A/N: Wow. Hi. Haven't done this for a while. Anybody still there?

Hello??

Only kidding about that, but it has been a while. I've missed you all! And now I'm back with the awaited, long-ago promised final chapter of Kisses. It's been about half written since the last chapter was posted, and then about almost completely written since a few months ago. But I just last night finished it up and cleaned it off, and now I'm here to present.

God willing, I'll be traveling to Libya on the 11th. I probably won't have regular internet access, but I write a ton there, so that's a plus.

Whew, I'm rusty with this author's note thing. :) About the chapter, I just wanted to say that I'm happy with how it ended and I hope you are too. Jacob finally got to give his most special kiss.

I'm finally back, only to be ending something else. *sigh*. But I really hope you all can love it as much as I do. Thank you to every person who ever read or reviewed.

As always, endless love.

xx.

Disclaimer: I don't own a thing. Trust me, I'd tell you if I did.


The Lover's Kiss


x. X. x

I felt Nessie slip, elusive as ever, from my arms. She always slipped away right after I thought I had triumphed, fading away and trapping me in my dream alone. But this time, I was jerked into consciousness by a movement around me.

Being a werewolf, my eyes needed no time to adjust to the pitch blackness in my room, but I squinted and shook my head anyway, sure I had to have still been dreaming. Or at least some strange combination of asleep and awake, because sitting at the foot of my bed, was Nessie.

But then her beautiful eyes widened, and she sucked in a gasp, and I knew I definitely wasn't dreaming.

I was aware of three things immediately: the first being Nessie was soaked from head to toe, the second that she had snuck into my room when she most definitely wasn't supposed to be here, and the third being that I was naked.

"Nessie," I said, snatching myself into a sitting position and thanking God my sheets were still pulled across my hips. "What in the hell are you doing here?"

"I - I just . . . " I watched Nessie's eyes skating over me, only growing more uncomfortable. "I wanted . . . "

"Do your parents know you're here?" I questioned, even though I already knew the answer. They sure enough didn't, and I was lucky if the treaty wasn't broken already by an enraged Edward. "How - why in the hell would you - I, I need to . . . turn your back, Nessie, so I can get dressed."

Nessie's eyes widened even more and I took this to mean she hadn't noticed that I was naked. She immediately hopped from my bed and rushed to the very corner of the room, turning her back to me and looking like a child put in time out. I immediately felt like shit.

I had been too harsh - but I'd been startled.

Still uncomfortable with the situation, I did my best to keep my sheet around my hips as I leaned over the edge of the bed to grab my discarded gym shorts. I made sure my back was to Nessie's as I pulled them on and cast my eyes around my floor for a shirt, but couldn't find one and gave it up as a bad job. I'd never worn one before, but now I felt like I should.

"Ness . . . " I said tentatively, and felt even worse when she jumped at the sound of my voice. "I - I'm dressed. You can look now."

She did, turning around to face me, but she didn't move from her place in the corner by the door. I felt a breeze against my back and realized Nessie must have come in through the window, because I hadn't left it open. How hadn't the sound woken me?

But I already knew - my dreams of her were entirely too consuming.

This had been almost unbearable lately. Nessie and mine's relationship . . . wasn't good. Not like it had been. About a week after my horrible lapse in judgement in the forest, Nessie and I had a fight. Or the closest we'd ever been to one anyway.

I went over the next day after . . . the wrestling incident, despite my humiliation and shame, needing to see that she was okay. Things went almost back to normal, but . . . she kept touching me. Even more than before, running her hands over my shoulders when I didn't have my shirt and pressing her lips lightly against the side of my neck when she hugged me, driving me nearly insane.

Didn't she understand what almost happened in the woods?

Then a few days later here at the house, instead settling herself in my lap like she always had done - something that even now was getting to be a bit too much - Nessie climbed into my lap the opposite way, straddling my hips.

I lost it.

I - I couldn't take having her so close. Right against me, almost worse than before. I lifted her off of me, pissed off with myself and a little with Nessie, asking her what she was doing. Why did she keep doing this? What was up with all of this touching? What in the hell, Nessie?

Nessie gestured her arms widely and stepped back away from my couch, shifting all her weight onto one of her legs, poking out one of her hips, as she had been apt to do lately. I tried not to notice.

"What?" She'd asked loudly, her voice wavering more than I liked to admit. "Do you not want me touching you?"

What was I supposed to say? No, I definitely want you touching me - I want your hands over every inch of my body. I want to touch every inch of yours, explore all the places on your body my hands haven't felt before.

I must have taken too long to answer because Nessie scoffed. I tried to reach out to her, take her hand, anything to express to her that I did want her touch, in the most innocent way possible. She jumped away from me though, her expression disgusted and tearing at my gut, shaking her head.

"No, Jacob, no," she said lowly, still shaking her head. "No. That's - that's it. If you don't want me to touch you, then don't you touch me. I don't want you touching me."

I don't think I'd ever felt pain like the pain I felt at those words. I needed Nessie, to see her and touch her and talk to her and be with her, I needed that to survive. I just couldn't handle those kinds of touches, not yet. Maybe with time, maybe one day I could accept Nessie's innocent touches for what they were, and my body wouldn't betray me, but not now.

I had never meant to . . . reject Nessie. Never. I needed her.

"Nessie . . . "

"Take me home, Jacob," she demanded, stalking to the corner of the room where she had left her bag.

I didn't want to take her home. I couldn't . . . I couldn't leave things like this. I didn't even realize I was on my feet until I saw Nessie getting closer as I walked to her.

"Nessie, please, don't leave yet - let me just explain - "

"There's nothing to explain, Jacob." I was completely unused to hearing her voice like this, hard. It tore at me. "Now I'm going home, whether you take me or not - as you can see it's twilight and you of all people should know I'm not allowed on my own after dark. You can either take me since you're so big on keeping all of Daddy's rules, or I'm going on my own."

