Title: Two Parts Of One Whole
Rating: NC-17 ~ M
Declaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters, plots or conceptions of Twilight, unfortunately. They belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Beta-ed by: the awesome NikkiNeurotic
A/N1: Yeah, it took me forever I know. Finding time for writing is getting harder and harder with every passing month, but I do not have the intention of giving up so don't worry people. I will do my best to finish what I've started.
A/N2: Special thanks to all of you who reviewed the previous chapter and to all who have stuck with me so far. Thank you, people. You know who you are. :)
A/N3: The good news is that I finally found a beta reader willing to help me out. Special gratitude to you, Nikki. You saved me.
You will notice that this chapter has no title. It is simply called Chapter 14. I have wanted to have the whole story edited and fixed and now I finally have that chance with Nikki's help. I plan on removing the titles of the chapters. They sound ridiculous and I just want to get rid of them. All previous chapters will be edited and I might make some minor changes in the dialog, but as a whole the story will remain the same. I had a thousand things to write in this A/N and now when I finally got to do it my head it empty. Anyway, I guess that is all for now. I hope you will enjoy the new chapter.
The room was warm and quiet. The fire was crackling lightly in the fireplace; warm hues of red, yellow, and orange were dancing over the walls and showering the semi dark bedroom with golden light. The quiet pitter patter of the rain drumming on the roof of the house and on the cold blurred glass of the fogged window was filling the completely still and quiet atmosphere.
He didn't hear it. He heard neither the rain pelting against the window, nor the crackling fire on his left. Jacob Black could hear only one single thing, his ears straining to listen, a quiet weak but regular pulse. The sound of Paul's heartbeat was filling his world, echoing inside his head, and warming up his whole body more that any fire ever would. The barely audible soft beating was easing the ice cold strain inside his chest ever so slightly.
He was kneeling by the bed chin resting on his, right folded on the mattress, arm as his eyes were following intently the regular, soft rise and fall of Paul's chest. Jacob's left hand was entwined with his imprint's, his thumb occasionally stroking the cool skin of Paul's bruised knuckles.
It had been like this for four days now.
Paul had blacked out on their retreat to the Quileute's lands. Jacob could remember every single detail with painful clearness – the way Paul's whole body had stiffened in his arms, the deep, agonizing groan that had left the boy's lips. Paul's hands had fisted rigidly in the blanket and before Jacob had known what had been going on his imprint's eyes had rolled back in their sockets. Just seeing it had made his chest clench with crushing fear. He had lowered the boy on the ground; Paul shuddered so violently that Jacob had barely managed to keep his shaking and trashing figure still.
His imprint had thrown up then. The fluid leaving his body had been pitch black, thick and hot, carrying the coppery tang of blood. It had made Jacob's breath catch at his throat, hands shaking as he had gathered Paul closer, pressing the boy's back to his chest in pointless attempt to relieve the violent fits of shudders that had been racking his imprint's frame. The seizure had lasted a couple of torturing minutes, minutes which for Jacob had felt like hours. The sound of Paul's dry heaving afterwards and the way his chest had been wrenching with hollow, deep and pained groans had made Jacob feel more helpless than he had ever felt before.
He had been unable to do anything. He had held Paul until the boy's whole body had went completely lax and still, until the harsh shuddering had finally appeased. Jacob had seen his imprint's chocolate brown orbs grow distant and hazy. He had seen Paul's eyelids flutter closed… and they hadn't opened since.
It had happened four days ago. For Jacob it felt like four years.
He hadn't moved from Paul's side since they had finally come to the Black's home. Jacob neither slept nor ate, his stomach tied in knots, his chest full with choking guilt and fear. He longed for only one thing, he longed to see those thick eyelashes flutter, he longed to see Paul opening his eyes, he needed to gaze into those warm brown orbs and see them looking back at him.
He lifted his hand, slowly and carefully ran the back of his fingers against Paul's cheek, then down his shoulder and arm. His imprint's skin was still cool to the touch, it lacked its usual soft, beautiful caramel color, lacked the compelling heat and warmth that Jacob loved so much.
It pained him to see the one he loved most so broken and crushed, so cold and unresponsive. It hurt. It hurt more than Jacob could have ever imagined. His eyes slid over his imprint's body slowly and carefully.
Jacob could still see the bruises over Paul's neck; he could see the blue finger shaped marks marring the soft skin of the boy's arms. Paul's wrists had been raw, bruised, the skin chafed and torn by the rusty shackles.
Now the cuts were covered by white bandages, just like the one wrapped around Paul's right shoulder and covering the huge wound which was still bleeding underneath.
The mere sight of it was making Jacob's blood boil with anger, his jaw clenching with fury. Inhaling deeply through his nose, Jacob shook his head harshly in order to calm down and clear his mind. He couldn't let himself sink into blind rage; he didn't want to deal with the bloodthirsty animal that lived inside his head. Jacob needed to be calm, calm and staid for his imprint, he had to be there and ready to help should Paul open his eyes in the next moment.
The faint creak of the door being opened pulled Jacob out of his musings. Though he neither turned, nor asked who it was. His hand found Paul's again, fingers gently wrapping around his imprint's as he stroked the soft skin. Jacob's other hand came up to brush through Paul's short, ebony black hair. He closed his eyes briefly when a quiet, soft voice tore through the thick silence in the dark room.
"Dinner's ready. Everybody's at the table, we're waiting only for you to-"
"I'm not hungry."
"Jacob, you can't keep on-"
"I said I'm not hungry, Leah." He whispered firmly, without even turning around to face the she wolf. "You're free to leave, now."
Leah let out an exasperated sigh and Jacob did not need to see her face to picture perfectly the deep, annoyed scowl marring her features. He heard her step closer, her breath growing heavier with agitation.
