Chapter 3 - Coming of Age



I spent a good part of the next couple of hours standing alone on the edge of the forest outside my apartment, finalizing my decision. Through all of the discussion, I knew that in the end I could live with the decision, as long as I stayed true to myself first.

Unfortunately, I realized there would be no real sleep tonight, and I really didn't want to wake Ness just to keep me company through my insomnia. I needed a distraction, and luckily, I realized I could catch up with Quil and Leah who were running patrols east of Forks, not too far from my house.

"Black.," Leah acknowledged my addition to our pack mind.

"Clearwater," I said.

"Jake, what's up? I thought you were taking it easy this week? You know, celebrating," Quil said, hopping over an overturned log.

"I was. Couldn't sleep. Figured you guys might need a third," I explained.

"Things are pretty quiet around here to be honest," Leah said.

"Yeah, can't say I'm not happy about that though," Quil agreed.

We trotted around the 20-mile perimeter for the next hour, coming to our rendezvous clearing, half a mile from James Island, where Seth, Sam, Paul, Jared, Embry, Colin and Brady had already begun gathering.

"Guys, I wanted to talk to you about a couple things," I began, glancing at Sam's black eyes for a moment, then turning to the rest of the pack.

"What's up Jake?" Seth said excitedly.

"Well, you all know I just finished up at UW-- "

"Whoohoo!" Quil exclaimed.

"Alright, Jake!" Jared said.

"...Alright, alright," I said with a mental chuckle, " know that apartment I took you guys to Seattle to visit a while back...and that company suite at the football game and all of that..."

"Yeah, they were all over you Jake," said Embry.

"That place was awesome!" said Quil, though Leah wasn't moved by my slow revelation of information.

"Cut the shit, Black. What's this all about?"

"Damn, Leah, I'm getting to it..." I started, anger rising. "Well, they made me an offer, and, well, I'm gonna take it."

"That's great, Jake!" Seth began. There was a hum of excitement within the group.

I guess this would be easier than I thought.

"Wait a minute, Jacob," Leah began, "Isn't that job out in Seattle? It was already bad enough when you were in school. Are you gonna be able to keep up with the pack and work and travel back up to rez?"

Leave it to Leah.

I looked to the forest for a brief moment, clearing my mind, my immense head tilting in thought.

"We're at peace," I began, "I mean, you've seen it around here; we've been running patrols, of course, because that's our job; its our duty, but we haven't seen action in almost a year."

"What about the Council? La Push?" Quil asked.

"I'll speak to them about my decision this week," I said looking at each of my pack members. "It'll take some getting used to, but I know this is the best thing for me."

"...and what about what's best for us, huh, Jacob?" Leah said bitterly. While she'd always made my being compassionate with her so difficult, I saw past her harsh tone and understood her frustration and disappointment with me. So, I'd let this one slide. She'd been my Beta for so long, I knew even before now, this would be the most difficult for her. And Seth, though excited for me, was still so young and fiercely loyal to my position as Alpha.

"You let me take care of that," I said trying my damnedest not to assert the conviction that was rising in my tone. "I'll come back to handle pack business and lead, guys; this isn't an ending, but a beginning...I'll always think of each of your best interests when making a decision. Never forget that."

"But-" Leah began.

That did it.

"I've thought this through and this is what will happen," I cut her off, authority and finality in my inflection. "This is my decision."

Leah's whine and slight dip of her head made my heart lurch a bit, but it had to be done. I looked to the horizon, realizing that dawn was breaking through the trees, a peach hue casting an ethereal light on our faces.

"Now, let's all get back. I'll keep you posted on my next steps."

Seth approached me, nodding and running the side of his large head and muzzle against mine in an embrace. "Don't worry, Chief. It'll all work out... with Leah, and everything. I know it will."

The pack spread out, heading in separate directions, awareness of each of their minds slowly fading, indicating they'd phased back, until I could hear no one but Sam, who was sitting beside me as the sun rose in the sky.

"I'll support you, no matter what you decide, Jacob. we're of the same blood,you and me, and I understand were you're at more than you may thing," Sam said, looking to me with a knowing glance. "And don't worry about them; we all trust your judgment."

I nodded my understanding. I just hoped I trusted my own.



