathy shifts from his face like water on a hot skillet. If he sees right through me, he doesn’t comment. “Wow, that’s unfortunate. I do hope he gets better?”

“Yeah, he’s uhm, he’s resting at home. The rest of the pack are there as well keeping an eye on him and Billy and all”

He nods again, slowly as he takes it all in. “Alright well, I was just doing a follow up. A few of the Elders, including myself, were concerned on the matter. Thought I’d touch base with you to see what happened”

I nod my head like it’s not a big deal. “I understand. Thank you”

He shrugs his shoulders in a ‘don’t mention’ style. “Alright well, we’ll be in touch, Sam. Congratulations once again” He shakes my hand and he turns on his heel and strolls down the aisle towards the doors.

My mind doesn’t have time to process everything before his index finger flies up and he spins to face me again. “Oh, and if you’re making an Italian dish, you should use a jar of the Roasted Garlic & Herb Prego on the third shelf, right next to your pocket” He checks his finger, winks and disappears around the shelf. The doors ding a moment later.

It’s not even a second thought. He knows something, which potentially means the Elders know something which is not good at all.

Seth walks up with the noodles and chicken. Becca promptly follows suit behind him.

“Yeah, sometimes Mom makes it with pesto sauce” He says.

“She probably uses a different type of pasta” She replies, swinging her bag of vegetable.

“Angel hair, I think” He says, putting his items in the cart.

“That’s a pretty decent type. Cooks weird, though. Did you get it?” She asks, glancing up from the turkey breast and cheese.

“Uh…yeah” I reach for the Roasted Garlic & Herbs. “Will this work?”

She glances at it and takes control of the cart. “That works” We walk on to the front.

“Hey, did you see Elder Chee? He said he was looking for you” Seth asks.

The letter feels like an anchor in my pocket now. “Yeah, I saw him”

“What’d he say?” Becca asks, taking the groceries out the cart and putting them on the counter. Seth daps up Joshua the cashier.

I shrug it off. “Just a congratulations, passed a gift”

She nods meekly. They don’t ask anything else about it once we leave. Recipes and preparation times go back and forth on the way back to the house.

Maybe I’m taking it overboard. Chee said he was just following up on what he heard, which is typical with him being the head of the Elder’s Counsel. That’s fine, but what bothers me is that he said he heard about what happened and so the question is how much of it did he hear and how much did he find out? And then who reported it to him?

I don’t remember all who were down at the beach, but I know that there are some that don’t know how to keep quiet about things.

What happened with Jake or what people think happened will spread through the Reservation like a wildfire and not only because they’ll find it genuinely concerning, but it’ll be speculative gossip. Yet, with Emmett and Paul’s outburst…? Anything can come from that.

And the way Chee took an interest in it rubs me the wrong way, but it could just be nothing. I won’t say that the envelope doesn’t feel like a small bribe because it does in a way, but maybe it was just an overly fashionable wedding gift.

I don’t know. Maybe Chee has a legit concern for the matters of Natives on the Reservation. Then again, that doesn’t sound like Chee at all. That’s not the man I’ve grown up knowing.

Yet, I don’t know. Don’t overthink it, Sam. Just be prepared for whatever follows suit.

Simply stay ready.

Chapter Text

Paul’s P.O.V.

I watch the watch the way his chest rises and falls in long drawn out breaths from my chair beside his bed.

It’s been four days since the incident and he still hasn’t woken up yet.

Carlisle said he’ll need a few days to sleep off the sedative and not to worry, which I haven’t, but four days? I can feel the panic itching at the back of my mind.

He dropped in this morning and brought some painkillers for when Jake does wake up and that he’s doing much better than he anticipated. His healing factor has kicked in and his wounds, the shallow ones, have started to stitch themselves up. Carlisle removed the bandages from his face where his skin is free of any scars or bruises and supplied fresh gauge strips just in case.

Before he left, he turned to me with a professional sincerity. “He’ll be alright. Just hang in there” and then he was gone.

He’s recovered from broken bones and worse before, so I don’t doubt that at all. I’m just…I’m just worried for him.

His right foot twitches for the fifth time today. I brought it up this morning and Carlisle said it’s just his nerves waking back up, but who really knows.

The guys, Bella, Sam, Rachel, and Becca are all in the living room. Something stupid is on TV that nobody laughs at.

Bella stops in every day around noon to help with Jake’s bandages and whatever else there is. She’s just kind of there. The pack come over every day for support with Sam spearheading them. He floats back to the room every few hours to see if everything’s alright, a gliding presence in the doorway, and then he’s gone. We don’t speak. Every time he looks at me like he wants to break into conversation, I look the other way. Of course I’m still fucking pissed and I have the fucking right to be.

Billy’s been in and out of Jake’s room. He hasn’t said anything, but he meets my eyes and smiles whenever he’s in here with me.

It’s a baking ninety-five degrees outside and since Billy doesn’t have air, Jared brought over his a/c unit and put it up in the window. It’s a pretty strong system, I can feel it all the way back here. I get up to shut the window and pull the curtains closed to keep it cool. I pull my chair closer to his bed and hold his hand.

His body temp has rose and fell with the temperature change of the house and his rising body heat, but he’s stabilized some and stopped sweating. His pulse is strong and his hands are warm, but rough and callused. If he feels my touch, his facial expression doesn’t acknowledge it.

There’s a knock on the front door and whoever it is greets the room. I stopped caring who comes and goes, as long as it’s not the Leach. He hasn’t come back here since I did and hopefully it’s for good, because I swear…

Soft padded steps make their way down the hall. I keep my eyes on Jake.

About thirty seconds pass before they speak. “Hi, Paul…”

I turn and see Haley standing there with a vase of daffodils and a small gift bag.

“Hey” I say. She steps in and sets the vase on the nightstand and drags the other chair closer to me before sitting down.

“How’s he doing?” She asks.

It’s still both weird and surprising for her to be here. “Better. His wounds are healing, which means he’ll be waking up soon according to the doctor” It’s not the first time she’s came past. Once the other day with Emily and Hannah, but we barely spoke to each other.

She crosses her arms loosely. “I’m sorry this happened…”

I look at her. “For what?” I kinda get what she’s saying, but at the same time I’m confused. “What do you have to be sorry about?”

She continues to gaze at him with sympathy and sadness. “Because what happened to him is making everybody hurt” Her shoulders rise and fall in slow motion. “And pain is always magnified when it’s somebody else you care about”

I chew on my cheek. She’s right and there’s no denying it. “Hm”

His foot twitches again and she flinches back. “Did you-”

“It’s just his nerves. He’s fine” I say, watching his face for anything, any inclination that he’s waking up. Nothing.

She breaths and runs her hands down her bare legs. Her jean shorts barely pass her mid-thighs. She brushes her hair out of her face. “So how long have you two…”

I raise an eyebrow. “Have we what?”

She opens her mouth in astonishment and scoffs. “C’mon, Paul” She rolls her eyes. “When did you guys…I mean, when did you imprint on him?”

I watch her face for a split second and narrow my eyes. “Let me guess. Emily?”

She shrugs meekly and looks back to Jake. “Don’t blame her. I juiced it out of her”

I click my tongue and look to him as well. I’m not sure if I’m annoyed that Emily spilled or at the fact that Haley knows.

“I didn’t used to believe in imprints and stuff when I lived here. Thought it was all made up by the Elders to keep everybody within the Reservation, in line and crap” She shrugs and then has a better thought. “Remember we used to sit up all night on the phone talking conspiracy theories until your mom shut the line down?” She grins.

I smile crosses my face. “Yeah…” My mom was one of the strictest, rule-enforcing women of her time who took no shit and often put Sue, Hannah, and Sarah to shame with how she ran a house, although she had shit on Sam’s mom. If she said be off the phone by six ’o’clock, she meant end the conversation at 5:45 and not a minute later. She was a peach, though. Even if she had a lot of standards, she crafted them up in love and with dad and I’s best interest in mind.  

Halley’s laughter subsides and eventually my smile slips away. Jacob keeps on breathing, his soft grip on my hand now slack.

I knew what she would ask next. “Have you spoken to here since she left?”

I haven’t spoken to my mother in nearly ten years. She’s not dead or anything, just not physically here. She and dad had a nasty divorce when I was younger and she packed up her things and moved away to Pennsylvania where her family were. For the first few years, she called every day and sent birthday and Christmas cards and gifts, even the random “I was just thinking of you, kiddo” letter penned with the quote on quote motherly love that begin to dim the longer I went without out seeing her. I would always ask her when she’d be coming back for me and she always said soon. The birthday letters and shit eventually stopped coming and she stopped calling.

I don’t…I mean, I don’t stress about it anymore. That was thirteen years ago. I’m over it. She left and we moved on. End of story.

I shake my head and Haley shifts in her seat some. Another minute passes before she takes a deep breath. “Well, I’m leaving in a few hours” She looks down at her watch that looks straight out of a magazine. “Three, actually, but it’s an hour’s drive to the airport and the plane leaves at seven”

My eyes stray. “You coming back anytime soon?” We’ve never had the best post-relationship. When we broke up, we tried to get even with each other by sleeping around with other people that we knew were close to each other that just blew the entire thing out of proportion. Over the years, we’ve forgiven and moved on, but it’s still awkward whenever she comes home, however scattered that may be.

I don’t miss her physically and emotionally, but I do miss the adventures of the younger us before we dated and when we were friends who played hide and seek throughout the neighborhood and always planned to runaway whenever things got hard.

She shrugs. “I dunno. Maybe Christmas or Thanksgiving, one of the two. Possibly sooner because of Claire,” She sighs. “She always wants to be with Quill and clearly the feelings mutual, so…”

It’s a far stretch, but I ask it anyway. “You ever think about coming back? Moving, I mean?”

“Sometimes…” She says, meeting my eyes. “For Claire’s sake, to be closer to my family and all” She pauses and looks elsewhere. “But I have a life back in New York, and her father is there. I have a home, a job that I always dreamt I’d have and a million girls would kill for…” She looks off. “I’m happy there”

“You don’t think your happiness could carry you back here?”

She inhales deeply. “That I’m not sure about” She looks at me and smiles but it’s not as confident as the others.

I reflect it back to her as best as I can. “You’ll figure it out. I know you will” I’ve always wanted to leave, but dad being completely alone would just eat away at me until I’d find myself right back where I started. I can’t do that to him, not like she did us. I haven’t been home in almost a week and the last time I saw or heard from him was at the wedding.

Haley blushes and then leans in for a hug. It’s better than the nonexistent one from the wedding, so much more relaxed and comfortable. Her hair smells like daises and apricots, a reminder of who she used to be and in some ways, still is.

She pulls away but her arms linger just for a moment longer. “And before I go, I have something for you, the both of you actually” She digs in the gift bag I forgot she had and pulls out two items wrapped in tissue paper. She unfolds it and produces a brown ring and a black leather bracelet.

She holds out the bracelet and places it in my hand. It’s a braided leather band that has a gold Greek pendent on it. The leather pieces connect to a small golden sphere that snaps apart if I pull it and snaps back together.

“One of my best friend’s works close with designers and editors and whatever, so whatever they pass down to him, he passes on to the models. Thought you’d like it” She says as I gaze down at it.

“It’s nice, really nice” I look up at her. “Thanks” I don’t own too much jewelry, so I mean it.

She shrugs and holds up the ring. Up close, it’s actually made of a dark wood with a silver strip lining the edge. “I meant to give it to him after the wedding, but…” She says, eyes straying to him. She doesn’t have to say the rest.

I hold my hand out and she drops it in. “I’ll make sure he gets it”

She smiles at that and meets my eyes again. She looks like the girl I remember now and not the young woman she grew up to be. It’s only a slight difference, but it feels so colossal.

“Well, it’s about that time, so…” She rubs her hands on her thighs and stands to her feet. She steps closer to the bed and plants a kiss on Jake’s forehead and rubs my arm. “Take care, Paul”

“Stay in touch” I say as she steps past me.

She looks back at me in the doorway. “I will” She smiles again and departs down the hall.

I look down at the bracelet. It’s different from anything I’ve ever seen. Leave it to Vouge’s up and coming to get something worth the entire house. I slide it on my wrist and palm the ring.

“Unky Paul?” Claire calls as she walks into the room. I didn’t even hear her walk down the hall. “Unky Paul!”

I place the ring on the nightstand and smile. “Hey, sweetheart?” She’s dressed in a white and pink dress decorated with ladybugs and a matching hat. She climbs in my lap.

She stares at Jake. “Is Unky Jake going to be alright?” She asks, so articulate for a four year old.

I nod. “Yes he will. In a few days, he’ll be strong and running and grinning and laughing” I rock her for effort and she giggles. When she stops laughing, she sits and watches him sleep. “Your mommy said you’re about to get on the plane to go home?”

She looks at me and nods, her hat whipping. “Yeah, but I don’t wanna go home. I wanna stay here with Quill and Auntie Em and Unky Sam and Grandma, but mommy said no”

I hug her close. “I know, sweetheart. Maybe next time we can visit you? See your big room and the big garden outside your house and-”

Her face lights up at the idea. “And meet Larry the elevator man and Mrs. Todsey’s pet poodle, Marsha next door and get ice cream at the park?”

I grin. “Yeah, we can do all that. Deal?” I raise my hand.

She grins back. “Deal” She high fives me with a light smack and hops off my lap. Before she goes, she steps close to Jake’s bed. “Feel better, Unky Jake, okay?” And then she steps up on her tippy toes and plants a kiss on his cheek.

“You ready, Claire-bear?” Quill calls, walking in the room.

“Yeah” She turns to go and waves as she passes me. “Bye, Unky Paul”

I blow a kiss her way. “Bye, sweetheart. Have a safe trip and don’t forget to write, okay?”

She nods. “I won’t!” She waves some more and then Quill takes her hand and smiles at me and the two of them walk back into the living room. Haley and Claire say more goodbyes to the pack and then the noise dies down as they leave. The a/c’s still on, but outside of that it’s kind of quiet.

I exhale and get up to use the bathroom and study my face in the mirror. There’s bags under my eyes and my hair’s sticking up everywhere. Jake would have a field day about it. I run my fingers through it and down my face and go back in the room.

I plop back down in the chair and my eyes stray to him. I look at the ring, take it, and gently slide it onto his finger. The dark wood blends well with his skin tone and the silver lining compliments it just right. His finger twitches again and I stroke the ring.

A short intake of breath makes me look up to his face. His eyebrows are furrowed together and they ease up like he was just having a dream. Then slowly, he opens his eyes. He blinks a few times, butterfly lashes flapping provoking a gust of air, and takes in the rest of the room.

Tears sting my eyes and then he freezes when his eyes fall on me. A flash of relief crosses his face and he almost moves to sit up, he winces. “Hi” He says after a breath. His voice isn’t as strong as it was, hoarse even, but it’s okay.

My heart is suddenly in my throat. “Hi…” I manage to say. I take hold of his hand and he squeezes with as much strength as he can muster. I almost fling myself over top of him and bury my face in his shoulder I’m so happy.

His gaze drops to our hands locked together and then he looks back up at me with tears brimming. “Paul…” He sniffles. “I’m so…” He swallows it down. He can’t make himself say it.

It makes me feel so many mixed emotions, sadness, anger, jealously, but I focus on the fact that he’s alive and awake and everything else falls silent. That’s all that matters. “I know…later, okay?”

He blinks hard a few times like he’s trying to get water out of his eyes, but he nods. His right arm comes up to wipe at his face and he winces at the movement. “Shit!” His whole body locks up and he clenches his teeth at the pain.

I hover over him as the grip he has on my hand turns to stone. “Easy, big guy, easy” He grinds his teeth together and slowly relaxes back into the bed. I can hear his heart racing and feel the rush of his breath on my skin and see the tears running down his face. His chest ripples through the bandages on his ribs and fresh red dots pierce the brown tinged cloth.

He frowns tightly and then the muscles in his face smooth as he breathes it out. His eyes find mine and an earnest look sparkles deep in them. “How bad do I look?”

I raise my eyebrows. “On a scale from one to ten?” He nods me on. “Like shit”

His once pain-ridden face breaks into a wide grin. “Fuck you” He chuckles softly and winces in the same breath. “Ouch. Don’t make me laugh” He still grins, just not as hard.

It sounds so good to hear his voice. I’m so grateful to see him open his eyes again, thank God. 

When his smile fades, he looks at me softly. I reach over and brush the drying tear trails from his cheeks. His skin is smoother and warmer than before and he leans into my touch.

He smiles distantly. “I love you…”

My heart sails and I surge out of the chair and carefully kiss him. I don’t touch the rest of his body and I don’t lose myself for his sake, but I need this and I know he does, too. It’s over too fast but I keep my eyes closed until our noses brush.

“I love you, too...” We hold eye contact even after I slip back into the chair, but I never let his hand go. He exhales after a moment and stares up at the ceiling.

He’s quiet for a long time. “How long have I been out?”

The hesitation weighs in. Should I tell him, but why wouldn’t I? “About four days…”

I can see the sadness and disbelief wash over him. His eyes roam around the room and he glares at nothing in particular. “Where’s my dad?”

“Uhm, I think he’s out on the porch. Becca, Rachel, and everybody else is in the other room”

He continues to look off and chews on his cheek in thought as if he didn’t hear me.

I want to hear what he’s thinking behind his million-mile stare. There must be so much going on in his mind that he’s not saying and I want to just sit and listen to him, but I won’t force him if he decides he doesn’t want to talk about it. “Did you want me to get them?”

For a moment, he seems to deny it, then contemplate it, then he makes up his mind with a breath. “Yeah, could you?” He looks at me and now I can’t place the emotion in his eyes.

I don’t want to leave him, but he wants me to. “Yeah, sure” I stand up and plant a kiss on his forehead. “Be right back”

He nods and his grip on my hand slackens and I slip out of the room.

Sam and Rachel are looking at the TV with slight interest. Bella and Jared are on the opposite couches sleep. I can see through the window that Becca and Billy are sitting out on the porch. Seth, Leah, and Embry are gone.

Rachel perks up when I step into her line of sight. “Everything alright?” She sits up and stretches. Sam turns and gives me his full attention.

Right. They didn’t hear anything because of the air running. “Yeah, uh everything’s fine...he uhm he woke up…” It feels weird coming out my mouth even though I’ve been dreaming of saying it for four days.

She hops up, now wide awake. “What? He’s awake?”

“Yeah” I can’t help but smile.

Her alertness phases into relief. “Thank God!” She turns to Bella and Jared. “Guys, wake up!” She dashes to the front door and swings it wide open. “He’s awake!”

“You’re shitting me!” Becca says and then the two of them are running through the house and to his room. Billy rolls in right after then with his eyes wide open and hands firmly gripping his wheels. The noise startles Bella and Jared right out of the sleep.

“Jacob!” Becca shouts. “Oh my God!”

“What happened? Is he okay?” Bella asks, sitting up.

Jared blinks at the light in the room and rubs at his face. “What’s going on?”

“Jake’s awake” Sam simply replies.

“What?” Her mouth drops open and she launches herself from the couch. Jared hops up and follows behind her. The volume increases as they add to the joyous cries and thankfulness.

Sam stands in front of me and just looks. He hasn’t made any move to go back there.

“You alright?” He asks.

I meet his eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine”

I don’t want to talk to him and he’s knows I don’t which is why as soon as he raises his arms to his hips and drops his head, I already know his next move.

“Listen…”

“To be honest, I don’t want to listen to what you have to say” He falters in his whole nervous approach. “I don’t, I really don’t, so…just go back there and see him and talk to him and leave me alone” I mean it all.

He blinks once and gradually raises his head and square his shoulders. The fuck up is real on his face and he bows out without a word. I hear him start to punch buttons in his phone and then a dial tone.

I glance back to see him stand in the doorway and then I sit down on the couch. A breath leaves my lungs that I didn’t know was pent up.

Thank God!

Emmett’s P.O.V.

It’s been a long fucking week. So much shit has happened and is still ongoing. It’s fucking unbearable.

My phone vibrates in the grass beside me for the umpteenth time today. I ignore it again

I couldn’t leave everything to run its course, so I got away from it all for a bit and getting away from it all means ignoring phone calls and text messages.

It’s the same people: Bella, Sam, Edward, and Carlisle. Seth even tried it at one point. They’ve been calling all day but they don’t want anything but to find me and check in on me and I don’t want to be checked in on and found. I just want to be left alone.

I need space and air and I can only find it out here on this mountain flat where the only person who knows where to find me is…sleeping.

I couldn’t sit in that room and watch him suffer in his sleep every day, especially with the fucking Mutt breathing the same air over him. That shit burns me up.

Don’t do it to yourself, Emmett. These last three days have been nothing but sweet isolation and serenity. I’ve hunted and drank my fill twice since I’ve been out here and I’ve just caught the breath that’s been running away from me since it all went down. Keep it that way.

I roll over in the grass. It’s quiet here, so silent that I can hear the murmurs and complaints of the boy scouts making their way from the main road miles away. There’s crickets and owls and shit out here, too, but everything’s just calm.

I look up to the dark sky. It still looks like God dumped a whole ocean load of stars across the midnight blue floor of heaven since the first time I came here. Everything looks so perfect and wonderfully made. Just like it was when he was here with me.

I can see him sitting here, confessing his feelings for me and me doing the same thing. Then he’s straddling my lap and we’re kissing and things are winding out of control until we...

Fuck. “Pull it together, man” I sit up. It’s not worth reliving it because the past is the past and things like that do not repeat themselves unless it’s wanted and I don’t think I want it to.

He lied to me. That’s the bottom line and as much as I want to be there for him in his time of need and his family and focus on our quote on quote love for one another, he didn’t tell me about Paul and that is too massive to digest. I can’t bypass that and keep trucking like everything will be okay afterwards because it won’t.

But it’s driving me mad to not be there with him, no matter how hard I want to run away from it all. It’s so fucking insane! To hell with whoever crafted this shit up in the first place. Fuck fate and fuck love!

My phone buzzes again in the grass. I roll my eyes and snatch it up and wind it back to chuck it as far as I can. Before I hardball it into oblivion, a thought crosses my mind and it’s not that it hasn’t crossed it before. What if something’s wrong? What if they keep calling me for a reason? What if…

I look at the screen. It’s Edward. If it was really important, he would try to find me as he did when it all went down. I palm it until he goes to voicemail and then I unlock the screen and check the notifications.

Edward and Bella have both called twelve times, Sam has called eight times and Seth has called twice. Carlisle has called, left a voicemail and sent a text. I open his message and it simply says Urgent.

Something’s wrong.

I spring from the mountain flat and burn through the trees and roads.

Last time, I was too late. I will not make that mistake again.

I bust through the door of his house and everybody flinches back like a grenade is about to go off. Sam turns around to look at me with his arms crossed. Seth hops up from the couch and the rest of the pack glare me down.

Bella shoots up from her chair with Edward close behind her. “Where the hell have you been? We’ve been-”

“What happened?” Is my only question. There’s a light coming from his room, but the hallway is blocked by two of the other Mutt’s from his pack.

It’s Becca who stands to answer. “Emmett” She holds her ground when my glare shifts her way. “He’s awake”

Those two words take my breath, but it doesn’t settle into the pit of my stomach right away like it should. Instead, I find myself meeting the eyes of everyone in the room and then slowly walking towards the hall.

The two boys blocking the way are the same ones who came in here starting shit the other day. I try my best to level my voice, but fuck it if I fail. “I really don’t want to hurt either of you, so I would appreciate it if you moved before I move you myself”

The one on the left puffs his chest. “I would love to see you try” The other squares his stance.

Suddenly Sam is at my side. “Move. Now” The base in his voice rattles the TV stand. The boys deflate and reluctantly step out of the way.

I ignore all the eyes staring me down and move down the hallway and stop in the doorway.

