Disclaimer - I own nothing you recognise.

Challenges listed at the bottom.

Word Count: 8515


Day By Day


He exploded in a mass of fur and teeth, growling angrily. Bella didn't remember much after that, and she wasn't entirely sure how she came to be sitting in the kitchen of Sam and Emily's home, clutching a mug of tea and wondering just when her life spiralled so far out of control.

Sam had just explained to her about the wolves, fucking wolves! What the hell even is that? And Imprinting! She sneered the word even in her own mind. Paul laid eyes on her and all of a sudden, her whole life was supposed to be turned upside down. She'd have to remain in Forks for the rest of her life or it would cause them both pain.

Her anger building, she put the cup down on the table, glaring at Paul, who stood in the corner, hands behind his back, sneering at her.

"What's your opinion?" she asked sharply, eyeing him with distaste.

"I don't want it," he growled out, even as he rubbed a hand over his chest. "I certainly don't want to be stuck with a leech lover like you!"

Something inside her broke. First the Vampires didn't want her, now the wolves don't want her. Fuck them all. Fuck the supernatural. She was done.

Three Years Later

Bella tossed her hair over her shoulder as she got out of the car. Starbucks was calling her name, she was suffering from serious coffee withdrawals. Being back in Port Angeles put her on edge, and she really just wanted to get back in the car and head on back to Seattle, where she'd made a home and a life for herself.

Angela and Ben were getting married though, and she'd felt like she should come back and see them, even if it was only for a day.

They were the only people that she'd kept in contact with over the years, and Angela had always been there for her. Coming to celebrate her special day was the least she could do.

She'd driven up the day before and got a hotel in Port Angeles, figuring that the less time she spent in Forks, the better. Entering Starbucks, she got her usual Vanilla Latte and took a seat near the window.

She had a couple of hours before she had to be in Forks, so she could spare half an hour to enjoy her coffee before she got on the road. It was only about an hour back to the tiny town after all.

"Bella?"

Barely managing to suppress her groan, she turned to find herself face to face with Emily and Kim, Sam and Jared's imprints. Pasting a smile on her face, she nodded at them.

"Emily. Kim. How are you?"

"We're great, thank you," Emily said, a pretty smile on her face. "Do you mind if we join you?"

Bella shrugged. "Sure. I'll be heading out soon though."

"Oh?"

"Hmm. Friends from school are getting married."

"Charlie mentioned that," Kim said with a small smile. "He didn't say you were coming back for it though."

Rolling her eyes, Bella replied, "That's because he doesn't know. He made his feelings clear before I left."

"Oh, Bella. He didn't mean it! He loves you!"

Shaking her head, Bella drained her coffee. "It was good to see you both, but I need to make a move."

"Bella!"

Ignoring them calling her name behind her, Bella walked out and back to her car, taking a deep breath to calm herself. She'd known she wouldn't get away without seeing anybody, but she'd hoped her avoidance of her past would last a little longer.

She knew without a shadow of a doubt that Emily would be on the phone to Sam as soon as Bella had left the coffee shop. Shaking her head, Bella pulled away from the curb. Today was going to be a long day.

The wedding was beautiful. Bella made sure to congratulate Ben and Angela sincerely, staying to watch their first dance before she quietly left without fuss. It had been nice in a way, to see all the people she went to school with. Well, some of them at least.

Jessica and Mike were engaged to be married the following year, which was... predictable. Lauren was still… Lauren, but it comforted Bella that some things didn't change.

She was almost to her car, almost free and clear, when Sam and Jacob stepped in front of her, blocking her way.

"Bells," Jake greeted, a big smile on his face. "It's so good to see you! We've missed you!"

Bella frowned. "Wish I could say the same. Can you get out of my way?"

"Please, Bella, just give us five minutes," Jake begged, reaching out to take her hand. She snatched both hands away, folding her arms so he couldn't attempt it again.

"You've got nothing to say that I want to hear, Jacob, so it'd only be a waste of both of our time."

"If nothing we say can sway your decisions and opinions, it can't hurt to hear us out," Sam reasoned calmly. "Five minutes, please?"

"Fine. Say whatever it is you need to get off your chest," she sighed.

"Maybe we should go somewhere a little more private," Sam suggested, his eyes on the people sprawling out of the wedding reception.

Shaking her head, Bella dropped her arms. "Look, I don't owe any of you anything. Either say what you've got to say or don't, but I've got better things to be doing."

"Can we at least go to your car, Bells?" Jacob suggested.

Shrugging, Bella walked between them to her car, settling herself in the driver seat, her legs dangling out of the door. Jacob and Sam sat down on the grass beside where she'd parked.

"Look, Bella, I know you decided you didn't want anything to do with the supernatural anymore, but Paul's wasting away in front of our eyes. We know you've gotta be in pain from the bond, and neither of you needs to be suffering from this. Charlie is a mess thinking that you hate him, and he won't marry Sue without you there, which is killing both of them, and -"

"Charlie told me what he thought of me in no uncertain terms," Bella interrupted. "Tell him to marry Sue. Tell him I don't hate him."

"Why don't you go see him while you're here?"

