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I've Been Missing You

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Author's Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

I decided to go ahead and post the first chapter of this in honor of the release of Midnight Sun tomorrow. Enjoy reading!

I've always thought the pairing to Jacob and Renesmee would be so uncomfortable and weird unless the situation was handled delicately. That's what I've tried to do here. Manage their relationship in a way that wouldn't be completely hard to stomach or come across as wrong in some way. Hopefully you'll give this a chance and see if you feel the same way.

This is the sequel to I Thought I Knew. It follows Jake and Mae (Renesmee) with cameos from all the others. Each chapter is approximately a year in the life, and will alternate from Mae to Jake by chapter. The final chapter will be a glimpse twenty years down the road.

The first two chapters of this jassume you know the other events happening, and skip some things since so much was already included in I Thought I Knew. Hopefully, you'll still understand it even if you didn't read that.

A few scenes are taken from chapters in I Thought I Knew.

The Jacob/Mae chapters are occasionally very interconnected, other times… not. Sometimes you'll have to wait to see what led up to something you read happening in the current chapter to fully appreciate the significance. Other times, you'll have to wait to see the full impact an event has.

The theme song for this chapter is Holding On and Letting Go by Ross Copperman.

PS I'm not Stephenie Meyer, so I don't own anything :(

~

Ch 1: Fear - Mae

Unique. It’s defined as being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.

The definition fit what she was, except it didn’t.

Almost. It’s defined as not quite; very nearly.

For years, that seemed to sum up every aspect of her life.

Bliss. It’s defined as perfect happiness; great joy.

This is the story of how that came to be the present and future. It just took a little while to get there.

~

September 2016

Today she was marrying her soulmate. It was strange. Fate paired them together. But they didn’t just give in to fate. It wasn’t because they were told to be together that they ultimately fell in love.

When they’d met, they’d been in vastly different places in their lives -- made sense considering he was a teenager, and he was present for her birth. They each had their own journey to take. Their paths began together, but then they diverged, allowing each of them to grow, to discover who each was as an individual, so that they’d be ready for one another when their paths inevitably lead them back together.

He had to become Jacob William Black -- human, engineer, wolf, tribe protector, lover -- in that order, first.

She had to become Renesmee Carlie Cullen -- daughter, artist, immortal, hybrid, lover -- in that order, first.

Some people might find meeting their soulmate the day of their birth disturbing or difficult. But for Mae, it was spending years without him after that, that was harder. It needed to happen, but those years weren’t her favorite.

Her life was a clearly defined path with pit stops along the way leading her to this destination.

Even that very first year wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and wolf pups, despite having him with her for most of it. So much happened. So much changed. It was a constant whirlwind. Only a few moments really stood out, especially today.

~

Year 1 - 2006-2007

September

His face was the first clear memory that registered. There was momma’s broken, battered body, then the sensations of hot and cold with chaotic flashes, then him. Bright and shiny and whole. He was the eye of the storm. He centered her, calmed her.

He didn’t seem to care that she’d accidentally broken the person she loved most -- Bella, they called her. He only seemed to see her. She was all that existed for him. It was a relief that he wasn’t angry. Everyone else was shouting. It was so loud, so scary. Bella had just been so scared, then Mae had been too. And it was cramped, and she couldn’t breathe. It’d been an accident when she moved too much and caused all of this, she knew that. He seemed to as well.

Then there were others, but her eyes always sought him -- like magnets.

~

October

Those first hours were chaotic and confusing. But then the confusion cleared, and in its place, was fear.

Everyone was so afraid. For months on end. And there was nothing Mae could do to stop it. Everyday she willed her body to stop growing, to stop changing, but then she’d sleep, and it would happen. When she woke, it was to find terrified eyes staring at her.

She loved her family. They were everything she knew and cared about. The last thing she wanted was to cause them any distress, but it was impossible for her to prevent. Helpless. Caught up in a current and forced to ride it out.

Only he looked at her like she was just her -- Mae, Nessie, Renesemee -- regardless of what she was called, to him, to Jacob, she was just her. And he accepted everything that happened to her without batting an eye.

During those fear soaked months, the best day of each week was Saturday. He always came and took her to La Push then, and the tension melted away. Laughter came easier. She didn't have to worry about how her family would react, if she would do something that scared them. She didn’t have to try so hard for their sake.

Sometimes she felt papa’s emotions before he could stop them. He was so afraid. He loved her so much, but he was afraid when he looked at her. Momma was even worse at hiding her fear. Her eyes inevitably went wide and her lips would form a perfect o. There was usually even a wrinkle in her brow to indicate Mae had done something she shouldn’t. Something they weren’t yet prepared for her to do.

“Jacob, can I try one?” Mae asked, gesturing to the hotdog Quil was roasting for Claire that afternoon. The young girl was bundled up against the fall wind, a crooked hat perched atop her dark, salt-crusted hair. Mae didn’t get cold, and was fine in a ruffled sundress. At just over a month old, she and Claire could pass for being in the same preschool class at school, though MAe’s speech was much clearer.

They were on First Beach, sitting around a driftwood fire after going swimming, and she was starving. The waves had batted her around like a cat with a toy mouse, but she’d loved it. The weightless feeling, the salty spray, the popping foam of bubbles. Even better, was when Jacob would toss her into a rising wave. She felt like she was flying before she crashed into the wall of water and it washed over her head.

“You won’t like it,” he warned, but skewered one for her anyways, and held it over the blue-tinged flames to cook.

He always did that, warned her, but let her try for herself anyways. Bella and Jasper always just warned her, because they were her parents and they knew best.

It was impossible not to think of her family by their first names. Everyone called them that, so she thought of them that way herself. Usually, she had to check herself to remember to address them as momma and papa aloud. Or had a qualifier before the name of her numerous extended family.

Jacob blew on the cooked hotdog, cooling it, then handed the wire coat hanger over, biting back a grin as he watched her. “Go on then,” he encouraged.

The challenge was there. He alone had the power to provoke her. Never would she back down if it was him issuing the dare or insinuating that she wouldn’t do something. She took the biggest bite that would fit in her tiny mouth, determined to eat it even if it killed her -- just because he didn’t think she would.

It was disgusting. Seriously. Like eating baby vomit, toenails, vinegar, battery acid, and rotten meat all rolled into a dirty tube sock. But she chewed it and swallowed the hunk of desiccated meat all the same.

“Would you like the rest?” Mae asked as politely as possible, determined not to let him see her true feelings.

