I walked up the short front steps to Bella's house, my nose wrinkled in disgust. The bloodsucker had been here just seconds before, and the stench he left behind was still very strong. It was sickly sweet, the odor trickling up my nostrils, and burning my nose, so fresh.
I let out a deep breath and rang the doorbell.
"Come in, Jake!" Bella shouted from inside.
I walked in, shutting the door behind me, frowning. Shouldn't Bella have the front door locked when she's home alone?
Bella was in the kitchen, her back to me, her long brown hair flowing gently down her back.
"Should you really leave your door unlocked like that?" I asked. Bella jumped and spilled dishwater down the front of her shirt. "Oh, sorry."
"I'm not worried about anyone who would be deterred by a locked door," Bella commented, turning to face me.
This was true. "Good point."
She looked slightly annoyed as she looked at me up and down and then gave me a critical look. "Is it really so impossible to wear clothes, Jacob? I mean, I know you don't get cold anymore, but still."
I wanted to roll my eyes. I brushed my hair out of my eyes, the rain falling down into my face. "It's just easier," I said simply.
I smiled. "It's enough of a pain to carry the shorts around with me, let alone a complete outfit. What do I look like, a pack mule?"
She frowned at me. "What are you taking about, Jacob?"
I frowned right back at her. Had she been so caught up with her bloodsucker that she'd forgotten the finer details about me also? But I was more than a vampire...I was a human and a werewolf, and the thought made me raise my chin.
"My clothes just don't pop in an out of existence when I change - I have to carry them with me while I run. Pardon me for keeping my burden light."
She blushed. "I guess I didn't think about that."
I laughed and felt a little guilty. Hopefully, I hadn't embarrassed her too much. I pointed to the black, leather cord that was fastened tightly below my left calf, trying to explain it better. "That's more than just a fashion statement - it sucks to carry jeans in your mouth."
Bella didn't say anything. I noticed her eyes had ran down my bare chest slowly as she looked down towards what I was pointing at. I liked the idea of her checking me out; it was a sure sign that she was definitely attracted to me. And this silence had just proved my point a little bit better.
I grinned at her, confident. "Does my being half-naked bother you?"
I laughed one more, as she flushed a dull red again at my question. She turned her back, probably trying to hide her expression from me.
Bella always had a tendency to distract me. Sighing, I said, "Well, I suppose I should get back to work. I wouldn't want to give him an excuse to say I'm slacking on my side."
"Jacob, it's not your job - " she started.
I raised a hand to stop the protests. If she didn't know that I would do this just because I cared for her, not because it was my "job" then she didn't know me that well at all. I would do the same as the bloodsucker. However, it was Bella's nature to be over caring and not think about herself first.
"I'm working on a volunteer basis here. Now, where's the intruder's scent the worst?" The strong vampire odor was everywhere at this moment, especially surrounding Bella, and I couldn't tell where the intruder's odor was the strongest in the house at this moment.
"My bedroom, I think," she replied.
I narrowed my eyes and gritted my teeth at the thought of another disgusting bloodsucker creeping into Bella's room at night where she was sleeping peacefully. I would take care of this.
"I'll just be a minute," I told her, and stepped out of the kitchen, up the stairs, and into her cluttered room.
She was definitely right, now that I was in the exact spot; the scent was clear as day - everywhere throughout Bella's room. I had to pinch my nose shut this time and take deep breaths through my mouth - but it felt like the scent was even burning my throat.
Wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible, I exited Bella's room, shutting the door behind me, and then returned back down to the kitchen.
"Whew!" I exclaimed, letting my breath out and breathing in fresh air. Then, I instantly wrinkled my nose again. The scent was everywhere - but at least it was better than her room.
Bella jumped half a foot into the air again, spilling more dishwater, on the floor this time. "Yeesh, Jake, cut that out!" She threw me a dirty look.
Whoops. "Sorry. Here - " I took the towel from her, trying to be friendly, and mopped up the spill on the floor. "I'll make it up to you. You wash, I'll rinse and dry."
"Fine," she said, handing me the plate
"Well, the scent was easy enough to catch," I told her conversationally. "By the way, your room reeks."
"I'll buy some air freshener."
I laughed. Bella could always make an easy joke at the spur of the moment and make me crack up. My thoughts drifted back to when the bloodsucker hadn't returned, and it had been like this all the time. Us, in my garage, just hanging out and talking about everything...the comfort level between us was amazing, and I wondered if Bella felt that comfortable around her bloodsucker. Certainly, not in the way we could be around each other. We had something different, and it hurt me to see that she wanted to throw that away.
