It was snowing again, and for the first time since winter started Jacob was able to enjoy it.
When preoccupied with contriving ways to take down an ancient vampire cult, one might find that it’s hard to enjoy much of anything. The stakes of confronting the Volturi were too high and had left everybody hard-pressed, but now that it was over and everyone’s security was ensured, Jacob was finally able to relish in the calm that occupied the air as the snow gently fell to the forest floor.
His pack was safe. His best friend and her daughter were safe. Benjamin was…
Jacob sighed and reached into his pocket, looking down at his hands and tenderly turning over a withering pink petal in his palm. The back of his eyes suddenly burned and he felt his throat constrict, his mind wandering to the exuberant vampire who was beginning to establish a permanent residence in his thoughts.
Everyone was making their way through the woods after the encounter with the Volturi. Loved ones were clinging to each other and talking intimately, a relieved and grateful ambience following the group of vampires and werewolves as they walked back to the Cullen household.
“That was scary.”
Jacob narrowed his eyes and smirked when Benjamin appeared at his side, matching his stride with ease. “Were you really scared?”
The corners of Benjamin’s lips twitched, a quirk that Jacob learned was a cue for some droll or flirtatious (or both) remark. “If I told you I was petrified, would you hold my hand to make me feel better?”
“Maybe,” Jacob gave Edward a dirty look when he saw him look over his shoulder in amusement. “You’d have to promise not to light my hand on fire.”
Benjamin started laughing, and Jacob tried his damnedest not to become too captivated by the sweet, boyish sound. Edward started chuckling, too, likely at Jacob’s sentimental thoughts. All the laughing started to catch the attention of the others, and Jacob internally groaned at the amount of red eyes that were aimed in his direction. That, coupled with all of his pack members’ teasing comments penetrating his thoughts, was driving Jacob up the wall. Supernatural beings didn’t know the first thing about privacy.
Up ahead there was a familiar clearing in the trees, and through the gap the Cullens’ house came into view. For that Jacob was grateful, since it seemed to draw everyone’s attention away from him. They stopped not too far outside of the woods, and Jacob dreadfully watched Carlisle make his way to the head of the group.
“Oh, for the love of fuck,” Jacob muttered under his breath as softly as he could so only Benjamin could hear. “Drac dad is going to make a speech.”
Benjamin sucked in his cheeks in amusement, looking up at Jacob and responding in an equally quiet voice. “Nice one. You have a vampire pun for everyone?”
“Even for me?”
Benjamin bumped his shoulder into Jacob’s arm. “You better tell me, or else I’ll light your hand on fire.”
Jacob pressed his lips together and smirked. “You’re a vampire.”
“What an astute observation. That’s literally why we’re having this conversation.”
“You’re also short.”
“So you’re bite sized.”
“Thanks. I hate it,” Benjamin shook his head in disapproval when Jacob started snickering.
“You’re the one who asked,” Jacob pointed out.
“I’m still lighting your hand on fire.”
Jacob’s attention was drawn back to Carlisle when people in the group started cheering. “Wow. We’re missing out, huh?”
“Talking to you is more satisfying than any speech.”
Benjamin said it so casually, as if it didn’t make Jacob’s whole body overheat. Benjamin didn’t need to use his elemental powers to light Jacob on fire, his words were sufficient enough to make every inch of his skin burn.
“Plus,” Benjamin smirked mischievously. “I can do better.”
Jacob watched Benjamin scoop up a handful of winter wildflowers at the edge of the woods, cupping them between his hands and winking at Jacob when he caught his curious gaze. Benjamin crouched to the ground, summoning his energy and quickly shooting up with his arms extended, self-made wind carrying the petals from his palms so they danced through the air in colorful, vibrant swirls. Everyone began to cheer even louder, causing Benjamin to smile radiantly.