But he did. He always did. Bark-like laughter erupted from him, bellowing forth until he fell backwards in the rocky, pebble-filled sand to look sideways at her. Little pieces of sand got tangled in his dark, glossy hair making it shimmer like her family’s did.

“I can’t -- believe -- you actually -- swallowed it,” he said, continuing to laugh between words. “You hated it, didn’t you?”

“I prefer blood,” she stated primly, trying to mimic her Auntie Rose’s haughty attitude.

“Oh, I know you do,” Jacob said, still chortling. Quil and Claire were laughing too, though Mae suspected Claire was only laughing because Quil was. The conversation was a bit beyond her comprehension level still.

Mae wanted to be angry at Jake for laughing at her, but he looked so jazzed that all she could do was roll her eyes and laugh a little too.

Mae reached over and placed her hand on Jake’s cheek, using her gift to show him an image of her smashing the hotdog against his face and smearing the rubbery, slimy, bloated meat all over his smirking face. Jacob just laughed harder, the sounds echoing through the cove joyously.

That’s how it always was with him. Her Jacob. Her wolf protector. That’s what Quil said they were at least. The guards that fate had chosen to help keep the two young girls safe as they grew up. Could he really keep her safe from herself? Because she was what everyone seemed to fear, her body at least.

Mae could only hope that he’d always be her friend as well as her protector. Because she really needed a friend.

For the first few months of her life, he was the only friend she had.

~

March

Just after the new year they went looking for answers about her abnormal development. The whole family split up to find information, searching the globe. For four months, they’d tried to find answers about her, traveling through Guatemala and Belize. Bella, Jasper, Jacob, and her -- though she was never allowed to talk to anyone apart from them. It’d been fun at first when they’d just been taking everything in and acting like a real family, but that hadn’t lasted.

At least Jake was there. He still treated the trip like they were just hanging out and having fun together like they would when she visited him and his friends in La Push. As she’d aged, his friends had started treating her like Jacob did -- one of them. They talked to her like she was just a normal person. Not a three-month-old freak that looked like a five- then eight- then eleven-year-old, changing dramatically with each visit before they’d left Forks. She wasn’t the family’s collective baby. She was just Jake’s friend, Nessie. Of course only he called her that. Everyone else called her Mae.

This trip was like that though. He played countless hands of Uno with her, never getting bored with it or fed up having to entertain her because Bella and Jasper were too busy reading or translating what they’d found. Jake even helped her learn to speak Spanish while there -- though he wasn’t very good himself.

Mae hated that everyone was working so hard on her behalf. There was nothing for it though. She knew they’d not listen if she asked them to stop. She talked to Jacob about it one night when Bella and Jasper slipped away, possibly hunting. Or just seeking some alone time.

“This is pointless. There’s nothing to find or we would have found it already,” Mae stated softly, knowing he’d hear her anyways.

“They love you too much to ever stop trying to keep you with them,” Jacob said, brow crinkling with worry as he watched her from the other full sized bed in the hotel room. She knew he wouldn’t sleep until her parents got back -- guarding her instead -- which meant he’d be tired in the morning. She could stay up and keep him company. At least for a little while.

“What if I just want to quit and go home? I miss everyone,” Mae whispered, confessing the secret to him alone.

“We need answers. We can’t find them at home,” Jacob countered, the wrinkle deepening as he watched her.

“I’m not sure I’m worth this much trouble. Everyone is so frustrated,” Mae said, still whispering. As if too much volume would breath life into the demons plaguing her.

“You’re worth it. You’re the most incredible person alive. Unique,” Jacob insisted.

“If I’m unique, then there aren’t any answers to find,” Mae countered. “This is a waste of time. They should just let me keep changing. I’m all right with it happening.”

Mae finally understood their fears. Just before Christmas, the clues came together for her. It wasn’t because she was too intelligent or misbehaving or anything like that that had them scared like she’d originally thought. More and more she resembled Bella. Aging. That’s what the changes were. And she wasn’t just aging. She was aging too fast.

Bella seemed to have a phobia about aging. The way she spoke of it in hushed whispers to Jasper said so much -- even if Mae didn’t completely understand.

If it kept up, Mae would grow old and die. Soon even. Dying. It meant she’d cease to exist. She’d read about it in some of Bella and Grandpa Carlisle’s books. Would it really be worse than living in frustrated fear the way they currently were? The situation was hurting so many people right now. If she died, the reason for hurting them would vanish. Mae couldn’t stand being the source of their problems.

“Please don’t ever say that again. This world would be so much worse without you in it,” Jacob said thickly, face twisting in pain.

Mae instantly felt guilty. Somehow what she’d said hurt him. At Christmas, Embry had told her she had power over Jacob. That she’d have to always be careful not to say or do something that hurt him. This must somehow be one of those things.

Embry had made her promise not to abuse that power the way Bella had. She didn’t understand, but he promised to explain next time she came to La Push. When her family wasn’t around. She’d not had the chance before they left for their Central American trip.

Mae fell asleep with Jacob’s warped grimace etched onto the inside of her eyelids.

That night the nightmares began. Every time she fell asleep the same scene played out. Mae ripped Jacob’s heart from his chest, then watched impassively as he fell limp at her feet onto a forest floor strewn with brittle, brown leaves -- a bloody hole in his chest where his heart should have been.

It never made any sense. Jacob was her best friend. She’d never physically hurt him. So why did she keep dreaming that she would?

She’d thrash about before waking, usually screaming herself awake. The scratchy throat and stiff muscles made resting impossible.

Jacob begged her to share the dreams, to use her gift to show him what was scaring her. He swore he could make it go away if she’d just let him help. It was the first time she ever said no to him. She didn’t want to hurt him by letting him see that he was the star -- well, costar -- of her nightmares.

Bella seemed much less worried about the situation and the fact that Mae was having nightmares. She’d always been prone to nightmares herself. But had Bella ever ripped Jake’s still beating heart out? Mae didn’t think she had. Especially not repeatedly.

~

April

His eyes were red, the way Bella’s used to be, only darker. And cruel. They reminded Mae of a knife. Sharp. Deadly. Intent on inflicting pain.

They were just trying to go home. Then the man appeared. He was dangerous. Lethal. Infinitely more malicious than the robbers from the Home Alone movie she’d watched with her family at Christmas. Bella’s reaction terrified Mae. The fear palpable. Smothering.

Bella growled again. Mae could feel the vibrations rumbling through Bella’s chest from where Mae clung to her back.