"Why the hell should I?"

"He's your dad!"

"I know. That's why it hurt so much when he threw me out on the street, Jacob!"

"He didn't mean it, Bells. If you hadn't taken off the way you did, he'd have begged you to come back the day after. He was in shock!"

Bella shrugged. "It is what it is. It happened, it's time to get over it. Tell Charlie to marry his woman, and I wish them all the best and I want him to be happy. Can I go now?"

"What? No! What about Paul? He's not -"

"Eating, and he's not sleeping and he's in constant pain. Trust me Jacob, I'm well aware."

"How?"

"Because when he's not eating, I have no appetite. Did you think I lost so much weight on purpose? When he's not sleeping, I'm not sleeping. And yes, Jacob, I feel the same pain he does. It still doesn't change anything. He was clear when he said he didn't want me, and I won't be with someone just so they can feel better. I deserve better than that!"

"Paul is a hothead," Sam murmured before Jacob could reply. "He didn't mean what he said. He regretted it as soon as you left my home, and tried to follow you. Jacob and I told him to give you a bit of space but... well. You know what happened."

"Oh, so it's my fault?" Bella snapped. "Like I told you three years ago, Sam. I'm done. Wolves, Shape-shifters, Vampires... the supernatural can go straight to hell, because I'm not interested. I don't want any part of this imprint, I don't want any part of being a soulmate, I don't want any part of any of it."

"Bella... please. If not for yourself, then stick around for a while for Charlie and Paul. They both need you."

Lifting her legs into the car, Bella shut the door and started the engine. Rolling the window down, she said, "I'm sorry Paul's hurting, I really am, but it's not my doing. Tell Charlie I love him. I'm sorry."

Bella spun the car around and whizzed out of the car park, heading for Port Angeles. Tears streamed down her cheeks unchecked, and the constant pain she felt seemed to get worse by the minute. She wondered if it was because she'd been closer to the other side of the bond than she'd been in years.

Coming back to Forks had been a mistake.

She pulled into the hotel car park and stumbled up to her room. She'd been thinking of driving back to Seattle that evening, but her emotions and the excessive pain had drained her of whatever energy she'd had left, and she was bone tired. Showering, Bella changed into shorts and a tank top and fell atop the bed, her eyes closing before her head even hit the pillow.

"How is she?" Paul asked as soon as Sam and Jacob walked into the house. Charlie was sitting at the kitchen table looking just as eager for news of his daughter. Sam sighed.

"Come out and phase, I'll show you the conversation," he offered. Paul nodded, following him out of the room immediately, while Jacob sat down at the table with Charlie.

"How is she Jake?" Charlie asked quietly.

"As stubborn as ever," Jacob replied with a sigh. "She's still standing by the opinion that she wants nothing more to do with the supernatural. Problem is, the imprint is affecting her as well. She's lost a lot of weight, and she looks tired. I just..."

"It's not your fault, lad," Charlie said, patting his shoulder. "I'm pretty sure that most of the blame for this can be laid on my shoulders."

Jake shook his head. "If I hadn't told you about us and the Cullen's, you'd have never freaked out."

"With Bells being an imprint, and me being with Sue anyway, I'd have found out, Jake. It was only a matter of time. Did you tell her I'm sorry?"

"I did. She said... She said she loves you. And... I'm sorry, Charlie. She told me to tell you to go ahead and marry Sue. She wants you to be happy."

"How can I be happy when she's..."

"I know."

Sam and Paul reentered the house, Sam immediately moving through to look for Emily. The two of them reappeared a minute later. Paul had tear streaks on his cheeks and he slumped down at the table.

"She's so skinny," he whispered. "And she looks so tired. I swear, I didn't know how badly it would affect her, Charlie. I swear I didn't."

"I know, Paul. It's not your fault. We'll just have to hope that she realises she belongs here. With you. With all of us."

"Maybe she'll go to Starbucks again in the morning?" Emily suggested. "You could try and talk to her there."

"I wouldn't want her to think we're sneaking up on her," Paul replied tiredly, rubbing his face. "If she's here, I want her to be here by choice, and she was pretty clear of what she wanted when she spoke to Sam and Jacob."

"You should get some sleep, Paul."

Nodding, he pulled himself to his feet. He left the house silently, phasing as soon as he was outside and ran into the forest. He made his way to where Bella had been talking to Sam and Paul, curling up on the outskirts of the car park. He could smell the faintly lingering scent of his soulmate.

...

Bella woke up slowly, rubbing her eyes. She didn't feel even remotely rested. She felt drained, empty. With a sigh, she got out of bed to get ready for the day. The very idea of driving back to Seattle was sending jolts of pain through her body, weakening her already weakened resolve to avoid Forks and more specifically, La Push.

Maybe if she just spoke to Paul...

Even being in the same room as him seemed like a masterful plan at the moment. Anything to ease the discomfort. Shaking her head at herself, she pulled on a hoodie over her t-shirt. She didn't understand why she was feeling like this now. She'd managed for the last three years, the constant pain had been manageable then, she'd even learned to ignore it at times, and she'd been able to live her life around it. Why now was it that she was feeling a strain to get back to the town she'd once called home?