I still stood, frozen.

"You know what? I'm going," she said, her eyes narrowed. Still looking at me with such . . . disdain. I couldn't feel my legs. "I'll take myself; I don't even want you coming with me. You can call Daddy and tell him I'm coming if you want, and I promise I'll take the blame so you don't get in trouble with the boss. See you around, Jake."

Around. Not tomorrow, not soon. Around, like at family get togethers and random bump-ins at the grocery store. Like strangers.

Watching her go, I wanted to follow her. I - I knew that I should, but I was unable to. Nessie didn't want me following her and I couldn't force my presence on her. I knew she was safe running the short distance home at twilight, only another one of Edward's rules, so I had no excuse. I had to let her go.

Because she didn't want me.

What had I done?

I bolted to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before my stomach emptied its contents into the bowl. I just sat there, contemplating exactly where my lust had gotten me. In hell. I had hurt the person closest to me, and now she didn't want me - as even her friend - and everything was completely ruined.

I had brought my world down on my own head on account of my weakness. My inability to simply touch my best friend without feeling the animal urge to claim her.

I eventually stripped off and got into the shower. There, for the first time in years, the first time since my Nessie was born and I had laid eyes on her perfect face, I cried.

Needing to at least see her face, even if it was scowling at me, I rolled out of my bed I hadn't slept in early the next morning. I at least needed the chance to beg for forgiveness. I took my car since I couldn't bear to have anyone else inside my head. Edward opened the main door to the house as I got out of the car and I waited for him to attempt to send me away, but soon I forgot all about him.

Because Nessie - my Nessie - ducked under his arm and stepped out onto the porch. Edward shut the door behind her and she glided lightly to me. She held her arms half-open at first, but then crossed them tightly over her chest.

Her eyes were red, and it killed me to see it.

"I'm so sorry for the way I acted, Jacob," she said quietly, but sincerely, and I soared. Not because of the unneeded apology, but because you didn't apologize to people you hated. "I had . . . no right to talk to you like that. I wanted to call you . . . but I was too ashamed. I'm so sorry."

I watched her eyes well up and I felt mine want to follow suit, but I held back that urge. My arms itched to hold Nessie, to comfort her, and that urge was harder to resist.

"Don't be sorry, Nessie, please," I begged, watching her shift her weight uncomfortably. She looked so tired. Was it possible she hadn't slept either? "Here . . . honey, lets . . . sit in the car. You look tired. We can talk there."

Nessie nodded and swiped at her eyes, still not looking at me. I tried to rush to her side and open her door for her, but she waved me off and I took heed. I would tread very carefully from here on out and I wouldn't put myself where I wasn't wanted. I wasn't chancing losing this again.

I slid into my side and left the door open since Nessie had. Her body was angled towards me, but her eyes were on my leg and her arms were still crossed firmly in front of her.

"Nessie . . . " I breathed, taking in the pure, relieving sight of her. Here, looking sad, which was horrible, but not angry. Definitely not hard or hateful. "Please - you have to know I'd never . . . "

"I don't - " Nessie shook her head almost frantically, wiping at her eyes again. I wished she would let me do it for her. I wished I could, with my lips like before. Without fear of the animal taking over my body and forcing me to claim her here, now, in this very car. "I don't wanna talk about it anymore, Jake, really."

I nodded. I wanted more than anything in the world to apologize, to repent and be forgiven, but if Nessie said no more talking about it, then I would be silent.

"I - I have no excuse for being so . . . cruel," Nessie continued, uncrossing her arms and looking so helpless it made me ache. "I hope you still . . . I hope you can - still be my friend."

She drummed her fingers in the armrest between our seats and then stopped, digging her fingernails into the material there. I realized a second too late Nessie was waiting for my answer.

"Of course, Nessie, I . . . I came here to beg you to forgive me," I explained, unable to take my eyes off her her face like I could force her by will alone to meet my gaze. "You're my best friend, I . . . I need you. I could never just . . . you're my . . . "

I didn't have words, so my hand automatically reached out to cover Nessie's, since that was the only form of comfort I could think of that would do any good. But as I did, Nessie pulled her hand away, back into her lap.

Then she lifted her red-rimmed eyes to mine.

"Jacob," she said quietly, and I let her gaze search my face. I realized my hand was still hanging in the air and let it drop. "I am sorry for being cruel, and disrespectful, I swear. But the . . . the touching thing, I meant it."

And so that was how it was.

Nessie didn't touch me, and she didn't let me touch her, at all. The idea of not touching Nessie was unbearable from the very beginning, but my joy of having her back overshadowed that for a while. A while last precisely two hours, when I came back to see Nessie the next day.

I promised myself I would be good and respect Nessie's wishes, no matter how much it hurt me, but I didn't think I realized exactly how much it would hurt. In so many ways.

No more sitting close together, no more playful shoves, no hugs - not even high-fives. It had been six months since I'd felt Nessie's skin against mine and I was desperate. Like a dirty pervert, I tried to stand close when she walked by in the hall or lay my arm perilously close to hers, hoping she'd accidentally brush across me. Anything to feel her.

But . . . she never did. She moved her arm and she'd press her back flat against the wall to avoid touching me if she had to, or turn around and walk the other way altogether. Even though I still had Nessie as a friend, the rejection burned like nothing I'd ever felt.

Our relationship had changed. We were still best friends, but . . . not like before. Something was missing - the touch was missing. We would hunt together, but only elk, not each other, and when we watched movies together it was from opposite sides of the couch or even the room. And the touching wasn't the only absence.

Nessie stopped . . . letting me in.

Nessie told me everything about every part of her day before, and how she felt about it. Most times she would show me. God, how I missed Nessie sharing her gift with me, feeling her small palm against my cheek and then seeing things she saw and feeling things she felt. I'd give anything to know what Nessie felt right about now.