He wouldn’t stop staring at Mae. It was disturbing. His eyes were hungry -- like he was thirsty. And she was to be his next meal.

Mae used her gift to show Bella an image of Jake and Jasper. They needed them. Bella needed to stop growling. It only seemed to provoke the stranger more, and they were in an untenable position. So why wouldn’t she stop?

“Momma?” Mae whispered, seeking answers when her mother didn’t say anything to her silent communication.

Bella tried to conceal her, fluttering, jittery hands tried to cover her, shield her out of sight. Mae peaked between the spread fingers, needing to keep the scary man in sight. She couldn’t avoid him if she didn’t know where he was.

“Well, well,” the stranger said, voice thickly accented and cold as ice, biting and stinging. “I remember you from your visit. I am Santiago, and I see you’ve been busy during your short time in this new life. She’s very nearly too young. I’m sure --”

Mae whimpered as he spoke of her. Nothing in her short life had prepared her for this. He broke off when he heard her, the sound catching his attention once more. Instantly, she regretted not swallowing the sound.

It was so hard to breathe with him looking at her like that. She wanted her wolf protector. Quil said Jacob would always keep her safe. So where was he? Or Jasper. Jasper was invincible. She’d seen the proof. All the scars. No one was strong enough to hurt him. Why weren’t they here?

The Volturi guard studied her like she was a new breed of insect. He listened, head cocking as he inspected her more closely. His brow wrinkled in uncertainty and confusion.

The vibrations of another of Bella’s growls resounded, shaking Mae’s whole body. Or was she shaking with fear? Trembling as the cold spread from the icicles for eyes he pierced her with.

“What is she?” he finally asked, seeming unable to help himself.

“Leave her alone,” Bella hissed, muscles tensing in preparation to attack. She hunched forward, and Mae instantly tightened her grip to keep from toppling off of Bella.

He seemed to get a thrill out of Bella’s protectiveness. Her efforts to shield Mae amusing him. Oh, please just go away and leave us alone, she silently begged. She just wanted to be surrounded by her family again. It was finally happening, but now there was this!

More vibrations shook Mae when Bella suppressed a snarl.

“Aro will be fascinated with her,” Santiago announced casually, as if it were a foregone conclusion that Aro would be meeting her. Who was Aro? And why did the name sound like a threat? “She’d make such an interesting addition for us.”

“No!” Bella cried, the word filled with bits of broken glass that shredded Mae as it passed to fill the clearing.

“You think you can keep this secret?” Santiago asked, laughing in disbelief. The laughter abruptly died, and he straightened, eyeing Bella more critically. “Or were you threatening me?”

“Stay away from my daughter,” Bella demanded, sounding scary herself.

It was the first time Mae realized her mother was a dangerous predator too. It shouldn’t surprise her. She’d watched Bella take on Uncle Emmett and win when they arm wrestled, and once when Em had tried to fight her for real. This was different. Nothing suggested this would be a friendly competition.

“As if you could stop me,” he taunted, sneering disdainfully at Bella’s threat. He wasn’t intimidated in the least. He very much intended to hurt Bella.

Mae pressed her hand against Bella’s cheek, trying to reason with her. She showed her the three of them talking, Bella relaxed. Then Jacob and Jasper again, this time showing up to help defuse the situation.

“Renesmee,” Bella scolded, ignoring her plea. What if they fought? This man seemed intent on hurting Bella. Didn’t she see that? They needed to stall or find a way out of this. This man looked like he’d even enjoy hurting Bella. That was the very last thing Mae ever wanted to happen.

“Is that her name? Renesmee,” Santiago asked gleefully, saying her name with relish. Bella hissed again, but he ignored the threatening sound. “Why don’t you come with me so I can take you to meet some people. They’ll be very interested to get to know you,” he offered, holding out a hand. Did he really expect her to walk over there and take it? Was he insane?

“No, thank you,” Mae said, her voice coming out higher than normal, betraying her fear.

Auntie Rose said it was important to always let a person down gently. They handled rejection better when you did. Of course Uncle Em had added that mutts responded better to the simple, straightforward command, ‘No!’. The two had laughed at the private joke, but politeness seemed the best approach right now. She didn’t want to anger Santiago more.

“How... polite,” he started slowly, acknowledging her effort. A deeper, more penetrating coldness replaced his congenial mean though as he continued, “But it wasn’t a request. Come with me or I’ll kill your mother and take you anyways.” The words came quick and cruelly as he tossed the threat out as easily as breathing.

Apparently she’d angered him anyway. So much for civility.

The sounds of ripping cloth echoed around them, and pieces of a pair of cut off shorts fluttered down as Jacob’s massive wolf form lunged forward, snapping his powerful jaws at Santiago.

Jacob! He was finally here. Jacob was massive, powerful, roaring as he flew past her and Bella. She’d known he’d come to protect her. Bella had doubted it, but she hadn’t. Jacob would always help her.

The vampire stumbled back, eyes widening comically with shock and his arms pinwheeling.

Jake’s teeth caught the vampire’s flailing wrist, cutting clean through with an ear-splitting grinding cacophony so that Santiago’s hand was dangling at an odd angle. He roared in outrage as Jacob spat the hard chunk of vampire flesh aside like it was a watermelon seed.

The guard barely hesitated, using his other meaty fist to slam into Jacob’s side with the force of a sledgehammer. The snap of breaking ribs knifed through the night air, and the wolf went flying, soaring into a tree before crumpling to the ground with a heavy thud.

“Jacob!” Mae cried. No! He couldn’t be hurt. He had to be all right. If he wasn’t...

Mae scrambled down Bella’s back, attempting to dart forward and help him, but Bella caught her arm, pulling her quickly back. Mae struggled against her, desperately trying to tug herself free from the stone imprisonment. It was no use. Bella was too strong for her. She didn’t even seem to notice Mae’s continued efforts.

Jake had already sprung up, lunging forward with renewed purpose to protect as he headbutted the vampire, pushing him in the opposite direction of Mae -- even hurt, she was his priority. She watched as he used the move to shove Santiago with all four paws, bounding off of him, and out of reach before Santiago could land another bone-breaking hit.

Once more, Mae tried to go to him. Could Bella not see that he was hurt? Did she not care? Every fiber of Mae’s being was crying out, screaming at her to help him. He was hers. Hers to protect every bit as much as she was his.