Didn't she realize everything she was giving up? Not only me - but her parents...she hadn't even been around Charlie much of her whole life, and I knew how much he cared about her. And now she didn't live with her mother. Now that my own mother was gone, I had time to reflect on these kinds of things, and I didn't want the same for Bella. I had to make her see - if only. I knew she was in love with him - I wasn't an idiot; but sometimes I wondered if she was so blinded by her love for him that she couldn't see the consequences at all of what she was planning to do. Of course she was, I thought bitterly.
I turned to look at Bella. I could only see the side of her face, and I wondered what she was thinking as she washed another plate.
"Can I ask you something?"
"That depends on what you want to know," she said, as she handed me a plate.
"I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything - I'm honestly curious," I cleared up.
"Fine. Go ahead."
I hesitated for a fraction of a second but then went on, "What's it like - having a vampire for a boyfriend?"
She rolled her eyes, not taking me seriously. "It's the best."
"I'm serious. The idea doesn't bother you - it never creeps you out?"
"Never," she answered back firmly.
I reached for the bowl in her hands, frowning. My thoughts strayed towards their physical contact again, something I had always wondered about. Didn't it creep her out when they kissed – what about his fangs?...or whatever you could call them. They could easily hurt her, and I gritted my teeth at the thought. Stupid bloodsucker.
But then again...maybe they didn't kiss at all. Maybe he wouldn't risk that with her - I had seen the precautions he always took with her, the cautious look in his eyes as he held her. But what kind of relationship would be? I decided to ask, hoping that they didn't make out that often.
"Anything else?" she asked me, reading the look on my face.
I wrinkled my nose at the thought and asked her, hesitating slightly once more, "Well...I was wondering...do you...y'know kiss him?"
I sounded like a little kid. She laughed at me. "Yes."
I shuddered automatically, trying not to think about it...Bella's lips or any part of her body shouldn't be anywhere near him...but after all, he was her boyfriend…I was starting to get angry again, but I held it in easily. "Yuck."
"To each her own," she muttered.
"You don't worry about the fangs?" I asked her teasingly, but also curiously.
She hit me on the arm, like she always does, and got dishwater on me. "Shut up, Jacob! You know he doesn't have fangs!"
"Close enough," I murmured, looking down.
She started scrubbing a knife angrily and I could see I had irked her again.
I gave her a moment to cool down and then decided to ask her another burning question that had been everywhere in my thoughts lately. If I didn't ask her now, it would haunt me again until the next time I saw her...and who knows when that would be...
"Can I ask you another one?" I asked her quietly, trying not to upset her further as she handed me the knife. I knew this was a touchy subject, for both of us. "Just curious, again."
"Fine," she snapped.
I stared down at the knife in my hands, turning it over again and again nervously under the pouring water. I took a moment, making sure that I would control myself whatever the answer was and whispered the question, "You said a few weeks...when, exactly...?" I took a breath through my mouth and was unable to finish the rest of the sentence.
"Graduation," she whispered.
My insides felt like they were crumbling, at knowing that I only had a few weeks to save her life. "So soon," I breathed gently, and closed my eyes, unable to look at her. Control, Jacob, control, I told myself over and over again. However, my anger at the bloodsucker was beginning to pool over again and I squeezed my hands to hold my body in place.
The sharp pain shot right through the palm of my right hand. "OW!"
I unclenched my fist, still holding the knife which I had forgotten about obviously. The blood was pouring out of my hand, the pain fading away but still sharply there.
"Damn it! Ouch!" Damn, I was so stupid sometimes.
"Oh, no, Jacob! Oh, crap! Here, wrap this around it!" Bella was freaking out, and shoved a towel towards me. She reached out for my hand but I kept it away from her. I knew how she could get around blood, which was another reason I couldn't understand how she could date the bloodsucker without the bloodlust freaking her out.
"It's nothing, Bella, don't worry about it," I reassured her.
"Don't worry?! You sliced your hand open!" she cried.
She kept trying to push the dish towel towards me, but I ignored her, and stuck my hand under the rushing water from the faucet, turning the water red.
I looked warily towards Bella, and saw that she was even paler than usual, holding onto the kitchen counter for support, biting her lip. Her knees trembled.
"Bella," I said calmly, trying to get her to stop staring at the red water and at me.
"You look like you're going to pass out, and you're biting your lip off. Stop it. Relax. Breathe. I'm fine."
She took a deep breath. "Don't be brave."
I rolled my eyes. She could overreact way too much sometimes. She had obviously forgotten that werewolves could heal easily and quickly.
"Let's go. I'll drive you to the ER."
I sighed. "Not necessary." I switched the water off and took the towel she was trying to get me to take earlier, wrapping it around the wound.
"Wait," she insisted, "let me look at it."
I rolled my eyes again. I didn't want her to her see the healed wound, wondering if it would disturb her that I was able to heal so fast. "Do you have a medical degree that you never told me about?" I asked sarcastically.
"Just give me the chance to decide whether or not I'm going to throw a fit over taking you to the hospital."