But I knew.

The worst part though, the absolute worst, was that it wasn't just me this . . . separation was affecting. It was affecting Nessie too. She always looked tired and she refused to wear her new clothes, the ones bought to keep up with her recent growth spurt. Edward insisted (and I silently agreed) that Nessie wear her new clothes in public, but if we were at my house or hers, Nessie walked around in tight jeans that rode low in her hips and shirts that slid back to reveal inches of pale white skin. Clothes she'd outgrown months ago.

It only made not touching her so much harder.

Especially when she looked so tired and sad, like she did most of the time. Nessie wouldn't sleep at my house anymore, and if I insisted too much that she needed some sleep she would ask me to take her home so she could get some. Or sometimes, I'd look up and catch Nessie looking at me with this . . . expression in her eyes that I didn't understand, and then when I met her gaze she'd turn her eyes back down to my knees and ask me to take her home.

It seemed like all I did was take Nessie home these days.

Our relationship had . . . roughened, and there was no other word for it. It wasn't a smooth ride anymore, and I wished we could at least talk about it, but it all stemmed from one problem and that one problem was the one thing Nessie was uncompromising on.

No touch.

What was I supposed to do, beg her to let me touch her? Or better yet, beg her to touch me? I would never.

And so, here I stood, half-naked before an almost half-naked and soaking wet Nessie, in my bedroom in the middle of the night. Nessie hadn't made an effort to see me in . . . months. And then here I found her in my bed at three in the morning.

She was in her too-small clothes and soaking wet, not to mention it wasn't July. She shivered faintly as she stood, her arms wrapped tight around herself, her eyes wide and open in a way I hadn't seen them in awhile.

"You need to get out of those clothes," was what I heard myself say.

I walked to my dresser and pulled out a t-shirt, which should be more than big enough, especially considering the way she walked around these days. I handed it out to her, already knowing the drill, making sure enough of the shirt dangled from my hand for her to grab onto or she would refuse it. Nessie took it gingerly in her hand, holding it away from her wet body. She still didn't speak.

"Nessie . . ." I tried to reel back the frustration in my voice, but it was hard. I spent my life constantly frustrated now, at myself and what I had done to my life with one little mistake. "Where are your parents?"

They had to have been hunting or at the big house or something, because there was no way she ran off without them knowing. Unless they knew, which was highly unlikely.

I wanted to kick myself when I watched the open look - the one I hadn't seen on Nessie's face in months at least, fall away. I watched her close up.

"They're in their room, or maybe in the shower - hell if know. I left out the window," she said, crossing her arms again and probably wetting the t-shirt in her hands. I was shocked. I had never heard Nessie speak like this, or curse. "Either way, they're locked up together doing what they do all night every night - or whenever they think I'm asleep or not listening that well. Trust me, they're busy. They won't notice I'm gone until they come up for a cigarette break."

That was by far the . . . crudest thing I'd ever heard Nessie say. The bitterness in her voice didn't bypass me either.

So Nessie had snuck out?

"So they don't know you're here?" I asked, imagining the rage that was Edward in this situation as the phone in the living room started to ring. "I guess that's my answer."

Nessie move in front of the door as I stepped to get to it.

"Please don't tell him I'm here," Nessie pleaded, clutching my shirt to her chest, and the open look was back in her eyes. "Please, Jake."

Jake. I hadn't been Jake since that 'see you around, Jake' six months ago. I hadn't heard my nickname from Nessie's lips in so long that it shocked me.

But there was no way I could lie to Edward about something as important as this. I'd kill him if he did it to me.

I couldn't bring myself to tell her no, so I opened the door as far as it would go with her standing in front of it.

"Move, Nessie, and let me answer the phone," I commanded. Over the past months, that had been happening more. Nessie still submitted to my authority, for whatever reason, and so I used it as my only connection with her. "Change into that shirt, or a new one if that's too wet, and let me handle this."

Nessie's gaze dropped from mine and she stepped away from the door. She walked straight to my bed, already unbuttoning her jeans, and I rushed out the door and shut it tight behind me. Then I walked the two steps to the living room and snatched up the phone.

"Edward?" I said into the reciever, already knowing.

"Jacob!" He said, sounding relieved, probably at me assuming it was him and that meaning Nessie was here. "Is she with you?"

"She is," I answered quickly, not wanting to keep him in suspense any longer. I knew what he must be feeling - if I thought Nessie had gone missing . . . "She, uh - I woke up as she was climbing through my window."

It wasn't the exact truth, but telling Edward I'd woken up to Nessie literally in my bed wouldn't help her case any.

"Why?" He shouted, but it wasn't directed at me. It was just pure relief, and confusion. "We never stop her from seeing you - why would she do this?"

"I - I don't know, Edward," I told him honestly, as I heard the door to my bedroom creak open behind me. "I don't know what to tell you."

"Well . . . thank you, Jacob," he said, sighing, and I could imagine him pinching the bridge of his nose. "You can . . . go ahead and bring her home now."

I was just about to answer when Nessie ducked into my line of sight, dressed in my shirt and hair still dripping. The open look was back, and she shook her head and waved her hands almost frantically.

No, please, Jacob, please, she mouthed. Don't take me home yet. Let me stay. Please, Jake.

It had been months since Nessie had not only visited me on her own, but asked to stay longer. She was usually the one cutting our visits short. But now, for whatever reason, Nessie wanted to be with me. I wouldn't send her away. I could see from her eyes that something was wrong, and I needed to find out. I needed to be there for her.

"How about . . . just give me a minute, Edward," I suggested, and watched Nessie's body sag with relief. "Let me talk to her, try and see what's up. I'll bring her home soon."

Nessie bit her lip as we waited. I knew from here she could hear too.

"All right," Edward decided, and Nessie literally collapsed against the wall. "Talk to her and see if you can make some sense of it all, but bring her home soon."