Billy is there beside his bed just like he was when I left. The room is lit up by the lamp on the nightstand and partially sitting up in the bed is Jacob.

I don’t look at him, not directly, but I see when he turns his head and looks at me and then Billy turns around. I try to avoid his line of sight as well, but like a magnet, he draws me in. His eyes look like a stone fortress, impenetrable and immutable. He doesn’t say anything and it makes me uncomfortable.

I see his hand reach out and touch Billy’s. “Dad…” It’s the first time he spoke and his voice is so hoarse and weak, it doesn’t even sound like him. “It’s alright…”

Billy keeps me in his glaring sights for a solid two minutes before he turns back to his son. He doesn’t have to say anything and that says everything: He’s set on not leaving.

“Dad…it’s okay” It’s a struggle for his vocal cords. “Go…”

The both of them are silent for a long time.

Billy inhales. “Okay, but I’ll be right in the living room and if anything goes wrong…”

“Call you” He finishes.

Billy leans in and plants a kiss on his cheek and then he reluctantly turns around to face me. He sits there, eyes cold, posture ready to pounce if he has to. “You’re blocking my door”

Fuck. “Sorry” I step back out into the bathroom and he rolls out. I can feel the sharpness of his glare gouging into my skin as he rolls into the living room. Sam watches with keen interest.

I hover in the doorway for a second too long and I turn back into the room and sit in the seat at the foot of the bed. The air suddenly feels tighter now that we’re alone and he’s awake. I still don’t meet his eyes, even though I want to. I look at the floor and then at bandage on his exposed thigh.

“Emmett…” It’s a pleading mumble and it makes my heart skip a beat to hear him say my name with so much need and brokenness.

There’s so much to say. “Please don’t…” There’s too much at stake here, too much pain and strife to uncover and deal with. I try to control my emotions. “What matters is you’re alive…” It doesn’t nearly amount to what I want to say and express, not even close.

He doesn’t say anything in response. I give in to the urge and look up to him. His face is clear of any marks and bruises as if they were never there, but the memory makes it though they never left. His once warm chocolate eyes are now cold and dazed, but there’s both clarity and fogginess in them, as if he just awoke from a nightmare and knew exactly what it meant.

And this is the man I kicked out of my house? Yeah, and this is also the same man who…

I wipe my mind clean. “How do you feel?”

His eyes frost over and he blinks and looks away as if his mind is elsewhere. “Uhm…” He inhales a huff of air and swallows it down and recaptures my gaze. “My body hurts” He blinks and looks down at himself, clearing his throat. “My wounds are still fresh, but their healing, I suppose” He adds that last bit with a depressive shrug, his voice fading into a whisper.

He doesn’t look away from me anymore and it makes me fidgety like I’ve done something wrong and I’m caught red handed. I look to the flowers on his nightstand and the dingy carpet, anything to keep my mind from relocating every fiber of my existence to him.

I don’t say anything else and the room falls silent besides the murmurs and whispered conversations in the other room. It’s just so weird being here now that he’s awake. When he was unconscious, I felt sad and sick to my heart about what happened, but now I feel indifferent towards everything.

There’s steps in the hall and Seth pops his head in. “Sorry, didn’t mean to intrude, but here’s your orange juice, Jake” He holds out a plastic cup filled to the brim with a straw.

Before he can even struggle to reach for it, I take it from Seth’s hands and set it on the nightstand normally. “Thanks” I say for him, sitting back down.

“No problem” And he spins and leaves.

I can feel his eyes on me for a while. I stuff my hands in my pockets and look at the ceiling.

“You should probably drink that before it gets warm” I say when he doesn’t stop looking at me. I glance down once to see him take it and sip it down and then he closes his eyes.

My sights return to the ceiling.

“I’m sorry for not telling you, for…” He hesitates on the words.

I close my eyes. For messing everything up we had together, I can almost taste it running down his tongue. “I don’t want to talk about it”

He shuts up. When I look at him, he’s gloomily staring out the window.

I don’t want to talk about. It’s bad enough I’ve had to think and relive all of it all this time, but to express it and let it out… No. We are not talking about it. I need time.

I look to the clock. It was already late when I got here, but it’s getting later. I chew on my lip some and then stand to my feet.

“It’s getting late, you should get some rest” I say. His eyes go wide. “I’ll be back in the morning”

Everything in him panics. “What…no, co-could you stay with me?” It’s all in a rush of words, but it takes me back.

The first time he asked that was when we first kissed. “I don’t want this to feel like a dream that never happened” Oh, how I wished that this was all a nightmare.

I open my mouth to speak, but then I hear a heartbeat making its way to the house and now I wonder why it didn’t take me sooner to realize that he wasn’t here.

His hand reaches out to touch me and his fingertips graze my palm. It sends a shiver of energy down my spine.

I almost give in to his touch, but my mind steers me away. “Why can’t he?” I say it before I even realize what’s coming out my mouth.

His hand stills and then drops away. I start to look at his face, but I already know what I’ll see. I’ve seen it before and my jaw locks at the memory.

My mind tells me no. Don’t do this, don’t fall into this again because it’ll only end in pain as it did before. But my heart…broken as it may be…I can’t not be here with him. It’ll make everything worse.

I exhale and back track into my seat. I look him in his eyes and watch the hurt fade into confusion and then into nothing. I sit back and cross my arms and wait for the inevitable.

The front door opens and whatever conversation going on dies down immediately. I don’t have to look at Jacob to see him perk up at his voice. He walks on back and stops dead in his tracks.

The room becomes an airtight space that’s so thick with tension, a knife couldn’t even cut it. The alertness and hatred in his eyes is so intense that he’s not even blinking. I can see the volcano rumbling just beneath his skin, just begging to erupt.

I have never been as ready as I am now.

“Paul?” Jake’s voice shatters the silence the entire house fell over.

He blinks and looks to Jacob and everything in him shifts from on edge to makeshift caretaker. He swallows and then takes a step into the room.

“How you feeling?” His voice still quivers with resolute anger.

Jake blinks and looks down. “Okay…”

Paul rolls his neck. “You hungry? I picked up some chicken noodle soup Mrs. Grady made”

The left side of his mouth twitches. “Uh…yeah, I could eat something”

There’s a nod. “Okay, I’ll warm it up” Jacob smiles some and Paul’s jaw locks as he focuses on me. I narrow my gaze. His fists ball and he walks out of the room. He’s livid.

I don’t even realize my leg is shaking in irritation until I see Jake looking at it cautiously. He looks up at me distracted and so far away.

“Emmett…” I know what he means by the way he says my name. He doesn’t have to say the actual words.

“There’s no fucking way I’m leaving…” The silent you almost tumbles out, but I hold tight. It’s not about the fact that I’d be leaving him, but I’d be leaving him with him. It’s fucking settled and he doesn’t say anything more.

His eyes linger and then slip away from mine. I watch him for a little bit longer. I’m actually surprised that that was even a thought. I look away from him. I’m not dealing with this right now.

The Mutt comes back too fast with a bowl filled with sodium, processed meat and vegetables, crackers and a tray under his arm. He scoots his chair closer to the bed without a look my way and holds the bowl out for Jake to grab it.

He reaches out for it, a slight wince in his movements. “Thanks” He holds it up until Paul settles the tray in his lap. He sets the bowl down shakily and stares at it for a moment.

Paul inhales and produces a spoon. Jake takes it and inhales deeply and his eyes flash in my direction before he starts on his soup.

I rub my face and look back to the ceiling.

What a beautiful fucking mess.

Chapter Text

Jacob’s P.O.V.

When I open my eyes, I instantly register that something is wrong. For starters, I’m walking which is weird because when I went to sleep, I was on bed rest. At least, I think I was, right?

I’m in the forest overlooking the ocean. I can smell the salt water and the pine cones from where I am and what’s stranger is that they don’t smell fresh, but more like a distant memory. With every tree I pass, the sound of the waves crashing against the sand dunes grow louder.

Ahead of me, the trees spread apart and open up into a small clearing in the open air. The ground stretches out until it ends and then there’s the cold blue Pacific Ocean and the cloudy sky.

I stand at the brink of the cliff in hesitation. What am I doing here?

“So, are you going to do it or not?”

I look to my left and see Paul standing there with his hands in his pockets. Everything about him speaks serenity except his eyes that reveal his worry.

I take a step and peer down the edge of the platform. The waters beneath us are rough and frothy, a war raging underneath the surface, but it’s only in the area directly below the cliff. The rest of the ocean is still and glassy.

“Why would I?” I ask.

“You know why,” he replies as his voice quivers. I look at him again and the calmness is now replaced with a trembling rage.

I’m so confused. “What’s wrong?”

Without another word, he turns and walks off towards the forest.

I spin around to chase after him, but the ground beneath my feet begins to rumble and before I can even call out his name, the rocks give away and I am in free fall.

The rocks and dirt that fall around me move at a slow and delicate pace like snowflakes one a calm winter day. The air doesn’t howl in my ears like it should, but it feels like I’m falling onto a silk sheet that cushions against my skin. The sun hovers directly overhead and blinds my vision up until the last second where the small of my back touches the water. Only then does the sharpness of the cold kick everything back to full speed.

The water stabs and pierces my skin like daggers made of ice. It literally takes my breath away and submerges my body beneath the now hectic waters. My muscles lock and I feel my skin harden at the severity of the temperature. Despite the burn in my eyes, I see Paul stretch out his hand from the top of the cliff, but it’s not use.

I’m going to die.

And then, out of the depths, two strong white arms wrap around me from behind. Even as my lungs are begging to hold on to the air that is slowly slipping from my lips, I don’t panic and instead turn around to face my savior.

It’s Emmett. His curly hair moves in tune with the current and his skin glimmers just a little from the sunlight reaching our depth. His smile is bright and longing like he’s been waiting for me and his eyes are fierce. His hand reaches out to stroke my cheek as my skin turns blue from the cold and lack of oxygen.

He doesn’t let me go as we sink down into the dark abyss where the light now fails to reach us. His eyes glow in the dark and his smile remains as the final breath of air leaves my lungs.

I snap out of it and wake up.

The ceiling of my bedroom stares back at me. I breathe in and out slowly and look around to make sure this is for real and of course it is. Nothing has changed since last night.

Paul is asleep in the chair next to my bed with his arms crossed and his head laid back on the head rest. At the end of my bed sits Emmett in the chair closer to the wall with a book in his hand. He doesn’t notice that I’m awake and if he does, he doesn’t acknowledge it. His eyes are glued to the pages.

I look down at the thin sheet covering my body and try and pull myself up some. Wrong move. “Mmf!” The pain flares down my sides and ribs like firecrackers.

His cold hands are on me in an instant to provide support. My muscles lock up and I grip his arm as I ride the searing pain out. His hold is solid and firm and he doesn’t let me go. I breathe through it and hold still for a moment just to let it pass and I ease back down. My bones and joints throb.

My skin feels hot and itchy, but the icy touch of his fingertips chills the spot to the bone. I look in his eyes and see the glittery concern in his golden irises.

I exhale and shift some. “I’m okay.”

His hands leave as fast as they came and he sits back in his chair without a word. He watches me for a moment in silence and then opens his book again.

I reach for the pain killers that Paul gave me after I finished the soup and pop two in. I wash it down and relax to the best of my ability into the mattress.

I look his way and see he’s watching me over the edges of the pages. I subconsciously lick at my lips and he drops his gaze.

There’s a knock on my door and Bella steps into view.

“Good morning,” she says with a soft smile.

“Hi,” I say back.

She steps in and looks at the two of them and focuses on me. “How ya feeling?” she asks.

I roll my eyes and breathe. “Achy.”

“Ouch.” She crosses her arms and observes me and chews on her lip. “Well, uhm. It’s about time to change your bandages.”

I wince from the thought. “I really don’t want to.” Last night felt like murder when she tried it.

She sighs. “I know, but Carlisle says to change them every six to seven hours now that you’re awake and the blood flow has slowed down. In a few days, you should be good, but until then…”

I exhale. “Alright.” I really, really don’t want to.

Emmett gets up and walks out before she can turn in his direction. She glances back at me before she proceeds to touch Paul’s shoulder.

“Paul?” she calls.

It only takes two shakes before he opens his eyes. He sits up steadily and stretches. His eyes lock on me and then he realizes who’s touching him. Bella’s hand recoils and she steps aside.

He wipes the crust out of his eyes. “What, what’s wrong?”

“Gotta change my bandages,” I say.

He blinks and yawns and stretches to his feet. He lets his hands drops to his side and he plants a kiss on my cheek. “Okay,” he says in my ear. When he pulls back, he raises one sleepy, but sharp eyebrow at Bella. “Be careful.”

She shifts awkwardly and cuts her eyes. He glances back at me and then walks out of the room rubbing his face. The bathroom door shuts a moment later behind him.

Bella sighs and sits in his chair. “This is what I’ve had to deal with, just to put that out there,” she mumbles and picks out the Neosporin, plastic gloves, gage cloth and tape out of the small bin filled with supplies by the night stand.

I bite my tongue. “Sorry.” I meet her eyes, but she doesn’t hold mine very long.

She puts on the gloves and pulls back the sheet some and examines the bandages on my ribs and stomach. The slightest movement makes me cringe.

“Haven’t even touched you, yet,” she says dryly.

“Wish you’d get it over with.”

She gives me a look and slowly goes to work off the bandage right above my belly button.

I grind my jaw together. She takes her time peeling it off and then she moves on to my upper rib cage and then my thigh and the one on my right calf. They don’t hurt as bad as the deeper wounds, but fuck it if that shit doesn’t sting and throb.

“The bleedings stopped, looks like for good,” she examines. “A few of the smaller ones are already closing up.”

I look down at myself. Most of the gashes where the rocks pierced my skin are pink and throbbing. There’s bruises of all sizes trailing up my body, but there are a few places where some wounds don’t look as severe as the other ones.

“Carlisle said you should feel some inflammation or itchiness for a few days while they close up.”

Soon as the words are out of her mouth, the wounds start to itch and tingle now that their exposed to the air. “Definitely feel it.”

“Hm.” She uncaps the Neosporin and squeezes a little on a gage strip. “Ready?”

I close my eyes and brace myself. The moment takes too long to come and when it does I want to scream. Although her hands are nimble and quick and gently drag across the surface of my skin, it feels like she’s digging her nails into my wounds and stretching them out. I keep my mouth shut tight because if I open it, all hell will break loose. Every stretch of flesh she touches ignites a flame that burns right through me.

It feels like she carries on forever, but when I open my eyes, she’s placing the last strip of tape on my rib and putting everything back.

I breathe through the sensitive pain. It gradually fades, but leaves behind a numb throbbing that echoes through my skin.

Bella sits quietly with her hands in her lap. She’s staring down at one of the bandages with glossy eyes.

The toilet flushes and Paul steps out of the bathroom. He looks in on me and keeps moving.

I reach out to her and take her hand. She looks up at me on the verge of tears.

“I’ll be alright,” I say.

The laugh that escapes her mouth is short lived, but the tears fall anyway. She wipes them away and pushes the hair out of her face.

“I know,” she inhales and offers a smile of support. She gently squeezes my hand. “I know.”

There’s another soft knock at the door and Rachel and Becca slip into the room. Bella stands.

“Morning, Jakey,” Rachel says, coming to stand on the other side of Bella.

“Hey, bro,” Becca says, joining the other side.

I smile. “Hi, guys.”

Bella looks between the three of us. “Hey, I’ll catch up with you later.” She flashes a smile at them and walks out.

“She’s a sweetheart,” Becca says and sits backwards in Paul’s chair and crosses her legs.

Rachel grabs Emmett’s chair and sits down next to her. “Yeah, she’s a peach,” she adds.

“Yeah…” I mumble. “Is dad up?” I think I half expect him to be waiting in the hallway.

Becca sighs. “Yeah, he’s just waking up.”

“Ah,” I say.

“What about you, big guy,” Rachel says. “How you holding up?” She rests her head on her palms and leans on her knees.

I inhale deep into my aching lungs. “Okay, I guess. My body hurt’s pretty bad.”

“Yeah,” Rachel replies. I don’t miss the way her mouth flinches slightly in sympathy.

Becca breathes. “Well, Carlisle said you should be back up and moving in week or two, depending on how fast you heal, which seems really fast.”

“Yeah,” I say. I look at their alert, but tired eyes and slouching postures. “How are you guys?” I feel like I haven’t seen much of them.

Becca shrugs and they look at each other. “Meh, I’m alright. Hanging in there.”

I look at Rachel. “It’s been a little rough,” she admits. “I’m holding it together, though.”

I can almost feel the hours of worry and grief emitting from their skin. “Guys…” If I could take it back…

Becca raises her hand quickly. “Stop. I refuse to leave on a sad note.”

My forehead creases. “Leave?” I say. “You guys are leaving today?”

“Yeah, unfortunately. Our flight leaves at 1:15,” Rachel says.

“What, already?” They nod. “Why so soon?”

“It’s been a week, remember?” She continues. “We were supposed to leave Tuesday morning, but, you know, we pushed it back to spend some time with you and dad.”

“Fuck.” They came here for the wedding and spent half of their trip worrying over me. “I’m sorry I fucked up your trip,” I say quickly before Becca raises her hand again.

She shakes it off. “Nah, I mean, despite what happened, or actually, with everything that happened, I can say it’s been a memorable trip. One for the books, you know?”

“It has, hasn’t it?” Rachel asks. “There was a lot going on, mind you, but it’s been amazing seeing you and dad and everybody else,” she smiles longingly. “Missed you guys a lot.”

“Yeah, I missed you guys, too.” I reach out and take her hand and she squeezes. Becca holds onto my wrist. 

“Well, you probably wouldn’t miss us so much if you quit pussying out and buy yourself an phone like I’ve told you a million times,” Rachel says.

I roll my eyes. They have honestly told me a million times to get a phone. “It’s not even like I’m going to use it unless I’m calling you guys or something. It’d be a waste of money.”

“Is that not reason enough? Buy the damn phone,” she says. “It’s 2015. You should own a cell phone, regardless if you’re going to use it on a regular basis or not.”

“Legit, though,” Becca chimes. “Preferably an iPhone so we can FaceTime and whatnot.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

It’s the rare times that we’re together that we truly feel like family. They only come home every once in a blue moon due to work and money problems, but when they do, everything just feels like it should.

Becca lets go of me and rubs the corners of her eyes. “Okay, so, wait,” she reaches back and shuts the door. “Before we go any further, I wanna ask you about something. Well, several things that I’ve witnessed from the past few days, if that’s alright?”

I know what she’s about to say before she even has the chance to speak it. “Okay, shoot.”

She and Rachel exchange a meaningful look and then Becca shifts gears. She’s now the girl who works and breathes fashion and gossip for the powers-that-be of New York.

“So…what’s the tea with you and the insanely attractive man whose skin looks like it was carved straight out of the marble gardens in Greece and sparkles like fairy dust?” she says. “Entirely out of curiosity, although stop me if it’s too soon of a conversation because I can wait.”

I clear my throat. “No, it’s fine.” It is too soon. Everything that’s happened is fresh and the consequences are still ongoing, but I guess I owe it to them. “Uhm. What do you wanna know?”

Rachel gets in on it. “Okay, so for starters, when did you imprint on him? And he’s a vampire or something like that, right?”

A no-brainer. “It was about two weeks ago, give or take?” It feels like it’s been a lot longer. “And yeah.”

“And you knew him beforehand?” Becca asks, “For some reason, I’ve always been under the impression that imprints happen when you meet somebody you’ve never met before and all that jazz. False?”

I try my best to shrug without evoking soreness. “Well, yeah, I knew him. He’s Edward’s brother, Bella’s boyfriend, so uhm, but I never really talked to him unless we were throwing insults and whatnot.”

“So, how did it happen?” Rachel asks. “What’s the story?”

“Well,” I sigh, “Long story short, we were at a party and I saw him and I had this really weird feeling that I can’t really describe to you, but I knew that something had changed.” I can see him now, glaring me down with those intense golden eyes and pink lips and feeling that pull in my gut. “Kinda like seeing the sun for the first time.”

“Oh, Jacob,” Becca gasps, “Quite the romantic, I see.” She fans herself for dramatic effect.

It makes me smile. “Yeah, it was…different, I guess.”

Their smiles linger for a second and then Rachel leans back and crosses her arms. “So…” She looks off slowly in thought. Her mouth forms a “how” and then a “well”, but she doesn’t say anything.

I beat her to it. “What about Paul?”

Her eyes light up. “Yeah. How does he, I guess, fit into the,” she moves her hands in a circle, “equation, story or whatever?”

I chew on the inside of my lip. “Of course you guys know he imprinted on me, uh, but I don’t know. It’s mind-blowing when I think about it. I still don’t know how he imprinted on me when there was Emmett,” I shrug. “It’s some weird shit.”

“Very, but,” Becca leans closer, her face and voice soft in curious understanding. “Okay, I’ll ask this first. How do you feel about Emmett or how does he make you feel?”

It’s a tough question to answer now, but the honest answer is there. “Like the world would stop spinning if he wasn’t here,” I swallow back the lump forming in my throat.

Rachel looks taken back. “And Paul?” she asks slowly.

That’s there, too. “He makes me feel…alive, and I know that’s so cliché. It’s like nothing has changed between us, but at the same time, everything has,” I admit.

“Wow,” Rachel hums.

“I know, that’s some deep romantic shit. So, I guess my next question would be how do you balance both? I don’t think that’s the right word, balance,” Becca says.

“Maintain?” Rachel offers.

“Yeah, something like that. How do you maintain both of these relationships?” she continues, “Because it sounds like you’re heavily invested into both of them.”

I hadn’t thought too much about this and it’s so weird. How have I maintained a relationship with both Paul and Emmett at the same time? “I don’t know. I guess different place and time spent with one, here and there with the other.” It sounds shitty, but it’s the truth.

“Ah,” Becca says. “Got it.”

“Well, I guess it wouldn’t be fair to ask who you’d choice if the situation ever presented itself because you can’t, clearly. You have feelings for both of them, so it would be hard.”

“Yeah, Bella asked the same thing. I don’t think I could.” I can’t even fathom it, choosing one of them. But what if I lost my right to even chose either of them? Who’s to say?

“Well, I can say that, to lighten up the somber mood some, I like both of them,” Becca says, “We’ve known Paul since forever in the day. He’s extremely hotheaded and can be a complete ass at times, but he has his redeeming qualities like most guys, which is a bonus, and he’s super sappy when it comes to you from what I’ve seen. But then, there’s Emmett who’s really cool, both literally and figuratively.”

Rachel and I both roll our eyes. “Because you think he’s insanely attractive,” I point out.

“In a way, but no, it’s not just that,” she says. “He’s nice, which is weird because he doesn’t give off that nice guy vibe, you know? Mysterious and broody, but also genuine.”

I nod. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

“And both of them seem care a lot about you,” Rachel adds. “So there’s that, although to me, Paul seems more committed and sincere. But again, that’s just me.”

“Yeah. It’s a lot to register when it comes down to it.”

“Yeah,” she mumbles, twisting her lips. “That is true.”

Becca inhales, a sudden grin on her face. “And so, the real question,” she leans in closer with her hands splayed like she’s about to make a point. “Is the dick bomb or what?”

I bust out laughing. “Get the fuck away from me!” This girl. “Only you would ask some shit like that.”

Rachel chuckles away. “You’re terrible!”

Becca grins. “Look, somebody had to ask. Being with somebody who can move the stars, but can’t throw the dick just right is a catastrophe waiting to happen!”

“Oh, is that why Nick goes on those early morning runs, because his stroke isn’t earth shattering?” I fire back and Rachel loses it.

Becca bites her tongue. “Oh, I see somebody has learned a few things in the time I have been gone. Touché, touché.”