When he caught Jacob’s gaze again, his smile softened into one more intimate. Benjamin lifted his hand, his wrist gliding and fingers curling, and Jacob noticed a single pink petal begin to spin in his direction. He looked up to watch it hover over his head, carefully taking the petal between two fingers. When Jacob looked back at him, Benjamin was grinning something brilliant and beautiful. Jacob’s heart skipped a beat (in the back of his mind he wondered if Benjamin heard it), and he was defenseless to the dopey smile that pulled at his lips.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jacob could see Seth and Leah waving to get his attention. Seth’s voice disrupted his thoughts, mentioning something about needing to go see his mom. That flipped a switch in Jacob’s mind.
“Dad,” he breathed, pocketing the petal and glancing at Seth before addressing Benjamin again. “Hey, I need to go see my dad. He needs to know we’re okay.”
Benjamin nodded in understanding, and as Leah dragged Jacob away by his arm, he strained to watch Benjamin smile softly before his face was lost behind the small crowd of celebrating vampires.
Jacob hesitantly held the pad of his thumb over the shriveled petal, fearful his touch would cause it to fall apart.
When Jacob went back to the Cullens’ house that day, Benjamin was gone. Carlisle told him that Benjamin needed to go back to Egypt for Amun, and Jacob swore he felt his heart detach from its chamber and drop to the pit of his stomach. Of course Jacob understood why he needed to go, it was the same reason Jacob fled back to the reservation to see his father. Benjamin served his purpose in Forks, he had no practical reason to stay.
But Jacob’s stomach churned nonetheless, and his head ached with thoughts over-analyzing every interaction he had with him. He reasoned that even if he had read too far into Benjamin’s words and actions, even if he assumed there were romantic feelings when there weren’t, Benjamin still should have said goodbye. Regardless of the affection possibly being fabricated in his mind, they were still friends. Right?
It had been a week since Benjamin gave him the petal, and now it looked a breath away from crumbling to pieces. He thought he might ask Esme about flower preservation, if he remembered correctly Bella had mentioned something about her liking to garden. But then he would have to explain himself, and Jacob really wasn’t too keen on telling anyone why he was so desperate to keep it.
Steadying himself on the tree branch he was sitting on, he delicately held the petal between his fingers like he did the day Benjamin gave it to him. He extended his arm out to stare at it, as if examining it could provide some answers, or at least give him some kind of closure. Jacob gasped when a particularly heavy snowflake landed on the petal, the unexpected weight knocking it from between his fingers and carrying in behind him. He leaned back as far as he could without falling, having half the mind to jump down and try to find it. His heart sank at the realistic conclusion that it was buried in the snow, now saturated and unmendable.
“Great,” he muttered under his breath, sighing and picking at the tree bark to distract himself from sudden intense ache in his chest.
“I didn’t take you for the sentimental type.”
Jacob’s breath caught at the familiar voice, his head jerking as his ears strained to follow the sound. He almost immediately found Benjamin smirking at him from the ground right below the tree.
“I’m flattered it meant that much to you,” he teased, and within a millisecond he had jumped up and settled on the branch next to Jacob. “But I promise there are more petals where that one came from.” The corners of his mouth twitched. “Actually, I could do you one better and give you a whole flower.”
Jacob felt lightheaded. As if Benjamin’s presence wasn’t enough, his words were only flustering him more. He blinked a couple times, his mind desperately trying to process the endearing vampire who was watching him expectantly. He had a lot of questions, but Jacob internally canned them for being either too accusatory or nauseatingly tender, and opted for the one route that was always easiest with Benjamin.
“You made that snowflake knock the petal out of my fingers, didn’t you?”
Benjamin got those happy little crinkles in the corners of his eyes as he started laughing, and Jacob found himself transfixed despite his conflicted feelings. It had only been a week, but he was suddenly deluged with how much he missed being around Benjamin’s joyful presence. Already the uneasy tension in his shoulders began to wane, and against his better judgement Jacob felt a small smile pull at his lips. It almost made up for all pain and confusion he was dealt with the last few days.