"I will," I promised, and hung up the phone.

Nessie just watched me, and for a second, we just stood there.

"Do you want to go back to my room?" I asked, since Nessie didn't seem to like being in my room as much anymore. But she had just snuck into it. "Just so we don't wake Billy?"

"That's fine," Nessie answered, and when I gestured for her to walk ahead of me, she did.

I followed Nessie in, shutting my door behind us and going to my dresser to rifle through for another shirt. I pulled it over my head and when I was done, Nessie was still standing awkwardly in the center of my room.

I sat down at the head of my bed, crossing my legs and hoping that would make Nessie more comfortable, but still she just stood there.

"Sit, Nessie," I instructed softly, and she obeyed. "You're not on trial."

When she sat, she sat surprisingly in the center of my bed and not the foot of it, and we were closer than we had been in awhile.

"I . . . " Nessie started, and then stopped. "I just want . . . can we talk, Jacob? You know, about stuff, like we used to?"

"You can . . . always talk to me, Nessie," I said, feeling at odds. Didn't she know that? "You don't have to sneak into my room at four in the morning to do it."

My voice wasn't harsh - I was sure of it - but Nessie still flinched, and my heart panged.

"I can . . . come back," Nessie said timidly, breaking my heart even more, her arms wrapped tight around herself. "In the day, if you want . . . I just - "

"No!" All I felt was confusion and hurt. And worry. I didn't understand a thing right now. "Nessie . . . I . . . I don't want you to leave."

There was nothing to say besides that. It was all I'd been needing to say for months - I don't want you to leave. I never want you to leave, and it hurts me . . . when you do.

Nessie was quiet for a second, recrossing her legs and pulling the hem of my shirt down over her knees like she was suddenly self-conscious. She tugged at a curl, damp now and hanging from over her shoulder as she brought her eyes back up to mine.

"Have you ever . . . felt like . . . " She exhaled a deep, shaking breath that moved her whole body. I wondered if she was cold. I wished I could warm her up. "Like you weren't you anymore?"

For a second, I had what could only be described as a flashback. Sixteen and standing in the living room, feeling like I was about to burst out of my skin, Billy telling me I looked funny.

Then the explosion.

The shaking, the tearing, the pain searing through your skull as you changed. Your bones moving. Space and time suspending as the way you perceived the world moved. Everything moving into sharper quality, dimensions and depth-perception enhancing.

And then the voices, inside your head. Helping you, but at the same time, invading.

And just like that, you aren't you anymore.

I definitely knew what Nessie meant. On more levels than she could ever fathom.

"I have," was all I said though. I remembered that feeling - that horrible, detached feeling, and I never wanted Nessie to feel that way. "Do you . . . feel that way?"

Nessie nodded a little and dropped her eyes to the small space of bed between us.

"Sometimes," she mumbled. "Sometimes it's like . . . what makes a person them? The way they look and the way they feel and the way they . . . act. Right?"

I didn't know what to say, so I just nodded her on. I couldn't even begin to describe all the things that made Nessie up, made her what she was.

"So if I don't . . . . look like me and I don't feel like me and I don't act like me . . . " Nessie brought both of her hands up to rake her fingers through her hair and then she looked at them, like they were . . . not a part of her or something. Then she looked at me, eyes wide. Shining. "Then who am I, Jake?"

God. I wanted to cry. Or smash something.

Nessie had been suffering more than she'd ever let on, and I hadn't done anything about it. I thought Nessie was the one separating us, but I was just watching her float away, when she needed to be pulled back.

"I hurt," Nessie said, her eyes floating above my head and scanning the wall, like she wanted to look at anything besides me. Her voice shook and I wanted to hold her. Her words ripped a hole in my stomach. "Everywhere. All the time."

I knew - I had obviously seen - that Nessie had been hurting emotionally, but this . . . it didn't sound like that was what she meant.

"In my bones," she elaborated, ghosting her hands down over her arms like she was trying to hold herself. Like she couldn't sit still. "The growing pains. They're so bad . . . so much sometimes I can't even think, and they never let up."

I hadn't . . . I'd never known . . .

"And it's not just my bones - I feel like I'm about to burst out of myself, all the time, like all of this changing is finally going to explode and morph me into something completely different than what I am, more than now even . . . "

"Nessie," I breathed, stunned. It was more than the shock of hearing her feelings after so long, it was the depth and magnitude of them. The suffering she'd been holding inside of her. "You're not . . . you're still you, honey. I - I know a lot about exploding, trust me, and it's not going to happen to you."

Nessie made a loud, kind of watery sound that was halfway between a cry and a laugh.

"It's my skin, Jake." Jake. I was Jake again. "How it . . . doesn't like to stretch? That's how it feels . . . I mean, I know I'm not going to explode, but . . . "

"But?"

I wasn't exactly an expert at comfort, but my every instinct was aimed towards the happiness of my life force, of Nessie, and she definitely had a lot of demons she had to exorcise. I was - terrified to hear them, but I would. I had to, for her.

"I don't . . . want to grow up," she whispered, biting the inside of her lip. "If it's gonna be like this."

"It's not going to hurt forever," I promised, knowing it was a safe one to make. Her growth would be done by the end of the year, we were sure of it. Or Carlisle and Edward were, at any rate. "It'll be better soon, and then . . . it won't hurt anymore. Have you . . . told Carlisle, about how much it hurts?"

I wanted so badly to take her pain from her, to take it into myself so she could be free of it. How long had she been suffering like this?

"Yeah, but it's just growing pains, there's nothing they can do about it," she mumbled, still fidgeting. I wanted to move closer, but I couldn't risk Nessie closing herself off again. I wouldn't. "And it's . . . it's not even the pain, Jacob, it's just that the hurting makes everything so much harder . . . "

"Harder?"

