She wonders if it will always be like this: her clinging desperately to Jacob, him being the only solid thing in her world. The last few months, the last few minutes, they're all a blur save for his face, his smile, the strength of his hands. Hands that now clutch her to his chest and try in vain to keep the ever more biting rain from hitting her in the eyes. Hands that moments ago literally pounded the life back into her body.
"Bella!" he had screamed at her through the seawater soaked into her muscles, through the air that couldn't get in. "Don't leave me, Bella! Breathe, Bella! Damnit, Bella, breathe!"
So she did, and each breath cut through her lungs like a knife. But Jacob had gone through all the trouble of saving her – she figured she at least owed him that much. Still dying had been painless. It was living, it was life that hurt more than anything else.
Jake deposited her gently on the couch, then went back to slam the door against the quickly darkening sky. He was back before she had time to blink, crouched on the floor in front of her, yet still tall enough to stare her in the eye.
"Do I need to get you to a doctor?" he asked, one errant hand reaching out the push the matted hair back from her face. The hospital was the last place Bella wanted to be right then. She opened her mouth to speak, but the simple act of exhalation burned her throat so wickedly that the only sound that emerged was a weak moan. She settled for just shaking her head vehemently.
Jake sighed deeply, but relief was starting to eat away at the worry lines that marred his face. "Bella, why couldn't you have just waited for me?" he murmured. "I called your house like 9 times this morning and told you I'd be late."
"What?" Bella mouthed wordlessly.
"Yeah, I had to take Dad to the airport, he's flying out to see Rebecca for the week. Harry was supposed to take him but he called at dawn saying that something was up with Leah and – look, it doesn't matter."
But his hand shivered against her face. Shuddered, like he was angry, trying to hold his skin together. "It's just…Jesus Bella," he finally hissed. "Would it have killed you to wait for once in your life? What if…if I'd so much as caught one more red light…if something happened to you Charlie would just give up. Period! And you know that!"
But they weren't talking about Charlie – not really.
And they both knew that.
Jacob's breath was hot against her face, his entire body quivering from head to toe. But his voice was tightly controlled again, so like Sam's voice, rough and hardened from the truth. His words pierced her eardrum, lanced swiftly into her brain where they stayed, lodged, springing roots, invading and infecting and making in impossible not to feel their sting. "You can't be selfish with your life Bells," he said flatly. "Not when other people care about you. Not when I…"
He never finished. Instead he peeled himself off the floor, away from her, and disappeared down the hallway. "You're alive and that's what matters."
He reappeared, carrying a pile of towels and wearing a somber expression, his face stiff. "You know where the bathroom is – go get warm, I'll try and find you some clothes." He brushed her face briefly, apologetically, with the back of his hand. Bella left him standing here, in front of the couch, staring at nothing and wringing his hands.
After the day's earlier adventure Bella figured the last thing she'd want would be more water. But as the shower washed away the gummy salt residue on her skin, and warmed her freezing limbs she found herself languishing in it.
Up until now her actions, her attempts to seek danger had been little more than foolish. The thought of facing the assailants who had cornered her that night in Port Angeles had frightened her, yes. But approaching some men outside a well lit pub and in the company of her girlfriend was probably only dangerous in her head. And motorcycles aren't without their share of risks, but Jacob was teaching her, and he knew what he was doing, both when it came to mechanics and looking after her.
But standing on the edge of that cliff this morning, looking down at the waves, knowing that she didn't have a clue what she was doing and simply not caring? Understanding that she could have been dashed upon the cliff face, or towed out to sea, and choosing to jump anyway? That had been dangerous. But even worse than that wasn't the fact that she had deliberately put herself in danger, but that when it had mattered the most Bella stopped fighting. After all the adventures and danger and risk just to keep her alive, at the bottom of the ocean Bella had been willing to give that all away. And for what? A voice? Something she knew to be unreal?
All these months she had been living a half life, utterly incomplete, desolate, alone. But the realization that she had been about to surrender it all hit Bella harder than any of those pains ever could. Jacob was right – she was selfish. Her mind played horrible images for her to see: Charlie and Renee sobbing over and empty coffin, her name etched in a marble slab, tears pouring down the faces of Angela, Mike…Jacob.
