**Shoves the rock away and squints into the sun from the hole I've been hiding in**

Hi there my darlings! Yes, it's really me and I am really giving you more from EverClear. I have been woefully off the radar for a while. But please know that everyone that has found EverClear in the last six months and reviewed it, I adore reading what you have to say and I am very sorry that I haven't had a chance to get back with you. Maybe I can redeem myself **winking conspiratorially**

This is actually a one shot that was written specifically for my auction winner and she has graciously allowed me to share with you all.

So, the assignment she gave me was a one-shot that was EverClear consistent but involved a Jacob/Bella kiss that didn't end in a right hook. Now, most of you know, I am not a very big Jacob fan but I wanted to give her exactly what she asked for, so you guys let me know what you think.

Shannon, thank you for all your support and encouragement! Love ya Doll! Kitty nose snuggles to you!

Playlist:

Snuff by SlipKnot (I know, I know…it's not the band you expected but I think it works well and I love the song.

Oh! And I don't own any part of the Twilight universe.

The Bachelor Party

JacobPOV

13 months before Atlanta

"There is no way they are going to let us all in here," I said with a snort.

"Of course they are bro. Just take a look around. Do any of us look younger than twenty-one? Even this one," Paul said as he grabbed Seth in a headlock and dragged him behind him as he continued to walk toward the door of the club.

"I guess," I said, still very skeptical that even given our physical appearances, we would be lucky enough for them to not ask for our IDs.

It was only under the relentless pressure from Paul and Quil that we were here at all. They had insisted that a bachelor party was in order. Sam, not only being our Alpha but the first one of us to get married, had good- naturedly gone along with the plans for a night out on the town. But at the suggestion of hitting a "gentleman's club", he'd stopped being quite so compliant. As he had very correctly pointed out, if we did indulged in that particular right of bachelorhood passage, the next time we phased, we would all catch hell from Leah. And then she would make a beeline for Emily. And, well…none of us wanted to see what happened after that.

That's how we ended up walking toward the door of a club that Quil had insisted we had to visit at nearly midnight. From what I could tell of the people milling around outside the door, this was most definitely not a club we could inconspicuously blend in to the crowd. Everywhere I looked, people were decked out in black and leather. Longer hair than any of us had sported on the reservation was present on both the men and the women and I was positive that I had never seen so many random body parts pierced.

"Quil? You sure about this? I mean, Seattle is full of clubs. Don't you think this one is a little…"

"A little what, Jake? You afraid of the big bad Goths?" he teased as we reached the line of people waiting to get in. At his words, the last of which was nearly yelled so as to be heard over the thundering music that was blasting from inside, several of the "Goths" turned around to give him the stink eye.

"Whatever, man. Just shut the hell up."

"That is some wicked fucking music," Embry said almost to himself as we slowly shuffled our way toward the door.

"That, bro, is why we're here. I read about this club in Rolling Stone. They are supposed to host the most epic bands. And they're all local acts, from Seattle or Portland."

Well, I didn't know about "epic" but they were sure as hell loud. Not really my kind of music but there was something about the sound as it reverberated through the brick wall that had my absolute attention. Just as we reached the door and the security guard that to anyone else would have been large, the instruments came to a screeching halt and the band's singer spoke to the crowd.

"Seattle!" she screamed and was met with a roar from the crowd inside. "You guys miss us?"

The crowd's answering roar was deafening. Obviously, the band was a favorite of the several hundred people here.

"Yeah, we missed you too," that voice called out over the continued shouts. "We're going to take a break but don't you guys go anywhere. We'll be back in half an hour."

"You guys pros or something," the burly man at the door asked in a deep voice. I was so preoccupied with the painfully familiar voice, that I didn't take any notice of who answered him or what the answer was. All I knew was that the rope was pulled back for us and another guy was leading us through the dark smoky club.

"Bro, this is too cool," Embry whispered in my ear as we wove our way through the crowd of long hair and leather. We passed the throngs of people that were crammed into middle of the club, all facing the stage at the far end of the room.

We were led to a table at the very back of the room that was situated behind a velvet rope and was corded off from the rest of the crowd with long black lines of fabric. The chairs in the area were much plusher than anything we'd passed and there were not nearly as many.

"Holy crap," Quil snickered. "They think we're football players or some shit," he crowed. "Dude's taking us to VIP seating!"

As we settled around the table, we all grinned like mad men. It really was an unbelievable thing that simply because of our size…and really, we stood feet above the crowd…we now had some of the best seats in the house. We were far enough away that the stench of the room, sweat and beer and cologne, didn't overpower us. But we were situated with a perfect view of both the band when they returned and the crowd below.

The band.

I had the sensation of being tasered as I thought about that voice. Impossible and ridiculous as it was…I knew that voice.

I still dreamt of that voice.

I'd spent years trying to forget that voice, to no avail.

I shook my head, trying to clear it, when the waitress brought six bottles of beer to us and set them down carefully. I noticed Embry smirking and knew, even without being linked, exactly what he was thinking. If he could have beaten his chest, he would have. Not only had we not been carded but we had been lead to the most exclusive area of the club free of charge. It was too good to be true.

"Guys," Paul said as he picked up the bottle that was so cold condensation was running down over his hand already. "I propose a toast."

We all copied his movements.

"Not only is he the best fucking Alpha in history,"

"Damn right," Jared interrupted a sincere look in his dark eyes.

"…but he's also the best friend, teacher and mentor we could have asked for."

I noticed that Sam's eyes were wide with emotion. It was clear that we were all in agreement with Paul and it was affecting him much more than I thought he had counted on.

"You and Emily are a perfect match, beyond soul mates. May the life you share be filled with happiness and love."

A chorus of "Here! Here!" rang around the table as we all clinked our glasses together. Rarely were we all in agreement. But on this point, we were totally in sync. Sam and Emily deserved to be happy after all they'd been through. And we all hoped that life from now on for them would be nothing but blissful.

"Guys…thank you. You all know how much Emily and I love you. But that means more to me than you'll ever know," Sam said quietly.

"Oh yes we will. Next time we phase," Embry said sarcastically.

And just like that, the serious emotional air lifted and we were just a group of idiots again. We talked and laughed, mainly at the bizarre collection of people in the club, and I was able to push that knotted feeling that settled into my stomach as we stood in line outside out of my mind. The energy in the room was amazing and the buzz was catching. The longer we were there, the more caught up we all became in the crowd.

"So who is this band anyway Quil?" Sam asked as he finished off his second beer.

"EverClear," he said and I was shocked to see his eyes literally light up. "Like I told you morons, I read about them in Rolling Stone and they are supposed to be the next big thing. You should've read this article. The guy went on and on about how amazing they are and how big they are going to be."

"Have you even heard any of their music? Or did you drag us all the way to Seattle for a band that may very well suck?" Jared teased as he elbowed Quil in the ribs hard enough to break one had he been, well, normal.

