He wakes in the grey light, sprawled on the back seat of an otherwise empty taxi. The scent of something sweet and rotten lingers in the air, burning his throat. The door of the cab is flung wide open. He is not wearing a shirt. He stretches out his long body, groaning as he registers the taste of morning in his dry mouth, tangy like something died in there.
Pulling on his jacket, he steps out into the icy, unforgiving dawn. The parking lot is deserted, alien. There is a hole in Jacob's head where a memory should be and he blinks against the light, trying to recapture it. A fading sign proclaims HENRI COANDA. Something stirs. The airport. Romania. Bella.
He checks his pockets and strides off across the tarmac, his rangy body slicing through the cold that doesn't touch him. The snow, falling softly, begins to bleach the world.
The street is dark, too many shadows. Drunks spill out of a distant bar, stumble down the street, rowdy in another language. Jacob ducks into the alley, cursing under his breath. The wolf in him tenses, sharp eyes searching the gloom for the surely-present threat. Peripheral, the tiniest flutter of movement has him spinning, flexed and ready to fight.
"You shouldn't have come, Jake," says a voice he knows but doesn't recognise; distant, cool, other. She's there, in the shadows, so he steps towards her but his skin is prickling and something is wrong, the smell, what did they -
Before he can speak, she says, "Go home," and he swears that he hears sadness behind the steel in her voice.
"Please," says Charlie, with grey face and bloodshot eyes, "please, Jacob. It's just - I can't -"
His voice cracks, and he begins to shake his head, slowly, running a desperate hand through his hair. Jacob avoids his pained gaze, looks around instead at the sad and grimy kitchen. She hangs in the air, cloaking them; the memory of her lingers in the frantically pinned maps that line the walls and the empty fridge and the crusty plates piled in the sink.
Charlie swallows, hard. "It's nearly Christmas, Jake. I want her home." He sighs, fixes Jacob with his tired eyes. "I want you to bring her home."
He slides an airplane ticket across the kitchen table.
Jacob thumbs the edge of the ticket in his pocket, over and over until it slices his skin. He doesn't wince as he sits in the departure lounge of the Romanian airport, and her silhouette slinks around the corners of his mind.
He doesn't turn around. He simply keeps walking, resolute, even though he can smell that smell, that dead smell. She's behind him, and it takes everything he's got to focus on this one fact and not on the significance of decaying petals. The stink of it is seeping through the night, though, and the December mist is thickening, and his head begins to spin. He stops, suddenly.
"Why did you come? It's stupid, even for you." Her voice rings out through the haze, clearer than he's used to; he catches the familiar edge of exasperation and clings to it, praying that it means she's stillBella.
Breath hitching in his throat, Jacob turns to look at her, finally. Her face is hidden by a sheet of dark hair, and he tells himself that isn't a glint of topaz. He doesn't want to see that she stands straighter now, that she looks as if she could sprint without tripping over her own feet.
"Why do you think?" he says, struggling to control the tremor in his voice as he rummages in his pocket for the card. "What reason could I possibly have for coming to find you?" Across the space between them, he feels the corners of her mouth begin to curve upwards; he presses on, before she can say what he knows she will say, because it's too late, it's much too late now.
"Charlie," he says bluntly. "You might remember him. Nice guy, police chief, likes to fish?"
Her whole body sags a little. She whispers, "Jacob, don't," and he knows that he should step towards her, smooth the hair back from her forehead. He doesn't. He holds the card out, a little stiffly, and she takes it without looking at him. He tries not to register the chill of her skin.
It takes about ten seconds of her standing there, chewing on her lip like a lost little girl, before he breaks. Jamming his hands back into his pockets, he starts, awkwardly:
"So, Romania. In December. Kind of cold, Bells."
Relief surges through him as she laughs, the kind of laugh that's full of tears. She mutters, "Shut up, idiot," brushing a hand across her face.
"No, I'm serious," he insists, pushing this as hard as he can, pushing things back to the easiness that is them. "Do you realise that it snows here in the winter? Like, really snows? Oh, man…"
"Shut up!" she protests, and Jacob grins because he can practically hear her rolling her eyes and they could be in La Push, they could be home.
She lifts her head and looks him straight in the eyes, and everything comes crashing down around them.
"I can't come back, Jacob."
Topaz burns into him, and he can hardly breathe, he wants to shake her so badly. All the words drain out of him and he just stands there, unmoving, helpless now that she's said it.
"Then why did you leave?" he asks, eventually, and his voice sounds strangely harsh, raspy. He's choking on something and he doesn't know what.
"I don't remember," she whispers, and he turns and walks away, his fists balled so tightly they could punch through rock.
He sits in the back of the taxi, staring out of the window at the night. He doesn't notice when the cab slows, stops, starts again; he isn't listening for the rustle of banknotes. He can't push away the image of Charlie, slumped over the kitchen table, doesn't realise that they're turning off the motorway miles before the airport. It's only when the car stops abruptly in the middle of a field that he notices the smell.
Bella turns around to face him, leaning over the driver's seat, nervous.
"I'm sorry," she says, somewhat redundantly.
"For which part?" snaps Jacob. He wants to hurt her, to make her flinch at his words. It works; her face, paler than ever now, visibly recoils in the face of his anger.
"All of it," she says, like she's amazed he even has to ask, like she thought he knew her.
"I told you," he says, shaking his head like Charlie over this girl that they've both lost, "I told you, there's no coming back from this. We can't undo this, Bells."
She nods, not looking at him, opens her mouth to speak and closes it again. There's no way the two of them can fix it; this is bigger than they are. The Bella he knew would be freaking out right about now, fighting him until he agreed with her, but this girl is still and pale and cold and it hurts him to swallow when he looks at her. Without thinking, he reaches out to touch the place on her cheek where the teardrop should be. Everything about her is wrong, and all he wants to do is pull her over the seat and into his arms and -
Her eyes are very wide.
His hand still rests on her cheek.
Her slim, icy fingers brush the inside of his wrist.
His large thumb smoothes the hair back off her forehead.
And it's too late to think about it now, because his arms are pulling her over the seat onto his lap, and her knees are either side of his thighs, and her cold, cold hands are pulling at his shirt and skating over the muscles of his back. Their mouths find each other, fit together, and he's choking on dead flowers, cloying, suffocating, but they couldn't stop now if they wanted to.
He's ripping at the buttons of her shirt as she kisses up the side of his neck, and he lets out a barking laugh into her hair. She pulls back, a question in her frightening eyes, and he flashes her a crooked smile.
"Just… Don't bite me, okay?"
Bella lets out an indignant yelp as he tugs her back down towards him, squirming in mock disgust as he licks the side of her face.
"You're such a dog, you know that?"
"Yes," he says, and kisses her cold, dead mouth.
There's an urgency between them now; he peels off his t-shirt while she fumbles with his belt buckle, and their mouths are working together, frantic. He thinks of ice crystals forming on his tongue and clutches at her waist, slams his hips up towards her. Her breath - does she even need to breathe anymore? - comes faster now, and she presses herself against him, making tiny noises against his jaw.
If he kisses her hard enough, he can melt her back to who she was.
On the plane, he frowns in his sleep, and images of a frozen girl blaze through his dreams.