Bella put her face up against the spigot of the shower, and let the tears wash away before they could even touch her cheeks. Throughout her life Bella found herself thinking of the heroines in her books when she needed guidance the most– drawing on their insight to get her through, borrowing on their strength when she didn't have enough of her own. But sobbing in the Black's shower in the middle of a thunderstorm, Bella found herself thinking not of Elizabeth, Juliet, or Tess, but of her own mother.
It was hard to see past her faults sometimes. Renee was flighty and scatterbrained, forgetting the most trivial details, misplacing everything. But she had not been much older than Bella when she had taken her baby, packed her bags, and walked out of the only life she'd ever known. It would've been simple for Renee to have remained in Forks. Charlie was by all accounts a good man – set in his ways and a bit quiet, but honorable to a fault. Life in Forks would have been easy, safe, even comfortable. And yet Renee, armed with nothing more than a desire for something greater, for a love that was greater, had walked out of that safety and into the blackness of the unknown, and with an infant daughter no less. What strength must that have taken, what bravery, what hope.
Bella tried to picture herself there, standing in her mother's shoes, and wondered if she would've been able to even get one foot out the door. Her life seemed too hard now – a yoke she was not fit to carry. But in looking back, in holding it up next to Renee's…well, it seemed so much lighter. Renee had been brave, and Bella owed it to her mother, if not to herself, to try and find that same strength within her.
She couldn't keep living like this.
Bella shut off the shower and leaned her forehead gently against the damp tile wall. Maybe she couldn't put the pieces of her heart back together again, but for the first time since that last fateful walk in the woods, she felt as though maybe she could find a way to carry on without them.
Jacob had put a pile of dry clothes outside the bathroom door, leftovers from the twins. Bella had to roll the workout shorts twice to keep them from falling off her non-existent hips, and the Habitat for Humanity shirt smelled musty, but they were warm and dry and that mattered more than anything.
The Weather Channel was flickering on the television in the living room, Jacob watching it out of the corner on his eye while he tucked sheets into the sofa cushions. Most of the Olympic peninsula was obfuscated by a red mass that seemed to hover on the radar, rather than moving like a normal storm. It looked as though it was going to be a long night. The windows rattled in their frames as a gust of wind battered the tiny house, confirming her sentiment.
"Feeling warmer?" Jake asked as she sidled into view. Bella could only nod in response, but it seemed to brighten his mood considerably. Before she could ask why he was making up the couch, or even protest he swept her off her feet and into his arms, wrenching her into a hug.
He buried his face into her wet hair, and sighed an apology into her scalp. "I'm sorry about earlier--"
From the kitchen the phone rang sharply, cutting him off. With a sigh Jacob untangled himself from Bella and disappeared through the doorway.
"Charlie?" she heard him say. "Is everything okay?" She limped quickly back into the kitchen trying to read his face.
There was more loud squawking from the headset, but Bella couldn't quite make out the words over her own ragged breathing. "Uh-huh…absolutely Charlie, you know that…of course we'll be careful, is there anything…" Jake's face suddenly looked panicked, and he reached into the sink behind him, filled a glass up with water, and thrust it into Bella's hand, motioning for her to drink. "No, she just ran into the twin's room to try and find some dry clothes, hold on, I'll go get her." He covered the mouthpiece with his hand, and then started walking loudly in place.
"Drink," he hissed at her. "Your Dad wants to talk to you, and I don't want to explain to him that you can't talk properly because you almost drowned on my watch."
Bella waved her hands back and forth and tried to back away, but Jacob brought the phone back to his mouth and caught the sleeve of her shirt with his free hand, then pushed the glass up to her lips "Hang on Charlie, she's barricaded in the bathroom trying something on."
Bella chugged the water, trying to ignore the fact that it burned like fire trickling down her throat. When she had drained it Jake swapped the glass for the phone before she could protest. "Dad?" she rasped hesitantly into the receiver, her voice sounding like that of a 60 year old chain smoker.
"Bella," he replied far too loudly. "I can barely understand you – the wind's really playing havoc with the phone lines." Bella sighed in relief, one bullet dodged. "Look, the weather is getting really bad and it's about to get a whole lot worse. 60 mph winds and hail they're saying. This thing just kicked up outta the blue, part of that whole el Nino phenomena or something. The department of water and power is predicting massive outages, mayor's worried about the roads. I'm headed into the station, and I don't want you to leave the Black's house until I call you – you understand me."