"Yes, I have dickwad. And so have you," he said smugly. We all looked at him expectantly but he just pursed his lips like a jackass.

"Well?" Sam said impatiently. "Tell us."

I noticed how the tone of his voice was like an extremely quiet command. He wasn't trying, I didn't think, but that strange double timbre was there none the less.

"You remember the other day in Jake's garage, that song 'Bring Me to Life'. You know the one with that kickin' duet?"

"Oh yeah!" Embry jumped in, clearly excited. "That's them?"

"Yeah, it is. When I heard they were going to be here the same weekend that we had this little outing planned, I had to come see them."

"Where was I when this was on?" I asked having no memory at all of the song he was talking about.

"Pushing Billy up the ramp," Quil added for clarification.

The conversation would probably have kept going but at that very moment, a ridiculously loud voice rang through the club.

"All right everybody! You ready for them?"

The screams grew exponentially louder and in the blink of an eye, the crowd seemed to triple in size. Fists pumped in the air and the rattle of metal echoed all around the room. The pitch black stage began to fill with black smoke that drifted menacingly over the edge and into the crowd below.

"Put your hands together! We've only got them for tonight, so let them hear it! They leave out in two days to join Metallica for six weeks on the West coast leg of their tour… Ladies and gentleman…EverClear!" The voice screamed the last word so loudly; it seemed as if his voice would shatter the glasses around the room. As the noise reverberated through the room, four figures became shadowed by the lights behind them.

An eerie as hell keyboard began playing and the crowd went ballistic. After just a few seconds, the rest of the band joined in and the wall of sound they produced was startling. The crowd instantly began thrashing their heads in perfect time with the wailing guitars. Sam and I both laughed at the scene below us, acting very much like the pompous pro athletes that we were mistaken for. The crowd below was nearly rabid in its enthusiasm after just a couple of bars of music. There was a sea of flying hair below us and as if on some unseen cue, everyone in the room began to clap their hands above their head.

The musicians themselves looked like the steroid version of a typical rock star. All four of them, including the chick playing the keyboards, were dressed in black and denim and leather. All of them had tattoos covering their arms. And all of them sported hair that made even the long hair so typically seen around the reservation seem short. One of them, a tall lanky dude on the right side of the stage wore dread-locks and had more facial metal than I'd ever seen on any one person. And if the audience was thrashing harshly then, they were damn near breaking their necks with the force they threw their heads around with when a haunting, and familiar, voice began to sing from offstage.

Perfect by nature

I fall in self-indulgence

Just what we all need

More lies…

My head whipped around desperately seeking the source of the voice that wailed out above the din of the music and audience alike. It was the voice. It was…her voice.

"Jake? Man, what the hell?" someone said behind me as I stared, dumbfounded, at the figure standing in shadows high atop one of the dozen or so amplifiers. As the lights began to slowly rise to their peak illumination, I knew without a single doubt, exactly who I would see.

And I was right.

When the lights came all the way up and flooded the stage, perched above the speaker and looking very much at home was the person I knew I'd find as soon as that voice had called out to the room.

Bella.

Only this looked nothing like the Bella I knew. She was dressed in head to toe tight black leather and stood in very high heels. The teenager's body from so many years ago, the one I'd spent more time imagining than I would ever admit out loud, was gone, replaced by a much too thin but oh so sexy woman's figure. Her hair was nearly to her butt and she was wearing heavy make-up for her. But the dark brown eyes that shone at the audience at her feet and the quirky smile on her face made her impossible to mistake.

Never was

And never will be

Have you no shame

Don't you see me

Cause you know

You have everybody fooled

"Holy."

"Shit," Embry finished for Quil.

"Um, bro?" Paul said with amusement in his voice.

"Jake, you okay?" Sam asked as I felt his hand settle on my shoulder.

"I…I don't know," I whispered honestly.

I couldn't think as I watched her scream the lyrics into the air with a power I would never have guessed her tiny body to be capable of. As gracefully as a cat, she slinked her way down the stacked amps until she stood directly between the two guitar players. Her voice resonated off every corner of the room so loudly that to my sensitive ears, it was almost painful. She sang the next verse of the song with absolute recklessness. There was nothing left of the shy girl I'd spent years thinking of. Worrying about. Dreaming of. And loving.

This was someone I didn't know.

There wasn't an ounce of awkwardness or shyness in the person I was transfixed by on stage. The girl that had wrapped herself away from the world in bulky sweaters and flannel was replaced by the bombshell in the leather half shirt and extremely low cut leather pants. The voice that at times I'd had to strain to hear in its timid volume as we worked together in my dad's garage had given way to a raw power that really didn't need the microphone clutched tightly in her hand to be heard above the thundering music.

And then I caught sight of the audience at her feet. They adored her. Nearly worshiped her. Men and women alike followed her every move as she pranced back and forth on the stage. They sang every word along with her and when she pushed her voice into a range they couldn't match, they screamed in adulation.

"Jacob!" Sam said sharply, pulling my eyes to his worried ones. "Are you okay? Would you like to leave?"

I didn't need to be in my wolf form to know that the thoughts of my brothers would be scrambling between amused amazement and worry for me and my reaction to her reappearance. When she'd disappeared the day after we'd buried Charlie, it had destroyed me. I had known Bella well enough to know that she simply couldn't handle being in Forks after her father was murdered. I'd never blamed her or even been angry with her after she literally disappeared into the night. I couldn't be. And I had tried very hard to turn the monumental pain that I lived with for nearly a year after she'd gone into anger. But in the end, I simply couldn't. She'd had so much to deal with. Especially after….

"Come on guys," Sam began as he rose from his chair.

"No, wait," I nearly screamed as I reached for his massive forearm. As confused and obliterated as I felt, leaving wasn't an option I could entertain. But before I could say anything more, she spoke again and it didn't matter if I was okay or not. What mattered was that she was here and the thought of leaving without at least trying to speak to her was painful beyond anything I'd experienced since she'd left the first time.

"Alright, we're gonna do one for you guys that some of you will know. Sing it with us if you know it," she said as she smiled sweetly at the crowd of mutants below her. I felt the muscles in my back relax as her speaking voice registered. That was my Bella. That was the voice of the person I knew and I realized, at that exact second, still loved. In the next second, the band kicked in and I watched, dumbstruck, as she began to thrash her head around in perfect time with the music.

For the next forty-five minutes, I was transfixed with watching every single movement she made. From the wild thrashing of her hair to the rise and fall of her chest as she heaved after each new song was finished. Hell, I'd even tried to count the number of drops of sweat that raced down her forehead and neck. But I was desperate to memorize each and every part of the time she was on the stage. The pack was strangely quiet as we watched the spectacle in front of us. I was distantly aware of the low murmur of conversations that my boys held but paid no attention whatsoever to what they were actually saying. My beer seemed to stay cold and to replace itself within the bottle but I had no recollection of a waitress ever reappearing or asking for my order.