“Renesmee, no, you can’t. I’ll help him, but you must stay back,” Bella promised, waiting for Mae to nod in agreement. She did, though she never once looked away from Jake. Nothing could make her look away when he was in danger. She had to know how he was.

Jake continued darting around the vampire, nipping at his heels to keep him off balance. Each time he nipped Santiago, he tore a new piece off the vampire until they were scattered all around them like hail during a summer storm.

Mae was about to yell at Bella. Her mother still wasn’t helping. If she wouldn’t --

“Renemsee, find the lighter in your bag,” Bella ordered, finally doing something.

Mae tugged the small bag from her back, ripping open the zipper in her haste to retrieve the lighter. They’d used it just the other day to toast marshmallows. They’d gotten the idea from learning people toasted marshmallows over the lava erupting from Pacaya, another volcano near Antigua that they hadn’t visited. Mae knew what a sweet tooth Jacob had, and wished he could have tried it. They’d settled for toasting the gooey sugar the traditional way that day instead. Jacob had eaten each and every one of the marshmallows she toasted for him -- even the ones she’d accidentally blackened when they got too close to the dancing, flickering flames.

Bella darted forward to grab the arm Santiago had aiming a punch at Jake. The second his head turned to growl at her, Jake caught his knee, ripping the lower part of his leg off and tossing it to where Mae stood.

Bella fell back, abandoning Jacob to the fight once more.

Mae shoved the lighter at Bella, silently ordering her to do whatever she had planned to help Jake. Immediately, Bella lit all of the nearby discarded bits of Santiago on fire, including the portion of the leg. Lavender smoke bloomed upward the second the flames engulfed the stone-like misshapen lumps.

Mae realized that Bella was permanently killing the vampire. As the pieces burned, flames ate the edges of stone, crumpling them like tissue paper, blackening at the edge and lined in incandescent red. This was what death looked like.

Jacob had been fighting to the death. What if it’d gone the other way, and that was parts of him scattered about?

Would this be her if she died? Death had just morphed into something entirely different to her than the descriptions she’d read about.

Santiago roared in outrage, turning to limp towards Bella and Mae.

The redirection was enough that Jake was able to clamp onto the back of Santiago’s neck. Jake’s teeth grated and ground as they moved through Santiago’s battered, broken body, delivering the final death blow with a decisive, echoing click. It happened so fast. One moment Santiago was talking to them, then he was dead. Gone forever.

The instant all four of Jake’s paws touched the ground, Mae launched herself forward. This time Bella didn’t try to stop her. She had to get to Jacob. She had to see for herself that he was all right. Was his side hurting? Had anything else happened to him that she missed?

Jacob leaned into her when she hugged him, sniffing her hair and pressing his wet nose into her cheek. Warm, moist whooshes of air hit her cheek, and she was grateful for the proof that he lived. Her fingered threaded through his fur, combing the soft tuffs, checking him for cuts and ridding it of unwanted forest debris that had gotten tangled up in the russet strands during the fight. But when she reached his side where he’d taken the hardest hit, he sniffed and sidestepped, shifting deliberately away from the touch. Sensing her concern, and not wanting her to feel rejected, he nudged her with his head.

Her arms looped around his neck, holding him tightly. And she buried her face in his fur, taking in his warmth and listening to the steady pounding of his heart. The sound more soothing than any other on earth. Safe. He was safe, and now she was too.

Nothing else mattered in that moment.

The next thing she knew, Bella was pulling her away from Jacob. Reluctantly, she released her hold. Separating the last thing in the world she wanted to do just then. But he needed to shift, and after Emily… Well, he liked Mae to put a good ten feet between them anytime he shifted.

He was modest too. Always insisting she not watch. Seth had told her they sort of shimmered and glittered when they turned, their skin rippling and morphing. But Jacob had never let her watch so she could see for herself. Even Claire had seen Quil shift. It wasn’t fair, but now wasn’t the time.

She buried her face in Bella’s hair, sensing her momma was still frightened. If she could make her feel better, then she’d try to help, however she could.

Jacob stepped up behind her. She felt the heat of his presence, heard the lullaby of his heart, and smelled the pine and butterscotch of his woodsy scent.

Thank you. Mae heard her papa say as Jacob stepped back, moving away from her.

“Of course,” Jake said. Mae listened even as Bella held her tighter to keep from looking at him.

Send them to the airport. I’m almost there myself. Then cover their scent. Felix is still in the area, and he can’t find any trace of them. Understand? Jasper ordered.

Bella loosened her hold on Mae, and she turned, searching for Jacob, wanting to see him and reassure herself that he was all right, not only his wolf.

His expression was worried, and he looked from Bella to her as he spoke, “How bad is this?”

We’ll talk at the airport. Hurry, but be thorough, Jasper replied.

“Sure, sure,” Jake muttered, handing the phone and bag to Bella then turning to get to work as Bella pulled Mae onto her back and sprinted them away.

~

April

Bella and Jasper stopped in the yard a couple days after the Denalis arrived when they got to the house, intending to spend the day training as they usually did these days. Somehow the fight where Jacob and Bella killed the vampire had made a lot of people very angry, and they were coming to hurt her family as payback.

Mae didn’t entirely understand, and no one seemed very interested in explaining it to her.

A new source of fear shrouded her home. At least this time it wasn’t entirely her fault.

They’d finally come home, but it was not the way she remembered things. Everyone was busy preparing. Training. Planning. She missed the days spent playing games with her family. Doing science experiments with Carlisle. Rose and Alice playing dress up with her. Reading with her parents. Gardening with Esme. Swimming with Jacob. Throwing a ball with Seth and Emmett. None of that had happened in the week and a half since they’d returned.

Mae went on into the house. Hopefully Grandma Esme or Auntie Rose would want to spend time with her today. She was starting to get lonely with everyone focused on the upcoming fight.

The clanging of piano keys rang through the house, part of a bridge forming. Mae went in search of who was playing. Usually it was only her, or occasionally Rose when she was teaching her. Edward sat at the piano.

He played? Was that where her interest came from?

“Probably,” he answered, smiling though he didn’t look up, just slid over. A silent invitation to join him so they could play together.

She hesitated, uncertain.

Yesterday was the first time they’d ever spoken, and she still didn’t really know how to act around him. Was he a friend like Jake or Garrett? Or did she have to treat him like she did Jasper?

“Do what feels natural. We can figure it out together,” he offered, slowing his playing, but not stopping. The music made it easier to sort out her thoughts.