"Yes sir," Bella murmured as loudly as she could. She could hear the sounds of Charlie's keys clinking in the background. "You be careful."
"I will Bells, I gotta run. Stay inside and remember I love you, okay?" he practically screamed into the receiver. In the background Bella thought she heard the doorbell chime. It sounds like chaos back home.
"I love you too, Dad," she replied harshly, trying to be as loud as possible. Still her voice didn't seem willing to raise above whisper volume. She hoped Charlie had heard her. Trouble was hard to come by in Forks…at least the kind of trouble that involved the police. But when it did…well Charlie wasn't as young as he used to be, and Bella just worried. She handed the receiver back to Jake reluctantly.
"Staying here tonight?" he asked, putting the glass back in the sink and the phone on the counter. Bella nodded, and Jake smiled. "I figured – it's…it's really bad outside. I ran out to the garage to get a few things." He jerked his head in the direction of the back door, and Bella saw a pile of flashlights and tools and what looked like a tarp sitting in a wet heap on the doormat. "I could barely see the house just standing by your truck it was coming down so hard."
Bella shot him a puzzled look, which he interpreted perfectly. "Just in case," Jake reassured her, by way of the tools. "If the power goes or we spring a leak. Luck favors the prepared."
"Luck doesn't favor me at all," Bella muttered harshly.
Jake barked a harsh laugh, drifting into the living room where he spread a blanket over what Bella now knew to be her temporary bed. "Actually, depends on how you look at it. Storm like that, it's gonna wash your scent off of…well, practically everything. Means we won't have to deal with the hunter for a while."
Not exactly the reassurance that Bella was looking for. She shivered in a way that had nothing to do with the temperature. Jake noticed, laying a warm hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry. Nothing's gonna touch you while I'm around – I won't allow it," he declared. Bella wanted to tell him that he didn't understand the situation, he didn't fully comprehend the depths of Victoria's wrath the way she did, but she knew it was a useless argument.
"So," he said decisively, obviously trying to change the subject. "Want me to pop in a movie and a frozen pizza? You must be hungry." But food was the last thing on Bella's mind.
"I know it's early," she muttered, "but I really just want to crash."
"Sure, sure – you must be wiped." He leaned over and kissed the top of her head, something he'd grown to doing so frequently that Bella usually didn't notice it. But tonight it sent a wave of goose bumps down her spine. "Night Bells," he whispered, disappearing into his own room with silent footsteps.
Outside the storm screamed, and Bella felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. It had been howling like that for hours now, the tempest growing more and more to resemble a hungry animal. It swung wildly, pounding on the coast with generic rage, frustrated that the lines of tiny homes refused to surrender and be swallowed up into its maw.
Inside Bella was exhausted – physically, mentally, emotionally. Each one of her burning muscles begged for sleep…but sleep just wouldn't come. If her time here in Forks had helped Bella grow in any way, it was that she had developed the ability to sleep through anything, the pounding of the rain on the roof, the echoes of thunder from the storms battering the coast.
The threat of her own demise.
The loss of…of him.
True, there were nightmares, and the sleep was never peaceful, but Bella had found a way to manage. And tonight should have been no different – the same emptiness, the same loss, the same phantom pain lingering in her chest. But tonight iwas/i different, tonight was worse because the heartache was coupled by real aches, and her head was swirling with memories, images, movies that refused to be still, be silenced. Again and again she watched the last bubbles of air float away from her, leaving her silent and still. Again and again she heard the voice, full of rage and screaming at her to do what she knew she no longer had the strength for.
And again there were the hands. Jacob's too warm hands and they wrenched her from that blackness. Jacob's hands as they frantically beat the air back into her body. Jacob's hands and he held her on the beach, wet and freezing and covered in sand.
Jacob's hands…holding her together.
Too much. There was too much in her head, too much in her heart for her to process right now. She needed a break, she needed to breathe, she needed something.
Bella always needed something…only now she just didn't know what.
And in the meantime each flickering shadow against the wall was a face in the window, and each protesting creak and groan in the house was the approach of the enemy. It didn't matter that she was in La Push – there was no civility in creatures like Victoria, no agreement, no treaty. Rain be damned, Bella knew she was walking around with a bullseye on her chest and all she had managed to do in being here was shift it away from Charlie and onto Jacob.