"Jake!" Bella exclaimed to me as Ness and I entered the large archway of their foyer. I grinned widely as she jumped into my arms and I wrapped them warmly around her cold body, swinging her in a circle. I'd missed her, and this was one of the few times we'd have with no one to interrupt.

Bending to allow her arms to link behind my neck, I placed quick but passionate kiss on her lips. "I'll be back soon," I said with a wink.

I turned to Bella. "You about ready?"

Nessie hugged her, then ran to Edward, who'd been reading in the living room, kissing his cheek.

"Yep!" she replied excitedly. "Let's go before Edward changes his mind," she said in a whisper.

"I heard that!" he called. We both let out low snickers. "Jacob, when you return, I have a new arrangement by Ferd Morton I've recently come across. We can play a little later if you'd like."

"You bet, Ed. Looking forward to it," I said. Among many things, Edward had taught me to play the piano while I was still in undergrad. I'd found a whole new appreciation for jazz music through our lessons. You haven't lived until you've brushed your fingers over a baby grand, playing In a Sentimental Mood*.

Bella and I headed to the garage, joking and laughing the entire time. We had standing dates to ride bikes at least twice a month. She still remained one of my closest friends, and now that she was pretty much disaster-proof, it made the ride so much easier. Still couldn't seem to get completely used to that smell though-and trust me, I had tried. A lot.

I ran my fingers through my hair and cranked my black Suzuki Hayabusa, enjoying the loud roar exploding in the quiet forest air. Bells started her red one, adjusting her jeans into the riding boots she wore. I glanced down at my reflection in the shiny paint below me and smiled. Bella'd bought both bikes about six months back as her early birthday gift. I wasn't complaining.

"Now....I'll try to go slow. I know how hard it is for you to keep up," she said with an arrogant smile as she took off down the paved path, leading to the deserted access road a few miles from the house that overlooked First Beach.

I laughed, revving the motor and taking off behind her, shooting from zero to 80 within seconds. Bella was insane, I have to say. She took the dips and hills of the narrow road at a blinding speed, hugging the curves just inches from the ground. I couldn't let her get the best of me though, so I matched her, trick for life-threatening trick.

Later, I twirled a smooth rock over my fingers absentmindedly, as we sat on the edge of steep cliff just over the beach.

"So, I was thinking you could cook dinner this Sunday. Maybe we can invite Charlie and Billy too, make it a family thing," I said.

Bella smiled her charming smile, and turned her golden eyes out toward the ocean. "I think I'd like that, Jake. It never seems like I see either of those guys enough anymore."

"Yeah, I hear you. How are things with you guys anyway? We never really got a chance to talk at the party."

"Things are good. Edward is planning a trip out to South America in a few months, so, we're making preparations for that. How are you? How's Ness doing? You've been keeping my daughter away so much, I'm afraid she'll have another growth spurt or something, and I won't recognize her anymore," she joked.

I immediately thought back to the night Ness and I realized we wanted more from each other than just my being her consummate babysitter-brother-uncle.

I'd stood, towel around my waist leaning over my bathroom sink. I was shaving in preparation for a dinner date with Melissa, a girl from campus I'd been seeing for a couple months. Ness had physically matured to about 18 or 19 at that point, and sat curled up in my favorite armchair, reading The Awakening for the umpteenth time. She'd been glancing at me throughout the afternoon with a curious look on her face. Though aware that I was dating, today was different. Her look was pained.

Those years patiently being Ness's best friend and protector obviously went by rather quickly, but I was a guy, and constantly hanging with my child-imprint was kinda, well, odd for me at times.

While to look back then, I can never imagine caring for any other woman but Ness, I had romantic needs that she was just unable to meet for me at that point-- not that I'd wanted her to. I mean, she was just a kid. But even being the annoying little girl she was back then, those women never held the minutest of chances at ever having my heart the way she did. Never.

Not to mention, Ed had made it so difficult for the two of us-- his telepathy definitely caused serious issues with our burgeoning emotions. Those late nights causally lounging in her room soon gave way to the glances...and then, her hand would brush mine, or my eyes would linger longer than they should on her long legs in her ratty shorts, and well, it just wasn't good for any of us. I just figured I'd back off and she'd make that decision for herself once she was an adult, and once she did (I prayed to God that she please make the right decision), I'd be there immediately to be the man she wanted in her life.