She’d always known Jasper wasn’t really her father. Never once had he claimed otherwise. He wasn’t the one that created her. He was just the one that held her while she waited to meet her momma. He was the one that read her bedtime stories. He was the one that when he hugged her, she felt his love like it was a tangible teddy bear. He was the one that looked at her mother like she gave life meaning.

So meeting Edward, the father that left her had been a shock. She hadn’t expected to like him. Honestly, she wanted to hate him. He’d abandoned her.

He’d explained himself, but it didn’t really help. The excuses seemed flimsy. If examined under a light she could see holes in them. They were the kind she’d use to explain how her human food ‘accidently’ ended up in the trash instead of her mouth. And this issue carried far more significance.

If she kept aging, and he hadn’t been needed here -- if Auntie Alice hadn’t sent him -- he might not have gotten around to ever showing up before she died of old age. Died like Santiago.

Edward missed a note, his fingers spasming, but he didn’t comment, just went back to playing. He was letting her decide what she wanted to do. Giving her space and not pressuring her. Somehow watching Santiago burn, watching him die, had clarified the future she was facing. They’d found no answers. She could be gone soon too.

Another missed note.

When Jacob had first told her about Edward, she’d wanted to meet him. But he had not made any effort to meet her. It hurt. And now? What was the point if it was temporary, or only happening because he was forced to be here.

“I’m not, but I should have been here for you sooner. I wish so much that I had been,” Edward breathed, the melody becoming dark, reflecting their collective mood.

She’d been excited to meet him. Amazing how time and unmet expectations could morph a feeling until...

“You’re understandably angry and frightened,” he finished the thought for her. His smile grew, bittersweet yet inviting. It relaxed her a little that he wasn’t upset that she felt that way. As if he understood dark and unpleasant thoughts. Probably he did, thanks to his gift.

“Did anyone ever tell you it’s rude to do that?” she said, feigning lightness as she tried to break the ice a bit.

“All the time. Does it bother you?” he asked, curious. He seemed endlessly curious about her. Maybe he truly did wish to know her -- even if they wouldn’t have long together.

“I’m glad you know my thoughts. It’s easier than trying to explain,” she said, stepping up to the edge of the piano and running her fingers idly against the smooth, black side. The distraction made their interaction less uncomfortable.

“Like your gift. Sometimes words aren’t the easiest way to express yourself,” Edward nodded, glancing at the spot beside him, demonstrating how words weren’t always needed. She smiled and sat, lightly touching the keys.

She listened to his next few notes then played a couple. He smiled again, countering the sounds. A melody began forming. Tender, sad. Missed opportunities and an uncertain future. This was a language they could both understand and relate to.

At some point Grandma Esme joined them, watching silently from the couch, giving them space, but being with her beloved family.

“You’re getting very good,” Edward praised when they had nothing left to add. Time was needed to see where the story would go.

“How long have you been playing?” Mae asked. He’d been much better, but she appreciated the compliment.

“Over a century,” he said, reminding her that he was so much older than he looked -- just like the rest of her family. The opposite of her. Would she get the chance to be as good? “You will.”

He held out his hand showing it to her. She brought hers up beside his. They were the same. Long, thin fingers. Hands designed to create. It wasn’t what she’d meant though.

“I know,” he whispered, deeply saddened.

“Oooowwww!” Emmett howled, the yell resounding through the room and breaking the moment.

“Your cousin, Kate, zapped him. She has tasers for hands,” Edward explained, wiggling his fingers.

“Can we watch?” No one else had let her, but she wanted to see for herself that they were as strong as Jacob, and that they could fight like he had.

“Your mother’s daughter. I didn’t fare any better trying to keep her away from watching Jacob train,” Edward chuckled, carefully placing a hand on her shoulder to guide her outside. He touched her like she was spun glass, prone to shatter at the least pressure. Or possibly he feared she’d rebuke him.

Edward was going to let her watch? She hadn’t even needed to beg! Then she realized what he’d said.

“Momma watched Jacob? Why?” she demanded. Had they faced threats before? Was this not the first fight her family, apart from Jasper of course, had been in?

“They were already good friends when you came along -- it’s why he got to meet you right away,” Edward said, distracted. Or like he was deliberately picking what to share. Because that didn’t really answer any of her questions -- those verbally and mentally asked.

She watched him, waiting. He winced, but didn’t elaborate. He knew she found his answer unsatisfactory. Yet he ignored her silent prodding anyway. How convenient.

“Definitely Bella’s daughter,” he muttered. “Who do you think will win?” he asked, redirecting her attention to where Emmett was sparring with Garrett now. Guess one shock was sufficient for today. Em would leave Kate to Bella, though her momma was currently busy sparring with her papa.

“Uncle Em,” Mae answered immediately. She’d always bet on her family, unless Jake was involved. Then it was hands down him. Every time. “You don’t?”

Edward watched them intently.

“Left kick to the shoulder followed with a sweep -- Emmett won’t move in time,” he replied an instant later. Less than a second after he spoke that was precisely what happened.

“You’re cheating!” Mae exclaimed, pushing his shoulder when she realized he’d read Garrett’s plan and judged Emmett’s response.

“It helps,” he said, seeming delighted that she’d called him on it, and had felt relaxed enough to do it. “Always use any advantage you have -- no matter the situation,” he advised. Rosalie had advised her much the same, but that had been when coordinating hair and shoes.

“I won’t ever fight -- Jacob will protect me,” Mae said, certain he’d always be there for her.

“What if he was hurt or needed you to protect him for some reason?” Edward asked, watching Bella attempt to dodge Jasper’s rapidfire strikes. One landed with a crack!

They paused, Jasper speaking too softly for Mae to hear, but Bella nodded and resumed a fighting stance. Then they were at it again. It looked like they were dancing with the way their bodies moved together and around one another. Always trying to be closer. They were so in sync, even when training.

Was that how she and Jacob were? No. It was definitely different. Maybe someday --

Edward sucked in a sharp breath, his eyes closing and his expression tight. It reminded her that she’d not answered his question.

“Impossible,” Mae insisted. Though the idea took root. She may need to protect him someday. It was only right, only fair, that she be able to look after him the way he looked after her. “But I get it. You really think someday I can fight like that?”

“I have a feeling that one day you will insist on it, my mini Bella,” Edward said dryly, loud enough to catch Bella’s attention. She looked over and stuck her tongue out at him. Jasper spun her around, stealing a quick kiss, then darted away so she could refocus.

Each day was spent the same, slowing learning who her father was. He was somewhat of a mystery. Being open didn’t come naturally for him.