I was simply too stunned at what I was watching to take in anything but what was happening on the stage. It wasn't just the power of her voice or her appearance. It was the transformation into someone nearly unrecognizable that startled me the most. When she spoke to the crowd, glimpses of the girl I'd known were there. But when the music picked back up, that girl was gone. She had buried herself deep within the notes and chords and lyrics. She was completely hidden from the world as Bella Swan of Forks, Washington. And it was no wonder. The lyrics to her songs seemed to be about nothing except pain. Each song sounded very different from the previous one. But the common thread through them all was an unquestionable, deep-rooted life of pain.

"Alright fuckers, that about does it for us tonight," she said with a wicked smile that I'd never once seen. At one point, I'd known every single one of Bella's smiles. The shy one I'd get when I tried to compliment her, the sarcastic one that always followed one of her snarky comments, and the truly happy one I'd seen on rare occasions and usually only on the bikes. And the tight fake smile that I saw much too often that was her rotten attempt at hiding what she was really thinking or feeling. I'd known them all at one time. But the smile tonight as she cursed at the audience was, much like she was on the stage, a stranger.

"I think you might know the next couple of songs," she said as she looked down into the audience. "Sing them with us and we'll play harder for you!"

How can you see into my eyes

Like open doors

"That's it! That's the song," Quil yelled out across the table. It was the first thing I was conscious of him saying since the band had come onstage, even thought I knew he'd been talking all along.

I had a small hint of recognition as the song's pace and volume picked up of hearing it on the radio a couple of times. But I simply couldn't reconcile what was in front of me. She got louder and more powerful with each passing line and her face betrayed the emotions of what she felt as she sang. The look on her face suggested that she was being stabbed as she yelled back and forth with the dread-locked musician.

Frozen inside

Without your touch

Without your love, darling

Only you

Are the light among the dark

The thought in my head as it took shape was the first flash of anger I'd felt toward Bella in nearly four years. And it actually wasn't directed at her. But the words as she called out so desperately brought with them the picture of a…thing…I'd tried my damnedest not to think about. Ever.

I shook my head, once again, to try and clear that image before it could even really take shape.

"I need a minute. Maybe some fresh air," I said to the table. Six sets of equally dark and equally concerned eyes looked back at me. I rose without waiting for a response and quickly made my way back out toward the parking lot. As soon as the door opened, the welcomed cool night air slapped me from my stupor.

I leaned my head back against the brick wall and closed my eyes, willing the night to block the sounds from inside the club. It was one of the few times I wished I could phase to escape the circumstance.

Yes, I was beyond thrilled to see Bella. But I was also completely and utterly confused by this "new" Bella. And I was still struggling to shake the anger that flashed through me when I'd thought of…him.

"Jacob, you okay?" Sam's deep voice asked from very close beside me.

"Yes. No. Fuck, I don't have a clue, Sam," I answered honestly.

"That's about what I expected," he said with a low laugh. "I can only imagine what you must be feeling right now."

The entire pack had known how much I missed Bella after she'd left. But they had all eventually gotten tired of my "brooding" as Leah called it. After the first couple of months, they had teased me mercilessly. All of them except Sam. He knew just how hard it was to love someone that you couldn't be with. And how awful it was to carry that love with them on a daily basis.

Sam loved Emily like nothing on the planet. She was his imprint and they were as perfect as any two people could be. But he had loved Leah and still carried a lot of guilt over hurting her. But he also carried a love for her that could never be enough. Never be what either of them needed. It was that part of Sam that understood why I was out in the cold trying to gather my thoughts rather than simply leaving the club.

"You going to speak to her?"

"I'm not sure. I'm not sure I can speak to her. This band seems to be a pretty big deal."

"True," he said nodding his head as he toed the gravel at our feet. "Want my advice?"

I just looked at him rather than speak.

"If it was me, I think I'd need to speak to her. I'm not sure you will ever be able to live with the 'what ifs" if you don't."

I laughed in spite of myself. Sam knew me well. And he was right. If I left tonight without so much as speaking to her, I'd always regret it.

"Sure, sure," I said with as much of a smile as I could. "That's probably true."

"You ready to go back inside?

"Yeah, why not," I mumbled as I reached for the handle to the door. The bouncer at the front door barely even looked up as we passed him. Just before we reached the open area in front of the bar, I touched Sam's elbow. He turned and looked at me, a somewhat confused expression on his face.

"Sam, thank you. I'm sorry about messing up your bachelor party."

"Anytime, my brother, anytime. And you didn't mess up anything."

We walked together back through the club, which was much less crowded in the lobby and bar now that the band was on stage, and made our way back to the guys. Before we reached the table though, the dark haired beauty on stage caught my attention again.

"We love you Seattle and we'll see you soon!"

The cheering and shouts were louder than at any other point during the night and the people were pushing each other towards the front of the stage with concerning intensity. I watched, stone still, as the lights went out on the stage and the five people walked quickly towards an open door to the left of the stage. The light inside what must have been a dressing room was just bright enough to for me to see Bella nearly run through the door, the guy with dreadlocks beside her and his arm around her hunched shoulders. She looked like she was just before bursting into tears as she disappeared into the small room.

"So what's the plan now?" Paul asked loudly from his seat at the table. "We staying a while or splitting?"

"We're gonna stay and let Jake try to see her," Sam answered for me.

Even without the pack mind connection, I knew what each one of my brothers was thinking simply by the looks on their faces. Paul and Jared were almost disgusted with my once again obvious infatuation with Bella, Quil and Embry wore identical looks of pity as they stared back at me. And Seth looked simply crushed, whether because we were staying or because of my situation, I didn't know.

I watched as the lights above the club came up and the crowd began to disperse. I realized that the dressing room was also raised up, on the same level as the stage, and separated from the main floor of the club by a black metal railing. For five minutes, I stared at the plain black door, my leg bouncing up and down and absent mindedly chewing on the cuticle of my thumb.

"Just go over there already," Quil said with a laugh. "You may have a higher than average body temperature but that doesn't mean you can melt the door away with your x-ray vision."

"Isn't stopping him from trying though," Embry added with the same laugh.

I took a deep breath and stood from my chair. I'd only taken a few steps away from our table and was just about to leave the V.I.P. area when Sam spoke.

"Jacob? It will be fine and we are all here for you."

I nodded my appreciation and realized that despite the teasing and the ribbing, all of them were concerned for me. A rush of gratitude and love ran down my back and gave me the strength to steel myself for what I was about to do.

I crossed the floor and was around to the side of the railing in four long strides. I'd climbed the first two of the eight steps when a body appeared in front of me.

"Can I help you with something?" a tall round man with thick black framed glasses and long hair said from the top step as he crossed his arms over his chest.

"Yeah, I'm going to see Bella."

"I don't think so buddy."

I realized what it must have sounded like to him. Chances were that the people in Bella's life hadn't even heard my name before, much less understood that, at least at one time, we were friends. I was quite sure in that second, I seemed like some horny fan just trying to hook up with her.