“Well, your baby brother has to grow up sometime,” I grin.

She chuckles a bit and we just sit there for a moment basking in each other’s glow. Feels like old times.

My smile fades. “I’m going to miss you guys so much.”

“I know!” Rachel leans over and carefully lays her head next to mine on the pillow. Becca kneels down until she’s resting her chin on my shoulder.

“This doesn’t hurt, right?” she asks, suddenly cautious of my current state.

I shake my head. “Nah.” My left arm feels fine.

“Good, because this the perfect position for a selfie,” she says, digging in her jacket pocket and pulling out her phone.

“With me looking like this? Really?” I complain.

Rachel bumps her head against mine. “You look fine, Jake.” She brushes her hair out of her face. “It’s my hair we should be worrying about.”

“Ready?” Becca holds up her phone.

We grin and the camera flutters.

“Wait,” she sucks her teeth. “Oh, no. My eyes were closed.”

“Ugh, I don’t like that one. My smile looks lopsided,” Rachel gawks.

I sigh and shake my head. “You two are the absolute worst,” I laugh.

They laugh, too, as Becca repositions the camera. “Hush. Alright, ready?”

Gotta love them.

Emmett’s P.O.V.

It doesn’t take Bella long to change the bandages. She comes out of the room with her hands swinging at her sides and sits down on the couch. Seth snores on opposite of her.

I look away from her when she looks at me. I’m still not talking to her. I can stretch that out for a little while more.

Paul comes out of the kitchen with a bowl of cereal. He looks down at her and then sits on the opposite couch furthest from me. He fumbles with the remote and clicks on the TV.

And as if Paul’s presence isn’t enough, Billy comes into the living room. He doesn’t even say anything because the look from last night is still evident in his eyes.

He doesn’t want me here and it’s unfortunate, but it’s whatever. It’s his house.

I bounce off the wall and go sit out on the porch before he can say anything. The sun is shining high in the cloudless sky. It’s warm. There’s a group of kids a few blocks up riding their bikes in flip-flops, swimming trunks, and beach towels. It’s a nice summer day.

I hear Becca say my name in Jake’s room. I almost turn to focus on their voices, but I block them out. It’s a conversation between him and his sisters that doesn’t require my attention.

Speaking of sisters, I need to go home and check in with everybody. I haven’t gone back since the day the accident happened. Carlisle’s been in and out of Jake’s house the past few days, but we haven’t spoken since he wanted to talk to me. I haven’t talked to Alice, either. I owe them some type of explanation.

A silver BMW glides down the street and comes to a stop in front the house. The passenger door opens and Emily steps out and starts to walk before Sam even gets around the car.

“I’ll make some space for them in the back,” he says.

She looks back at him. “Okay.” 

I slide out of her way. Her features and walk convey a newlywed radiance I haven’t seen in a long time.

“Good afternoon,” she says, smiling warmly.

“Afternoon,” I say.

She heads on in and shuts the door behind her. Sam glances at me as he clears out his backseat and deposits stuff in his trunk. He slams the door when he’s finished and makes his way over.

He leans along the railing lining the porch. “Everything alright?”

I meet his eyes. “What, I can’t sit out on the porch, now?”

He breathes hard and looks off. “I didn’t say that. I was just asking.”

I shake my head. “I’m fucking with you. Everything’s fine.”

He looks at me and adjust his weight on the wood. “Billy sent you out here?”

I roll my eyes. “No,” I say. He looks at me and I can see it the gears turning behind his eyes as he reads me. “Look, it’s his house, so if he doesn’t want me here, that’s fine. It’s not going make me stop coming around to see him.”

He narrows his gaze and nods. “I understand that.” He falls silent and stares out the neighborhood around us.

“You guys ready?” I hear Emily ask Becca and Rachel.

“Yeah,” Rachel goes. “Alright, Jakey-bear. We’ll call you soon as we land.” I hear the bed creak just the slightest as she hugs him.

“Okay,” he replies. He sounds tired.

“Aw, Jake,” Becca croons, hugging him. “I’m gonna miss you. Buy the damn phone so we can talk more, okay?” There’s a loud smooch. “Love you and don’t forget what I said!”

He laughs lightly. “I love you, too, and I won’t!”

“Alright, now. I mean it,” Becca says back. “We’ll catch you soon.”

“Okay. Have a safe flight!” He yells after them.

“We will!” Rachel hollers back.

I look at Sam’s car. “Taking them to the airport?”

He nods. “Yeah.”

“All ready to go?” I hear Billy say.

“Not really, but alas, work’s a calling. Paul, could you carry this to the car?” Rachel asks him.

 “Yeah,” he replies.

“Seth? Seth. Can you grab this one?” Becca says.

I get up from the steps. The door opens a moment later and he walks out with two suitcases. Sam waits for him to pass and then he goes over and opens the trunk for him. Seth follows behind him, still half sleep.

Billy comes out on the porch and I take a step back before his eyes stray. Emily, Bella, and Rachel stroll out. Becca is the last.

She hones in on me. “Just the person I wanted to see. C’mon, Tinker Bell. We need to have a few parting words.” She walks on past me and I look to Rachel who rolls her eyes and Sam who amusingly raises his eyebrows.

I follow her out into the middle of the yard and away from everybody else. Sam

She spins around and suddenly reminds me of Alice. “Alright, so I just wanted to level with you on something. Sisterly advice, if you will, because I know this past week has been hell for all of us, especially you, and I’m sorry for the way things turned out with my brother and all.”

It knocks me off guard. “Don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault.” It’s really, really not.

She lulls her head and looks up. “True, but I guess I’m just apologizing on his behalf, you know. I don’t know all the ins and outs of your relationship with him, but I do know that he cares for you, a lot.”

It makes me look away from her to his bedroom window. “I know.”

She looks at me hard, searching my face for anything. “You love him, don’t you?”

On the inside, those four words wreck me. My heart skips one too many beats and my brain short circuits and goes back to that night we made lo- the night we had sex. On the outside, I just sigh and look at his window again. The words are on the edge of my tongue, yet the fragility of my feelings holds the words back.

“It’s complicated,” I finally admit, because it is.

She sighs and a small smile rises on her cheeks. “Hm. I get that,” she nods. “I do. Complicated is weird.”

I shrug. “Yeah, I guess so.”

She looks at me hard and grows serious again. “Just work things out with him.” Her eyes and voice melt. “I know it’ll be hard trying to move past what happened, but,” she shakes her head. “Hopefully you can forgive him and move on. You seem like a nice guy and you deserve to be happy, both of you do.”

She’s not wrong, but it causes me to look at her in a different light. She’s his sister and she’s known everyone here way longer than I have, but she’s rooting for me and not Paul. I think a part of me wants to feel good about that, but I don’t.

She sighs. “And I see that look in your eyes. I’m not rooting for either of you dorks. I’m just very supportive and protective of my baby brother and sister, okay? Don’t get it twisted.”

I’m surprised, but not swayed. “I gotcha.” She can hold a candle to Alice, I give her that.

“And don’t worry about my dad. He’s tough as nails, but he’ll warm up to you, trust me. Just be patient and stay cool,” she says.

“Uh, okay.” That’s good to know, I guess.

The car starts behind us. “Becca!” Rachel yells.

“Give me a sec!” she smiles. “And can I have a hug? Don’t know when the next time I’ll be back here.” She raises her arms some.

“Yeah,” I open my arms and she hugs me close.

She squeezes tight. “It was nice meeting you, by the way.”

“You too.” It was, it really was. “Though, I wish it was under better circumstances.”

“Oh, same.” She backs up and holds me by my arms. “Oh, one more thing before I go. When he’s back up and running, take my brother to buy a cell phone, please. It’s hard as hell trying to get a hold of him when all he barely uses is the house phone which is forever tied up.”

I snort a laugh. “Okay, I will.” Damn, he doesn’t have a cell phone, does he?

She grins and rolls her eyes. “Great, so I guess my job is finished here.” She walks past me towards the waiting car. “And don’t fuck it up, either, Tinker Bell!”

I shake my head. “I won’t.”

She hugs Bella, Seth and Paul and says something in his ear that I can barely hear, which is fine because it’s not none of my business nor do I care. She swoops in on Billy and they hug for a minute before he lets her go and she waves and gets in.

Of course she rolls the window down. “Bye, guys! Love you! BYE JAKE!”

“Bye, guys! Call you!” Rachel shouts over her.

Bella, Seth, Paul and Billy wave from their positions in the yard until Sam makes the left at the end of the street and their gone.

They mill about in the yard for a few minutes and then Billy and Paul head back in. Bella and Seth linger for a second and then it’s just me.

Forgive him and move on, huh? I sigh. We’ll see how that goes.  

Chapter Text

Jacob’s P.O.V.

Alright. I’ve been on my back for a whole fucking two weeks and I am officially over it.

I sit up in bed. My back aches and my skin still feels tender, but I have to get up. My fucking shirt and boxers are sticking to my back. I can’t lay here anymore.

Seth watches me warily from his seat. “Uh, should you be doing that? So soon, I mean?”

I carefully drag my legs across the mattress until their sloping to touch the floor. The pain ripples through my nerves like piano wires and it’s not as bad as it was a week ago, but it’s still there.

I eye the crutches Carlisle sent me the other day by the door. “Seth,” I say. “If I don’t get out of this bed, I will literally go insane. Now, could you please hand me my crutches?”

He stands up. “I’m just saying, after yesterday-”

“I don’t need a reminder, bro. Just hand them over.” He’s been such a great help, bringing me food and whatever I need and I love him to death, but shit. I stood up yesterday and it didn’t work out. So what.

He hands me the crutches and the wood feels cool in my hands despite the room feeling like an inferno. I balance myself on the edge of the mattress. I feel the wounds that haven’t healed all the way pulling and stretching under my skin, especially the one on my ribs. On the surface level, everything looks good, but I can feel some things still being stitched together on the inside. The good thing is my bones have mostly reset, but they all ache like hell.

He stands there awkwardly, practically hovering. “Do you need some help?”

I shake my head and wince. “Just give me a second.”

He shifts from foot to foot and cast a look down the hall. I breathe and place my feet on the ground, keeping them straight, and pull myself up until I’m standing.

He raises his eyebrows in hesitation. “Uhm. How do you feel?”

Everything feels extremely weird. I mean, not everything. I feel my skin and muscles tugging and my bones popping to adjust to standing straight up again as opposed to lying flat. My legs and arms tingle as the blood rushes down through my veins and my head swims a little at the sudden flow, but other than that, I feel okay which is the weird thing.

“Maybe it’s too early to tell, I guess,” I say. You’d think after two weeks of broken bones and gashes in my skin, I’d feel worse.

He looks me up and down twice and shakes it off. “Okay.” He moves out into the hallway. “After you.”

I swallow and take a step without the full aid of the crutches and bingo! There’s the pain. “Owe, shit!” My right leg buckles and I feel the bones in my ankle shift to keep from breaking again. “Fuck!”

He panics and reaches out. “Alright, okay. C’mon, we can-”

“Dude, I’m fine!”

“Jacob?” Paul calls from the living room. He rushes in and soon as he sees me standing, his hands are on my skin. “Hey, hey, take it easy,” he says in a low voice.

I exhale. I know he means well, I do, but it’s been way too long since I’ve been able to do anything on my own, let alone stand up on my own two feet. These past two weeks have been agony. I couldn’t even take a dump without him and Bella monitoring and shit.

I swat his hands away. “I got it,” I tell him. I try to take a step past him, but he doesn’t budge.

“Jake, I don’t think-”

“Look, I don’t care what you think! Just get off of me and let me do this!” I shout.

The hurt that registers on his face last only for a second before a breeze sifts through the house and Emmett is in both of our faces and one cold hand on my arm.

“You heard what he said. Let him go,” he growls. His eyes are blazing and now he suddenly seems like a different person than the one I know.

“Hey!” Dad yells from the living room.

Not again. “Em-”

“If you don’t get the fuck out of my face!” Paul fires back and looms closer.

Emmett towers over him. “Or what?”

I try and shake my arm loose, but his hold is stern. “Stop, both of you,” I say, but they don’t even hear me.

“Guys,” Seth whines.

Paul flares his nostrils and squares his shoulders. “You really don’t want to try me today, trust me.”

Emmett clicks his teeth calmly. “Well, you let me know whenever you’re ready, Bambi.”

Paul grinds his jaw. “Man, if you-”

“STOP IT!” It shatters their death defying glare and they both break away and hone in on me. “And get the hell off of me!”

Emmett’s hand drops away and he looks away. Paul’s jaw flexes and he steps back and bumps into Seth in the process, who simply moves aside without a word. He gestures for me to go ahead.

“No, you go first.” I can’t have them in the same room without supervision.

He meets my eyes, suddenly an angry deer in headlights, and exhales his way out.

Emmett raises his eyebrows at him and then waves for me to go. I balance my wait on my left leg and wobble forward into the living room. 

Dad’s sitting with his hands in his lap in front the TV with Bella at his side. Both of their faces light up. Paul’s leaning against the table with his hands in his pocket. He’s irritated as fuck.

His eyes are sharp and hard, but Dad breaks into a smile when he sees me. “There he is.”

“Good, you’re up,” Bella grins.

I sigh. “Couldn’t stay down forever, right?”

She rolls her eyes. “I guess so.”

I stick my tongue out as Seth and Emmett step out from behind me. I go past Dad and place my hand on his shoulder. His eyes flicker to Emmett and then to mine with a warm smile.

“Glad you’re up, buddy,” he says.

I smile just for him. “Yeah, me too.” I turn to the kitchen. “I’m starving. We have anything left over from last night?”

“There should be some chicken in the fridge. I’m not so sure about the other stuff,” Dad replies.

I lean against the countertop and pain instantly shoots up my hip. “Mmf!” I straighten back up.

“You alright?” Bella asks, sticking her head in. I see Emmett and Paul do the same.

“Yeah,” I exhale and Seth skips in. “I got it, man.”

He shakes his head and opens the fridge. “Sure you do.” He squats down and pulls out containers. There’s no use. “Okay, so we have some chicken, uhm, I think all the peas are gone, done by yours truly, uh-”

“Look, if there’s something you wanna say, say it,” I hear Emmett say loudly and I look up to see him standing head to toe with Paul.

“Get the fuck out of my face!” Paul yells and then winds back like he’s about to hit him.

I can’t move fast enough. “Paul!”

“HEY!” Dad shouts. “You two are NOT doing that in here! Both of you, sit down!”

Paul’s hand balls into fist and he grinds his jaw to stone, but neither of them back down.

Dad turns his chair around to face them. “I said sit down, now!” 

Paul holds his ground for what seems like forever before he breaks eye contact and stomps over to the couch and plops down hard enough to crack it.

Dad trains his eyes on Emmett. “You, sit down.”

Emmett turns around and crosses his arms. “I’ll pass.” I can see every muscle in his body bulging, aching for a fight. He’s somebody else entirely.

Dad narrows his eyes and sits up further in his chair. “Son, I don’t care who you think you are or how old and strong you are. When I tell you to sit your butt down in my house, you better find a seat and I mean quick.”

He stares Dad down, but I can see when he gives up. His eyes find mine and Dad doesn’t even turn around to look at me. He doesn’t have to. I’ve grown up under that penetrating look.

I give him a nervous nod. Hesitation flashes in his eyes dashes to the couch and sits down on the opposite sofa. He crosses his arms and his leg begins to bounce in agitation.

Everything is still for a moment. Nobody moves, nobody speaks and the only noise besides our breathing is the TV behind Dad. With a swift hand, he slams his finger on the power button and the entire house goes silent.

“What the hell is this? A damn dog fight?” he asks. “You two need to pull your shit together and quickly if the both of you plan on being in this house.”

“Uhm,” Seth whispers behind me and I look. “I’ll just make you a plate.” He peeks at Dad to see if he heard him and then he goes about the kitchen as quiet as a mouse.

I limp over to the dining room table and ease down into a seat. There’s some pressure on my thighs against the wood and along my back by sitting up straight. I push through it. Bella meet’s my eyes with raised brows. I shake it off.

“Am I understood?” Dad continues.

Emmett promptly ignores him and Paul slouches down into the seat.

Dad’s cock his head. “Am I understood?” There’s an emphasis on each word.

Paul fidgets some and brings his hands to his lap. “Yeah,” he mumbles.

Emmett’s jaw flexes when Dad turns on him. “I heard you.”

Dad looks between the both of them and then glances back at me. He doesn’t even have to say anything to make me shake my head.

He clears his throat. “Great.”

Suddenly everybody jumps at the sound of the microwave door slamming shut. Seth pokes his head out with an awkward smile. “Sorry.”

There’s a firm knock on the front door and Paul urgently gets up to answer it.

“I didn’t say you could get up,” Dad says firmly, clearly not letting this go. “Bella, could you get that, please?”

Paul’s eyes flash from Dad to Bella to me before he sinks back into the chair with a huff.

Bella breathes in and stands to her feet. “Yeah, sure.” She moves around Paul’s end of the couch and quickly answers the door.

Sam strolls in. “Hey,” he says to Bella and then turns to the room. “Go-”, and I can see the exact moment where he notices the tension in the atmosphere. His eyes bounce from each of us and hover on me. He flexes his eyebrows and steps over it.

“Good evening, people.” He comes around to stand by Paul and me by the table. He pulls out a chair and sits across from me. Paul noticeably turns away from him.

Dad inhales deeply. “Afternoon.”

Seth comes out the kitchen with my plate and a cup of water. “Hey, Sam.” He sets them down in front of me.

“Hey.”

It’s a lot, but I’m starving. I turn to ask for a fork, but Seth spins around and hands me one before I even look his way.

“Thanks,” I say and dig in.

Sam watches me. “I see your back on your feet. That’s good.” The corners of his mouth tug upward.

I want to reply with something snarky, but I just shrug instead. “Yeah, I guess so. Feels good.”

Sam shakes his head slightly and glances out the window.

I cut into my chicken. “What’s going on with you?”

He shrugs as Seth joins us at the table. “Just trying to enjoy life as a newlywed husband, keeping track of you guys and all,” he says. The ghost of his smile fades away.

Something’s off. I can’t tell if it’s in the lack of force behind his voice or in his slow and paced movements, like he has all the time in the world. His body language preaches nervousness and timidity.

“You alright? You seem a little displaced.”

He looks at me sharply and inhales deeply and lets it out. His lips form a tight line and he opens his mouth. “Jacob, we’ve been summoned by the Elders.”

The fork slips from my fingertips and clatters to the plate. I vaguely see Paul, Seth, and Dad perk up, but I’m not concentrating on them. A rush of memories, thoughts, and actions shoot to the forefront of my mind.

We’ve been summoned by the Elders.

“Summoned?” Dad echoes.

“What! Why?” Paul blurts out, jumping out of his seat.

Sam relocates his eyes on him. “You know why.”

“Jacob,” Dad says. “Son?”

I hear his voice, but I look at Paul instead who’s staring back at me. I meet Dad’s eyes and then Emmett’s confused ones. I don’t even know what to say. I push the plate away from me and sit my hands in my lap. I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.

“When?” I ask Sam. Everything feels on edge right now.

He sighs again. “Sun down in twenty minutes. They want to see all of us, besides Seth and Bella.”

I sit back in the chair and ignore the pain it causes. My eyes roam the table like the answer to this problem will appear in the wood carvings and the anxiety in my chest will fade, but it doesn’t.

“Jacob,” Dad says, his voice no longer a stone fortress. “What do you want to do?”

It takes me a long time to collect what I’m thinking in order not to show it on my face. I look up at meet his eyes and then everyone else.

“Don’t really have a choice, do we?” I say nervously and breathe in before my lungs seize up.

I slide from under the table and struggle to my feet. Sam sits back and watches me. Bella looks on.

I wave my hand. “Just give me a second to get dressed, okay?”

Sam purses his lips and gets up from the table. I place my hand on Dad’s shoulder as I pass. Bella offers a distant smile. Emmett’s eyes follow my every step, but he doesn’t move to go after me.

Seth hops to his feet a moment too late. “Did you need-”

“I got it,” Paul says and follows after me.

I turn around to him once we’re in my room. He scans my face quickly, a flitter of motion, before he turns around to the dresser. He rummages around and pulls out a shirt in a color I don’t pay any attention to and he digs in another drawer and picks out shorts.

“Is this okay?” he asks, holding them up.

I nod silently. He puts the shorts on the bed and throws the shirt over his shoulder.

“I can hold you still while you put it on,” he offers, eyes not holding mine for too long.

I let him take hold of the crutches with one hand and the other rest just under my underarm. I can feel the slight tremors in his fingertips or maybe it’s me. He sets one to the side and switches hands and does the same with the other. His touch isn’t hard, but he doesn’t let me sway.

He helps one arm into the shirt then the other and holds me while I bring it over my head. There’s a stinging in my ribs, but it dulls once I pull the shirt down. He steadies me as he reaches for the shorts.

I think back to our kiss right before the wedding started and at the cliffs and how he we interacted when he ran away to the beach to get away from me and everything in between.

“We were careful, weren’t we?” I mumble loud enough for him to hear. “When we were together?”

He slows down and stands up straight. He meets my eyes and their so withdrawn and hazy as if he’s looking at me from miles away.

“I dunno,” he replies and his eyes fall from grace. “I hope we were.” It’s a whisper.

It doesn’t settle well with me, but I hope we were, too.

Emmett’s P.O.V.

Seth opens the front door for Jake when he comes back into the living room. He gives him a tightlipped nod and goes out the door. Billy puts on his hat and is right behind him and then Seth and Paul. Sam gestures me to go and then Bella is behind me and the door shuts behind us.

We all stand there for a second. I don’t know where the hell we’re going or why we’re going, but the way everybody reacted says that we’re all in trouble.

“Did you want to walk or…?” Sam asks Jake.

He looks down the street. “No, we can uhm, we can take my car.” He says and his eyes flicker right past me as if he doesn’t see me. He probably doesn’t because he’s not focused.

“Okay,” Sam says. “Seth, could you grab the keys, please?”

Seth goes and Bella walks over to Jake. “Call me when you get in, let me know everything’s okay?” she asks.

He nods. “Yeah,” and she leans in to hug him and he swings an arm around her. When they break apart, she looks my way and she turns away to go. Seth comes back with the keys jingling in his hands.

“I’ll drop in on you later,” Sam says to him as he goes to start the car.

“Alright,” he says, walking away while looking back at us. “Bye, guys.”

Jake waves his fingers and limps towards the car. Paul helps Billy in the passenger seat. I open the back door and Jake holds onto my arm as he carefully climbs in and slides over into the middle seat. I get in right after him and shut the door. Outside the window, Paul glowers and walks over to the other side.

Nobody says anything the entire way over. Billy stares straight ahead and I don’t see Paul because I’m trying to get Jake to look at me, but he doesn’t. He’s staring at the armrest between Sam and Billy. Whatever this is, he’s shaken to the core about it.

The sun is setting by the time Sam pulls to a stop in front of a building that looks like the big house at a summer camp. In the yard is a sign that says The Quileute Wisdom Grounds, and along the pathway leading up to the porch are two sets of seven mini totem poles with wolves at the top.

I suddenly don’t like the way this place.

Paul helps Jake out with a grudging look in my direction. That shit makes me grind my jaw together. Sam helps Billy out and we make our way towards the door. Sam holds the door for all of us and falls in beside me as we walk down a long corridor.

The walls are decorated with Quileute culture items, historic pictures of wagons and teepee’s and attire, as well as group photos of the founding fathers.

“Don’t let anything they say provoke you, alright?” Sam says in a low voice.

I cut a side eye at him. “It’s that bad, huh.”

He breathes in and out. “Just be cool, for his sake.”

I don’t say anything back.