It actually reminded her of herself and how she refused to share the private details of her nightmares. Or how she really felt about everything currently happening. It’d only hurt her family to know how scared she was about them having to fight, and she couldn’t do that to them. If possible, she’d have talked to Jake about it, but he was never over.

She hadn’t seen him once in the two weeks since they’d returned from Central America. His sudden absence was like abruptly having a limb amputated. He’d gone from her constant companion for months on end, to nonexistent overnight. Had he finally gotten sick of her? Or was he upset that he’d had to kill Santiago because of her?

Jacob was a huge question mark. It left her decidedly unsettled. Worse, the nightmares were back with a vengeance.

~

April

“What do you mean you’re sending me away? But we have to stay together -- forever,” Mae said, looking from Bella to Jasper. “I have to be where you are.”

Bella looked anguished. Jasper pulled her to him, and took over. They’d said they needed to talk to her, but never had she imagined they’d reveal something like this.

“We want that too. You know you’re everything to us, poppet,” he said, reaching out to clasp one of her hands in his free one.

“Then let me stay. I can help, papa,” Mae begged.

“No,” Jazz breathed, distraught himself at the very thought.

“What if something happens --”

“That’s why you’re going with Jake. He’ll keep you safe. He’ll look after you, and he’ll need you to look after him,” Jasper insisted, using his gift to make the words more appealing to her. She sensed the subtle manipulation, but it was so slight that she knew it was only because he believed in what he was saying, not because he was trying to alter her.

That hadn’t been what she’d been trying to say. She wasn’t worried about herself. She was worried that something might happen to them, and that she’d never see them again.

“I love you, Renesmee. More than my own life,” Bella choked out, laying her heart bear, and Mae could not argue with her. The memory of her mother’s broken body when she had come into this world, the knowledge that even then Bella had felt nothing but love for her, prevented it.

“Momma, I love you too,” she said instead.

“Jake will be over soon. Can you take her to talk to Edward?” Bella requested thickly, staring at Mae with greedy eyes, as if for the last time ever.

“Yes. Come on, poppet. Let’s go find out what your dad thinks of this plan,” he said, wincing a little.

He didn’t know yet? Then she still had a chance to convince him she shouldn’t go anywhere. He was her ticket out. She couldn’t say anything to Jasper or Bella, not when she knew what this cost them, but it wasn’t like that for Edward. He didn’t love her the same way yet, or feel the same need to protect her. He could be her chance to circumvent all of this.

They ran towards the main house, away from their little cottage. Jasper’s look of concentration a minute or so out told her he was mentally sharing the news so Edward wouldn’t be caught off guard in front of her. It let her know to act fast before the decision was already made.

Dad, please. Don’t make me go. I need to be where my family is. Don’t let them send me away. Mae silently begged, trying to win Edward over.

“I’m sorry, Renesmee. They’re right. You need to go to Alice,” Edward said before they’d even spoken, and before they were even all the way in the house.

Taken aback. Betrayed. Someone she loved could die, and it was his fault she’d not be there for it. He really didn’t want her. If he did, he wouldn’t ship her off like unwanted luggage.

“You can be angry with me if you need to be mad at someone, but you’re still going.” That was Edward’s only response. She refused to speak to him after that.

So much for getting to know each other. It’d be a little hard to do when they were in different countries. Again.

~

April

Still nothing from Jacob. She’d given in and called him that night. Ready to rail about Edward not taking her side. But Billy said he wasn’t there. Which was a lie because she heard his voice in the background. Did he not want to talk to her? But why? It didn’t make any sense.

The next day was even worse. He finally came over. The first time since they’d gotten home. But only because she was out with Esme, Rose, and Carmen. Then when she got there, he focused on helping Grandpa Charlie deal with learning about the supernatural, and basically ignored her.

There was no basically about it. He hadn’t spoken to her once the whole time. Didn’t even acknowledge when she cheered for him to beat Uncle Em in video games. Something had happened. Was he angry with her about her parents asking him to leave with her? That hadn’t been her choice. Didn’t he know that?

~

May

She’d looked forward to the plane ride. Eighteen uninterrupted hours alone together. It was immediately apparent he did not share her enthusiasm. They finally had answers. She wasn’t dying. Not anytime soon at least. There was another like her -- they’d be meeting him soon, and Jake couldn’t seem to care less.

Concern for their families overshadowed the experience for her too, but this was more.

“Something’s changed between us,” Mae acknowledged, trying once more to get him to open up to her, and going right for the heart of it when nothing else seemed to be working.

Jacob looked away from her, a tick forming in his jaw as he clenched his teeth. Similar to the way his hand shook before he balled it into a fist. “I’m just worried about the fight,” he finally muttered in a tinny, hollow voice.

“That’s the first time you’ve ever lied to me,” Mae whispered, staring at him like she was seeing a stranger. Because that’s what had happened. A stranger had replaced her Jacob. She didn’t recognize this new version of him.

He was silent for a long time, not denying her acquisition, or rushing to correct it. That made everything infinitely worse.

“Problems among the packs,” he finally confessed, sensing her distress. Instinct told her he was feeling much the same, and that this was a least a portion of the truth. What could have happened?

“Did you want to be a wolf?” she asked suddenly, never having considered it before.

“No.” The single, hard word told her so much. It was a revelation. This was not the life he’d have chosen for himself if given the choice. He would not have chosen to be her guardian.

“Do you ever wish you weren’t?” she whispered, hardly daring to form the words.

“For a long time, yeah. It’s better now, but sometimes… “ he trailed off, shrugged. “Do you understand?”

“I wish I wasn’t a hybrid,” Mae admitted, since they seemed to be sharing. Finally. And it was all she could say to let him know she got what he was saying.

She longed to be one or the other. Not this strange mixture in between. Not after all of the problems it caused her family. She felt responsible for the fight they were now facing. The one she’d been sent away from home for.

“But you’re unique,” Jacob said, confused. Like being unique was something to aspire to when it was forced on a person because of what they were. Not because they had an original personality that was true to the individual.

Had he really not picked up on her dislike of all the little ways she didn’t fit in with the rest of her family? She’d always thought he understood her.

The chasm that had recently formed between them was slowly deepening with each revelation. Entirely too soon it would be unsurpassable. How had this happened?

“Except I’m not. That’s part of us leaving momma, papa, and dad, right?” she pointed out, though the decision had been made for them to leave before the good news was discovered.