“As much as I’d love to take credit for that, it was all Mother Nature’s doing,” Benjamin shrugged regretfully, but then smirked in a way that made Jacob eye him warily. “But I can take credit for this.”
Before he could get another word in, Benjamin made a swift motion with his hand and all the snow piled on the branch above them came tumbling down onto Jacob’s head and shoulders. He instinctively started shaking his head to get the snow out of his hair, lightheartedly glaring at a laughing Benjamin after he brushed the icey flakes from his eyes.
“Mother Nature’s a bitch,” Jacob scooped some of the snow off his shoulder and plonked it right on top of Benjamin’s head. “And so are you.”
They were both laughing now, Benjamin raising a hand and tousling the snow out of his short, dark curls. “Technically, werewolf, you’re the bitch. Not me.”
“Wow,” Jacob regarded him with faux astonishment. “I didn’t know you had wolf jokes.”
“I was also going to comment on how you shaking your head to get the snow out of your hair made you look like your true doggy self,” Benjamin grinned when Jacob’s mouth fell open. “But I contained myself.”
“You know what else dogs do, Benjamin? They bite,” Jacob squinted challengingly. “Keep it up and you’ll see for yourself.”
Benjamin’s crimson eyes twinkled roguishly. “Is that a promise?”
That knocked the wind out of Jacob, and he felt every ounce of blood in his body rush to his face. Obviously Benjamin noticed, if his proud smirk was any indication, and Jacob had to avert his eyes to the blanket of snow beneath them for his own sanity.
“You’re too quick-witted for your own good,” Jacob mumbled.
“You’d be bored without me. I don’t know how you made it these last few days while I was gone.”
Jacob came crashing back to reality after Benjamin said that, and every insecure, confused thought that had infested Jacob’s mind came flooding back to the forefront. He felt the branch wobble as Benjamin scooted close enough to press their sides together, ducking his head to catch Jacob’s gaze.
When Jacob finally turned his head, Benjamin gave him a teasing smirk. “Did you miss me terribly?”
“Yeah,” Jacob breathed, the honesty of his answer causing every shred of playfulness to vanish from Benjamin’s expression.
He must have expected some sort of resistance, for Jacob to push back with another joke. He was much closer now, his face no more than half a foot away from Jacob’s, and it was evident in his still lips and unsteady eyes that Jacob’s response was unanticipated.
“You kind of just… left,” Jacob shrugged his shoulders, talking to fill the sudden silence. His self-consciousness made him look away again. “Without saying anything. It was a really confusing experience for me, and I guess after everything that happened I just assumed you would talk to me before leaving. Not that you owed me an explanation or anything, but just... a goodbye, y’know? I did miss you, and it kind of sucked. Really sucked, actually.”
To see Benjamin with anything but a smile on his face was foreign, so when Jacob finally chanced a glance at the vampire next to him and saw the troubled downturn of his lips, he felt a sense of urgency to reassure him.
“It doesn’t really matter now though,” Jacob insisted, which made Benjamin furrow his eyebrows. “Because you’re back, I mean. I was mostly bummed out because I thought you were gone for good, but obviously that’s not the case. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad, just ig—”
“Jacob,” Benjamin cut him off sharply, clearly displeased. “Don’t apologize to me. You don’t have to apologize for your feelings.” Jacob went to retort, but closed his mouth when Benjamin shook his head. “I shouldn’t have left without telling you, though I did do it intentionally. I wanted to surprise you with the news about my joining the Cullen coven, but in order to do that I figured I shouldn’t tell you about going back to Egypt to convince Amun.”
“Oh,” Jacob blinked. “Well. That changes things.”
“No, it doesn’t,” the furrow in Benjamin’s brow deepened, his intense red eyes emanating his sincere regret. “I shouldn’t have been so reckless with your feelings, Jacob. I should’ve put more consideration into how my abrupt leaving would have affected you, and I hate that it was so distressing for you. The fact that I had good intentions doesn’t change that I hurt you. I’m really sorry.”