I had been making it harder, hadn't I? By constantly trying to touch her, to force my closeness on her when she didn't want it.

"I didn't think growing up would be like this." Nessie leaned down and picked a thread from my bedspread, wrapped it tight around her finger, but it didn't turn pink like a full-human's would. "It's like, every single good thing that came from it gets . . . blocked. Or messed up. And I'm changing so much, even inside . . . and I'm just scared - scared that . . . "

"What are you scared of, Ness?" I prodded, literally clenching the sheets of my bed to keep my hands from reaching out. "You're going to be fine, honey, I promise."

"I'm scared that - " Nessie paused to dig her tiny fists into the covers too, but for very different reasons, I'm sure. Her voice was so small. "That nobody will love me the same . . . now that I'm not me anymore."

My heart broke. Literally snapped in half, looking at her then. How could she even think - ?

"Nessie, honey," I said leaning forward, ducking my head to catch her eyes. I wished I could tip her head back with my fingers like I used to, but thankfully Nessie met my gaze anyway. "Listen to me: you are still you. You're growing up and you're changing, and that's okay."

"No!" Nessie burst out, louder than anything she'd said all night, shocking me. "It's not okay! Not if it makes me want things I can't have, and do things I can't explain, and hurt people I care about! It's a horrible thing!"

Somewhere during all of this, Nessie had brought herself up into a kneeling position, and she leaned forward and buried her face in her knees. I heard a small muffled noise, a cry, and I reached back and gripped my headboard to contain my hands.

It cracked under my grip, but neither one of us registered it.

"Nessie," I heard my voice warn. I didn't want to ruin things now, but I was dangerously close to doing so if Nessie didn't face me. Dangerously close to gathering her in my arms and forcing her to meet my gaze. "Sit up so I can see you. Please."

She did, slowly, tiredly. And faced me with wet eyes.

"Look at me, Jacob," she said tearfully, and I swallowed a lump in my throat. I think a good deal of this problem was because I spent entirely too much time looking at her. "Look at how I am. Nothing fits. My clothes don't fit . . . my relationships don't fit. I . . . don't fit."

"You fit, Nessie," I swore, unable to draw back the dominant tone in my voice. I was unable to be anything but utterly serious about this fact. "Clothes will always eventually not fit, but you fit - you always have. You fit here with . . . with us."

I wanted to say with me. But I felt like I shouldn't.

Nessie's eyes watched mine, reserved and swimming with tears. One of her hands braced between us on the mattress, half holding her up.

"Not . . . with you I don't," she finally whispered, and every muscle in my body locked up. Were we going to talk about this? Finally? "I don't fit with you anymore, Jake."

I wanted to tell her that she did fit, that we did fit. That God had made us to fit together and I had known it from the very first second I stared into her beautiful eyes the very day she was born. But I couldn't do that.

I wanted to beg her to give me the chance to show her just how well we could fit, if she let me.

More than that, I just wanted to make her feel better. Close the void between us and be Nessie and Jake again. I wanted to hold her close and let her whisper her hurts in my ear like she always had so I could promise they'd be all right.

But . . . when I was her hurt, how did I fix it?

I wanted to tell her that her body was beautiful, that I loved every inch of it, and that the inside of her was just as amazing as the outside. I wanted to let her know that the pain would go away soon, in only a few months, and then she'd be done with this extremely rapid, scary process. I wanted to let her know that I still loved her - I would always love her - no matter what she did. And there wasn't any action in the world that could make her stop being my Nessie.

I wanted to touch her.

I was so sure, so, so sure suddenly that this was the only way to fix everything. I was never good with words, never that guy - I could never tell or describe or explain to Nessie the boundless, limitless place inside of me that was my love for her.

It wasn't just my own need, though, I swear it - I was past my own heartache and despair right now. I was watching my beautiful girl sitting before me on her knees, crying because she hurt all over and she thought she didn't fit with me when she was the only thing that'd ever fit me in the world

I couldn't risk hurting Nessie again, but I couldn't let her keep on hurting like this. I couldn't fix the ache in her body, and that killed me, but the ache inside of her was my responsibility and I was the most horrible man in the world to have let it fester as long as it had.

I watched Nessie's eyes, beautiful and wide and tearful and chocolate brown, skitter over my face. She was trying to hold back more tears, the arm braced on the bed between us shaking.

I watched her hand, pale and small, inches from my knee and gathered up all of my courage and all of my love.

In the back of my mind, I steeled myself for rejection, but my heart ignored it completely. Left itself wide open.

Then with a movement I'd been dreaming about for months now, I reached out and covered Nessie's tiny hand with my own.

Nessie's eyes widened, past what I'd ever seen them go before, but she didn't pull away. Warmth shot through my arm, up from the place where I felt her soft skin under my palm, up into my whole body like I was being thawed out.

I was being thawed out. If a vamp ever got the chance to come back to life, this must be what it would feel like. A warming. I felt the blood in my body begin to flow again and my heart restart.

I was home now. But Nessie . . .

She was just watching with her beautiful, beautiful eyes.

When she pulled her hand out from under mine, my heart had barely had time to start breaking again before she threw herself at me. Across the space between our bodies, into my arms. Hers closed around my neck and mine moved, on instinct, to close around her small back, keep her there.

It was another punch to the chest, and it hurt, but in the best way. It was the best hurt I'd ever felt in my life, to have her again.

Nessie shook in my arms and pressed her face into my neck, letting her arms move around my shoulders. I could feel her breath against my skin, ragged. Her skin against my skin, cold.

"Oh, Jake," she panted against my shoulder, running her forehead from my neck to my shoulder and back again. "My Jacob."

It had been even longer since I'd heard that. Her Jacob.

All I could do though was hold her back and let the hug bring feeling back to my body. It was unbelievably good to have her like this again, in spite of everything. I slid my arms up and down her back, relishing the pure closeness of her after so long. Her scent - God, I had missed the smell of her hair.