"You think that you are helping him?" She whispered bitterly after a minute of strained silence, her voice scratchy with emotion. "You think that if you starve yourself to death he will get better or wake up sooner?"
"Leah," Jacob's voice was firm, low warning.
"What if he never wakes up?"
"Don't you dare even say it!" Leah flinched from the fierce roar that left Jacob's throat.
She could practically see the muscles in his back flexing and bulging with rage. The hand, not holding Paul's, fisting rigidly into the bed sheets, knuckles turning white from the tight grip.
"What if he never opens his eyes again, Jacob?" Leah pressed on even though she knew she was rubbing salt into the wound. "You will die of exhaustion and hunger waiting by his bedside?"
"Yes!" Jacob growled through clenched teeth. He finally turned around and straightened up, his hands curling into fists at his sides as he glared at the girl. "Yes I will!
Leah's eyes widened despite the fact that she was ready for the outburst. Ever since they had returned Jacob had been growing more and more short-tempered and gloomy with each passing day. He hadn't complied to attend when the council had demanded his presence and asked for explanation for his actions, he hadn't even talked to his father yet. Jacob hadn't left the room where Paul's unconscious form lay since they had brought his imprint there four days ago.
It wasn't the first time they were arguing for the same reason. Leah was worried, they all were worried. Since that moment, since the moment Paul had lost consciousness Jacob had sunk into despair. There was something in his eyes, something desperate and deep, something dark and painful.
Leah knew the reason, it was plain to see but that didn't make it any easier to make Jacob understand, to make him realize that his self-punishing behavior would neither help Paul nor erase the burning guilt that was corroding his whole being. Jacob was practically fading by his imprint's side and it was a matter of time until his exhausted body could take no more.
"It's… it is not your fault, Jake." Leah whispered softly as she approached the boy, her features softening, eyes filled with concern. "You saved him… he is safe now."
"I was late." Jacob turned his back to the girl again, his shoulders slumping as he sat on the edge of the bed, his anger quickly being replaced by regret and anguish. Taking Paul's smaller hand in his, he brought the fragile limb to his mouth, his lips brushing lightly against the soft, cool skin. "I failed him. I let them hurt him. I was late, too late…"
"That is not true!"
Jacob just shook his head, his forehead scrunching harshly as a low sigh left his throat. He didn't look at the girl, his eyes fixed firmly on his imprint as he bit at his lip. Leah could only guess what self-blaming thoughts were swimming inside his head at the moment.
"You didn't know. Nobody knew, Jake." The she wolf tried to reason, her fingers brushing through her hair in an anxious fashion. "How could you know that he had been caught and-"
"Leah, please…just… just leave. I don't want to talk about it." He barely breathed out, chest heaving slightly as he closed his eyes briefly. "Just leave me… leave us alone."
Leah crossed her arms in front of her chest, her eyes passing over Jacob's form with both annoyance and worry. It was obvious that the lack of sleep and food were taking their toll on him. He looked faint, exhausted, drained.
Letting out a low sigh the she wolf massaged the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes for a few seconds. Jacob was very wrong if he thought that she was just going to leave him alone. Leah Clearwater was sensible enough to learn from her mistakes. She had let Jacob keep her at distance once. When he had imprinted he had pulled away from all of them. He had suppressed and hidden his pain and Leah still could not forgive herself for letting it happen, for letting her friend isolate himself, for letting Jacob be alone in his misery.
Inhaling shortly through her mouth, she went to the cupboard across from the fireplace and took out fresh bandages, towels, and a little bottle of Rivanol. It was almost eight o'clock in the evening and Leah turned on the lights in the, dimly lit by the fire, room before slowly approaching the bed.
"Leah?" Jacob looked at her warily, his brows furrowing slightly.
"It's been five hours since we last changed the bandages, right?" She whispered softly, her hand resting lightly on Jacob's shoulder. "I can change yours and then I can help you clean Paul's wounds and put some fresh bandages on his shoulder and wrists."
She felt Jacob inhaling deeply, his shoulder tensing for a moment under her hand before relaxing again. Jacob let out a long heavy breath before nodding lightly. He stroked Paul's hand gently before pulling away. Jacob sat on a chair that was by the bed, silently letting Leah start her work.
The girl carefully removed the old, dirty swathe that was wrapped around Jacob's left bicep. Then she poured Rivanol on a little clean piece of cloth and started cleaning the blood that had oozed out from the stitched up flesh. The wound had been huge and deep, it was real miracle or pure luck that the Quilcene hadn't bitten a piece of Jacob's arm off. Fortunately, it was healing well, it was almost closed already and with good care it should be healed completely in less than a couple of days.
"With a little patience and the right care it won't scar." Leah whispered as she made sure to clean thoroughly the places where the flesh was still bleeding. Jacob didn't move, wince or say anything. His eyes focused unblinkingly on the silent, unconscious figure on the bed. "It should be gone soon. It is healing really well, Jake."
At first Jacob didn't make any sign that he had actually heard her. But then he shook his head lightly, a heavy sigh spilling from his lips as he brushed the fingers of his good hand through his hair.
"His isn't." He barely breathed out and it took Leah a couple of seconds to realize what the boy meant.
Leah inhaled deeply as she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, her hand unconsciously slowing down its movements. She had been there when the healers had been cleaning and stitching up Paul's shoulder. She had seen Jacob's eyes fill with tears. Leah had seen her Alpha cringe and shiver with shared affliction every single time his imprint had whimpered or cried out in pain. The wound had been too deep and already infected – the healers had been forced to cut away some of the dead flesh. The pain had brought Paul on the brim of consciousness. It had kept him nearly awake. Jacob had not let anyone hold his imprint but himself, he had clutched at Paul's, shuddering in agony, frame until the healers were done, until Paul had slipped into the dark abyss again and his crying had appeased.