Packing her small suitcase, Bella carried it down to the lobby, checking out quickly and making her way to her car. If she could just get to Seattle, she knew she'd be alright. Getting into the driver seat, Bella let her head fall against the steering wheel as another pain shot through her neck and up to her skull.

"I can't do this anymore," she whispered to herself.

Bella pulled up to first beach a little over an hour later. She was disgusted with herself for her weakness, but she was also aware that trying to fight the inevitable was pointless. It cost her far too much, and she was done paying the price for fates stupidity. Locking her car up, Bella walked down the sand to the water's edge and sat on a piece of driftwood. She could honestly say she'd missed it here. The waves calmed her and as she looked out at the horizon, she figured that whatever was meant to be would be.

Fighting it was only hurting herself.

"What made you change your mind?" asked a quiet voice to the left. Bella turned to see Jared watching her with his head tilted to the side.

She shrugged. "I didn't change my mind. I just realised I wasn't strong enough to fight against fate."

Jared nodded. "Do you mind if I sit?" he asked, gesturing to the driftwood. Bella shifted up slightly to give him more room.

"When I first imprinted on Kim, I hated it," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I'd already had a crush on her, I thought she was stunning. But... imprinting didn't leave me with a choice, and it didn't leave her with one. I hated that. We were teenagers, and this curse was telling us that we'd only ever be with each other. That we'd only ever love each other. That we'd both be stuck here forever. I've made my peace with it now, and so has Kim, but we both understand why you fought against it so hard."

Bella nodded. "I guess I thought if I stayed away, I could forget about it all. It didn't work of course, but... I still think it was worth the effort. I had three years of relative freedom to be myself... to find myself. The little girl that fell hook, line and sinker for a vampire is long gone now. I'm not the meek, weak child I was back then. Fighting the pain, fighting fate, it made me who I am and I can't, I won't regret that."

Smiling slightly, Jared nudged her arm. "So, are you planning to stick around for a while?"

She shrugged. "I don't know yet. When I woke up this morning, I knew I couldn't go home today. It doesn't mean I won't ever be able to leave."

"Charlie will be glad to have you home though," Jared said after a moment, clearly trying to cheer her up. Bella chuckled.

"Not in this life or the next will I ever live under his roof again. I love Charlie, I do, but I don't trust him anymore. I remember every single word he said to me and I don't think I'll ever forget it. I'll forgive it, I already have, but I won't forget it. I've booked another week at the hotel I booked for the wedding. I'll reevaluate at the end of my stay there."

"You can't live the rest of your life in a hotel, Bella," Jared said with a small chuckle.

"I know, I don't intend to. I just don't want to buy anything here if I'm not going to stay. Like I said, I'm playing it by ear at the moment."

"Okay... We should have a bonfire tonight, to welcome you back. Make a night of it."

"That might not be the best idea."

"What? Why?"

"I don't want to get anyone's hopes up. I know you're all glad I'm here for Paul and Charlie's sake's, and I understand, I really do, but..."

"We're glad you're here for you, Bella. Yes, it's good that it'll make Paul feel better, and maybe make Charlie happier, but we all want you to be happy here too."

"Why? None of you know me."

"You're an imprint. Makes you instant family. Makes you pack. We'd all like to get to know you better."

Bella accepted the answer for what it was. She wasn't interested in arguing for the sake of arguing.

"Alright, what time will it start?"

"About sevenish?"

"Okay. I'll be here later then."

Jared nodded. "Where are you headed to now?"

"The pain in my chest seems to have eased now I have plans to be here later. I thought I'd head back to Port Angeles and get something to eat, maybe do a bit of shopping. Why, you wanna come with me?"

"Sure! Just let me call Kim and Sam, give them the heads up where I'll be."

"If Kim's not busy, we can pick her up if you like. There's not much room in the back of the car, but she's only small, I think she'll fit."

"Really? Thanks, Bella."

She nodded, tucking her hands into her pockets as they walked back to the car, Jared talking on the phone. He'd just ended the second call when Bella stopped at her car. She climbed into the drivers side, waiting for a shocked Jared to get into the passenger seat.

"Bit of a difference to the Chevy," he choked out.

Bella shrugged. "I still have the Chevy, it's a classic. This has the speed for the travel to get here though."

"This is yours?"

"Who did you think it belonged to?" She asked, rolling her eyes.

"Thought it was a rental."

"Nope, s'all mine. I like cars."

"You have more?"

She nodded but didn't add any further information and he didn't push. He directed her to Kim's, and once the poor girl managed to squeeze herself into the back of the car, Bella set off for Port Angeles.

...

She was surprised at how much fun she had with Jared and Kim. Not because they weren't nice people or anything, she knew they were. It was nice to just be out with friends, without having to worry about all the other bullshit that came with being back in Forks. They'd eaten at a small cafe, Bella snatching the bill before either of them could protest, they'd done some shopping, mostly just for everyday clothes in Bella's case, since she was staying longer than she'd planned.

Now they were almost back to La Push, and Bella's nerves were making themselves known.