"I'm your Jacob, Ness," I finally found the courage to say, like speaking would ruin the dream. "Always."

"I'm so sorry," Nessie choked into my neck, and my stomach tightened when I felt her tears. "I never meant to . . . I didn't want . . . please forgive me, Jacob. Please."

"There's nothing to forgive," I promised, turning my head to press my nose into her hair. So soft. It had been so long.

"There is," she persisted, sliding her arms down to wrap them around me from under my arms. She kept her face in my neck. "You just . . . I know you didn't mean to, but you hurt me . . . and I - "

"I'm so sorry for hurting you, Nessie," I swore, trying to swallow down the lump lodged in my throat. I knew I had, but to hear her say it tore at me. "I swear I never meant to. Everything I ever do is for you, you have to know that."

"I missed you so much." If she only knew how much I missed her, even when she was sitting right in front of me. "I'm cold without you, Jake."

"I - I'm cold without you too," I said truthfully. "I'm dead without you, Ness. You can get warm now though, I'm here."

Even though Nessie's skin was ice cold, probably from the storm outside, I thought she meant emotionally. Until she moved her head to the other side of my neck, avoiding my eyes and whispered, "Warm me?"

Her sweet, hesitant request and shivering body gave me no choice, not that I had another one anyway. I lowered my hands to her arms, rubbing them up and down the cold skin, trying to bring some blood back into it. After she'd been out in the rain, I should've given her a blanket, not a t-shirt.

Nessie's knees now were inside the space my crossed legs created, but as I soothed my arms over her arms and down her back she slowly lowered her body until she was sitting on my knee. Then her body . . . sagged completely against mine, every muscle in her body lax. Like every bit of tension had been drained from her body.

"It - it doesn't hurt," she mumbled into my shoulder, and I looked down and was finally able to see her face. Beautiful. "My bones don't hurt . . . not like before. You . . . you make the hurt go away, Jake."

"I'll always make the hurt go away, Nessie," I promised, but it was only after I said it that I realized I had probably let too much of . . . everything get out into my voice.

I think Nessie might have heard it too, because she brought her eyes up to mine. She was cradled in my arms, like a baby, like I had held her when she was first born, only things were worlds different now.

She bit her lip, just the corner, and reached up, pressing her fingertips to my jaw. I felt love, strong and warm, rushing into me from Nessie's connection. So long since I'd felt it, it was enough to knock something loose inside of me.

I waited for Nessie to end it, but she didn't. The love grew wider and stronger and more, even though she was only using her fingertips. It grew hotter. I hadn't been warm in six months, not until a few seconds ago, and I hadn't been hot in years.

Nessie's eyes were bright, still shining with tears, and her lips were beautiful. Her love was strong. Her breathing grew harder and more labored as more love, more pure, hot love poured out of her body and into mine.

Her lips parted wider and wider with each breath. Her body, her small, beautiful body seemed like it was straining in my arms. I realized my lips were parted too when I tasted her breath.

Sweet, and close.

Too sweet. So close.

God, not again.

How could I do this again? Let my body and my heart take control of the situation? I hadn't had her in my arms two seconds, and her eyes were already dragging me back in. Her scent was already making my head swim. Her lips were already begging me to taste them.

And her love - surging so fast and hard, straight from her skin to mine - her love was killing me.

"Jake," she whispered, her voice soft. Her waist was soft, the curve of her hip was soft, in my hands. "Jacob, I love you."

"I love you too," I swore, and my voice was rough. Low. But I meant it more than I'd ever meant anything else. "I love you too, Nessie."

And I was sorry I couldn't do it right. Sorry I couldn't take her love like she was willing to give it to me, and be happy. I was sorry that I wanted more so badly. So sorry.

Nessie's body moved up in my arms, and her face got closer. Her fingers slid up and back, never sealing the connection between us, until her fingers were almost cupping my jaw. She was too close. She was testing me.

"Jake?"

"Yeah, Ness . . "

Her eyelids fluttered shut, and then open. I spent a fraction of a second being jealous of the way her lashes brushed across her cheekbone. Her tongue, small like the rest of her and bright pink, came out to wet her lips.

Like an animal, my mouth watered. My body tightened.

I loved her so much.

"Jake," she whispered, and then there was the slightest pressure on my jaw. Her fingers, pulling my face down a fraction. Then she stretched up, up another inch, and our noses brushed. "Don't . . . please . . . don't run away again . . . "

"I'm not . . . " I couldn't breathe. I felt like I couldn't breathe, but I was panting harder than ever. "I didn't . . . I'll never run away from you, Nessie . . . "

"You did," she argued, her eyelids rising and falling like she was fighting sleep. I was afraid to move. "You did, Jacob, you ran away from me . . . what did I do?"

Then it burst into my head like a punch to the gut. Running from Nessie. Leaving her wet and dirty on the forest floor while I ran like a weak . . . like a damn coward.

"I'm sorry . . . " I would get down on my knees if that would make her feel any better. But I didn't want to move. "I didn't mean to . . . "

"Don't run again," she whispered, and her body strained again. We were centimeters from me making a very huge mistake. "Please, Jake . . . I - make me fit with you . . . "

"Fit?" My mouth felt absent. It only wanted one thing, and that wasn't to talk. "You fit . . . Ness, I told you . . . "

"No, Jake . . . like this." Her breath came out in a rush against my mouth, and then her thigh moved. From laying against her other thigh to stretching out, and coming to rest against my hip. "I want to fit with you like this . . . "

And then her lips - the lips I'd dreamed about - thought about for hours. The lips I knew every curve of, had imagined tasting a thousand times . . . they were closer than they had been in years. My Nessie's soft . . . soft pink bottom lip was hovering in the space mine left. Not touching . . . just there. If, if I moved my lips at all . . .