"They… they said that he needs time, Jake." Leah barely breathed out, the memory of what she had witnessed still making her heart clench. "He has lost too much blood. It's hard for his body to recover."
Jacob squeezed his eyes tightly shut, his whole body stiffening as he drew out a shaky breath. Leah could clearly see the muscles in his hands twitching as he fisted them in his shorts.
"You… you should have seen his eyes, Leah." He rasped huskily, throat growing tight as he recalled every single detail vividly. "They were wild with fear and pain… I… I had left him there alone… all alone….with those monsters."
"Jake, please don't-"
"This is all I can think about. Two days. Forty eight hours in which he had been tortured, beaten, and… forced." Jacob's voice was breaking, his breath growing heavy with emotion. "And the worst is … the worst is that there is so much I can't see. There is so much I don't know and never will. He will never tell what he has endured." Leah felt Jacob's shoulders go stiff under her hands, the muscles tensing as he whispered in a husky, broken voice. "Paul will hate me. He will hate me for leaving him alone when he needed me most. He will loathe me, and he will have all rights to do so."
"Don't you dare think such things, Jacob!" The girl exclaimed breathlessly as she took a step back. Her eyes unconsciously drifted to Paul's unconscious form on the bed. He looked so peaceful, quiet, and calm. But no matter how little she wanted to admit it, Jacob's words made sense. None of them knew what Paul has been put through; they could only guess what he had endured during those two days. It was almost scary to think how much pain could be hidden behind the boy's closed eye lids.
"I long for him to wake up," Jacob barely whispered as he clasped his hands in his lap. "I want nothing else but to see him open his eyes again. But… but I also dread what I might see in them. I am scared of his accusation, Leah. I am scared of the thought that he might despise me."
"Hey… hey…." The she wolf hushed him softly, her hands rubbing at her friend's shoulders in slow soothing motion. "You can't keep on-"
"It is killing me. I just can't st-"
"Look at me." The girl nearly commanded as she moved to stand in front of Jacob, her hands cupping his face. Jacob tried to move away, to avoid her gaze but Leah wouldn't let him. She almost growled in his face. "Look at me, Jacob Black!"
Jacob finally lifted his head, letting himself meet the she-wolf's gaze. His eyes looked so deep, so dark, filled with thousands of unexplainable emotions. Leah had to inhale deeply a couple of times in order to gather her thoughts.
"It is not your fault. You did what you had to. You saved him. You both nearly died but now he is here, safe and alive. And that is only because of you, Jake!" She whispered in a stern voice. "And if he is the same person, the same strong-willed, brave person you described for me last night…" Leah inhaled deeply and her features relaxed slightly, voice becoming softer and quieter."…he will never hate you. No matter what those sick mother fuckers had done to him he will pull through. No matter what has happened there he will still love you, Jake. You are everything he has left and he will count on you to be there for him. Be strong for him. Don't blame yourself for things you knew nothing about. Don't doubt yourself. You don't have the right to. Not when he will need you. You can't let yourself be weak now. You have to be strong… strong for both Paul and yourself!"
Jacob stared at her for a long moment, his teeth sinking into his bottom lip as Leah finally pulled away. She was panting lightly, brows furrowed with agitation as she took a step back, giving him space, letting everything she had just said sink in.
"Just let him wake up, Jake," She spoke quietly. "Let him tell you how he feels himself. Don't worry about something you can never be sure of. Don't imply on Paul's hatred before you have even spoken to him."
Jacob didn't say a single word, his eyes slowly sliding closed as he flexed his fingers a couple of times. Leah stared at him for what felt like eternity until she finally saw him nodding, his eyes opening again only to drift to Paul's unconscious figure.
That simple gesture was enough for her. Leah didn't press further, she didn't need actual words. The she wolf could read Jacob well enough to know that her friend had actually heard her this time.
Letting out a low sigh Leah approached Jacob again and quickly resumed her previous activity. Her hands were working quickly and diligently and within a couple of minutes she had Jacob's arm bandaged with new, clean bandages.
Then they moved on to Paul. Neither of them spoke a single word, but the silence filling the room was comfortable and soothing, a silence between friends.
After cleaning and bandaging Paul's wrists, they moved the boy so that he was lying on his left side. That way they could take care of his injured shoulder. This time, unlike before, Leah managed to hold back the gasp threatening to leave her throat, as the deep bite wound was uncovered. The sight was leaving her breathless every single time. And every single time she couldn't help but wonder what kind of sick monster was capable of doing this to another living creature. Even leeches had more mercy to their prey.
As she started to wipe off the blood covering the stitches Leah hoped only for one thing. She hoped to see change, to see some sign that Paul was actually starting to heal and recover, not only for the boy's own sake but for Jacob's too. Though, this time, just like all the times before her hopes were crushed the moment she cleaned the last bits of congealed blood. The wound still looked the same as it had looked right after it had been stitched four days ago.
Paul wasn't healing. Not at the rate he should, not as fast as a werewolf was supposed to. No matter what they were doing his injuries looked almost the same as they did when he had been brought to the Black's home. Paul had lost too much blood. His exhausted, from blood loss, body was unable to regenerate… not yet.
Leah caught the flicker of pain in Jacob's eyes; she discerned the disappointment and frustration that made his features harden. She remained silent. She knew that there was nothing she could say to sooth his pain.
Leah worked quickly and carefully. She didn't want to give Jacob the chance to look at the wound for too long. It would only hurt him more and there was no point in prolonging his agony. The moment she was finished and Paul's shoulder was neatly bandaged again she could swear that she heard Jacob letting out a sigh of relief.