"It's not like that, man," I said with what I hoped was an easy going smile. "Bella and I knew each other in high school. I just want to say hello."

"Me too dude," an unfamiliar voice said from behind me and to my right. I looked over my shoulder to see a handful of guys milling around at the foot of the stairs also. They all sported long hair and black leather and were the exact thing I had been thinking of just moments ago. "I sat beside her in Chemistry," the guy said with a cheesy smile.

The band's security guard placed a hand on my chest, probably to shove me backwards a bit. I stood still against the pressure but tried my best not to look threatening.

"Really, man. I've known Bella a long time. Our dad's were buddies. I just want to say 'hi'. I'm not looking to hook up."

"Sorry but no one in the dressing room. Old family friend or not."

I could push my way past the guy easily and the thought crossed my mind. But then I decided that would just start trouble. For her and for myself. And that wouldn't do anything to help me see her.

"Look, can you maybe just tell her that Jacob is here."

"Jacob? As in Jacob Black," an older man with glasses and gray hair cut into a military style buzz said from behind the security guard. He was holding a garment bag in one hand and a small duffel bag in the other. His appearance was as opposite from the other people in the room as one could possibly get. Had the circumstances not been so surreal, it would have been funny to see this obviously gay man standing in the middle of a Goth club.

I looked at the man through the haze of the smoke in the club, ready to smile and thank him for his recognition but stopped when I realized he looked slightly familiar. I'd never met him, I was sure of it, but I remembered him.

Charlie's funeral.

This man was with Bells at Charlie's funeral. He had sat beside her at the graveside service and held her hand through the entire thing. When she'd quietly cried, he'd put his arm around her and handed her a tissue. Afterwards, he'd left with her.

"Yes, that's right. I'm Jacob Black."

"Jacob, I'm Chip," the little man said as he stood beside the security guard. "I've heard a lot about you, it's nice to finally have a face to put with the stories."

A loud thump against the dressing room door pulled everyone's attention away from the awkward conversation for a second. Another thump, this one even louder sounded and then the unmistakable sound of a scream rang out. Maybe it was the noise of the crowd or the music playing over the loud speaker that had resumed once the band left the stage but the scream did not sound like a group of musicians partying after a show. It was unmistakably female and sounded painful.

"Listen, I don't know what's going on in there but let me go inside and see. I'll tell her you're out here. I don't know when she'll be out but hang out here for a couple of minutes," he said to me with obviously worried eyes. Then he turned to the guard and spoke quietly. "Boz, let him stay here for a sec but get rid of the other assholes. I'll be back in a few minutes.

Without a word, Boz, whoever that was, pushed passed me and started herding the other men away from the staircase. I looked back toward the dressing room door just as Chip pushed it shut behind him as he entered. But he didn't close the door fast enough to keep me from seeing inside the room for a split second. Sitting in a ratty armchair just inside the tiny room was Bella. She was leaned forward, her hands in her hair on top of her head, her shoulders shaking and her elbows leaning against her knees.

She was crying.

As the door closed once again, I looked back toward the tables at the rear of the club. All six of my brothers wore serious expressions as they watched the scene from across the room. I held up my finger to signal for them to give me some time. Sam nodded once and then turned towards the guys and started a conversation, a distraction technique obviously but still very much appreciated.

I leaned with my back against the railing and looked out into the mass of people that still swarmed around the club for what seemed like a long while. As the night wore on, they were getting more and more intoxicated and were becoming much more entertaining to watch. Even among Goths, apparently the top of the priority list included hooking up and picking fights. It was mildly entertaining to watch all the men dressed in their leather and chains hit on the women that wore more piercings in their faces than in their ears. I looked down at my feet to hide a sarcastic smile that would have surely started a fight if it had been notice.

"Jacob?"

I spun around as fast as I could at the nearly whispered word. Because it didn't come from the security guard or from Chip.

Standing at the top of the staircase, dressed in baggy blue jeans and a tee shirt that swam on her, was Bella. The tight leather from stage wasn't the only thing missing as I stared at her. So was the stranger. Her face was free of the make up that I'd noticed even from so far away and her long hair was pulled away from her face in a pony tail at the base of her neck. Neither change did anything to hide the circles under her eyes or the red puffiness around her cheeks and nose but nor did either distract from her incredible beauty. But what had me staring was the smile she wore.

It was the genuine, real smile I remembered from our time so long ago.

"Bells," I said with a huge grin of my own.

"Jacob!" she squealed as she literally jumped from the top step down and into my arms. Had I not had the reflexes I did, I most likely wouldn't have caught her.

The second her body made contact with mine, several things invaded my mind at the same time. One, she was absolutely tiny. She had never been big but my god, she seemed to be thin as a reed and more breakable than glass. Two, she still smelled exactly as I remembered. Strawberries and sunshine and fresh cut grass. And third, her arms around my neck still felt like the most perfect thing in the world.

I tightened my arms around her waist, her feet swinging in the air more than a foot off the ground, as I felt the hot tears on my neck. When I'd caught her, she had buried her head against my neck at just the right angle for me to lean my cheek against the top of her head.

"Why you crying Bells?" I asked her quietly as I ran the hand not holding onto her waist down the back of her head softly.

"I don't know," she half laughed, half cried as she looked up at me. Those damn huge beautiful eyes sparkling with her tears. But the smile was still there.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I asked her at the exact same moment.

We both chuckled as I sat her on her feet. But neither of us let the other out of the embrace.

"Jesus, when did you turn into Goliath?" she asked as she stepped back just a little and looked me up and down. It wasn't an uncomfortable or odd experience to have her look at my body. It was anything but actually.

"Probably about the same time you turned into a rock star," I retorted with a smirk. Then I returned the favor of the ogling. And ah, yes, there it was. The infamous Bella Swan blush. It rose up her neck and over her cheeks so fast, it was almost comical.

"Stop it, Jake. I'm not a rock star," she said bashfully.

"Like hell," I shot back. "I was here for the show."

"Oh my god," she said, embarrassed, as the blush intensified. "I can't believe you saw that. But you didn't answer my question, Jake. What are you doing here?"

"In the club? Or in Seattle?" I tentatively threaded my fingers through hers as they hung at our sides.

"Either. Both. Whichever," she said as she grinned. And tightened the grip around my hand.

"Well, the club was Quil's idea. He heard this kick-ass band on the radio and then found out that they were playing in a club in Seattle."

She groaned like I'd just kicked her and hid her face in my chest.

"As for Seattle, we're here for Sam's bachelor party."

"Sam's getting married? Oh, that's great. Tell him I said congratulations."

"Wicked fucking show," a rough voice interrupted us from very close beside us. It was the jerk that had tried to talk his way into seeing her with his "chemistry" lie. And right behind him were at least half a dozen others just like him.

My grip on her hand tightened and I pulled her closer to me and away from the group of men that were blatantly eye-fucking her.