The hallway opens up into a large square room. There are seven rows of fourteen chairs divided down the middle in an aisle and at the front is a long wooden table that curves around like a stretched out “U”. Sitting at the table are six men and a woman with seven stony expressions and seven sets of eyes glaring me down in disgust and annoyance.

“Good evening, Gentlemen,” says the man in the middle. He looks the youngest out of the three old bats to his left and somewhere in the age bracket of the three to his right. From his business smile to his crisp yellow polo shirt and the way he sits reserved while everyone else is at the edge of their seat tells me that he is the head honcho.

And all it takes is one look at him and everyone else here to know why this place makes me feel a sense of dread, like something bad is about to happen. It reminds me too much of that cultic morgue The Volturi call home. I wouldn’t be surprised if Felix and Dimitri slinked out of the shadows.

“Evening, Elder Chee,” Billy says, rolling to a stop in the center. “And a good evening to you Elder Poey, Elder Ognak, Elder Enis, Elder Altera, Elder Makeya and Elder Cameroon.”

A collective “Good evening” goes up, but it sounds more like only one of them is muttering it. The last guy on the right, Elder Cameroon I’m guessing because he looks like Jake’s pack brother Joseph, glares on silently.

A light sparks in Chee’s eyes when Jake moves closer to the Billy and sits down next to him. “Jacob! It’s nice to see your doing well,” he says. “How do you feel?”

Jake slides his crutches to the ground and sits back in his seat with a wince. “I’m better,” he exhales.

Chee studies him before he smiles. “That’s good to hear,” and shifts his attention. “Paul, how are you?”

Paul crosses his arms from the right of Jake’s chair. “I’m alright.” He’s not in the mood, either.

Chee raises his chin and then relocates his eyes. “Samuel, nice to see you again.”

Sam crosses his hands behind his back and stands straighter. “Elder Chee.” There’s a resemblance between them somewhere.

And then finally, Chee turns his eyes on me. Just like the other’s at the table, his eyes flicker in disgust momentarily, and then his business façade is back up. “And we have a guest as well. And what is your name, sir?”

“Emmett,” I say. Jake turns his head to look at me slightly enough to not attract attention.

Chee nods his head. “Well, what a pleasure for you to join us, Emmett.” His eyes linger for a moment too long and there is that distrust and disgust. I narrow my gaze and he inhales and looks away.

“Alright, let’s get down to business, shall we?” He crosses his hands and maintains his posture. “The reason we have brought the five of you hear today is because it has come to our attention that there was an incident that recently occurred on the Reservation beach. I spoke with Samuel on last week on the matter and I was told that several of his pack members were simply rough housing around, which resulted in Jacob suffering an injury. Is that correct?” He looks at Sam.

Sam doesn’t miss a beat. “Yes.”

Chee nods. “Alright.”

“But, if I may ask,” interjects the lady of the table I assume is Elder Makeya. “What is your side of the story, Jacob?” She has high cheek-bones and full brown lips, but her eyes are venomous.

He inhales and rises in his chair as he does it. “Uhm. I actually don’t recall what happened.” He shakes his head. “It’s kind of a blur. One minute we were all joking around, the next I was being rushed away.”

She nods her head and steals an unintimidating glance in my direction. “Alright. Thank you.”

The Elders sit quietly for a moment, digesting his version of the truth. Then they start to whisper amongst each other. It last for a solid three minutes.

Jake shifts to get up. “Actually, if the meeting is over, I would like to go home to get some rest.”

Chee looks and raises his hand and the whispers cease. “Oh, but it’s not,” he says and there’s that spark again. “We have another matter to discuss, Jacob. So please, have a seat.” His voice sounds cool and warming, but his tone is off.

“Alright,” Jake says, and settles back into the chair with a look from Billy and Paul.

Chee crosses his hands again. “We’d also like to address your recent interactions with Paul here on the Reservation.”

I can see the hitch in Jacob’s breathing rather than hear it and, at the same time, see Paul’s body go frigid.

Chee lulls his head. “Care to enlighten us on these actions that have essentially sent the Reservation into an uproar?” He’s so smug about, it’s sickening.

Billy shifts. “Pardon me, but I’m sure that’s actually true.”

Chee eyes Billy. “No offense, Billy, but he can answer for himself,” he snaps calmly. “Now, Jacob?”

Jake is still and then he breathes a long breath. His eyes keep looking up at the table, but not directly at Chee’s face nor anyone else’s. He’s beyond nervous right now. He’s scared.

Paul inhales sharply. “I imprinted on him.”

A collective gasp goes up from the table, but the only one who doesn’t seem surprised, unsurprisingly, is Chee.

“And, if I may, how long ago did you come to that conclusion?” asks Elder Altera.

His voice flat lines. “It’ll be a month next week,” Paul says.

A fucking month? They’ve been messing around for a whole fucking month?

Altera’s eyes narrow. “And could you describe the moment of truth when you realized that you had imprinted?” He’s extremely passive. It’s all in his voice.

“I actually prefer not to, if that’s alright,” he replies. Sam shifts from foot to foot.

The Elders grow restless and Chee raises his hand. “It’s quite alright. You are entitled to keep certain information to yourself.” He looks to Jake. “Is everything he said correct?”

Jake nods his head. “Yeah, it is.” I don’t miss the subtle eye glance he gives me.

Chee nods as well. “Well, imprinting is not breaking news amongst the Reservation. It started to happen to the original shifters when our Forefather’s first formed the Quileute tribe and has occurred ever since. We’ve just recently celebrated the union of Sam and Emily, whom he imprinted on.” His switches up. “Now, a homosexual imprint, while uncommon, has happened in times past, but you may not have heard about it due to its rarity.”

He sits still for a moment and examines both Jake and Paul. There’s something not right about the way he ogles them, but the moment is over before I know it, and his face brightens up again. “In retrospect, congratulations.”

Jake, Paul and Sam exchange a confused look.

“Thanks,” Paul says.

Chee raises his hand. “Now, if any of the Elders would like to speak on the matter, feel free to do so now.” He looks up and down the table at their disgruntled faces. They all look like they can spit an entire dissertation in five minutes flat, but nobody says anything.

“Alright,” Chee says, lowering his hand. “Moving forward.” And the entire table shifts to look at me. “Could you state your name for us again, please?”

“Emmett.” It’s unlikely that he forgot that fast, but whatever.

“And,” Chee’s eyes dip down to eye my wrist. “You are a member of the Cullen’s coven, correct?”

I cross my arms and purposely flash my wristband with the family crest. “You already know that, so get on with what you have to say.” I don’t like him and he knows it.

Again, the entire table reacts, but Chee simply sits back in his chair unbothered. “And what is your business here, Mr. Cullen, because as you know, you are in direct violation of the established treaty prohibiting your kind from trespassing on our Reservation grounds.”

I raise an eyebrow. “I’m well aware, thanks.”

Billy turns his head towards me and Sam looks my way.

“We await your answer, Mr. Cullen.” Altera goes.

I eye each and every one of them and then lock eyes with the fear that hasn’t left Jake’s eyes.

“What is your business here?” asks Elder Ognak on the end with a stern reckoning. The wrinkles on his face deepen as he glares me down.

I turn back to them. “I’m his imprint or imprintee or whatever you wanna call it.”

Chee’s eyes widen and the entire table gasps in shock and horror.

“Who’s imprint? Who are you referring to?” Chee asks, sitting back up in his chair with a childish eagerness.

I clench my jaw to keep from laughing at how fucking stupid they all look. You’d think I would have just pulled the trigger for a grenade in here. I look at Jake to meet his eyes again, but he’s avoiding me now, which means I fucked up somehow.

They get the hint. “THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE!” shrieks Elder Poey who skyrockets out of his seat. 

“How dare you!” says the one between Ognak and Chee. He looks like he has half the nerve to hop over the table, but he wouldn’t even have a chance because I’d crack that walker behind his chair so fast, he couldn’t have a heart attack fast enough. 

Chee raises his hands and the table more or less brings it down. “Everyone, please remain calm.” He laces his hands together again. He inhales deeply. “Mr. Cullen, need I remind you that you are on the Quileute Reservation and are currently in violation of our recognized treaty. So, please refrain from lying on our establishment.”

I drop my arms. “What! I’m not lying to you!” Why the fuck does everyone think I’m lying?

Chee clenches his jaw and I see that his patience is running thin. “Remember where you are-”

“I don’t give a flying fuck where I am, yo-”

“It’s true, alright!” Jake finally speaks up and the entire room goes silent. He looks up from the floor and exhales. “I imprinted on him.” He quickly glances to Paul out of the corner of his eyes, but Paul is looking away from him. “And I don’t know why or why it happened, but it did.”

Chee sits back again, clearly dumbfounded by the information.

“An abomination!” shouts Elder Makeya.

“You see this?” rages Elder Cameroon. “This is a sign from our Forefather’s. Listening to these lies and letting this, this white demon onto our land and our entire Reservation will go up in flames!”

I’ve had it. “Now hold the hell on-”

“What?” Jake’s voice rises. “Are you serious?”

Sam shifts into action. “Stop it, both of you. Have some respect.”

I turn on him. “What the hell do you mean have some respect?! Do you fucking hear this shit? Do you? It’s fucking ridiculous and you’re talking about some damn respect.”

“Hey!” He takes hold of my arm and looks me square in the eyes. “Chill,” he says in a low voice.

I snatch away from him and turn to the rest of the room. Jake’s standing on his feet now and Paul is off to the side watching everything take place. Billy is sitting with his face tight and the Elders are all fuming in silence at Chee’s raised hand. 

He lowers it. “Well,” he pauses and eyes each of us with raises eyebrows. “This has only amounted to a shouting match instead of a conversation amongst the adults we all are.” His eyes dance around the room, but linger on me. “Tell you what. We will dismiss for today and give everyone a chance to calm down and gather our bearings and we’ll reconvene in three days.” His tone is something I can give too fucks about it. “All in agreement?” He looks back and forth to his comrades, who all nod bitterly.

“That sounds good,” Billy says.

Chee offers him a nod. “Good.”

Jake turns around with a glare and starts to move towards the door. Paul follows him like a puppy.

“Get well soon, Jacob,” is Chee’s final words.

I look back to catch the way his eyes narrow as if we all play some part in his twisted master plan. His façade is no longer there, that’s for sure. I turn back around before I say something that’ll really send this place up in flames.

Fuck him.

“Well,” Sam says as soon as we step outside.

Jake doesn’t even let him finish. “I swear, if you say some shit like that went way better than you expected, I’ll hurt you,” he grits out.

“What the fuck was that, Sam?”

“That,” Billy says. “Was them figuring out what the hell you’ve three have been up to since these imprints started.” His eyes turn to steel. “Now, you all know better than to act like that, especially you, Sam.”

Both Jake and Paul look away in irritation. Sam stands his ground.

Billy turns his sights on me. “And you. You need to watch what you say to them before things get worse than what they are.”

“Watch what I say?” I ask, bewildered. You can’t be fucking serious. Before I can dig into him, Sam locks eyes with me and shakes his head. Don’t do it. It takes everything in me to just bite my tongue.

“Yes. Shouting about it will not make things better,” Billy continues and folds his hands in his lap.

Sam’s phone rings and he turns away to answer it. “Hello?” He looks at Paul. “Hey. Yeah, he’s right here. Hold on.” He hands the phone to him.

I drown out his conversation and look to Jacob who’s staring off into the night sky. He doesn’t look at me, even though I know he can feel my eyes on him. He’s that irritated.

Paul hands the phone back to Sam.

“Everything alright?” he asks.

Paul nods. He doesn’t look angry anymore and that’s saying something. “Yeah. He just wants me home.”

Sam blinks. “Oh, okay.”

Jake perks up. “What’s wrong?”

Paul steps over to him. “My dad wants me home.” He doesn’t look excited about it at all.

Jake processes it. “Oh.” He looks to Billy and then back.

Paul reaches out and holds his arm. “But, I’ll come over tomorrow, make you breakfast or something.”

A feather light smile touches Jake’s lips. “Okay.”

Paul’s rubs his arm and then leans in and kisses his cheek. Fuck that. I step closer and he pulls away and looks at me like he’s waiting for me to try something.

“That’s enough,” Billy says, moving closer. Jake doesn’t say anything.

I grind my jaw and shove my hands in my pockets to keep from swinging hard enough to kill him.

“I’ll see you later,” Paul says and walks past us and into the woods.

A moment passes and then Sam exhales. “So, are you guys heading home, too?”

“Yeah,” Billy says.

“You’re not?” Jake asks.

Sam shakes his head. “Nah. Told Seth I’d drop in and check on him,” he says and digs in his pocket and tosses me the keys. “The guys and I will come past tomorrow.”

Jake nods. “Alright.”

“You guys have a good night,” Sam replies.

“You too,” says Billy, rolling towards the car.

Sam walks around the side of the building with his hands on the buttons of his shorts. There’s a loud shredding sound and then a large black wolf jets into the woods.

I open Billy’s door and hold out my arm for him to grab onto it as he gets in. At first, he hesitates, but grabs on and pulls himself into the car with little to no effort.

“Thanks,” he says when I close up his wheelchair.

“Not a problem.”

I move to other side of the car to help Jake in, but the door’s already shut and he’s putting his crutches to the right of him.

I want to say something, but it’s not the right time. I get in and start his Rabbit up.

He stares out the window as we cruise down the streetlamp lit streets.

Billy turns his head to look at him. “You alright, son?”

I glance in the rearview mirror and watch him glare out the window.

“Yeah,” he mutters. He’s not.

When we pull up to their house, he’s the first out of the car. Billy looks on as he limps past the house towards the garage. I can see it in his eyes that he’s understands it even though I don’t, but he’s also his father. There’s a lot I wouldn’t understand.

He rolls towards the front door. “Thank you, again.”

“You’re welcome.”

Tonight will be the first time he’s spoken to me without any animosity in his voice. Becca said he’ll come around eventually, but it can’t just be on him. I have to do my part, I suppose.

He shuts the door behind him and I walk on back to the garage. There’s fireflies lounging about and the crickets are singing their song under the night sky. There’s a sliver of a moon out which doesn’t brush everything in its usual luminescent glow, but the night is still young.

The light to the garage is seeping out of the large doors. I breathe thoroughly before I go in.

He’s sitting on one of the workbenches built in along the wall with a grim expression. He’s still staring at nothing in particular which is starting to pick at me. It still looks the same in here like the last time, except there’s more open space on the floor now that his car is outside. 

I look around and snag the rolling stool from beside the other car and sit across from him. His eyes flicker in my direction, but that’s the only thing I get.

I cross my hands in my lap and wait it out for a minute and then a bit longer before I speak.

“Are you okay?”

“Am I,” he snorts instantly and then his grueling irises are on me. “You were in the exact same meeting as I was, you heard the exact shit I heard, so why would I be okay?” He laughs then and partially covers his face. “I mean, do I look okay? I’m so fucking tired of everyone asking me that. Don’t fucking ask questions you already know the answers to!”

He breathes hard and his left eye twitches and then in one swift swing, he knocks down the tool cart sitting next to him. Wrenches, screws, and auto parts scatter across the floor like marbles.

I don’t move to pick anything up. Everything he said sinks in like water in dirt. .

“And you’re mad at me?” I say it calmly.

He glares me down and then looks away.

I shake my head. “You don’t have the right.”

His entire face softens at my words. “Emmett,” he breathes. “I’m-”

“No, stop, okay? Just stop.” I get to my feet. “Stop saying you’re fucking sorry and bitching about how aggravated you are that people are checking in on you because I’m so fucking tired of hearing that bullshit. It’s all fucking bullshit.” I bare it all. “Like, what the fuck, Jacob? You throw yourself off a damn cliff because I found about your fucking side piece, and you’re mad at me because I asked you if you’re okay?

“I’ve been here by your fucking side every day for the past two weeks making sure you were okay and not in pain because of the shit you pulled and at the same time, watching you and Paul make googly eyes at each other like I’m not in the fucking room, but oh, your fucking mad at me. Get the fuck out of here.”

His eyes brim with tears and I turn away from him. “You’re just so fucking selfish, it’s ridiculous. You tried to kill yourself because you were hurting, but guess what, I was hurting, too! We all were, and what makes it all worse is that you don’t even care. You never even thought to ask me how I felt about everything, about Paul, about being here with you and Billy, nothing. So, no, you don’t have the fucking right to be mad at me whatsoever!”

It hit’s home and, even though I don’t want to, I spin around to see him sobbing. The fire and brimstone that was erupting from my heart dies down. There’s more I can say and go in for the kill, but I don’t.

I step over the mess on the floor and sit next to him. He’s crying so badly, he’s shaking.

I swallow and take his hand. “Hey, just stop crying, okay?” He doesn’t ease up. “Jacob, look at me.”

When he does look up to me, his eyes are red and his lips are trembling, but he’s reeling it in. He wipes his eyes with his other hand and takes in a shaky breath.

“I don’t know what to say,” he mumbles.

I watch him for a long time. “Just, just talk to me,” I say. This past month and three weeks have been nothing but actions that have pent up to this moment. “Say what you have to say and I’ll listen.”

He sits still for a moment. “I fucked things up between us,” he says honestly, his eyes straying. “I know it and…what I did…it just hurt so bad that I couldn’t even…” He tenses up. “I didn’t think, I just acted.” He blinks. “And your right, I’ve been selfish since day one and I was so caught up in the moment that I wasn’t considerate of how you felt or how he felt or anybody else. And I didn’t tell you about Paul because I was scared to admit that there was someone else. I was afraid you’d leave.” He’s silent for a while. He closes his eyes and tears run down his face. “I’m sorry.”

I have to admit, it does hurt my heart to hear him confess everything that I feared was true, but it’s the honesty he expels that grounds me.

Even if I don’t understand everything that’s been going on, these fucked up relationships and whatnot, there’s an unmistakable bond between us that I ran from in the beginning, and now, I can’t deny it.

I look at him long and hard. “I told you there’s no fucking way I’m leaving you,” and I meant it.

He opens his and looks at me slowly as if he doesn’t believe me. Yet, once he meets my eyes, he recognizes the truth and I see the guy that I fell in love within those caramel canyons. I rub a circle onto his finger. His hand twitches and his grip tightens in mine.

He lulls head until it’s resting against mine. He breathes evenly and I relax into him.

“I know,” he says softly.

We sit there for a long time as the light above us burns brightly. This is how it should be. Fuck everything else.

Chapter Text

Paul’s P.O.V.

I can’t believe that just happened. There’s no fucking way.

The Elders know. They shouldn’t know shit about Jake and me, no fucking way at all. And I know we weren’t as careful as we should have been and I take responsibility for that whole heartedly, but this? I don’t give a damn what the fuck Sam said to Chee, this meeting should have never happened.

This shit is insane. Surreal. They fucking know now and that means it’s only a matter of time before word spreads throughout the entire Reservation and hits home that I… Shit.

I look up to the house across the street. The screen door is closed, but the front door’s wide open. The dining room and kitchen windows are all lit up like Christmas, but the rooms are empty. The only room that’s occupied is the living room where the TV is flickering on and off, which says he’s waiting for me.

I swallow down my beating heart and breathe in the humid and sticky air and go inside.

Dad’s sitting in the middle of the couch watching the TV switch from commercial to commercial. There’s a beer bottle in his hand and two empty ones on the table that clearly came from the six pack by his feet. He looks like shit and I can smell that he’s barely eaten or showered. I’ve barely been home since the accident, in and out every few days to get a fresh change of clothes and whatnot, but never long enough to stop and pay attention to him which is a mistake I’m about to pay for.

I shut the door behind me and stand there for what seems like forever as he casually drinks down his bottle. He doesn’t speak nor does he acknowledge my presence in the doorway. None of this is new, I just have to figure out how he’s going to react because it’s always different with him.

When he doesn’t make any inclination to do or say anything after three minutes, I take a step past just to test the waters. He doesn’t budge. Then more until I’m out of his sight and by the stairs.

“Get back in here.”

I freeze up and brace myself with an unsteady chill on my spine and walk back into the room.

He’s sitting up on the edge of the cushion with the bottle dangling from his fingertips. He gulps down another three inches of the brown glass and sharply turns his wide eyes on me like an owl.

“Where the hell have you been?”

My left shoulder goes up. “I told you, Jake had an accident and-”

“That’s not what I asked you,” he says, and it’s the rise of his voice that puts me on the edge.

I shift from foot to foot. “Jake and Billy’s house.” Damn near twenty-two years old and I still feel like I’m seven whenever he talks down at me.

He sits back and exhales through his nostrils. “And I had to call around asking for that shit when you could’ve just told me?” He snorts. “What’s up with that?”

I start to shrug, but I catch the twitch in his eyes. “I don’t know. Sorry.”

He holds my eyes captive. “Well, what I do know is that the next time you walk out that door, I don’t care if it’s to take the damn trash out, you tell me exactly where you’re going. Are we clear?”

The wrong answer will set him off, so I just nod it on. “Crystal.”

He settles back down and turns his focus back to the TV and his drink.

I wait for a minute then two before I switch gears. “Have you eaten, yet?” He usually won’t because theirs either nothing cooked or he’s too lazy to order take-out.

He takes the last swig of the beer, swishes it around in his mouth, and then swallows it. “Why, you cooking?”

I sigh. “Yeah. I’ll fix something.” I haven’t eaten all day, either but I’m not really sure I have much of an appetite after today’s events. “In the meantime, you mind getting washed up or something?”

He raises his thick eyebrows at me. “What, you saying I stink?”

“Well, it doesn’t exactly smell like Martha Stewart’s home remedies in here.” It’s always light jabs at him, enough for me to feel like I’m winning here, but not too much to set him off.

He rolls his eyes. “You worry about dinner, alright.” He reaches down and cracks open another bottle.

It’s not even worth mentioning that he’s borderline drunk. All it takes is one to three bottles. It’s disheartening to see him this way. He has his up’s and down’s from time to time. One minute he’s cool as a cucumber and then he’s suddenly pissed off about something I did or didn’t do. It’s just who he is.

I turn around and the smell of marinating week old garbage hits me as soon as I step into the dining room. I break open all the windows and crack the kitchen door. There’s dishes piled up to yonder in the sink and on the countertops and there’s empty cartons of milk and orange juice on the floor that tumbled out of two overfilled trashcans.

I let out a flustered groan. This is one of the reason why I hate being here. He never takes care of the place and when he does, it’s very rare, and I mean very rare. Granted, I’ve been gone longer than I needed to be, but shit, really? I take the bag up all the trash and drop as many dishes that don’t have too much crusty residue in the dishwasher and set the remaining few in hot soapy water in the sink.

“Taking out the trash!” I say it loud enough so I know he hears me. I dump it out back and then spray some air freshener because it fucking reeks in here.

“That’s enough of that got-damn spray!” he shouts.

I don’t even say anything. There’s no point in even arguing because this night will only get worse. I just want to go and be with Jake. That’s it. I don’t want to be here. Being away from him now that he’s doing better is itching at me and I suppose with Billy there with him, he’s fine. It’s just, in know he’ll be okay. And as long as that fucking Leach doesn’t touch him, I’m fine. I swear, let somebody give me the fucking chance and I’ll tear him apart and roast his remains.

I check the freezer and pull out a few burgers and fries stashed underneath the ice cubes and blueberry waffles. I don’t even bother checking the fridge because I’m sure that it’s stocked in spoiled food or it’s just barely holding together with the basic essentials and I refuse to deal with either one tonight. I do a grocery run tomorrow or something so he won’t complain.

I heat the griddle iron and drop the burgers on it with seasoning and put the fries in the oven. I go and clean off the table. Nothing but week old mail and bills that I’ll have to check in the morning because he won’t. The TV’s still on, but he’s nowhere in sight. The shower’s suddenly running upstairs. Outside of being the number one asshole, he does at least listen to me every now and again.