The girl moved away from the bed then, letting Jacob tuck his imprint in the warm covers again. She watched her Alpha sitting on the bed, his hands brushing through Paul's hair, smoothing the ebony black locks gently before sliding over the boy's high cheekbones. There was so much care in Jacob's touch, so much affection and concern. Taking a deep breath Leah forced herself to look away, her chest heaving slightly as she forces back the tears that have formed in her eyes. Not wanting to disturb Jacob in his care for his imprint she quickly gathered all the dirty bandages and moved to the door, wanting to leave as quietly as possible.
"I think that he'll like you." Surprisingly soft and quiet voice echoed from behind her back and made Leah stop and turn around hesitantly.
Jacob's eyes met hers for a second, a hint of a smile grazing his lips. Leah could not remember when she had last seen her friend smile. It made her lips twitch with the intense urge to answer.
"You think so?" She snorted lightly. "Jared says that I am way too feisty and wild for anyone's liking."
"Not for Paul's." Jacob nearly chuckled as his thumb trailed his imprint's brow softly. "I'm sure of that.
This time Leah did smile lightly and shook her head as she reached for the door knob. She had barely pulled the door open when Jacob's voice stopped her again.
"Lee-Lee?" The nickname made the girl lift her brow in amusement. Jacob hadn't called her that since he had been thirteen, since she had been the one to look down at him from at least a head height difference.
"Thanks… Thank you for-"
"Always welcome, kiddo." Leah whispered softly before she left the room and quietly closed the door behind her back.
Half an hour later when she returned to the quiet bedroom, her hands holding securely a tray with a plate of re-heated pasta and a glass of apple juice, Leah was greeted with an unexpected view. Her first intention had been to bring Jacob a little food, after she had managed to talk sense into him; she had hoped that her friend would actually eat something for dinner. But now as her eyes landed on the bed Leah knew that she would have to take the food downstairs again.
Jacob had lain behind Paul's smaller, fragile frame. His eyes were closed, one sinewy, muscular arm wrapped securely around his imprint's waist, his nose buried in the short raven black hair at the back of Paul's head. Jacob's large, bare chest was rising and falling rhythmically, the fingers of his right hand laced with the smaller boy's.
He was sleeping. He was sleeping for the first time for the last four days.
Leah laid the tray on the wooden table near the bed as she took one of the blankets that were put on a chair near the fireplace. They always kept extra coverings and the fire within the hearth burning because of Paul's low body temperature. Moving quietly and carefully, Leah approached the bed with soft steps. She covered both boys with the extra blanket, her hands gently tucking the edges around their legs.
"Sweet dreams, Jake." She whispered quietly as she stroked Jacob's arm before pulling away and leaving the bedroom.
It was still raining, the air cool, moist, and heavy as milky white fog was gathering around the jagged peaks of the White Fang Ridges. The usually soft ocean breeze and it's salty, soothing smell were gone. They were now replaced with the scent of pine and tree bark. The winds were changing direction. Fall was coming. Humans were unable to notice it so early but the shape shifters could, they could smell the cool air coming from the north before it had actually enveloped the valley.
Jared Nosh loved that time of the year. He loved the silence the autumn brought, the cool, soothing stillness that wrapped everything in its soft colorful veil.
Inhaling, the cool, damp air, deeply Jared moved from his place by the door of the house to the big wooden bench that was on the verandah. He sat down on it and stretched his legs in front of himself, eyes closing for a few seconds as he leaned his head back and let out a short sigh.
He sat in this position for a couple of minutes, savoring the silence and calmness that filled this moment. And oh how he needed it. Jared needed a little calm; he needed a moment completely devoid of duties, questions, orders, and explanations.
The last couple of days had been total madness.
Jared had never even imagined how difficult the position of a leader of the pack was, not until four days ago. But now he knew; he had learned from experience. Since their return to the Quileute's lands Jared had taken the position of an Alpha of the pack. He had wanted to save Jacob all the formalities, duties and problems of dealing with the council and the tribe. He had taken Jacob's position so that his friend could be where he desired and was needed most – by his imprint's side.
Though, Jared hadn't had even the slightest idea what he had been getting himself into when he had taken Jacob's position. Now, everybody was counting on him to sort things out.
The Quileute elders had been struck with dismay at the sudden news. None of them had really expected such a thing to happen. Jared had been the one to talk to the council when the old men had demanded explanation for the pack's actions and the Quilcenes's presence in their lands. But it hadn't ended with a single meeting, far from it. The council had required of him to give daily reports about anything that happened in the Black's house.
Jacob's home had turned into a refuge for the two wolf packs. Emily had been brought to the Quileute's lands before the wolves had went for Paul and now she and Sue Clearwater, Seth and Leah's mother, were the only humans living at the house. The two women were cooking, cleaning, taking care of the shape shifters' injures, and all these little things which Jared knew the wolves wouldn't have lasted long without. Sue had come to help the moment she had found out what had been going on despite her husband's and the council's strong disapproval.
Billy Black had left the house on the second day after Jacob's return. He hadn't shouted, he hadn't accused or threatened, he had just made sure that his son wasn't seriously injured before leaving. Jared knew that the old man was giving Jacob space and time to think and calm down; he was waiting for Jacob to come to him on his own when he was ready to talk.
Jared had always looked up to his best friend's father. Most of the time Billy's constant presence at the council meetings was the only thing that helped him preserve his patience and sanity when the old men were getting unbearable.
The atmosphere in the tribe was tense. Both the packs and the elders struggled to keep everything that was going on secret from the civil people; the last thing they wanted was to create panic. They couldn't afford the risk of riots, not now, not when they had more serious problems to deal with. Problems such as a mad man who could turn humans into bloodthirsty, uncontrollable beasts should he just wish to do so.