She pulled up and got out, locking up with the click of a button. Stashing her keys in her pocket with her cell, Bella walked slowly towards the crowd of people congregated around the already burning bonfire. Kim and Jared flanked her, Jared's arm reaching around her shoulders as Kim took her hand.

"It'll be fine, Bells," Jared said quietly. "You'll see."

She nodded, squeezing Kim's hand before she stepped off in front of them. Unsurprisingly, Jacob was the first to greet her. He raised his arms to hug her, before hesitating. Bella sighed but stepped into his open arms, embracing him tightly but quickly.

"Thank you for coming back," he whispered in her ear. "I missed you."

"I missed you too, Jake."

"Bella, it's really good to see you," Sam said, offering her a warm smile. Emily stepped forward to hug her briefly, before returning to Sam's side.

She walked closer to the bonfire, holding her hands up in front of it to warm them. It was colder than she'd expected it to be.

"Bells."

It was a whispered gasp, and she turned her head to see Charlie staring at her as though he'd seen a ghost.

"Hey Dad."

"Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry for everything I said, so sorry," he said, moving closer.

Bella nodded. "I know, Dad. I forgive you."

"I'm so glad you decided to come back. Where are you staying? You could stay with us at Sue's, or you could stay at the house? I'll come and stay there too, its -"

"Charlie! Settle down. I'm staying in a hotel down in Port Angeles."

"You don't need to stay in Port Angeles!"

"Dad, seriously, just let it be please. It's where I want to be at the moment, okay?"

"But... I... Okay." He looked sad but he nodded his acceptance. Bella smiled softly at him, leaning over to hug him gently.

"I missed you, Dad."

"I missed you too, baby. Every day."

Bella nodded. "What's this I hear about you getting married?"

"Ah, I, uh, didn't want to book anything, you know? I want you to be there. It wouldn't feel right otherwise."

"Go ahead and plan your wedding, Dad. I'll make sure I'm there."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I'm glad you're happy, Dad."

He nodded. "Are you happy, Bells?"

She shrugged. "For the most part, I suppose."

She could tell he didn't believe her but he didn't call her on her lie. They stood in a companionable silence for a while, before he cleared his throat.

"So are you going to be around for a while?"

"I booked for a week," she said quietly. "After that I'm not sure."

He nodded again. "Can I... Will you let Sue and I take you for dinner one night? So you can meet her properly?"

"Sure. Uh... here."

She handed over a piece of paper she'd prepared earlier. He looked down at it and smiled, a real smile, one that she hadn't seen since she was a child.

"Thanks, Bells."

On the paper was her cell number and her home number.

"Sure, dad."

"I'll uh, leave you to it, Bells. I'll see you later though, yeah? Don't leave without... I'll be over there with Billy and Sue."

Bella nodded. "No problem."

Turning her attention back to the flickering flames, Bella wasn't surprised that she wasn't alone for long. She felt him without having to look to see who was standing slightly behind her. They stood in silence for a few moments, each revelling in the closeness of the other. Bella was enjoying the novelty of being completely pain free. It had been a long time since she'd felt so good.

"I'm sorry for telling you I didn't want you," he whispered. "It was a lie, obviously. I was just... I was angry that I'd imprinted. It had nothing to do with you. I was just lashing out."

Bella nodded. "Okay."

"That's it? Okay."

She shrugged. "I don't have the energy to argue with you. If you say that's what happened, then I'll believe you."

"How... How are you?"

She chuckled. "I feel great at the moment."

"Yeah? Me too. I meant... in general though."

"I'm... I'm tired. Really fucking tired."

Bella turned to look at him, taking in his face. It hadn't changed much since the last time she saw him, though his expression couldn't be more different. He was looking at her with affection, and she could trace a little hope in his eyes as well. He'd lost weight, something they clearly had in common, and the shadows under his eyes matched her own in depth and size.

"Do you want to sit down? I think we probably need to talk."

"I'm okay here," she said, gesturing to the fire. "It's colder than I expected it to be."

"Here," he murmured, shrugging his jacket off and slipping it around her shoulders. It fit her like a tent, and she was about to tell him no when she smelled him on it. Inhaling his scent, she quickly put her arms into the jacket and zipped it up, wrapping herself in his warmth. He smiled gently at her, pressing softly against the small of her back to lead her to a log on the other side of the fire.

"What made you come back?" he asked as they sat down.

"The pain got worse. I realised I probably can't fight fate."

"I'm sorry you're hurting. I'd hoped you wouldn't be feeling the effects as bad."

She shook her head. "It's not your fault. You didn't ask for this any more than I did."

"No. But this is my history, my heritage. You were just an innocent bystander."

"It was just too much all at once, you know? I was still healing from what Edward did to me, and then I've got a wolf telling me that I'm suddenly another wolf's soulmate. Not only that, but neither the vamp nor the wolf wanted me. Then when Charlie freaked... It's a lot to take all at once. So I ran away."

"I understand, Bella. I never blamed you for leaving, not once. I just wanted you to be happy."

She smiled wryly at him. "So, tell me more about this imprinting business. I only know the very bare basics."

"What do you know?"