Then my Nessie breathed my name again - Jake - soft and barely there, from the back of her throat. She wanted to fit.

I could make her fit. I might bring it all down around us, but for a few seconds, I could make her fit. With me at least.

I took a deep breath that tasted like Nessie, like her lip between mine, hovering in the air. Like loving her so hard and so strong, and for a second - just a second - I knew I wouldn't mess it all up.

I brought my hand up, from around her back, to hold her neck. Cup it gently. Her breathing was almost as ragged as mine and I could hear her heart, thundering like a rabbit. Like I was chasing her through the forest.

Hurtling after her, her hair flying back behind her like a copper flag. Her bare feet kicking up dirt, her t-shirt riding up to reveal a slice of white skin . . . and then she'd look over her shoulder . . .

I pulled our faces together, closed whatever space was left between us - I threw how everything had ever been before straight out the window - and closed my lips around hers.

Her gasp made every muscle in my body tighten. Her bottom lip was soft and full. So delicate, so fragile between my own. Her body arched in my hands like a bow, and her other arm wrapped around my neck.

I waited for reality to come crashing back, and it never did.

I had kissed Nessie before - dozens of times, in dozens of different ways - but it had been years since I had kissed a girl. And I had never kissed a girl like this. A crazy beautiful, amazing, perfect girl that I loved so much it hurt.

That kissed me back. That wrapped her fingers in my hair and sighed soft and sweet into my mouth and made everything all right. That made me want to cry from pure happiness.

I didn't have time to worry about what it meant. I only knew that Nessie's mouth, shy and inexperienced, made me feel like I'd never felt before. I had her - finally. She fit with me when she fit nowhere else.

I fit with her. Here. Like this.

Nessie's hands scrambled through my hair and I held her tighter. I did my best to be soft, but her lips and her sounds and her body kept begging me otherwise. She was an angel. She was heavenly. She moved her lips against mine, easy and slow, and her palm on my jaw let me feel every second of it.

My kisses felt good to her. She liked the way my lips felt between hers. My scent made her feel opened up. She wasn't paying attention and she wasn't controlling what she gave me. I got all of it.

Her body, shifting in my lap, was heaven, but dangerous. Her mouth was too sweet. Her body too responsive.

I tried to pull back, close the kiss, but Nessie's fingers left my hair to catch my face, keeping my lips against hers. She opened her mouth wider under mine and made the sweetest noise in the back of her throat.

"Ja-cob."

"Ness . . . "

I didn't know what I was going to say when all of this was over, but for now that was enough. Ness.

Nessie's lips started moving more insistently against mine, wanting but sure, and her hand kept urging me closer still. Then I felt it - warm and wet - Nessie's tongue, grazing my bottom lip.

I groaned without meaning to, and Nessie kissed harder. Sat up further in my lap, until she was on her knees. I wrapped my arm around her waist and she leaned forward into my mouth even more.

I knew this wasn't supposed to happen like this. That we needed to stop and talk, I needed to make sure Nessie knew what was going on. That she wanted this the same way I did. But I couldn't. Not yet.

I slid my fingers into her soft, damp hair and stilled her head momentarily so I could dip in, take each lip between mine carefully. Then finally, taste them. Nessie's breath caught in her throat when I brushed my tongue softly against her bottom lip, tasting it.

Just like I'd imagined she'd taste like, and more.

I checked when she froze though. Had I gone too far?

I pulled away to check her face, to ask her . . . anything, but again, she pulled my mouth back to hers.

"Don't run away," she murmured again, opening her mouth under mine and making it hard to think. "I love you . . . I missed you so much . . . "

God, I had hurt her. She had wanted me to kiss her that day. And I had ran.

She was so desperate, so beautiful, and I was so weak. It would be wrong to keep going. Nessie was laying claim on me the only way her body told her to, and I didn't want to be the one who took her so far she regretted it.

But she kept kissing me like she'd done it a thousand times before, and pressing her body against mine. She kept moaning and sighing and I was half-insane and it hadn't been two minutes.

Then she leaned her weight back, against my arm. My body followed her lead without question, and a second later I had her on her back. Under me. One hand behind her shoulder-blade and the other on her hip, her body rounder and softer than I was used to feeling. She was heaven.

Nessie's arms slid up my back, wrapped around me, and I kissed her harder. I took everything her open mouth offered. Nessie fell back, the desperate edge of her kisses stayed, but she gave me the lead. I felt her give it up to me, follow my cues, react to my body.

Then she drew her tiny hands over my arms, up the backside of them, and breathed into my mouth.

"Jake," she breathed into the kisses, her voice small. "Pin me."

For the first time since our lips made contact, I pulled back fully. Away from the softness of her mouth, back, far enough to see her face. Beautiful and young. Her lips . . . redder than usual, a little . . . swollen.

Beautiful.

Mine.

"What . . . ?"

I watched her brown eyes watch me, watched her tongue come out to wet her lips. Wished that I could do it for her.

"Pin me down," she said quietly, almost a whisper, but the words were clear. I didn't understand. "Like that day . . . in the woods. Hold me down, Jake."

"I don't . . . " That didn't seem right. It didn't seem like what I wanted from this. It didn't seem like the right thing to do by her. I didn't understand. "Why . . . ?

"Like before," she begged, and then I felt her thighs reach around my hips, and close. Holding me in, holding me against her. "Hold me down and . . . don't run away this time."

My stomach twisted, in the good way and the bad one, as I remembered that day. Exactly. The rain and the dirt and her body under mine. Submissive, lax. Her lips begging to be kissed . . .

She didn't want me to run this time.

I sat back on my knees and looked at her. She wasn't struggling to get away from me this time. She was watching. I saw it in her eyes - waiting. To see if I would stay, stay and take her and make her fit with me, or if I would run again.

I reached down and put my hands on her waist. It was small and soft and the perfect size for my hands. Nessie's body raised into my touch, arching up off of the bed. Her body responded, but her eyes were still waiting.