"Thanks," she said quietly with a touch of something in her voice that was either fear or disappointment, I couldn't decide which. But both made me want to punch them.

She spent a few minutes speaking with her "fans". And while they obviously appreciated her for more than her performance, there was no denying that they were impressed by the music in general and her abilities on stage in particular. But with each passing minute of her conversation, she moved slightly closer to me until she was tucked right up under my shoulder. It was clear that as comfortable as she was on the stage, she was equally as uncomfortable around the people in the club. She seemed extremely relived when they finally backed off and began to walk away.

"Sorry about that," she said quietly, without looking up at me.

"Bells, it's no problem, really."

She still didn't look at me.

"Hey," I said as I tilted her chin up towards me. "Quil and Embry, along with the rest of the guys are here. Why don't you come over and say 'hello'"?

Her smile was tight again. The fake smile was back. She was hiding herself from me and everyone else in the club. And her eyes looked…strange. Almost unfocused. But the thing that told me what was going through that head of hers was the way her arm wrapped around her chest. That I had seen before.

"Come on," I encouraged her as I wrapped my hand around her waist and pulled her fully against my side. "They will be thrilled to see you. And you can tell Sam congrats yourself."

"Okay," she breathed out and I noticed her body relaxed just a little as I lead her toward the guys.

As expected, they were all excited to see her. Quil and Embry were especially wired to see her again. She was obviously still tense but she seemed to continue to relax as she spoke to them, accepted their praise graciously and told Sam how happy she was for him. After fifteen minutes or so, the conversation lulled a bit and she shifted on her feet nervously.

"Let's go find a table and talk," I suggested to her. She smiled gratefully and said goodbye to the pack, giving them each shy hugs.

"Yo! Bitch!" someone yelled across the room.

She whipped her head around, slapping Quil with her hair in the process and looked back toward the stage. The guy with the dread locks stood in front of the drum kit wearing nothing but a pair of long shorts covered in bright yellow monkeys of all things and blue fuzzy bedroom slippers. He had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other and was grinning like he'd just won the lottery.

"Well, well. Look what we have here," he said delightedly. "Should I call you Pocahontas?" The guy looked over her shoulder to us, raised one hand, palm out and said "How" in an overly exaggerated voice. Then he turned back to her as started singing "can you paint with all the colors of the wind" in a high pitched imitation of a woman's voice.

"JP! Shut the fuck up," she yelled across the room, her eyes blazing. Then she turned to me. "Sorry. He's an utter moron most of the time. Excuse me just a second." The anger I felt at his making fun of our heritage evaporated when I saw the out-of-place sweet smile that he gave her as he looked over at her. However much of an idiot this guy was, and really, he had to be a class a moron to say such a thing to seven guys that all stood well above six foot three, he very obviously cared about her.

She said goodbye to the guys once more and then stomped across the room muttering something about the fucking idiot as she made a bee line toward him. The lanky man didn't flinch away from her anger at all but simply grinned an evil smile at her.

"Have you lost your ever loving mind, JP?" she spat as she neared the stage. But I noticed that she grinned at him as he hopped down off the rise and stood before her. Clearly, he knew her well enough to know her anger wasn't genuine. And he clearly more than just cared about her. He loved her.

Not wanting to watch the obvious affection between them, I turned my back and faced the pack again. It was the first time I'd considered that there may be more between them than band mates. I thought about the way he'd had his arm around her as they exited the stage. A small cough brought me, thankfully, away from the path my mind was wondering. The expressions they wore ranged from deep concern on Sam's part, to awed appreciation on Quil's face and finally to annoyance from Paul and Jared.

"Guys," I started, "why don't you guys take off and I'll meet up with you back at the hotel."

"Jake, you sure about that?" Sam asked with deep lines around his mouth and eyes.

"Not really but I need some more time to talk to her and I don't want you guys to loose the rest of your night."

"What the fuck, man? Bros before hos," Paul barked out.

The anger that flashed down to my toes stunned even me. My hands were shaking wildly as I stared at him and I was forever grateful that I had regained enough control to keep myself from phasing right there in the club. The Goths probably wouldn't react well to a six foot tall wolf standing in their midst.

"Back off Paul," Sam snapped before my anger could grow any more. "Don't bait him; this is hard enough for him as it is."

My hands were still clenched but I pulled my gaze away from Paul, who looked a little shocked that he'd angered me, and back to Sam. It was his night after all. And it was his call.

"Yeah, I'm sure. You guys go ahead and take off without me. I'll meet you back at the hotel later on tonight."

"If you're sure, Jake," my Alpha said sincerely as he patted me on the back a couple of times. "And you know, if you need us, we'll be here for you. All of us," he said with a sharp glare toward Paul.

"Sure, sure. Stay out of trouble, will ya?"

"You too," Embry said with a pointed look across the room at Bella.

As they slowly walked away, I turned to watch the tiny figure talking to the lanky musician. I watched them, trying to find any sign them being a couple in the way the interacted with each other. There were no touches between the two, no physical contact at all. But the more I watched, the closer I realized they were. There wasn't an ounce of tension between them. They were very very comfortable with each other, both on the stage and away from it. Finally, I watched as he leaned over and pecked her on the check before he headed into the main bar area, still wearing the ridiculous outfit.

Surely if they were together her would have "kissed her" kissed her rather than just the peck on the cheek. Right? I was still thinking hard about it when I realized she was walking straight toward me. I sighed as I looked at her again, the blush still on her skin from her earlier embarrassment.

"Everything alright?"

"Oh yeah, everything's fine," she said very naturally. "JP is a pain in the ass but he's harmless. He was just telling me what the plan for tomorrow. He wants us all here to pack up the equipment before we leave on Monday. Why we can't let the crew do it as usual is beyond me, but that's JP."

"You wanna grab something to drink and sit down for a while? You've got to be tired after all that," I asked as I waived toward the now dark stage and instruments.

"That actually sounds really great, Jake," she whispered with a small smile. The bashful smile. God, it had been a long time since I'd seen it. And it made me feel…warm.

For the next two hours we sat in the rear most corner of the club and talked. I was somewhat amazed at how accommodating the club was to her. They made sure that the other patrons stayed away by placing security guards all around us, the constantly supplied us with fresh drinks…beer for me, water for her. Even once the house lights came up and all the people that were not employees were ushered out, they left us alone to catch up.

My body knew that it was Bella sitting across from me, just as easily as my eyes did. I felt a sense of calm and peace that was solely due to her. The unique smell that was her, the warmth of her skin as she sat less than a foot away from me, the gentle smoothness of her skin when I touched her hand; they were all familiar and comforting. But the conversation wasn't easy. There was almost no subject about her current life that Bella would actually talk about. She was very interested in hearing all the details of life on the reservation, wanting to know about my dad, my sisters. Even people that she only knew in passing, like the Clearwaters, were of great interest to her. She wanted to know all about me and how my life had progressed over the last four years. In short, she wanted to talk endlessly about anything but herself.