“It’s really okay,” Jacob smiled softly. The weight of his anxiety had lifted, and in its place an inexplicable warmth bursted in his chest. “I just thought that I misinterpreted things.”
His breath caught when he felt cold fingers wrap around the top of his hand, squeezing gently.
“You didn’t misinterpret anything,” Benjamin whispered.
Jacob looked down at their hands and exhaled a shaky breath, mostly to expel the overwhelming emotions that were swelling within him. He tenderly flipped his hand so that he and Benjamin were palm to palm, watching in wonderment as their fingers interlaced. When he looked at Benjamin again his face had softened, and the beginnings of a smile drew at his lips.
“So,” Jacob started, his heart fluttering when he felt the feather light brush of Benjamin’s thumb on his. “The Cullens, huh?”
“I rather like Carlisle’s philosophy,” Benjamin smiled fully now. “I also like you.”
“Thank God,” Jacob sighed in relief. “This hand holding thing could have been really awkward.”
They laughed and Benjamin pushed his weight into him, his giddy demeanor back and in full effect. They sat in comfortable silence for a few moments, looking away from each other to admire the snowfall.
“What about Amun? How did he take it?” Jacob asked quietly.
“Amun was obviously resistant. He fears people will use me for my powers, and I’ve always been like a son to him. I’m grateful for everything he’s done for me,” Benjamin sighed, a bit of remorse evident his voice. “Coming here to help Carlisle and his family, meeting you, it reminded me just how sheltered I was. I always knew in the back of my mind that I was going to leave my life in Egypt behind eventually, and you were the perfect opportunity for me.”
“Although,” Benjamin continued, a playful drawl in his voice. “I do hope you don’t mind me drinking the blood of your fellow animal brethren.”
“Ugh,” Jacob rolled his eyes, elbowing the now laughing vampire in the ribs. “I promise, I’d much rather you kill animals than humans.”
“At least now we’ll both have animal blood running through our veins.”
“Jeez,” Jacob was laughing harder than he’d like to admit, snorting a little bit much to Benjamin’s pleasure. It got worse when Jacob couldn’t stop, suddenly everything about the situation seeming hysterical. He really sat up in a tree like an angsty teenager, nearly cried over a petal (he actually did do that, just not in the tree), and was brooding over losing Benjamin forever when he actually had every intention of coming back. And now they were holding hands! The irony was too much for Jacob, who was now holding his stomach and gasping for air, desperately trying to stop the laughter that was persistently bubbling from his chest.
“Jacob, may I kiss you?”
That shut him up, the laughter catching in his throat when the question hit him like a bomb, his ears ringing in shell shock. When he turned, Benjamin was—God, he was staring at Jacob’s lips. Slowly, almost regretfully, he dragged his eyes back up to lock his gaze with Jacob’s, parting his own lips in anticipation.
It came out rough, on a gulp, Jacob still trying to catch his breath. But Benjamin wasted no time. The second permission was granted his lips were on Jacob’s, cold and eager. Benjamin’s hand disappeared from his and Jacob felt fingers snake up his jaw, sharply inhaling through his nose at the cool pressure on his face. He could feel Benjamin smiling into the kiss, the excited energy buzzing between their lips and making his whole face tingle. He brought a hand up to hold one of Benjamin’s wrists, and he felt more than heard Benjamin hum at the contact, the skin on his neck prickling from the vibrations.
Benjamin only pulled back enough so that they were still nose to nose, beaming in that way he does when he’s really satisfied with himself. His fingertips brushed across Jacob’s cheeks, slowly maneuvering their way behind his head so svelte fingers could curl into his long hair.
“You’re so warm,” Benjamin breathed, Jacob watching the movement of his lips as he spoke and swallowing thickly.
“You’re not,” he husked, letting his eyes fall closed at the feeling of Benjamin’s fingers on his scalp.
Benjamin laughed quietly, admiring the way Jacob’s eyelids fluttered at his touch. “No?”