It all happened so suddenly. She was on her feet and halfway down the hall before she contemplate even standing up. I'm just going to check on him Bella told herself. She tiptoed down the hall, treading as if it were made of landmines rather than wood. The floor balked and creaked with every step, and she would freeze and hold her breath each time it did. Each stride felt harder than the one before it, like some invisible force was telling Bella to turn around, to go back.
To let go.
But her hands were on his doorframe, and she was peering into the darkness before she could --
"Bells?" Jacob called out suddenly, and Bella had to clutch at her chest to keep from having a heart attack. Lightning split the sky, and in the flash she could just make out his face in the dark, his eyes puzzled. "Everything okay?"
She felt his fingers reach out and wind around her wrist, and he guided her around his small bedside table to sit on the mattress. "You're not hurt, are you?" he asked
Bella wanted to ask him how she could possibly hurt herself sleeping, but then he'd make the joke about how if anyone could find a way to do it, she could, and her throat ached too much for her to bother when she already knew how the repertoire would end. She shook her head in the dark, certain that he could see.
"I just," she choked out, cleared her throat, and tried again. "I couldn't sleep," she whispered. Jacob didn't ask why. Either he already knew or he figured it was best not to pry. Instead he scooted over and thumped on the mattress.
"Lie down," he said. "I promise I'll keep the monsters at bay."
And so she did. They lay side by side awkwardly. Jacob took up more than half the bed, and so Bella had to teeter dangerously close to the edge of the mattress in order to maintain was seemed an appropriate gap between their two bodies.
Jacob coughed uncomfortably, the rain pummeled the roof loudly, and Bella sighed and began to wish that she'd never left the couch. Finally she felt a warm hand grab her around the waist and pull her away from her precarious perch.
"C'mere," Jacob said. "The last thing I want to have happen is for you to fall off the bed and fracture your skull in the middle of a hurricane."
"We have both had enough emergencies for one day," Bella agreed, hesitantly. She flipped over to face him, and laid her head on his shoulder. The rest of her body seemed to take the hint, and she melted around Jacob's contour. "This…this okay for you?"
"Mmmm," he affirmed, wrapping his long arms around her.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry Bella," he murmured, sleepily. "I haven't made this any easier on you. I tried, believe me, I tired so hard not to…not to feel the way I do about you. And I swear, I'm fine with just being your friend, it's just that I slip sometimes and…well, I know that you pick up on it and that doesn't make things any easier. So…so, yeah. I'm just…I'm trying, okay?"
Jacob was warm and his proximity was comforting and protective and Bella's limbs suddenly felt too heavy to move. And so she drifted into the welcoming embrace of sleep before she could tell him it was okay, she didn't mind that much anyways.
She descended willingly into the blank expanse, into the black, the blue. Deeper and deeper until the world was nothing, and she was nothing in it. The cold crawled through her mouth, her nose. It froze in her ears and shattered in her eyes. Deeper and deeper, it descended into her lungs, pushing against the walls of her heart. Deeper and deeper into her mind. And yet she did not fight.
"This is what you wanted, isn't it?" Her fingers ceased their frenzied twitching, her eyelids froze mid-blink. "This is what you miss."
The voice was right, this was her ultimate desire, the frozen clutch of eternity, absent of sun or reprieve.
The hand latched onto her ankle, but there was no air left to scream with, no motion with which to turn away. His dead amber eyes stared back at her, for all eternity, as Edward pulled her down to the bottom of an endless sea.
"BELLA!" Jacob shouted again,
He cradled her like a child, his hand moving in comforting circles against her back. He breathed reassurance into her ear. He brushed the hair back from her sweaty face.
He promised her everything would be alright.
"No, it won't be," she whispered bitterly, ignoring the obvious throbbing of her throat. "It will never be okay. It doesn't matter how hard I try, and it doesn't matter how much I want things to change. I am damaged goods, Jacob…and there's no rectifying that."
"Don't say that."
"It's the truth," she protested numbly, but it wasn't the full truth…and Bella knew that. She hadn't really wanted to get better. True, she had wanted the pain to stop, but in her mind the only way of achieving that had been for Edward to come back, or for her to wake up and realize the past few months had been just another cruel nightmare. And since both of those seemed highly unlikely, Bella had clung desperately to her own insanity, comforted only by voices that could not be real, addicted to the methadone now that her heroin was gone. She had traded sickness for sickness because she didn't remember how to be healthy. No, she told her father, told Jacob that she was trying, but that was a much as lie as anything else. In reality she was forbidden to remember, and yet still terrified to forget.