No matter what I asked her, with only two exceptions, if it pertained to her current life and occupation, she steered the answer away or just plain old refused to answer. I didn't get any information at all about her music, her performances, her songs, Renee…anything. The only two questions she answered with straightforwardness were whether or not she and the guy with the dread locks were together and how she knew Chip. I was relieved, much more so than I should have been, when she snorted loudly and rolled her eyes when she told me that she was not involved with the bass player of her band and I was thrilled to find out that Chip was a "mother" of sorts to her. It was the one piece of information she gave me that put my mind at ease about her current life. But the further into the night, or very early morning, we got, the more often I watched her wrap her arms around her body. At some points she seemed to stop breathing all together, at others, she seemed to shake slightly in her seat. She never shrank away from my touching her but she also never initiated any of the touches.

I realized as we sat there into the early morning hours that the girl I'd known and the stranger on stage were only very small pieces of Bella now. The largest part of the quirky, sarcastic girl that had moved to Forks with Charlie was completely buried deep inside her, behind an armor she had built. And there was no penetrating the walls she had put around herself. I tried, all night, to find a way to get her to open up. But she stone-walled me at every single attempt I made. Whatever was inside her head, she wasn't sharing. And I got the feeling it wasn't just with me that she wasn't letting her thoughts and feelings out. I had the distinct impression that she allowed no one in anymore.

"Bella, I hate to do this but it's a little past four and we're getting ready to lock up," a man with a bald head I recognized as the bartender said from about ten feet away from us.

She turned in her seat and nodded her understanding and then apologized for keeping them there so late. After assuring her that we had not delayed them locking up and telling her that he would call a cab to pick her up, the man turned to leave. She looked back at me, somewhat awkwardly, as she stood from her chair.

"Where are you staying tonight? I'm assuming you aren't going back to the reservation this late," she asked as I followed her toward the front of club.

"Nah, we have a couple of hotel rooms here for the night," I replied as I reached for the door. As soon as I opened it, the cold air washed over us. It didn't bother me at all but I did notice that she shivered violently as the wind hit her. It didn't seem to even register with her that she was wearing a short sleeved tee shirt and no jacket, so I put my arm around her and pulled her into my side, meaning only to warm her up. But she wrapped her arm around my waist and snuggled into my body very much like she was searching for something other than warmth.

"Well, I'm guessing you don't have a car here since the guys left earlier. You want to share a cab? I don't live far from the club, we can get them to drop me off and then take you to the hotel."

"Thanks Sweetheart, that sounds good." I didn't know what else to say but I knew I wasn't quite ready to let her go.

Only a couple of minutes later, the taxi pulled up to the curb and we climbed in. She gave the driver her address and then I told him which hotel we were staying at. And that was the end of the conversation in the cab. She closed her eyes and leaned against my shoulder as we wound our way through the city. I wanted to ask her a thousand more questions but was sure she would continue to deflect them all. So I just enjoyed having her near me, even as I knew my time with her was quickly coming to an end. She had made it clear, while not being rude about it, that she would not be asking me up to her apartment.

All too quickly, we arrived at what I presumed was her building. It was an odd, massive building that didn't seem to belong among the modern high rise buildings that surrounded it. I was staring at the building when she told the cabbie to give us just a second and then opened the door and started sliding out into the night.

"Well, this is me," she said as she gestured to the building behind her.

"I sort of figured that Bells," I said with a smirk.

She stood facing me, her back to the glass door on the sidewalk. I reached out and took both of her hands in mine. The wind whipped her hair around her face and the glow of the lobby behind her lit her from behind in the most beautiful way. She looked so tired, so breakable but breathtakingly beautiful as she craned her neck up to look at me.

"Jake," she started but I cut her off before she could give me an excuse as to why she wasn't asking me up.

"Bella, don't worry," I said, hoping to make this as easy as possible. I let go of her hand and brought it to her cup her face. She closed her eyes and leaned into my touch. I slowly stroked my thumb against her cheek, much like I'd done a hundred times years ago.

"I'm so sorry I left without saying 'goodbye'. I never meant to hurt you Jake," she whispered without opening her eyes. "You were so good to me and I was such a horrible friend to you."

"That's not true, Bella. You did what you felt you had to do after Charlie. I could never be upset with you for that."

"But I," she squeaked as she opened her eyes, her eyelashes wet with the tears she was trying to keep from falling. The stab of pain that the look in her eyes sent through me was nearly enough to bring me to my knees. It was the first glimpse of what was really truly inside her that I'd gotten all night.

I placed my finger over her lips and quietly shushed her before she could continue to apologize. There was nothing either of us could say, especially not out in the frigid night air that would erase all the hurt we'd both lived with. So I didn't try. Instead I just pulled her against my chest and wrapped both arms around her torso. I had to bend my knees to get even close to eye level with her. But instead of looking at me, she threw her arms around my neck in a death grip. I could feel her body shaking with her emotions and I could feel the hot tears against the skin of my neck as she clung to me.

I straightened my legs, taking her with me and once again leaving her feet swinging more than a foot off the ground and simply turned my head into her hair. I closed my own eyes and just focused on the feel of her in my arms again. There was no way I could make this right for her. There was no way I could take away all the hurt that was still eating away at her. God knew I wanted to, more than anything else I'd ever wanted. But I couldn't fix what she wasn't willing to talk about.

I inhaled deeply and looked up, just as she did the same. We were staring at each other, both seemingly trying to find the right thing to say. But I knew the only thing that would show her how I felt. How I had felt then, how I felt now and how I knew I'd probably feel forever. I slowly ran my hand up her back from her waist and into the mass of hair at the base of her skull. As gently as I could, I pulled her face toward me, closing the few inches that separated up. She never looked away from me or even attempted to turn away from what she must have known I was doing. Instead, she closed her eyes again as I drew close enough to touch my nose against hers.

The first touch of our lips was so slight it was almost invisible. We both stayed very still for a heartbeat, our lips against each other. I moved against her mouth with slightly more force, parting my lips and breathing in her breath.

She didn't pull away.

The kiss deepened very slowly, very tenderly. Tentative lips and tongues touched and moved against each other in a slow rhythm as I held her tightly against me. At some point, her hand worked its way into my hair and I felt her hands still shaking. But she continued to kiss me back. She continued to meet my tongue, accepted it into the warmth of her mouth and then returned the action. Our heads moved to give the other the access to continue kissing. Time didn't matter. Neither did the cold nor the past. Nothing mattered in that moment except our kiss.

I set her feet back on the ground but didn't release her from my arms. I simply hugged her to me with all the force I could without hurting her, hunching my back so that I could rest my cheek against the top of her head. Her hands were in fists in the material of my shirt and she nuzzeled my chest softly.

"I should have done that a long time ago," I said quietly.

"I probably would have hit you if you had done that a long time ago," she replied and I could feel the smile against my chest.

"Yeah, probably," I laughed as I held her.