"I know that I'm your soulmate. I know that it hurts for us to be too far apart. I know that when you're not hungry, I'm not hungry, and when you don't sleep, I don't sleep. That's about the bones of it."

Paul rubbed his neck. "I... I'll take better care to eat and sleep. I think... I think that those are symptoms of being apart. If the bond was completed, it wouldn't be that bad."

"Okay... how is the bond completed, and what does it mean?"

"To complete the bond we have to make love. During that, I'd bite you. That would seal the bond."

"You'd bite me? I'm not a fucking chew toy," she said, laughing.

He chuckled. "If you look on Emily and Kim's left shoulders, you'll see their mating marks."

"Riiight. And then?"

"I don't know all of it, you'll probably be better talking to the girls. I know that we don't have too... if you only see me as a friend, that's okay. As far as I can tell, the wolf will be whatever the imprint wants him to be, you know. We don't have too... it doesn't..."

"I understand."

"How long are you staying?"

She shrugged. "I don't know yet."

He nodded, swallowing heavily. "Jared said you're staying in Port Angeles?"

"Yeah."

"Maybe I could, uh, come and see you?"

She smiled. "If you want. I'll probably spend the majority of my time here anyway though, to be fair."

"You could switch hotels? The Dew Drop Inn is closer, and it looks quite nice?"

"Hmm. Maybe," she agreed, yawning. She checked her watch. "I should go. I have an hour drive."

He nodded sadly. "Can I walk you to your car?"

"Sure. Just let me say bye to Charlie."

They walked to where Charlie was standing with Sue, Bill and Old Quil. Bella smiled at the three of them before turning to her Dad. "I'm going to head out, Dad. Call me tomorrow, kay?"

"Sure thing, Bells. Drive safe, you hear me?"

"I hear ya."

"Love you, Bells."

"I love you too, Dad. I'll speak to you in the morning."

He nodded, and Bella started up the beach, Paul by her side. She waved to the others, and they waved back, thankfully not surrounding her. When they reached her car, Paul let out a low whistle.

"Nice ride!"

She grinned. "Thanks."

He nodded. When she took his jacket off, he protested, telling her to keep it. "The, uh... my scent might help."

Grinning, she put the jacket in the car then took off her own hoodie, handing it to him. "It's worth a try, right?"

"Thank you."

"I'll see you tomorrow?" she offered, getting into the car but leaving the door open.

"Sure, uh, you have your cell?"

When she nodded, he recited his number for her to put in her own. When his phone rang, she said, "Now you have mine too."

"Call me when you get to the hotel, please? So I know you're safe?"

She softened when she saw the latent fear in his eyes. "I will. I promise."

She closed the door, starting the engine. As she drove off, she could see him watching her through her rear mirror.

Bella slept better than she had in years. Bundled up in Paul's jacket, she'd managed a solid nine hours of rest without waking, and she felt so much more rested than she was used to when she woke up. The thought irritated her somewhat. It was obvious now that she didn't really have much of a choice anymore. She needed Paul as much as he needed her.

She'd barely finished getting ready for the day when Charlie rang, asking if they could get together. Bella begged off for the day, explaining she would be in Forks but she had things to do. She asked if she could come for dinner instead, and they made plans to meet at Sue's at seven. Grabbing her car keys, Bella hesitated for a moment before she picked up Paul's jacket and tucked it over her arm. Tossing it on the passenger seat of her car, she drove up to Forks, singing along to the radio.

The day passed quickly, and she'd been lucky that the estate agent had a free appointment to go over some of the properties in Fork and the surrounding areas with her. When she'd picked three of the properties that would fit her needs, she'd gone to have a look around them. Two of them were rented, and the other was for sale.

She still wasn't convinced about buying. It just seemed so... final.

The problem was, that when she took her first step into the house for sale, she felt the strongest sense of home she'd ever felt before. The house was perfect. Five bedrooms, six bathrooms, an office, a built in entertainment room and a small outdoor swimming pool. The kitchen was stunning, and she was itching to start baking as soon as she walked into it. That it had a large, six car garage built onto the side was an added bonus. As though the agent could smell a sale, she began expounding the virtues of the house, but it was unnecessary.

Bella wanted it.

They returned to the office, and a phone call to the owners with Bella's offer, slightly below asking of course, and Bella was signing paper after paper to verify that yes, this was her new house. The solicitors would have to handle the details, but Bella was pleased that it wouldn't take too long. The owners had apparently decided that Florida was a better place to live out their retirement, and the money from the sale would set them up for the rest of their days.

A tired but happy Bella arrived at Sue's at quarter past seven. Charlie greeted her happily, showing her into the house and introducing her properly to Sue. Bella found Sue to be lovely, very caring and motherly in her questions and queries about Bella's life and more specifically her health. Bella waited until they'd finished eating to drop the news of her day.

"I bought a house, Dad."

"What? Where?"

"Forks... well, the outskirts at least. It's nice, you'll like it. There's still some details to take care of but... it's more or less mine. I signed on the dotted line, anyway."

"That's fantastic, Bells! You're a bit young for a mortgage though, aren't you?"

"Uh... it's not mortgaged. I bought it outright."

