True to my suggestion, we did in fact stay right where we were for the rest of the day. There really wasn't that much day left after everything that had happened, but that wasn't important; long after darkness had fallen, we were both still on the ground, talking away. And not just talking, but smiling and laughing and flirting too.
It was wonderful.
Hours and hours had passed, yet to me, it could have been just moments. Time just didn't seem important with Jake; I was too focused on him, consumed by him, to pay attention to anything else. All that seemed to matter was him lying beside me on the ground; him, facing me and grinning in the darkness.
But the best part was yet to come. Because as it grew later and later, both of us growing sleepy and tired, his arm slipped around my waist, and pulled me close. So wonderfully close, my back pressed firmly against his chest, his warmth instantly filling me. And for a little while longer, we kept talking; his smooth voice in my ear, murmuring to me.
But all too soon, I was drifting off; Jake's voice still deep and rumbling as I fell asleep.
The smell of the forest was the first thing I registered when I woke. It was so sweet and rich, the scent of wood and nature flooding my lungs and making me sigh happily.
I loved the smell of La Push.
There was another smell too, one that took a few moments to distinguish from the surrounding woods; the smell of wolf and man and Jake. His scent was becoming so familiar now; familiar and calming. And god, it was so good; I could breathe it in for hours on end, and still love it. Part of me wanted to roll over so I could bury my face in his chest and breathe it in more strongly, but I resisted the temptation. His arm was like a steel bar around my waist; I doubted I'd be able to move anyway. Not without waking him, and that I didn't want to do; not yet.
I was too busy enjoying the feeling of him being curled around me. I was so small compared to him, he easily surrounded my body; even his arm around my stomach seemed large, the defined muscles a glaring indicator of his strength. Strength, that like his size, far surpassed my own. Which was strange for me; I was used to being strong.
It probably didn't look like it, but my strength far exceeded a humans. And though I didn't really need to use it, it was still there; a guarantee that I could hold my own in a dangerous situation. Now though; now, I was not strong. Not with the pack, and definitely not with Jake. And it should have been disconcerting; after so many years of knowing I could handle myself, to suddenly be the weak one.
Instead, I found myself revelling in it. Revelling in the fact that I trusted Jake, and was therefore not at all bothered by how easily he could overpower me if he wanted. Revelling in how wonderful and refreshing it was to have him so strong behind me, over me, protecting me. It had been so long, too long. Too long since I'd had someone who could protect me, who wanted to protect me; and who I would let protect me.
But now I did have someone; I had Jake. Warm, wonderful Jake, who was moving against me, pulling me closer as his face found my neck, nosing through my hair to graze against my skin. I could feel his lips skimming along my pulse point, and I couldn't help but make a contented noise; which made him smile at the sound. A soft smile, just as soft as the movement of his lips as he spoke.
'Good morning.' He rumbled quietly in my ear, his satisfied voice making me grin.
'Morning.' I replied back softly with a sigh, feeling him bury deeper into my neck. His nose and mouth ghosting over the skin made me shiver; though not as much as the hand on my my waist, which had started to trace soft patterns that were more than bit distracting.
'What are you doing?' I asked with a mixture of confusion and pleasure, and he paused for a moment.
'Making sure you're still here.' He said quietly, resuming his movements. I felt him breathe against my neck, inhaling deeply before he spoke again.
'How do you feel?' Jake asked, his tone full hesitance and sadness.
'Good. Much better than yesterday.' I said with relief, and I felt him echo the emotion through the imprint.
'I'm glad.' He replied, and I felt his body behind me relax; as well as the imprint. I hadn't noticed until it was gone, but Jake had been worried; far more than I'd known. It made me snuggle closer to him, and he growled softly in contentment, his arm around me tightening.
'You're nice to wake up to.' He murmured happily, and I hummed my agreement.
'So are you.' I felt him grin. 'But as nice as this is, we should probably get going.' He made a sad noise at my words, but was still smiling against my neck.
'To my house. So I can let my sister know I'm still alive.' Another sad sound rumbled from his chest, before he sighed against me.
'Does that mean I have to let go of you?' He mumbled, his dejected tone showing he already knew the answer. I couldn't blame him though; I shared his reluctance, because lying against him like this was so incredibly good. But he knew, and I knew, that we had to leave eventually; no matter how much we might want to stay.
And so I replied, albeit sadly, 'Yes.' Then I smiled softly. 'But only temporarily.'
I felt another smile from Jake against my neck. 'I guess I can live with that.'
And then he was pulling me upwards, making me gasp softly as I found myself suddenly sitting upright. His chest was still amazingly warm behind me, which I was glad for as I leaned back against him; I just needed one more moment to feel him. One more moment, before with a resigned sigh, I pulled away, pushing off the ground and finding my feet.
My body protested the motion; after a whole night spent in one position – one heavenly position – my muscles were tight and unwilling to move. Yet all it took was a quick rotating of my neck and shoulders, and with a satisfying crack, relief flooded through me. Smiling softly, I turned to face Jake; only to find myself pausing at the sight of him still on the ground, watching me with a strange look. A look that disappeared almost instantly as he easily stood, suddenly towering over me once more.
'You know for a moment there, I was actually taller than you.' I said, and he grinned.
'Did you want to be taller than me?' He asked, and my face twisted as I frowned.
'No, definitely not. That would be weird.'
'Good. I like you smaller than me.' He replied with a smile; a smile that grew as he looked at me, stepping forward. 'You have leaves in your hair.' He said with a chuckle, his hands snapping forward to slip through the wavy strands.
'Really?' I said with a frown, raising a hand to check; only to find it pushed away by Jake's much larger and stronger one. I raised my eyebrows at him, and he just grinned.