She turned her head slightly and I released her head enough for her to look up at me. There were tear tracks on her cheeks and her nose was red as she looked up at me with those sparkling eyes. She had never looked more beautiful to me.

"You've always been my sun, Jacob."

I didn't know what to say to her. I had no idea how to respond. So, I simply smiled at her and rubber her back from her waist to her neck.

"That's always how I thought of you, you know? My own personal sun. You always brought light and warmth into whatever space you filled."

"And I've always thought of you as a dream," I said, speaking the words out loud for the first time in my life. I wasn't sure I'd ever even said the words to myself before that, just simply felt them.

"Oh Jake," she whispered as her hand reached toward my face. I felt her fingertips against my skin, under my eyes. I hadn't realized there were tears until I felt her sweep the wetness away. She smiled brilliantly as she stroked my jawbone with her thumb.

I leaned forward again and kissed her. This time there was no slow work up. Both of us grasped the other and our mouths opened to each other with no hesitancy. Fire raced through my veins at the feel of her body, pressed so tightly against me, responding to my touches. I kissed her hard and with all the passion that I had carried for her for the last four years and she accepted everything I gave her.

It was only the fucking "honk" of the cab's horn that pulled us apart with a jump and a laugh.

"I've wanted to do that for as long as I can remember." I said with a wide grin as I looked up into the clear night sky, smiling like a fool. There was a small part of me that had begun to hope that maybe our night wouldn't be over just yet. "Especially after I saw you in that blue prom dress," I said, almost as an afterthought. I inhaled deeply and let thoughts of going upstairs with Bella flow freely.

But those thoughts crashed and burned as soon as I lowered my face from the stars and looked at her.

The transformation was immediate and all consuming.

In the space of time it had taken me to lower my chin and look at her, she had shut down completely. Her body was rigid and her eyes were filled with tears. Her breathing was very erratic and she had already pulled her arms away from me and wrapped them so tightly around herself that I thought she would bruise her ribcage.

And she was stepping back, away from me and toward the glass door of the building.

"Bella?"

"Jac...Jake, I'm sorry. Its late, I really need…" she trailed off as she turned her back to me and pushed a button just beside the glass. A man in a uniform appeared seconds later and pushed the door open for her with a small nod and a "Miss Swan".

"Bella, wait!" I nearly shouted as I stepped towards her, my arm outstretched. I caught her elbow just before she stepped into the lobby. "What's going on?" I begged as I spun her around to face me.

"Miss Swan, are you alright?" the uniformed man asked with concern.

"I'm… fine Alec. Get…get JP… please," she whimpered over her shoulder as she looked every where in the world but at me. Her entire body was shivering uncontrollably and it didn't seem that she was pulling enough air into her lungs. Already, her lips, usually so red and gorgeous even with the constant biting on them that she did, had a mild blue tint to them.

"Jacob, I'm sorry," she cried as the tears streamed down her face and she clutched the handle to the door for dear life. "I have to go. I'm sorry." She stepped forward and very quickly wrapped her arms around me in the most pathetic excuse for a hug I'd ever felt. "I have to go Jake, please," she squeaked out as I made to move toward her.

I was so stunned that I didn't move quickly enough to catch her before she was inside the building and running toward the silver elevator at the back of the lobby. I watched, helplessly, as the doors opened just before she had a chance to press the button that would call the carrier to the ground floor. Inside the car, the dread locked JP stood. As soon as his eyes found her, his expression changed from annoyance to fright. He stepped into the marbled room and put his arms around her as she nearly fell into him.

He looked out the glass and stared directly at me. Then he shocked me by shrugging his shoulders and giving me a look of pity. He held one finger out toward me, telling me to hold on I thought, then turned back to Bella. He kissed her forehead gently and waved for the doorman to come to them. He very gently deposited her into the grasp of the doorman, who seemed to be nearly holding her upright.

I stepped toward the door as he jogged across the lobby toward the glass that separated us. He opened the glass door but didn't step all the way out, nor did he motion for me to come inside even though he obviously recognized me from the club. When he spoke though, he didn't seem angry or annoyed. Just very worried.

"Look man, I don't know what happened but she's having a panic attack. I gotta get her upstairs to Chip before she blacks out. Leave your number with Alec and I'll make sure she gets it. Cool?"

"Yeah," I answered hollowly. Panic attack? What the hell happened? I couldn't figure out how things had swung so drastically in such a short amount of time. He started back inside and I snapped out of my nearly frozen state. "Wait? She is going to be okay, right?"

He looked over his shoulder and then back to me. He was ready to get her to wherever he was taking her but trying not to be nasty about it.

"Yeah, she does this sometimes. But she'll be alright. Listen, I gotta go."

"Of course. Take care of her," I shouted as the glass closed again.

I watched until they disappeared into the elevator again. By that time, I understood what he meant. She really did look nearly unconscious and he actually picked her up once he'd moved her into the car. I numbly sank into the still waiting cab. It was like floating. I couldn't for the life of me understand what had changed things so dramatically. But I did know that if thatwas what was rattling around inside of her, it was no wonder that she was so fucking quiet.

I was like a zombie all the way back to the hotel. Without a word, I handed the driver some cash and didn't wait for him to give me my change. The room was dark and there were the sounds of snoring coming from all around me. I dropped myself into a chair and just stared at the dark nothingness of the room around me, trying desperately to make sense of what had happened. I replayed the night from the first moment I'd seen her back in my head like a movie. Every word, every facial expression…everything, just trying to find the trigger for her panic attack.

Just as I noticed the sun rising from the gap in the curtains, it hit me what had caused her to go into a tailspin.

Prom.

Fucking prom.

That she'd gone to with…

"Fuck," I spat as I leaned my head back onto the edge of the chair and closed my eyes. Apparently, I was more exhausted than I'd realized because before I could form the string of words in my head that would adequately describe my feelings of absolute hatred, I fell asleep.

I woke up a few hours later, the sun now streaming in through the gap and directly in my eyes. Quil and Embry were both sprawled out on the beds in the room, both still deeply asleep and both snoring like animals. Any other day, it would have been funny. But today…

I stood and stretched my aching muscles. The lack of sleep combined with the night had taken its toll on me and I felt old to my bones. I left a quick note to the guys that I would be back before they checked out and not to leave me before I walked out the door. I didn't bother showering or even running a hand through my hair. I just left.

I needed to see her, to see if she was alright.

The hazy recollection of her telling me that the band would be at the club to pack up the equipment lead me to give the cab driver I asked the front desk to call for me the name of the club. The fifteen minute drive seemed much shorter in the light of day than it had the night before. When I stepped out into the parking lot we'd been joking in last night, it struck me how very different it seemed in the sunlight. There was nothing intimidating at all in the space. Nothing was out of place or unique in the absence of the Goths and the night.