I click the remote and snag his empty beer bottles, trash them, and then plop down at the table.

I have no idea how to fucking handle what’s going on. First, there was the accident, and then the fucking Leach and…I can’t even picture his face without growling and imaging his broken pieces scattered around Washington. And then the Elders finding out about everything. It’s just, it’s too much.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way at all. I was raised to believe an imprint will be the turning point of my life, that meeting my soul mate would make everything else fall into place. Jake and I, we’re supposed to be happy and in love. That’s how it should be. There shouldn’t be a fucking mooching parasite hovering over his shoulders every minute of the day waiting for his chance to strike. Nobody outside of our inner circle should know anything about us.

Everything is just wrong.

The burgers start to sizzle and I flip them and check on the fries. The phone rings and I dash to grab it before he starts to holler about it.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Paul? How are you, hun?” It’s Miss Odina, one of dad’s old friends from his job down at the construction company.

“I’m good, Miss Odina. How you doing?”

“Oh, I’m good, darling. I’m good. Listen, is your father around?” Here we go. “I have to speak to him about something.”

I sit back down. “Nah, I think he’s in the shower right now.” I don’t hear the water anymore.

“Oh, shoot. Okay, well, would you mind having him call me when he gets out? It’s very, very urgent.”

It always is. “Yeah, I can do that.”

“Yeah, please have him do that. It’s extremely urgent.” She inhales deeply. “Anywho, how is everything? How’s Jacob? Colin said something about him getting into some type of accident and I know you all are very close.”

You’ve gotta be kidding me. “He’s uhm, he’s fine.” That fast? Are you fucking serious?

“Oh, good, good. Okay, well, let Jacob know I asked for him and make sure Will calls me as soon as he’s finished, alright? I’ll talk to you all soon.”

“Gotcha. Bye.” The line drops and I stare at the phone.

It doesn’t mean anything. Colin’s her youngest son and he could’ve just told her something happened down at the beach without telling her exactly what happened, which would mean that he was there when it did happen, so he knows. That’s a problem because if he told his mother, he’ll tell his friends, who’ll tell more people until the entire Reservation is talking. Fuck.

Everything is just spiraling out of control and I can’t even talk to anybody about it. I’ve barely heard from or spoken to Emily besides the one or two times she’s dropped by to see Jake, and even then she was kinda withdrawn and quiet. Sam can severely fuck off. I could call up Becca and Rachel, but I don’t want to add anymore worry to their plate. Besides for all that, I might as well just talk to Jake. We have to figure it out. This is our problem.

I check the food and plate the burgers and actually utilize three of the four items left in the fridge; ketchup, cheese, and a bottle of water. I stack two burgers for the both of us and bring it out to the table when dad strolls in with clean underclothes and a fresh beer in hand.  

I eye the bottle. “Did you want some water or something, make your food digest better?” It’s a blatant jab and he sees right through it.

He drags the bottle from his lips and sets his steel dark eyes on me. “How about you mind your fucking business and eat your own food and let me be the damn parent.” He cuts his eyes away and chugs again before diving into his food.

I grind my jaw to pieces. Stay cool, just for tonight and then you’ll be off to Jake’s, Paul. Chill. I take a bite out of my burger and the hunger awakens in me and pretty soon, I’m scarfing down whole bites and shoveling fries in my mouth.

I feel his eyes on me and I ignore him. He was a shifter, too, once upon a time, so that whole ‘chew your got-damn food before you choke’ shit has been dead since I was younger. I finish my plate within minutes and I swallow it down with some cold water.

I look at the window at the moth buzzing streetlights bathing the block in a dirty orange glow. “Miss Odina called while you were in the shower,” I say before I forget.

He takes a swig while clearing the ground beef from behind his teeth. “Yeah, what she want?”

I cross my arms on the table. “I don’t know, but she said it was really urgent.”

He snorts and inhales his fries. “It always is.”

I drink some more water. I watch as a black car cruises down the street. The brake lights paint the street red as they slow down a few cars down from us. I can only see out the front of the house from my seat.

“What’s the matter with you?”

I’m not surprised he’s asking, not in the slightest. “I’m just tired. Long few weeks.”

He stares at me and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “Hmph. How’s Jacob doing?”

I tread carefully even though I would know if he knew about everything by now. “He’s uhm doing better, back on his feet and stuff.”

“Is that what you’ve been doing, taking care of him?”

It makes me hesitate. I look away from the window and see the question in his brown eyes underlined in hues of jealousy and curiosity.

“He’s my bestfriend. I look out for him.” I wait for him to make a snide remark or roll his eyes, but he just grunts into his food. If that’s the only way I can explain it to him without lying, then that’s how it’s gonna be.

Outside, the crimson red brake lights fade into the night. A car door opens and shuts quietly a few moments later. There’s a long pause and then a very soft, but sure knock on the screen door.

He leans back and looks at the door and then to the window. “See who that is?”

I lean out of my seat to look out at the street. The car doesn’t look familiar and the tags aren’t from Washington. I mean, we live close to the main road into the Reservation, so it’s probably somebody looking for direction or something. “I don’t know.”

He gives me an irritated look. “Well, answer it. You see me still eating.”

There’s literally only a bite of burger left and four fries on his plate. I push away from the table, rattling his bottle intentionally, and walk hard across the floor.

“Watch yourself,” he grumbles.

There’s another half a knock and then I’m snatching the door open.

And all of a sudden, I can’t breathe. The woman standing in front of me is both the monster and the angel of my dreams and nightmares that have plagued me ever since I was nine.

She stares at me like she doesn’t recognize who just answered the door. That’s because she doesn’t. Bewilderment and confusion and remorse flash across her face all at once. Her face is just as I remember; shaped in an oval heart, with dimpled cheekbones and a small mole on the right of her chin, right above the scar where I chucked a toy at her face when I was three. Her eyebrows are still sharp and gravity defying, but kind which partially explains the laugh lines around her eyes that tell a different story that what I know. What I knew.

I catch a whiff of her scent and I feel my legs melt into jelly, but I hold myself upright as best as I can on the door handle. She smells like rosemary and crushed peppers and lavender and something else that I don’t recognize. She smells like home, but her idea of home isn’t real.

She can’t be real, not here, not anymore. But the way she blinks and opens her mouth to speak without making a sound tells me she is and all I want to do is run and hide in the nook beneath the stairs like I used to when I was scared.

I’m more afraid now than I have ever been.

“Who is it?” Dad asks.

I can’t even speak. The woman blinks out of her entrancing gaze, but she doesn’t take her eyes off of me.

I hear his chair slides across the floor as he gets up and rounds into the room. “What are you, deaf? Who are you-” His hard steps come to a cold stop behind me.

The monster’s gaze on me finally breaks and she takes in dad and nobody moves for a long time. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I can hear how slow the clock is ticking. The tension in the room is unreal.

The monster clears her throat. “May I come in?” she asks, dragging her words out as if she’s unsure why she would ask that. Her voice has always reminded me of spring chimes in a night breeze. Clear and soothing, but sharp and loud.

I can hear my heart thundering in my ears louder than the blood pulsing beneath my skin and then I feel dad’s heavy hand prying my fingers off the doorknob. I’m literally shaking the door.

He steps in front of me and opens the screen door wordlessly. He doesn’t let my hand go as he steps back and I move with him as he backs up into the room. She studies the door for a moment and then she opens it and steps inside.

Suddenly the house feels overcrowded. Her sandals unnaturally click against the floorboards. She fixates on both of our faces, lingering on mine the most, and then she takes in the rest of the house in unmistakable wonder. Her eyes catch everything. There’s a dent in the wall just above the couch where dad and I got it into it a while back that her eyes hone on. There’s scratches and groves in the floorboards when he and I chose to move the entire downstairs around and then decided we didn’t like it and moved it back. There’s a whole bunch of shit wrong with this house now that she missed out on.

“Penelope.” He hasn’t said her name in over ten years, but his voice brings her swift eyes back around to him as if they’ve been arguing for the past hour. “What are you doing here?” He sounds sober now and he says every syllable as if he’s trying to keep calm.

She gazes off and away from us. “I just wanted,” She treads careful with her words. “You, uhm…you two, to know that I was in town.” Her voice lightens and shakes. “And,” she says, eyeing me. There’s water building in her eyes and her lips tremble at the cry that will surely shake the foundations of the house. She looks at dad again and forces herself to smile through it. “That’s it.”

I’m well aware of Dad’s grip tightened on my hand. I don’t know how he looks at her, but she bows her head and steps back through the door and holds on to the railing as she goes down the steps and to her car. I hear the door open and shut and the revving of the car, but the red light doesn’t leave the street.

My hand drops by my side as he shuts the door and locks it. He stares at the white washed wood for a while before he turns, takes one look at me, and goes upstairs. His bedroom door slams shut.

I slide down onto the couch. The red light outside finally begins to creep down the street and then it’s gone, but she’s not. She’s…

I wipe my face with shaking hands.

For the first time in thirteen years, my mother has come home and I don’t understand why.

Chapter Text

  Emmett's P.O.V.

             “New question. What’s your favorite color?” Jake asks, snuggling deeper into the blanket he pulled out of the garage. I guess lying out under the stars seems like a good way to end a long and uncomfortable day.

             “Uhm, hm. I usually roll with whatever looks best on me, but to that, I’ll say burgundy, like red wine.”

             “Typical,” he snorts.

             “Elaborate?”

             “I mean,” he starts, sitting up on his elbow. “I would think, in speaking for myself, that liking any shade of red is a default fav for vampires, which essentially isn’t a bad thing, if you think about it.”

             “That’s mildly offensive. I can speak for my family and say that we rarely wear red. Alice designs most of our clothes. Esme’s usually in navy or yellow, and Jasper always has something lavender on him, like a tie or pen or whatever.”

             He nods it out. “Okay, point taken. God, I can’t even imagine you with red eyes. Does everybody have ‘em when they first turn?”

             “Yeah. Believe me, those first few years were rough.” Whew, memory lane.

             “I trust you.” He flashes a grin and raises his eyebrows. “Your turn.”

             “Uh, okay. What’s your favorite movie and/or TV series of all time?”

             He’s quick with it. “So, my favorite TV series, hands-down, has to be Ed, Edd, and Eddy and for my favorite movie, let’s go with a classic. Jumanji.”

             “God, that’s what you call a classic? You are so young.”

             He mockingly gasps. “Now, hold the hell on!”

             “I’m just saying, a classic is defined as cinematic gold, for instance Sunset Boulevard or The Portrait of Dorian Grey. Those are iconic classics. I’m a fan of Robin Williams like everyone else, but Jumanji is far from classic.”

             His laugh shoots through the night like a firecracker. “Jesus, you take the gold for ancient.”

             “When in reality, seventy years ago, going on seventy one in March, is not that long ago for cinema, if you really thing about it.”

             “Well, of course seventy years isn’t that long for you. You’re like a hundred and sixty-something…” He trails off, the real question hanging in the air. “Have we never talked about this?”

             Shit, we haven’t. “Huh, I guess not.” It’s weird how it’s never come up in the two and a half months we’ve been doing this, whatever this is.

             He shuffles underneath the blanket and sits up, drawing his legs close, and causing a ripple through his skin. “Okay, so, when were you born?” He gazes, attentively.

             “In 1915, but I was changed, or reborn or whatever you want to call it, in 1935,” I say.

             He squints in the dark, but he follows along. “Oh. You were bit by Carlisle, right?”

             “Yeah.” I don’t know what I expect him to do or say. There was never a time where I had to tell anybody this outside of my family who witnessed it.

             He doesn’t do anything abnormal but look at me like I’m some hazy mirage. “So, 1915 makes you…” I can see the gears spinning behind his eyes. “A hundred years old.”

             “Well, if you wanna be technical, I’m seventy-five, rebirth and all, but does it bother you?” I’ve never had to ask anyone before. People guess an age and we roll with it.

             “No, no!” he rushes out. “Not at all. I just always assumed you were much, much older than me,” he says, dead serious and then bursts out laughing. “Not like that!”

             I laugh with him. “You’re an immature ass.”

             “On the contrary, my ass is very mature for my age. You would know.” And for a split second, he has his wolf’s eyes, reflective and luminescent, a dance amidst the moonlight.

             “Wait. Is this seriously the first time we’ve talked about any of this, especially that? What the hell have we been doing all this time?” And just like the sun going down, his smile dips and his head lulls to the side, and then I remember why neither of us have never said a word about the subject.  

             He fumbles with the loose yarn on the ends of the blanket. “Yeah…”

             “I didn’t mean to bring that up.” It’s all behind us now, I hope. “Sorry.”

             He shakes his head. “Don’t sweat it.” He breathes in the night and looks at the wall. Perfect way to destroy the mood. Nice going, fuck-up.

             “Okay, I have to ask while we’re on the subject else it’ll drive me nuts.” He closes his eyes. “And please don’t take this as me sounding tacky or whatever, but…” He sucks his teeth and then covers his face with his hands. “Was I good?”

             If I could laugh at how ridiculous he sounds, I would but that would burn a bridge that I want to cross again someday. “Wow,” I bite my lip. “You were great, and you know, I don’t have any other guy to compare you to, but it was…you know, I think you called it amazing.”

             The blood rushes to his cheeks. “Oh, shit.”

             “Yeah, and there may have been something along the lines of it being the best sex of your existence, but that simply could have been my immaculate hearing. Who’s to say?”

             He relaxes back onto the blanket. “Don’t make me stake you.” He grins.

             It’s contagious. He holds my gaze like he’s looking for the moon. The atmosphere is liable to change into something fiery, thick, and heavy. “When’s your birthday?” I ask, veering away from the possibilities.

             He doesn’t miss a beat. “January 14th. Yours?”

             “October 3rd. You’re a winter boy scout.”

             “Which would make you a-”

             “-guy who doesn’t take horoscopes seriously. I know who I am and what I want, and no whim on the stars can tell me otherwise. Besides, Alice would have my neck if I started reading those.”

             He yawns. “Well, me either, but I was gonna say something about you being Elsa’s second long-lost cousin, but whatever.”

             “Nice try.”

             He sticks his tongue out and closes his eyes then. It doesn’t take long until he’s snoring. I lean over him to be sure he’s actually out.

             “Jake?” He stirs and his eyebrow lifts, but he doesn’t open his eyes. “You’re a jerk for going to sleep on me, you know that?” He’s gone already.

             I get up and turn out the garage light and then wrap my arms around him and pick him up. His eyebrows furrow together and I stop to see if I’m hurting him by moving, but he doesn’t react. I carry him inside and lay him in the bed. He turns over with a fuss as I lay a sheet over him. I sit on the edge of the bed.

             Tonight was good. Not the meeting or the shit from earlier, but tonight, us. It was nice. There’s a part of me that feels like I should still be bothered, but I ignore it. I want things to be okay with Jake and I, and ultimately his family and, as much of a reach it is, his pack. Obviously, that won’t happen for a good while based on how those puppies treat me and the meeting with their Elders, but for now, as long as he’s good, I’m good and that’s all that matters. But what about my family? Nobody knows what’s going on besides Edward and Carlisle came aboard blind, but he was here and he helped. Ignoring him has never sat well with me for a lengthy period of time and it won’t make anything go away.

           I kiss Jake on his cheek and slip from his room. Billy’s door is wide open, but he’s asleep. The streets are empty and silent. I was getting used to the liveliness around here. The moon’s hidden behind the thin clouds now, which adds to the eeriness.

           The house looks like a lighthouse compared to the sea of trees surrounding it. I stand outside. I haven’t been here in two weeks. I’ve been gone longer before, but it feels different somehow and I can’t exactly say why. I go inside. The first floor is fully lit and there’s soft jazz playing. On the tables in the center of the room are new curtains, fabrics, flowers, and vases. Jasper carefully arranges white roses into a sleek vase. He nods his head at me and I return the favor. It’s time to shift the design of the house, and as if on que, Esme floats in on the melody from the back hallway. Her smile is instant when she lays her eyes on me.

            She sets her things down and hugs me hard and then pulls away and holds my face in her hands. “Welcome home.”

            It tugs on my heart a little because I didn’t know I missed her until now. She doesn’t ask where I’ve been or what happened or if I’m okay. My mother knows these things without question. She gently squeezes my shoulder and then resumes redecorating. The offer to help them hangs in the air unspoken, but I’ll pass. I walk into the dining room where Alice is rearranging the mirrors and book shelves lining the walls. She takes one look at me and sighs dramatically, and I mean, drama queen dramatic.

            Here it comes. “Hello to you, too.”

            She jumps down from the ledge and crosses her arms. “You know how worried I’ve been? You haven’t called or texted like you said you would, nobody could tell me where you were or if you were okay. Do you know how much stress that is for a woman to not know where her brother is when he suddenly wants to disappear off the grid? Very!” She’s not really mad, just frustrated. Then again, based on the look in her eyes, she could very well be pissed.

            “Alice, quit the theatrics, okay? I’m fine.”

            She tones it down. “And how was I supposed to know that? You never called me to tell me if you were okay or not, Edward wouldn’t say anything…it was a big mess!”

            “Yeah, I should have called, but trust me, I’m good. There’s nothing to worry about.” There’s still disbelief in her face. “I promise. I’m alright.”

            She narrows her eyes into slits and then rolls them. “Fine, whatever. Hug me and get out. I don’t want you to smudge up my mirrors with your tricky honesty.” I skip right into it, throw a kiss on her cheek that she swats away, and move onto the kitchen.

Carlisle’s standing at the island with Edward and Rosalie on either side of him looking down at a series of papers. They all look up at once.

            “Emmett,” Carlisle acknowledges.

            Edward tries to draw my attention, so I study the table. “Can I talk to you about something?”

            He nods. “Sure.”

            Rosalie places her pen down and leaves the room. Edward lingers for a moment and floats past me, obviously expecting me to pay him any attention, but I hold fast and he walks on.

Carlisle slips his hands into his pockets. “What’s up?”

           “Uhm.” Suddenly I’m nervous. “You mind if we go outside?”

           He gestures towards the door and follows me out onto the first level patio. He sits at one of the tables and I sit opposite of him. The string lights twinkle in contrast to the moon. Carlisle looks on with eyes that have always seen right through me. I stare at the second button on his shirt.

           “Uhm, I wanted to apologize for how I’ve acted towards you in these past few weeks. Things haven’t been…normal for me.”

           “It’s alright, Emmett. We all get flustered with each other from time to time. It happens.”

           “Yeah, it does, but that’s not an excuse for brushing you off when you were looking out for me.”

           He shrugs and the button rises with his shoulders. “It’s alright. I know the incident with Jacob rattled some things with you and I don’t blame you. Sometimes your friends take priority over others. I would know better than anyone.”

            If my heart was still beating, it would be in my throat right now. “Yeah, but, Jacob’s much more than a friend…” I look up at him.

            “Oh.” His face doesn’t change at all. He still looks at me as if talking to him is all that matters. I hear Alice gasp and Esme stop shifting the curtain rods. I never regretted being a vampire more than this moment.

            “I didn’t want to tell you about then because there was so much going on. I should have told you earlier, but,” I shrug. “I didn’t know how to break it to myself, really.”

            He smiles warmly and the lump dissolves. “And that’s fine. Thank you for telling me, I appreciate it,” he says, huffing. “I didn’t even see this coming."

            It doesn’t feel weird or anything. “Yeah.”

            “I just thought you two became close and you were there for your friend, but now I understand and I love and respect you just the same. I always will,” he says, and that’s the God honest truth. He doesn’t question me about Rosalie and our dead marriage and he doesn’t ask how I fell in love with a werewolf, our alleged mortal enemies for all eternity, and I’m thankful for it.

            We hug it out. I didn’t think he wouldn’t love me the same. I mean, there was a part of me that was doubtful of his reaction and whoever else was listening in on it, but I should know better. A father’s love is unconditional, but I’m not surprised when Alice launches a mirror at my head when I come back inside.

            “That’s what you’ve been hiding from me?” she shrieks.

            I catch it without it cracking. “Do you see how over dramatic your being?”

            Yet, in typical Alice fashion, she switches gears and starts bouncing with glee. “Oh my God! Emmett! That is so exciting! Edward!” She stops herself, which I’m glad for because I don’t want him in here. “Wait, because if Edward knows, which of course he does, then that means…” She gasps again and her phone is out and a number is dialed before I know it. “So you weren’t going to tell me about Jacob and Emmett, Bella? Really? I thought we were sisters! Oh, that’s rich!”

            I leave her to it and float into the living room. Esme’s smiling even harder now and its borderline annoying, but I let her have her moment. Edward’s sitting at the piano. Jasper just wiggles his eyebrows.

            “You’re a creep.”

            He grins and lets it slide. “I’m happy for you. Congrats.”

            I shrug it off on the way upstairs. “Eh, it happens to the best of us.”

            “That’s what I hear.” He wipes a stray blonde hair from his eyes and steps to the other table. “Oh, I forgot to mention. You have a postcard.” He holds it up.

            “Me?” I stop halfway on the stairs and take it from him. The only mail I ever get is from colleges seeking recruits for their Ivy League teams and ads for prom attire. It’s an average post card with ‘E. D. C.’ written on the front and no return address. “Thanks.” I feel Edwards’s eyes on me the whole way upstairs.

            It’s a photo overlooking a town nestled in a valley of snowy mountains. The caption reads: ‘Gatlinburg, TN’. I turn it over and typed in the center is: ‘Keep going, I’ll catch up.’ I’m completely lost. I was born in Gatlinburg, so I recognize the place even though it’s received a massive upgrade since 1915, but the sentence on the back doesn’t ring a bell. There’s nothing else that tells me where or who it’s from. Weird.

            Rosalie’s sitting at the desk in our bedroom looking over a set of papers. In complete disregard, I go around her and grab some fresh clothes.  

            “Emmett.”

            “You obviously don’t understand the meaning of ‘we’re done’.”

            She sighs. “Do us both a favor and sign these so it can be official.” She holds up a pen.

            I barely look at them. I sign and don’t give it a second thought. She takes them and leaves the room without a word. I don’t have time to get the rest of my stuff together before Mary Fucking Poppins twirls in.

            “Right, like I’m going to let you leave without spilling the tea,” Alice says, arms crossed.

            I reluctantly set the bag down. “What do you want to know, Detective?”

Paul’s P.O.V.

            It’s quarter to eleven when I drag myself out of bed. I didn’t sleep at all. All I could see was her face and hear her voice and feel dad’s grip on my hand, and that’s enough to keep anybody up. I hop in the shower and stand under the water until it runs cold. When I get dressed and go downstairs, dad’s nowhere to be seen. Usually he’s sitting at the table reading the latest paper or catching up on the news on the couch, but the house is still clean from last night. The driveway is empty, too. He probably went to clear his head.

            My stomach grumbles, but I don’t have an appetite, though it would be best to eat now before I get outside and run into more issues. I snag the box of stale golden grahams and head out. I’ll go to the store later if this heat doesn’t kill me first. It’s fucking bright and baking. I take off my shirt and let my chest breathe. It cools me down a little and allows my mind to clear.

            The air conditioner is gunning in Jake’s living room. I stroll on in. He’s sitting alone on the couch watching cartoons, no leach in sight. He flops his head back on the couch.

            “Hey,” he says. One of his legs is stretched out onto the table with a pillow underneath. He’s only in his boxers and a white beater. There’s a bowl of half eaten Frosted Flakes on his lap and a half of gallon of milk on the table.

            “What’s up?” I sit down next to him.

            He eyes the box in my hands with a smirk. “Breakfast to go?”

            I shrug. “If only you knew how deprived my place is of food.” I grab a bowl and spoon from the kitchen. “Did you need something while I’m in here?”

            “Nah,” he says.