'Don't rid me of an excuse to play with it.' He rumbled wistfully, and I couldn't help but laugh softly; I didn't quite understand his fascination with my hair, though I had to say I kind of liked it. His fingers grazing my forehead and my shoulders as they twirled through golden brown waves; it was both relaxing and enjoyable. Especially when, with one last stroke, he suddenly leaned forward to softly kiss me on the forehead.
'Done now.' He said happily. I had to smile at his satisfaction as he pulled back, taking my hand in his in the process. 'So are we going?' He asked, and I gave him an amused look.
'You tell me.' He laughed, turning and pulling me with him.
'Come on.' He said with a grin, starting towards the trees.
'Sera?' I called out as Jake and I cleared the steps and reached the front door. 'Ser, it's me.' Inside, I heard her gasp. Then, fast footfalls as she rushed to the front door, flinging it open wide with a shriek.
'Oh my god, Thea!' She cried, throwing her arms around my neck as she lurched forward. Pulling my hand from Jake's, I slipped my arms around her waist, feeling her shaking as I hugged her. Even as she leaned into me she began to sob. 'I thought you were dead!' She choked out. Guilt and sadness immediately struck me.
'Oh Ser.' I said softly, burying my face in her hair. 'I'm so sorry.' She sobbed again.
'I thought I'd never see you again.' She whispered with devastation, clutching me tighter, and I made a sad noise in response. With difficulty, I managed to pull back enough to glimpse her tear streaked face, and my frown deepened; I should have come sooner. I should have known how worried she would be, and done something; something to let her know I was still alive.
But it was too late now. Now, all I could was try and make it up to her.
'Let's go inside.' I murmured softly, turning her around and steering her down the hallway. I kept my arm around her waist, since she didn't look as if she could manage without it; and by the way she was leaning on me, I was sure my guess was right. But as easy as it was to guide her down the hallway, holding her meant I couldn't ask Jake to follow me; though thankfully, I didn't have to. I could feel him just behind me as we reached the kitchen, and as I sat Sera on one of the bench stools.
'Stay here.' I said softly. 'You need to calm down before I can explain everything.' She nodded, still shaking as she rested her elbows on the bench. Moving away, I caught sight of Jake watching me as he leant against the kitchen cupboards; his eyes were dark, his expression confused and thoughtful as he stared. I shot him a questioning look, but he just shook his head; apparently, I wasn't going to get an explanation. Which didn't sit well, because he was closed off through the imprint, and that made me worry, but with a lingering look, I moved passed him; I would look after Sera first.
Sera, who seemed stunned as she watched me; as if she couldn't quite believe I was there. It wasn't until I pressed a hot drink into her hand that she finally spoke, her words no louder than whisper.
'Is it true? Can you really not leave?' I sighed before nodding, and she gave me a scared look. 'What are you going to do?' She asked shakily. I closed my eyes for a moment, shaking my head slightly as I shoved down my emotions.
'I don't know.' I breathed. Her gaze turned to more sad than scared.
'You should never have come here.' She said miserably. I gave her an understanding but unrepentant look.
'No. I had to come back.'
'But if you hadn't–'
'It would have happened eventually.' I took her hand in mine and squeezed it, giving her a solemn look. 'I knew what I was walking into; I knew the risks.' She sighed heavily, her eyes filling with tears.
'I just wish you had longer.' I smiled sadly.
'Me too.' Sucking in deep, shuddering breath, I changed the topic. 'Where's Ani? I haven't seen her in days.'
'She's at the day care–' She cut off suddenly, her eyes widening. 'Oh my god! I forgot to get her!' She launched from her seat in a rush, grabbing for the keys on the counter in a panic.
'I can't believe it! And you've only just got here and now I'm leaving! Oh, she's probably so scared! I'm sorry, I have to–' I grabbed her by the shoulders gently, unable to hide my slight amusement as she stopped midsentence.
'Sera, breathe. It's fine. Now, go get her.' She did as I said, inhaling deeply before giving me a grateful smile.
'Thank you.' She said softly, kissing me on the cheek lightly; and then she was gone, hurrying down the hallway. I watched her disappear, smiling despite myself; I'd forgotten how wonderful Sera's rambling could be, even when she was panicking. It wasn't until I heard the car engine rumble to life outside that I finally turned around; unsurprised to see Jake looking just as sad and preoccupied as before. My smile turned sad.
'Are you going to tell me what's bothering you so much?' I asked softly, walking over to him and pausing just a foot away. He stared at me for a moment, his eyes filled with indecision.
'I don't know if I should.' He said hesitantly. I tilted my head to the side in a silent question as I gave him a curious look.
'Now I really want to know.' I replied quietly, and I couldn't quite hide the worry from my voice. He frowned, sighing deeply, before suddenly stepping forwards and taking my hands in his. But even though he was only an inch away now, he was still stepping, and I found myself forced to retreat until I was suddenly backed into the kitchen counter behind me. He had me pinned against it, his body almost flush with mine as he towered over me.
'How do you do it?' He asked softly, his gaze fierce as he looked down at me. 'How do you stay so calm?' He continued, anger slipping into his voice and twisting his words.
'Your sister was freaking out because she was so scared for you, and it's all I can do to not destroy everything I can get my hands on, but you…' He shook his head with bewilderment. 'You seem so completely in control; so fine with it all. And I know that you're not, not really, because I can feel just how much of your emotions you're hiding and pushing down. But you still manage it, and I can't figure out how.' His hands released mine, gripping the counter behind me instead.
'You're the one that all this is happening to, that's clinging to life.' He struggled to say the words. 'And yet you're comforting Sera and me, and even now you're worried about what I'm thinking, when you should be worried about you. Which makes me so angry with myself, because if you can, I should be able to, but I just can't.'
'I can't calm down. And I can't watch you die.'