Jared shook his head as he closed his eyes and bit at his lower lip. He needed to calm down, focus, and proceed slowly and carefully. He had always been able to keep his head cool in tough situations, he just needed not to panic and do his best to keep everything under control. He had already made his report for the day in front of the council. The elders had showered him with questions, demanded information for the Quilcenes and to be more precise, they had demanded details concerning Paul. They were already familiar enough with the facts to know that the boy was at the root of the whole thing. It had cost Jared immense efforts to make them stay away, at least for now.
It was for their own good after all.
It was still early to say but Jared was already sure. He knew that Paul's condition had unlocked Jacob's primal wolf instincts.
The Alpha was incredibly possessive and overprotective of his imprint. Leah, Sue, and Emily were the only ones who could come close to Paul and touch him without loosing their hands. The elders definitely didn't need to face and challenge an edgy and worried, for his imprint, Jacob. And of course Jared was the one who had to make sure that the council didn't end up with a couple of maimed or even dead members, who had been curious and stupid enough to provoke Jacob.
Jared inhaled deeply through his nose and fumbled with the pockets of his jeans. His fingers curled around a little cool metal object and the corner of his lips quirked lightly as he pulled out his Zippo lighter. His uncle Shane had given it to him a few years ago and with the time it had turned into a charm of Jared's.
Rubbing the embossed wolf's head, on the surface, with his thumb Jared fished a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of his shirt. He had stopped smoking a year ago. Leah had made it her personal mission to make Jared break his disgusting habit. The she-wolf had been so stubborn that in the end Jared had decided to just give up and comply rather than put up with her constant lecturing on how awful smoking was.
Smiling lightly to himself, as he recalled all the times Leah had chastised him and literally destroyed his, sometimes even unpacked, packs of cigarettes by burning them, Jared put a smoke between his lips and lit it, carefully shielding the flame from the light breeze.
The first few drags made him almost dizzy. It had been quite a long time since he had last indulged himself with a cigarette. Jared had no regrets. He really needed something to help him relax after the last hectic days, and in the past smoking had done the trick.
He didn't move from his place in the next twenty minutes, his whole body relaxed, eyes absentmindedly following the thick white smoke that was swirling in little silvery spirals around his head.
The soft light coming from the inside of the house was proving enough to light up the solid wooden verandah, the cool wind making the beams of the wooden building creak faintly.
Jared had just lit his third cigarette for the evening when the sound of agitated voices reached his ears. It was coming from the house. He didn't need to try too hard in order to hear what was said. It was Quil and Embry. They were arguing. Again.
"Just let it go, Embry!" Jared heard Quil snarl as the boy threw the door open and stomped down the stairs of the verandah, Embry following him with a determined expression on his face.
"Quil, wait!" Embry nearly shouted but the other boy clearly didn't have the intention to listen. Quil merely growled under his nose before tearing his shirt and shorts off. He phased in the middle of the lawn, turning into huge, burly brown beast before taking off for the foggy, dark woods in the east.
Jared just took a deep drag on his cigarette as he watched Embry standing on a few meters away from him, the boy's posture clearly giving away his hesitation of whether to follow Quil or not. Letting the thick intoxicating smoke fill his lungs Jared shook his head lightly before crossing his legs and flicking his Zippo lighter open. He stared at the little orange flame for a couple of seconds before flipping the lid shut with his thumb.
"Maybe you should just leave him alone," He whispered when he saw Embry getting ready to follow his friend. "He might appreciate the chance for a little privacy."
Embry turned around harshly, his brows furrowed in annoyance as he glared at Jared and huffed under his nose. Jared saw the boy crossing his arms in front of his chest, body gaining defiant position.
"I don't remember asking for your opinion," Embry whispered through clenched teeth as he approached the Quileute and leaned against the railing of the verandah just opposite Jared.
For the little time they had been living at the same house Jared had more or less gotten accustomed to the way his body seemed to react to the other boy. Embry's closeness kept affecting him in strange and deep ways but Jared was proud with the fact that he had managed to get a hold of himself. He might be affected but he never let it show. Furthermore he was doing his best to avoid eye contact with Embry or being left alone with him for too long. Jared had plenty of other problems to take care of instead of dealing with Embry and the strange commotion the Quilcene was waking inside of him.
"Smoking is disgusting." Embry wrinkled his nose and Jared had to suppress a chuckle at the sight of the incredibly cute gesture. He took a deep drag from his cigarette before exhaling pointedly and blowing a few smoke rings.
"Does your mama say so?"
Embry merely huffed under his nose before rolling his eyes. Jared neither knew nor cared why but he liked teasing the boy. There was something about the way Embry's whole body tensed and his cheeks flushed with defiance.
"You need to show a little understanding," Jared whispered after a minute of tangible silence.
"What are you talking about?" Embry furrowed his brows as he shifted slightly.
"Your friend Quil," Jared specified as he took another drag from his cigarette. "He needs to be left alone. He needs time to think about what is happening and how he feels about it."
Embry's shoulders tensed as he started pacing around the verandah, his head bent down, and his eyes focused on his sneakers as he let out a low sigh. Jared could not stop himself from staring at the boy's tall, lean figure, at the very way Embry moved. The Quilecene's every movement was fluid and smooth, and the part of Jared's brain that still possessed a grain of logic found the fact that he was enticed by the way the boy simply walked quite disturbing. Shaking his head lightly and exhaling the smoke filling his chest, Jared forced himself to look away, focusing his eyes on the foggy, dark peaks of the White Fang Ridges in the distance.
"What do you know about Quil or any of us?"