            I rejoin him and scarf down the cereal. He eats his slowly, his eyes fixated on Hercules. I down the milk and slide the bowl across the table. I try to relax into the cushions, but it doesn’t work. He obviously notices.

            “What’s wrong?”

            I bite the inside of my cheek. I don’t want to talk about, but it’s Jake. “Penelope was here.”

            Those brown eyes widen. “What?” He mutes the TV. “Wait, wait. Penelope, as in your mom? When?”

            “Last night.” My chest feels tight. I don’t even realize I’m shaking until his hand is in mine.

             “What happened?”

            “She uhm…dad and I were sitting there eating and, actually no. Miss Odina called and said she had to talk to dad about something important and I didn’t pay it any mind, so we’re sitting there eating and she knocked on the door.” Even now, I feel weird looking back on it, like it’s a memory that doesn’t belong. “It was really…awkward. That’s the only way to sum it up.”

            His grip tightens. “Are you okay?”

            I search within myself for the answer, in my mind and in my heart, and come up empty handed, and then, like the emotional wreck I am, I start crying. I try to wipe the tears before he sees it, but he pulls my hands away and I fold into him.

            “I’m sorry, it’s just…what the fuck, you know? Like, who the fuck are you to come back after fucking thirteen years? Thirteen years, Jake? Like, what the fuck!”

            He runs his hands through my hair softly. “I know, I know…”

            I wipe my nose. “And then, and then what makes it worse is that Will didn’t do anything. He let her in and let her leave and went straight to his room. He didn’t even ask about me how I felt or, or if I was okay, or even if he was okay.” I look at him with blurry eyes. “Like, who the fuck does she think she is? Why the hell would you even-” He kisses me and I stop talking.

            The words are still pouring out of my mouth and he kisses them away with chapped lips and hands on my face and then he opens his mouth and I dive into it with a thirst I didn’t know I had. He surges forward just as hard. Fuck what the Elders said. Fuck the leach. I want him. My hands roam down his body and yet, as quick as it started, he ends it by pushing me away.

            “What? What’s wrong?” Am I hurting him?

            His eyes have changed. They aren’t the soft, deep caramel I know them to be. Their dark and deadly, and while his face says he wants this, that he’s as hungry for it as I am, his eyes express something entirely different. Guilt.

            “You’re choosing him over me.” It’s clear as day and it hurts like hell.

            “That’s not…,” he starts, but doesn’t finish, and that alone burns me up inside.

            “Whatever.” I get up and turn to the door. “I can’t deal with this shit anymore.”

            “Paul, wait.” He rises behind me.

            My hand is on the door knob, but I can’t make it turn in my hand. I feel so fucking stupid. “Just fucking admit it. You chose him and now I’m just the baggage you refuse to let go!”

            “That is not true!” he yells. “Why-?”

            “Because it’s so fucking obvious, Jacob! You’ve spend more time with him then you do looking at me. You don’t even care how that feels. It fucking hurts to know the only person you love is in love with somebody else.”

             He doesn’t say anything because we both know I’m right. I leave him standing in the doorway watching me walk away, even as every step feels like a knife going through my chest.

Chapter Text

Jacob’s P.O.V.

            “Let’s be real, Jake. Paul kinda has a point,” Rachel says into the phone, exactly what I don’t want to hear.

            “Ugh,” I groan. “You’re not helping. Becca, be my voice of reason on this one, please!”

            “Well,” she starts. “I love you, but I gotta go with Paul on this one, bro. You’ve given more attention to Emmett than you’ve given Paul these past few weeks and you know it. I can already tell that since you’ve gotten better, things have gone back too normal, which means they’ve gotten worse, even though Paul was the one that found you on the beach. That’s not shade, just a fact.”

            More shit I don’t want to hear. “No, it’s not like that at all. Ya’ll don’t get it.”

            “Listen, Jake. To me, honestly, it seems like you need to choose who you want to be with, and before you disagree, think about it, okay? I know we talked about it and you said you couldn’t choose, but I feel like it’s getting to a point where your balance of these relationships isn’t balance at all. It’s unhealthier than anything, you know?” Rachel says.

            “That’s the thing. I can’t choose. I can’t do that to either one of them or else it’ll just end up in a catastrophe, literally. Bella brought this up a while ago, too.” Some choices aren’t wise.

            “So, she agrees. Would you rather be with both and have one feel uncertain about your relationship, or choose one and keep the other one at bay?” Becca asks. “Wait. That came out wrong.”

            “Did,” Rachel chimes.

            “Whatever, you know what I mean!” she fires back.

            “Neither are those are feasible options.”

            “Yeah, that’s the thing about talking to several people at once. It gets messy after a while,” Becca says, sighing.

            My life is one big fucking mess. “Is this about dear old saint Nick?” I ask, shifting the subject. “Trouble in paradise with you two?”

            “No, no. I was referencing Steve, but that’s a brew of tea for another day.” I can practically see the eye roll Rachel gives her. “Side bar. Whose phone are you calling from?”

            “Uhm, the cordless, why?

            “From the house?”

            “Yeah? I’m in the garage.”

            She sighs. “I figured. Is your boy toy there with you?”

            “Which one?” Rachel mumbles.

            “Funny. Emmett will be here in a minute. Again, why?”

            She groans. “Just, tell him to follow up on his word before I fly back out there and handle his ass.”

            What? “Uh…care to share?”

            “Insider convo. Anyway, I gotta go. The job is having this huge gala tonight, and Michelle Obama is speaking and Gina Rodriguez, Lady Gaga, and Laverne Cox will all be in attendance. Ugh, let me go get dressed. Smooches! Love you!” And then she’s gone.

            “Damn, that was quick,” I say. “Didn’t you two get back the other day? Back into work full swing already.”

            “Child, you know Becca. Never one to step out of formation, and speaking of, I need to go and find an outfit for Beyoncé this weekend.”

            “Oh, you’re leaving me, too?”

            “Listen, when Beyoncé arrives, there is no question. You come ready with a new wig so she can snatch it and continue on with her life as if nothing happened. Learn, adapt, carry on.”

            Oh, God. “Yeah, yeah. Alright, well, I’ll let you go. Give me a call soon, let me know how it went.”

            “I’m sure you’ll hear me screaming all the way from here.”

            “Yeah right.”

            She giggles. “Okay, bro. I’ll talk to you soon. Take care of yourself, you hear me? No fooling around while you’re still recovering.”

            “No raunchy cowboy butt sex, either!” Becca hollers in the background.

            “Get the hell off the phone!” I hang up on their cackling asses. Obviously I’m taking care of myself, but I haven’t thought too much about sex since before the accident, and even now with everything going on with Paul, it just doesn’t seem like the right time. Honestly, I don’t feel like I spend time with either one of them more. Emmett’s was here when I woke up and Paul hasn’t left my side since this morning, and I fucking love them both, but I thought things would get a little better than what they were, and they’ve just ended up getting worst. It’s a jumbled mess that I refuse to give my full attention right now.

            Instead, I look around me at my work space. Last night was the first time I’ve been in the garage in weeks. I haven’t fixed anything since Emmett’s jeep, which bothers me because fixing cars is something I’m passionate about. Was passionate about. Something I’m still passionate about. I’ve been too preoccupied with life to focus on what makes me happy instead of who. There’s a stray bolt on the ground that Emmet must’ve missed when he cleaned up after my outburst. I scoop it out, feeling the skin within my ribs stretch and ache, and toss it into the cart.

            “Hey,” Emmett says, his bulky figure swallowing up the light in the doorway and replacing it with miniature rainbows. The skylights play in his favor as well, and pretty soon, he just looks like a walking diamond.

            “Hey,” I say, breaking my eyes away from him. I rub a layer of dust off the hood of the car sitting in the corner. Jesus, I need to get back in here, and soon.

            He glides over. “You alright?” His hand is a feather along my neck, a cool tickling sensation.

            “Yeah, I’m fine.”

It doesn’t make his eyes go away. “You sure?”

            “Yeah. I’m just itching to get back to work. Miss it.” And then, just to mess with him. “Haven’t worked on anything since you brought that busted up ass Rubicon through here.” I eye across the room. “Speaking of which, you should’ve been picked it up.”

            His laugher vibrates off the walls. “Oh, now it’s all busted up, huh? It didn’t seem that way when you went above and beyond to fix it, for free, might I add. I’ll get it when I’m damn ready.”

            “Hey, I give good customer service. What can I say?”

            He bites his tongue and settles on a grin. “Well, you’re certainly not lying there.”

            I swing on him. “Shut up.”

            He swats my hand away effortlessly and lets his eyes roam. “Alright. I can’t take the annoying smell of oil and mildew anymore. C’mon, I have food.”

            I’m out the door before he is. “God, you’re an angel because I’m starving.” He locks up and walks beside me. “Oh, Becca said she’ll grand slam your ass if you don’t follow up on your end of a bargain, one that I’m interested in hearing about since I know it involves me.”

            He rolls his eyes. “It does, but it’s nothing serious. Just something she told me to do when she left that I keep pushing off.” I raise my eyebrows. “I’m not telling you, if that’s what your waiting for.”

            “Whatever. I don’t condone you and my sisters conspiring against me, by the way.”

            He grins and throws his arm around my shoulders. “You’re such a drama queen.”

            His arm, cold as it may be, feels great on my skin. I can smell his minty breath and his faint, but vibrant cologne, and feel his muscles flex underneath his shirt, and then his eyes are on me. Their smoldering in the heat, a cross between butterscotch and maple. He watches me like he’s uncertain of what I might do, then my back is against the side of the house, who’s to say whose move it was. His lips are now dangerously close and I diminish the remaining distance.

            I’ve almost forgotten how his lips taste and feel against mine. Almost. He doesn’t rush or move too fast, but takes his time gently cupping my face and letting his other hand roam down my back. His touch is faint, but heavy enough to make me moan into his mouth. I’ve fucking missed this so bad. I try and speed it up. Slow is good and fine, but I need more. I surge against him and for a moment, he rides with me as our tongues fight for dominance, a fight that neither of us win when his mouth pulls away.

            “No,” I say, dizzily moving forward, but he presses his fingers into the dip of my back and eases back so that our noses brush. It does the opposite of calm me down and the sick fuck smiles at what he did. “Don’t tease me.”

            His eyes are half lidded and locked on me as the setting sun filters through them like honey. “Come inside. I have dinner.” The hand on my back slides into my hand and tugs me with him.

            I reluctantly follow. “You’re a sadist, I swear.” His snicker is childish in response. “Dinner?”

            The table is set with dishes that we haven’t used in a long time. There a salad bowl, wine glasses, folded cloth napkins, a bottle of red wine sitting in an icy bucket, and dare I say it, a candle surrounding the floral center piece that magically appeared within the past half an hour I was on the phone. Granted there’s no food on the table outside of the salad, but still.

            “What’s with all this?”

            He squeezes my hand in response and leads me to a seat. Dad’s sitting at the head of the table with his hands crossed under his chin staring at his plate. Emmett whizzes in and out of the kitchen with food without a word.

            “Uhm, you alright?” I ask.

            He inhales deeply. “Yeah, just thinking about the last time we used that salad bowl.”

            “What was it, 2011?” It’s filled with lettuce, tomatoes, some red onions, white balls I assume is cheese, and dressing.

            “Yeah, it’s been a while,” he hums. “It was your mother’s favorite dish.”

            Emmett freezes in mid-step. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about –”

            Dad shakes it head. “No, it’s not an issue. Don’t worry about it.”

            Emmett cautiously continues on with the final dish and takes his seat. The table is now chock full of steak and potatoes, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, and a batch of fresh rolls, and I mean, fresh.

            “No, seriously. What’s with all this?” I ask him.

            He shrugs and puts his hands in his lap. “I just thought it would be nice to have dinner together. I asked Billy if he was cooking earlier today, and he said no, so I cooked instead.”

            I admire the spread. “I’m not complaining or anything because it looks great, but you expect me to believe you cooked all this by yourself? Dad?”

            Dad shakes his head. “No. Only thing I did was give him free reign.”

            He rolls his eyes. “Right, as if I haven’t learned how to cook within the past few decades.”

            “Meh. I guess you have a point. Looks bomb. Fresh off The Food Network.”

            He cocks his eyebrows. “Well, where do you think they got it from?”

            “Yeah, right.” It does look fucking amazing.

            “Jacob. Manners. We’ll say grace first,” Dad says.

            “Grace?” We haven’t said grace since Becca and Rach lived here. “Okay? Uhm, does this have anything to do with a vampire cooking dinner by any chance?”

            “Not at all. It looks great, I trust his skills. Now, let’s bow our heads.” He lowers his head and reaches out for my hand.

            Emmett raises his eyebrows and looks down at the table for the obvious reason. He sips his water to clear his throat and takes my hand under the table.

            “Dear Lord, thank for you the meal that was prepared for us by this young man on today. We ask you to bless it and let it be for the nourishment of our bodies.” He clears his throat. “And Lord, also, let this dinner serve as a reminder to both the young man and my son that the walls of this house, in and out, are very thin, and that I have a shotgun and I’m always ready to use it.”

            Emmett promptly chokes on his water and Dad let’s go of my hand.

            “Amen. Shall we eat?”

Emmett’s P.O.V.

            Dinner is actually a success. Expected? No. Surprising? Hell yeah. I didn’t think Billy would agree to me making dinner and serving it in his house, but all things considered, it went pretty well. I mean, outside of him threatening me for kissing Jake outside, which is both comical and understandable, it was cool. Watching the two of them have an actual conversation between bites of steak and cauliflower reminded me of when Carlisle and I when I was first turned. He taught me how to hunt and stealthily take out prey without making a sound. It was our thing, it’s what we did, but we stopped once I had a good handle on things, my decision of course. To see my boyfriend and his father do it was actually pretty refreshing. Wait. Boyfriend? Alright. That’s enough reflection.

            Billy slides his plate away and crosses his utensils. “I must admit, that was very good, Emmett. Compliments to the chef.”

            Jake sits back and gives me the okay symbol. “Bomb.”

            “Why, thank you, thank you.” I bow. “I also have a pie, if you want dessert?”

            Billy shakes his head. “No, none for me. I’m stuffed. Can’t eat another bite.”

            “I, on the other hand, would love some,” Jake objects.

            “Got it.” I start cleaning up and gathering the plates. “I’ll start on the dishes.”

            “No, no. You’ve cooked dinner, I can handle the rest,” Billy declines.

            “No, I have it.”

            His eyes drop. “Son, I have it.”

            “Dad,” Jake says from the couch. “C’mon out the kitchen.”

            “Besides, I cooked, now let me clean up. I insist.”

            Billy swallows his pride and turns into the living room. “Thank you.”

I wash them quickly and set them on the rack to dry and then I pull out the pie from the oven and slice Jake a piece. I slide in next to him on the couch.

            “Any takers?” I ask, holding it out.

            Jake sighs and takes the plate. “No, not yet. Trying to decide between a horror movie or something funny, but there’s so many choices.”

            “You put on a horror movie and I’m going to bed early,” Billy comments, turning a page in his book.

            “Alright, alright. I’m looking,” Jake says. Billy exhales and continues reading. “Any suggestions?”

            “I’m still bothered you don’t have an active Netflix account. I feel like I’m corrupting you.”

            His elbow is sharp, but it doesn’t hurt. “Shut up. I usually have better things to do with my time than sit and binge watch – oh! Season three of American Horror Story is on here? What? Dad, you might as well go ahead and get some shut eye because this is going to be an all-nighter.” He’s giddy as hell.

            Billy looks up from the brim of his glasses and closes his book. “Alright, well, that’s it for me.” He rolls towards the hallway. “Don’t stay up too late, now.”

            “Good night,” I say.

            “Night, Dad,” Jake says absentmindedly, clicking the episode. The show starts and he lies back against me. He pulls my arm from over the couch over him and snuggles into my side. I run my other hand through his hair and he relaxes. “You’ve seen this show before, right?”

            “Dude, the season four ended a few months ago. Funny fact, it was --”

            “Nope. I’ve heard enough, thanks,” he rambles. It makes me smile. The episode starts and he’s instantly disgusted by Kathy Bates and her character’s racist bullshit. By the time the commercial starts and we’re halfway through it, he’s already made up his mind. “She’ll die sometime in the finale. Nobody like her should live longer than the first episode.”

            “I agree. She did a great job this season, though. Won some awards.”

            “Hm. Bates is a good actress, always has been, always will.”

            “Yeah.” A commercial comes on for Sprint and advertises a new promotional they have going on. I look to him to ask him what he thinks about it, but he’s not looking my way, so I don’t say anything. There’s a house commercial on when he looks up.

            “You know Dad was joking earlier, right? About shooting you?”

            I shrug. “I mean, was he, though? It felt like a promise. It’s his house, his rules. Those issues would come up sooner or later.

            He rolls over so that he’s facing me. “Yeah, but he didn’t have to say it like that.”

            “If your apologizing on his behalf, don’t. It’s fine.” He seems to relax a little.

            “Yeah. I mean, the house is only but so big. You’re bound to hear something going on within these walls,” he says. “You won’t believe how many times he rolled in on me jerking off. Pure agony.”

I disregard the thought of him doing that for now because it makes me realize I haven’t gotten off in a good while. Fuck. “Have you thought about moving out?”

            He doesn’t gawk or revert to his theatrical ways. “Yeah, a few times.” He strokes a brown and silver ring on his finger that I didn’t notice before. I don’t need to ask where he got it.

            “Is it safe to say Billy’s stopping you from going?”

            He opens his mouth and then closes it. “Yes and no. Yeah, because I’ve been taking care of him before my sisters left, so to just up and leave would be such a change for both of us, you know, but he wants me to go and explore the world. Just come and visit every once and a while.”

            I can hear Billy snoring over top of the air conditioning unit. “Yeah, but what do you want? Because that’s the only question that matters.”

            He chews on his lip. “To be happy, and honest with myself and who I am, and to not stress over anything.” He eyes the ceiling. “I’ll get their someday.”

            I brush my fingers across his cheek. “Yeah, you will.” His eyes drop to mine and he smiles warmly, and then turns his attention back to the TV.

            Wanting to leave but choosing not to is something I can’t relate to. Ever since I was turned, I could come and go as I pleased. Even being married didn’t leash me to one particular place. Rosalie and I both stuck close to the family because that’s what we both wanted, so there was no compromise of any sort. I don’t believe he’s miserable here in any other capacity. I just think he wants more out of life and he should. I did. It’s a part of growing, but you have to be ready for it.

            He doesn’t say anything else on the matter, so neither do I. The evening continues on into a peaceful night until I hear the all too familiar rapid footsteps approaching, and then I know it’s about to be snatched away from me. Jakes sits up and I open the door before he can ask what’s going on. His two pack brothers, the one who had the little girl on his lap at the wedding, and the other one who never seems to leave his side, tear down the street towards the house.

            “Is Jake here?” One of them shouts, slowing down, but not stopping completely. “Jake!”

            “Calm down, man. He’s here, but he’s resting,” I say, even though I can see him getting up off the couch. “Is something wrong?”

            The other guy does the exact opposite. “Jake! We need you man, now! Hurry up!”

            “Hey,” he says, stepping around me onto the porch. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

            “It’s Colin! He phased for the first time and he’s fucking wilding out! We gotta go now!”

            His entire demeanor changes. “Shit! Okay, give me a second.” He dashes back inside as fast as he can and puts on his shoes and then back past me. “Shit!” He turns back. “I’ll be right back. I gotta --”

            I nod him. “No, go ahead.”

            He flashes a brief smile and the three of them move quickly through the trees. I hover in the door way for a second and then shut the door. I get that it’s a big deal for his entire pack to check in on their own. Totally understandable. I look around the living room for a second too long and nope, I can’t sit here and wait until he gets back. It doesn’t feel the same without him being here. I reach for the remote and see the same Sprint commercial again. That’s what I can do. Grab him a cell phone while he’s preoccupied. I cut it off and head out.

            I go to the garage and get my baby first. It’s been ages since I’ve drove her around. She still looks as beautiful as she did when I first got her, thanks to him. I pull out off the field and get onto the road. There’s plenty of phone stores around Forks, but their all basic carriers with limited options and cheesy phone plans. No, I want him to have something better and preferably and iPhone, for Becca’s sake, so Port Angeles it is.

           I crank down the windows and enjoy the drive. It’s a cool night, the air’s whipping, the roads are bare, the sky is still a dimly lit blue. Everything’s fine until I get into the city where it’s uber crowded for a Thursday evening. There are literally cars parked everywhere. I drive around for a bit, scoping out a spot, before I hone in on one closer to the waterfront. There’s a group of guys coming down the other side of the street who look determined to get the spot before me. I take my time just to see if the driver’s an asshole. He speeds up recklessly and swerves into the spot with his eyes on the rear view mirror as I drive by him glaring like a shark. Wrong move, dude.

           I find another spot a few blocks away. The entire shopping grounds are teaming with people of all nationalities and sizes. Must be a festival or something going on, the more reason to get in and get out. I’m not a big fan of crowds, never have been. I always feel like somebodies watching me. I feel it now, but it’s never anything important. I slip past a soccer mom and her horde of sticky fingered offspring and side-step a kid with a phone bigger than he is to get to the Sprint store. Surprisingly, the place is clear of any customers. A brown haired girl standing by the window watching the festivities comes over with a relaxed smile.

            “Hey! I’m Jess. Did you need help today?” Her eyes are grey and her smile is bright. It doesn’t even fade when she gets a good look at me.

            “Hi. I wanted to purchase a cell phone?”

             She nods and gestures me to follow her. “Okay. Any phone in particular?”

             “Eh. I was thinking an iPhone.”

             She sits down at a computer station and types away. “Sure. Let me just get some information from you…one second.”

             “Sure, take your time.” I look out the windows. “You wouldn’t know what’s going on outside, would you?”

             She sighs and look out there. “There’s some sort of music festival going on, I’m not sure what it’s called exactly, but it’s set to run through the weekend, and I think tonight they're doing a big Jaws showing on the water with boats and floaties and whatnot.” She looks back at the screen. “May I have your full name?”

             “It’s Jacob Black. It’s a present for my boyfriend.” It still tastes funny on my tongue, but I’m bold enough to think it, so I’ll say it.

             She smiles sweetly. “Nice. How long you guys been together?”

             “Eh, a few months, but I knew him a little longer, though.”

             She keys it in. “That’s sweet. He didn’t come with you?”

             “Nah. Stayed home.”

             She nods it out. “Gotcha. Alright, let’s get to it.” She asks me for all of his information and I supply it, including his social security number that I got from Billy this morning, and gives the entire run down of all the fine print. “Alrighty, that’s everything. You should be all set to go, Mr. Cullen.” Jess puts everything I need into a bag and hands it over.

           “Sweet. Thanks for your help.”

            She waves it off. “My pleasure.”

            I walk to the door and watch people roam the streets, laughing and eating. “Any plans on getting out there?”

            She joins me at my side. “Meh, probably not. It’s been a long day, think I’ll just head in for the night.”

            She looks twenty-four tops. “Really? It’s still early. You should enjoy a drink or something, live a little.”

            She shrugs. “Eh, I guess you’re right. It’s the least I can do from being cooped up in here all day.” She doesn’t look like the party type, but she does give off the vibe of a girl who can cut loose in the right environment.

           “Totally. Well, enjoy the rest of your night. Have fun out here.”

            She waves. “Thanks, you too.”

            I flash her with a smile on the way out the door. The crowd has at least doubled since I got here which is all types of bad. There’s greasy aromas floating in the air and the music has gotten louder by several octaves, meaning it’s time to go home. I turn back to see Jess back at the window looking bored as ever. She catches my eye and I gesture to my head exploding. She grins and I go on to the truck. I pass the car of the kid who took my spot on the way. Before I give it a second thought, I cut all of his tires with a blunt nail, and continue on. Fuck with me again.