"How?"

Charlie was frowning and Bella sighed. "When Mom and Phil... turns out that Phil had a massive inheritance come in, just before the accident. It was in both of their wills that should anything happen to them, I got everything. It's... I tried to refuse the money when the lawyer contacted me about it. I didn't want to gain from their deaths, it seemed dishonest, but he was having none of it. Neither of them had anyone else listed for the money to go to, so it would have gone into trust for me anyway."

Charlie seemed stunned. "So, uh, you're fine then? For money, I mean?"

"What? Oh, yeah, financially I don't have to worry about anything. I'd rather have them alive though, you know?"

"I know, Bells, I know. I'm still sorry about that, you know. I should have been there. I wish..."

"I get it, Dad. I was angry at first, but the detective I spoke to when I called Forks station told me you were on holiday. It wasn't your fault."

"So... you're coming home? That's... I'm so glad, Bells. So glad."

She nodded. "Soon as the house is mine, you can come and have a look if you like. I'll have to head back to Seattle for a while, keep my eye on the packing firm, you know?"

Charlie smiled. "You were living in Seattle?"

"Oh. Yes, sorry, I forgot you didn't know. Yeah. I still have the Chevy too, you know?"

"Really? I would have expected that to have died a while ago."

Bella laughed. "It did, I had it reconditioned. It's a classic, and I still love it. I don't drive it often, but I won't get rid of it."

"Will it manage the drive back up here or will you leave it in Seattle?"

"I'll have it transported. I've got four cars, so..." She shrugged. "Can't drive 'em all at once."

"Jake'll be having conniptions when he finds out you got four cars, Bells. You'll never get rid of him," Charlie said, laughing.

Bella shrugged. "None of them need any work, but I'm sure he'll still want to play."

"You going to see Paul before you head out, Bells?" Charlie asked after a moment.

"I'll call him when I leave, see if he's busy."

Charlie nodded. "That's good, Bells. He's already looking better than he has been, and you don't look so tired today."

"I slept well last night," she agreed. "I should probably head out. I'll be around for the next few days though, we should catch up before I head down to Seattle."

"Sure, Bells. I'll be available anytime you're free, just give me a call."

Bella nodded, hugging him briefly and pressing a kiss to his cheek.

"It was really nice to meet you," she said to Sue, offering a smile. "I'm glad you and Dad are happy together."

"It was good to meet you too, Sweetie. We'll see you soon, okay?"

Bella nodded and left, pulling her cell out as she got back in the car. Paul picked up on the second ring.

"Hey," he said, sounding slightly breathless.

"Hey, did I interrupt something?" She asked.

"What? Oh, no, I was outside when my cell rang in the house. I ran to get it."

She chuckled. "Okay. I'm at Sue and Charlie's, I thought I'd see if you wanted to go for a walk or something before I head off?"

"That'd be great. I'll meet you at first beach where the bonfire was?"

"Sure, sure. I'll see you there. I'll wait in my car for you, it's kinda cold."

He laughed. "I'll fetch you another jacket."

"I have yours with me, but..."

"I know. The smell isn't as strong. I'll fetch you another and your hoodie back."

"Okay. See you there."

Bella wasn't waiting long before Paul arrived at a jog. She noticed he was wearing the jacket he'd brought and it made her smile. Getting out of the car, she put the jacket she'd fetched with her on, smiling at him when he frowned.

"We'll swap just before I leave," she murmured, falling into step beside him.

He nodded, his eyes widening in recognition. "Okay. Thanks."

She nodded. His hand twitched beside hers, and she understood why. She was itching to reach out and touch him, and from what she knew of the imprint, he had to be feeling it worse. She reached out, linking their pinky fingers together.

"What have you done today?"

"I work with Sam doing construction," he told her as they walked. "We're working on a beach house at the moment."

She nodded. "That's cool. Do you all work together?"

"Nah, just Sam, Jared and I. Jake's still working with cars, he's made quite a name for himself here and in Forks. Even a few people from Port Angeles are coming up to him now. Quil and Embry are both at college. Quil's studying plumbing and Embry is training to be a sparky."

"Sparky?"

"Electrician. They'll round out Sam's crew when they get certification."

"That's cool," Bella said quietly.

"The others are all still at school."

"Others?"

"Oh. Yeah, we've got a few more wolves since you were last here. Seth and Leah -"

"Leah?"

"Yeah, it was a surprise to us too."

"Damn. That's harsh."

"Yeah. Harsher on Sam than anyone. You know Leah and Sam used to be together before Sam phased?"

"Shit."

"It's fine now. Jake and Leah imprinted on each other. They're all kinds of soppy when they're together now."

Bella chuckled. "I'm glad Jake's happy."

Paul nodded. "So, what about you?"

"What about me?"

"What have you been doing since you left?"

"Oh. Uh, I moved to Seattle, started working at a bar. It was fun, kept me busy, you know? Then my Mom and her husband died and it all went to shit for a while. I'm okay now though. I sing at the bar I used to work at and still pick up the occasional shift when I get bored or restless."

"They don't mind you sticking around up here?"

