Dad and I flew to Seattle that night, and landed in the early hours of the morning. I felt him staring at me from time to time, even more so after we picked up our rental car and began the trek to La Push, but it was a distant awareness. All I could think about was Jacob, and what I would say. I pictured his face for the thousandth time over the past few hours, and took a breath as a shockwave of pain ripped through my chest.
Please be okay, I willed both Billy and Jacob.
Dad stopped at the treaty border and got out of the car. I hung back for a moment, my body beginning to tremble with a heady combination of anticipation, fear, happiness and stomach-turning regret. I got out slowly and moved to stand beside Dad.
“Sam just registered our scent,” he said softly. “If they don’t let us cross, we’re going to have to try to convince Sam to give Jacob a message.”
My heart rate increased at the sound of his name. We were so close, so unbearably close. I ran yet more scenarios through my head, trying to work out what I would say in each of them to atone, to explain, to beg forgiveness, to repair. “Can you hear Sam?”
He nodded. “He’s not pleased that we’re here.”
I couldn’t blame him, but it still stung a bit.
We turned to see Seth standing there, surprise fresh on his boyish features. “Hey, guys,” he said, surprise transforming to a smile.
I swallowed, another sickening wave of guilt piercing me. He was surprised we’d come. No. he was surprised I’d come.
"Seth,” smiled Dad warmly. “It’s good to see you.”
“Yeah, same to you,” he told Dad with his bravest attempt at a smile as he studied me.
Horrible guilt flavoured with excruciating pain dulled my excitement. I lowered my eyes. What right did I really have to ask him to return after everything I’d done?
“May we cross?”
“Uh…that’s not really in my job description, since I’m not an Alpha, but I can go get Sam...”
“Thank you,” Dad said.
Seth disappeared into the forest, phasing as he ran. Two shadows detached themselves from the dark forest and came to stand before us. It was Quil and Embry.
“Hey guys,” I said shakily.
“Hey, Ness,” said Quil softly.
“How is he?” I choked.
Quil and Embry exchanged glances. I saw Dad wincing in my peripheral vision. That bad? “He’s…he’s pretty messed up right now, Ness,” Embry said.
I swallowed hard, biting my lip as I fought off tears. “And Billy? Is Billy still alive?"
“Yeah. He’s at home.”
“At home?” I breathed. So it really was that serious. They’d sent him home to die. I felt myself growing weak.
"How is Jacob?” Dad asked, giving voice to the question I’d both yearned to ask and dreaded to hear answered.
“He’s pretty messed up right now,” Quil admitted.
“Is he angry?” I murmured.
“At himself, yeah.”
The pain flared dangerously. I took a deep breath and clenched my fists. That was the one thing that I’d been more afraid of than anything else — that he would blame himself for my stupidity. That was almost worse than the last five weeks combined. We stood in silence for several moments until Seth and Sam returned.
“Renesmee,” said Sam coolly, dipping his head in my direction. “Edward. You want permission to cross the border?”
“Please,” Dad said. “We heard Billy’s not doing well. We’re here to see him and Jacob.”
is dark eyes shifted to me. “Jacob’s in quite a bit of pain. I’m not sure if now’s the best time.”
I felt a sob building.
“Hey!” I turned at the sound of Leah’s voice as she joined the group of werewolves. “Where the heck do you get off screwing with Jake like that?” she demanded of me. Sam glared at her, but did nothing to stop her. By the look on his face, his thoughts on the situation weren’t far from hers.
“Leah,” Dad said firmly, stepping forward so that his body was half-blocking her from me. “That’s not helpful.”
“I’ll tell you what’s not helpful, Edward. Having this disgusting little parasite chewing Jacob up and then spitting him out as a depressive train wreck, that’s not helpful! Guess who has to try to pick up the pieces you broke him into? We’ve had to deal with his moping for weeks!” Her furious eyes flicked to me again. “He thought about killing himself, did you know that, leechling? Or were you too wrapped up in your own pathetic little pity-party?”
I felt tears roll down my cheeks. I wanted to cover my ears.
“Leah,” Sam snarled. “That’s enough.”
“You’re not my Alpha anymore, Sam. I can say whatever I want.”
“Shut up, Leah,” Seth snapped. His voice was harder than I’d ever heard it.
“What, are you doing disagree with me? He’s been completely screwed up, thanks to this stupid little –”
“Leah, knock it off,” said a quiet, broken voice.
A sob fought its way up my throat at the sound of that voice.
Leah stepped aside unwillingly, her hateful eyes never leaving me.
"Jake, if you need –” Seth started to say, looking up at his broken Alpha with worried eyes.
“Scram, kid,” my Jacob said softly, his tormented black eyes slowly making their way to me.
That look in his eyes was the more than I could bear. I began to sob uncontrollably. That seemed to be enough to repel the rest of the spectators. Leah was the last to leave, still hissing hatefully as she slunk off into the woods.
“I’ll go check on Billy,” Dad muttered to no one in particular.
Jake and I stared at each other in silence for several moments. His face kept blurring in the pool of tears that welled in my eyes. Unable to stand the distance any longer, I flew to him and threw my arms around his warm body. His arms locked around me at the same time, his sobs mingling with mine.
I was glad Uncle Jasper wasn’t here now. He would have been perplexed at the mixture of emotions running through me. That horrible, familiar pain screamed through my veins, mixed with an indescribable relief, a terrible guilt, an acute self-hatred and a burning passion.