“True,” he admitted, a relief settling over him. Was that it? Was he grateful to finally be done trying to find answers about her? Has it been that much of an inconvenience?

Here was more distance separating them. Already she could no longer see the bottom of the crevasse.

“Nahuel mentioned having a couple sisters too. Just imagine the drama there,” Jacob said absently.

It reminded her of her own complicated family dynamics. Enough that she confessed, “I can’t even figure out my parents. How am I supposed to figure out what I am when I’m surrounded by… other?”

“All three of them love you, if that helps,” he said. It only reminded her of Edward, and the way he didn’t side with her when it mattered most to her.

“But can I trust all three of them?” she asked. Edward had already let her down more than he hadn’t throughout her short life. Jacob made a face, like he’d thought the same himself before. Mae instantly latched onto it. “That! Right there -- you hesitated.”

“Edward and I have history, but he’ll do right by you,” he insisted, meeting her eyes for the first time in almost a month.

“I guess we’ll see when we get home,” she said. Time. She’d need time to see for herself. She was starting to realize that trust wasn’t always a given.

~

May

Mae took one look at Nahuel and flushed. He was gorgeous, mesmerizing. Lean and graceful in his animal skins and bare chest. Dark, shiny hair. Rich, brown skin. Penetrating teak eyes. He looked at her differently than others did. He understood. Understood like no one else ever had.

She’d seen Jake’s Calculus book before Christmas when he’d been studying for finals. It was easy to do the problems in her head. She’d been three-months-old at the time.

Nahuel recognized her predicament. She could see it in his face. Her mind was years ahead of her body, and that was years ahead of reality. He got it in a way no one else ever could, even if they tried.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Renesmee,” Nahuel said, bending his head in greeting. So formal and regal. He was a character from a book come to life.

“You’re really like me?” Mae asked, hopefully. She’d known, but seeing him for herself… “I’m not alone anymore.”

Jake ignored them, scanning the area as if he expected a threat to jump out at any moment. Or like he was trying to give Mae the illusion of privacy. Silently, she thanked him for the courtesy. It was something at least.

“No, you’re not,” Nahuel acknowledged, then added, “I have three sisters too. Though they are not as approachable as I am.”

“So you’ve always known others like us,” Mae said sadly, a smidge envious. For a moment she’d forgotten about his family.

“Not always. My aunt Huilen raised me,” he said, gesturing to the silent woman nearby. The small woman looked angry, distrustful. Hateful even. Mae instinctively felt an aversion to her mere presence. “She’s a vampire like your family. So I went many years before I met my half-sisters. You’re the first like me I’ve met that was not sired by Joham,” he continued, offering her a way to connect with him. Mae latched onto it, loving that she’d have someone else to talk to.

“Joham is your father?” Mae asked. He didn’t seem to like him much. She wondered what their story was, but perhaps it wasn’t something he’d like to discuss. She certainly didn’t want to discuss Edward right then.

“Yes. He left when my mother was pregnant, and only came back much later,” he shared. The personal details made her feel closer to him, and helped her to open up a little too.

“Mine did too!” Mae cried, bouncing up on her toes excitedly, not because Edward abandoned her, but because it was yet another thing they had in common. “But I had momma and papa,” Mae added as an afterthought.

“Alice told me your mother survived your birth. I find it so hard to believe,” Nahuel said, zeroing in on the mention of Bella.

“Momma’s strong. The strongest,” Mae said like it was simply a fact. “She fought for me, and she fought to live.”

“You are very lucky,” Nahuel said, sadness and longing clear on his face. It must have been so hard for him, not having people to help his mother like Alice and Seth had helped Bella.

Sympathy welled within her for her male counterpart. They were two sides of the same coin. Her fate could have been his but for a single flip.

“I am,” Mae agreed.

“Is this the first time you’ve visited my country?” Nahuel asked, though he knew it was.

“Yes. It’s beautiful,” Mae replied, glancing around. They’d stopped to see the towering, snow capped peak of Osorno and the jagged, irregular spikes of Fitz Roy, though only from a distance, on the way south.

“Have you ever seen an iceberg?” Nahuel asked, and when Mae shook her head no, invited, “Would you like to?”

The five of them spent the rest of the day together. Alice didn’t seem to like it when Nahuel would ask about Bella, but Mae understood. She remembered that instinct demanding she escape. The way Jasper had kept her calm so she didn’t accidentally hurt Bella instead. The image of Bella lying broken as Seth lifted her was never far from her mind. Nahuel hadn’t had others helping him like she had. So his interest made perfect sense to her.

The loneliness and absentee fathers was just the beginning of their bonding. By the end of the day they’d also bonded over a preference of blood over human food, an appreciation for foreign languages, and the annoyance of needing sleep when surrounded with those that didn’t. She was less than a year old, and already they had much in common.

When it was time to say goodbye, Mae asked, “Are you coming with us?”

“Huilen doesn’t like to travel much, so we stick to this region or the Mapuche territory that we’re from mostly,” Nahuel said apologetically.

“If you ever decide to visit Washington, or wherever my family is, I can show you around,” Mae offered.

She’d also explained how cellphones worked and given him her number. Hopefully he’d at least call even if he didn’t visit. They could be friends.

“I’d enjoy that very much, Renesmee. Though it may take a few years for me to convince Huilen to join me, and I would not like to leave her behind all alone,” Nahuel said, conditionally accepting the offer. Mae beamed in anticipation of a future reunion.

~

May

Jacob shifted without warning. She saw it all. The way his bone cracked and changed. The fur retracting. He shimmered and rippled like water when a rock was dropped in it. His body morphing, fluid and malleable like clay worked into a sculpture during a time-lapse photo.

Then he was just Jacob -- only broken. A demon trapped in hell. Damned to eternally see heaven, but forever be unable to escape to reach it.

It was the first time he’d ever let her see him shift, but the experience was tainted. Even the untrained eye could detect the damage. He was not unaffected by the events that had just taken place, despite the distance.

“It’s over -- your family is safe, Seth too,” Jacob stated the instant he could form words with a human mouth.

“Jacob… what was that?” Alice demanded, standing, but keeping her distance.

Mae knew immediately what Alice was referring too. Mae had spent a lot of time with Jake in his wolf form, and it had never been like that. The sheer force he’d projected. It filled the room, dominating it. The urge to lay down and give her belly had flared within her a couple times, and Alice had cowered in the corner for most of it, genuinely frightened of Jacob despite the friendship they’d developed.