This wouldn't be exactly like last time - I would never be so rough again - but hopefully enough to calm her mind. To bring this full circle, or whatever it was Nessie needed from this. From me.

I slid my hands up, up her sides until I was just under her arms. Then I kept going, gently but firmly drawing her arms up above her head. She offered no resistance. Her heart was thrumming just as fast as if she were kicking and screaming under me. She folded her arms over one another once they were over her head, and still she watched.

"Don't move," I said, since I was unsure what else to say, and it seemed to go with the scene she wanted me to set.

She obeyed without so much as a nod or even a blink, eyes wide.

I laid back over her, between the space her legs made for me, and brought my body down against hers. Braced myself on my elbows and brought my forearms down over her biceps, holding her in place.

Nessie didn't move, but her heart thrummed faster. So fast I was sure I could almost feel it against my chest.

I leaned in closer, brought my face to hover over hers. Just as it had that day.

"Jacob . . . " I recognized the tone immediately, the tone that had confused me so much and made me wreck everything, from that day in the forest. "Jacob - please . . . "

The same words. The exact same words from that day, but she wasn't acting.

I watched her eyes and her lips and listened to the thrumming of her heart and tried to steel myself do to this. It was suddenly important to me too. A chance to fix my mistakes. To redo my most shameful moment.

Then I felt a touch to my palm. Nessie's hand, bent at the wrist, reaching down so her fingertips barely brushed mine. I felt a small touch of love, seeping though her gift, and watched her wet her lips.

I slid my arms up an inch further, so my forearms still held her in place, but she could cross the small gap between us and hook two of her fingers around mine.

Then, exactly like it should have happened, I leaned in and brought our lips together. It was soft and sweet and how it all should have been.

I pulled back away with a soft sound. Nessie's fingers held mine tighter.

"I love you," I told her quietly, because she needed to know. "And I want to be with you . . . always. And I'll be whatever you want me to be for the rest of my life, but please . . . don't you run away again."

"I'm sorry, Jake." I loved being Jake. I loved when she arched her body up and took a soft kiss from my mouth. "I just . . . I was changing so much . . . and wanting . . . and then when you pushed me away, I felt like you didn't want me . . . "

"I wanted you," I swore, leaning down just enough to brush my nose with hers, just enough to feel close. "So much, Ness . . . I was just . . . scared."

"Of me?"

"Of hurting you," I corrected.

Nessie's fingers brushed back and forth over mine.

"Can I stay tonight?"

I didn't think about it. "You can stay forever."

Then . . . she smiled. Her lips spread, turned up, and there was even a flash of teeth. A real smile.

I kissed her again. I started it, and she prolonged it. Her mouth was so sweet.

I released her arms and sat up, reaching down to pull her with me. I turned us the right way and Nessie followed my lead, lying down on her side beside me. I reached down and rested my hand on the curve of her hip, checking her eyes to make sure it was okay.

Nessie's hand came up to cup my cheek. I felt a flash of pain and remorse.

"I'm sorry I hurt you, Jake," she whispered. I pulled her body closer to mine. "It . . . it hurt not to touch you. But I thought it would hurt worse . . . "

"Shh," I quieted, looking down at her remorseful eyes. Her tiny foot reached around to rest on my calf. "I understand, and it's okay. Really, Nessie. Do you . . . still hurt?"

"Not anymore," she replied, making my heart lift. Nessie pillowed her head against my chest. "Not with you."

"I'm so glad." I kissed her hair. "I'm so sorry you had to hurt at all."

"It's . . . worth it. Worth . . . all of it, if you like me like this," she whispered, her voice almost as small as her body in my arms. "Do you, Jake? Like me . . . like this?"

"I love you like this," was all I could think to say. I didn't know how to assure her. How to . . . "I love you however you are, Nessie. Your - your new body is . . . beautiful."

"You're beautiful," I was surprised to hear say quietly. Then her hand reached up to cup my jaw, her touch light. Her body arched against mine. "Too. So beautiful."

I reached up to lay my hand over hers on my jaw and then slid it down, up her arm and then over her shoulder and down her side. This girl was amazing. She was perfection personified and she called me beautiful.

When my hand came to rest against the arch of her back, Nessie shivered. My instinct was to hold her closer. She didn't need much pulling, her body already bowing towards mine.

It was amazing. She was amazing.

Why did she love me?

She was soft and beautiful and warm and after so long without her touch - the only touch that mattered - all I wanted to do was lay here and soak it in. It seemed like that was what Nessie wanted too. Her body shifted closer to mine, her arms huddled close between us. Her thigh slowly moved up to rest against my own.

Warm. It was heaven to be unfrozen.

"I love you, Jake," Nessie murmured quietly, a few calm moments later. Her fingers, in my shirt now, found purchase, gripping softly. I dipped my head down to see her, and there she was. "And I'm sorry - "

"No sorries," I warned, squeezing her waist gently, simply because I could. It was an intimate, honest, and completely underrated thing, touch. "Not from you, honey."

"I love you," she repeated then, almost an amendment, redoing the sentence before it. Nessie's eyes, soft and brown and so full of light, dropped down to my mouth and it made the tight ball of lust begin to curl up once more in my stomach. "I missed you."

I was opening my mouth to somehow find the words to tell her the emptiness I felt without her. To find some way to express how lost I had been without making her feel guilty. To let her know how at rest and at peace I felt now, laying here against her. Where we were meant to be.

But before I could even get a breath of it out, her tiny hand was pressed against my jaw again, gift wide open.

There were no memories or pictures. No emotions. The message was plain and simple. Words.

Kiss me.

Bringing my hand up to cup her jaw nearly swallowed her whole cheek, but we both leaned in together, and with a soft, electric kind of jolt, our lips met in the middle.

Fin.