"I might not know much but I'm good at reading the facts and putting two and two together," Jared whispered calmly. "Don't force him to talk when he doesn't want to. Both our tribes are in imminent danger because of Quil's father. The old man is nuts and because of him Paul is now struggling for his life. Your best friend is hanging between life and death and if he loses the battle, if he dies, he is going to drag Jacob along with him."
"How dare you speak such-"
"Truths?" Jared nearly growled, his voice husky and deep, as he frowned. His eyes had darkened, jaw clenched and stiff. No more playing. "What do you want, Embry? Want me to sugar frost the situation for you?" Jared had always called the things with their real names and he was not going to change from today. "That is the truth, pretty boy. No matter if you like it or not that is how things are!"
Embry had stepped back, his eyes wide and full with shock from the sudden change in Jared's behavior. He titled his chin and swallowed thickly as he forced himself to breathe deeply. What Jared had said was true, every single word. Though, Embry could not let himself think that way, the thought of Paul dying and his family and friends being hurt made his heart twist inside his chest.
"Now put yourself in Quil's place." Jared could not prevent himself from growling. All the agitation, stress, and dark gloomy thoughts that had been filling his head were now coming to the surface. He had lived with that burden for a week, a week that had felt like a year, and the weight was threatening to crush his shoulders. He had not spoken to anyone about it, shared with no one his worst fears and expectation for what was about to come because they all were desperate enough. And now it all was spilling forth, Embry's simple comment breaking the dam.
"Imagine that your father did it! Imagine that your father was a psycho who left your friend in the hands of a monster! A monster who had tortured him nearly to death! Imagine that your father had bred nameless horrors with the only purpose to slaughter hundreds of innocent people because they live on the opposite side of a fucking imaginary line!"
"I have no father!" Embry roared furiously as he threw his hands in the air and Jared found himself nearly flinching. "My father is dead!"
Jared felt his breath hitching in his throat, fingers burring in his hair as he bent his head and sighed deeply. He had never even guessed where his words would strike, what secret and deeply buried pain they would inflame. They both fell silent for a long minute, the only sound filling the air being their heavy, uneven breathing and the whistling of the wind as it flowed through the leaves of the trees.
"Embry, I did not-"
"You think that he'll die?" Embry whispered surprisingly quietly, his back turned to the other boy as he stared out into the dark forest. His chest was heaving, eyes squeezed tightly shut, as he bit at his lip. He should have kept his tongue behind his teeth; he shouldn't have let personal facts about his life spill that easily in front of a complete stranger. His thoughts and feelings were in complete chaos, twisting and turning inside his head, reaching for Paul and curling around thousands of questions concerning their tribes' future. Though, that was not the time for losing control and exposing himself, especially not in front of a Quileute. Embry let out a deep breath, the topic of the conversation was not Quil or how the boy felt anymore. It had changed. "You think that Paul will die?"
The pain in Embry's voice was so tangible that it had Jared grimacing and swallowing thickly. He did not answer for a long time, the sound of Embry's thudding heart filling his ears as he closed his eyes.
"It has been four days," Jared whispered gravely. "He has not even stirred or let out a single sound."
Embry's shoulders visibly tensed as he shifted slightly and let out a deep breath. Jared could be a trickster and a joker but when things were serious he always spoke the truth, no matter how painful it was.
"Can I see him?" Embry asked quietly. "Jacob doesn't let me even approach him. Can I just peek into the room?"
Jared knew perfectly well that he should have said no, sneaking in Jacob's room when he was so edgy and morose was definitely a bad idea. No, actually it was a terrible idea. He simply should have denied Embry's plea the moment the words had left the boys lips. Jared should have, but he had been completely unable to. The Quileute was having such a strange and, at times, overwhelming influence over him that Jared found himself yielding and disarmed. He had been unable to deny him. Not when Embry's voice had been so thick with pain and concern, not when he had been able to hear the other boy's frantic heartbeat and heavy, with anxiety, breathing. Jared meant everything he had said. No matter how desperately he wished all his fears to turn out unfounded he could not deny the facts. With each passing day the chances for Paul's recovery were getting thinner and thinner. The boy was sinking deeper and deeper into the cold darkness of his comatose sleep and as little as Jared wanted to believe it, Jacob was slowly but surely following his imprint.
Embry deserved to see his friend. Jared could give him at least that. He could let the boy see Paul before it was too late, before he was completely swallowed by the abyss.
And here they were now. Climbing up the stairs and doing their best to be as quiet as possible, shoulders tense and steps steady and slow as they moved carefully using the shadows for their disguise. No one was allowed to go upstairs. Jacob had made in explicit. The only ones who could enter the Alpha's bedroom and be around Paul except for Jacob himself were the women in the house, and the Quileute didn't completely trust Emily, yet. Sam had made sure his pack respected Jacob's demand. Two days ago when Jared had tried to talk with his best friend Jacob had simply told him that he would not understand, that the only one who could understand was Sam Uley. The Quilcene Alpha seemed to understand and empathize with Jacob's pain like no one else could. They barely talked, very few words were ever shared between them but Jared could feel that Sam was the only one who was able to fully fathom and realize what Jacob was actually going through.
Jared had the nagging feeling that it had to do with Emily Young's marred, by scars, face.
"Are you sure that Jacob is asleep?" Embry's hushed voice reached his ears and Jared found himself quickening his pace. They had almost reached the bedroom. He lifted his hand, motioning to Embry to stop as they finally found the door.
"Leah said that he has finally fallen asleep," He whispered as he straightened his back and exhaled deeply. "He must have been exhausted to death."