Bella shook her head. "Nah. I just work when I want to work, they know not to expect me until I show up."

Paul smiled.

"I bought a house."

"What?"

"I bought a house. Outskirts of Forks. I'm moving back."

"I... you... Wow."

Bella chuckled. "Yeah, surprised me too."

"When can you, uh, when are you moving?"

"I'm not sure yet. I'll have to head back to Seattle for a little while, arrange and watch the packing company and arrange to have my cars and shit transported. I don't know exactly how long it's going to take until the house is mine. The Estate agent reckons within a month."

"That's... that's awesome. Seriously."

Bella nodded. "I told you I'm done fighting fate. The house... as soon as I walked in I felt like I was home. It's gorgeous."

"Yeah?"

She grinned. "I was thinking of having a housewarming... you know, give the pack time to get to know me and vice-versa. I already know Jake, and Jared and Kim are cool, but I don't really know the rest of them. I kinda... I figure that if I'm going to do this, I might as well do it properly, you know?"

Paul laced their fingers together, squeezing her hand gently. "I know you're giving up a lot to be here. I hope I can show you that I'm... it's worth it."

She squeezed his hand back. "It was never about you not being worthy or anything like that, Paul. It was never really about you at all to be honest. It was... I don't suppose you know much about what happened with Edward and I. Suffice to say, he promised me the world, made me believe he loved me, that his family loved me, and then he left me broken on the forest floor, taking my future with him when he left. I was... a complete mess. Jake was the one who helped the most, but even he couldn't fix me. When you imprinted, it was like another fuck you from the fates, and then Charlie freaked out about Edward and it was just... everything fell on top of me and I wasn't strong enough to deal.

"I've spent the last three years fixing myself. I was the only one who could do that. If I'd fallen in with you because we were soulmates, I'd have never been me. I would have been forever reliant on somebody else to keep me sane, and that's no way to live. I truly am sorry that the distance caused you pain though."

"Bella... as much pain as being separated from you caused, I'm glad you did it. I wouldn't want you to be anything less than yourself. I won't pretend it was easy, nor was it for you I'm sure, but it was necessary, and that's okay, you know? I'm sorry you were ever hurt, Bella."

"It's done now," Bella said, brushing her hair away from her face with her free hand. "It's time to move on. Shit happens for a reason. You must have imprinted on me for a reason too."

"I imprinted on you because you're the perfect person for me," he whispered, as they stopped walking. They'd made it back to Bella's car without her noticing.

She smiled as he reached up to caress her cheek softly. "I'm glad you're here, Bella."

"I'm starting to be glad I'm here too," she admitted.

He leant down, brushing his lips against her cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

She nodded. "I'll come down at some point. We... we're going to have to talk about what to do when I go back to Seattle. I'll be gone a couple of weeks. When I tried to leave Port Angeles after the wedding, the pain got infinitely worse, that's why I turned up here the first time."

Paul nodded. "I'll talk to Sam about it. See if he has any advice."

They swapped jackets, and Bella got in her car.

"Bye, Paul."

"Bye, Beautiful."

Blushing, Bella drove away.

The following days passed by in the blink of an eye for Bella. She spent time with Paul, had a girls lunch with Emily, Kim and Leah, who Bella got on with really well. They shared a somewhat sarcastic attitude, and Leah had Bella in fits of laughter. She spent time with Charlie and Sue, and got to know Seth a little. Before she knew it, it was her last night at the hotel.

Sam hadn't been able to think of anything to ease the suffering of distance between Bella and Paul, and they were all a little worried about how it would affect them. Bella was cautiously optimistic, hoping that because she knew she was coming back, that she was putting down roots in Forks and had no intentions of leaving for any extended periods of time, it would be okay.

On the pack's insistence, there would be another get together before Bella left, this time at Sam's, since the weather was not conducive for a bonfire. Knowing that she would be inside made Bella make more of an effort. Dressed in a pale blue and gold skater dress with gold gladiator sandals, she felt pretty. She'd had her hair blow dried at the hairdressers, leaving it to fall around her in large curls, and she'd applied light make up. Pulling up at Sam's she wasn't surprised to find the porch already had people milling about.

She walked in, greeting first Leah, who hugged her, then Sam and Emily. Paul appeared from nowhere, resting his hands on her shoulders as he came up behind her. She turned to find him wearing a dark blue shirt over black jeans. He looked edible, and she had to check she wasn't salivating.

"You look stunning," he murmured in her ear as he bent to hug her.

"You don't look so bad yourself," she replied, teasingly.

He grinned. "So... I wanted to talk to you. Will you come out the back with me? There's nobody else out there."

"Sure."

He led her to the back porch, and they sat down on the swinging seat.

"I talked to Sam earlier. If you'll let me, I'd like to come to Seattle with you. I understand that you'll be busy, I don't expect to do anything special or anything, I just thought it was the easiest way to... well, to not hurt. Either of us."

Bella was speechless. The idea had crossed her mind, but she thought that Paul was tied to La Push.

"Can you... will you be okay being away from the Res?"

