"Oh Jake, I don't know..."
It's a bonfire night, and he pleaded, and she hesitated, and eventually he dragged, and now she's here but it's- big? crowded? Not really. La Push doesn't have enough residents to crowd much of anything..
And she's so raw and soft. No shell. So many voices. So many faces.
He tucks her closer under his arm. A borrowed shell. Not so very loud now.
"Don't worry Bells. It's good to get out. I'll be here the whole time."
He's so proud. He knows she's scared. He can feel her shake. But she's doing so well. Peeking out from against his chest. Nodding and talking a little with people. His dad even got a smile. He'd be jealous if he wasn't already holding the majority share these days.
Everyone's gathering up for the stories after dinner. They've got a great spot, right in the front, but it's getting a little close now and Bella's breath is speeding up. The girl next to her yells to a friend suddenly and she lets out a panicked squeak. She's been doing so well, he'll leave now if she needs to. Is happy to. Spreads his arms in order to start getting up-
But then she's there, scrabbling into his lap, accepting the invitation of his open arms, hiding herself against him. She's so small, all balled up, curled in. His arms curve around her, his head dips low, and they're alone, together. He's surprised. Still suprised. Every time suprised by the gift of her touch. Surpised this time that it's in front of everyone. His hand comes up to cradle the back of her head. His lips brush her hair. Maybe she'll sleep. He doesn't think she does at home anymore. Just naps with him most afternoons. It shows in the bruises under her eyes, the way she drifts. He thinks she needs the sleep way more than the stories, so he hums a little, rocks a little as her breathing evens out. Until she's boneless in his arms. Warm. With a little smile curling at her lips. He sends a prayer for good dreams before trying to catch up to the thread of the story.
Coming back to the world he sees the eyes watching him. Watching them. Curious, jealous, sad, amused. Jared gives him a thumbs up, and Paul makes an obscene gesture. He shakes his head, and glares, respectively.
Maybe Bella can come back to his house afterward. Get a whole night sleep. And they can work on the bikes first thing. He aks Billy when the crowd breaks up, and Billy convinces Charlie. He gives him an odd look when he sees him heading into his room with Bella, still cradled in his arms, still sleeping. But he doesn't stop him. And now Bella's in his bed, and she's not curled up so tight. She's safe here. She knows it even in her sleep. She's safe anywhere with him. He stays up half the night just watching her not be sad.