I made a face of mock horror. "Please, not a fit!"
"If you don't let me see your hand, a fit is guaranteed," she said firmly.
I let out a deep sigh. She wasn't going to let this go. "Fine." I removed the towel, and laid my hand in hers, watching her expression.
She looked a bit confused at first, not spotting the injury, and flipped my hand over to check the back of my hand. She was staring down at the wound and I looked down to watch my hand in hers. I wished I could keep it there forever.
"But...you were bleeding...so much," she stammered.
I pulled my hand carefully back, meeting her gaze. Would this creep her out?
"I heal fast."
"I'll say," she said quietly after a moment.
I gave her a half smile and pounded my fist against my chest once, showing her that I was tough. As tough as her vampire. "Werewolf, remember?"
She didn't say anything, and I looked right into her big, brown eyes, searching. She just looked a bit uncomfortable, and I wished this had never happened.
"Right," she finally said.
I laughed. "I told you this. You saw Paul's scar," I reminded her.
She shook her head, probably trying to shake it clear of everything. "It's a little different, seeing the action sequence firsthand."
She got down and searched for something in the cabinets. Pulling out the bleach, she poured it onto a rag and then started scrubbing the floor.
I sighed. I should probably do that, knowing the smell of the blood was probably making her head swim again. She shouldn't have to clean up after my messes.
"Let me clean up," I protested.
"I got this. Throw that towel in the wash, will you?"
I grabbed the towel off the counter and lumbered over to the washing machine, tossing it in. Then, I watched Bella clean the rest up. She rinsed the side of the sink with bleach also, and then stalked off to the laundry closet, tossed a cupful into the washing machine, and then turned it on.
"Do you have obsessive-compulsive disorder?" I was only partly joking.
"We're a bit sensitive to blood around here. I'm sure you can understand that," she shot back.
"Oh." Well, I was stupid.
"Why not make it as easy as possible for him? What he's doing is hard enough."
Of course. And what I was doing was nothing. "Sure, sure. Why not?"
Bella pulled the plug and let the sink drain out. She turned to look at me and I decided to ask her a burning question that I was even more tempted to ask after her catching one of my werewolf traits firsthand.
"Can I ask you something?"
She sighed, wary.
"What's it like - having a werewolf for a best friend?"
I could tell she wasn't expecting that. She let out a loud laugh.
"Does it creep you out?" I went on.
"No. When the werewolf is being nice, it's the best."
The grin spread across my face, and my heart seemed to swell. How a few simple words from the girl I loved could make me feel better. I felt completely reassured now and as I stared at her, I couldn't help thinking how breathtaking she was. I couldn't resist pulling her forward, lifting her feet off the ground and hugging her to me tightly.
Whoa! The vampire odor surrounding her was emanating deeply off her hair and I let her go instantly, taking a big step back. I wrinkled my nose. "Ugh. Your hair stinks worse than your room." Seemed like the vampire had gotten a little too close.
"Sorry," she muttered, seeming embarrassed.
"One of the many hazards of socializing with vampires," I told her casually, shrugging, "it makes you smell bad. A minor hazard, comparatively." One of many.
She narrowed her eyes at me. "I only smell bad to you, Jake."
I heard the bloodsucker around front, pacing in the grass back and forth, knowing that he had known I had tried to hug her. I grinned. "See you around, Bells."
"Are you leaving?"
"He's waiting for me to go. I can hear him outside."
Well, don't up a fight asking me to leave, I thought to myself, a little disappointed.
"I'll go out the back," I told her. Then I remembered about the bonfire...I had almost forgotten to ask her! "Hold up a sec - hey, do you think you can come to La Push tonight? We're having a bonfire party. Emily will bet here, and you could meet Kim...And I know Quil wants to see you, too. He's pretty peeved you that you found out before he did."
But then her facade changed and she sighed. "Yeah, Jake, I don't know about that. See, it's a little tense right now..."
I could tell that she wanted to go and I tried to convince her. "C'mon, you think somebody's going to get past all - all six of us?" I hesitated, not able to get the word "werewolf" out of mouth. I always had a little bit of trouble saying it around Bella.
I gave her the puppy dog eyes.
"I'll ask," she finally said, her voice full of doubt.
I snorted. 'I'll ask'? Like a little kid running to ask their parents if they were allowed to go cross the street. "Is her your warden, now, too? You know, I saw this story on the news last week about controlling, abusive teenage relationships and - "
"Okay!" she interrupted me, shoving against my arm. "Time for the werewolf to get out!"
I grinned at her, noticing that she had an easier time saying the word "werewolf" to me than "vampire" to her bloodsucker. Or at all, for that matter. "Bye, Bells. Be sure you ask permission," I taunted, escaping through the back door before she could take another swing at me.
I heard her growl back in the kitchen, and I chuckled to myself as I walked through the backyard, heading back home.