Ness rose to her feet and met me at the door of the bathroom, hands resting on either side of the door frame.

"Jake," she said quietly.

"Mmmhmm?" I said, pulling my face taut in the mirror, distracted by the last few strokes of my shave.

"Jake, look at me," she said. I bent down to rinse the foam from my face, patting my cheeks dry with the hand towel hanging from a metal ring on the wall.

"Yeah, Ness," I sighed, slightly annoyed. "I'm trying to get ready here I'm already la-"

She looked at me for a long moment, dragging her brown eyes up from the floor to meet mine. She gazed into my eyes with a sharp intensity that felt like she was searching for something. Her exploration soon gave way to pain, a look that felt as if she was seeing me- the real me- in the most simplistic way.

She looked through my eyes and into my spirit.

I tried to swallow the lump forming in my throat.

She reached up and held either side of my face, as she'd done so many times, and I felt a wave of emotion wash over me.

'I love you,' she thought, her intensity resonating with seriousness. This wasn't brotherly love at all, though. She loved me deeply, her thoughts stirring things inside me for her that I never knew were there. My head was spinning.

"Stop this, Jacob...I don't want you to leave me now," she said, eyebrows furrowed, a pained expression on her delicate features.

I was putty.

"I love you... stay with me. I don't want you to be with anyone else but me," she said, placing her small hand over my heart. "Please."

She was crying, and my heart was aching. I felt a fierce need to comfort her and love her and protect her all at once. I felt the love I'd held for her for so long transform immediately. I loved her intensely, and it terrified me.

"Ness," I said pleading with her, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes, "Ness... I... I love you too, please don't cry. I love you."

I grabbed her wrists, placed them behind my neck and slid my hands carefully down to hold her small waist. She stood on her tiptoes, hesitating for just a moment, then bringing her parted lips to mine.

It was like magic.

I felt the electricity transfer.

Every nerve ending on my body began pulsing and thumping. She offered her tongue to me and I took it greedily. I wrapped my arms around her tightly, trying to take the pain away. Trying to keep her as mine, and make sure she never left me.

'Please, Jacob,' she mentally begged, tears still streaming. I knew what she wanted. I wanted it too, though I wasn't sure I was ready to give it to her.

How long had she felt this way? How long had I not seen the woman she had so obviously become? How much pain had she been enduring as I dated other women and lived my oblivious college-guy experience?

We were kissing. I was kissing Ness. And in the next moment, all our past familial feelings were lost in my mind. I'd forgotten the little girl I'd watch run around the cottage being chased by Edward or being thrown in the air by Emmett. Gone was my attachment to the kindergartener I'd walk the beach with or the adolescent I'd taught how to repair an engine.

Those moments were distant memories, because in this moment, Ness - my Ness - was the woman I painfully and completely loved.

I cautiously reached down and hooked my forearms under her knees, lifting her to eye-level. She wrapped her legs around my waist and pressed a thousand kisses over my lips and face as I lead her to my room. I set her down, and she refused to part her lips from mine.

I pulled the pin holding her hair in place loose, letting it fall to her shoulders. She looked so innocent, and so sexy. I held her, kissing away the tears from her cheeks.

"I want this, Jake. I'm ready," she said stepping back from our embrace. With unsure hands, she raised her thin t-shirt over her head, revealing the teal lace cupping her full breasts. She pulled me forward, placing my hands on the fly of her jeans. I obediently undid them, sliding them to the carpet.

I squeezed my eyes shut. How could she look this amazing and I not see it before this moment? Her graceful neck curved elegantly, begging to be kissed and revered, leading to her beautiful collarbone. Her breasts were perfect and firm, I noticed, even through the bra displaying the soft flesh straining against its thin material. Her small waist lead to the deliciously feminine curve of her hips. And her legs?

Oh God.

I breathed deeply, and my mouth watered at her sweet, rich smell, mixing with her arousal that was no doubt pooling in her thin matching panties.

A thousand thoughts ran through my mind in that moment. Namely, how the hell was I gonna tell her parents what I'd done- what we'd done? Ness was untouched before tonight, and there would be no hiding this. No way.