The door to the club was unlocked when I pulled on the handle. The bald bartender from the night before looked up and nodded to me as I walked past him without a word of dissent. I made my way back toward the seats we had been lead to the night before. All the lights in the club were out except for the ones directly above the stage. There were a half dozen men working around the room as I sank into the chair at the very rear of the stage room. Each of them seemed to have a specific task and they were all intent of doing their jobs. They were rolling up what seemed miles of cable around their arms in large loops, closing up the case of a large board with hundreds of knobs in the center of the room and tearing down the lighting harnesses that hung above the stage.

Not one of them so much as looked my way.

The band was onstage, four of them sitting on stools that surrounded the large black piano. Bella was sitting on a very large bench behind the piano leaning her left shoulder against JP's knee, his stool being just behind her. And she looked fucking awful.

She was still wearing the same tee shirt from the night before. Her hair was out of the pony tail and streaming down her back and around her face. If I'd slept only a little bit and it had been fitful, then she had obviously not slept a wink. Her eyes were so blood shot it made me hurt for her. The circles under her eyes were nearly black and her skin was still blotched from where she had been crying. She seemed to be leaning against the bass player not out of comfort but out of sheer need. She seemed so exhausted that she might fall over off the bench she sat on.

JP had an acoustic guitar sitting across his lap, his right arm draped over the rounded end and his fingers rubbing the side of Bella's hair in a very sweet comforting gesture. The other guitar player sat at the end of the piano facing the two of them and a little slip of a woman was standing behind a keyboard that was perched on the edge of the grand piano. The drummer was seated behind his kit and was smoking a cigarette while the others below him all looked over several sheets of paper that were spread out across the closed lid of the instrument. They had been talking to each other when I'd sat down and now that I focused in on what they were saying, I could hear the entire conversation as clearly as if they were sitting beside me.

"…wrote this last night? Fuck, when?" the guitar player with his back to me said with a huff.

"Yeah, Bitch had kind of a rough night," he said as he leaned down and pecked the top of her head with his lips. "So we stayed up and wrote."

"Panic attack?" the woman at keyboard asked her. Bella nodded her head very slightly and the woman gave her a sad smile.

Jesus, how often did she have these attacks? It didn't seem to shock or surprise any of the people on the stage. As awful as it was to witness, I assumed it happened very frequently for them to be so accepting about it.

"And you two wrote this together? Fucking hell that's a dark one. Lyrics come from her?" he asked JP again.

He just nodded and cut his eyes toward her before he stroked her hair again. He stubbed out his own cigarette in the ashtray he had perched on the edge of the riser the drum kit was sitting on and then looked over at the guitarist. "You guys ready to try it."

"Sure," the guy said dryly as he adjusted his electric guitar across his own lap. "And just for the record, I think you guys both need some serious psychological help."

"Dually noted," Bella said as she spoke for the first time since I'd arrived. "I'd have to agree with you, Dimitri." She pressed both hands harshly into her eyes for just a second before sat up straighter at the piano.

JP adjusted a microphone so that it was at an angle in front of him and begun to strum slowly on his acoustic guitar. The notes were terrible in their darkness. Only ten seconds into the song and it was clear this was not going to have an upbeat message. I was a little taken aback when he started to sing, rather than her. But as soon as I heard the tone of his voice as he sang her lyrics, it was apparent that this was going to be harsh to listen to.

Etch all your secrets in my skin

And come away with innocence and leave me with my sins

The air around me still feels like a cage

And love is just a camouflage

For what resembles rage

Dimitri, the guitarist, joined in with his electric guitar in a perfect if not equally as depressing harmony with the sad acoustic. I watched as Bella stared at nothing atop the piano's lid, not seeing anything but feeling every cut of the notes and lyrics as they played.

So if you love me, let me go

And run away before I know

My heart is just too dark to care

I can't destroy what isn't there

Deliver me into my fate

If I'm alone I cannot hate

I don't deserve to have you

My smile was taken long ago

If I can change, I hope I never know

"Horrifying, isn't it?" a voice asked from directly beside me just as the rest of the musicians joined in the desperate song. The last few hours had been such a roller coaster for me; it hardly even registered as shock as I watched Bella play the keys of the piano hard enough to injure her hands. I looked to my right as Chip sat down beside me, his eyes not looking at me but staring at the woman on the stage that we both loved.

"Yeah, it is," I answered, even though I wasn't sure if it was the desperation in the song or the state of her life I was referring to. Both were true. Her eyes were now closed and there were tears sliding down her cheeks even as the music continued. But if I thought I'd heard the worst the lyrics had to offer, I was wrong.

So save your breath, I will not care

I think I made it very clear

You couldn't hate enough to love

Is that suppose to be enough

I only wish you weren't my friend

Then I could hurt you in the end

I never claimed to be a saint

My heart was banished long ago

It took the death of hope to let you go

"It's him, isn't it?" I asked the man beside me as the words washed over me.

"It's always been him," he answered with regret in his voice. "I'm afraid it will always be him."

I couldn't speak around the knot in my throat, so I nodded instead. I'd known it last night when I went over what had happened to set her off. It was the mention of the prom and the reminder of him. It was no different than so long ago in my garage when she would turn the radio off when a song came on that reminded her. Every little thing, every little insignificant memory was somehow wrapped around that son of a bitch.

That's what this whole new life was all about. She had intentionally locked herself away behind the person on stage because it was the only way she could function from day to day. She had kept going after he'd left for Charlie's sake. But I guessed that after he was gone too, it was just too much for her to deal with. Listening to the song and watching her as she played, he late night disappearance and the years with no word from her all made sense.

"Take care of her please," I asked Chip.

"I will. Or at least I'll try," he conceded. We both knew there was only so much he could do.

Without listening to the rest of the song, I rose and walked out of the club. I just started walking through the quiet streets, no real purpose in my steps except to get far enough away from the city to not be noticed. I sent a quick text to Sam to let him know they should drive back without me and then tied the phone to the cord on my left wrist. The rest of my clothes would just have to shred. I just kept walking until my walk turned into a run, waiting for the moment to come when I could phase and free myself from the thoughts that looped through my head and tore through my heart. It wasn't that she was gone again. It wasn't that last night, for the briefest amount of time, I'd thought that maybe we could reconnect. It wasn't even that she had never really been mine to begin with.

No, the thought that hammered at me over and over again was that, no matter what it the cost, she would always belong to him.

So, is everyone now thoroughly depressed? Sorry about that. I warned her that I would give her what she asked for but that I never promised her a happy ending. But I want to try and make up for yet another depressing one-shot (really, all the prequels could possibly be are downers…).

So I thought "What would make the EverClear groupies feel better?" And the answer I came up with is…

EverClear Reunited! Part 3 of the EverClear story has now begun. I will post the first chapter Sunday, October 2nd and then at least one chapter a week from there on out. Possibly more…the story is well under way. I hope to see a lot of familiar names popping up in the reviews, I have missed you guys very very much. So set your Author Alerts if you haven't already and let me know what you think!

See ya very soon!

Kelly