Embry said nothing, but the slight quickening of his breathing was enough of an answer for Jared. He carefully moved to the door, fingers curling around the handle lightly. He was just about to push it open when he suddenly stopped and turned around, eyes sliding over Embry's features in the dimly lit corridor, yet still refusing to meet his gaze directly.
"You need to be quick and extremely careful, okay?" He whispered softly. "Neither me, nor you are supposed to be here. Jacob has been out of his mind during the last week. I don't know what to expect of him, his mood swings are unpredictable."
"Okay. I just… I just want to see, Paul," Embry nodded lightly, his brows furrowing in mild hesitation which was replaced with determination only in a matter of a second. "I won't take long. I promise." He moved past Jared and opened the heavy wooden door himself, his fingers curling tightly around the door knob when his eyes landed on the two silent and tangled, in the enormous bed, figures.
Jared remained by the opened door, his eyes following Embry's frame intently as the boy quietly approached the bed. He could hear the Quilcene's silent steps over the wooden floor; Embry's heartbeat filled his head as the boy stopped a foot away from the bed and kneeled on the ground. Letting out a low sigh Jared turned around and leaned against the door frame. He had to be careful and warn Embry in case someone was coming and what was more, he wanted to give the boy a chance to say goodbye to his friend in privacy. As much privacy as was possible with Jacob being there, too.
Embry felt his shoulders stiffening as he kneeled on the hard floor, his breath growing heavy and slow as his eyes slid over his best friend's still figure. Paul's fragile frame was wrapped in Jacob's arms tightly and securely, his fingers laxly entwined with the Quileute's. His eyes stopped on Paul's face, his teeth sinking into his bottom lip as his gaze slid over sunken pale cheeks and thin lips.
Embry shook his head as he took a deep breath. The sudden fear and anxiety that enveloped his chest were so intense that they were nearly choking him. Jared's words from only minutes ago echoed inside his head loud and clear and no matter how desperately he refused to believe it, the Quileute was right. It was painful for Embry to even think it, let alone say it but now as he was looking at Paul's lifeless, pale, and haggard face he found it impossible to ignore Jared's statement.
Paul looked so small, so breakable, and fragile, so not like himself that for a moment Embry wondered whether this was actually happening, whether the hell from the last couple of weeks had actually happened. It felt surreal. Exhaling deeply through his nose Embry leaned closer. His hand was shaking as he reached out and brushed his fingers against Paul's free hand, against the hand that was not held in Jacob's. The skin was cold to the touch and Embry swallowed thickly as he entwined his fingers with Paul's, his eyes drifting to Jacob's face for a second.
Jacob looked exhausted, worn out, and gaunt. There were dark circles under his closed eyes, his hair was disheveled, the Quileute's smooth jaw now dusted with scruff, it was clear that he had not shaven in a week.
Your best friend is hanging between life and death and if he loses the battle, if he dies, he is going to drag Jacob along with him.
A lump has formed in his dry throat and Embry found it hard to breathe evenly as he squeezed Paul's hand.
"Wake up, Paul." He barely whispered, voice sounding weak and scratchy even in his own ears. "Just wake up…please open your eyes." The heavy silence in the room was ruined only by the soft sound of Jacob's breathing and Embry's hushed words. He needed to strain his ears in order to hear Paul's heartbeat, his friend's breathing barely audible even for a werewolf's heightened senses. "You can't let it end like this; you can't, not so quietly, not like this…"
His head had dropped to the edge of the bed, his forehead resting against the mattress as he clutched desperately at Paul's hand, his grip so tight that his knuckles were white. If Paul was awake he would have cried out in pain.
"Come on, Paul...," Embry grit out through clenched teeth. "Don't you dare do this to me. Not after everything we've gone through." The silence was crushing his chest, choking him, Paul's hand feeling like that of a corpse within his grip.
Embry's control over his emotions was slowly crumbling. Seeing Paul in such condition, seeing one of the strongest people he had ever known so broken and unresponsive hurt more that he had ever expected.
And then he heard the soft rustling of sheets. His heart nearly skipped a beat as he lifted his head and what happened next was definitely not what he had expected. A hand grabbed at his wrist, the movement so fast and swift that Embry could not even try to move away. Within a blink of an eye he found himself pressed against the nearest wall, a strong hand clamped tightly around his neck. And when he met the furious gaze of a pair of burning, with anger, brown orbs Embry realized that he had been mistaken.
It had been Jacob that had woken up, not Paul.
The darkness of the room and a hand clutching at his imprint had proved enough to make Jacob's primal nature kick in. There was neither control nor rational thought in the Alpha's actions, just pure animalistic instinct. Someone was threatening his imprint and he had to eliminate the danger.
Embry tried to speak up but all that came out of his mouth was a raspy gasp. Jacob's fingers were wrapped so tightly around his throat that he could practically feel bruises forming, his vision becoming blurred and unfocused.
His nails dug into the Quileute's arm and just when he thought he was going to black out the pressure around his throat disappeared. He slumped on the ground with a hollow groan, his eyes squeezing tightly shut as the room was suddenly bathed in light. A low roar pierced through the heavy silence and when he finally opened his eyes Embry saw Jared pressing Jacob against the ground, his hands clutching tightly at the Alpha's arms.
"Jacob, calm down." Jared growled through clenched teeth. All he received in return was a throaty roar and a death glare. Jacob was clearly unable to analyze the situation, his judgment clouded by blind rage and the primal instinct to protect his imprint.
Embry could feel his head throbbing as he slowly stood up, using the wall for support. Jacob was furiously trying to push Jared off of himself, his teeth bared and the tendons in his neck bulging as he struggled to get back on his feet. He would probably have managed if he wasn't so exhausted and drained from the lack of sleep and sustenance.
"Let me go!" The Alpha roared hoarsely. "If you know what is good for you, you will fucking take your hands off of me, Jared!"