And now… Mae sensed Alice’s fear. Fear of Jacob and the power he wielded. Mae herself was unafraid. But she could see how it had been enough for Alice to have her instincts, those of a vampire and his mortal enemy, reacting.

But at least everyone back home was safe. Then she picked up on the fact he hadn’t said that. He’d qualified his words to what each of them was most concerned for. And the way he looked…

“Your pack? The Denalis?” Mae questioned.

“Embry is dead. Irina too,” Jacob confessed, voice that of a barely animated corpse. She moved towards him at once.

“Jake --”

He turned from her, addressing Alice as he slipped on a pair of shorts. His state of undress hadn’t even registered.

“When’s the next flight?”

Then they were on the way to the airport. Alice spoke to Bella at some point, but Mae’s attention never strayed from the wolf. His devastation eating her alive.

Jacob was a shell. He didn’t talk, and Alice watched him sadly. Mae wanted to talk to him, but words didn’t come. What could she possibly say that would make this better? He’d loved Embry. And now he was gone. Forever.

Everyone had been so worried that she’d die soon. Embry hadn’t even graduated high school yet. Not for another three weeks. His whole life was supposed to be before him. And now the chance to live was gone. No college. No career. No great love. No future. He was nothing. Like Santiago.

Jacob had protected her, at the expense of his lifelong friend.

“You must hate me,” Mae whispered, shaking her head slightly. “All of this happened because I exist.”

“I could never hate you. It’s not possible,” Jacob countered hollowly, never looking away from the clouds outside the window. The gloomy grey mimicking his mood.

“Because I’m your imprint,” Mae acknowledged, nodding once. “You’re bound to me -- whether you want to be or not.”

“Yes,” Jacob agreed, absently.

He jerked, seeming to only just realize what he’d said. But the confession was precisely what she’d feared since seeing his face after the battle ended.

“And if I didn’t want you to be?” she asked, before he could apologize. She couldn’t bear for him to lie to her again by trying to take it back.

Absently, she heard Alice’s sharply indrawn breath from where she watched them from across the aisle. But her aunt didn’t intercede. Maybe she, like Mae, recognized what needed to happen next. The seed of Edward’s words from before had started to sprout.

“I’m not sure that’s ever happened before,” he admitted, as if the thought had crossed his mind before. Given the fact he’d admitted to wishing he wasn’t a wolf, it probably had.

“Then maybe it’s time it did,” Mae said, offering the only form of peace she could for him. He needed it so much right now.

The longer he sat without speaking, the more confident she grew that this was the right course of action. Looked like Edward really had been right, after all. Now it was her turn to protect Jacob. This was the only way she could. She couldn’t bring Embry back. But she could give Jake an out.

She’d heard him tell Bella about getting into college. A college her family couldn’t follow him to. He could go. He could escape the pain of loss. Heal in peace without reminders or the responsibility of protecting her anymore.

The expansive golf between them now only had a fraying rope bridge crossing it. It twisted, caught up in the elements. That was all that was left tying them together. What would happen if it was severed clean through?

Guess she’d find out soon enough.

As she watched him, she detected the wheels turning in his mind. The possibility for escape. After a few minutes, he looked even more devastated, but he didn’t, not once, argue against the idea.

~

May

Her father was gone. Edward wasn’t there when she got home. She should have expected it. But she’d hoped… And Jacob didn’t need to say it for her to know he was leaving her too. She’d been mentally preparing herself since the trip home.

Embry’s death destroyed him. Utterly and completely. He’d never heal if he stayed. She’d be a constant reminder of the loss. She had to keep reminding herself so she didn’t behave selfishly and cling even tighter to him. He’d given her so much, now it was her chance to give him something. She could do this -- for her Jacob. Her best friend.

Jasper and Seth came with her when he delivered the news. Each offering a different type of moral support.

“I’m glad you decided to say goodbye before you left,” Mae said quickly, shuffling her feet and squeezing her hands behind her back to keep from hugging him. He’d not allowed her to since they’d returned from Central America. She didn’t understand why, just that he would shun any touch from her.

“So you know. Did Bella tell you?” he asked flatly.

“No one needed to. I know you, Jacob,” Mae said, reminding him of their bond. And the fact that she wasn’t an idiot. They’d spoken on the plane only two days ago. What else would this formal meeting be about? “This is what you need.”

Jasper left, giving Jake a little privacy in case he needed it. Her papa seemed to think she would be fine. He had more faith in her than she did herself. Though it did actually help her emotionally pull herself together. For Jake’s sake. To make it easier for him.

Seth remained -- he’d see the whole exchange in Jake’s head anyways -- sentry and future escort to take Mae home when this was over.

“If you ask me to stay, I will,” he offered.

Did he want her to? For once, she couldn’t read him. It’d be the wrong thing to do, she knew that.

“I’m not asking,” Mae finally said, so softly she wondered if he could hear her.

He sighed, and she could feel his relief in the sound.

“You’re not mad?”

“No. I think a lot has happened that you never asked to be a part of. You did what was asked of you anyways because you’re a good person. It’s not wrong for you to take a step back and go after what you want now.”

“You always understand me,” he said, a little less broken than before. Maybe she’d mended a little piece of him already by doing this.

“Of course I do. I’m your imprint,” she murmured. Oh, the irony of that. “Are you free then? Are the chains gone?”

“They were never chains, Ness,” he denied, shaking his head at the analogy.

“A noose then? Because I could see how it was slowly killing you. I’m not sure why -- you never said,” she countered, the last was accusatory. She’d nearly always confided in him, but she’d figured out it was a one way street. “But sometime between Guatemala and Chile, I became a noose around your neck.”

“Renesmee --”

“Don’t! I’m not blaming you. I’m trying to set you free. I don’t need you anymore. It’s time you got to have your own life, and go after what you want for yourself,” Mae said, cutting him away from her.

“You are part of my life,” Jacob said, brow wrinkled.

“Did you want me to be? I’m not asking if you’re happy that I am now, but did you want me to be before the imprint?” she asked, and he just stared at her, determined not to lie to her ever again. Once had been enough for both of them. “It’s okay, Jacob.”

“All right. I guess… goodbye then?”

Mae stepped up to him and touched his cheek, ignoring the way he flinched at the contact, and showed him an image of himself laughing on a sunny beach talking on a phone.

Jacob nodded, agreeing to the silent request.

Then she was gone. Seth ushering her back to Forks. Back to the Cullens. To the comforting arms of her papa. She needed Jasper more than anyone else just then.