I inhaled his woodsy scent. How I had missed that smell. I realized as he held me that nothing had ever felt more natural than the way we were now. This was where I belonged.
After several minutes of sobbing, I managed to choke out a sentence “I’m…” My words were interrupted by a wave of sobs. “I’m…so…sorry,” I gasped in between gut-wrenching sobs. “I was…such an idiot.”
His arms tightened around me, but he said nothing.
"I’m so sorry,” I sobbed, repeating it like a mantra.
“I know, I know,” he said after a moment, stroking my hair. “Me too. I should have told you,” he said, trailing off into sobs.
“No,” I insisted, my hysteria peaking. “I was…I was…a fool. I’m so…sorry.”
We held each other for a long time. He guided me to a fallen log when we finally managed to stop crying. I lowered myself into his lap as soon as he sat, refusing to release him. I was afraid that if I let him go, he would disappear, and I would wake up to find myself alone again. I wasn’t entirely sure that I could endure that. The very idea send chills rippling over my skin. I pressed my face into his chest, the sound of his beating heart reassuring me of his presence and soothing away what remained of the agony.
“Damn, I missed you, kid,” he told me, his voice breaking again.
My airy chuckle in response was muffled by his black T-shirt. “‘Missed you more,” I muttered. “I never meant for you to go,” I said shakily. “I was being childish.”
“It’s okay now,” he said softly. “I forgive you. Can you forgive me?”
“There’s nothing to forgive,” I said, bursting into tears again. He held me tighter, stroking my hair and kissing as I fought to regain control. When I finally was able to speak coherently, I asked, “How’s Billy?”
“He’s okay. He’s at home.”
I swallowed again. “Seth said he’s dying.”
“What?” he said again, his tone confused.
I lifted my head, looking at him in confusion. “He said Billy was dying, and I should come right away. He thought…he thought you might need my support.”
“He was pretty sick when I first came down, but he went home yesterday,” he said, frowning. “He’s a lot better now.”
“Seth said his heart was giving out!” I exclaimed. I couldn’t imagine Seth lying to me about something like that, and I especially couldn’t imagine him lying so well.
Jacob was silent for a moment, then suddenly rolled his eyes. “Leah.”
“They’re arguing about it now. They were doing shifts with me at the hospital, so someone would always be with Billy. She unplugged his heart monitor just as Seth was leaving and she was taking over. She knew he’d call you and it’d get you here in a hurry. Guess it worked.”
I looked at him in amazement and then burst out laughing. “So Billy’s okay?”
“Yeah, he’s doing a lot better.”
I exhaled and buried my face in my hand, relief intensifying the tremors wracking my body. “I was so afraid he was dying,” I said, my voice trembling.
He kissed my hair and hugged me again. “He’s fine, and I’m going to kick Leah’s furry butt.”
I chuckled through my tears, overwrought with conflicting emotions. I swallowed after a moment and looked at him again. “I’m so sorry, Jake,” I said again. “I was so horrible to you.”
“This was my fault,” he said resolutely. “If I’d told you –”
“No,” I said, cutting him off. “That was not your fault and we both know it.”
He sighed and gave me a look.
“You only have me to blame. So don’t pull that crap with me.”
He grinned in spite of himself. “You remind me so much of Bella.”
I looked at him for a moment, measuring his words.
It took him a while to realize his mistake. “Oh. I’m so sorry. That was a jerk thing to say.”
I smiled slowly and rolled my eyes. “When are you going to stop apologizing for everything?”
“When I stop screwing up.”
“I think you mean when I stop screwing up, and in that case, you’ve got a while to wait.”
He chuckled again and pressed his forehead against mine. I closed my eyes and cupped his face in my hands. “I love you, Ness.”
My heart froze for the briefest of moments, and then exploded into a happy, jumping beat. All of the pain of the past weeks evaporated instantly. I would have loved to jump up and dance around the world, but that would have meant ending the moment. I opened my eyes to gaze into his endless black eyes. “I love you too, Jake.”
He gave me his special smile. “Do you think your dad’s listening?”
“He’s probably trying very hard not to,” I replied.
“Good,” he said, cupping my face with his massive hand and pressing his soft lips to mine.
Electricity zapped, zinged and sizzled through my veins. The feeling of our lips as they moved together was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I wrapped my arms around his neck, weaving my fingers into his thick hair. In that moment, there was nothing else in the world except for the man in my arms.
After a long moment, my glimpse of perfection reluctantly faded back. A smile broke across my face as my eyes opened. I was sure that I’d never been this euphorically happy in my entire life. My happiness was mirrored in his spectacular answering smile.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting for that?” he asked, his voice husky.
I tilted my head back and laughed. The hopelessness and despondency I’d trudged through each day with seemed like a distant nightmare now. There was nothing in this world that could cast a shadow on the brilliance of this moment.
“Jake, promise me something,” I said, laying my forehead against his.
“Promise me that you will never, ever leave me again, even if I tell you to.”
He grinned. “Done.”
An extra rush of euphoria shot through my veins. I pulled the promise bracelet that he’d given me out of my sweater pocket and met his eyes. He understood me wordlessly. He took the bracelet from me and tied it around my wrist. “Forever,” he murmured.
“Forever,” I agreed.