"Oh. Yeah, sure. It's only for a few weeks, and Sam's okayed me being away. I won't be able to phase, obviously, it's not safe, but I'll be able to keep a handle on it for a few weeks."

Bella felt hope welling in her chest. "So you're not completely tied here then?"

"I'll never be able to move away, Bella. I'm sorry."

"No, no, I don't mean that. I wouldn't expect you too. But... holidays?"

"Oh, yeah, we'll be able to holiday. Once or twice a year wouldn't hurt."

"Yeah? That's awesome."

"You like travelling?"

She nodded. "I haven't been out of the US yet, but I'd really like to go to Europe at some point."

"Why'd you never go?"

She shrugged. "The pain got worse when I thought about travelling. I'm glad we can go though."

He nodded, albeit his eyes got a little sadder. She reached over to cup his cheek.

"None of that. It's done, we've talked about it. It's fine, Paul. Besides, it'll be nice to have someone there with me. The idea of travelling alone never really sat well anyway."

"I'm glad it'll be me," he whispered, leaning into her hand.

"Me too. So, Seattle?"

"Yeah. Do you mind me coming with you?"

"Not at all."

"Good. I'll, uh, go and tell Sam."

They both stood up, but Bella stopped him from leaving the porch, catching his hand with her own.

"Why haven't you kissed me?" she asked, a light blush colouring her cheeks. "You keep looking at my lips."

He smiled sheepishly. "I wasn't sure if you wanted me to."

She took a half step closer to him. He put his hands on her hips, pulling her closer still, so their bodies were flush against each other. Bella shivered as he leant down, his lips gently covering her own. It was like nothing she'd ever felt before, and she pushed against him, kissing him harder. His tongue swept across her bottom lip, begging for an entrance that she was more than willing to give. She moaned softly into his mouth as one of his hands raised to her head, the other sliding around to her back.

Stopping only when the need for oxygen became impossible to deny, Bella panted against his chest.

"That was..."

"I know."

"Come on, let's go tell Sam I'll be coming with you. The others are waiting to steal you away from me as well."

...

The night passed by quickly, and Bella had fun. She couldn't help but feel happy when she was so accepted and welcomed as part of the family. The pack, and the extensions of the pack, be it by blood or imprint, were all lovely, and each of them had made a point of stopping to talk to Bella at least once.

"I thought you could come to mine and I'll give you my bag for tomorrow?" Paul said, walking Bella to her car. "Then I'll just run down tomorrow morning?"

"Run?"

"I'll run as far as I can as a wolf, and then just run the rest of the way. Shouldn't take too long."

"I'll pick you up in the morning," Bella offered. "It's not a problem."

"That's an extra two hours on the road for you though," he argued. "Seems pointless."

She nodded. "Well, why don't you come with me now. I don't mean to... I'm not... We're not..."

"I could come and sleep on the floor in your hotel room?" he offered quietly, a small smile on his face.

She rolled her eyes. "You don't have to sleep on the floor, Paul. Go tell Sam you're coming with me now and we'll pick your stuff up."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure."

The hotel room was awkward. There was no other word for it, and the strained silence was setting Bella's nerves off.

"I uh. I can sleep on the floor," Paul said eventually, rubbing the back of his neck. "It's really not a problem."

Bella looked at him. "Do you want to?"

"I just… I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"But do you want your own space?" She asked, a little more pointedly.

"Of course I don't."

She nodded, and gestured with one hand to the bed. His insistence had made her wonder if he just didn't want to be near her, and he seemed to pick that up, because instead of climbing into bed, he rounded it to pull her into his arms.

"I always want to be as close to you as I can," he murmured into her hair. "I'm just scared of scaring you away."

Bella pulled back enough to look at him. "I don't scare easily anymore."

"Good," Paul replied softly, bending to press a kiss to her lips.

They readied themselves for bed in a more comfortable silence, and once they were both settled, Bella rolled over onto her side, snuggling into him. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face against her hair.

She felt him inhale and giggled as he relaxed into the bed.

"We're going to be okay, Bella," Paul said softly. "You and me… we got this, don't we?"

She snuggled closer. "I think we do. Thank you for waiting for me, and for being patient with me. I know it hasn't been easy."

"You're so worth the wait, Sweetheart. I… I'm happy. It's been a long time since… actually I don't think I've ever been this happy. You did that, you know? You made me happy."

"You make me happy too, Paul. This… it feels real. I was scared that it would feel manufactured but… it's real. We're real."

Paul held her just a little bit tighter. "I love you."

The words were whispered into her hair, and he'd said it quiet enough that she could ignore it if she wished, but she found herself not needing his patience this time.

"I love you too."

They had a whole life set out in front of them, but for now, Bella was content to take it day by day. The future was theirs to make.

She was okay with that.


Written for:

Record Collection: Be Here Now: 9. Be Here Now: Wrapping up warm.

Film Festival: 15. Weather

Marvel Appreciation: 5. Write about someone running away.

The Forecast Says: 12th. Kissing

Dodgeball: 22. Hurt/Comfort

Play It Out: 1. Dirty Dancing: Write a fic over 2k

Shelter Building: 14. Chunks of bark: Hugging

Romance Awareness: BellaPaul