"Well just in case you haven't noticed, Bells, I'm pretty good at fixing things." Jake said, interrupting her thoughts as he pressed his warm hand against her cheek, holding her with more tenderness and compassion than she deserved.
"I've been hearing voices," she whispered bitterly. "Every time I do something dangerous, something irrational or unhealthy or stupid I hear him? Think you can fix that, Jake? Think you can take me apart like a carburetor and pull out the parts that are crazy? The bits and pieces that don't work right anymore?"
She tried to pull away, but Jacob continued to hold her against him. "Voices?" he asked skeptically.
Bella just nodded against his chest. "That's why I wanted to fix the motorcycles – because I knew that every time I got on one, I'd hear E - I'd hear his voice again. Don't you think that kind of behavior indicates a problem that's far beyond repair?" Her voice was bitter, full of anger at herself, anger at Edward, anger at the world. But some part of her desperately needed Jake to disagree, because he was right – he was good at fixing things. Bella needed faith, needed someone to believe in something that she couldn't anymore. Jacob was so much more than a friend, he'd been her beacon in the dark, her sun in the middle of a monsoon, always there to show her the way when she couldn't make it on her own. If he believed…maybe it was actually possible. Maybe Bella Swan could be whole again.
But Jacob didn't respond with his usual hope, his optimistic outlook. His body seemed to droop against hers. "So…so the bikes…wanting to go cliff diving…it was just a stunt to pull so you could hear your ex-boyfriend's voice in your head?" he asked finally, his dejection palpable. His arms were suddenly stiff around her.
"Oh, Jake," Bella sputtered, wishing more than anything that she could pull the words out of the air and stuff them back in her mouth, along with her foot. "Oh, Jake no, I didn't mean…it's not like that…"
She reached out to touch his face, but he pulled away from her. "Tell me Bella?" he whispered throatily. "Was any part of it…did it…"
"Jake, it may have started out that way," she pleaded. "But it didn't end that way." When he still refused to meet her eyes Bella lurched out and caught his face between both her hands. "Jacob Black you listen to me right now!"
"Now" emerged as more of a throaty rasp than an actual word, and his face softened a little bit. "I came to you because I needed you to fix the bikes, but after that…everything changed. You're the best thing in my life, my best friend, and you know that's true so stop being a martyr…stop doing…this, when you know how very much you mean to me."
It took Bella by surprise how much her own words applied to herself. Stop. Stop playing the victim, prolonging her own pain – she was one to talk. Without warning she found herself thinking of her mother again. Renee had closed the door on her past. She hadn't waited, sitting around forlorn, staring out the window waiting for Prince Charming to drive up in a Volvo and rescue her from a trapped existence. She had ridden her own horse out of Forks instead, setting out to find her own happiness, rather than sitting home sabotaging herself.
Maybe that was true bravery – being strong enough to take that first step, being able to say enough's enough.
"Shhhhh," she whispered, and placed a finger against his lips. For once Bella was glad she couldn't really speak that well. Her words were always empty, twisted paroxysms of the truth. Words hurt, words lied, and she was tired of both.
Jacob peered at her curiously through the darkness, but he didn't say a word as Bella moved one of her shaking hands down to rest against his chest. His heart beat like a drum beneath it. Then slowly, so slowly Bella closed the distance between them. Inch by inch she her face drew closer to his. Eyes wide, surprise spelled out all over Jacob's features, but he was silent. And his look of panic was the last thing Bella saw before breached that final gap and kissed him.
She braced herself, waiting for the onslaught of sorrow and betrayal to rip through her mind, to tear at the edges of the hole in her chest. But it never came. No voices, no pain. It was all blinded by a sudden warmth that seemed to radiate from Jacob as he sat there, unresponsive. Bella reeled back in surprise.
Through dark to her eyes, she was sure Jacob could see everything as clear as day, especially the frantic look in her eyes. The silence between them, usually so pleasant, was beginning to stretch into uncomfortable territory, and Bella longed for him to say something, do something. Anything!
Before Bella could gather the courage to bolt from the room though, the look of surprise on Jake's face vanished. Through the murky blackness his expression morphed into one of understanding and…and hope?