“No,” Jacob opened his eyes again, smiling crookedly and shaking his head. “But I’m gonna kiss you again anyway.”
He surged forward, grabbing hold of Benjamin’s waist and damn near groaning when the fingers in his hair tightened their grip, the burn traveling from his head down his spine and making his whole body tremble. The press of their lips was deep and unrelenting, they didn’t even part when Benjamin pushed so close to Jacob that they almost toppled off the branch (though the kiss did get a little sloppy when they were laughing in each other’s mouths). Benjamin tilted his head and parted his lips slightly against Jacob’s in invitation, the soft, sweet collision of their tongues combined with the small sounds Benjamin was making in the back of his throat sufficient to drive Jacob mad.
Jacob finally had to pull back for air, suddenly irrationally envious of vampires for not needing to breathe. He leaned his forehead against Benjamin’s, breathing deeply and letting his eyes crack open, immediately noticing that Benjamin’s were still closed. Jacob took the opportunity to lean back in and nip at the other boy’s plush bottom lip, feeling it stretch beneath his teeth when Benjamin smiled.
Crimson eyes were now staring back into his, Benjamin playfully nudging his forehead against Jacob’s. “Oh, you do bite.”
“Mmm,” Jacob hummed thoughtfully. “Well, you are bite sized after all.”
Benjamin pulled his head back, squinting at Jacob and sucking his cheeks in, in what Jacob couldn’t tell was irritated amusement or genuine scrutiny. His hands left Jacob’s hair, with the exception of one finger that slowly trailed across the line of Jacob’s jaw, stopping on the dimple in his chin. In an instant, Benjamin had a wicked grin on his face and Jacob felt like a hornet stung his chin, yelping in pain and jerking away from the now waggling index finger.
“Next time there will be actual flames, Jacob.”
Jacob gawked at him, half impressed and half disbelieving, rubbing his tender chin between his fingers. “And you thought I was being dramatic when I was worried you’d light my hand on fire.”
Benjamin chuckled and rolled his eyes, swatting Jacob’s hand away and leaning in to tenderly kiss his chin before tucking himself into his side, letting his head nestle into the perfect cradle between Jacob’s neck and shoulder.
“So you burn me, and now you want to cuddle?”
“Yep,” Benjamin murmured, nuzzling his nose against Jacob’s neck and relishing in the warmth that engulfed him when Jacob’s arms wrapped around his narrow frame, and hugging himself even closer by winding his own arms around Jacob’s abdomen.
They sat like that for a long, quiet moment, the snow coming down thicker and obscuring their view of the forest. Jacob felt Benjamin hum contently against his skin.
“You can’t see anything.”
“I meant the snow, you absolute smartass,” Benjamin laughed. “I don’t know if you know this, but we don’t get a lot of it in Egypt.”
“I really like it,” Benjamin continued, smiling softly at the swirling blizzard of white. “It’s one of the many things I wanted to see once I left Egypt. Along with other sights.”
“Such as?” Jacob prompted, feeling Benjamin shrug with his whole body.
“I don’t know… I don’t want to go anywhere specific, I guess. But I also want to go everywhere, if that makes any sense.”
Jacob turned his head to bury his face into Benjamin’s hair, inhaling deeply. “It makes perfect sense.”
“Yeah,” Jacob murmured. “I’d love to go everywhere with you.”
Benjamin was doing it again, throwing words out there like they were nothing, like the prospect of traveling the world with this stupid, adorable, overexcited vampire that Jacob was head over heels for didn’t cause a bubble of excitement to inflate in his stomach.
“You know,” Jacob breathed, soft black curls brushing against his lips. “It’ll take some time, but once you’ve fully adjusted to your new diet, and I know for sure that my dad would be safe and cared for, we could leave. We could go wherever we want, we could see everything. How does that sound?”
Benjamin lifted his head to smile brilliantly at Jacob, pressing his forehead to the other boy’s with a happy sigh. “I’d like that. I’d like that a lot.”