            The street I parked on is probably the least populated. There’s a few people here and there at a storefront café, but other than that, it’s deserted. I pass a group of girls walking towards the shops who instinctively whistle and faun over me. It never ceases to amaze me. About two cars from there, the hairs on the back of my neck rise and there’s the feeling again that someone’s watching. I do a quick sweep around me. There’s some kids playing with glow sticks in front of their house and an elderly couple sitting on their porch watching the festival from afar, but outside of that, there’s nobody, but I can feel it. I continue on to the truck, drop the bag off, and wait outside for whoever it is to get their ass kicked into somebodies dining room.

            “I don’t like being followed, so you might as well come on out. Doesn’t mean I won’t fuck you up.” I cross my arms and lean against the door. Nobody appears. Great. I listen out instead. Outside of the heartbeats up the street, there is nobody else out here, but because I know I’m not crazy, I wait for it. Out of nowhere, someone starts whistling. It’s coming from around the corner. I lose my shirt and cock my neck. Haven’t been near a fight since the mutt – wait. I know that song! It tugs on my memory. It’s light and airy like a flute, but there’s something about it that I can’t place my finger on. The memory is fuzzy, but I recognize it from what seems like an eternity ago. Across the street, a man turns the corner. His face is covered with a summer hat and shades. He’s the origin of the whistling.

            I shake off the nostalgia and square up. “Do us both the favor and lose the hat.”

            The whistling fades and he stops walking. “If that’s what you want, by all means,” he says in a southern accent. I know that fucking voice, I swear I do. He removes his hat and glasses. “But is that how you treat an old friend?”

            He doesn’t look old enough to be labeled a man, but definitely old enough to rock the modern hipster look. He sports a forest green shirt, pants rolled up to his knees and designer boots. His eyes are greener than his shirt, so green that I feel like I’m looking at grass instead. His brown hair is cut low on the sides and hangs down in his face. There’s a thin scar on the side of his ear that runs into down into his neckline, and on his forearm is a tattoo of a cartoon duck.

            “There’s no fucking way. Holy shit. Lincoln?”

            Sure enough, his face breaks out into a wide grin. “Hey, Em –”

            I swoop in and hug him hard as I possibly can and his arms lock around me just as hard. He smells like pine cones and bubble gum just like I remember. His body is cold and sturdy like mine, which says so much, but so little. All I can do is hold him close.

            “Hey, I told you I would catch up with you, didn’t I?” He laughs into my ear.

            Holy shit.

Chapter Text

            Jacob’s P.O.V.

            “It can’t be that bad, can it?” Quill asks as we cross the street to Colin’s rancher. As if on cue, Colin’s growl splits the silent street wide open.

The street quakes. Colin’s neighbors spectate through their screen doors and windows, the men with their shotguns and the women and children peering past them. No one dares step foot outside.

            “You just had to ask, didn’t you?” I mutter.

            Colin’s back yard is in ruins. Shards of brick and wood are scattered about, no doubt from the hole where the back door used to be. The flowerbeds his mother tends are dug up, the roses shredded by the tattered water house and the squash muddled into the dirt.

            Sam stands on all fours in the center with his haunches high. Backed up between the shed and the partially destroyed deck is a white wolf, his grey tail swaying back and forth nervously. Seth and Paul flank Sam on either side, their hands outstretched, ready for the unexpected. Jared paces behind them like a goalie, his claws digging into the ground. Leah hangs by the hole in the kitchen where his parents, Frank and Julia, look on.

            Colin’s muzzle is bared in a natural defense, but above his snarls is a whimper. He inches back from Sam’s intimidating stance. He’s terrified and this ploy, as effective as it’s been in the past, is only making it worse.

            “Sam,” I call out. “This isn’t the way to handle this.”

His ear flickers in my direction, but he doesn’t turn. Colin takes a step back onto the deck.

            Seth’s head whips around to me. “Jake, what are you doing?”

            “Sam, look at him. He’s scared as fuck.” He doesn’t respond. “Sam!”

            Sam spares me a partial glance and several things happen at once. Colin seizes the opportunity and lashes out at Sam’s maw. Sam lurches back and lets out a growl that shakes the yard and brings everyone to attention. Seth and Paul fall back. Quill and Embry phase and fill in the rest of Sam’s flank. They crowd Colin like a pack of bullies.

            “No!” I shout. Sam bares his teeth to make Colin submit and before I know it, my feet are moving forward.

            “Jake, what the hell?” Paul reaches out to stop me, but I brush him off and push my way through Jared and Embry and step towards the deck.

“This isn’t right. You can’t scare him like this.”

             Jared brushes me aside with his nose. Move. I can’t make myself do it. Colin’s whimper is driving me nuts. Every fiber of my being is on its edge. My heart pounds in my ears, my lungs inflating and deflating rapidly. I feel the pressure to discard my skin and change into my wolf edging up my spine, but I know my body isn’t strong enough, not yet. I do the only thing I can and boldly stand between Sam and Colin. Sam snarls and everyone takes a cautious step back as his anger ripples through us like water.

            He barks a deep growl. The urge to cower beneath him is overbearing, but for the first time, I deflect it. The pack shifts behind him uneasily.

            “Leave him alone.” Sam steps closer so that his snout is spearing my throat. It ices my collarbone. He lowers his head down to Colin and I step in front of him. “I said leave him alone!” I can feel my voice change. Sam rises to his full height, eyeing my fists, no doubt taking it as a challenge, but I know he felt it too. His eyes are full of anger and intolerance. He barks harshly before stepping back.

             I stoop down to Colin. He’s curled into a ball, his ears and tail tucked low. He flinches when I reach out to touch him. “It’s okay. It’s okay, I got you. I got you.” I stroke his neck and ears to soothe him. His body is tense and his heart races. “You’re alright. You’re alright.”

             His whimpers eventually cease and he lays his head in my lap. The pressure ripples through my bones, but I keep running my fingers through his fur. I can feel the anxiety and fear pouring out of him in waves and it makes my heartache. A shiver ripples through his body and the fur falls away to reveal his sweat sheened, nude unconscious body. Everyone else phases back.

             Paul’s P.O.V.

             For about three minutes, nobody moved. It was like the Big Man himself paused life, laughed it off like it was a boring reality show, and then pressed play. Seth hollers for a blanket and Frank and Julia rush in. Jared and Embry carry Colin in and not once does Jake leave his side. Sam lingers, his stature casting a long shadow across the yard.

             It takes a moment for his eyes to forget the dirt. It’s a look I’ve never seen on him. It’s hollow. Without a word, he goes inside.

             Everybody congregates in the living room around the couch where Colin is laid out. Frank wipes a wet towel across his forehead and Julia mumbles that she loves him over and over. Jake is at his feet, a secure hand on Colin’s ankle as if he’ll awake and run. Sam doesn’t intervene. He stands by the front door, arms crossed, observing everything.

             None of the pack speak. They look on as Colin sleeps off his rage and confusion. I can feel it, we all can. Something’s different about us, something big.

             “Frank,” Sam says, his first words since we got here.

             Frank turns to Sam with misunderstanding in his eyes. He shoves his hands in his pockets. He’s a fidgety mess. “I don’t understand,” he mumbles. “How could he…change? I’ve never, I couldn’t in all my years. How?”

             “It’s not about you.” Sam’s words are sharp. “Colin inherited the ability somewhere within your bloodline.” His eyes shift to Colin. “He’s a shifter and there’s nothing you can do about it, so cut that out right now.”

             Julia, the calmest of everyone, looks up. “Will you take care of him?” Her eyes are at peace, but there’s an edge to them as only a mother’s would.

             Sam doesn’t answer right away. He looks to see Jacob staring back at him, uncertainty in his own gaze.

             “We all will,” Jake says, finally.

             Frank goes back to tending to his son and Julia turns to the room. “What a day. The insurance company is going to have a fit.” She laughs lightly. The guys offer supportive smiles. The atmosphere loosens a little. “Can I get you all anything? Something to drink, to eat?”

             “Uhm,” Jared starts.

             “We’re fine. Thanks, Julia,” Leah says.

             Julia nods and looks at Colin with tender care. “Our boy’s all grown up, Franky.” Frank says nothing.

             Sam steps away and backs into the kitchen. Jake watches him go, but doesn’t make any motion to stop him. I follow. He inspects the damage around the yard, his gaze hard enough to inflict more. He doesn’t look at me. He goes into the shed that’s remained untouched and rustles about. He returns with a rake, a shovel, and a wad of black trash bags. I reach out for one. He hesitates, meeting my eyes, before passing it over. We work in silence, collecting the garbage.

             "I’m sorry. I should have told you about Emmett.” He stops bagging and looks at me.

             I didn’t forget about it. I couldn’t, but it had somehow taken a backseat to everything going on with Penelope and the Elders. I feel it, the anger being poked like a kindled fire.

             “How could you keep that from me?” So many questions surge forward.

             He sighs and drops the rake. “It was a promise I made with Jacob, Paul. It wasn’t my place to speak for him.”

             The sparks spiral. “Are you fucking serious? Do you fucking hear yourself?” It’s so crazy, it’s almost funny. “It’s not your place? Because what, he’s your second-in-command, your favorite?”

             “That’s not what I’m saying.”

             “You prioritized him over me! My imprint was just as fucking important as his and you threw that shit to the wind the second you had the chance!”

             “Hold the hell on!” He raises his voice, all traces of his calm demeanor dissipated. “I did the best I could for both of you. Don’t you dare paint me as the villain.”

             “You had every chance to tell me and you didn’t!”

             “You didn’t think I wanted to? Paul, we’ve been family damn near since we were kids.”

             The pack file out into the yard, no doubt stirred by the shouting.

             “Then why the fuck was I treated like some child kept out of a family secret?” I yell. “I came to you, not even as my fucking alpha, but as my brother, the person I trust the most for every step of the way and you shut me out when I needed you to be there for me!” Out of everything, that shuts him up and that, I realize now, is the root of everything.

             A hand touches my shoulder. “Paul.” It’s Jacob. “I think –”

             “Oh, you’re thinking now?” I turn on him. “It must be nice to choose who you want to be with when you feel like it! Feels good to toy with someone who really cares for you, doesn’t it?”

             His face clouds over in guilt. “That’s not fair and you know it.”

             “You’re as selfish as he is.” It hit’s him hard. “And what’s crazy is that you don’t really care that I imprinted on you. Why? Because, at the end of the day, if I don’t work out, if I make you feel guilty and crumby for even existing in the same room as me, you can always go right back to the fucking vampire and live happily ever after.”

             “Enough!” Sam shouts, now stepping to me.

             There’s tears in Jacob’s eyes, tears that I know all too well. “You’re wrong.”

             The fire dies in me. “No, I’m not. I was always just an option to you. At least have the balls to admit it.” I walk out of the yard before I can do more damage. No one chases after me. No one call my name and I don’t expect them to. No one cares about how I feel.

             I take to the streets to avoid going into the woods because if I phase right now, I’ll end up doing something I’ll regret. I keep walking until I’m at the center of the Reservation. The Quileute common structures reside here. The market sits on the brink of the creek, the parking lot empty aside from Jordan, the owner’s, beat up charger. Across the street is the mail house that has the shades drawn and its closed sign in bright red.

             Directly ahead of me is Miss Grady’s Diner. It looks like a largest log cabin that’s been painted every color of the sun, with bay windows all around and rectangular signage stating the special of the week. I go inside and sit at a booth without waiting to be seated. It’s mostly empty. A few older people lounge here and there, reading the paper over soup and playing cards over salads. A group of girls from high school sit at the pie bar. I can feel one of them looking, but I don’t look back.

             Miss Grady comes around in her apron and note pad. “Hey, Paul. How you doing, hun?”

             My head buzzes. “Hey, I’m fine.”

            She puts a hand to her hip. “You don’t look fine. Everything alright?” She smells like greasy apple cobbler.

            “Yeah. Thanks.” I don’t bother looking at the menu. “Can I get a breakfast platter is fine.”

            She’s not buying it, but she doesn’t persist. “Not a problem, honey. Scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon and flapjacks?” I nod. “Alright. I’ll have it out in a bit.” And like she can sense that I need it, she places a hand on my shoulder as she goes.

            I stare out the window. Across the street, the Quileute Proving grounds is lit up in its usual glamour. I can’t tell if anyone is there or not. I’m not looking forward to the next meeting with the Elders. It’s not like I have a choice, but it won’t end well for any of us.

            “Paul?” I turn to see Penelope standing by the pie bar. We stare at each other for what feels like an eternity before she clears her throat. “Can I sit with you?”

            I don’t answer her. She stands there for another minute before making her way over and into the booth. She fidgets with her hands and smooths her hair and shirt. She forces herself to smile, but it’s not authentic. Her lips and hands shake.

            “What do you want?”

            She breathes in deeply and puts an inch of effort into her smile. “I wanted to see you.” She looks down at me and chuckles. “I can’t believe you’re all grown up.”

            “Stop,” I say. “You don’t get to do that.”

            She swallows the joy bubbling and folds her hands. “I –”

            Miss Grady returns with the plate and a sour look on her face. “Here you go, hun.” She turns to Penelope with the eyes of an older woman whose seen it all. “Penelope.”

            She gently smiles. “It’s nice to see you, Miss Grady.”

            Again, she doesn’t buy it. “Mhm. Can I get you something?” Penelope shakes her head no. “Good.” She leaves.

            I start eating before I lose my appetite. She just watches. “So, how have you been?”

            My fork hits my plate. “You know what? I’ve had the worst time of my life these past few months. My week has been shit. My day has gone wrong in every way it possibly could and will somehow get worse as it ends. Why? Because that’s just what the universe throws at me these days. On top of that, you showing your face is just the icing on the cake. Fuck you for asking.”

            I go back to my food. She sits up a straighter. “Listen, I know you’re upset with me and I get it.”

            “You don’t know anything about me.” It’s a fact I’ve gone over in my mind countless times when she still mattered to me, to dad.

            Her lips form a straight line as she nods. “You’re right. I take full responsibility for that. If I could go back…”

            I push the plate aside, empty. “Look, what do you want?”

“To make amends,” she says. “You and Will were my life”

            “Okay, stop right there. I’m not going to sit here and listen to you give yourself a sob story. You had a family once upon a time, people who loved you, people who fought for you, but what happened? You abandoned us. Why? I don’t fucking care. All I know is that you’re sitting in front of me, trying to figure me out and make up for lost time as if you just took a weekend off.” I lean forward. “You left ten years ago. No letters, no visits, no interest in the lives you left behind. You know what, it’s not even worth my time.” I stand. “Whatever reason you came here, forget it and just go back to wherever the hell you came from. We’ve done great without you.”

            She stands. “Paul, please wait. I’m your mother for Christs sakes!”

            Her outburst silences the entire diner. Miss Grady glares from across the room, note paid perched on her hip defensively.

            I turn to her. “Oh, you wanna play mommy? Take care of the bill.” I walk out into the night.

Emmett’s P.O.V.

            It’s a humid night atop the mountains. Port Angeles glows brighter than normal due to the music festival. It’s quiet up here. I guess the mountain lions and bears are taking it easy for a change.

            A bottle clinks as Lincoln twists off a cap and takes a gulp from his beer. Lincoln. My Lincoln. I can’t help but stare at him. I’m marveling really and I’m consciously aware that I haven’t looked at anybody the same besides Jacob. He stares out into the valley, his legs crossed, eyes sparkling in the moonlight. His shades are perched on the bow of his hat that’s cocked back to reveal his forehead and the edges of his hair line.

            “Em,” he smirks softly. He turns his emerald eyes on me. “You’re staring.”

             “I’m just…” I find myself smiling. “I can’t believe…”

            He downs the rest of his bottle and puts it with the empty case. He turns his body all the way around and crosses his legs. “That this is happening?”

            “Literally the words on the tip of my tongue.”

            He smiles, a blush riding down the rise of his cheeks. “Yeah, I know what you mean.” He cracks another bottle. “It’s surreal, isn’t it?”

            “More than you know,” I say.

            He opens another bottle, but doesn’t put it to his lips. His eyes darken to the color of the grass beneath us. “To be honest, I was actually nervous to find you.”

            “I don’t remember you ever being the nervous type.”

            He rolls his eyes at that. “I’m not, believe me.” He shrugs. “I don’t know. It was just…” His eyes harden. “It’s been seventy-six years. I didn’t know if you were dead or reincarnated, if you believe in that sort of thing, you know?” His gaze softens. “I didn’t know if you’d remember me, but I’m glad you do.”

            “Me, too.” It makes my heart flutter. “I couldn’t forget you.” I remember him like a lighthouse in a fog, faintly but certain that he’s there in my memory somewhere. “We met when were kids,” I recall. “And I remember you were my best friend for years.”

            He grins. “Yeah, I was. Good old Gatlinburg.” He drinks slowly.

            “Yeah…” I say, my mind switching gears. “What happened to you all this time?”

            He looks at me very seriously as if he doesn’t want to speak about it. Then his eyes sparkle as he smiles. He tosses the empty bottle into the bag. “I can show you better than I can tell you.”

            Huh? “What do you mean?”

            He shifts to his knees and crawls closer, but keeps his hands up in defense. “Alright, so I want you to close your eyes and I’m going to touch your face. By all means, do not freak out by what you see.” He looks at me for understanding. “Okay?”

            “Uh, yeah, alright.” I’m not sure what I’m expecting, but it can’t be bad. I meet his gaze and smile and close my eyes.

            “Just relax.”

            “You know, when you tell someone to relax, the thought of relaxing makes them more tense.”

            He sighs, his voice suddenly closer than before. “Then stop talking.” His fingers gently touch both sides of my forehead and my mind goes blank. I open my eyes to a dark room, a room that isn’t the mountain we’re sitting on.

            “What the fuck is happening right now?” I can still feel his fingers grazing my skin, but I can’t see him.

            “Emmett, relax. You’re fine, I got you.” His voice still sounds close. “What you’re seeing is a memory. One of mine.” He would have some sort of ability, wouldn’t he? “It’s a little unnerving at first, but just tell me what you see.”

            I look to my left and my right. From wall to wall are old-fashioned wooden bunk beds. In each is a sleeping man no older than twenty-five covered in thing blankets. On the far-right wall is a door. The walls are tin and the floor beneath my feet is dirty wood.

            “I’m in some sort of military barracks. All the men are asleep.”

            “That sounds about right. Do me a favor and walk ahead and turn three feet to your left.”

            I do what he says. The room smells like old beans. I’m standing between two beds where a window is cracked enough to get a stifling breeze in. On the bottom two bunks are two men, one tall and lanky, the other pudgy and stout, both snoring like bears in hibernation. To my right is a man with his back facing me.

            To my left, a man lies wide awake with his eyes on the ceiling. I wonder oddly if when he gets up, his head bumps the low tin. He looks young based off the mustache growing around his lips and the boyish glow he seems to radiate even in the dark. The thin blanket is bunched up to his neck despite the humid air and his hands are clamped over top of it as if to keep his body from shifting. There’s something about his face that doesn’t match his environment.

            “I see you,” I say. He looks significantly younger, but this is Lincoln, the one I knew. “And you look like you don’t belong here.”

            “I didn’t,” he sighs. “Just watch.”

            Lincoln closes his eyes as if to force himself to sleep. Outside the window is a low whistle that grows closer and louder. He opens his eyes and sits up, keeping his head low from the ceiling. He stares out the window, eyes suddenly wide and alarmed as the room grows brighter. He turns to the room and lets out a shout.

            And then the room explodes.

            Like a dream, I’m suddenly outside. My body moves in a water-like blur from the barrack’s and out into the street or what’s left of it. The room I was just standing in is burning, the walls crumbling as shell shocked men fight their way through the flames and debris. There’s Lincoln carrying a man on his shoulders, coughing up smoke, his face red and charred. He screams for help.

            Another bomb goes off. The entire base is up in flames. Men scramble out of their untouched barracks with shot guns and machetes. Colonels are hollering orders. Horses and tanks spiral out of control. On the edge of the surrounding hills is a new sound above the shouting and crackling skin. A flag breaches the hills as the Germans rush the base.

            A colonel on a horse shouts a rush order at Lincoln and the survivors of his bunk and rides off, gun blazing. Lincoln slips into the group of men rushing west of the barrack to get out the enemies’ line of sight. Bullets and planes fly like bats across the night red sky, dropping bombs and destroying everything. The water thing happens again and I’m moving with them as they flee through the winter trees. Blood seeps into the black snow under their feet, their breaths flames in the winter air. The man on Lincoln’s shoulders won’t make it. There’s a gash across his stomach that widens with the more steps he takes, but Lincoln continues to carry him, assuring him over and over.

            A war cry breaks out in front of the wave of Americans as Germans storm their left flank. Lincoln’s eyes go wide. Then things change again. I’m standing in a hospital room. It resembles the barracks, but without the bunks and the stale smell of impending death in the air. Metal bedframes line both walls with IV stands nearby reflecting poorly in the moonlight. The room is filled with coughing and mumbling moans. Lincoln’s bed is right beside me. His face and skin have gotten worse. His left eye is swollen and his head is wrapped. His body is covered in bandages and casts up to his right leg that’s twisted at an odd angle. Again, he’s not asleep. His one good emerald eye stares at the ceiling numbly.

            “My cohort and I barely made it out alive. I wish I hadn’t.”

            A door opens into the room and a blonde woman in a doctor’s coat slips inside. She looks around at the patients silently and locks the door behind her. Lincoln’s head lulls to look at her. She examines a man’s and his vitals before moving on. She swiftly crosses the room to another patient and so forth before stopping at a bed closest to Lincoln where a woman coughs and hackles in her sleep. The doctor reads her chart and stares down at her with a look of sympathy before placing her hands gently on the woman’s face, her ivory skin glinting in the moonlight, and swiftly breaking her neck. The moaning and coughing stops immediately.

            Lincoln yelps. The doctor’s eyes locate the sound and in a blur, she’s peering down at him. He struggles to find the words over his own fear.

            “Please…don’t kill me,” he moans, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Please.”

            The doctor looks at him and then smiles, her golden iridescent eyes sparkling.

            Suddenly I’m sitting back on the mountain. Lincoln hovers a few inches away, his fingers still poised by my head carefully.

            “You alright?” I nod my head and he sits back. “I know that was a lot to take in.”

            “It…no, it wasn’t. Everything made sense. You can show your past?”

            “Only portions of it, memories that stand out. It’s more like a projection of what I can remember. I think my father had early onset Alzheimer’s, hence the gift, but you seem unsurprised?”

            I shrug. “My sister can see the future, her husband’s an empath, and my brother’s a mental snitch. Shit doesn’t faze me.”

            His smile fades slowly as he speaks. “Well, her name was Vera. She was from London, a part of an unadvertised exchange program between the UK and USA medical field. She would come into the room every night to check in on patients and euthanize them if they were in too much pain. When the morning doctor did his rounds, they called it natural deaths.”

            “She turned you.”

            “Yeah. She broke me out of the hospital and took me up into the mountains, gave me the bite, and it was the worst pain of my life, you know?”

            “Dude, I was mauled by a bear and then turned back to back. I get it.”

            He scoffs. “She raised me, well, the new me and everything, taught me how to hunt animals and maneuver around humans and whatnot. I don’t know if you remember, but I remember being an only child, so she was kind of like my big sister.” He looks off into the distance. “We did everything together.”

            I can tell something dark is on the horizon. “What happened to her?”

            “Twelve years later, we had moved into a hut on the outskirts of Maui, you know, incognito and all. A hopscotch away was the city, your average grocery stores, churches, and schools. I got a job at the local mine and she worked at the school as teacher and in doing so, realized how much she loved children and how much she wanted her own.” His eyes take on a light of their own doing. “She used to ramble about how she would raise the perfect child, one who was strong, resilient, and an overall bubble of energy at all times, even with his abilities, even if he was like us.”