Bella leaned towards him again and this time he met her halfway. His lips moved slowly, hesitantly against her own, as if he wasn't quite sure what was happening, but was more than willing to try and figure it out. Again that delicious warmth flooded Bella's senses. It seemed to spread downward from her lips, coursing through her limbs, thawing parts of her that had been numb for far too long now. It burned down her spine and across her chest, and she felt a flush rise in her cheeks for the first time in a very, very long time.
They came up for air at the same time, gasping, faces inches apart in the darkness. The hesitation in Jacob's expression had been replaced by something different, something more animal, instinctual. It smoldered in his eyes as he pulled Bella's body up against his own. His hand gently ran up her neck to cup her cheek, tangle in her hair, and bring her face back against his own.
He kissed her with fervor, a reckless passion that Bella had never known, but it was infectious, and she found herself returning the enthusiasm. They crashed together, again and again, and when she felt Jacob's lips part her own she was more than willing to let him inside. Bella had never been able to try this before, to give into her desires without restraint or fear of consequence. But Jacob was willing and more than able – his body was playground that Bella was eager to explore.
And so she tasted the inside of his mouth. She nibbled his lower lip, and pulled him eagerly back when he started to move away. She let her hands wander the planes of his chest, his neck, his face. And she eagerly drank in his confident smile each time he broke away to catch his breath.
He never had it long before she took it away again.
And it didn't matter then that Bella was alone, or a mess of a human being, incomplete and adrift in a sea of lies and deceit and hopelessness. Because for a moment Bella was free, with only Jacob's arms to keep her from floating away. And so she kissed him back, and explored feelings that until that night had been locked away in the darkest recesses of her being. And when her energy was finally drained Bella laid her head down on his chest, where the echo of Jacob's heartbeat, and the feel of his hand combing through her tangled hair, lulled her to sleep.
It was the first thing Bella's sleepy mind was able to register: a warmth that radiated throughout her entire body, despite the fact that there wasn't a blanket to be found. Blearily she opened her eyes, but the room was a fuzzy mess, still obfuscated by gloom despite the blinking of an unfamiliar clock which informed her it was 9:18.
It took a moment for her brain to catch up and make sense of where she was and what was happening. But eventually the previous night's memories came flooding back to her, and Bella felt her heart stutter. In response her chest gave a telltale throb, a weak echo of pain as though it had been hurting in the night, and Bella had blissfully slept through it. And what a blissful sleep it had been. For the first time in months Bella had not been torn from sleep by the sound of her own screaming, or the demons in her head. It was strange, and yet not.
Jacob's long body was curled around her own, holding her gently. She felt the tickle of his warm breath against the back of her head, each exhalation producing a steady, sleepy sigh. And his arm was snaked across her chest, right against the hole.
Even in his sleep Jacob had been holding her together.
Bella smiled sadly, because it was only a further reminder of the line she had crossed last night, and all that she stood to loose. The last time she'd woken up in someone's arms it…he… She shifted uncomfortably as the hole in her chest throbbed again, a fresh tear in an old wound. Blood beneath a scar.
Jacob must have felt it because he snorted suddenly and tightened his grip around her. "Bells?" he murmured softly.
Heat rose in Bella's cheeks that had nothing to do with last night's passion. Fresh tears welling up in her eyes, her only instinct was to run from the room. She tried to untangle herself from Jacob's limbs, to get free and disappear before he could see the hurt on her face and realize it had everything to do with Ed-- with him. But Jacob tightened her arms around her further, and burrowed his face in her hair.
"Please Bells," he pleaded, his voice thick with sleep. "I promise I understand – last night never happened. And we can get out of this bed and never talk about it again. Just please…give me one more minute right here…" Sadness, tangible enough to hold, was evident in his tone. Wiping the stray tears away with the heel of her hand Bella relaxed her tensed limbs, and leaned back into the curve of his body as the silent seconds ticked by, but something had changed.
Her heart was still pounding, each beat, each breath bringing fresh pain with it. Only now Bella wasn't sure if it was because last night had happened, or because Jacob wanted to pretend that it hadn't. And so she let him hold her as the LED second ticked by, and when 9:19 became 9:20 he softly kissed the top of her head, muttered something about needing to see the pack, and bound out the door before Bella's feet touched the ground.