"Get out." Jared whispered firmly and it took Embry a couple of seconds to realize that what the Quileute had said was meant for him.
"I said get out of the room, Embry!" Jared growled, eyes never leaving Jacob's face, chest heaving from the effort to keep him down. Embry could see the muscles in Jared's arms and back bulging under his russet skin, his jaw firmly clenched as he was crouching on the ground, fingers digging in Jacob's shoulders. "Now for fuck's sake!"
Embry hesitated for a second, his eyes drifting to Paul's silent unconscious figure still lying in the bed. He motioned to approach his friend but one more fierce roar from Jared proved enough to finally make him do what he was told. He exited the bedroom, shoulders tense and forehead scrunched with anxiety as he looked at Paul's lax form wrapped in the blanket over his shoulder before rushing down the stairs.
He headed straight for the front door, breathing heavy and shallow as he completely ignored Emily who asked him what was wrong. It had started to rain again outside and Embry let out a heavy breath as he went down the stairs of the verandah, the cool rain splashing against his heated skin as his sneakers sunk into the thick mud. He could not put control over his body, his anxiety rushing through his veins like fire as he made his way in no particular direction, a hand coming up in a shaky fashion to shove back the wet strands of hair back from his face.
The wind was growing colder. Embry knew not how long he had walked before he slumped against the thick, damp trunk of an old beech tree. His hands buried in his hair anxiously as he struggled to even out his breathing, chest heaving frantically as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut.
The coldness of Paul's hand was still lingering over his skin. Jacob's furious, void of rationality, glare still burning in his mind. His thoughts were scattered and chaotic, body slightly shaking and heart pounding in his ears as he shook his head harshly. He had no idea how long he had stayed there, under the crown of the old tree, the cold rain splashing around him, the soft cool light of the moon making the tiny drops of water look like molten silver.
Minutes or hours could have passed before he felt a hand resting lightly on his bare shoulder, the heat from the touch feeling almost too much. Embry was shivering but the cold was not the reason.
"Are you okay?" Jared's voice reached his ears and Embry found himself nodding even though he did not know the answer to the simple question. He felt Jared kneeling before him, the Quileute's scent filling his nostrils. "Embry, are you okay?"
Embry did not answer, but Jared did not press further. They sat in silence, the only sound filling the silence was the soft falling of the rain and their quiet breathing.
"He was cold." Embry whispered, voice scratchy, barely audible. "As though he was… as though…" His voice broke and he inhaled deeply through his mouth. His eyes were stinging. "We…. He… he had always pulled through no matter what had come his way. And now… now I can barely recognize him. I can barely see Paul in that…"
Embry did not finish. He could not. A warm hand found his, fingers lacing together with his as he sank his teeth into his bottom lip.
"You surprised him." Jared's voice was warm, quiet and controlled just as his touch. "He was unable to control it. I saw it in his eyes. The fear for Paul is pushing him to his limits. The need to protect his imprint comes before any rational thought or consideration. You need to understand." The fingers around Embry's tightened slightly, Jared's voice growing quieter, softer. "You didn't answer my question, Embry. Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"
Embry shook his head lightly, a heavy breath leaving his lips. The bruises that had formed on his neck and wrist were almost completely healed. He could not say the same for the constant growing dread inside his chest.
"Can I see?" Embry gave a passive nod. He did not react when Jared's fingertips brushed against his wrist and stroked the skin there, his eyes cast down, toward the mud covered ground but seeing nothing.
"I can't believe that this is actually happening."
"Embry, you need to have hope despite-"
"Hope? I could barely hear his heart! Paul is… he is going to-"
"He is not dead."
"But you said-"
"Forget what I said." There was tension in Jared's voice, something which Embry found hard to discern.
"His heart is still beating." Jared whispered firmly, Embry could feel his hot, moist breath sliding against his face. "Until his heart stops beating there is hope. Jacob is not going to let him go so easily. He is going to fight till his last breath."
A lump had formed in Embry's throat, a lump he could not swallow. His eyes were welling with tears, his emotions overflowing him like a powerful river. He lifted his head slowly, gaze meeting a pair of warm brown orbs as he let out a heavy breath.
Embry saw Jared's eyes widening, the Quileute's lips falling open as a hollow gasp left him. For a second that lasted forever he could not look away, his breath growing heavy and shallow as he held Jared's gaze.
Jared was shaking before him, his fingers curling around Embry's tighter, his chest heaving with fast irregular pants. The heat from the Quileute's skin was tangible in the cold night air, the silvery light of the moon sliding against his face and outlining his strong jaw.
Embry could not move. The only thing he could hear was his own frantic heartbeat until his head suddenly filled with the dull echo of a rumbling rhythm. It was Jared's heart. It was racing, beating wildly like a heavy drum and when the Quileute lifted a shaky hand and reached to touch his face Embry let out a choked gasp.
He could not breathe and he could not pull away, his eyes focused on Jared's face in numbing helplessness as he suddenly realized what had just happened.
"Tell me you didn't." Embry's voice was weak, hoarse and strained. "Please, tell me that you didn't." Jared's hand was sliding against his face gently, his finger tips brushing against Embry's flushed cheek bones and tracing his lips. The Quileute was smiling.
A thunder rumbled in the distance and Embry winced harshly as though he was woken up from a stupor. Letting out a deep breath, he straightened up harshly, his feet feeling unsteady as he made a few hesitant steps towards the dark, gloomy mountains in the east.
Jared's hand reached for him again but he pushed it away, a single tear sliding down his cheek as he clenched his jaw. His throat was so tight that he felt as he was going to suffocate.
"What did you do, Jared?" He nearly sobbed. "Oh, fuck… what did you do?"