            “There was a kid in her class who had a terrible life at home. His name was Kai. Parents were abusive and neglectful and she felt sorry for him, so she did for him what she did for me. She rescued him, but in doing so, sealed his fate, one that we didn’t see coming. He spiraled out of control, slaughtered as many people as he could to tackle his thirst. It was a tough time and then to make matters worse, people started to notice that we were different. They talked and that talk spread like a wildfire until it reached across the seas to the worst of the worst.”

            “The Volturi. Everyone’s favorite band of circus freaks.”

            “They came without warning and uhm…” He looks away. “They destroyed him on sight, no questions asked. It broke her completely and they came after her next.” He softens now, emerald eyes shifting back to me. “She was my maker of sorts, my sister, and my best friend.” He runs his hands through his hair. “Whatever. That was sixty-four years ago. I mean, what’s life when you can’t spend it with the one you love?”

            “Believe me, I know what you mean.” More than you know.

            He wipes his face of the memories and sits attentively. “But enough about me. Fill me in on you. I haven’t seen your stupid dimples in almost a century.” He grins.

            My cheeks burn. “Where do I begin?”

            He cracks two more beers and passes me one. “Em, I didn’t scour the whole world looking for you to half ass me on catching up. Spit it out.”

            I roll my eyes. “Alright, alright. Let me see…”

Chapter Text

Emmett’s P.O.V.

              Lincoln and I walk side by side down the streets of Port Angeles. It’s quarter to six and the sun is starting to wake up over the far edges of the navy sky. The town is still very much fast asleep. Not an early commuter in sight.

            “So,” Lincoln says. He ponders his next words, but I already know what he’s gearing up to say. “Where does that leave you and Jacob’s relationship?”

            “Things are fine, but it doesn’t feel like it should be, you know? Like that strange silence right before a natural disaster hits.” That, I realize, is the best way to describe it. “We’ve had some time to regroup and it felt good to just be us again, but I feel like things are about to take a turn for the worst. The Quileute Elders have it out for us and I know whatever they decide will change everything.”

            “I get that. I’m sorry things turned out this way, Em.” His accent adds a southern twinge to his syllables. It reminds me of the way Jasper speaks. “It’s not fair, but I think it’ll all work out in time. All things do. If you can’t control it, let it run its course, you know?”

            “Yeah, I get where you’re coming from.” It feels good for a fresh perspective. “But, enough about me. Your turn.”

            “Alright.” He tugs on the brim of his hat. A few stray hairs fall into his eyes. “A year after Vera and Kai…passed, I liquidated everything we owned and went freestyle. Maui held too many memories and people were starting to have their suspicions, so I stayed in Iceland for a few years, then dabbled in Finland, Peru, the dark side of Argentina, and then Russia where I met my first coven.”

             “There were seven of us. Galina, her sister Veronika, their brother Mikhail, Iroh and his wife, Athena, and me.” The emerald specks in his eyes glitter like stained glass. “It was kind of like visiting distant cousins, you know? There was a bond we shared that I didn’t know I was missing until I met them.”

            We cross over into Forks. A car engine turns over in the northeast. The smell of waffles floats into the air as the diner prepares for breakfast. Jacob’s phone bustles in the bag from the store against my thigh. An Elk grazing in the underbrush a mile away makes a run for it. For some reason, I realize, I haven’t paid attention to my thirst these past few days.

            “They still there?” I ask.

            “They relocated to Paris six years ago,” and then like he knows what I’m really asking, “Everyone’s still there. Anyway, I enrolled in one of the local colleges of France which is where I met Jacques.” A hint of a smile crosses his face. “He was a sculptor in his second year and literally, Emmett, he breathed life into every room he walked into. I mean, you could see the love and sincerity he had for his friends and family in his eyes, in his words, in his art. One of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen and an amazing artist.”

            He looks up suddenly, first to the sky and then around us. Thunder rolls across the ground a mile to the right of us. It’s coming from the Quileute Reservation. “Earthquake?”

            “It’s the wolves doing their patrols around the area,” I say. He watches the horizon on alert. “C’mon.” I dive for the closest tree and sprint up to the canopy. He follows close behind. At the top, the branches even out like stepping stones.

            He continues as we hop the branches. “So, he and I established a friendship. I was obsessed with his sculpting, could watch it for days, and he adored my political aspirations, though oblivious that I wasn’t really into it. A few months passed before we started dating and now that he was in my space consistently, he started to notice that I was different. I eventually told him and he…” he shrugged. “At first, he was confused, but in the end, he took it pretty well. Not by far as well as I did with Vera, but it was a life-shattering discovery one day and the next, everything was normal.”

            “You sound like my brother, Edward. Told his girlfriend weeks after stalking over her. They’re practically married now and she happens to be Jacob’s best friend.”

            He grins. “Bringing it to a close, he eventually asked me for the bite and I weighed all the pros and cons because I didn’t think it was the best choice. He still had a family in the country, an award-winning future ahead of him, a full life to live, you know? I don’t think anyone should give that up for what we are, but he said in the end, his life would mean nothing if his work didn’t impact the world like it needed to and that shut me up entirely. It was one of his biggest fears to be forgotten and I couldn’t let that be his legacy. Now, he spends his days reconstructing Olympian pantheons in Greece as an anonymous artist who does his work mysteriously overnight.” He smiles. “I say all that to say that I have someone and I miss him a lot.”

            We near the house. “Why didn’t you bring him with you?” I drop down to the driveway and we walk up. “I would have loved to meet him.”

            A blush stumbles through the freckles along the bridge of his nose and the rise of his cheeks. “I knew you would’ve and I wanted him to come with me. There’s nothing worse than traveling alone long distance when you have a soul mate, but I didn’t know what I would be walking into when I found you.”

            “I get that.” Everyone’s home, including Bella. “So, we’re here. Words of wisdom before you cross the threshold. Remember that your favorite color is cerulean, you hail from Paris, and you give compliments to any and everything they throw at you. No exceptions.”

            He chuckles. “World War II wasn’t even this intense.”

            “Trust me, Germany was a night light compared to my sister.”

            “I’ll be on my p’s and q’s, I promise,” He says. “And before I forget.” He touches his eyes and the emerald contacts drop away to reveal dark golden irises. “Cover-up. Force of habit.”

            “I don’t know why I never caught that they were contacts.” We walk up the steps. “Just smile, grin, and stay calm.”

            The door opens. “Emmett, that’s no way to treat a guest,” Alice says warmly. She extends her hand. “Good morning. I’m Alice, Emmett’s loving and outrageously talented sister.”

            “Nice to make your acquaintance.” He smiles and takes her hand gently. “I’m Lincoln.”

            Alice’s grin is wide. “I know who you are. I’ve seen so much about you. Please come in!” She ushers him inside, her hand on his back like she just found a new toy. He gives me a look as she walks with him.

            Everyone’s congregated in the living room. Carlisle and Esme are cuddled up on one sofa while Bella and Edward take up the other. Jasper sits on the sole love seat. The movie is paused.

            “Emmett, who’s this?” Esme asks, rising from her seat to greet him.

            Suddenly, I feel nervous. “Alright, this is happening. Everyone, this is my long lost best friend Lincoln Baker. We grew up together pre-golden days. Lincoln, this is my mother, Esme. The sweetest woman you will ever meet in your immortal life.”

            “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Cullen.” Esme goes in for a hug and Lincoln welcomes it. “I’ve heard so much about you, I feel like we’ve already met.”

            “The pleasure is all mine,” Esme smiles, looking between the two of us. “Emmett, I didn’t know you were still in touch with your childhood friends.”

            “Neither did he,” Lincoln says, nudging me with a grin. Esme blushes.

            Carlisle is next. “My father, Carlisle. A local doctor and master surgeon.”

            He waves it off as they shake. “Don’t pay him any mind. I’m as humble as they come.”

            “Of course,” Lincoln says. “I’m relearning things about him, so rest assured I’ll take note.”

            Jasper slides in between us smoothly. “Jasper. Nice to meet you.”

            “Hey, man.” Lincoln cocks his head. “Let me guess…Texas?”

            Jasper smiles. “A good ear. Houston.” Alice wraps her arm in his. “Tennessee?”

            “Born and raised. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find people like us from the south these days.”

            Jasper chuckles. “Trust me, I’ve had my own share of experiences. We’re far in between.”

            “Yeah,” Lincoln says, and sets his sights on Edward and Bella. “And you must be Edward.”

            Edward extends his hand. “I’ve heard all about you, it’s nice to finally meet.”

            Lincoln’s eyes twinkle. “Likewise. All good things, I hope.” He looks my way quickly.

            There goes that crooked smile. “All good things indeed.” He gestures to Bella, his hand at the small of her back protectively. “This is my girlfriend, Bella.”

            She smiles. “Hey, how’s it going?”

            Lincoln plays it cool. “Eh, can’t complain. You guys have bipolar weather out here, but other than that, I’m doing alright and yourself?”

            I can tell Bella already likes him. She relaxes with a shrug. “I’m good.”

            Alright. “And that’s everybody,” I say, interrupting whoever else was gearing up to speak. “Thank you so much, everyone, for introducing yourself. You guys like him, he likes you, that’s all that matters. Meanwhile, we have almost seventy years of missing time to catch up, so if you’d excuse us. Lincoln, say bye.”

            He laughs. “I guess I’m saying goodbye, now.”

            “See you later,” Alice says as they relax back on the couches.

            He follows me back out. “So,” I say, “You’re my guest of honor for as long as you’re here, and by that, I mean please stay forever.” He laughs deeply. “Seriously, anything you want to do?”

            He doesn’t even blink. “I’m thirsty as hell.” His eyes are darker than before, the purple bruises running plum along his eyelids. Or maybe I’m just noticing. “And clearly you are, too.”

            “Shit. Same. There are two mountain lion dens three miles that way and –”

He’s running before I even finish. Only his laughter lingers. “Keep up, McCarty!”

Jacob’s P.O.V.

Colin’s deep snoring fills his tight bedroom. Jared, Seth and I moved him upstairs once Sam left and Seth and I stuck around to make sure he woke up with an understanding of what happened while Julia and Frank get some sleep. He hasn’t done so much as roll over.

I remember when I first started phasing. Paul, who had phased before me, wouldn’t leave my side for weeks to make sure I was okay and not gouging holes in Billy’s house. Sam broke it down that I was a shifter and that things would change because of my bloodline. I think at first it creeped me out, the metamorphosis aspect, but it grew on me as all things do, eventually.

Sam and Paul. I look out the window, where the sun is slowly rising over the horizon. Paul thinks that I use him and his imprint for my selfish gain and Sam is livid with me for challenging his authority. What Paul says isn’t true. It’s been hard trying to balance a relationship between the two of them, even before the accident. If anything, things have gotten harder now that it’s all out in the open.

The thing with Sam is that he hates his authority being challenged in private and in public. It makes him feel intimidated, like it’s a check on his masculinity as a man, as an alpha, and as a leader, and rightfully so. It wasn’t intentional for what happened in the yard. It just happened. I couldn’t help myself. One minute I was there for support and then I had to protect Colin at all costs, even if that meant standing in the face of my own alpha.

Seth yawns and rolls over from his spot on the floor. “Morning.”

“Hey, morning,” I respond.

He lays there absentmindedly for a few seconds and then gets up and walks out the room. I hear him use the bathroom, wash his hands, and then he’s back and sitting crossed legged on the floor. He looks at Colin with a blank stare.

“How’s he doing?” he asks.

“Fine, I think. He hasn’t woken up. It’s been a cool night.”

He sits quietly so long that I forget he’s there. I watch the rise and fall of Colin’s small chest, his heartbeat lazily racing after his lungs.

“I think Paul was wrong last night,” he says.

 “Why’d you say that?” It had never occurred to me that any of the guys would be brave enough to voice their opinions, let alone have an opinion, to begin with.

He mulls it over. “Because I’ve seen how you are with both Paul and Emmett and how they are with you,” he says. “Is it confusing? Hell yeah, but love is confusing, but I know it’s there and so does Paul.”

I’ve never gone to Seth for advice, but it’s good. “I know.”

“Paul knows you love him, just give him some space to breathe,” he continues. “Besides, the whole thing pivoted from his fight with Sam. You were just caught in the crosshairs.”

Wait. “What fight?”

Seth looks at me, confused, and points at his right cheek like there’s a bruise I don’t see. “You mean, you didn’t…”

Colin suddenly lurches forward in bed, wide awake, his eyes wild and his heart racing. I’m vaguely aware of Seth scrambling to his feet beside me.

“What, what happened?” he shouts. “What are you doing here?” His almond eyes flash to Seth in alarm. “Get out!” He pushes himself into the corner of his wall.

I raise my hands to show that I mean no harm and keep my voice leveled. “Colin, it’s me, Jacob.”

He tenses up. “No, no, what are you doing here? What happened? Tell me!”

“Listen to me. Seth and I are here to help you and we can’t do that unless you calm down, okay?” I say. “You have to stay calm. Keep your eyes on me.”

He doesn’t trust me. I can see the defiance unfurling in his eyes, but he doesn’t look away. He inches away from the corner. His heart still races, but his breathing slows as he relaxes some.

“Good, good. Now, I need you to answer a question,” I say, bringing down my hands. “What do you remember from yesterday?”

He shook his head. “Nothing.” Then, “scratches and black fur.”

Seth and I exchange a look. “Alright. Get dressed.”

“Why?” He demands, already sliding out of the bed.

I get up. “Because we’re going for a walk.” I realize for the first time that I left my crutches back at the house. My muscles are sore as fuck, but I feel good, better than I have in a while.

The three of us head out through the front door. If Colin saw his backyard, he’d freak out and that would make matters worse. We dip into the trees and head towards the field behind my house.

“Where are we going?” he asks, barely keeping up.

“Jake’s place. Just don’t think about walking and imagine you’re flying across the ground,” Seth says. He looks at me and shrugs.

We step out of the woods and cross over to the field. Dad’s not home, the house like one of those abandoned properties on an empty lot, it’s browning grass growing uncontrollably. We walk out to the far edges of the field where boulders and old tree trunks lie in front of the tree line.

I turn to him. “So, I know you’re wondering why we’re here.”

He glares. The feeble, scared wolf from yesterday has been replaced with a stubborn, annoyed teenager overnight. “Bro, it’s seven in the morning on a Saturday. Clearly.”

I can practically feel the annoyance coming off him in waves. Seth and I exchange a look. Sam usually was the one who spearheaded these conversations and it usually started with a rehearsed monologue that was given to him when he first phased from Chee. Well, Sam’s not here, nor does he want to be.

I take a deep breath. “What do you remember from yesterday, Colin?”

He rolls his eyes. “This is stupid. I already told you.”

Seth shifts his posture. “Just think about it. From the moment you woke up to the last thing you did before you went to sleep.”

Colin turns his glare on him. Seth doesn’t falter. Colin plops down on a boulder.

“I mean, yesterday was just like any other day. I woke up, played my games, jerked off a few times, caught up with Brody...” he shrugs. “I don’t know what else you’re looking for.”

“Anything weird?” I ask. “Vertigo, dizziness?

“An uneasy feeling that something bad was about to happen?” Seth continues.

Colin thinks it over. “I think I started to feel sick. My chest started to hurt, and my skin got hot like I was breaking into a fever, which was weird because I don’t get sick. High immune system and everything.” A shadow passes over his face.

“Anything else?” Seth asks.

“No,” he snaps.

“That’s probably because you blacked out in shock,” I say. “Your body was adjusting to the new changes. It happens.”

“What are you talking about?” Colin barks.

Moment of truth. “Colin, what you’ve been feeling isn’t some random occurrence. You’re not sick and you’re not losing your mind. Your body is adapting to a new change, kind of like puberty, only…different.”

“Different how?” A part of him is annoyed, but the other is interested in what I have to say.

“In latent terms, you’re a werewolf, like us. You know the legends of the Quileute wolves, the protectors of the Quileute tribe. You’ve seen them even when you didn’t realize it, running through the trees, protecting our homes.” I watch him closely. “Your grandfather was one of those protectors. He was real and so are we and now, you’re one of us.”

Seth shrugs. “Not Sam, but eh.”

Colin looks between the two of us and laughs aloud. I mean, a good howling laugh that shakes him to the core. Seth and I look like those annoying parents in the store while their child has a tantrum.

“You guys are hilarious! That’s like me saying I’m secretly Lebron James and you guys are Aquaman and Mad Max.”

“Those are three entirely different fandoms,” Seth points out. “Can I improvise?”

Colin cackles on. I give Seth a nod. He grins and undoes his shorts. Colin stops and catches on to what’s happening. I step to the side as Seth closes his eyes and furrows his brows.

“And now you’re pulling a Magic Mike? Dude, you do realize that I’m not, like –”

Seth backflips into the air, the skin along his body rippling into fur, his bare feet and hands stretching into paws and claws, and a yawn growing from his throat into a full growl. He drops to the ground fully phased and steps towards Colin, who screams and falls back into the dirt.

“WHAT THE FUCK!” He pushes back in the grass. “What is that!”

I cross my arms. “That is exactly what happened to you yesterday when you blacked out. Scared Frank and Julia half to death, tore up the yard and everything.” I look at Seth. “Minus the murderous rampage, you actually can’t tell the two of you apart.”

Seth growls and then relaxes on his hind legs. The hair falls away from his body as he changes back. “Now, you know damn well that’s a lie,” he says, sliding his shorts back on.

Colin looks like he’s lost his mind. “What the hell just happened?” He’s calmer than I expected, but still freaking out internally.

“Want me to handle the rest?” Seth asks.

“By yourself?” A concept.

He shrugs. “Yeah, besides it looks like you have company,” he says, gesturing past me.

I turn and see Emmett pulling the Jeep into the garage. He doesn’t get out.

“You sure you can handle it? You’d be taking the responsibility of informing Colin where all the dead bodies are buried, showing him the entrance to the ruby mine, and how our skin turns the color of our fur the night after we first phase, which in his case would be snow white.”

“What? What is happening!” Colin hollers, growing more irritable and confused by the second and looking at his arms and legs as if it’s already changing colors.

“Of course, but don’t forget about when you’re dick shrinks four inches and then grows into a whole leg overnight, but nothing major.” He eyes Colin with a grin.

Colin is mortified. “What the fuck!”

“You’re in good hands, Colin.” I turn back. “I’ll check back in a second.”

Emmett’s face is down in his lap when I lean against the side of the truck. All the doors and roof are missing. His fingers move like lightning across the screen of a new iPhone.

“New phone, who this?”

He smirks and hands it over with its box. “Actually, it’s yours.”

It feels expensive in my hand. “Yeah?”

“Becca told me to get you one to keep in touch and I kept pushing it off. Something about the main line always being tied up. Also, it’s 2017 and you don’t have a phone. That’s strange.”

Huh. “So, that’s the insider she was talking about…” He raises an eyebrow. “She mentioned it yesterday, said she was going to fuck you up if you didn’t follow through.”

“Hmm.” He looks angelic in the morning light like something straight out of a romantic comedy where the girls see their crush looking irresistibly and obliviously dreamy. From his luscious curls to his eyebrows, his golden irises to his pink lips, this is my dream.

“You look like something’s on your mind.” He licks at the corner of his mouth as he smiles as if he knows what I’m thinking. “Care to share?”

“I would rather show you.” Everything in my body is edging for him to take me down.

His eyes darken into a shade I can only describe as lust. “Oh, yeah?” His turns and opens his legs for me. I lean in closer and run my hand down his chest.

“Yeah.” I thrum my fingers against his abs. “I need to show you, actually.”

His cool firm hands wrap around my waist and squeeze eagerly. “I would love for you to show me, but your body is still healing.” He plants a kiss on my neck, enough to make me go insane, and leans back. “And I can’t have you in pain.”

I go in for the kill. “You can’t break me. You’ve tried,” I say in a husky whisper.

He grins devilishly. “Oh?” He bites his lip. “You know I love challenges.”

“It’s more of a theory.” I pull away from him and walk away. He watches me with half-lidded eyes. I shut the garage doors and bolt them, then lean back. I toss my shirt aside.

He pulls his shirt over his head and crowds me against the doors, wrapping his arms around my waist, one hand sliding into my shorts to cup my ass, the other unbuttoning them. My clothes drop to the floor and so does his in a flash.

“Wanna test that theory?” His lips are dangerously close, eyes hot coals, dick pulsing in between my thighs.

The impending “Fuck” is swallowed when he crashes his lips against mine.

Paul’s P.O.V.

It’s noon when Dad walks in. He drops the mail on the table, goes right past me to the kitchen, and comes back out with a beer and heads towards the stairs.

“Dad,” I say. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since Penelope came the other day.

He stops and breathes deeply before taking a swig and turning around. “What?”

“Can we talk?” I gesture to the dining room chair across from me.

He sits with a grunt. He slides his beer to the side and kicks up his feet, flecking dirt onto the table. “What is it?”

My mind goes blank. I feel like a kid again, when I had the whole scenario planned out in my mind just to get to him and completely forget what I was going to say.

“How are you?” I ask earnestly.

His face shifts into a glare. “What are we, a couple of fags whining about our emotions and shit?” He drinks. “Get to the point.”

I hold onto my patience. “We’re men having a conversation.”

He finishes the bottle. “Paul, I’m tired. I’ve had a hell of a morning.”

“Alright, enough. Are we just going to act like she didn’t show up out the blue?” I ask. “Because I can’t keep avoiding the subject, Will. I can’t.

“For fuck’s sake!” He puts his feet down and braces himself. “What do you want me to say, huh?”

I’m losing it. “I want you to talk to me like a normal father and son should!”

He laughs. “You want me to tell you how I feel? Tell you, my fucking child, how fucked up I am about the whole thing? That she hurt my feelings by showing her face around here?” He grows serious. “Is that what you want me to do? Grow the fuck up, Paul.”

I stand. “Are you fucking serious? You’re telling me to grow up while you’re the one living here like it’s you against the world, as if I don’t exist!”

He points the bottle at me offensively. “Watch yourself.”

“Fuck that.” I knock it out of his hands. He watches it tumble. “Here I am just wanting to talk to you and you act like I did something wrong? Excuse the fuck out of me for being the man in this got damn house!”

He narrows his gaze. “I’m warning you.”

“I don’t give a shit about that.” The rage is pouring out of me like a leaky faucet. “What the hell did she do to you that made you so fucking bitter?”

He jumps to his feet. “You want to know? You really want to know?” He’s practically shaking at how mad he is.

“Yes!”

“She fucking abandoned me!” His chest heaves, sweat forming on his head. “She claimed she fucking loved me, that she loved us, and then she left!” His momentum slows and for the first time in a long time, my father bares his soul. “I loved her so fucking much, more than I’ve ever loved anyone. I changed for her, for you to make sure the both of you would be happy. I sacrificed everything to be what she needed, to have and to hold, to be her protector, her best friend, her husband for the rest of our lives.” He shakes his head. “That’s not what she wanted.”

I find a softer tone in my words. “She broke your heart.”

“She’s a selfish cold bitch who doesn’t care about anyone but herself.” He turns away from me. “She left us behind, a husband who loved her, a son who needed her.” He breathes deep and hard. “And, to see you go through everything she put us through…it broke me.” He wipes his glossy eyes and when he speaks, his voice is raw and leveled. “You deserved a mother who loved you, not some fuck up who couldn’t give you what you needed and I’m sorry.”

I can’t even find the words to express how I feel. Dad looks at me for a long time before he turns around and goes upstairs. His door shuts quietly behind him.

I wasn’t prepared for that at all.