Pushing that thought aside, I ran my fingers over her shoulder, then pressed them into the soft skin of her flat stomach. She grabbed my hand and raised it to her lips, kissing each finger, and sliding them into her hot mouth.

I. Was. A. Goner.

I was brought back to the moment by a warm breeze rustling the leaves around us, causing the trees to sway in the distance.

"Ness is good. You know, things are getting pretty serious," I said. "And I'm thinking of taking a job offer in Seattle soon."

Bella looked at me briefly, then let out an superfluous breath from her lifeless chest, "That's big, Jake. I'm so proud of you, and so happy."

"Thanks Bells, hopefully things go well. I'm really excited, and kinda nervous, you know?"

"Of course you are, Jake, this is a big step in your life. I know everything will go great, though. I can't say I'm not a little sad. I'd gotten so used to you around the house, the echo of an empty fridge," she said smiling.

I lightly nudged her with a chuckle. "Speaking of which, come on, let's get back; I'm starving."

I glanced around the room, taking in the various jovial conversations of those around me. I looked to Ness and she squeezed my hand gave a bright smile, transferring words of encouragement to me. I figured now would be as good a time as any. I could do this.

I tapped my fork softly against my glass. "Okay, everybody....I know that I've talked to most of you about my plans after graduation. I've taken the time to really think it through, keeping each one of you in mind with my decision... and, I've decided to take a position with HCI."

"Oh, that's wonderful, Jacob," Esme said happily, hugging me.

Overall murmurs of congratulations from everyone filled the air. After all, pretty much everyone was aware of this - well, almost everyone. I'd yet to tell Billy, and I guess somewhere in me, past the pack leader, future council director and chief, was a nervous 8-year old too afraid to tell his father a decision in private.

I glanced at Jasper first, and could see a pained expression on his face as he flitted his eyes to my father.

"What, Jacob?" Billy began, closing his eyes, and shaking his head, searching for comprehension. "I don't understand." His authoritative tenor cut through the cheers and happiness and suddenly you could hear a pin drop.

"Dad, what do you mean?" I said with a smile, trying unsuccessfully to lighten the turning mood.

"I mean, I don't understand how you can move all the way to Seattle. What about your responsibilities here?" Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Carlisle and Esme ushering the rest of the Cullens outside. Guess they didn't want to be a party to this any more than I did.

I swallowed, glancing at Quil's furrowed brow. "Well Dad, I've thought this through and I've taken all that into account. I know how much I'm needed here. But I also know what my duty as a man do what is best for my future."

"So, you're saying your future does not lie here?"

"No Dad...I'm planning on coming back often, working on the rez. This is just a step I have to take now. I'll be back."

"Jacob, do you know how many people have said that same thing? How many kids have left, promising to come back after they did what they needed to do?"

Billy continued in Quileute. "And what's worse is who you are. You're not just some other kid, going off to enjoy their youth - you're my son," he said beating his fist against his chest, "...our blood runs deeply here."

"Dad, that's not going to happen, no way," I followed in Quileute. "I know who I am,whowe are, but I am a man. I know what my responsibilities are, and I understand my place....but I want you to know that I didn't put in all of that work at UW just to come back to La Push and work on cars."

As I stepped back from the heated conversation with Billy I regretted that statement as soon as the misspoken words spilled from my lips. I looked to Quil and Embry with apologetic eyes, but the damage was done. I'd have to make up for that, definitely.

"Son, there is nothing I can do to keep you here. It was my hope that I had raised you to understand what's important, beginning with our people and our traditions. University was supposed to make our people stronger, but being there has made you lose your way. Choosing money and possessions over your responsibilities."

"Dad-" I began

"No, Jacob. No," he said sharply, "I understand. You will speak with the council tomorrow. Since you're a man, it's your job to explain your decision," Billy said, wheeling towards the front door. Charlie followed closely behind him.

My knees almost gave out.

I felt the emotion forming on my face. I looked around to the brown faces around me. Disappointment, sadness, anger. I couldn't bear any of them.

With a pained look, I turned my back on the group, allowing the hum, then vibrations to wrack my body. In a half-second, I flew out the back door and onto the deck, clearing its four-foot edge in one stride. "Jake, don't!" I heard Seth's fruitless muffled plea echo from the house.

I jumped, my clothes a distant memory.




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